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  1. #1

    **@علامة زورو ... الرواية كاملة @**

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    زورو اسم عريق ارتبط بكل محارب للظلم والاستبداد ....

    زورو الشخصية الاسطورية المشهورة بمحاربة المستعمر الاسباني ونصرة الشعب المظلوم ... اشتهرت هذه الرواية حول العالم وانتج لها العديد من الافلام والمسلسلات وافلام الكارتون وافلام الانيمي ...


    كتب الرواية الاصلية هو
    Johnston McCulley

    وهو رجل تحري سابق في الشرطة .. بدأت قصته في مجلة All-Story Weekly بشكل اسبوعي عام 1919 تحكي قصة الشاب Don Diego de la Vegaوهو ابن رجل ثري في كاليفورنيا

    لن اطيل عليكم ...

    اليكم الرواية وهي باللغة الالنجليزية تتكون من 39 فصل

    Chapter One: PEDRO, THE BOASTER


    AGAIN THE SHEET of rain beat against the roof of red Spanish tile, and the wind shrieked like a soul in torment, and smoke puffed from the big fireplace as the sparks were showered over the hard dirt floor.
    "Tis a night for evil deeds!" declared Sergeant Pedro Gonzales, stretching his great feet in their loose boots toward the roaring fire and grasping the hilt of his sword in one hand and a mug filled with thin wine in the other. "Devils howl in the wind, and demons are in the raindrops! Tis an evil night, indeed—eh, senor?"
    "It is!" The fat landlord agreed hastily; and he made haste, also, to fill the wine mug again, for Sergeant Pedro Gonzales had a temper that was terrible when aroused, as it always was when wine was not forthcoming.
    "An evil night," the big sergeant repeated, and drained the mug without stopping to draw breath, a feat that had attracted considerable attention in its time and had gained the sergeant a certain amount of notoriety up and down El Camino Real, as they called the highway that connected the missions in one long chain.
    Gonzales sprawled closer to the fire and cared not that other men thus were robbed of some of its warmth. Sergeant Pedro Gonzales often had expressed his belief that a man should look out for his own comfort before considering others; and being of great size and strength, and having much skill with the blade, he found few who had the courage to declare that they believed otherwise.
    Outside the wind shrieked, and the rain dashed against the ground in a solid sheet. It was a typical February storm for southern California. At the missions the frailes had cared for the stock and had closed the buildings for the night. At every great hacienda big fires were burning in the houses. The timid natives kept to their little adobe huts, glad for shelter.
    And here in the little pueblo of Reina de Los Angeles, where, in years to come, a great city would grow, the tavern on one side of the plaza housed for the time being men who would sprawl before the fire until the dawn rather than face the beating rain.
    Sergeant Pedro Gonzales, by virtue of his rank and size, hogged the fireplace, and a corporal and three soldiers from the presidio sat at table a little in rear of him, drinking their thin wine and playing at cards. An Indian servant crouched on his heels in one corner, no neophyte who had accepted the religion of the frailes, but a gentile and renegade.
    For this was in the day of the decadence of the missions, and there was little peace between the robed Franciscans who followed in the footsteps of the sainted Junipero Serra, who had founded the first mission at San Diego de Alcala, and thus made possible an empire, and those who followed the politicians and had high places in the army. The men who drank wine in the tavern at Reina de Los Angeles had no wish for a spying neophyte about them.
    Just now conversation had died out, a fact that annoyed the fat landlord and caused him some fear; for Sergeant Pedro Gonzales in an argument was Sergeant Gonzales at peace; and unless he could talk the big soldier might feel moved to action and start a brawl.
    Twice before Gonzales had done so, to the great damage of furniture and men's faces; and the landlord had appealed to the comandante of the presidio, Captain Ramon, only to be informed that the captain had an abundance of troubles of his own, and that running an inn was not one of them.
    So the landlord regarded Gonzales warily and edged closer to the long table and spoke in an attempt to start a general conversation and so avert trouble.
    "They are saying in the pueblo," he announced, "that this Senor Zorro is abroad again."
    His words had an effect that was both unexpected and terrible to witness. Sergeant Pedro Gonzales hurled his half-filled wine mug to the hard dirt floor, straightened suddenly on the bench, and crashed a ponderous fist down upon the table, causing wine mugs and cards and coins to scatter in all directions.
    The corporal and the three soldiers retreated' a few feet in sudden fright, and the red face of the landlord blanched; the native sitting in the corner started to creep toward the door, having determined that he preferred the storm outside to the big sergeant's anger.
    "Senor Zorro, eh?" Conzales cried in a terrible voice. "Is it my fate always to hear that name? Senor Zorro, eh? Mr. Fox, in other words! He imagines, I take it, that he is as cunning as-one. By the saints, he raises as much stench!"
    Gonzales gulped, turned to face them squarely, and continued his tirade.
    "He runs up and down the length of El Camino Real like a goat of the high hills! He wears a mask, and he flashes a pretty blade, they tell me. He uses the point of it to carve his hated letter Z on the cheek of his foe! Ha! The mark of Zorro they are calling it! A pretty blade he has, in truth! But I cannot swear as to the blade—I never have seen it. He will not do me the honor of letting me see it! Senor Zorro's depredations never occur in the vicinity of Sergeant Pedro Gonzales! Perhaps this Senor Zorro can tell us the reason for that? Ha!"
    He glared at the men before him, threw up his upper lip, and let the ends of his great black mustache bristle.
    "They are calling him the Curse of Capistrano now," the fat landlord observed, stooping to pick up the wine mug and cards and hoping to filch a coin in the process.
    "Curse of the entire highway and the whole mission chain!" Sergeant Gonzales roared. "A cutthroat, he is! A thief! Ha! A common fellow presuming to get him a reputation for bravery because he robs a hacienda or so and frightens a few women and natives! Senor Zorro, eh? Here is one fox it gives me pleasure to hunt! Curse of Capistrano, eh? I know I have led an evil life, but I only ask of the saints one thing now—that they forgive me my sins long enough to grant me the boon of standing face to face with this pretty highwayman!"
    "There is a reward—" the landlord began.
    "You snatch the very words from my lips!" Sergeant Gonzales protested. "There is a pretty reward for the fellow's capture, offered by his excellency the governor. And what good fortune has come to my blade? I am away on duty at San Juan Capistrano, and the fellow makes his play at Santa Barbara. I am at Reina de Los Angeles, and he takes a fat purse at San Luis Reydine at San Gabriel, let us say, and he robs at San Diego de Alcala! A pest, he is! Once I met him—"
    Sergeant Gonzales choked on his wrath and reached for the wine mug, which the landlord had filled again and placed at his elbow. He gulped- down the contents. "Well, he never has visited us here," the landlord said with a sigh of thanksgiving.
    "Good reason, fat one! Ample reason! We have a presidio here and a few soldiers. He rides far from any presidio, does this pretty Senor Zorro! He is like a fleeting sunbeam, I grant him that—and with about as much real courage!"
    Sergeant Gonzales relaxed on the bench again, and the landlord gave him a glance that was full of relief, and began to hope that there would be no breakage of mugs and furniture and men's faces this rainy night.
    "Yet this Senor Zorro must rest at times—he must eat and sleep," the landlord said. "It is certain that he must have some place for hiding and recuperation. Some fine day the soldiers will trail him to his den."
    "Ha!" Gonzales replied. "Of course the man has to eat and sleep. And what is it that he claims now? He says that he is no real thief, by the saints! He is but punishing those who mistreat the men of the missions, he says. Friend of the oppressed, eh? He left a placard at Santa Barbara recently stating as much, did he not? Ha! And what may be the reply to that? The frailes of the missions are shielding him, hiding him, giving him his meat and drink! Shake down a robed fray and you'll find some trace of this pretty highwayman's whereabouts, else I am a lazy civilian!"
    "I have no doubt that you speak the truth," the landlord replied. "I put it not past the frailes to do such a thing. But may this Senor Zorro never visit us here!"
    "And why not, fat one?" Sergeant Gonzales cried in a voice of thunder. "Am I not here? Have I not a blade at my side? Are you an owl, and is this daylight that you cannot see as far as the end of your puny, crooked nose? By the saints—"
    "I mean," said the landlord quickly and with some alarm, "that I have no wish to be robbed."
    "To be—robbed of what, fat one? Of a jug of weak wine and a meal? Have you riches, fool? Ha! Let the fellow come! Let this bold and cunning Senor Zorro but enter that door and step before us! Let him make a bow, as they say he does, and let his eyes twinkle through his mask! Let me but face the fellow for an instant—and I claim the generous reward offered by his excellency!"
    "He perhaps is afraid to venture so near the presidio," the landlord said.
    "More wine!" Gonzales howled. "More wine, fat one, and place it to my account! When I have earned the reward, you shall be paid in full. I promise it on my word as a soldier! Ha! Were this brave and cunning Senor Zorro, this Curse of Capistrano, but to make entrance at that door now—"
    The door suddenly was opened."
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » *Kyuubi Mimi* في يوم » 06-10-2012 عند الساعة » 18:53
    get-6-2008-g36mqvm5hv8


    شكرا ،، smoker
    0


  2. ...

  3. #2
    Chapter Two: ON THE HEELS OF THE STORM


    IN CAME A GUST of wind and bain and a man with it, and the candles flickered, and one was extinguished. This sudden entrance in the midst of the sergeant's boast startled them all; and Gonzales drew his blade halfway from its scabbard as his words died in his throat. The native was quick to close the door again to keep out the wind.
    The newcomer turned and faced them; the landlord gave another sigh of relief. It was not Senor Zorro, of course. It was Don Diego Vega, a fair youth of excellent blood and twenty-four years, noted the length of El Camino Real for his small interest in the really important things of life.
    "Ha!" Gonzales cried, and slammed his blade home.
    "Is it that I startled you somewhat, senores?" Don Diego asked politely and in a thin voice, glancing around the big room and nodding to the men before him.
    "If you did, senor, it was because you entered on the heels of the storm," the sergeant retorted. "Twould not be your own energy that would startle any man." '
    "Hm!" grunted Don Diego, throwing aside his sombrero and flinging off his soaked serape. "Your remarks border on the perilous, my raucous friend."
    "Can it be that you intend to take me to task?"
    "It is true," continued Don Diego, "that I do not have a reputation for riding like a fool at risk of my neck, fighting like an idiot with every newcomer, and playing the guitar under every woman's window- like a simpleton. Yet I do not care to have these things you deem my shortcomings flaunted in my face."
    "Ha!" Gonzales cried, half in anger.
    "We have an agreement, Sergeant Gonzales, that we can be friends, and I can forget the wide difference in birth and breeding that yawns between us only as long as you curb your tongue and stand my comrade. Your boasts amuse me, and I buy for you the wine that you crave—it is a pretty arrangement. But ridicule me again, senor, either in public or private, and the agreement is at an end. I may mention that I have some small influence—"
    "Your pardon, caballero and my very good friend!" the alarmed Sergeant Gonzales cried now. "You are storming worse than the tempest outside, and merely because my tongue happened to slip. Hereafter, if any man ask, you are nimble of wit and quick with a blade, always ready to fight or to make love. You are a man of action, caballero! Ha! Does any dare doubt it?"
    He glared around the room, half drawing his blade again, and then he slammed the sword home and threw back his head and roared with laughter and then clapped Don Diego between the shoulders; and the fat landlord hurried with more wine, knowing well that Don Diego Vega would stand the score.
    For this peculiar friendship between Don Diego and Sergeant Gonzales was the talk of El Camino Real. Don Diego came from a family of blood that ruled over thousands of broad acres, countless herds of horses and cattle, great fields of grain. Don Diego, in his own right, had a hacienda that was like a small empire, and a house in the pueblo also, and was destined to inherit from his father more than thrice what he had now.
    But Don Diego was unlike the other full-blooded youths of the times. It appeared that he disliked action. He seldom wore his blade, except as a matter of style and apparel. He was damnably polite to all women and paid court to none.
    He sat in the sun and listened to the wild tales of other men—and now and then he smiled. He was the opposite of Sergeant Pedro Conzales in all things, and yet they were together frequently. It was as Don Diego had said—he enjoyed the sergeant's boasts, and the sergeant enjoyed the free wine. What more could either ask in the way of a fair arrangement?
    Now Don Diego went to stand before the fire and dry himself, holding a mug of red wine in one hand. He was only medium in size, yet he possessed health and good looks, and ft was the despair of proud duennas that he would not glance a second time at the pretty senoritas they protected, and for whom they sought desirable husbands.
    Gonzales, afraid that he had angered his friend and that the free wine would be at an end, now strove to make peace.
    "Caballero, we have been speaking of this notorious Senor Zorro," he said. "We have been regarding in conversation this fine Curse of Capistrano, as some nimble-witted fool has seen, fit to term the pest of the highway."
    "What about him?" Don Diego asked, putting down his wine mug and hiding a yawn behind his hand. Those who knew Don Diego best declared he yawned ten score times a day.
    "I have been remarking, caballero," said the sergeant, "that this fine Senor Zorro never appears in my vicinity, and that I am hoping the good saints will grant me the chance of facing him some fine day, that I may claim the reward offered by the governor. Senor Zorro, eh? Ha!"
    "Let us not speak of him," Don Diego begged, turning from the fireplace and throwing out one hand as if in protest. "Shall it be that I never hear of anything except deeds of bloodshed and violence? Would it be possible in these turbulent times for a man to listen to words of wisdom regarding music or the poets?"
    "Meal mush and goat's milk!" snorted Sergeant Gonzales in huge disgust. "If this Senor Zorro wishes to risk his neck, let him. It is his own neck, by the saints! A cutthroat! A thief! Ha!"
    "I have been hearing considerable concerning his work," Don Diego went on to say. "The fellow, no doubt, is sincere in his purpose. He has robbed none except officials who have stolen from the missions and the poor, and punished none except brutes who mistreat natives. He has slain no man, I understand. Let him have his little day in the public eye, my sergeant."
    "I would rather have the reward!"
    "Earn it," Don Diego said. "Capture the man!"
    "Ha! Dead or alive, the governor's proclamation says. I myself have read it."
    "Then stand you up to him and run him through, if such a thing pleases you," Don Diego retorted. "And tell me all about it afterward—but spare me now."
    "It will be a pretty story!" Gonzales cried. "And you shall have it entire, caballero, word by word! How I played with him, how I laughed at him as we fought, how I pressed him back after a time and ran him through—"
    "Afterward—but not now!" Don Diego cried, exasperated. "Landlord, more wine! The only manner in which to stop this raucous boaster is to make his wide throat so slick with wine that the words cannot climb out of it!"
    The landlord quickly filled the mugs. Don Diego sipped at his wine slowly, as a gentleman should, while Sergeant Gonzales took his in two great gulps. And then the scion of the house of Vega stepped across to the bench and reached for his sombrero and his serape.
    "What?" the sergeant cried. "You are going to leave us at such an early hour, caballero? You are going to face the fury of that beating storm?"
    "At least I am brave enough for that," Don Diego replied, smiling. "I but ran over from my house for a pot of honey. The fools feared the rain too much to fetch me some this day from the hacienda. Get me one, landlord."
    "I shall escort you safely home through the rain!" Sergeant Gonzales cried, for he knew full well that Don Diego had excellent wine of age there.
    "You shall remain here before the roaring fire," Don Diego told him firmly. "I do not need an escort of soldiers from the presidio to cross the plaza. I am going over accounts with my secretary, and possibly may return to the tavern after we have finished. I wanted the pot of honey that we might eat as we worked."
    "Ha! And why did you not send that secretary of yours for the honey, caballero? Why be wealthy and have servants, if a man cannot send them on errands on such a stormy night?"
    "He is an old man and feeble," Don Diego explained. "He also is secretary to my aged father. The storm would kill him. Landlord, serve all here with wine and put it to my account. I may return when my books have been straightened."
    Don Diego Vega picked up the pot of honey, wrapped his scrape around his head, opened the door, and plunged into the storm and darkness.
    "There goes a man!" Gonzales cried, flourishing his arms. "He is my friend, that caballero, and I would have all men know it! He seldom wears a blade, and I doubt whether he can use one—but he is my friend! The flashing dark eyes of lovely senoritas do not disturb him, yet I swear he is a pattern of a man!
    "Music and the poets, eh? Ha! Has he not the right, if such is his pleasure? Is he not Don Diego Vega? Has he not blue blood and broad acres and great storehouses filled with goods? Is he not liberal? He may stand on his head or wear petticoats, if "it please him—yet I swear he is a pattern of a man!"
    The soldiers echoed his sentiments since they were drinking Don Diego's wine and did not have the courage to combat the sergeant's statements anyway. The fat landlord served them with another round since Don Diego would pay. For it was beneath a Vega to look at his score in a public tavern, and the fat landlord many times had taken advantage of this fact.
    "He cannot endure the thought of violence or bloodshed," Sergeant Gonzales continued. "He is as gentle as a breeze of spring
    . .
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:04
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  4. #3
    Yet he has a firm wrist and a deep eye. It merely is the caballero's manner of seeing life. Did I but have his youth and good looks and riches— Ha! There would be a stream of broken hearts from San Diego de Alcala to San Francisco de Asis!"
    "And broken heads!" the corporal offered.
    "Ha! And broken heads, comrade! I would rule the country! No youngster should stand long in my way. Out with blade and at them! Cross Pedro Gonzales, eh? Ha! Through the shoulder—neatly! Ha! Through a lung!"

