Juan's Christmas Gift
Chapter Six - A Present for Dia de los Reyes
Bernardo drove the team of horses steadily through the ever-pouring rain. Despite the protection his hat and the poncho would normally have provided him, he had been soaked within the first mile from the hacienda. Before reaching the mission, the mute and his trail partner in the other wagon were met by a mission Indian, who informed them of the urgent need for one of them to go to the smaller mission and get the last of the children.
After getting the information in sign, Bernardo informed the servant driving the other wagon that he would go. A short time later when he arrived, the children were standing on the mission steps waiting anxiously. A young priest helped them into the back of the wagon and urged Bernardo to hasten. Distant rumbling sounds punctuated the priest’s words and the manservant turned the bedraggled animals around and started back down the mountainside.
The trip down the mountains was faster, but Bernardo's problem was in keeping the poor animals from slipping on the incline and going too fast. He looked nervously above him as they passed the Mountain of the Black Bears, hearing small noises that indicated a shifting of earth and rocks. Near the bottom of the mountain road, the wagon mired and nothing Bernardo and the priest did could dislodge the stuck wheels.
With a sigh, Bernardo unhitched the horses and admonished the young cleric, to take as many children on horseback as he could and keep going to the de la Vega hacienda. An older child was put in charge of the remaining orphans following on foot. As the group of children slogged through the mud and around the bend of the trail, the ominous rumbling that had frightened Bernardo earlier during the trip grew louder. Looking up, the servant saw part of the mountainside disengage itself from the bedrock and start cascading down the slope.
Eyes wide in horror, Bernardo ran as fast on the slippery trail as he could, but it wasn't fast enough. Glancing back he saw the mud push the wagon toward him at an incredible speed. With a cracking, grinding sound the wagon split apart and slid even faster toward him. The mozo tried to dodge the pieces of wagon bed, but was unable to move fast enough and was slammed against a boulder. Through red curtains of pain, he looked down and saw that the wagon's sideboard had him pinned immovable against the boulder.
Surprisingly, Bernardo was quite lucid after the initial waves of pain subsided, but saw that his injuries were most likely fatal. As the mud pressed the wood ever tighter, the pain subsided, although he could still feel the inexorable pressure. The manservant tried desperately to push the boards aside, but it was like trying to stop the river with a wave of a hand. It simply couldn't be done. The pressure against his diaphragm created problems with his breathing, and Bernardo stopped struggling and resigned himself to his fate. He worried about Don Diego and wondered who would help him when he was gone. Bernardo prayed that his patrón would be protected.
"Don Alejandro, I need a horse." Juan said simply. He had appeared at the sala door, shortly after Diego's departure, to the astonishment of the elder de la Vega. When Alejandro didn't answer quickly, he continued. "Señor de la Vega, I know that your son went in search of his manservant, who is, indeed, in grave danger. I need a horse, because his black stallion cannot alone do the job that will be needed in the mountains. Please, señor, time is of the essence."
Alejandro realized what the church worker was saying and stammered, "My son does not have a black stallion."
"But El Zorro does. Please, there is no time for word games, may I get a horse from your stable?" Juan asked.
Alejandro nodded and watched Juan dash toward the stables. Not long after that, the old man heard the soft clattering of hooves on the mud-coated stones.
Zorro saw the children and the priest trudging down through the pass and brought Tornado to a halt. "The de la Vega manservant, where is he?"
"Back up the pass, Señor Zorro. We thought he was following, but then we heard part of the mountain come down and we knew he had not made it. I had to take care of the children. I could not leave," the priest said sadly.
"I understand. The de la Vega hacienda is just a few miles further and you should not be in any danger of mud slides from this point on," Zorro informed them as he spurred Tornado on up the trail.
A short while further as he rounded the bend, he saw a sight that horrified him. Bernardo was pinned against a rock by mud and a piece of a wagon. The mute turned toward him with worried eyes and then motioned him back. Zorro ignored him. Seeing Bernardo able to communicate gave him hope. Forcing the black stallion through the knee-deep muck, the outlaw soon made his way close enough to tie a rope around part of the broken wagon. Bernardo once again motioned for him to leave. "No, Bernardo, never. Tornado will pull away this wood pinning you against the boulder and then I will take you back to the hacienda."
Bernardo signed the hopelessness of the situation. "NO, Bernardo, it is not hopeless!" Zorro cried. The mozo sagged against the boulder, his breathing ragged and labored.
