Alfonso and his sons were returning from a very successful bachelor party. Due to running the tavern, he knew the consequences of drinking too much. Therefore, last night he drank just enough to have fun, but not to overdo it.
His sons were a completely different matter. Francisco and Ramon, who rode together on a second horse, were a picture of misery and despair. Despite their father’s warnings, they quaffed numerous toasts. Alfonso intentionally allowed them to make this error. Man learns best from his own mistakes.
It was late afternoon and they would be home soon. There he would be able to entrust them to Isabella. In addition to the headache, they would have to face Senora Escalante’s famous anger and these together would give a very good life lesson. Of course, he and his wife had earlier predicted their sons would do this.
They entered the pueblo at the end of siesta. No wonder that the plaza and streets were deserted. When he drove up to their stable behind the tavern, he saw the horse of young de la Vega.
It didn’t surprise him because Diego was a frequent visitor. What worried him was the absolute silence in the kitchen. The three of them entered and looked around the room in surprise. The fire under the stove had long gone out, everything was arranged, in place and nothing indicated the daily bustle.
“Father?” Ramon asked uncertainly.
“I do not know,” Alfonso answered and pushed back the curtain covering the entrance to the main hall. At one of the tables, Victoria was sitting with her back to them in tight embrace with Diego.
The young caballero was always a gentleman and friend. He would never do anything to jeopardize his daughter’s reputation. Alfonso had a vague feeling that something very bad had happened.
“Victoria”, he began when his sons leaned out from behind the curtain.
The girl didn’t even hear him and didn’t stir. Instead, Diego turned his head but made no move to separate from Victoria even by a centimetre.
“Senor Escalante, I regret I have some bad news.” Alfonso saw a moment of hesitation in the young man’s eyes. “I am very sorry, I tried to protest but they would not listen to me.”
The man’s bad feelings were real. A cold shiver went through him. On the other hand, Ramon and Francisco looked as if they did not fully comprehend the mood in the room.
Diego struggled with the choice of words. Alfonso tried to encourage him. “Say it, straight from the shoulder. Beating around the bush is the worst.”
The caballero inhaled deeply and said in the same breath, “Your wife, Senora Escalante, is dead.”
xxx Zorro xxx
The world whirled and Alfonso sat down heavily on the nearest bench. His sons were shocked and stood like pillars of salt. Only heavy breaths could be heard in silence. Victoria, still not noticing the arrival of her family, leaned on a friend.
Diego briefly summarized the course of events. At first, it was difficult for him. Usually, he was eloquent, but now he tried to choose the least painful words. Nobody interrupted him. Meanwhile, Victoria noticed the presence of her father and brothers, turned to them, but did not say a word.
When the caballero finished, an uncomfortable silence settled over them. Alfonso took the news seemingly calmly. He had lost his parents at a young age, so he knew the taste of the death of a loved one. He would have to face his feelings later; now he had to think about his children. They did not know their grandparents, so it was the first death that affected them directly.
He looked at his boys. Yesterday’s drunkenness had an effect on them at the beginning because they were slowly absorbing information. But now that they fully understood the situation, anger and thirst for revenge glinted in their eyes. They got up from the benches and started for the door.
“Sit down!” It was an order. “I have one funeral to organize, I’m not going to organize three.” This calmed Ramon and Francisco a bit because they went back to their previous places.
Diego did not want to meddle in the private moment of the family, but Victoria held him tight, and the young Escalantes were his friends. “Go for a ride in the hills or chop wood. It helped me once. I know how you feel and I’m really sorry. Your mother was an extraordinary woman, but she certainly wouldn’t want you to get hurt.”
Alfonso nodded in recognition of the good advice. “Diego is right. Instead of doing something stupid, do something useful. There is quite a large mountain of wood needing to be chopped behind the barn.”
Ramon moved first, followed by Francisco. Senor Escalante approached Victoria, knelt down and stroked her head. “Honey, how are you?”
At the sight of the deep love radiating from his eyes, fresh tears began to trickle down the girl’s cheek. “Bad. Now is bad. But I will be good. Mother told me not to cry and live my life. I will. But not today.”
“Your mother is … was a smart one.” Alfonso turned to Diego. “Thank you for everything you did for Victoria and Isabella today. Can I have one more request?”
“No thanks required. I wish I could have done more. And you can ask for anything, senor.”
“Can you sit with her a little bit more? I have to go talk to the padre and I don’t want her to walk with me or stay alone. My boys won’t be helpful to her, either.”
“Of course. I don’t intend to go back until I’m no longer needed.”
Alfonso patted his shoulder and stood up. “Thank you, Diego, you are a great friend.”
A sad smile was his only answer.
xxx Zorro xxx
While Alfonso was talking to the padre and the rhythmic sounds of axes began to come from the yard, Diego realised it had been a long day, and Victoria’s stomach began to growl.
“I’m an idiot, you haven’t eaten anything since breakfast. Come to the kitchen, I’ll make something for you.”
Victoria smiled, didn’t think about it herself, and recognized the gesture of a friend who now wanted to occupy her thoughts with something else. “Actually, since yesterday. I couldn’t get anything down from the hacienda breakfast, sorry.”
Diego just nodded and, holding her hand, led her into the kitchen. He was usually quite skilled at helping with cooking, but today he was strangely clumsy. The girl appreciated his efforts, so took the knife from his hands. “Let me do it before you cut yourself. Maybe I wouldn’t have the strength to chop all that wood, but cooking will be a good distraction. Thank you.”
The caballero’s awkwardness disappeared in an instant. Together they prepared a meal for everyone.
xxx Zorro xxx
They ate supper in silence. Alfonso announced that the mass and funeral would take place the next day at noon. The Escalante boys were tired and retreated into the room they shared. Alfonso went to the kitchen to clean up. Victoria and Diego were alone.
“I guess I’ll have to leave now. You’re with your family now. I’ll come back tomorrow morning.” The caballero squeezed her hand.
“I guess. Thank you for everything.” Victoria was still very sad, but thanks to the preparations for supper and him being at her side all day, she was better.
“De nada.” Diego risked a brotherly kiss on her forehead and left.
Picture of Victoria comes from www.newworldzorro.com
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 1 Echos of revolution
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 2 Wounded man and compassion
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 3 Death of Isabella Escalante
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 4 Return of the male Escalantes
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 5 The funeral
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 6 Absence and the first promise
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 7 Escape is discovered & the second promise
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 8 Hard beginnings
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 9 News about the family
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 10 Birthday’s present & goodbye to a friend
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 11 Return and Zorro
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 12 The Devil’s Fortress
- Diego’s promise to Alfonso Escalante – chapter 13 The funniest mistakes