    Gonzales was upon his feet now, and his blade had leaped from its scabbard. He swept it back and forth through the air, thrust, parried, lunged, advanced, and retreated, shouted his oaths, and roared his laughter as he fought with shadows.
    "That is the manner of it!" he screeched at the fireplace. "What have we here? Two of you against one? So much the better, senores! We love brave odds! Ha! Have at you, dog! Die, hound! One side, poltroon!"
    He reeled against the wall, gasping, his breath almost gone, the. point of his blade resting on the floor, his great face purple with the exertion and the wine he had consumed, while the corporal and the soldiers and the fat landlord laughed long and loudly at this bloodless battle from which Sergeant Pedro Gonzales had emerged the unquestioned victor.
    "Were—were this fine Senor Zorro only before me here and now!" the sergeant gasped.
    And again the door was opened suddenly, and a man entered the inn on a gust of the stor
    m
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:19
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  5. #4
    Chapter Three: SENOR ZORRO PAYS A VISITTHE NATIVE HURRIED forward to fasten the door against the force of the wind, and then retreated to his corner again. The newcomer had his back toward those in the long room. They could see that his sombrero was pulled far down on his head, as if to prevent die wind from whisking it away, and that his body was enveloped in a long cloak that was wringing wet.
    With his back still toward them, he opened the cloak and shook the raindrops from it and then folded it across his breast again as the fat landlord hurried forward, rubbing his hands together in expectation, for he deemed that here was some caballero off the highway who would pay good coin for food and bed and care for his horse.
    When the landlord was within a few feet of him and the door the stranger whirled around. The landlord gave a little cry of fear and retreated with speed. The corporal gurgled deep down in his throat; the soldiers gasped; Sergeant Pedro Gonzales allowed his lower jaw to drop and let his eyes bulge.
    For the man who stood straight before them had a black mask over his face that effectually concealed his features, and through the two slits in it his eyes glittered ominously.
    "Ha! What have we here?" Gonzales gasped finally, some presence of mind returning to him.
    The man before them bowed.
    "Senor Zorro, at your service," he said.
    "By the saints I Senor Zorro, eh?" Gonzales cried.
    "Do you doubt it, senor?"
    "If you are indeed Senor Zorro, then have you lost your wits!" the sergeant declared.
    "What is the meaning of that speech?"
    "You are here, are you not? You have entered the inn, have you not? By all the saints, you have walked into a trap, my pretty highwayman!"
    "Will the senor please explain?" Senor Zorro asked. His voice was deep and held a peculiar ring.
    "Are you blind? Are you without sense?" Gonzales demanded. "Am I not here?"
    "And what has that to do with it?"
    "Am I not a soldier?"
    "At least you wear a soldier's garb, senor."
    "By the saints, and cannot you see the good corporal and three of our comrades? Have you come to surrender your wicked sword, senor? Are you finished playing at rogue?"
    Senor Zorro laughed, not unpleasantly, but he did not take his eyes-from Gonzales.
    "Most certainly I have not come to surrender," he said. "I am on business, senor."
    "Business?" Gonzales queried.
    "Four days ago, Senor, you brutally beat a native who had won your dislike. The affair happened on the road between here and the mission at San Gabriel."
    "He was a surly dog and got in my way! And how does it concern you, my pretty highwayman?"
    "I am the friend of the oppressed, Senor, and I have come to punish you."
    "Come to—to punish me, fool? You punish me? I shall die . of laughter before I can run you through! You are as good as dead, Senor Zorro! His excellency has offered a pretty price for your carcass! If you are a religious man, say your prayers! I would not have it said that I slew a man without giving him time to repent his crimes. I give you the space of a hundred heartbeats."
    "You are generous, Senor, but there is no need for me to say my prayers."
    "Then must I do my duty," said Gonzales, and lifted the point of his blade. "Corporal, you will remain by the table, and the men also. This fellow and the reward he means are mine!"
    He blew out the ends of his mustache and advanced carefully, not making the mistake of underestimating his antagonist, for there had been certain tales of the man's skill with a blade. And when he was within the proper distance he recoiled suddenly, as if a snake had warned of a strike.
    For Senor Zorro had allowed one hand to come from beneath his cloak, and the hand held a pistol, most damnable of weapons to Sergeant Gonzales.
    "Back, Senor!" Senor Zorro warned.
    "Ha! So that is the way of it!" Gonzales cried. "You carry that devil's weapon and threaten men with it! Such things are for use only at a long distance and against inferior foes. Gentlemen prefer the trusty blade."
    "Back, Senor! There is death in this you call the devil's weapon. I shall not warn again."
    "Somebody told me you were a brave man," Gonzales taunted, retreating a few feet. "It has been whispered that you would meet any man foot to foot and cross blades with him. I have believed it of you. And now I find you resorting to a weapon fit for nothing except to use against red natives. Can it be, senor, that you lack the courage I have heard you possess?"
    Senor Zorro laughed again.
    "As to that you shall see presently," he said. "The use of this pistol is necessary at the present time. I find myself pitted against large odds in this tavern, senor. I shall cross blades with you gladly when I have made such a proceeding safe."
    "I wait anxiously," Conzales sneered.
    "The corporal and soldiers will retreat to that far corner," Senor Zorro directed. "Landlord, you will accompany them. The native will go there also. Quickly, senores. Thank you. I. do not wish to have any of you disturbing me while I am punishing this sergeant here."
    "Ha!" Gonzales screeched in fury. "We shall soon see as to the punishing, my pretty fox!"
    "I shall hold the pistol in my left hand," Senor Zorro continued. "I shall engage this sergeant with my right, in the proper manner, and as I fight I shall keep an eye on the corner. The first move from any of you, senores, means that I fire. I am expert with this you have termed the devil's weapon, and if I fire some men shall cease to exist on this earth of ours. It is understood?"
    The corporal and soldiers and landlord did not take the . trouble to answer. Senor Zorro looked Gonzales straight in the eyes again, and a chuckle came from behind his mask.
    "Sergeant, you will turn your back until I can draw my blade," he directed. "I give you my word as a caballero that I shall not make a foul attack."
    "As a caballero?" Gonzales sneered.
    "I said it, senor!" Zorro replied, his voice ringing a threat.
    Gonzales shrugged his shoulders and turned his back. In an instant he heard the voice of the highwayman again.
    "On guard, senor!"
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:20
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  6. #5
    Chapter Four: SWORDS CLASH—AND PEDRO EXPLAINSGONZALES WHIRLED AT THE WORD, and his blade came up. He saw that Senor Zorro had drawn his sword, and that he was holding the pistol in his left hand high above his head. Moreover, Senor Zorro was chuckling still, and the sergeant became infuriated. The blades clashed.
    Sergeant Gonzales had been accustomed to battling with men who gave ground when they pleased and took it when they could, who went this way and that seeking an advantage, now advancing, now retreating, now swinging to left or right as their skill directed them.
    But here he faced a man who fought in quite a different way. For Senor Zorro, it appeared, was as if rooted to one spot and-unable to turn his face in any other direction. He did not give an inch, nor did he advance, nor step to either side.
    Gonzales attacked furiously, as was his custom, and he found the point of his blade neatly parried. He used more caution then and tried what tricks he knew, but they seemed to avail him nothing. He attempted to pass around the man before him, and the other's blade drove him back. He tried a retreat, hoping to draw the other out, but Senor Zorro stood his ground and forced Gonzales to attack again. As for the highwayman, he did nought except put up a defense.
    Anger got the better of Gonzales then, for he knew the corporal was jealous of him and that the tale of this fight would be told to all the pueblo tomorrow, and so travel up and down the length of El Camino Real.
    He attacked furiously, hoping to drive Senor Zorro off his feet and make an end of it But he found that his attack ended as if against a stone wall, his blade was turned aside, his breast crashed against that of his antagonist, and Senor Zorro merely threw out his chest and hurled him back half a dozen steps.
    "Fight, senor!" Senor Zorro said.
    .
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:21
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  7. #6
    "
    Fight yourself, cutthroat and thief!" the exasperated sergeant cried. "Don't stand like a piece of the hills, fool! Is it against your religion to take a step?"
    "You cannot taunt me into doing it," the highwayman replied, chuckling again.
    Sergeant Gonzales realized then that he had been angry, and he knew an angry man cannot fight with the blade as well as a man who controls his temper. So he became deadly cold now, and his eyes narrowed, and all boasting was gone from him.
    He attacked again, but now he was alert, seeking an unguarded spot through which he could thrust without courting disaster himself. He fenced as he never had fenced in his life before. He cursed himself for having allowed wine and food to rob him of his wind. From the front, from either side, he attacked, only to be turned back again, all his tricks solved almost before he tried them.
    He had been watching his antagonist's eyes, of course, and now he saw a change. They had seemed to be laughing through the mask, and now they had narrowed and seemed to send forth flakes of fire.
    "We have had enough of playing," Senor Zorro said. "It is time for the punishment!"
    And suddenly he began to press the fighting, taking step after step, slowly and methodically going forward and forcing Gonzales backward. The tip of his blade seemed to be a serpent's head with a thousand tongues. Gonzales felt himself at the other's mercy, but he gritted his teeth and tried to control himself and fought on.
    Now he was with his back against the wall, but in such a position that Senor Zorro could give him battle and watch the men in the corner at the same time. He knew the highwayman was playing with him. He was ready to swallow his pride and call upon the corporal and soldiers to rush in and give him aid.
    And then there came a sudden battering at the door, which the native had bolted. The heart of Gonzales gave a great leap. Somebody was there, wishing to enter. Whoever it was would think it peculiar that the door was not thrown open instantly by the fat landlord or his servant. Perhaps help was at hand.
    "We are interrupted, senor," the highwayman said. "I regret it, for I will not have the time to give you the punishment you deserve, and will have to arrange to visit you another time. You scarcely are worth a double visit."
    The pounding at the door was louder now. Gonzales raised his voice: "Ha! We have Senor Zorro here!"
    "Poltroon!" the highwayman cried.
    His blade seemed to take on new life. It darted in and out with a speed that was bewildering. It caught a thousand beams of light from the flickering candles and hurled them back.
    And suddenly it darted in and hooked itself properly, and Sergeant Gonzales felt his sword torn from his grasp and saw it go flying through the air.
    "So!" Senor Zorro cried.
    Gonzales awaited the stroke. A sob came into his throat that this must be the end instead of on a field of battle where a soldier wishes it. But no steel entered his breast to bring forth his life's blood.
    Instead, Senor Zorro swung his left hand down, passed the hilt of his blade to it and grasped it beside the pistol's butt, and with his right he slapped Pedro Gonzales once across the cheek.
    "That for a man who mistreats helpless natives!" he cried.
    Gonzales roared in rage and shame. Somebody was trying to smash the door in now. But Senor Zorro appeared to give it little thought. He sprang back, and sent his blade into its scabbard like a flash. He swept the pistol before him and thus threatened all in the long room. He darted to a window, sprang upon a bench.
    "Until a later time, senor!" he cried.
    And then he went through the window as a mountain goat jumps from a cliff, taking its covering with him. In rushed the wind and rain, and the candles went out.
    "After him!" Gonzales screeched, springing across the room and grasping his blade again. "Unbar the door! Out and after him! Remember, there is a generous reward—"
    The corporal reached the door first, and threw it open. In stumbled two men of the pueblo, eager for wine and an explanation of the fastened door. Sergeant Gonzales and his comrades drove over them, left them sprawling, and dashed into the storm.
    But there was little use in it. It was so dark a man could not see a distance of a horse's length. The beating rain was enough to obliterate tracks almost instantly. Senor Zorro was gone—and no man could tell in what direction.
    There was a tumult, of course, in which the men of the pueblo joined. Sergeant Gonzales and the soldiers returned to the inn to find it full of men they knew. And Sergeant Gonzales knew, also, that his reputation was now at stake.
    "Nobody but a highwayman, nobody but a cutthroat and thief would have done it!" he cried aloud.
    "How is that, brave one?" cried a man in the throng near the doorway.
    "This pretty Senor Zorro knew, of course! Some days ago I broke the thumb of my sword hand while fencing at San Juan Capistrano. No doubt the word was passed to this Senor Zorro. And he visits me at such a time that he may afterward say he had vanquished me."
    The corporal and soldiers and landlord stared at him, but none was brave enough to say a word.
    "Those who were here can tell you, senores," Gonzales went on. "This Senor Zorro came in at the door and immediately drew a pistol—devil's weapon—from beneath his cloak. He presents it at us, and forces all except me to retire to that corner. I refused to retire.
    "Then you shall fight me," says this pretty highwayman, and I draw my blade, thinking to make an end of the pest. And what does he tell me then?
    "We shall fight,' he says, 'and I will outpoint you, so that I may boast of it afterward, in my left hand I hold the pistol. If your attack is not to my liking, I shall fire, and afterward run you through, and so make an end of a certain sergeant.""
    The corporal gasped, and the fat landlord was almost ready to speak, but thought better of it when Sergeant Gonzales glared at him.
    "Could anything be more devilish?" Gonzales asked. "I was to fight, and yet I would get a devil's chunk of lead in my carcass if I pressed the attack. Was there ever such a farce? It shows the stuff of which this pretty highwayman is made. Some day I shall meet him when he holds no pistol— and then—"
    "But how did he get away?" someone in the crowd asked.
    "He heard those at the door. He threatened me with the devil's pistol and forced me to-toss my blade in yonder far corner. He threatened us all, ran to the window, and sprang through. And how could we find him in the darkness or track him through the sheets of rain? But I am determined now! In the morning I go to my Captain Ramon and ask permission to be absolved from all other duty, that I may take some comrades and run down this pretty Senor Zorro. Ha! We shall go fox hunting
    !"
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:21
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  8. #7
    The excited crowd about the door suddenly parted, and Don Diego Vega hurried into the tavern.
    "What is this I hear?" he asked. "They are saving that Senor Zorro has paid a visit here."
    "'Tis a true word, caballero!" Gonzales answered. "And we were speaking of the cutthroat here this evening. Had you remained instead of going home to work with your secretary, you should have seen the entire affair."
    "Were you not here? Can you not tell me?" Don Diego asked. "But I pray you make not the tale too bloody. I cannot see why men must be violent. Where is the highwayman's dead body?"
    Gonzales choked; the fat landlord turned away to hide his smile; the corporal and soldiers began picking up wine mugs to keep busy at this dangerous moment.
    "He—that is, there is no body," Gonzales managed to say.
    "Have done with your modesty, sergeant!" Don Diego cried. "Am I not your friend? Did you not promise to tell me the story if you met this cutthroat? I know you would spare my feelings, knowing that I do not love violence, yet I am eager for the facts because you, my friend, have been engaged with this fellow. How much was the reward?"
    "By the saints!" Gonzales swore.
    "Come, sergeant! Out with the tale! Landlord, give all of us wine, that we may celebrate this affair! Your tale, sergeant! Shall you leave the army, now that you have earned the reward, and purchase a hacienda and take a wife?"
    Sergeant Gonzales choked again and reached gropingly for a wine mug.
    "You promised me," Don Diego continued, "that you would tell me the whole thing, word by word. Did he not say as much, landlord? You declared that you would relate how you played with him; how you laughed at him while you fought; how you pressed him back after a time and then ran him through—"
    "By the saints!" Sergeant Gonzales roared, the words coming from between his lips like peals of thunder. "It is beyond the endurance of any man! You—Don Diego—my friend—"
    "Your modesty ill becomes you at such a time," Don Diego said. "You promised the tale, and I would have it. What does this Senor Zorro look like? Have you peered at the dead face beneath the mask? It is, perhaps, some man that we all know? Cannot some one of you tell me the facts? You stand here like so many speechless images of men—"
    "Wine—or I choke!" Gonzales howled. "Don Diego, you are my good friend, and I will cross swords with any man who belittles you! But do not try me too far this night—"
    "I fail to understand," Don Diego said. "I have but asked you to tell me the story of the fight—how you mocked him as you battled; how you pressed him back at will, and presently ended it by running him through—"
    "Enough! Am I to be taunted?" the big sergeant cried. He gulped down the wine and hurled the mug far from him.
    "Is it possible that you did not win the battle?" Don Diego asked. "But surely this pretty highwayman could not stand up before you, my sergeant. How was the outcome?"
    "He had a pistol—"
    "Why did you not take it away from him, then, and crowd it down his throat? But perhaps that is what you did. Here is more wine, my sergeant. Drink!"
    But Sergeant Gonzales was thrusting his way through the throng at the door.
    "I must not forget my duty!" he said. "I must hurry to the presidio and report this occurrence to the comandante!"
    "But, sergeant—"
    "And as to this Senor Zorro, he will be meat for my blade before I am done!" Gonzales promised.
    And then, cursing horribly, he rushed away through the rain, the first time in his life he ever had allowed duty to interfere with his pleasure and had run from good wine. Don Diego Vega smiled as he turned toward the fireplace
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:22
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  9. #8
    Chapter Five: A RIDE IN THE MORNING
    THE FOLLOWING MORNING found the storm at an end, and there was not a single cloud to mar the perfect blue of the sky, and the sun was bright, and palm fronds glistened in it, and the air was bracing as it blew down the valleys from the sea.
    At midmorning, Don Diego Vega came from his house in the pueblo, drawing on his sheepskin riding-mittens, and stood for a moment before it, glancing across the plaza at the little tavern. From the rear of the house an Indian servant led a horse.
    Though Don Diego did not go galloping across the hills and up and down El Camino Real like an idiot, yet he owned a fairish bit of horseflesh. The animal had spirit and speed and endurance, and many a young blood would have purchased him, except that Don Diego had no use for more money and wanted to retain the beast.
    The saddle was heavy and showed more silver than leather on its surface. The bridle was heavily chased with silver, too, and from its sides dangled leather globes studded with semiprecious stones that now glittered in the bright sunshine as if to advertise Don Diego's wealth and prestige to all the world.
    Don Diego mounted, while half a score of men loitering around the plaza watched and made efforts to hide their grins. It was quite the thing in those days for a youngster to spring from the ground into his saddle, gather up the reins, rake the beast's flanks with his great spurs, and disappear in a cloud of dust all in one motion.
    But Don Diego mounted a horse as he did everything else —without haste or spirit. The native held a stirrup, and Don Diego inserted the toe of his boot. Then he gathered the reins in one hand, and pulled himself into the saddle as if it had been quite a task.
    Having done that much, the native held the other stirrup and guided Don Diego's other boot into it, and then he backed away, and Don Diego clucked to the magnificent beast and started it, at a walk, along the edge of the plaza toward the trail that ran to the north.
    Having reached the trail, Don Diego allowed the animal to trot, and after having covered a mile in this fashion, he urged the beast into a slow gallop, and so rode along the highway.
    Men were busy in the fields and orchards, and natives were tending the herds. Now and then Don Diego passed a lumbering carreta, and saluted whoever happened to be in it Once a young man he knew passed him at a gallop, going toward the pueblo, and Don Diego stopped his own horse to brush the dust from his garments after the man had gone his way.
    Those same garments were more gorgeous than usual this bright morning. A glance at them was enough to establish the wealth and position of the wearer. Don Diego had dressed with much care, admonishing his servants because his newest serape was not pressed properly, and spending a great deal of time over the polishing of his boots.
    He traveled for a distance of four miles and then turned from the highroad and started up a narrow, dusty trail that led to a group of buildings against the side of a hill in the distance. Don Diego Vega was about to pay a visit to the hacienda of Don Carlos Pulido.
    This same Don Carlos had experienced numerous vicissitudes during the last few years. Once he had been second to none except Don Diego's father in position, wealth, and breeding. But he had made the mistake of getting on the wrong side of the fence politically, and he found himself stripped of a part of his broad acres, and tax-gatherers bothering him in the name of the governor, until there remained but a remnant of his former fortune, but all his inherited dignity of birth.
    On this morning Don Carlos was sitting on the veranda of the hacienda meditating on the times, which were not at all to his hieing. His wife, Dona Catalina, the sweetheart of his youth and age, was inside directing her servants. His only child, the Senorita Lolita, likewise was inside, plucking at the strings of a guitar and dreaming as a girl of eighteen dreams. Don Carlos raised his silvered head and peered down the long, twisting trail, and saw in the distance a small cloud of dust. The dust cloud told him that a single horseman was approaching, and Don Carlos feared another gatherer of taxes. He shaded his eyes with a hand and watched the approaching horseman carefully. He noted the leisurely manner in which he rode his mount, and suddenly hope sang in his breast, for he saw the sun flashing from the silver on saddle and bridle, and he knew that men of the army did not have such rich harness to use while on duty.
    The rider had made the last turning now and was in plain sight from the veranda of the house, and Don Carlos rubbed his eyes and looked again to verify the suspicion he had. Even at that distance the aged don could establish the identity of the horseman.
    "'Tis Don Diego Vega," he breathed. "May the saints grant that here is a turn in my fortunes for the better at last."
    Don Diego, he knew, might only be stopping to pay a friendly visit, and yet that would be something, for when it was known abroad that the Vega family was on excellent terms with the Pulido establishment, even the politicians would stop to think twice before harassing Don Carlos further, for the Vegas were a power in the land.
    So Don Carlos slapped his hands together, and a native hurried out from the house, and Don Carlos bade him draw die shades so that the sun would be kept from a corner of the veranda, and place a table and some chairs, and hurry with small cakes and wine.
    He sent word into the house to the women, too, that Don Diego Vega was approaching. Dona Catalina felt her heart beginning to sing, and she herself began to hum a little song, and Senorita Lolita ran to a window to look out at the trail. When Don Diego stopped before the steps that led to the veranda, there was a native waiting to care for his horse, and Don Carlos himself walked halfway down the steps and stood waiting, his hand held out in welcome.
    "I am glad to see you a visitor at my poor hacienda, Don Diego," he said, as the young man approached, drawing off his mittens.
    "It is a long and dusty road," Don Diego said. "It wearies me, too, to ride a horse the distance."
    Don Carlos almost forgot himself and smiled at that, for surely riding a horse a distance of four miles was not enough to tire a young man of blood. But he remembered Don Diego's lifelessness and did not smile, lest the smile cause anger.
    He led the way to the shady nook on the veranda, and offered Don Diego wine and cakes, and waited for his guest to speak. As became the times, the women remained inside the house, not ready to show themselves unless the visitor asked for them, or their lord and master called.
    "How are things in the pueblo of Reina de Los Angeles?" Don Carlos asked. "It has been a space of several score days since I visited there."
    "Everything is the same," said Don Diego, "except that this Senor Zorro invaded the tavern last evening and had a duel with the big Sergeant Gonzales."
    "Ha! Senor Zorro, eh? And what was the outcome of the fighting?"
    "Though the sergeant has a crooked tongue while speaking of it," said Don Diego, "it has come to me through a corporal who was present that this Senor Zorro played with the sergeant and finally disarmed him and sprang through a window to make his escape in the rain. They could not find his tracks."
    "A clever rogue," Don Carlos said. "At least, I have nothing to fear from him. It is generally known up and down El Camino Real, I suppose, that I have been stripped of almost everything the governor's men could carry away. I look for them to take the hacienda next."
    "Um. Such a thing should be stopped!" Don Diego said, with more than his usual amount of spirit.
    The eyes of Don Carlos brightened. If Don Diego Vega could be made to feel some sympathy, if one of the illustrious Vega family would but whisper a word in the governor's ear, the persecution would cease instantly, for the commands of a Vega were made to be obeyed by all men of whatever ran
    k.
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:22
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  10. #9
    Chapter Six: DIEGO SEEKS A BRID


