Et Tu, Brutus

 

 

 

Chapter Six - How the Wager was Won

 

A short time later, Zorro and Bernardo rode quietly into the pueblo.   Many people had gone to their homes, but the tavern was still open and with the heat, many were outside.  The topic of conversation was still the capture of Zorro by Brutus, and Don Salvadore was the butt of many jokes this night.

Bernardo had tied a rope around Caesar's neck for a collar and another rope served as a leash.  Creeping up close to the patio of the tavern, Zorro held Caesar with one hand, while parting the brush with the other.  Brutus was resting with his head on his paws, not ten feet away.  Petting Caesar, Zorro coaxed him through the shrubbery and played out the rope.  Caesar was unnoticed by all except Brutus, who immediately jumped up and touched noses with the fuzzy little dog.

Zorro started reeling Caesar back in and Brutus followed.  When the little dog came back under the bush, Brutus had to get down on his belly, but managed to crawl through without undue noise.  Taking off his riding gloves, Zorro scratched under the foxhound's chin and around his ears, as he had the day he examined him.   Brutus whined softly in confusion, but made no other sound and seemed to genuinely enjoy the attention, even if it was from his quarry.

Zorro was gratified to see Brutus following as he retreated from the tavern.  Once around the corner of a nearby building, Bernardo snatched Caesar in his arms and Zorro rubbed the foxhound to reassure him.  Picking him up, the outlaw set him atop Tornado's saddle, then swung up and rode out of the pueblo.

Well pleased with the little foray, Zorro smiled, hoping that the theft of his dog would convince Don Salvadore to end this irritating fiasco.  Riding into the secret cave, Bernardo took care of the horses while Zorro changed and found some dried beef in the kitchen.  The dogs gnawed on the pieces of meat with contented growls and when they were finished, they stretched out on the straw to sleep.

Diego took the rope, tied it around Brutus' neck and then fastened the other end to a post to keep him from wandering off.  Bernardo offered to spend the night in the cave to reassure the dogs.  "Gracias, Bernardo," Diego said in gratitude.  "I believe I will enjoy this night."

The next morning, Diego went down to check their guests, and found the two dogs romping around with each other while Bernardo slept in the hay.  As he approached, both dogs whined and softly barked a greeting.  Sitting down, he took time to scratch and pet both animals.  Brutus reveled in the attention, and wagged his tail happily.  "So you like your temporary kennel, eh, Brutus?" Diego asked quietly.  "And Caesar is a good kennel mate?" At the sound of his voice, Bernardo woke up and blinked sleepily at the caballero.

The manservant scratched where the straw had gotten in his clothes and yawned.  Then he signed a comment about not wanting to sleep with dogs and horses again.  Diego smiled and assured Bernardo that by tonight, everything should be resolved.  Both men went upstairs where they had breakfast in the sala and after taking the dogs some breakfast as well, Diego prepared to go into the pueblo.

Taking the carriage, Diego arrived shortly before noon and found Don Salvadore and Sgt. Garcia sitting morosely in the tavern.   Walking in as naturally as he could, Diego greeted the pair.  "Señores, why the glum countenances?" he said.

Sgt. Garcia looked up glumly.  "Ah, Don Diego, my little friend, Caesar has been gone since yesterday afternoon and Don Salvadore's Brutus was cruelly stolen from him last night."

"No!" Diego acted shocked.  "Who would do such a thing?"

"I can think of only one person.  Zorro," Garcia told him.

"You mean that Brutus was not able to catch the scoundrel?" Diego asked.  "What a shame."

"I had no intention of actually capturing the man," Don Salvadore protested.  "I only wanted to see Brutus corner him.  I was so confident that he could do it."

"Don Diego, you know that Zorro is no scoundrel.  He stopped the robberies and captured Juan," Garcia protested.

"That must have been extremely difficult for Señor Zorro to do, being chased by Brutus the way he was," Diego said innocently.

Don Salvadore blinked as the comments began to sink in.  "I suppose that it was difficult, was it not?"  He paused a moment, before saying anything else.  "I wish that I just had Brutus back, so I could take him home."

Diego sat quietly, his face passive, but inside exulting at an end to the strangest three days of his life.  The conversation had gone in exactly the direction that he had wanted it to.   "Well, perhaps whoever has the dogs will return them soon. I must get back to the hacienda to prepare for my father's arrival. He was planning on returning home today.  Buenos tardes, gentlemen," Diego said as he got up and walked slowly out the door.

Later that evening, as Zorro was riding into the pueblo, he met the carriage of Don Alejandro.  A vaquero accompanied the elder de la Vega, so the outlaw just waved, as Brutus barked a greeting.  Alejandro looked bemused as his son rode by with a dog on his saddle.

In the pueblo, Zorro flipped a peso to a small boy and requested that he go in the tavern and bring Don Salvadore to him, admonishing the child not to say who was waiting.   Zorro also told him to bring Sgt. Garcia, if he was there, too.

Soon both men came around the corner and drew in their breath as they recognized the black clad man in the half-light.  "Zorro," they said together.  Zorro gave Brutus to Don Salvadore and Caesar to Sgt. Garcia.

"Señor Aguaya, may I assume that your foolish quest is at an end?"  Zorro asked bluntly.

"Sí, Señor Zorro, it is," was Salvadore's simple answer.

"Don Salvadore, may I suggest that when you get back to your hacienda, find out more about the dogs that you have purchased.  Brutus needs to be with his kennel mates, that is the nature of foxhounds.  It was cruel to bring him here alone.  Adios, Señores," Zorro waved, and swinging Tornado around, galloped back to the Rancho de la Vega.

Later that night, Diego sat in the library, his feet propped up on a stool.  "My son, what in the world happened to you? You have been walking around as stiff legged as a fighting rooster getting ready for battle."

Diego laughed at his father's joke and then explained the unplanned hikes that he had been forced to take.  After he finished the tale of the past several days, he sighed,  "After what has happened, I could almost begin to hate dogs."

Late the next morning, Alejandro and Diego took a carriage into Los Angeles, where they met a gloomy Sgt. Garcia coming in from a patrol.  "What in the world is the matter, Sergeant," Alejandro asked, after greetings had been exchanged.

"Caesar went with Brutus this morning," he said sadly.   "Poor Brutus was so sad when Don Salvadore started to leave that I offered to let him take Caesar.  I think that Caesar was happier, too.  He had become quite attached to Brutus, but I will miss him."

"Et tu, Brute," Diego murmured.

"What, Don Diego?" Garcia asked, confused.

"Oh, it is just a line from a play I read.  It means, 'you too, Brutus.'  It is a term sometimes used to mean a person who has turned against a friend.  Brutus and Caesar turned against their masters, so to speak."

"Sí, Don Diego," Garcia agreed, but then he brightened.   "But I will get to visit him and I am sure he will be happier with all of those wonderful friends he will have.  Oh, and Don Diego, here are your winnings from the wager.  It seems that you and a few others were the only clear winners in the wager."  He handed Diego a full pouch of coins.

Diego just nodded, and he and his father continued into Los Angeles.   "Brutus and Caesar are just exactly where they need to be," Diego said.   Alejandro looked at his son curiously.  "As far away from me as possible," Diego added vehemently. Alejandro laughed.

 

The End

 

 

 

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