|All's Well That Ends Well Revised
Author: dlhs8954 PM
Revised and updated to correct errors. Best case scenario reflected so that truly all things can end well.Rated: Fiction K - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 10 - Words: 27,785 - Reviews: 7 - Favs: 6 - Follows: 1 - Published: 03-19-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7940444
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It was the day the people of the pueblo were to come together to hear Alcade De Soto's plan for the "future of the pueblo."
Townspeople began gathering at the Plaza at nine in the morning. A platform was built near the public water fountain near the center of the square.
At 11:30 a.m., the de la Vegas came out of the tavern, as well as others. Victoria allowed Diego to 'escort' her. When townspeople saw them, some still shook their heads, others looked at them and gossiped. Some of the women sighed and shook their heads, while others giggled.
The lancers, with Sergeant Mendoza in charge, lined up opposite the people, near the Alcade's office.
There was an air of expectancy in the crowd, yet there was also some fear. People didn't know what to think.
At precisely, twelve noon, Mendoza helped De Soto to the platform. The people began to quiet themselves.
De Soto spoke loudly to the crowd. "Quiet, please! Quiet please!"
People started shushing each other, and the pueblo quieted down so they could hear.
De Soto began. "Today is an historic day for this pueblo. We are setting ourselves on a new course today - a course for your future, for your children, and your children's children."
Victoria, her arm in Diego's, tried to help the Alcalde by shushing those around her. Diego, a bit nervously, held his attention on De Soto. Alejandro looked at Felipe and raised his eyebrows. Felipe shrugged his shoulders. Mendoza looked straight ahead most of the time, and still wondered what was coming next.
"During the time of martial law under Emissary Risendo…" De Soto looked at the de la Vegas. "…this pueblo suffered greatly. As you know, Sergeant Mendoza and I were nearly executed. This experience, along with Padre Benites' wisdom and guidance, has changed me immeasurably."
A low rumble went through the crowd…mostly positive. Father Benites looked pleased, and raised his eyes to heaven. Diego and Victoria looked at each other hopefully.
De Soto continued. "I can only say that in the past, I allowed ambition and obsession to rule my life. I want to tell you, here and now, that I am going to change all that. When I faced death, and when I was forced to take life, myself – something within seemed to grab me, shake me, and say, 'Look at your life!'"
Surprise gasps uttered throughout the crowd. Diego and Victoria still waited in anticipation. Mendoza looked up at an angle to De Soto.
"From today forward, this pueblo will be ruled with fairness and justice!"
The crowd erupted in cheers and jeers! The jeers finally began to take the place of the cheers.
"Quiet please! Let me finish! Let me finish! Quiet please!"
The crowd quieted back to a low rumble. De Soto was on a roll with speechmaking.
"I know I have to prove myself to you. The Padre has told me that by my fruits, you will know me. Please give me a chance to prove to you that I can rule humbly and fairly, with justice.
"I promise I will only tax what is legal in order to maintain the pueblo's public projects, while planning for the future.
"I promise that I will only take the salary due me in accordance with my position.
"I promise to set up a 'people's court' – where you can select your own representatives to help you with smaller issues."
Crowd reaction was mixed. People weren't quite sure what to think. They discussed it amongst themselves while De Soto took a breath. It almost sounded too good to be true.
De Soto steeled himself for the next statement.
"And as to the 'outlaw' Zorro …"
At this, the pueblo erupted into shouting again, mostly shouts of anger for calling their hero an outlaw. Diego's eyes never moved from watching De Soto. This is it, Diego thought. It sure sounds like he's changed, but has he really? He didn't know before what he would do about Zorro. He does now.
"Wait! Wait! I'm not finished! Please let me finish! You may like what you hear! Really!"
The people of the pueblo quieted themselves as much as possible.
"As I was saying, as for Zorro…. I have just received, within the last 24 hours, a PARDON for Zorro signed by the Governor. It arrived by messenger, yesterday!"
At the word "Pardon" – the pueblo erupted again! Victoria and Diego gasped and looked at each other – with "cautious" joy! They hugged, but tried not to appear too overjoyed. Alejandro and Felipe joined in the celebration, but only looked in Diego's direction, not directly at him and Victoria, making sure they didn't give anything away. De Soto had to quiet the crowd down again.
"Please people! Please! I have just a little bit more to say, then I'll be finished."