    DON DIEGO SIPPED HIS WINE slowly and looked out across the mesa, and Don Carlos looked at him in puzzled fashion, realizing that something was coming, and scarcely knowing what to expect.
    "I did not ride through the damnable sun and dust to talk with you concerning this Senor Zorro, or any other bandit," Don Diego explained after a time.
    "Whatever your errand, I am glad to welcome one of your family, caballero," Don Carlos said.
    "I had a long talk with my father yesterday morning," Don Diego went on. "He informed me that I am approaching the age of twenty-five, and he is of a mind that I am not accepting my duties and responsibilities in the proper fashion."
    "But surely—"
    "Oh, doubtless he knows. My father is a wise man."
    "And no man can dispute that, Don Diego."
    "He urged upon me that I awaken and do as I should. I have been dreaming, it appears. A man of my wealth and station—you will pardon me if I speak of it—must do certain things."
    "It is the purse of position, senor."
    "When my father dies I come into his fortune, naturally, being the only child. That part of it is all right. But what will happen when I die? That is what my father asks."
    "I understand."
    "A young man of my age, he told me, should have a wife, a mistress of his household, and should—er—have offspring to inherit and preserve an illustrious name."
    "Nothing could be truer than that," said Don Carlos.
    "So I have decided to get me a wife."
    "Ha! It is something every man should do, Don Diego. Well do I remember when I courted Dona Catalina. We were mad to get into each other's arms, but her father kept her from me for a time. I was only seventeen, though, so perhaps he did right. But you are nearly twenty-five. Get you a bride, by all means."
    "And so I have come to see you about it," Don Diego said.
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:30
    0

