Zorro must once again deal with an imposter, one who is so clever that he not only has the entire pueblo in an uproar, but he has Diego wondering how he can stop this man so determined to destroy Zorro that he is willing to kill anyone to achieve his goal.
having picked up the mail for the hacienda, Bernardo was resting at
a table in the small patio outside the tavern sipping a glass of wine,
when a contingent of lancers, led by Sergeant Garcia, came thundering
through the plaza, stirring up a great cloud of dust.
As the grit settled, Bernardo looked in disgust at what remained of
his drink and then pushed it aside.
usual, Sgt. Garcia wasn't quiet about his activities.
"What a morning! Corporal
Reyes, take my horse over to the cuartel.
I have to go into the inn for a moment.” He sighed lustily and then shook his head.
“I simply cannot believe Zorro would do anything like that,"
he rambled. Reyes
muttered under his breath, but took the reins of Garcia's horse and
complied with the order.
Zorro? Bernardo thought.
Knowing that Don Diego had not gone out the previous evening, nor
had he indicated any plans for the morning, the manservant's curiosity was
he followed the fat sergeant into the inn, stood near the counter, and
noticed with amusement that Garcia was having no more success at wheedling
a bit of wine from the bar maid than he usually did.
"Oh, Maria, just a little, please?
It was such a dusty ride to and from the Morento's hacienda."
no, a thousand times no!!" she fired back. "You haven't paid your bill from last month."
but Maria, it makes a responsible man like myself very thirsty when I have
to deal with a robbery such as the one last night at the Señor Morento's
hacienda. And to think that
Zorro would lower himself to do such a despicable act.
What is the world coming to?"
Maria stood staring at him in shocked silence, Señor Pacheco, the
innkeeper, jerked his head up from cleaning the counter top and considered
the acting comandante’s news. Here
was tale worth listening to, and he was shrewd enough to know that the
best way to get that information was to make the sergeant happy, and the
way to make him happy was to give him some wine.
Putting a glass and a bottle of wine on a tray, he put on his most
accommodating smile and walked over to Garcia's table.
Garcia, have a bit of wine to wash the dust from your throat.
That must have been very difficult having to do such unpleasant
duty so early in the morning." Setting
the tankard in front of the corpulent soldier, he saw Garcia's eyes
glitter in anticipation. The
innkeeper only half-filled the mug, holding on to the bottle of wine
himself. He was curious, but
not so curious to let a whole bottle of wine be used to satisfy his
Señor. That is excellent
wine," Sgt. Garcia declared after half of the poured wine had reached
his ample stomach.
is this I hear about Señor Zorro?" the innkeeper coaxed.
Bernardo continued to look around the dining area with the gaze of
one who can't hear what is going on around him, but his mind had focused
in on the impending news that the sergeant had brought with him from the
could not believe it when I heard it, even from the lips of Doña Anna
Marlena herself," Garcia began.
"Last night, the bandit Zorro came very boldly into their
hacienda and took several pieces of priceless jewelry that Don Francisco
had brought from Spain when they settled in this area.
One was a necklace of great beauty, with a pendant made of pure
gold and covered with priceless jewels.
They said it had to be worth well over one thousand pesos all by
Zorro?" Pacheco asked in astonishment.
Señor," Sgt. Garcia said sadly, emptying the tankard and setting it
in front of the innkeeper. The
acting comandante had a small audience now.
Everyone, it seemed, was interested in the exploits of Zorro, and
this event was made more interesting by the fact that it was so out of
character for the outlaw.
this has happened once before,” someone near the sergeant said.
“And it was proven to be an imposter.”
is true,” Garcia said. “And
this could be the case here, but how are we to know?
And besides, Doña Marlena was so sure. She said that Zorro told her he was tired of saving
people and giving money to others. She
said he shouted out that it was time for the people to give to Zorro now.
Who knows, maybe Zorro needs some money.”
He took the last gulp of wine from his mug.
"But that is not the worst of it."
He looked thoughtfully at the long-jowled man holding the bottle of
wine. Sighing, the innkeeper poured some more wine.
the sergeant said, and then continued his narrative. "Zorro beat Don Francisco with the butt of his pistola.
His wife sent for a priest, he was hurt so badly."
