Chapter Three


Bernardo returned to the bedroom and gestured his desire to stay with Don Diego. Don Alejandro shook his head, signing his intent to remain with his son until the fever broke. The servant saw that it would be of no use to argue. He walked to a corner to sit down, but was stopped by the old don’s gestures. "Go and sleep in a comfortable place, Bernardo," he said while signing. The eyes were emphatic and there was nothing he could do except follow Don Alejandro’s orders.

Alejandro sat vigilant by the bedside until the watch in his chaqueta pocket said it was three in the morning. He had alternately wiped the sweat from Diego’s feverish face and given him watered-down wine when he was awake enough to take it. Cool, damp towels served to bring down the fever slightly. Finally his own exhaustion caused Alejandro to slump down in his chair and fall asleep.

"Señor, I cannot stay. Where is my sword?" Zorro’s forceful voice interrupted his sleep, and Alejandro wondered why Zorro was in the hacienda at this time of night. Then full awareness returned to the old man and he opened his eyes to see Diego out of bed, standing next to his wardrobe.

Shock caused momentary pause of movement. This was the final confirmation to all of his wondering and suspicions of the last months. His son was Zorro; there was absolutely no doubt now. Diego’s eyes were looking around the room, but it was as though he was seeing some other scene. Quietly getting up and approaching his son, he said softly, "Señor Zorro, you are safe. I am your friend. Come rest for awhile."

Diego looked at him blankly for a moment and then sagged against the piece of furniture, sighing. ", I need to rest. Gracias," he murmured, allowing Alejandro to help him back into the bed. "Do you have anything to drink, señor? I am thirsty," Diego asked. Quickly pouring some juice and adding the medication, he held it for his son to drink. Finally Diego lay back against the pillow and fell asleep once more, his features relaxing, becoming more peaceful.

"Oh, Diego, my son!" he cried out, laying his hand on Diego’s arm. His heart ached for his child who had become so involved in this double life that even sickness couldn’t give him release.

Sighing heavily, Alejandro berated himself. How could he have been so blind? How could he have fallen into this ruse of Diego’s so absolutely and fully, and believe that his son had changed so much while in Spain. When Monastario was accusing Diego of being Zorro, he had wondered and then, like Sgt. Garcia, quickly dismissed the thought. Suspicion took hold again and he had confided to Diego the plans of the Committee of Vigilantes. Zorro had mysteriously known everything that he had told Diego and thus was able to thwart the magistrado’s evil designs. Desperately wanting to believe his suspicions and wishing his son to confide in him, he had goaded Diego during that period of time, even to berating him in front of the other caballero’s. Diego had never shown any inclination to tell him his secret, so doubts crept in again, making him wonder if his were the hopes of a desperate old man.

But by the time Varga had arrested them, Alejandro had again been sure of Diego’s secret, and the pride that he had professed after Varga’s death was not limited to his son’s ruse to gather the caballero’s. But again, Diego did not choose to disclose his secrets to him, and again Alejandro had felt niggling doubts.

As he cared for his feverish son, his heart swelled with pride in Diego’s selfless sacrifice. To allow people to think he was timorous, to let them treat him derisively; laughing about him behind his back would have been more than he could have handled. And Alejandro knew that Diego was aware of people’s feelings about him, he himself had called his son a coward and had seen the hurt in his eyes.

For weeks his heart had told him that Diego was El Zorro, but his head had kept telling him no, it was not possible. He should have listened to his heart. Alejandro dipped a towel in the basin and wiped Diego’s face again. Perhaps it was his imagination, but the fever seemed to be subsiding a bit.

Alejandro watched over his son throughout the remainder of the night, wiping his face, giving him the cooling drinks, praying for him. "Madre de Dios, help him, the people need him," he murmured at one point, when it seemed the fever had risen once more. Bernardo came in just after daybreak, asking the old caballero, in sign if he wanted to go and rest for a while. This time Alejandro acquiesced and after a few quick instructions to the servant, he left the room.

Until the noon hour Bernardo cared for his master, no he corrected himself, his friend, forcing Don Diego to drink the wine and fruit juices even when he didn‘t really want to. In the early afternoon, the fever broke and Diego awakened, lucidity evident in the young man’s eyes. "Bernardo," he said softly. Bernardo felt Diego’s forehead and smiled broadly. "I feel like one of those wet towels over there," he told the mute when Bernardo had signed a query. Bernardo signed some more.

There was a light tapping on the door and his father entered the room. "Father, Bernardo tells me that you stayed up with me all night."

Alejandro nodded. "How do you feel, my son?"

"Limp as a wet rag. I imagine that I babbled most of the night, keeping you from sleeping," Diego said.