  11. #10
    "To see me about it?" gasped Don Carlos, with something of fear and a great deal of hope in his breast.
    "It will be rather a bore, I expect. Love and marriage, and all that sort of thing, is rather a necessary nuisance in its way. The idea of a man of sense running about a woman, playing a guitar for her, making up to her like a loon when everyone knows his intention! And then the ceremony! Being a man of wealth and station, I suppose the wedding must be an elaborate one, and the natives will have to be feasted, and all that, simply because a man is taking a bride to be mistress of his household."
    "Most young men," Don Carlos observed, "delight to win a woman and are proud if they have a great and fashionable wedding."
    "No doubt. But it is an awful nuisance. However, I will go through with it, senor. It is my father's wish, you see. You— if you will pardon me again—have fallen upon evil days. That is the result of politics,-of course. But you are of excellent blood, senor, of the best blood in the land."
    "I thank you for remembering that truth," said Don Carlos, rising long enough to put one hand over his heart and bow.
    "Everybody knows it, senor. And a Vega, naturally, when he takes a mate, must seek out a woman of excellent blood."
    "To be sure!" Don Carlos exclaimed.
    "You have an only daughter, the Senorita Lolita."
    "Ah! Yes, indeed, senor. Lolita is eighteen now, and a beautiful and accomplished girl, if her father is the man to say it."
    "I have observed her at the mission and at the pueblo," Don Diego said. "She is, indeed, beautiful, and I have heard that she is accomplished. Of her birth and breeding there can be no doubt. I think she would be a fit woman to preside over my household."
    "Senor?"
    "That is the object of my visit today, senor."
    "You—you are asking my permission to pay addresses to my fair daughter?"
    "I am, senor." Don Carlos's face beamed, and again he sprang from his chair, this time to bend forward and grasp Don Diego by the, hand.
    "She is a fair flower," the father said. "I would see her wed, and I have been to some anxiety about it, for I did not wish her to marry into a family that did not rank with mine. But there can be no question where a Vega is concerned. You have my permission, senor."
    Don Carlos was delighted. An alliance between his daughter and Don Diego Vega! His fortunes were retrieved the moment that was consummated. He would be important and powerful again!
    He called a native and sent for his wife, and within a few minutes the Dona Catalina appeared on the veranda to greet the visitor, her face beaming, for she had been listening.
    "Don Diego has done us the honor to request permission to pay his respects to our daughter," Don Carlos explained.
    "You have given consent?" Dona Catalina asked; for it would not do, of course, to jump for the man.
    "I have given my consent," Don Carlos replied.
    Dona Catalina held out her hand, and Don Diego gave it a languid grasp and then released it.
    "Such an alliance would be a proud one," Dona Catalina said. "I hope that you may win her heart, senor."
    "As to that," said Don Diego, "I trust there will be no undue nonsense. Either the lady wants me and will have me, or she will not. Will I change her mind if I play a guitar beneath her window, or hold her hand when I may, or put my hand over, my heart and sigh? I want her for wife, else I would not have ridden here to ask her father for her."
    "I—I—of course," said Don Carlos.
    "Ah, senor, but a maid delights to be won," said the Dona Catalina. "It is her privilege, senor. The hours of courtship are held in memory during her lifetime. She remembers the pretty things her lover said, and the first kiss, when they stood beside the stream and looked into each other's eyes, and when he showed sudden fear for her while they were riding and her horse bolted—those things, senor.
    "It is like a little game, and it has been played since the beginning of time. Foolish, senor? Perhaps when a person looks at it with cold reason. But delightful, nevertheless."
    "I don't know anything about it," Don Diego protested. "I never ran around making love to women."
    "The woman you marry will not be sorry because of that, senor."
    "You think it is necessary for me to do these things?"
    "Oh," said Don Carlos, afraid of losing an influential son-in-law, "a little bit would not hurt. A maid likes to be wooed, of course, even though she has made up her mind."
    "I have a servant who is a wonder at the guitar," Don Diego said. "Tonight I shall order him to come out and play beneath the senorita's window."
    "And not come yourself?" Dona Catalina gasped.
    "Ride out here again tonight, when the chill wind blows in from the sea?" gasped Don Diego. "It would kill me. And the native plays the guitar better than I."
    "I never heard of such a thing!" Dona Catalina gasped, her sense of the fitness of things outraged.
    "Let Don Diego do as he wills," Don Carlos urged.
    "I had thought," said Don Diego, "that you would arrange everything and then let me know. I would have my house put in order, of course, and get me more servants. Perhaps I should purchase a coach and drive with my bride as far as Santa Barbara and visit a friend there. Is it not possible for you to attend to everything else? Just merely send me word when the wedding is to be."
    Don Carlos Pulido was nettled a little himself now.
    "Caballero," he said, "when I courted Dona Catalina she kept me on needles and pins. One day she would frown, and the next day smile. It added a spice to the affair. I would not have had it different. You will regret it, senor, if you do not do your own courting. Would you like to see the senorita now?"
    "I suppose I must," Don Diego said.
    Dona Catalina threw up her head and went into the house to fetch the girl; and soon she came, a dainty little thing with black eyes that snapped, and black hair that was wound around her head in a great coil, and dainty little feet that peeped from beneath skirts of bright hue.
    "I am happy to see you again, Don Diego," she said. He bowed over her hand and assisted her to one of the chairs.
    "You are as beautiful as you were when I saw you last," he said.
    "Always tell a senorita that she is more beautiful than when you saw her last," groaned Don Carlos. "Ah, that I were young again and could make love anew!"
    He excused himself and entered the house, and Dona Catalina moved to the other end of the veranda, so that the pair could talk without letting her hear the words, but from where she could watch, as a good duenna always must.
    "Senorita," Don Diego said, "I have asked your father this morning for permission to seek you in marriage."
    "Oh, senor!" the girl gasped. "Do you think I would make a proper husband?"
    "Why, I—that is—"
    "Just say the word, senorita, and I shall tell my father, and your family will make arrangements for the ceremony. They can send word in to me by some native. It fatigues me to ride abroad when it is not at all necessary."
    Now the pretty eyes of the Senorita Lolita began flashing warning signals, but Don Diego, it was evident, did not see them, and so he rushed forward to his destruction.
    "Shall you agree to becoming my wife, senorita?" he asked, bending slightly toward her.
    Senorita Lolita's face burned red, and she sprang from her chair, her tiny fists clenched at her side.
    "Don Diego Vega," she replied, "you are of a noble family and have much wealth and will inherit more. But you are lifeless, senor! Is this your idea of courtship and romance? Can you not take the trouble to ride four miles on a smooth road to see the maid you would wed? What sort of blood is in your veins, senor?"
    Dona Catalina heard that, and now she rushed across the veranda toward them, making signals to her daughter, which Senorita Lolita refused to see. '
    "The man who weds me must woo me and win my love," the girl went on. "He must touch my heart. Think you that I am some bronze native wench to give myself to the first man who asks? The man who becomes my husband must be a man with life enough in him to want me. Send your servant to play a guitar beneath my window? Oh, I heard, Senor! Send him, Senor, and I'll throw boiling water upon him and bleach his red skin! Buenos dias, senor!"
    She threw up her head proudly, lifted her silken skirts aside, and so passed him to enter the house, disregarding her mother also. Dona Catalina moaned once for her lost hopes. Don Diego Vega looked after the disappearing senorita and scratched at his head thoughtfully and glanced toward his horse.
    "I—I believe she is displeased with me," he said in his timid voice
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:24
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  12. #11
    Chapter Seven: A DIFFERENT SORT OF MAN