Bernardo mentally winced; Don Diego was not going to like this
news. This type of
impersonation had occurred before and not only had Zorro’s reputation
been impugned, but the Indian, Innocente, had been killed.
That had deeply affected Don Diego and had given him even more
cause to be angry with Monastario, who had been behind the impersonation.
sergeant resumed his narrative, "But after they had cleaned him up
and put him to bed, it was determined that he would be all right with
time. What was the worst was
what he threatened to do to Doña Anna Marlena."
had been leaning on one elbow, looking dreamily at the fire in the
fireplace. He listened more intently as the babbling of Sgt. Garcia's
audience intensified. "The
bandit laid hands on the lady and ripped her dress and was ready to . . .
uh . . . do something terrible to her when several servants came to her
aide. One gave his life to
save her honor." The
innkeeper poured the rest of the wine into Garcia's tankard; he was so
shocked. Bernardo's elbow
slipped off the counter and he had to struggle to look uninterested in the
conversation. The babbling of
the crowd grew into cries of indignation and rage.
Bernardo decided that Don Diego would not only be angry, he would
most likely be livid. Despite
what had been done while in the guise of the outlaw, never before had an
imposter so dealt with a lady.
the intensely vivid conversations, Bernardo slipped out. His other errands were forgotten. He mounted quickly and rode
with haste back to the de la Vega hacienda. When he arrived, he handed the
reins of his mare to a peon working in the stable and ran quickly through
the patio and up the stairs to Don Diego's room.
As he banged on the door, his agitation almost had him dancing from
one foot to the other. There was no answer and the door remained shut.
He looked at the sun. It
was almost lunchtime. His
patrón would be in the sala having lunch most likely.
He ran back down the stairs and into the main room of the house
where he saw Don Diego and Don Alejandro just finishing up their meal.
Bernardo, I thought I heard you upstairs,” Diego said, all the while
making signs that indicated the same thing.
He saw the agitated look on his manservant’s face and knew that
something of great consequence had happened in the pueblo.
However, he had to play the role. "Bernardo, what is all
the fuss about?"
began signing frantically.
motioned for him to stop. He
turned and looked at his father, who had been watching with great
interest. “It would seem,
Father, that something of great consequence has happened in the pueblo this
morning. Shall we go into the
library where we can enjoy a cigar and hear what Bernardo has to tell
the two hacendados walked into the room, Bernardo followed, checking to
make sure that no one else was there.
Then he checked the door again to make sure there were no servants
outside who might eavesdrop. He
not want anyone else to hear about this before his master did, not that
the servants wouldn’t get the news quickly anyway.
Such gossip traveled faster than Zorro’s horse.
But Bernardo knew that Don Diego was likely to react violently to
this bit of information and he didn’t want anyone else to see his master
out of character. And
if Don Diego didn’t react with great passion, Bernardo knew that Don
Alejandro was most likely to.
down, Bernardo, settle down. What
is going on in the pueblo that has you so agitated?"
Diego asked. He and his father exchanged glances. This appeared to be serious.
started signing slowly and deliberately. Don Diego repeated his signing to
make sure it was understood correctly.
"A bandit robbed Don Morento's hacienda last night, stealing
precious jewels." he repeated. "Did
the bandit hurt anyone?" Diego
looked appalled when told that Don Gregorio had been beaten to near death.
"The bandit also threatened Dona Anna Marlena's virtue?"
his face registered intense shock at Bernardo's signs.
He stood up as though to leave the room.
"That is unconscionable, Zorro must ride to the Morento
hacienda to investigate, inmediatamente, and then ride to find this
outlaw." Bernardo shook
his head no. "What do you mean Zorro should not ride? Of course he will!
Did Sgt. Garcia give a description of this bandit?"
gulped and nodded. Gazing
intently at Don Diego, he gave the sign for Zorro.
gaped in surprise, saying nothing for a few instants. Then he turned and paced to one end of the library before
coming back to the table, where he slammed both hands down hard on the oak
though expecting it, Alejandro jumped a bit.
has done this will pay for this dishonor," Diego hissed.
Pacing again, he grabbed a sword from above the mantelpiece,
advanced on an imagined enemy, and shortened every candle in the room,
muttering his intentions with each stroke. All in all, Bernardo felt that Don Diego had taken the news
|Hernando Chronicles Introduction|