Alejandro knew his son was questing and he wanted to blurt out that the deception was unnecessary, but Diego was a proud man and would tell him when the time was right. He realized that his son was deceiving him to protect him, and that gave him a bit of comfort as well as a no small amount of pride. ", Diego, but it was quite impossible to understand what you were saying." His son looked visibly relieved. "What, you have a señorita you are not telling me about?" he teased.

Diego smiled, but said nothing. Turning to the manservant, the old man told him in sign to go to the kitchen and have the cook prepare some broth for the convalescent. Bernardo nodded and left. When he turned back, he found that Diego had drifted off to sleep.

Several hours later, Diego woke up once more, his thirst and hunger raging. Alejandro gave him some beef broth that Juanita had sent up and then a cup of wine. "Gracias, Father," Diego said, leaning back against the pillows.

Silence pervaded the room. "My son, you cannot imagine how glad I am that you are feeling better. I was very worried for awhile."

"I... I appreciate that, Father. I would not have dreamed that a small taste of water would have such an effect," Diego said.

"You were just unfortunate this time, Diego. Our water comes from a spring, but it is perfectly safe," Alejandro consoled him. The small talk flowed to a stop and silence entered the room once more.

Several emotions played across Diego’s face, but finally he smiled and looked back up at his father. "No more chasing stallions in the mountains. Perhaps this will give me time to compose a new tune."

Alejandro sighed and shook his head, he was sure that his son had been ready to reveal his secret to him. Diego chuckled softly and Alejandro frowned. Then he couldn’t help himself, he began to laugh. Diego was alive; he would not begrudge him his desire to keep secrets from him. Not at this time. When he regained his composure, he saw Diego looking at him, puzzled.

"You are alive, my son, and that is what counts. Sit here and compose all you like, at least until you are well. And when you are well, the truce will be over and I will fuss at you again," he said, smiling. Diego smiled back and then yawned. "The doctor said that you must rest a great deal for a day or two." Diego nodded and soon drifted back off to sleep.

Ten days later, Alejandro was reading a letter from Gregorio Verdugo of Monterey, detailing a plan to gather funds for the purchase of desperately needed supplies from Spain. "It is a commendable plan and a much needed action, Diego. I will send word to all of the hacendados and merchants immediately, and then I will have to find someone who can be trusted to take the funds."

"I will be happy to go to Monterey, Father," Diego announced. He had just come back from a visit to the pueblo and was in particularly good spirits. The night before, Zorro had made a short excursion, not to deal justice, but to enjoy the freedom that feeling well had brought him. Tornado had seemed to enjoy the ride as well.

"But Diego, it is a strenuous journey, at least eight days, and you have just regained your health," Alejandro protested. "And besides, I would feel very uncomfortable if you carried that much money with you, for I am sure there will be a great deal."

"Your point about the money is well taken, Father. I, too, would feel uncomfortable carrying a great quantity of someone else’s money," the younger de la Vega said. "But I would still like to make the journey. And as far as my health is concerned, by the time the funds have been gathered another week or two will have passed."

"Perhaps if we send a trusted courier along several days after you leave, that will give you time to make your introductions with Gregorio and alert him to the arrival of the Los Angeles money. It says here in the letter that there have been a few problems with couriers being waylaid," Alejandro told him, his voice full of concern.

"Why not send a letter now, letting him know that I will be coming in the near future. It has been a very long time since I have visited Monterey and no one will recognize me. By the time anyone knows that I am in Monterey, I will already be there," Diego suggested, smiling at the convoluted reasoning that he had just given. "And when the money is sent, perhaps it would be better if the courier is accompanied by several lancers."

"You are right, my son, no one would be likely to recognize you. And most definitely, lancers should accompany the courier. Very well, two weeks and only if the doctor says that you are well enough," Alejandro agreed.

Diego smiled. He welcomed this as a much needed change of pace. Zorro would stay home and he would have a very welcome ‘holiday.’

Two weeks later, Diego checked his saddlebags, finding that Bernardo had once again provided for every contingency. Turning, he clapped his father on the back. "I will see you in a month, Father?"

", Diego. My cousin, Rafael will be expecting me, and it will be good to see the governor once again, this time under much more pleasant circumstances," Alejandro said. Diego mounted. "Take care, my son."

Diego gave him a smile and a one handed salute, and the old caballero suddenly saw Zorro in front of him doing exactly the same thing.

"Vaya con Dios, Diego," he said fervently as Diego and Bernardo turned their horses toward the King’s Highway. Love and pride swelled to almost unbearable proportions in his chest, threatening to overwhelm him. "I have pulled the mask away and seen my son," he murmured, watching his child ride out of sight.


The End




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