    DON CARLOS LOST NO time in hurrying out to the veranda again—since he had been listening and so knew what had happened—and endeavoring to placate the embarrassed Don Diego Vega. Though there was consternation in his heart, he contrived to chuckle and make light of the occurrence.
    "Women are fitful and filled with fancies, senor," he said. "At times they will rail at those whom they in reality adore. There is no telling the workings of a woman's mind—she cannot explain it with satisfaction herself."
    "But I—I scarcely understand," Don Diego gasped. "I used my words with care. Surely I said nothing to insult or anger the senorita."
    "She would be wooed, I take it, in the regular fashion. Do not despair, Senor. Both her mother and myself have agreed that you are a proper man for her husband. It is customary that a maid fight off a man to a certain extent, and then surrender. It appears to make surrender the sweeter. Perhaps the next time you visit us she will be more agreeable. I feel quite sure of it."
    So Don Diego shook hands with Don Carlos Pulido and mounted his horse and rode slowly down the trail; and Don Carlos turned about and entered his house again and faced his wife and daughter, standing before the latter with his hands on his hips and regarding her with something akin to
    sorrow.
    "He is the greatest catch in all the country!" Dona Catalina was wailing; and she dabbed at her eyes with a delicate square of filmy lace.
    "He has wealth and position and could mend my broken fortunes if he were but my son-in-law," Don Carlos declared, not taking his eyes from his daughter's face.
    "He has a magnificent house and a hacienda besides, and the best horses near Reina de Los Angeles, and he is sole heir to his wealthy father," Dona Catalina said.
    "One whisper from his lips into the ear of his excellency, the governor, and a man is made—or unmade," added Don Carlos.
    "He is handsome—"
    "I grant you that!" exclaimed the Senorita Lolita, lifting her pretty head and glaring at them bravely. "That is what angers me! What a lover the man could be, if he would! Is it anything to make a girl proud to have it said that the man she married never looked at another woman, and so did not select her after dancing and talking and playing at love with
    others?"
    "He preferred you to all others, else he would not have ridden out today," Don Carlos said..
    "Certainly it must have fatigued him!" the girl said. "Why does he let himself be made the laughingstock of the country? He is handsome and rich and talented. He has health, and could lead all the other young men. Yet he has scarcely enough energy to dress himself, I doubt not."
    "This is all beyond me," the Dona Catalina wailed. "When I was a girl, there was nothing like this. An honorable man comes seeking you as wife—"
    "Were he less honorable and more of a man, I might look at him a second time," said .the senorita.
    "You must look at him more than a second time," put in Don Carlos, with some authority in his manner. "You cannot throw away such a fine chance. Think on it, my daughter. Be in a more amiable mood when Don Diego calls again."
    Then he hurried to the patio on pretense that he wished to speak to a servant, but in reality to get away from the scene. Don Carlos had proved himself to be a courageous man in his youth, and now he was a wise man, also, and hence he knew better than to participate in an argument between women.
    Soon the siesta hour was at hand, and the Senorita Lolita went into the patio and settled herself on a little bench near the fountain. Her father was dozing on the veranda, and her mother in her room, and the servants were scattered over the place, sleeping also. But Senorita Lolita could not sleep, for her mind was busy.
    She knew her father's circumstances, of course, for it had been some time since he could hide them, and she wanted, naturally, to see him in excellent fortune again. She knew, too,' that did she wed with Don Diego Vega, her father was made whole. For a Vega would not let the relatives of his wife be in any but the best of circumstances.
    She called up before her a vision of Don Diego's handsome face, and wondered what it would be like if lighted with love and passion. 'Twere a pity the man was so lifeless, she told herself. But to wed a man who suggested sending a native servant to serenade her in his own place!
    The splashing of the water in the fountain lulled her to sleep, and she curled up in one end of the bench, her cheek pillowed on one tiny hand, her black hair cascading to the ground.
    And suddenly she was awakened by a touch on her arm, and sat up quickly, and then would have screamed except that a hand was crushed against her lips to prevent her.
    Before her stood a man whose body was enveloped in a long cloak, and whose face was covered with a black mask so that she could see nothing of his features except his glittering eyes. She had heard Senor Zorro, the highwayman, described, and she guessed that this was he, and her heart almost ceased to beat, she was so afraid.
    "Silence, and no harm comes to you, senorita," the man whispered hoarsely.
    "You—you are—" she questioned on her breath.
    He stepped back, removed his sombrero, and bowed low before her.
    "You have guessed it, my charming senorita," he said. "I am known as Senor Zorro, the Curse of Capistrano."
    "And—you are here—"
    "I mean you no harm, no harm to any of this hacienda, senorita. I punish those who are unjust, and your father is not that. I admire him greatly. Rather would I punish those who do him evil than to touch him."
    "I—I thank you, Senor."
    "I am weary, and the hacienda is an excellent place to rest," he said. "I knew it to be the siesta hour, also, and thought everyone would be asleep. It were a shame to awaken you, senorita, but I felt that I must speak. Your beauty would hinge a man's tongue in its middle so that both ends might be free to sing your praises."
    Senorita Lolita had the grace to blush.
    "I would that my beauty affected other men so," she said.
    "And does it not? Is it that the Senorita Lolita lacks suitors? But that cannot be possible!"
    "It is, nevertheless, Senor. There are few bold enough to seek to ally themselves with the family of Pulido, since it is out of favor with the powers. There is one—suitor," she went on. "But he does not seem to put much life into his wooing."
    "Ha! A laggard at love—and in your presence? What ails the man? Is he ill?"
    "He is so wealthy that I suppose he thinks he has but to request it and a maiden will agree to wed him."
    "What an imbecile! Tis the wooing gives the spice to romance."
    "But you, Senor! Somebody may come and see you here! You may be captured!"
    "And do you not wish to see a highwayman captured? Perhaps it would mend your father's fortune were he to capture me. The governor is much vexed, I understand, concerning my operations."
    "You—you had best go," she said.
    "There speaks mercy in your heart. You know that capture would mean my death. Yet must I risk it, and tarry a while."
    He seated himself upon the bench, and Senorita Lolita moved away as far as she could, and then started to rise.
    But Senor Zorro had been anticipating that. He grasped one of her hands and, before she guessed his intention, had bent forward, raised the bottom of his mask, and pressed his lips to its pink, moist palm.
    "Senor!" she cried, and jerked her hand away.
    "It were bold, yet a man must express his feelings," he said. "I have not offended beyond forgiveness, I hope."
    "Go, senor, else I make an outcry!"
    "And get me executed?"
    "You are but a thief of the highroad!"
    "Yet I love life as any other man."
    "I shall call out, senor! There is a reward offered for your capture."
    "Such pretty hands would not handle blood money."
    "Go!"
    "Ah, senorita, you are cruel. A sight of you sends the blood pounding through a man's veins. A man would fight a horde at the bidding of your sweet lips." - "Senor!"
    "A man would die in your defense, senorita. Such grace, such fresh beauty."
    "For the last time, senor! I shall make an outcry—and your fate be on your own head!"
    "Your hand again—and I go."
    "It may not be!"
    "Then here I sit until they come and take me. No doubt I shall not have to wait long. That big Sergeant Gonzales is on the trail, I understand, and may have discovered track of me. He will have soldiers with him—"
    "Senor, for the love of the saints—"
    "Your hand."
    She turned her back and gave it, and once more he pressed his lips to the palm. And then she felt herself being turned slowly, and her eyes looked deep into his. A thrill seemed to run through her. She realized that he retained her hand, and she pulled it away. And then she turned and ran quickly across the patio and into the house.
    With her heart pounding at her ribs, she stood behind the curtains at a window and watched. Senor Zorro walked slowly to the fountain and stooped to drink. Then he put his sombrero on, looked once at the house, and stalked away. She heard the galloping hoofs of a horse die in the distance.
    "A thief—yet a man!" she breathed. "If Don Diego had only half as much dash and courage
    !"
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:25
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  13. #12
    Chapter Eight: DON CARLOS PLAYS A GAME

    SHE TURNED AWAY FROM the window, thankful that none of the household had seen Senor Zorro or knew of his visit. The remainder of the day she spent on the veranda, half the time working on some lace she was making, and the other half gazing down the dusty trail that ran toward the highway.
    And then came evening, and down by the natives' adobe huts big fires were lighted, and the natives gathered around them to cook and eat and speak of the events of the day. Inside the house the evening meal had been prepared, and the family was about to sit at table when someone knocked upon the door.
    An Indian ran to open it, and Senor Zorro strode into the room. His sombrero came off, he bowed, and then he raised his head and looked at the speechless Dona Catalina and the half-terrified Don Carlos.
    "I trust you will pardon this intrusion," he said. "I am the man known as Senor Zorro. But do not be frightened, for I have not come to rob."
    Don Carlos got slowly upon his feet, while Senorita Lolita gasped at this display of the man's courage, and feared he would mention the visit of the afternoon, of which she had refrained from telling her mother.
    "Scoundrel!" Don Carlos roared. "You dare to enter an honest house?"
    "I am no enemy of yours, Don Carlos," Senor Zorro replied. "In fact, I have done some things that should appeal to a man who has been persecuted."
    That was true, Don Carlos knew, but he was too wise to admit it and so speak treason. Heaven knew he was enough in the bad graces of the governor now without offending him more by treating with courtesy this man for whose carcass the governor had offered a reward.
    "What do you wish here?" he asked.
    "I crave your hospitality, Senor. In other words, I would eat and drink. I am a caballero, hence make my claim in justice."
    "Whatever good blood once flowed in your veins has been fouled by your actions," Don Carlos said. "A thief and highwayman has no claim upon the hospitality of this hacienda."
    "I take it that you fear to feed me, since the governor may hear of it," Senor Zorro answered. "You may say that you were forced to do it. And that will be the truth."
    Now one hand came from beneath the cloak, and it held a pistol. Dona Catalina shrieked and fainted, and Senorita Lolita cowered in her chair.
    "se!"
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:25
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  14. #13
    Doubly a scoundrel, since you frighten women!" Don Carlos exclaimed angrily. "Since it is death to refuse, you may have meat and drink. But I ask you to be caballero enough to allow me to remove my wife to another room and call a native woman to care for her."
    "By all means," Senor Zorro said. "But the senorita remains here as hostage for your good conduct and return."'
    Don Carlos glanced at the man, and then at the girl, and saw that the latter was not afraid. He. picked his wife up in his arms and bore her through the doorway, roaring for servants to come.
    Senor Zorro walked around the end of the table, bowed to Lolita again, and sat down in a chair beside her.
    "This is foolhardiness, no doubt, but I had to see your beaming face again," he said.
    "Senor!"
    "The sight of you this afternoon started a conflagration in my heart, senorita. The touch of your hand was new life to me."
    Lolita turned away, her face flaming, and Senor Zorro moved his chair nearer and reached for her hand, but she eluded him.
    "The longing to hear the music of your voice, senorita, may lure me here often," he said.
    "Senor! You must never come again! I was lenient with you this afternoon, but I can not be again. The next time I shall shriek, and you will be taken."
    "You could not be so cruel," he said.
    "Your fate would be upon your own head, senor."
    Then Don Carlos came back into the room, and Senor Zorro arose and bowed once more.
    "I trust your wife has recovered from her swoon," he said. "I regret that the sight of my poor pistol frightened her."
    "She has recovered," Don Carlos said. "I believe you .said that you wished meat and drink. Now that I come to think of it, senor, you have indeed done some things that I have admired, and I am happy to grant you hospitality for a time. A servant shall furnish you food immediately."
    Don Carlos walked to the door, called a native, and gave his orders. Don Carlos was well pleased with himself. Carrying his wife into the next room had given him his chance. For servants had answered his call, and among them had been one he trusted. And he had ordered the man to take the swiftest horse and ride like the wind the four miles to the pueblo, and there to spread the alarm that Senor Zorro was at the Pulido hacienda.
    His object now was to delay this Senor Zorro as much as possible. For he knew the soldiers would come and the highwayman be killed or captured, and surely the governor would admit that Don Carlos was entitled to some consideration for what he had done.
    "You must have had some stirring adventures, senor," Don Carlos said as he returned to the table.
    "A few," the highwayman admitted.
    "There was that affair at Santa Barbara, for instance. I never did hear the straight of that."
    "I dislike to speak of my own work, senor."
    "Please," the Senorita Lolita begged; and so Senor Zorro overcame his scruples for the time being.
    "It really was nothing," he said. "I arrived in the vicinity of Santa Barbara at sunset. There is a fellow there who runs a store, and he had been beating natives and stealing from the frailes. He would demand that the frailes sell him goods from the mission, and then complain that the weight was short, and the governor's men would make the frailes deliver more. So I resolved to punish the man."
    "Pray continue, senor," said Don Carlos, bending forward as if deeply interested.
    "I dismounted at the door of his building and walked inside. He had candles burning, and there were half a dozen fellows trading with him. I covered them with my pistol and drove them into a corner and ordered this storekeeper before me. I frightened him thoroughly, and forced him to disgorge the money he had in a secret hiding-place. And then I lashed him with a whip taken from his own wall, and told him why I had done it."
    "Excellent!" Don Carlos cried.
    "Then I sprang on my horse and dashed away. At a native's hut I made a placard, saying that I was a friend of the oppressed. Feeling particularly bold that evening, I galloped up to the door of the presidio, brushed aside the sentry—who took me for a courier—and pinned the placard to the door of the presidio with my knife. Just then the soldiers came rushing out. I fired over their heads, and while they were bewildered I rode away toward the hills."
    "And escaped!" Don Carlos exclaimed.
    "I am here!—that is your answer."
    "And why is the governor so particularly bitter against you, Senor?" Don Carlos asked. "There are other highwaymen to whom he gives not a thought."
    "Ha! I had a personal clash with his excellency. He was driving from San Francisco de Asis to Santa Barbara on official business, with an escort of soldiers about him. They stopped at a brook to refresh themselves, and the soldiers scattered while the governor spoke with his friends. I was hiding in the forest and suddenly dashed out and at them.
    "Instantly I was at the open door of the coach. I presented my pistol at his head and ordered him to hand over his fat purse—which he did. Then I spurred through his soldiers, upsetting several as I did so—"
    "And escaped!" Don Carlos cried.
    "I am here," assented Senor Zorro.
    The servant brought a tray of food and placed it before the highwayman, retreating as soon as possible, his eyes big with fear and his hands trembling, for many weird tales had been told of this same Senor Zorro and his brutality, none of which was true.
    "I am sure that you will pardon me," Senor Zorro said, "when I ask you to sit at the far end of the room. As I take each bite, I must raise the bottom of my mask, for I have no wish to become known. I put the pistol before me on the table, so, to discourage treachery. And now, Don Carlos Pulido, I shall* do justice to the meal you have so kindly furnished."
    Don Carlos and his daughter sat where they had been directed, and the bandit ate with evident relish. Now and then he stopped to talk to them, and once he had Don Carlos send out for more wine, declaring it to be the best he had tasted for a year.
    Don Carlos was only too glad to oblige him. He was playing to gain time. He knew the horse the native rode, and judged that he had reached the presidio at Reina de Los Angeles before this, and that the soldiers were on their way. If he could hold this Senor Zorro until they arrived!
    "I am having some food prepared for you to carry with you, senor," he said. "You will pardon me while I get it? My daughter will entertain you."
    Senor Zorro bowed, and Don Carlos hurried from the room. But Don Carlos had made a mistake in his eagerness. It was an unusual thing for a girl to be left alone in the company of a man in such fashion, especially with a man known to be an outlaw. Senor Zorro guessed at once that he was being delayed purposely. For, again, it was an unusual thing for a man like Don Carlos to go for the package of food himself when there were servants that could be called by a mere clapping of the hands. Don Carlos, in fact, had gone into the other room to listen at a window for sounds of galloping horses.
    "Senor!" Lolita whispered across the room.
    "What is it, senorita?"
    "You must go—at once. I am afraid that my father has sent for the soldiers."
    "And you are kind enough to warn me?"
    "Do I wish to see you taken here? Do I wish to see fighting and bloodshed?" she asked.
    "That is the only reason, senorita?"
    "Will you not go, senor?"
    "I am loath to rush away from such a charming presence, senorita. May I come again at the next siesta hour?"
    "By the saints—no! This must end, Senor Zorro. Go your way—and take care. You have done some things that I admire, hence I would not see you captured. Go north as far as San Francisco de Asis and turn honest, senor. It is the better way."
    "Little priest," he said.
    "Shall you go, senor?'
    "But your father has gone to fetch food for me. And could I depart without thanking him for this meal?"
    Don Carlos came back into the room then, and Senor Zorro knew by the expression on his face that the soldiers were coming up the trail. The don put a package on the table.
    "Some food to carry with you, senor," he said. "And we would relish more of your reminiscences before you start on your perilous journey."
    "I have spoken too much of myself already, senor, and it ill becomes a caballero to do that. It were better that I thank you and leave you now."
    "At least, senor, drink another mug of wine."
    "I fear," said Senor Zorro, "that the soldiers are much too close, Don Carlos."
    The face of the don went white at that, for the highwayman was picking up his pistol, and Don Carlos feared he was about to pay the price for his treacherous hospitality. But Senor Zorro made no move to fire.
    "I forgive you this breach of hospitality, Don Carlos, because I am an outlaw and there has been a price put upon my head," he said. "And, also, I hold you no ill will because of it. Buenos noches, senorita! Senor, adios!"
    Then a terrified servant who knew little concerning the events of the evening rushed in at the door.
    "Master! The soldiers are here!" he cried. "They are surrounding the hou
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:26
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  15. #14
    Chapter Nine: THE CLASH OF BLADES

