A Song of Joy

(A Sergeant Garcia Story)

 

 

Chapter 7

 

Sometime later a dark figure on an equally dark horse rode in the waning moonlight toward the mission.  At the outer wall, Zorro stood on Tornado’s back and climbed over the vine-encrusted wall.  He ran through the cemetery and into the vestry.  Where the vestry opened to the chapel, the outlaw stopped, hearing voices.  At first the echoes were confusing, but he finally determined that they were coming from the baptistery located near the front of the church.  Hugging the walls, Zorro made his way toward the alcove containing the baptismal font and listened.  He recognized Father Felipe’s voice, but the other, a woman’s voice, was unknown to him.

“I am sorry that I did not think to do this sooner, padre,” the woman said.  “I was just so tired.”

“And I am sorry I did not ask, my child,” Father Felipe answered.  “Somehow I had just assumed that the child had already been baptized.   Until tonight, you had not told me of the circumstances surrounding the child’s birth.”

“I am surprised that someone else hadn’t told you.  It seems that everyone in this part of California seems to know and have an opinion of me,” the woman said bitterly. 

“My child, here you can rest and feel peace.  Then you can decide what to do with your life,” Father Felipe’s voice was filled with great sympathy. 

“But my father has arranged for my passage to a convent in Mexico City.  In fact I have the letter telling me which ship and when it will sail out of San Pedro, provided the weather cooperates.  I will only be here for another two days, three at the most.”  There was a pause.  “I . . . how will I take care of a child in a convent?”  Her voice was filled with inexpressible sorrow and Zorro pitied the dilemma that she found herself in.  “I have no money to do anything else but go there,” she added.  

Father Felipe sighed.  “I did not know your time was that short, señorita.”  He sighed again.  “No, my child, you would not be able to keep a child and be a nun.  The baby would be raised in a church orphanage and taught a trade when he is older.”

Zorro heard a small sniffling sound and a sobbing intake of breath.  He knew that he was listening to Señorita Perdiz. 

“My child, let us baptize this dear babe and then I will ponder and pray for an answer.  God is mindful of you and will surely help you in your need.”

Padre, God did not….”

Señorita, do not say more.  We cannot say why God allows some things to happen.  It is up to us to make the best of the blessings he does bestow on us.”

“Sí, padre.  I am sorry.”

“I understand.  But let us continue.  The baptism of a child should be happy.”  There was a pause.  “With what name did you wish to have me baptize this baby?” Father Felipe asked gently. 

Zorro heard little hesitation.  “Demetrio Lopez.”

“Ah, after Sergeant Garcia,” the priest said.  There was a note of approval in his voice. 

Zorro felt he had heard what he needed to hear.  There was no necessity to talk to this woman about her feelings for the good sergeant, but still he hesitated.  He wanted to wait until the end of the baptism. 

“From what you have told me and from what I know of the good sergeant, you have made a fitting choice,” Father Felipe said.

Zorro listened to the words of the christening and when the ceremony was complete, he turned and dashed down the aisle of the church, only pausing at the altar where he genuflected before the statue of Christ.  Then he was out of the church like a black ghost. 

Coming out of the little baptistery, Isadora stopped short, her eyes widening in horror at the dark clad figure with the flowing cloak that seemed to be floating away from her like some sinister wraith. 

Father Felipe walked out of the baptistery just as Zorro disappeared through the door.  He saw the look on the señorita’s face and understood.  “That was El Zorro, my child.”

“El Zorro?” she repeated and then remembered one of Demetrio’s songs.  “He rides a black horse?  And helps those in need?” she asked. 

, that he does, although why he came visiting I do not know.”  Father Felipe stood pondering. 

“He is like a shadow.”

“Yes, an enigma.”  Padre Felipe gazed at the new mother and her child, and wondered how it would be possible to keep them together.  Indeed, he would need to pray very hard.  How very sad, he thought, that her father is so very eager to send the daughter away that he could not even consider her health and well being.  He wondered if providence might possibly be working through the outlaw in black.

Zorro rode into the pueblo, stopping by the rear wall of the cuartel, at a point near Sergeant Garcia’s window.  Stealthily, he climbed in and positioned himself by the side of the portly sergeant’s bed.  “Sergeant Garcia,” Zorro said softly.  He repeated himself several times until the sound of his voice penetrated the sergeant’s snoring. 

