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Swordsman's Revenge

 

 

 

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.  

 

 

Part One

 

After 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.

As 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 aroused.   Surreptitiously, 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, no, a thousand times no!!" she fired back.  "You haven't paid your bill from last month."    

"Oh, 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?"    

While 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.    

"Sgt. 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 interest.    

"Ahh, Señor.  That is excellent wine," Sgt. Garcia declared after half of the poured wine had reached his ample stomach.   

"What 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 Morento rancho.    

"I 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 itself."    

"But Zorro?" Pacheco asked in astonishment.    

"Sí, 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.   

“But this has happened once before,” someone near the sergeant said.  “And it was proven to be an imposter.”  

“That 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.    

"Gracias," 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.   

The 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."     

Bernardo 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.     

During 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.     

“Ah, 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?"

Bernardo began signing frantically.   

Diego 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 us?”     

When 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.

"Settle 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.    

Bernardo 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?"    

Bernardo gulped and nodded.  Gazing intently at Don Diego, he gave the sign for Zorro.   

Diego 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 surface. 

Even though expecting it, Alejandro jumped a bit.    

"Whoever 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 pretty well.

 

 

 

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Hernando Chronicles Introduction
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