    ON THE TABLE, NEAR its middle, was an imposing candelero in which half a score of candles burned brightly. Senor Zorro sprang toward it now, and with one sweep of his hand dashed it to the floor, extinguishing all the candles in an instant and plunging the room into darkness.
    He evaded the wild rush of Don Carlos, springing across the room so lightly that his soft boots made not the slightest noise to give news of his whereabouts. For an instant the Senorita Lolita felt a .man's arm around her waist, gently squeezing it, felt a man's breath on her cheek, and heard a man's whisper in her ear:
    "Until later, senorita."
    Don Carlos was bellowing like a bull to direct the soldiers to the scene; and already some of them were pounding at the front door. Senor Zorro rushed from the room and into the one adjoining, which happened to be the kitchen. The native servants fled before him as if he had been a ghost, and he quickly extinguished all the candles that burned there.
    Then he ran to the door that opened into the patio and raised his voice and gave a call that was half moan and half shriek, a peculiar call, the like of which none at the Pulido hacienda had heard before.
    As the soldiers rushed in at the front door, and as Don Carlos called for a brand with which to light the candles again, the sound of galloping hoofs was heard from the rear of the patio. Some powerful horse was getting under way there, the soldiers guessed immediately.
    The sound of hoofs died away in the distance, but the soldiers had noted the direction in which the horse was traveling.
    "The fiend escapes!" Sergeant Gonzales shrieked, he being in charge of the squad. "To horse and after him! I give the man who overtakes him one third of all the reward!"
    The big sergeant rushed from the house, the men at his heels, and they tumbled into their saddles and rode furiously through the darkness, following the sound of the beating hoofs.
    "Lights! Lights!" Don Carlos was shrieking inside the house.
    A servant came with a brand, and the candles were lighted again. Don Carlos stood in the middle of the room, shaking his fists in impotent rage. Senorita Lolita crouched in a corner, her eyes wide with fear. Dona Catalina, fully recovered now from her fainting-spell, came from her own room to ascertain the cause of the commotion.
    "The rascal got away!" Don Carlos said. "It is to be hoped that the soldiers capture him."
    "At least he is clever and brave," Senorita Lolita said.
    "I grant him that, but he is a highwayman and a thief!" Don Carlos roared. "Why should he torment me by visiting my house?"
    Senorita Lolita thought she knew, but she would be the last one to explain to her parents. There was a faint blush on her face yet because of the arm that had squeezed her and the words that had been whispered in her ear.
    Don Carlos threw the front door open wide and stood in it, listening. To his ears came the sound of galloping hoofs once more.
    "My sword!" he cried to a servant. "Someone comes—it may be the rascal returning! It is but one rider, by the saints!"
    The galloping stopped; a man made his way across the veranda and hurried through the door into the room.
    "Thank the good saints!" Don Carlos gasped.
    It was not the highwayman returned; it was Captain Ramon, comandante of the presidio at Reina de Los Angeles.
    "Where are my men?" the captain cried.
    "Gone, senor! Gone after that pig of a highwayman!" Don Carlos informed him.
    "He escaped?"
    "He did, with your men surrounding the house. He dashed the candles to the floor, ran through the kitchen—"
    "The men took after him?"
    "They are upon his heels, senor."
    "Ha! It is to be hoped that they catch this pretty bird. He is a thorn in the side of the soldiery. We do not catch him, and because we do not the governor sends sarcastic letters by his courier. This Senor Zorro is a clever gentleman, but he will be captured yet!"
    And then Captain Ramon walked farther into the room and perceived the ladies and swept off his cap and bowed before them.
    "You must pardon my bold entrance," he said. "When an officer is on duty—"
    "The pardon is granted freely," said Dona Catalina. "You have met my daughter?"
    "I have not had the honor."
    The dona presented them, and Lolita retreated to her corner again and observed the soldier. He was not ill to look at —tall and straight and in a brilliant uniform, and with sword dangling at his side. As for the captain, he never had set eyes upon Senorita Lolita before, for he had been at the post at Reina de Los Angeles but a month, having been transferred there from Santa Barbara.
    But now that he had looked at her once he looked a second time and a third. There was a sudden light in his eyes that pleased Dona Catalina. If Lolita could not look with favor upon Don Diego Vega, perhaps she would look with favor upon this Captain Ramon, and to have her wedded to an officer would mean that the Pulido family would have some protection.
    "I could not find my men now in the darkness," the captain said, "and so, if it is not presuming too much, I shall remain here and await their return."
    "By all means," Don Carlos said. "Be seated, senor, and I'll have a servant fetch wine."
    "This Senor Zorro has about had his run," the captain said, after the wine had been tasted and found excellent. "Now and then a man of his sort pops up and endures for a little day, but he never lasts long. In the end he meets the fate."
    "That is true," said Don Carlos. "The fellow was boasting to us tonight of his accomplishments."
    "I was comandante at Santa Barbara when he made his famous visit there," the captain explained. "I was visiting at one of the houses at the time else there might have been a different story. And tonight, when the alarm came, I was not at the presidio, but at the residence of a friend. That is why I did not ride out with the soldiers. As soon as I was notified I came. It appears that this Senor Zorro has some knowledge of my whereabouts and is careful that I am not in a position to clash with him. I hope one day to do so."
    "You think you could conquer him, senor?"-Dona Catalina asked.
    "Undoubtedly! I understand he really is an ordinary hand with a blade. He made a fool of my sergeant, but that is a different proposition—and I believe he held a pistol in one hand while he fenced, too. I should make short work of the fellow."
    There was a closet in one corner of the room, and now its door was opened a crack.
    "The fellow should die the death," Captain Ramon went on to say. "He is brutal in his dealings with men. He kills wantonly, I have heard. They say he caused a reign of terror in the north, in the vicinity of San Francisco de Asis. He slew men regardless, insulted women—"
    The closet door was hurled open—and Senor Zorro stepped into the room.
    "I shall take you to task for that statement, senor, since it is a falsehood!" the highwayman cried
    .
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:27
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  16. #15
    Don Carlos whirled around and gasped his surprise. Dona Catalina felt suddenly weak in the knees and collapsed on a chair. Senorita Lolita felt some pride in the man's statement, and a great deal of fear for him.
    "I—I thought you had escaped," Don Carlos gasped.
    "Ha! It was but a trick. My horse escaped—but I did not."
    "Then there shall be no escape for you now!" Captain Ramon cried, drawing his blade.
    "Back, senor!" Zorro cried, exhibiting a pistol suddenly. "I shall fight you gladly, but the fight must be fair. Don Carlos, gather your wife and daughter beneath your arms and retire to the corner while I cross blades with this teller of falsehoods. I do not intend to have a warning given out that I still am here!"
    "I thought—you escaped!" Don Carlos gasped again, seemingly unable to think of anything else, and doing as Senor Zorro commanded.
    "A trick!" the highwayman repeated, laughing. "It is a noble horse I have. Perhaps you heard a peculiar cry from my lips? My beast is trained to act at that cry. He gallops away wildly, making considerable noise, and the soldiers follow him. And when he has gone some distance he turns aside and stops, and after the pursuit has passed he returns to await my bidding. No doubt he is behind the patio now. I shall punish this captain and then mount and ride away."
    "With a pistol in your hand!" Ramon cried.
    "I put the pistol upon the table—so. There it remains if Don Carlos stays in the corner with the ladies. Now, captain!"
    Senor Zorro extended his blade, and with a glad cry Captain Ramon crossed it with his own. Captain Ramon had some reputation as a master of fence, and Senor Zorro evidently knew it, for he was cautious at first, leaving no opening, on defense rather than attack.
    The captain pressed him back, his blade flashing like streaks of lightning in a troubled sky. Now Senor Zorro was almost against the wall near the kitchen door, and in the captain's eyes the light of triumph already was beginning to burn. He fenced rapidly, giving the highwayman no rest, standing his ground and keeping his antagonist against the wall.
    And then Senor Zorro chuckled. For now he had solved the other's manner of combat, and knew that all would be well. The captain gave ground a little as the defense turned into an attack that puzzled him. Senor Zorro began laughing lightly.
    "Twere a shame to kill you," he said. "You are an excellent officer, I have heard, and the army needs a few such. But you have spoken falsehood regarding me, and so must pay a price. Presently I shall run you through, but in such manner . that your .life will not emerge when I withdraw my blade."
    "Boaster!" the captain snarled.
    "As to that we shall see presently. Ha! I almost had you there, my captain. You are more clever than your big sergeant, but not half clever enough. Where do you prefer to be touched—the left side or the right?"
    "If you are so certain run me through the right shoulder," the captain said.
    "Guard it well, my captain, for I shall do as you say. Ha!"
    The captain circled, trying to get the light of the candles in the highwayman's eyes, but Senor Zorro was too clever for that. He caused the captain to circle back, forced him to retreat, fought him to a corner.
    "Now, my captain!" he cried.
    And so he ran him through the right shoulder, as the captain had said, and twisted the blade a bit as he brought it out. He had struck a little low, and Captain Ramon dropped to the floor, a sudden weakness upon him.
    Senor Zorro stepped back and sheathed his blade.
    "I ask the pardon of the ladies for this scene," he said. "And I assure you that this time I am, indeed, going away. You will find that the captain is not badly injured, Don Carlos. He may return to his presidio within the day."
    He removed his sombrero and bowed low before them, while Don Carlos sputtered and failed to think of anything to say that would be mean and cutting enough. His eyes, for a moment, met those of the Senorita Lolita, and he was glad to find that in hers there was no repugnance.
    "Buenos noches,"
    he said and laughed again.
    And then he dashed through the kitchen and into the patio, and found the horse awaiting him there as he had said it would be, and was quick to mount and ride away


    ==========

    يتبع .... smoker smoker
    اخر تعديل كان بواسطة » lord of anime في يوم » 07-08-2004 عند الساعة » 12:29
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  17. #16
    Chapter Ten: A HINT AT JEALOUSY


    WITHIN THE SPACE OF HALF AN hour Captain Ramon's wounded shoulder had been cleansed of blood and bandaged, and the captain was sitting at one end of the table, sipping wine and looking very white in the face and tired.

    Dona Catalina and Senorita Lolita had shown much sympathy, though the latter could scarcely refrain from smiling when she remembered the captain's boast regarding what he purposed doing to the highwayman, and compared it to what had happened. Don Carlos was outdoing himself to make the captain feel at home since it was well to seek influence with the army, and already had urged upon the officer that he remain at the hacienda a few days until his wound had healed.

    Having looked into the eyes of the Senorita Lolita, the captain had answered that he would be glad to remain at least for a day and, despite his wound, was attempting polite and witty conversation, yet failing miserably.

    Once more there could be heard the drumming of a horse's hoofs, and Don Carlos sent a servant to the door to open it so that the light would shine out, for they supposed that it was one of the soldiers returning.

    The horseman came nearer and presently stopped before the house, and the servant hurried out to care for the beast.

    There passed a moment during which those inside the house heard nothing at all, and then there were steps on the veranda, and Don Diego Vega hurried through the door.

    "Ha!" he cried, as if in relief. "I am rejoiced that you all are alive arid well!"

    "Don Diego!" the master of the house exclaimed. "You have ridden out from the pueblo a second time in one day?"

    "No doubt I shall be ill because of it," Don Diego said. "Already I am feeling stiff, and my back aches. Yet I felt that I must come. There was an alarm in the pueblo, and it was noised abroad that this Senor Zorro, the highwayman, had paid a visit to the hacienda. I saw the soldiers ride furiously in this direction, and fear came into my heart. You understand, Don Carlos, I feel—sure."

    "I understand, caballero," Don Carlos replied, beaming upon him and glancing once at Senorita Lolita.

    "I—er—felt it my duty to make the journey. And now I find that it has been made for nought—you all are alive and well. How does it happen?"

    Lolita sniffed, but Don Carlos was quick to make reply.

    "The fellow was here, but he made his escape after running Captain Ramon through the shoulder."

    "Ha!" Don Diego said, collapsing into a chair. "So you have felt his steel, eh, captain? That should feed your desire for vengeance. Your soldiers are after the rogue?"

    "They are," the captain replied shortly, for he did not like to have it said that he had been defeated in combat. "And they will continue to be after him until he is captured. I have a big sergeant, Gonzales—I think he is a friend of yours, Don Diego—who is eager to make the arrest and earn the governor's reward. I shall instruct him, when he returns, to take his squad and pursue this highwayman until he has been dealt with properly."

    "Let me. express the hope that the soldiers will be successful, Senor. The rogue has annoyed Don Carlos and the ladies —and Don Carlos is my friend. I would have all men know it."