The pueblo quieted down again, but there was a lot of happy shock, hopeful looks, and great grins. The people of the pueblo could hardly believe their ears. This was very unexpected, but welcome, after the Emissary's visit.
"I just have one thing to say – and that is to Zorro. Please come back in one hour, and reveal yourself to YOUR people…so that they may thank you. I promise you, this is NOT a TRAP. I am done with traps. I am done with the chase. You have been pardoned. It was at my request that the Governor pardoned you. I hope that shows a beginning of trust between us."
A lot of murmuring went through the crowd. Diego and Victoria, try as they might, almost looked like stone statues. Alejandro noticed, and came over to them. He cautiously engaged them to look at him. His spoke softly so they were the only two to hear. He stood directly in front of them and captured their attention.
"I know this is an emotional time, but you have got to get yourselves out of your stupor, or everyone will know. Don't under-react, but over-react either. I know it's hard and this is a shock – but it is what we were hoping for, isn't it?"
Diego snapped his eyes to his father. He gave Victoria a squeeze in order to snap Victoria's glazed-eyes look off her face.
De Soto took another deep breath, and began again.
"My brush with death and the taking of the Emissary's life, plus the accidental death – by ME – of the Emissary's assistant, Lt. Hidalgo – has shown me that life is too short. You all know that I have been a great follower of Machiavelli. I have put him aside, and with your help, I will try to become the Alcalde you want me to be…fair and just."
And to Zorro, I would say…" He looked in Diego's direction, their eyes met – just for a second, then De Soto turned his eyes another way. "…let's be friends. I believe we could work together to protect this pueblo from outside evils. Zorro once said something like, 'Only by standing together, can any of us stand at all.' I now believe this."
Townspeople murmured. They could hardly believe what they were hearing.
Diego spoke out. "Alcalde, I heard that Zorro died under a pile of rocks in Diablo Canyon."
De Soto looked directly at Diego, and with all sincerity, said, "If this is true, that will be a tragedy. Our lancers need a master swordsman who can teach them to disarm 'real' bandits quickly, and thereby giving us the reputation for being a well-protected pueblo.
"The pardon for Zorro will be posted in Senorita Escalante's tavern…"
De Soto looked at Victoria, saw her arm in Diego's, raised his eyebrows. "…with your permission, Senorita?"
Victoria smiled. "Why certainly, Alcalde." To Diego she said, "He's never asked my permission before, he just did it."
De Soto continued.
"Don Alejandro de la Vega, I ask you to consider being my assistant in all this. I am instituting a new position; it's a voluntary one, of Deputy Alcalde. The duties of the Deputy are the same as mine, only more on the administrative side. I believe, as our reputation for being a safe and happy pueblo begins to spread, we're going to grow immensely. We will have much to offer new settlers. That is why I'd like to establish a government system now to handle future growth."
The townspeople erupted again with a round of cheers, rolling in like waves in the ocean.
"Sergeant Mendoza – you are now promoted to Lieutenant, with a raise in pay and additional responsibilities. You will be in total charge of the Garrison de Los Angeles, one step below me, as Alcade. Whenever my duties take me away from the pueblo, Lieutenant Mendoza and hopefully, you, Don Alejandro…" De Soto looked at him. "…will be in charge of the pueblo."
Mendoza was about to bust at the seams. His chest filled with pride. "Lieutenant? ME? SI mi Alcade!"
Alejandro raised his voice to answer De Soto. "Sir, I believe I need you to prove yourself first. However, if, in one year, I see that you have truly changed, I will gladly serve as your Deputy."
De Soto replied, "Thank you, Don Alejandro."
"And now…people of Los Angeles, let us meet here in one hour – to see if your hero has the courage to show you who he really is. I have now shown you who I want to be, which in my estimation is who I really am now. Sergeant, uh, Lieutenant Mendoza…"
Mendoza proudly replies, "Si, mi Alcalde? "
"Dismiss the troops! And thank you all for listening."
The crowd began to disperse. De Soto stepped off the platform and returned to his office – along the way, some of the caballeros gathered round him. Lieutenant Mendoza was in that little group. He received many congratulations from the people. Little groups of people gathered around the plaza to talk. One of those groups, stationed just outside the tavern, was Diego, Victoria, Felipe and Alejandro.
Victoria looked quizzically at Diego. "Well, will our hero show himself?"
Diego was clearly struggling. Alejandro saw this. "No pressure, son. Don't think you have to do this."