“What?  What?”  Garcia snorted and then blinked in the pre-dawn dimness of his room.  Finally, he saw Zorro and his eyes widened.  Señor Zorro!” he cried out, sitting straight up. 

“Shh, not so loud, Sergeant,” Zorro admonished.  Then he smiled broadly.  “I am sorry to awaken you, but this is the only time I can come and visit with you.”

“Wha . . . what do you want, Señor Zorro?

“I want to give you some advice, Sergeant.” 

“If it is about the comandante…,” Garcia began. 

“No, Sergeant.  I have no quarrel with Capitán Montez, or with you . . . other than your indecision,” Zorro said, still smiling.   He was beginning to enjoy playing what Bernardo had labeled as Cupid’s little helper.

“What?”

Zorro waited a moment for the sergeant to fully wake up.  This was when he was glad that the role he played allowed him to be much more blunt and direct than he could be as Diego.  He thought wryly how he was taken more seriously when behind the mask then when he was himself.  Garcia gazed at him expectantly.  “Sergeant, are you in love with Señorita Perdiz?  Tell me honestly.”

Garcia gulped.  Sí, Señor Zorro, but….”

“No, there are not buts about it, my friend.  If you are in love with her, you must go tell her so and ask her to marry you.”  Zorro watched a variety of emotions play across the sergeant’s face.  The man had always been an open book. 

“But how could she want someone like me?” Garcia asked. 

Zorro sighed.  “Like you?  Sergeant, you disappoint me.  You have saved my life several times as I have saved yours.  Why would someone not like you?”

“You have also called me a big, fat pig,” Garcia reminded the outlaw. 

Garcia had him there.  Zorro answered quickly, “Sí, Sergeant, but I was trying to get you and your lancers to chase me, in order to save the dons that night.  However, I do apologize for that.  You are big, but you most certainly are not a pig.”

Garcia sighed again.  “I still cannot believe she would want to marry me.”

Ai, what can I say, Zorro wondered, then he wondered if it was time to lay the top card of the bruha deck out on the table.  But he hesitated, feeling that the news about the baptism should come from Isadora.  He realized, however, that there was probably nothing else that would spur the sergeant into action.   “She named her baby after you, Sergeant.”

Garcia’s head jerked up and his mouth formed an ‘oh’ of surprise.  He stared at the masked man for several moments.  

Zorro laughed merrily at the shocked look on his friend’s face. Indeed this was becoming a pleasant night’s duty. 

“You are serious?  But how do you know?” Garcia asked. 

Zorro spread his hands before him and shrugged his shoulders.  “Sergeant, how do I know anything?”  It felt good to be the bearer of such happy news instead of carrying threats and warnings.  “I was at the baptism.”  Zorro paused for dramatic effect.  “She cares for you or she would not have given her child your name.”

“The young señor has my name,” Garcia said wistfully.  "But still, how will I support her?” 

“Are you willing to give up what you have done for many years in order to take care of a wife and child?” Zorro asked. 

“My Army career?”  Garcia pondered a short moment.  ,” he said with conviction.  “But what else could I do?”

“You have talents you do not realize, Sergeant.  Perhaps you should leave that to your friends and to God to figure out.  And perhaps you and the señorita will think of something.  You must have faith.”  Zorro stepped back, pleased at the look of decision on his friend’s face.

Sí, I will!” Garcia declared.

“It is almost dawn.  Perhaps now would be a good time to go and visit your love,” Zorro suggested.  

“But my duties,” Garcia began.   “I am not out of the Army yet.”

“Sergeant, what is more important right now?  Duties or the lady of your dreams?”

“Since you put it that way, Señor Zorro….” Garcia said happily, his heart full to bursting.   “I will tell Corporal Reyes where I am going,” he added, jumping out of his bed and reaching for his trousers. 

“That’s the spirit, Sergeant!” Zorro said, turning toward the window. 

“Thank you, Señor Zorro….”  A knock on the door interrupted the sergeant. 

“Sergeant Garcia!  Sergeant Garcia!  Open the door, I have a message for you,” a voice called out. 

“What?”  The frustrated look on Garcia’s face had to match what was on his own.  Zorro dashed for the window and climbed out.  He listened as the sergeant grumbled, fumbled with his trouser and then opened his door. 

Capitán Montez wants you to muster the men for early patrol immediately,” a lancer told him. 

With a sigh, Zorro rode off, hoping that the sergeant would find an hour or two to ride to the mission that day. 

 

 

 

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