A New Beginning
                                                                      Chapter Twenty-one

The wedding day of Leonar and Capitan Monastario had finally arrived.  At the de la Vega hacienda the servants were busy with last minute preparations for the evenings festivities.  Along the patio brightly colored lanterns were hung and would shine their light on tables set with bouquets of fragrant flowers.  In the kitchen fresh baked breads and rolls were taken from the stove and placed on trays alongside the tiered wedding cake about to be iced.  Several vaqueros carried in large baskets  of fresh fruits and vegetables which had been delivered to the hacienda in preparation for the evening meal.  The china, crystal and silverware were taken from the cabinets and cleaned before being placed on the buffet table.  Outside the main gate two beautifully decorated carriages were waiting to take the bridal party to the mission.  How ironic that the man who caused such pain to those at the mission was to be married there by Padre Felipe!  However as padre always said, "God works in mysterious ways.  Who are we to question his higher authority?"

In the study Don Alejandro opened a fine bottle of wine and placed it on the side table along with some glasses.  While waiting for his guests to join him, Don Alejandro leaned against his desk pondering the past months.  If anyone had told him he would be hosting a reception for the commandante he would have laughed uproariously.  Was this not the man who had caused deliberate pain and suffering to his family?  How funny life can be he thought!  Hearing footsteps on the stairs of his study he turned to greet Diego and the governor.

"Please come in and take a glass," said Don Alejandro pouring some wine.  "Let us lift our glasses and toast your lovely daughter on this special day.  May she find the happiness she deserves."

"To the happy couple," they said in unison.

In Leonar's room Anna Maria was helping the bride with last minute details.  Carlotta arrived early that morning to help Leonar with her dress and hair.  Adjusting the floral lace mantilla on Leonar's hair Carlotta and Anna Maria stood back.  Leonar was so afraid to look into the mirror to see her reflection but Anna Maria turned her around.  There in the mirror Leonar saw all her hopes and dreams.   She was a woman about to be married to a man she loved and who loved her with all his heart.  Walking to the vanity table Leonar reached for the small chest sitting in the corner.  Leonar opened the box and pulled out a necklace. 

"Anna Maria this pearl necklace and the earrings there in the box belonged to my mother.  It was the first gift my father ever gave to her.  I believe my mother would be pleased to know that I am wearing it on my wedding day."

"They are truly lovely and will add a special meaning to this day," said Anna Maria hooking the necklace in place."

"I, too, have something to give you," added Anna Maria.  "You have been a dear friend and confidant throughout the years Leonar.  Please accept this small gift from me."

"What a lovely handkerchief," said Leonar.  "You have enbroidered my initials and Enrique's with are wedding date on the hankie.  I just may need it to wipe away my tears."

"Now you must not cry...a bride should never have red eyes on her wedding day."

Anna Maria picked up her wrap and opened the door leaving Carlotta behind to pack the rest of Leonar's things.  Together the two women headed toward the staircase but stopped by the twin's room where Anna Maria peeked in.  There sleeping peacefully in their cribs were her babies, Maria Isabella and Eduardo Alejandro.  Smiling to Abuelo, Anna Maria closed the door and helped Leonar with her dress as they descended down the stairs.  At the bottom the governor waited with a broad smile on his face.  Tears filled his eyes as he thought of how very proud he was of his daughter! 

"My dear daughter you take my breath away," said the governor taking her hand.  "For just a moment seeing you brought back memories of your departed mother.  She was one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen until now."

"Gracias father."

"Oh my dear you are wearing your mothers pearl necklace and earrings."

"Si, I feel as though mother is hear with us today and smiling," replied Leonar.

Placing Leonar's arm around his the governor escorted her out to the waiting carriages followed by the rest of the wedding party.  Anna Maria, as beautiful as ever, was aided by Diego as she climbed into the second carriage.  Diego sat next to his wife and his father on the opposite seat.   Bernardo climbed next to the driver of the second carriage and the group was on their way.  The early morning fog burnt away leaving the sky a bright blue as the carriages bound over the road toward the mission.  For Leonar the drive felt like an eternity. Why, oh why, had she and her beloved not eloped?  Looking into the face of her proud father she realized how silly her thought was for she loved this man and he her.  In just a short time they would proclaim their love and devotion to one another.

At the mission Capitan Monastario and his men had already arrived.  Once their horses were tethered Sergeant Garcia lined the men up to check the soldier's uniforms and inform them of their duties after the ceremony.  The sergeant then dismissed the men and followed the commandante into the church.  Nervously Monastario removed his hat as he greeted Padre Felipe who showed the men to a small room to wait until the ceremony began. Monastario marched back and forth stopping every once in a while to adjust his medals and belt.

"Capitan, you must relax," called out Garcia. 

"Si, si," the commandante said breathing deeply.  "What if something goes wrong?  What if the governor convinces Leonar that I am not the right man for her?  What if...?"

"Sir, the senorita knows her own mind...I do not believe there is anything in this world which would keep her from marrying you this day."