"Diego, take this rope and tie it to the board. It will take both horses pulling." Zorro took the second rope without question and tied it near the first. Turning, he saw Juan urging both horses to pull. Slipping and sliding, the pair of animals was soon making headway, and Zorro saw the slow movement of the wagon piece away from Bernardo's body. As soon as there was room for him to approach the manservant, he reached in and grabbed Bernardo as he sagged in semi-consciousness.
The relief of pressure brought an overwhelming renewal of pain for the servant and he screamed soundlessly. In despair, he looked into the anxious face of his patrón, before darkness overtook him.
Zorro carried Bernardo far enough away from the thick mud to care for him in a place of relative safety. Juan walked at his elbow, steadying him when his boots slipped on the wet mud. Gently laying Bernardo down, he looked at the battered condition of his friend and with a cry of anguish, Zorro held the dying servant, trying to keep the rain out of the mute's face with his own body. He could feel the ebbing of life from Bernardo's body and Zorro felt that part of his own soul was dying as well.
"Diego, let me help," Juan said softly.
"There is nothing that can be done," Zorro said in a hoarse whisper.
"Diego, would you believe me if I said I could cure your servant's injuries?" Juan said in a low, but authoritative voice.
Zorro looked up, a ready retort on his lips, but something in Juan's eyes stopped him. He saw such power and compassion in the face of the church helper, as he could never imagine a mere mortal to have. Juan's face almost glowed. "Yes, I would," was all that Zorro could say and he looked back down at the servant who had served him with such devotion and loyalty these past years. "Yes, Juan, even though I know of no physician on Earth who could cure injuries such as these, if you say you can, then please do it."
"I have the power of the Master Physician, Diego. Continue to hold him for me," Juan told him as he gently laid his hands upon Bernardo's head. "Bernardo Hernan Treviño y Briales, I command you in the name of Jesus Christ, my Master, to be healed of these injuries, to rise and walk and serve your fellowmen once again."
Zorro had no doubt of the authority of Juan's words; he felt a flow of whatever power the healer possessed. It didn't strengthen him physically, but the despair he felt melted away, and he looked up at Juan in astonishment and wonder. Then he felt the renewed vigor of the man in his arms as Bernardo began to breathe normally again.
Suddenly, Bernardo opened his eyes and looked at both men, then looked down at his legs. Blood still mixed with mud on his trousers, but his legs were whole and he looked up to Juan, knowing that somehow he was the source of his succor. Signing his thanks, the mozo struggled to rise from the sodden ground. Zorro helped him, happily. Bernardo looked down in wonder once again and then back up at his patrón.
Happiness bubbled like a spring and Zorro began to laugh, grabbing his manservant in a bear hug, which Bernardo reciprocated. Looking over to the healer, all Zorro could say at that moment was thank you.
"Your faith helped make this happen, Diego. Miracles cannot happen without faith," Juan said quietly. "But you are very welcome. There is much more for you two to accomplish and neither of you can do it alone."
"Who are you, Juan?" Zorro asked, still awed, as he untied the ropes from the horses. "Where did you get such miraculous power?"
"As I said, my power comes from the Master Healer, in whose name I continue to work. My names are several. Juan Querido, Juan Revelador," he shrugged. "There are others, but the name is not important. The deeds, the service are what count as we make our journey through life."
Bernardo started signing furiously about the time Zorro dropped the ropes in shock. Shock that surged through his body. "The Revelator," he whispered. "Are you a ghost or returned from the dead?"
"No, Diego, I am very much alive, have been for a long time, will continue to be for some time to come," Juan laughed softly. "Until the Savior comes again. A request made and a promise given," he added softly.
Only for an instant did Zorro ponder. "It is no wonder there were disputes over the date of your death, because that event never occurred."
"Sí," Juan said simply. "And now I must leave you. I have finished here in Los Angeles and must journey on. Felice Navidad, Diego, Bernardo; remember who it is that you serve as you serve your fellowmen." With a wave and a smile, Juan walked up a little path along the side of the mountain and before the two men could say anything, the Revelator disappeared from sight.
Two days later, on January 6th, the day officially called Dia de Los Reyes, the two de la Vegas and Bernardo exchanged simple gifts in the sala as they watched the orphans in their care play with the gifts they had already received. The noisy chatter was much different from the normal quiet of the hacienda, but the men reveled in the children’s company. The mozo had ordered some new sheet music from Mexico and had it tied with a simple ribbon. Diego looked at it in appreciation and then looked back at Bernardo. In an voice filled with emotion, he only said, "Gracias, Bernardo, but God has given me the greatest gift that a man could receive on Dia de Los Reyes, and that is the promise of more years of companionship with a devoted and loyal friend."
Author's Source Notes:
for John the Revelator-
on the Russian language and culture-
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