Diego placed a hand to his head. "I – I – I don't know. I'm still rather shocked and surprised. It's hard to believe all this is happening. I just don't know. I have thought that 'someday' I might unmask for the pueblo – but I wanted to do it on my terms, in my own way, in my own time. Ignacio and I talked about being friends. It looks like he really wants to. I'm just flabbergasted."
Alejandro laid a gentle hand on Diego's arm. "Well son, just remember. You don't have to do this."
Victoria tightened her grip on his arm to gently support him. "No, you don't. You don't have to."
Felipe nodded in agreement. Diego gave Victoria a quick kiss, then rode out of town, carefully avoiding eye contact with anyone remotely near the alcalde.
One hour later, most of the pueblo had re-gathered, waiting to see if Zorro would appear. De Soto remounted the platform.
"People of Los Angeles, let us wait a short time to see if Zorro will appear, of if he is indeed dead…"
Five minutes went by. Speculations of all sorts circulated among the people. "I wonder if he'll come." "If he's dead, he won't come!" "I wonder who he is." "Some say its…." "Oh, it couldn't be him, but it could be…"
One little group stood at the back of the crowd in front of the tavern – Victoria, Felipe, and Alejandro. Diego was nowhere to be seen.
"Don Alejandro, do you think he'll do it?"
"I don't know, Victoria. He needed some time to himself to decide what he wanted to do. He said he would try to be back in 'time' – no matter what he decided. But he hasn't come back yet."
"Do you think he might still be afraid?"
"I would be, if I were him. Not of the people, but of Alcalde De Soto. This is like baring one's soul to him…not knowing if you'll hang or not."
"I remember one time, recently, when the people so cheered him. Did he tell you about that? He looked around at them, then at me. I looked at him. He was reveling in their recognition, the praise. I was just so happy to see him. We all were. It was…well, it was when you thought you were Zorro."
Alejandro hung his head. "Please don't remind me. Now that I know it was real, I am still so embarrassed."
Another five minutes went by. The people talked. "It's been 10 minutes. He's not coming. Maybe he's really dead, like de la Vega said. Well, he might be on his way. I still wonder who has been helping us. I wonder about Senorita Escalante. What will she do? She has said she believes he is dead. Yes, did you see her with Don Diego this last week? Oh my, yes. He seemed different, didn't he? You know, you're right. He didn't seem as insipid as usual. She seems to be quite taken with him. She wouldn't do that if Zorro were alive – would she?"
De Soto got the attention of the crowd. "People of Los Angeles! Quiet please! Quiet!" In response, the people began to quiet down.
"People of Los Angeles… it's been 10 minutes. We'll wait another five minutes, but it looks as though your hero, Zorro, did indeed meet his end. I want you to know that I personally requested the Governor to pardon Zorro because of my change of heart."
At this, another wave of murmuring went through the crowd. De Soto continued.
"I realized that my obsession with him, with capturing or killing him, was a mistake. The more I tried to foil him, the more he foiled me. He was a worthy adversary, but I have come to realize that every time I laid a trap for him, I was cutting out more of my own soul."
"I saw – we saw – what a man without conscience will do…what lengths he is willing to go to oppress and seek revenge. Sorry, Don Alejandro, I do not mean to malign your son."
Alejandro responded. "No offense taken, Alcalde. You are right. Gilberto was raised on hatred and vengeance. It takes an evil heart to live that way. I do not blame him, I blame the woman who stole him and raised him to be that way."
De Soto continued. "I want you to know that…"
At that moment, people who were looking in the direction of the pueblo sign, started gasping, then cheered! Others looked. People shouted "Here he comes! Look! It's Zorro! There he is! Zorro! Viva El Zorro!" Everyone cheered very loudly, it was deafening! Alejandro, Victoria and Felipe smiled. Victoria put her hand over her heart, and nearly cried for joy. Oh the courage of her man!
"Ah! It looks like he's arrived!" De Soto exclaimed.
Zorro and Toronado trotted in. It was Zorro's first appearance in nearly two weeks. People crowded around him. Toronado slowed to a walk. People surrounded Zorro, cheering. He grinned from ear to ear, then rode up to the edge of the platform.
De Soto yelled through the din. "Ah Zorro! You have officially been pardoned. Come join me on the platform, if you please."