    Don Carlos beamed, and Dona Catalina smiled bewitchingly, but the Senorita Lolita fought to keep her pretty upper lip from curling with scorn.

    "A mug of your refreshing wine, Don Carlos," Don Diego Vega continued. "I am fatigued. Twice today have I ridden here from Reina de Los Angeles, and it is about all a man can endure."

    "'Tis not much of a journey—four miles," said the captain.

    "Possibly not for a rough soldier," Don Diego replied, "but it is for a caballero."

    "May not a soldier be a caballero?" Ramon asked, nettled somewhat at the other's words.

    "It has happened before now, but we come across it rarely," Don Diego said. He glanced at Lolita as he spoke, intending that she should take notice of his words, for he had seen the manner in which the captain glanced at her, and jealousy was beginning to burn in his heart.

    "Do you mean to insinuate, senor, that I am not of good blood?" Captain Ramon asked.

    "I cannot reply as to that, senor, having seen none of it. No doubt this Senor Zorro could tell me. He saw the color of it, I understand."

    "By the saints!" Captain Ramon cried. "You would taunt me?"

    "Never be taunted by the truth," Don Diego observed. "He ran you through the shoulder, eh? Tis a mere-scratch, I doubt not. Should you not be at the presidio instructing your soldiers?"

    "I await their return here," the captain replied. "Also, it is a fatiguing journey from here to the presidio, according to your own ideas, senor."

    "But a soldier is inured to hardship, senor."

    "True, there are many pests he must encounter," the captain said, glancing at Don Diego with meaning.

    "You term me a pest, senor?"

    "Did I say as much?"

    This was perilous ground, and Don Carlos had no mind to let an officer of the army and Don Diego Vega have trouble in his hacienda, for fear he would get into greater difficulties.

    "More wine, senores!" he exclaimed in a loud voice, and stepping between their chairs in utter disregard of proper breeding. "Drink, my captain, for your wound has made you weak. And you, Don Diego, after your wild ride—"

    "I doubt its wildness," Captain Ramon observed.

    Don Diego accepted the proffered wine mug and turned his back upon the captain. He glanced across at Senorita Lolita and smiled. He got up deliberately and picked up his chair and carried it across the room to set it down beside her.

    "And did the rogue frighten you, senorita?" he asked.

    "Suppose he did, senor? Would you avenge the matter? Would you put blade at your side and ride abroad until you found him, and then punish him as he deserves?"

    "By the saints, were it necessary, I might do as much. But I am able to employ a raft of strong fellows who would Wee nothing better than to run down the rogue. Why should I risk my own neck?"

    "Oh!" she exclaimed, exasperated.

    "Let us not talk further of this bloodthirsty Senor Zorro," he begged. "There are other things fit for conversation. Have you been thinking, senorita, on the object of my visit earlier in the day?"

    Senorita Lolita thought of it now. She remembered again what the marriage would mean to her parents and their fortunes, and she recalled the highwayman, too, and remembered his dash and spirit, and wished that Don Diego could be such a man. And she could not say the word that would make her the betrothed of Don Diego Vega.

    "I—I have scarcely had time to think of it, caballero," she replied.

    "I trust you will make up your mind soon," he said.

    "You are so eager?"

    "My father was at me again this afternoon. He insists that I should take a wife as soon as possible. It is rather a nuisance, of course, but a man must please his father."

    Lolita bit her lips because of her quick anger. Was ever girl so courted before? she wondered.

    "I shall make up my mind as soon as possible, Senor," she said finally.

    "Does this Captain Ramon remain long at the hacienda?"

    A little hope came into Lolita's breast. Could it be. possible that Don Diego Vega was jealous? If that were true, possibly there might be stuff in the man after all. Perhaps he would awaken, and love and passion come to him, and he would be as other young men.

    "My father has asked him to remain until he is able to travel to the presidio," she replied.

    "He is able to travel now. A mere scratch."

    "You will not return tonight?" she asked.

    "It probably will make me ill, but I must return. There are certain things that must engage my interest early in the morning. Business is such a nuisance."

    "Perhaps my father will offer to send you in the carriage."

    "Ha! It were kindness if he does. A man may doze a bit in a carriage."

    "But, if this highwayman should stop you?"

    "I need not fear, Senorita. Have I not wealth? Could I not purchase my release?"

    "You would pay ransom rather than fight him, Senor?"

    "I have lots of money, but only one life, senorita. Would I be a wise man to risk having my blood let out?"

    "It would be the manly part, would it not?" she asked.

    "Any male can be manly at times, but it takes a clever man to be sagacious," he said.

    Don Diego laughed lightly, as if it cost him an effort, and bent forward to speak in lower tones.

    On the other side of the room, Don Carlos was doing his best to make Captain Ramon comfortable, and was glad that he and Don Diego remained apart for the time being.

    "Don Carlos," the captain said, "I come from a good family, and the governor is friendly toward me, as no doubt you have heard. I am but twenty-three years of age, else I would hold a higher office. But my future is assured."

    "I am rejoiced to learn it, senor."

    "I never set eyes upon your daughter until this evening, but she has captivated me, senor. Never have I seen such grace and beauty, such flashing eyes! I ask your permission, senor, to pay my addresses to the senorita
    ."
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  18. #17
    Chapter Eleven: THREE SUITORS


    HERE WAS A FIX. Don Carlos had no wish to anger Don Diego Vega or a man who stood high in the governor's regard. And how was he to evade it? If Lolita could not force her heart to accept Don Diego, perhaps she could learn to love Captain Ramon. After Don Diego, he was the best potential son-in-law in the vicinity.

    "Your answer, senor?" the captain was asking.

    "I trust you will not misunderstand me, senor," Don Carlos said, in lower tones. "I must make a simple explanation."

    "Proceed, senor."

    "But this morning Don Diego Vega asked me the same question."

    "Ha!"

    "You know his blood and his family, senor. Could I refuse him? Of rights I could not. But I may tell you this—the senorita weds no man unless it is her wish. So Don Diego has my permission to pay his addresses, but if he fails to touch her heart—"

    "Then I may try?" the captain asked.

    "You have my permission, senor. Of course, Don Diego has great wealth, but you have a dashing way with you, and Don Diego—that is—he is rather—"

    "I understand perfectly, senor," the captain said, laughing. "He is not exactly a brave and dashing caballero. Unless' your daughter prefers wealth to a genuine man—"

    "My daughter will follow the dictates of her heart, senor!"

    Don Carlos said proudly.

    "Then the affair is between Don Diego Vega and myself?"

    "So long as you use discretion, senor. I would have nothing happen that would cause enmity between the Vega family and mine."

    "Your interests shall be protected, Don Carlos," Captain Ramon declared.

    As Don Diego talked, the Senorita Lolita observed her father and Captain Ramon, and guessed what was being said. It pleased her, of .course, that a dashing officer should enter the lists for her hand, and yet she had felt no thrill when first she looked into his eyes.

    Senor Zorro, now, had thrilled her to the tips of her tiny toes, and merely because he had talked to her, and touched the palm of her hand with his lips. If Don Diego Vega were only more like the highwayman! If some man appeared who combined Vega's wealth with the rogue's spirit and dash and courage!

    There was a sudden tumult outside, and into the room strode the soldiers, Sergeant Gonzales at their head. They -saluted their captain, and the big sergeant looked with wonder at his wounded shoulder.

    "The rogue escaped us," Gonzales reported. "We followed him for a distance of three miles or so as he made his way into the hills, where we came upon him."

    "Well?" Ramon questioned.

    "He has allies."

    "What is this?"

    "Fully ten men were waiting for him there, my captain. They set upon us before we were aware of their presence. We fought them well, and three of them we wounded, but they made their escape and took their comrades with them. We had not been expecting a band, of course, and so rode into their ambush."

    "Then we have to contend with a band of them!" Captain Ramon said. "Sergeant, you will select a score of men in the morning, and have command over them. You will take the trail of this Senor Zorro, and you will not stop until he is either captured or slain. I will add a quarter's wages to the reward of his excellency, the governor, if you are successful."

    "Ha! It is what I have wished!" Sergeant Gonzales cried. "Now we shall run this coyote to earth in short order! I shall show you the color of his blood—"

    "'Twould be no more than right, since he has seen the color of the captain's," Don Diego put in.

    "What is this, Don Diego, my friend? Captain, you have crossed blades with the rogue?"

    "I have," the captain assented. "You but followed a tricky horse, my sergeant. The fellow was here, in a closet, and came out after I had entered. So it must have been some other man you met with his companions up in the hills. This Senor Zorro treated me much as he treated you in the tavern —had a pistol handy in case I should prove too expert with the blade."

    Captain and sergeant looked at each other squarely, each wondering how much the other had been lying; while Don Diego chuckled faintly and tried to press the Senorita Lolita's hand and failed.

    "This thing can be settled only in blood!" Gonzales declared. "I shall pursue the rascal until he is run to earth. I have permission to select my men?"

    "You may take any at the presidio," the captain said.

    "Sergeant Gonzales, I should like to go with you," Don Diego said suddenly.

    "By the saints! It would kill you, caballero. Day and night in the saddle, uphill and downhill, through dust and heat, and with a chance at fighting."

    "Well, perhaps it were best for me to remain in the pueblo," Don Diego admitted. "But he has annoyed this family, of which I am a true friend. At least you will keep me informed? You will tell me how he escapes if he dodges you? I at least may know that you are on his trail, and where you are riding, so I may be with you in spirit?"

    "Certainly, caballero—certainly," Sergeant Gonzales replied. "I shall give you the chance of looking upon the rogue's dead face. I swear it!"

    "'Tis a terrible oath, my sergeant. Suppose it should come to pass—"

    "I mean if I slay the rascal, caballero. My captain, do you return this night to the presidio?"

    "Yes," Ramon replied. "Despite my wound, I can ride a horse."

    He glanced toward Don Diego as he spoke, and there was almost a sneer upon his lips.

    "What magnificent grit!" Don Diego said. "I, too, shall return to Reina de Los Angeles, if Don Carlos will be as good as to have his carriage around. I can tie my horse to the rear of it. To ride horseback the distance again this day would be the death of me."

    Conzales laughed and led the way from the house. Captain Ramon paid his respects to the ladies, glowered at Don Diego, and followed. The caballero faced Senorita Lolita again as her parents escorted the captain to the door.

    "You will think of the matter?" he asked. "My father will be at me again within a few days, and I shall escape censure if I am able to tell him that it is all settled. If you decide to wed me, have your father send me word by a servant. Then I shall put my house in order against the wedding day."

    "I shall think of it," the girl said.

    "We could be married at the mission of San Gabriel, only we should have to make the confounded journey there. Fray Felipe, of the mission, has been my friend from the days of my boyhood, and I would have him say the words, unless you 'prefer otherwise. He could come to Reina de Los Angeles and read the ceremony in the little church on the plaza there."

    "I shall think of it," the girl said again.

    "Perhaps I may come out again to see you within a few days, if I survive this night. Buenos noches, senorita. I suppose I should—er—kiss your hand?"

    "You need not take the trouble," Senorita Lolita replied, "It might fatigue you."

    "Ah—thank you. You are thoughtful, I see. I am fortunate if I get me a thoughtful wife."

    Don Diego sauntered to the door. Senorita Lolita rushed into her own room and beat at her breasts with her hands, and tore at her hair a bit, too angry, too enraged to weep. Kiss her hand, indeed! Senor Zorro had not suggested it—he had done it. Senor Zorro had dared death to visit her. Senor Zorro had laughed as he fought, and then had escaped by a trick! Ah, if Don Diego Vega were half the man this highwayman appeared!

    She heard the soldiers gallop away, and after a little time she heard Don Diego Vega depart in her father's carriage. And then she went out into the great room again to her parents.

    "My father, it is impossible that I wed with Don Diego Vega,* she said.

    "What has caused your decision, my daughter?"

    "I scarcely can tell, except that he is not the sort of man I wish for my husband. He is lifeless; existence with him would be a continual torment."

    "Captain Ramon also has asked permission to pay you his addresses," Dona Catalina said.

    "And he is almost as bad. I do not like the look in his eyes," the girl replied.

    "You are too particular," Don Carlos told her. "If the persecution continues another year we shall be beggars. Here is the best catch in the country seeking you, and you would refuse him. And you do not like a high army officer because you do not fancy the look in his eyes. Think on it, girl! An alliance with Don Diego Vega is much to be desired. Perhaps when you know him better, you will like him more. And the man may awaken. I thought I saw a flash of it this night, deemed him jealous because of the presence of the captain here. If you can arouse his jealousy—"

    Senorita Lolita burst into tears, but soon the tempest of weeping passed, and she dried her eyes.

    "I—I shall do my best to like him," she said. "But I cannot bring myself to say, yet, that I will be his wife."-

    She hurried into her room again, and called for the native woman who attended her. Soon the house was in darkness, and the grounds about it, save for the fires down by the adobe huts, where the natives told one another grim tales of the night's events, each trying to make his falsehood the greatest. A gentle snore came from the apartment of Don Carlos Pulido and his wife.

    But the Senorita Lolita did not slumber. She had her head propped on one hand, and she was looking through a window at the fires in the distance, and her mind was full of thoughts of Senor Zorro.

    She remembered the grace of his bow, the music of his deep voice, the touch of his lips upon her palm.