Arriving before the guests Leonar and her party entered the church.  After speaking with Padre Felipe for several minutes Leonar entered a private room to wait with Anna Maria. 

"Anna Maria, is my dress alright...my hair...the matilla? questioned Leonar.

"My dear you look beautiful," reassured Anna Maria.  "In only a few minutes all your dreams will come true."

The governor knocked at the door to let Leonar know that it was time.  It was time for Leonar to take her father's arm and walk to the altar to join her beloved.  With Padre Felipe's guidance the young couple took their sacred vows to love and honor one another for all the days to come.  When the service concluded Padre Felipe introduced the newly wed couple to all those sitting in the sanctuary.  Before taking their first steps as man and wife the new bride and groom kissed then left the church.  Outside the soldiers from the garrison lined the way to the quadrangle.  Beneath crossed swords Leonar and her new husband made their way to the quadrangle.  Soft fragrant rose petals were tossed at the young couple as they entered the courtyard.   As water from the fountain flowed the guests enjoyed the wine, bread, and a variety of cheeses set out for the reception.  Diego was the first to toast the couple on their wedding day.  By mid afternoon the carriages were brought to the quadrangle's gate to return the bride and groom along with the de la Vega's to the rancho where the celebration would continue.

The wedding party returned to the hacienda.  Anxious to make themselves more presentable before the guests arrived the women retired to their rooms.  Don Alejandro, the goverrnor as well as Diego and Monastario stepped into the sala for a relaxing glass of wine.  Don Alejandrro, ever the gracious host, raised his glass in a toast to the commandate and his new bride.

"Gracias Don Alejandro," Monastario said humbly.  "I know that it is hard for you to believe that I have changed but I promise that I will continue to do my best as the commandante of the pueblo de Los Angeles."

"Captian," responded Diego.  "With Leonar by your side there is no doubt."

"Then am I to understand that a decision regarding Don Carlos' wedding gift has been made?" asked the governor as the others looked on with surprise.

"Si, Leonar and I discussed the generous gift made by Don Carlos." replied Monastario.  "However our decision is to remain here in Los Angeles where I can pursue my military career."

"What of the property in Monterey?" inquired the governor.

"Leonar and I were hoping that you would hire someone to run the rancho for us," said Monastario.  "Half the profits would be used to run the rancho while the other half would be used to help those in need."

"I commend my daughter and you for this most generous decision," replied the governor.  "Si I will help".

Bernardo entered the salon and signed to the men that the guests were beginning to arrive.  The men put down their glasses and headed out to the patio followed by Bernardo.  The celebration had already begun.  The musicians were playing a lovely melody and the lanterns were lit as the sun was setting.  For a moment everyone froze as Leonar stood at the top of the stairs.  Seeing his beautiful bride Monastario ran up the stairs to take her arm and escort her downstairs.  The couple was surrounded by those with their good wishes.  As Monastario took his bride by the hand and led her to the center of the patio the musicians begain to play.  Everyone watched as they swirled about the patio.  Soon Monastario raised his hand and several couple including Diego and Anna Maria joined them in dance. 

All through the evening the food was replenshed, the music played, the food replenshed and the wine served.  It was a lovely affair thanks to the generosity of the de la Vegas.  Standing in front of the musicians Monastario and Leonar waited until there was silence.  Leonar spoke briefly thanking Anna Maria and Diego for their patience and understanding.  Then she spoke directly to her father and Don Alejandro who smiled proudly.  When she finished the commandante stepped forward.

Taking a deep breath he began, "I thank you all for making this a celebration that Leonar and I will always remember.  Months ago I stood here at Don Diego's wedding and my heart was filled with anger and hate.  I was a very differernt man.  Thanks to my beautiful wife, Don Diego and the senora I took a deep look into my heart and did not like the man I had become.  With my wife by my side, my dear friends and my most capable assistant, Sergeant Garcia, I hope to make the pueblo de Los Angeles a place to be proud.  A place where everyone will find peace and equality.  The paper I have in my hand is start of a new beginning.  The governor has spoken with the viceroy and it is with their permission that I offer this amnesty to El Zorro."

The crowd was stunned and began to whisper among themselves.  Could this be true?  El Zorro would no longer be a bandido with a price on his head or was this just a trick that the commandante conceived.

The governor stepped foward his arms held high, "My friends please...this is not a trick.  The offer is genuine with no strings attached.  El Zorro need not come forward and unmask.  From this day forward he will not be hunted but honored for the good that he has done.  Tomorrow this document will be displayed in the plaza for all to see."

The crowd cheered.  Diego's eyes met those of Monastario and the two smiled.  Don Alejandro looked at his son.  Diego had accomplished what others had tried and failed.  Was this his only thanks...a new beginning for those in Los Angeles?  He looked at his son standing with Anna Maria by his side.  Don Alejandro was proud as he looked at the man his son had become.  Diego needed no thanks only the realization of his dream for the people of California.  This was Diego's victory...but would it be the end of Zorro?