Zorro dismounted. The trio in the back smiled. They interlocked their arms. Because no one saw them, no one knew what they're doing. Victoria cried, Alejandro was beaming, then he began to cry. Felipe grinned from ear to ear, then he too, had tears streaming down his cheeks. Zorro scanned the crowd until he saw his loved ones. He saw them with tears in their eyes, but looked away quickly, lest he cry, too. His face shown with joy. He gave his two-fingered wave to the people. He jumped onto the platform in one swift and agile move. The people continued cheering! "Zor-ro! Zor-ro! Zor-ro! Zor-ro!"
De Soto leaned over to Zorro. "I've said it before, I'll say it again. You're such a hero."
"So it would seem Alcade."
De Soto raised his hand to get the people's attention. "Quiet please! Quiet! I believe your 'hero' has something he wants to say." De Soto turns to Zorro. "Well, this is your moment. I'll let you have it. Then, I'd like to talk with you tomorrow in my office."
Zorro turned to De Soto and gave a slight bow. "Certainly, Alcalde."
The people quieted as Zorro also raised his hand for silence.
"People of Los Angeles! I know that you have been curious for years to know my identity. Let me tell you again, why it was important to keep my true identity a secret. It was for your protection – and mine. Many of you have wondered about me. But none of you have ever - even remotely guessed my true identity."
Murmurs waved through the crowd. People looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.
Zorro continued. "Some of you thought I was from somewhere other than Los Angeles. If that were true, why would I defend a place where I did not live? I was born here. I have lived here most of my life. You all know me – you just don't know you know me."
"I know that you want to see my face…but I find I cannot unmask for you today. I did come, however to tell you that I am not dead, and why I cannot do this today."
"I wear two masks. I wear this visible mask to hide my face. I have worn my 'invisible' mask to hide who I really am. Although you see my face, you do not know me as I really am. But I have the heart and passion of Zorro, without this mask, although you have rarely seen it. I find that I cannot remove the visible mask today, but if you look closely, you'll see who I am. If you look closely, you'll see that I have already begun to remove the 'invisible' mask."
At that, the crowd murmured again. First the Alcade's about-face, and now Zorro's lack of courage to reveal himself. They can hardly believe it of him.
"I will tell you…that if you give me time…as I will give the Alcalde time…then I may reveal myself to you – someday…"
The crowd was rather disgruntled. Some were angry. Some were sympathetic.
De Soto stepped in to try to keep the moment peaceful. In a kidding, yet sincere sort of way, he cajoles, "Oh, come now – Zorro – are you afraid? Of what?"
De Soto's eyes bore into Zorro's eyes. "I promise you the pardon IS real."
To De Soto, Zorro said, "I know. I saw it. It bears the Governor's signature. I am familiar with it."
To the people, he said, "People of Los Angeles! One hour's time is hardly enough for me to decide to do this. If you will come back another day..."
More murmurs went through the crowd. "Ah come on Zorro. Don't be afraid of us! We love you! Oh, he's just a coward. I can't believe, after all I've seen of Zorro that he wants more time!"
Zorro raised his hand again. The crowd quieted. "I came here today to let you know I did not die beneath the Emissary's trap, although I was tempted to let you think I had. I do not want praise or hero worship for what I've done. All I want is for you to be governed by justice and fairness, so that you may happily live out your lives."
"I will tell you, that if I decide to publicly unmask, you will know all about it beforehand. It will not be a spectacle. It will be a simple unmasking…because beneath this mask, is a very ordinary man, not a legend. A man who wants this all to end, so he can be free to marry whom he chooses, and start a family."
With that, all eyes turned to Victoria, who was still in locked arms with Alejandro and Felipe. Her eyes were glazed over. Alejandro and Felipe silently, with their eyes, tried to give Diego courage.
"Alcalde, I will be happy to be friends with you and to help train your troops. Lieutenant Mendoza!"
Mendoza steps up. "Si, Senor Zorro?"
Zorro smiled a huge smile. "Congratulations, Lieutenant! My good friend! No one deserves this more than you. I will be happy to train you in swordsmanship techniques and strategies so that you can train your troops."
De Soto thought this had gone on long enough. The people were beginning to lose interest, and he knew crowds well enough to know there would never be a better opportunity. He leaned in to Zorro, and talked softly.
"Oh, come on, de la Vega, remove the mask. It's about time, don't you think? You don't need another day, do you?"
Zorro was taken aback. His eyes widened. His mouth dropped open, then he closed it. He spoke softly to De Soto, so that the crowd can't hear.