    "I would he were not a rogue." She sighed. "How a woman could love such a man
    !"
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  19. #18
    [LEFT]Chapter Twelve: A VISIT


    SHORTLY AFTER DAYBREAK THE FOLLOWING morning there was considerable tumult in the plaza at Reina de Los Angeles. Sergeant Pedro Gonzales was there with a score of troopers, almost all that were stationed at the local presidio, and they were preparing for the chase of Senor Zorro.

    The big sergeant's voice roared out above the din as men adjusted saddles and looked to bridles and inspected then-water bottles and small supplies of provisions. For Sergeant Gonzales had ordered that his force travel light, and live off the country as much as possible. He had taken the commands of his captain seriously—he was going after Senor Zorro and did not propose to return until he had him—or had died in an effort to effect a capture.

    "I shall nail the fellow's pelt to the presidio door, my friend," he told the fat landlord. "Then I shall collect the governors reward and pay the score I owe you."

    "I pray the saints it may be true," the landlord said.

    "What, fool? That I pay you? Do you fear to lose a few small coins?"

    "I meant that I pray you may be successful in capturing the man," the landlord said, telling the falsehood glibly.

    Captain Ramon was not up to see the start, having a small fever because of his wound, but the people of the pueblo crowded around Sergeant Gonzales and his men, asking a multitude of questions, and the sergeant found himself the center of interest.

    "This Curse of Capistrano soon shall cease to exist!" he boasted loudly. "Pedro Gonzales is on his trail. Ha! When I stand face to face with the fellow—"

    The front door of Don Diego Vega's house opened at that juncture, and Don Diego himself appeared, at which the townsmen wondered a bit, since it was so early in the morning. Sergeant Gonzales dropped a bundle he was handling, put his hands upon his hips, and looked at his friend with sudden interest.

    "You have not been to bed," he charged.

    "But I have!" Don Diego declared.

    "And are up again so soon? Here is some devilish mystery that needs an explanation."

    "You made noise enough to awaken the dead," Don Diego said.

    "It could not be helped, caballero, since we are acting under orders."

    "Were it not possible to make your preparations at the presidio instead of here in the plaza, or did you think not enough persons would see your importance there?"

    "Now, by the—"

    "Do not say it!" Don Diego commanded. "As a matter of fact, I am up early because I must make a confounded trip to my hacienda, a journey of some ten miles, to inspect the flocks and herds. Never become a wealthy man, Sergeant Gonzales, for wealth asks too much of a man."

    "Something tells me that never shall I suffer on that account," said the sergeant, laughing. "Yon go with escort, my friend?"

    "A couple of natives, that is all."

    "If you should meet up with this Senor Zorro, he probably would hold you for a pretty ransom."

    "Is he supposed to be between this place and my hacienda?" Don Diego asked.

    "A native arrived a short time ago with word that he had been seen on the road running to Pala and San Luis Rey. We ride in that direction. And since your hacienda is the other way, no doubt you will not meet the rascal now."

    "I feel somewhat relieved to hear you say it. So you ride toward Pala, my sergeant?"

    "We do. We shall try to pick up his trail as soon as possible, and once we have it we shall run this fox down. Meanwhile, we also shall attempt to find his den. We start at once."

    "I shall await news eagerly," Don Diego said. "Good fortune go with you!"

    Gonzales and his men mounted, and the sergeant shouted an order, and they galloped across the plaza, raising great clouds of dust, and took the highway toward Pala and San Luis Rey.

    Don Diego looked after them until nothing could be seen but a tiny dust cloud in the distance, then called for his own horse. He, too, mounted and rode away toward San Gabriel, and two native servants rode mules and followed a short distance behind.

    But before he departed, Don Diego wrote a message and sent it by native courier to the Pulido hacienda. It was addressed to Don Carlos, and read:

    The soldiers are starting this morning to pursue this Senor Zorro, and it has been reported that the highwayman has a band of rogues under his command and may offer battle. There is no telling, my friend, what may happen. I dislike having one in whom I am interested subjected to danger, meaning your daughter particularly, but also the Dona Catalina and yourself. Moreover, this bandit saw your daughter last evening, and certainly must have appreciated her beauty, and he may seek to see her again.

    I beg of you to come at once to my house in Reina de Los Angeles, and make it as your home until matters are settled. I am leaving this morning for my hacienda, but have left orders with my servants that you are to give what commands you will. I shall hope to see you when I return, which will be in two or three days.

    Diego.

    ].
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  20. #19
    Don Carlos read that epistle aloud to his wife and daughter, and then looked up to see how they took it. He scoffed at the danger himself, being an old war horse, but did not wish to put his womenfolk in jeopardy.

    "What think you?" he asked.

    "It has been some time since we have visited the pueblo," Dona Catalina said. "I have some friends left among the ladies there. I think it will be an excellent thing to do."

    "It certainly will not injure our fortunes to have it become known we are house guests of Don Diego Vega," Don Carlos said. "What does our daughter think?"

    It was a concession to ask her, and Lolita realized that she was granted this unusual favor because of Don Diego's wooing. She hesitated some time before answering.

    "I believe it will be all right," she said. "I should like to visit the pueblo, for we see scarcely anybody here at the hacienda. But people may talk concerning Don Diego and myself."

    "Nonsense!" Don Carlos exploded. "Could there be anything more natural than that we should visit the Vegas, since our blood is almost as good as theirs and better than that of others?"

    "But it is Don Diego's house, and not that of his father. Still—he will not be there for two or three days, he says, and we can return when he comes."

    "Then it is settled," Don Carlos declared. "I shall see my superintendent and give him instructions."

    He hurried into the patio and rang the big bell for the superintendent, being well pleased. For when the Senorita Lolita saw the rich furnishings in the house of Don Diego Vega, she might the more readily accept Don Diego as a husband, he thought. When she saw the silks and satins, the elegant tapestries, the furniture inlaid with gold and studded with precious stones, when she realized that she could be mistress of this and much more besides—Don Carlos flattered himself that he knew the feminine heart.

    Soon after the siesta hour, a carreta was brought before the door, drawn by mules and driven by a native. Dona Catalina and Lolita got into it, and Don Carlos bestrode his best horse and rode at its side. And so they went down the trail to the highway, and down the highway toward Reina de Los Angeles.

    They passed folk who marveled to see the Pulido family thus going abroad, for it was well known that they had met with ill fortune and scarcely went anywhere now. It was even whispered that the ladies did not keep up with the fashions, and that the servants were poorly fed, but remained at the hacienda because their master was so kind.

    But Dona Catalina and her daughter held their heads proudly, as did Don Carlos, and they greeted the people they knew, and so continued along the highway.

    Presently they made a turning and could see the pueblo in the distance—the plaza and the church with its high cross on one side of it and the inn and storehouses and a few residences of the more pretentious sort, like Don Diego's, and the scattered huts of natives and poor folk.

    The carreta stopped before Don Diego's door, and servants rushed out to make the guests welcome, spreading a carpet from the carreta to the doorway, that the ladies would not have to step in the dust. Don Carlos led the way into the house, after ordering that the horse and mules be cared for and the carreta put away, and there they rested for a time, and the servants brought out wine and food.

    They went through the rich house then, and even the eyes of Dona Catalina, who had seen many rich houses, widened at what she saw here in Don Diego's home.

    "To think that our daughter can be mistress of all this when she speaks the word!" she gasped.

    Senorita Lolita said nothing, but she began thinking that perhaps it would not be so bad after all to become the wife of Don Diego. She was fighting a mental battle, was Senorita Lolita. On the one side was wealth and position, and the safety and good fortune of her parents—and a lifeless man for husband; and on the other side was the romance and ideal love she craved. Until the last hope was gone she could not give the latter up.

    Don Carlos left the house and crossed the plaza to the inn, where he met several gentlemen of age, and renewed acquaintance with them, albeit he noticed that none was enthusiastic in his greeting. They feared, he supposed, to appear openly friendly to him, Since he was in the bad graces of the governor.

    "You are in the pueblo on business?" one asked.

    "Not so, Senor," Don Carlos replied, and gladly, since here was a chance to set himself right in part. "This Senor Zorro is abroad, and the soldiers after him."

    "We are aware of that."

    "There may be a battle, or a series of raids, since it is whispered that now Senor Zorro has a band of cutthroats with him, and my hacienda is off by itself and would be at the mercy of the thief."

    "Ah! And so you bring your family to the pueblo until the matter is at an end?"

    "I had not thought of doing so, but this morning Don Diego Vega sent out to me a request that I bring my family here and make use of his house for the time being. Don Diego has gone to his hacienda, but will return within a short time."

    The eyes of those who heard opened a bit at that, but Don Carlos pretended not to notice, and went on sipping his wine.

    "Don Diego was out to visit me yesterday morning," he continued. "We renewed old times. And my hacienda had a visit from this Senor Zorro last night, as doubtless you have heard, and Don Diego, learning of it, galloped out again, fearing we had met with disaster."

    "Twice in one day!" gasped one of those who heard.

    "I have said it, Senor." '

    "You—that is—your daughter is very beautiful, is she not, Don Carlos Pulido? And seventeen, is she not—about?"

    "Eighteen, Senor. She is called beautiful, I believe," Don Carlos admitted.

    Those around him glanced at one another. They had the solution now. Don Diego Vega was seeking to wed Senorita Lolita Pulido. That meant that Pulido's fortunes would soon be at the flood again, and that he might feel called upon to remember his friends and look askance at those who had not stood by him.

    So now, they crowded forward, alert to do him honor, and asked concerning crops and the increase of his herds and flocks, and whether the bees were doing as well as usual, and did he think the olives were excellent this year.

    Don Carlos appeared to take it all as a matter of course. He accepted the wine they bought, and purchased himself, and the fat landlord darted about doing their bidding and trying to compute the day's profits in his head, which was a hopeless task for him.

    When Don Carlos left the inn at dusk, several of them followed him to the door, and two of the more influential walked with him across the plaza to the door of Don Diego's house. One of these begged that Don Carlos and his wife visit his house that evening for music and talk, and Don Carlos graciously accepted the invitation.

    Dona Catalina had been watching from a window, and her face was beaming when she met her husband at the door.

    "Everything goes well," he said. "They have met me with open-arms. And I have accepted an invitation to visit tonight."

    "But Lolita?" Dona Catalina protested.

    "She must remain here, of course. Will it not be all right? There are half a hundred servants about. And I have accepted the invitation, my dear."

    Such a chance to win favor again could not be disregarded, of course, and so Lolita was made acquainted with the arrangement. She was to remain in the great living-room, reading a volume of verse she had found there, and if she grew sleepy she was to retire to a certain chamber. The servants would guard her, and the despensero would look after her wishes personally.

    Don Carlos and his wife went to make their evening visit, being lighted across the plaza by half a dozen natives who held torches in their hands, for the night was without a moon, and rain was threatening again.

    Senorita Lolita curled up on a couch, the volume of verse in her lap, and began to read. Each verse treated of love, romance, passion. She marveled that Don Diego would read such, being so lifeless himself, but the volume showed that it had been much handled. She sprang from the couch to look at other books on a bench not far away. And her amazement increased.

    Volume after volume of poets who sang of love; volumes that had to do with horsemanship; books that had been written at the dictation of masters of fence; tales of great generals and warriors were there.

    Surely these volumes were not for a man of Don Diego's blood, she told herself. And then she thought that perhaps he reveled in them, though not in the manner of life they preached. Don Diego was something of a puzzle, she told herself for the hundredth time; and she went back and began reading the poetry again.

    Then Captain Ramon hammered at the front door[/LEFT
    0

  21. #20
    Chapter Thirteen: LOVE COMES SWIFTLY
    THE DESPENSERO HURRIED to open it.

    "I regret that Don Diego is not at home, senor," he said. "He has gone to his hacienda."

    "I know as much. Don Carlos and wife and daughter are here, are they not?"

    "Don Carlos and his wife are out on a visit this evening, senor."

    "The Senorita-"

    "Is here, of course."

    "In that case, I shall pay my respects to the Senorita," Captain Ramon said.

    "Senor! Pardon me, but the little lady is alone."

    "Am I not a proper man?" the captain demanded.

    "It—it is scarcely right for her to receive the visit of a gentleman when her duenna is .not present."

    "Who are you to speak to me of the proprieties?" Captain Ramon demanded. "Out of my way, scum! Cross me and you shall be punished. I know things concerning you."

    The face of the despensero went white at that, for the captain spoke the truth and, at a word, could cause him considerable trouble and mayhap a term in carcel. Yet he knew what was right.

    "But, senor—" he protested.

    Captain Ramon thrust him aside with his left arm and stalked into the big living-room. Lolita sprang up in alarm when she saw him standing before her.

    "Ah, Senorita, I trust that I did not startle you," he said. "I regret that your parents are absent, yet I must have a few words with you. This servant would deny me entrance, but I imagine you have nought to fear from a man with one wounded arm."

    "It—it is scarcely proper, is it, senor?" the girl asked, a bit frightened. '

    "I feel sure no harm can come of it," he said.

    He went across the room and sat down on one end of the couch and admired her beauty frankly. The despensero hovered near.

    "Go to your kitchen, fellow!" Captain Ramon commanded.

    "No; allow him to remain," Lolita begged. "My father commanded it, and he courts trouble if he leaves."

    "And if he remains. Go, fellow!"

    The servant went.

    Captain Ramon turned toward the girl again, and smiled upon her. He flattered himself that he knew women—they loved to see a man show mastery over other men.

    "More beautiful than ever, senorita," he said in a purring voice. "I really am glad to find you thus alone, for there is something I would say to you."

    "What can that be, senor?"

    "
    0

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