A New Beginning
                                                                           Chapter Four

The short journey from the de la Vega rancho into the Pueblo de Los Angeles was a peaceful one.   It allowed Diego the time he needed to share his thoughts and feelings with his trusted friend and manservant.  Bernardo, the loyal mozo, though unable to speak easily made his responses known to Diego through his clever use of pantomime.    The relationship between the men was based on trust and respect developed years before in Spain. 

Unlike his friend, Diego, Bernardo was abandoned as a baby and raised in a small village orphanage run by the church outside Madrid.  The padres never let Bernardo's inability to speak affect his life and the bright lad grew into a fine young man.   The padres hoped Bernardo would remain with the church, however he left to travel to the city of Madrid where he first encountered the cruelty of people.         

Bernardo was forced to work on the streets of Madrid, living modestly, entertaining passers-by with his magic and games of chance.  It was on one of these occasions when Bernardo was testing his skills against any gentlemen willing to gamble a peso that Diego and he met.  Several university students, including Diego, stopped to watch as this curious little man placed a small pea under one of three shells then twisted and turned them about.  All the men who tested their skill lost miserably.  Diego could not resist his chance to be victorious and tossed a coin on the table.  After twisting and turning the shells about Bernardo waited for Diego to make a decision.  Pointing to the center shell Diego waited until the shell was lifted to reveal nothing.  Bernardo raised the two remaining shells to reveal the little pea.  Laughing the young Diego pulled another coin from his jacket and tossed it on the table as a gift to the little man.   Several more students tried their luck only to lose.  Each time they willingly dropped a coin.

A rather tall sinister looking man was the last to try his luck.  He dropped his coin and waited for the shells to be moved.  Pointing to the shell on the right he was disappointed to find it empty.  Once again he tossed a peso and waited for the center shell to be removed.  Nothing.  Angrily he swept the shells off the table with the back of his hand and grabbed Bernardo by the throat.  Calling the little man a "cheat" the large man pressed his fingers tightly around his victims neck.  Gasping for breath Bernardo tried to return the man's coins but they were slapped from his hand.

"Take back your coins and be off," cried the young caballero placing the edge of his cold steel sword at the man's neck.  "Consider yourself lucky to have your life."

The man let go of the poor little man, picked up his coins and walked away.  The onlookers began to disperse but Diego remained to help Bernardo collect his belongings as the light began to dim.  

"I am sorry for that man's behavior," said Diego with a smile.  "My name is Diego de la Vega.  Is there something I can do for you?"

Bernardo gestured that he could not speak but could hear perfectly and that he was grateful to the young man for his help.  The caballero nodded and once again remarked that if he could ever be of assistance he could be found at the university.  With a wave of his hand he started down the street.  Finding the young man of interest, Bernardo began to follow him.  Bernardo continued to watch the young man and wondered if his family would be proud of his kindness.

Diego was about to cross the plaza on his way to the university when Bernardo noticed a carriage driven very fast toward the young man.  He could not call out to Diego so he dropped his belongings and ran as fast as possible.  Diego unaware of what was about to happen suddenly was knocked out of the way of the oncoming carriage and fell to the ground with Bernardo on top of him.   Diego looked up and realized this little man had saved his life.

"Gracias little one," said Diego. 

Bernardo gestured that the man driving the carriage was the same cruel man they had encountered a short time before.

"Ah, so he wanted his revenge," said Diego.  "Well perhaps for the time being we should stay together.   I have been looking for someone to help me while I attend the university.  Would you consider a job as my mozo?  You will have a safe place to stay, meals and you will not have to worry about men like that one."

Bernardo thought for a moment and nodded happily.  Running back to pick up his belongings he quickly joined the young gentleman.  The university was unlike any place that Bernardo had ever seen.  The façade of the buildings were all handcrafted with beautiful statuary and designs.  Many fountains dotted the various open plazas.  There were several buildings where the young caballeros attended classes, a large courtyard where many were fencing, and numerous buildings to house the students.  It was like a city unto itself. 

Bernardo had never seen such a place and gazed about.   It was in one of the buildings that housed students where Diego was assigned.  Surely this young man was from a very well to do family thought Bernardo.  After walking up many steps Diego opened a door and allowed Bernardo to enter.  He stepped into a large elegant sitting room with many books, trophies, medals, weapons and clothes strewn around.  The bedroom was as ornate as the previous room and equally as messy.   The wall of French doors led out to a balcony overlooking the courtyard where young men were fencing.   Off the large bedroom was a small-furnished room with a window.  This was the room where Bernardo was to make his home for the next three years.

During their time together Bernardo was to witness many accomplishments of his new friend.   Diego was a skilled fencer and great competitor who was successful in everything he tried his hand.   In a short time Diego acquired many more medals and trophies to add to those he had already won.  The two men attended many celebrations at the Spanish court and Bernardo soon realized that Diego was no ordinary young man.  Diego's family was well known in Spain and his father was one of the richest landowners in the new world.

Bernardo continued to act as Diego's manservant, cleaning and organizing but always a faithful friend.  Together they built a strong bond based on kindness and courage.   Now years later Bernardo found himself in a foreign land, riding a horse and listening as his friend confided in him.

Diego spoke of Anna Maria's belief that Sergeant Garcia was aware of Diego's secret identity as Zorro.  When Bernardo heard these words he nearly fell off his horse laughing.  Bernardo believed if the sergeant had figured out Diego's identity it would be a first for the bumbling soldier.  Sergeant Garcia was a good man with a good heart but his head was filled more with air than the brains needed to uncover the truth.

"Si, I felt the same way, Bernardo, when Anna Maria first broached the subject, however she is blessed with a sharp intuition besides I must keep my promise to her to check out Garcia.  Dr. Avila has warned me of the danger to Anna Maria if there is any tension.  I must see that she has a clear mind if she is to carry our child the full nine months."

Bernardo nodded in agreement.  Everything must be done to insure a safe environment for Anna Maria.  As the two men entered the pueblo all conversation on Diego's part ended.  They would maintain the relationship of master to servant and allow Bernardo to remain the deaf-mute.   One day they would be able to show everyone their true personalities but that day had not come, yet.  Now the two men guided their horses to the cuartel gate where they dismounted and Diego handed the reins of his horse to Bernardo.   Bernardo hitched the horses to the post and joined Diego who was standing outside the gate requesting entrance from the guards.