"I beg your pardon? De la Vega?"
De Soto gave Zorro a warm look. Zorro, unused to seeing that kind of expression from De Soto was still taken aback. De Soto pressed the advantage.
"Come on, Diego…take it off! It's all right. I promise. It will do you good not to hide anymore. Then, you can proclaim your love and keep your promise to a particular Senorita. You don't think your 'open courting' has fooled anyone, do you?"
Zorro was still flabbergasted! He gulped as he paused a few moments, considering. The crowd was hushed in anticipation.
Then, he reached for the knot.
The crowd immediately silenced themselves. Anticipation cut through the air like a knife. Victoria, through tear-stained face, gripped the arms of Felipe and Alejandro so tightly they thought their circulation would be cut off. Although they knew who he was, neither Alejandro nor Victoria had ever seen him take his mask off. They looked to Felipe, who grinned. Then he nodded as if to say, 'yes, it's quite something.' Felipe stopped crying, but also looked on in anticipation. He nodded for them to watch Diego take the mask off.
As Zorro took the mask off, he bowed his head in humility. He gripped the mask tightly in one hand. Not many saw his face right away, but the ones who did – gasped in recognition. "De la Vega! Don Diego de la Vega" went through the crowd like wildfire.
De Soto yelled into the crowd. "Los Angeles, I give you your hero – Zorro – Don Diego de la Vega!"
The roar of the crowd was deafening. Although they were astonished to learn that the man behind the mask was Diego de la Vega, they knew he was 'their' Zorro. He - was their - hero!
Victoria, Felipe, and Alejandro watched in amazement and tears. People crowded around them! "Did you know? You must be so proud of him! He really pulled one over on the pueblo, didn't he?"
Diego recovered, and lifted his head. His eyes brimmed with tears. But his smile said it all. He decided to say one last thing. He raised his hand to get their attention.
"People! People! Please! One more thing I must do…"
The crowd quiets.
Diego continued to speak with his Zorro voice. His Zorro voice had more clarity and force to it. A voice teacher would say he used his diaphragm. Even though the tonal quality was essentially the same, same pitches, same timbre – his voice for Diego was softer and smoother, with more rising and falling. It had a gentle, compassionate quality to it. People found Diego's voice a comforting type of voice, whereas Zorro's voice had a commanding presence to it. The tones were sharp and penetrating. But now that they knew who the man behind the mask was, they wondered why they didn't notice it before.
"Good people of Los Angeles, thank you for allowing me to serve you all these years. I did it for justice, and I did it for freedom. But there is one more promise I must keep.
"Senorita Victoria Escalante and I have been in love with each other for years. I made a promise to her when I first put the mask on, that when we were free from tyranny and oppression, I would take off the mask to reveal who I was. I also promised to openly proclaim my love for her. She only recently discovered my true identity. I asked her to marry me on faith, before she knew who I was.
"After years of pretending and hiding, I found I could not hide my feelings for her any more. Once she knew my identity, she could not hide either. What to do? I openly began to court her. Senorita Escalante?"
Victoria looked up at him through joyful tears. "Yes, Diego?"
"Will you marry me – as Diego de la Vega, and not as Zorro?"
"Yes – oh yes! I will marry you!"
The crowd roared again! The plaza was alive with energy! It took a couple of minutes to get their attention again. Diego raised his hand from the platform. The people quieted themselves. But oh, what a day this had been! De Soto said it would be historic – and historic it had turned out to be!
Diego spoke with Zorro's voice. "Then, Senorita, please – join me here. Father, Felipe, will you come as well?"
Diego now spoke to the people. People still scratched their heads to hear Zorro's voice coming from mild-mannered Don Diego, and seeing him in Zorro's black outfit - sans mask.
"These are the three people closest to me. Only Felipe has known my identity from the beginning."
As Alejandro, Victoria and Felipe made their way to the platform, more cheering continued. "Zor-ro! Zor-ro! Viva El Zorro! Viva Senor de la Vega!"
De Soto turned to Diego. "There now. Don't you feel better? Confession is good for the soul, isn't it?"
One month later, the entire pueblo came out for the wedding of Victoria Escalante and Diego de la Vega. Diego wore a black caballero suit. Padre Benites officiates. Alejandro gave her away. Felipe was best man. Lieutenant Mendoza & Alcalde De Soto watched from the pews. Many called it "a wedding for the ages!"