A New Beginning
                                                                                 Chapter 13

The wedding and baptism were growing ever closer.  Eagerly the final preparations were made.  With only one week before the baptism Diego, accompanied by Bernardo, left the hacienda early that spring morning for the pueblo de Los Angeles.  Diego was to join Padre Felipe at the tavern to discuss the baptismal service and then the two men would meet with Captain Monastario in his office to iron out last minute details of the wedding.  This was a very exciting time for both young couples for in their own way were beginning a new life.  Anna Maria and Diego with their new family while the commandante and Leonar their marriage.

Meanwhile at the de la Vega hacienda the final fitting for Leonar's wedding dress was set for early afternoon.  Once the children were fed and set down for their nap, Abuelo, would remain with the children in the nursery.  With more time available Anna Maria was free to help Leonar with her wedding plans. 

Outside the pueblo Carlotta, the seamstress, had hired a peon to help her bring the finished wedding gown and trousseau to the de la Vega rancho.  Normally she would have managed on her own but this was the daughter of the Governor of California and nothing could go wrong.  Carefully the hired man placed the senorita's gown and trousseau in the wagon along with sewing supplies.  Carlotta smiled to herself pleased with her work and hopeful that this honor would lead to more opportunities. 

Don Grigorio spent most of the morning with Don Alejandro riding around the rancho checking on the vaqueros as they branded newly purchased cattle.  By afternoon the men sought the comfort of Don Alejandro's library where they planned a simple lunch over a game of chess.  Later the two hoped to write a special "grandfather toast" to the new arrivals to be given at the celebration.  Even the servants were busy in the main house; decorating the patio with many pots filled with scented flowers and hanging colored lanterns.   In just one week the celebrations would begin.       

In the nursery Abuelo was helping the new mother with the babies.  While Anna Maria fed one child la ninera gave the other a bath.  Abuelo had become an integral part of the family caring for the little ones and a trusted confident to Anna Maria.  When the children were finally ready for their nap Anna Maria hugged and kissed each child before setting them down for their nap.  Proudly she smiled at Abuelo knowing her children were in safe hands then turned to head down to the patio garden where Leonar waited for the seamstress.

"My dear Leonar, "Anna Maria called out as she strolled toward Leonar.  "Carlotta should be here at any moment with your trousseau.  Please have her follow you to my room and I will join you as soon as I speak with cook regarding the week's menu."

"Very well," smiled Leonar.  "I am so excited.  Everything is going perfectly.  Father and Aunt Margarita are arriving any day now.  Most important Father has finally excepted Enrique."

"Si even Don Alejandro no longer cringes when the commandante is in the same room," laughed Anna Maria.  Oh, I hear a wagon.  I am going to speak to cook and I will join you shortly."

Anna Maria walked into the main house leaving Leonar to wait for arrival of the seamstress.   Within moments the sound of horses hooves and the wheels of a wagon stopped at the gate.  Excitedly Leonar ran to the entrance and swung open the large wooden door.  Carlotta greeted the bride as the peon carefully unloaded the wagon.  Leonar gestured to both to follow her upstairs.  Opening the door to Anna Maria's bedroom, Leonar requested the wedding items be placed on the bed.  Once this was accomplished the peon excused himself to wait in the wagon.  Slowly Carlotta uncovered the wedding gown as Leonar sighed happily.  The gown with its beautiful shear appliquéd mantilla took Leonar's breath away.  Carlotta had performed a miracle for Leonar was to have her perfect dress.  As the bride-to-be was about to change into her dress she heard the cry of a baby.  When the crys did not stop she excused herself to check on the babies in the nursery.      

"Abuelo is everything alright," asked Leonar before feeling a hand placed over her mouth and one around her waist.

"Quiet senorita if you know what is good for you and those children," snarled the mystery man.

Sprawled out on the floor was la ninera.  Obviously she had done her best to protect the little ones from this violent man whose face seemed so familiar.  Frightened by the site of Abuelo lying on the floor Leonar obeyed when the man told her to be quiet.  As the man released Leonar she ran to the fallen woman. 

"Who are you and what do you want?" questioned Leonar looking up at the man.. 

"You do not remember me," said the peon .  "Of course not, you are too above one like me to take notice...I was a servant in the Verdugo household."

"You are Pablo...I remember now," Leonar said leaving Abuelo to check on the babies.  "I thought you were in jail."

"Si, I was but there is not a jail that could hold me." said Pablo pulling a knife from his sash.  Now I have come for the money that is owed me."

Pablo opened the door to the nursery to let another man, who was not familiar to Leonar, enter.  Leonar ran for the door about to scream for help but Pablo grabbed her and muffled her yell.  Leonar watched fearfully as the other man reached into one of the cribs and lifted out a baby.  Together with their hostages the men made their way down the stairs to the waiting wagon where they disappeared unseen by the household.  It seemed like hours had gone by but in reality only minutes had passed.  Having finished her business in the kitchen Anna Maria headed to her room.  Once their she was surprised to find only Carlotta standing among the garments.

"What has happened to our bride to-be," inquired Anna Maria.

"Senora de la Vega, your friend heard one of the babies crying and went to see if there was something she could do to help," said the seamstress.  "She has not returned yet."

"Strange," replied Anna Maria.  "I shall go see what is keeping her."

Opening the door Anna Maria immediately saw the body of her children's nanny laying on the floor.  Kneeling by Abuelo's side Anna Maria turned her to check on her condition.  Frightened by the sight of blood oozing from Abuelo's mouth Anna Maria  ran to her children.   Eduardo was sleeping peacefully but where was Maria Isabella.  Running to the door Anna Maria screamed out for Don Alejandro and her father causing Eduardo to cry out as he awoke.  In a matter of minutes the two men and the seamstress ran to the nursery.  As Don Grigorio and Carlotta tried to comfort the senora and started child, Don Alejandro carried Abuelo to the bed in the nursery where she began to come around.

"Patron, there was a man...an evil man," said the semi-conscious woman.  "He was threatening to take one of the babies.  I tried to stop him but he hit me.   Are the little ones alright?"

"You must rest," Don Alejandro said reassuringly.  "Carlotta please tell one of the servants to send for the doctor and the commandate immediately.  Then have one of the servants bring Benito to me at once"

"Anna Maria, you must be brave," added Don Grigorio.  "Diego will return to the hacienda with the commandante as soon as word is received.  They will find them."

"Si, everything will be alright," Alejandro said patting his daughter-in-laws arm.  "Come let us return to Abuelo.  Perhaps she can remember something useful." 

"Abuelo," said the don.  "Can you tell us anymore about the man who entered the nursery and did this to you?"

"I never saw him before," said Abuelo grabbing her head.  "But he was an Indian and said the Verdugo's would pay,"

"Rest easy, the doctor will be here soon." said Don Alejandro joining the others.

Stepping outside the nursery the dons looked at one another.  Don Grigorio took the baby from Anna Maria and walked silently back to the nursery.  Alejandro took a deep breath and began the sad duty of telling Anna Maria of Pablo and Quintana's escape from jail. 

"Madre dios," exclaimed Anna Maria raising her hand to her mouth.  "Both men are dangerous and each has a grudge against our families.  What are we to do?  They have Maria Isabella and Leonar."

"Everything will be alright daughter," Don Alejandro said embracing Anna Maria.  "Diego and the commandante will be here soon with a patrol.  Pablo and Quintana will not get away with this.  Maria Isabella and Leonar will be found unharmed."