A New Beginning
                                                                         Chapter Five

A cloudlike mist rose faintly above the ground typical of fall mornings in southern California.  The de la Vega's cook was busy at the stove preparing the first meal of the day as Don Alejandro and his guests gathered around the dining table. After they were comfortably seated a servant began to serve some refreshment as Don Alejandro explained his daughter-in-law's absence.  Following his explanation Dr. Avila, who had remained overnight at the hacienda with Anna Maria, answered all questions about her condition.

"Anna Maria continues to improve," stated Dr. Avila as those listening breathed a sigh of relief.  "I am confident she and the child are in no danger and with some much needed rest Anna Maria will be fit to rejoin you shortly."

Later that morning unable to convince his daughter to return home the governor bid his friends farewell and returned to Monterey accompanied by his guards.  Standing outside the courtyard Leonar watched tearfully as the carriage carrying her father pulled further out of her sight.  Leonar's decision to remain was not an easy one for she loved and respected her father but she could not leave the man who had captured her heart.  Somehow she must prove to the commandante that their love was strong enough to withstand anything.  With tears filling her eyes she reached out to Don Alejandro who took her hand for support.  Together the two returned to the hacienda.

Following a short discussion with Leonar, Don Alejandro consulted with Dr. Avila and then spoke with Anna Maria.  Once alone Alejandro tended to some business in the library until his concentration was lost.  The danger to his son and daughter-in-law's unborn child had brought back burning memories of his beloved wife, Isabella and their life so many years before.  Leaning back in his chair Alejandro surveyed the many books in the library brought by his parents during the long journey across the ocean to the new land called "Spanish California".  In the new world Alejandro's father established a legacy for generations to come that began with a small cabin on the land given him by the government of Spain.  Alejandro grew to be a fine, respectable young man with a great love of his new homeland.  However, it soon became apparent to his proud parents that Alejandro lacked the polish and refinement of a caballero.  A short time later it was decided that Alejandro would attend the university in Madrid as his father before him.

When the final arrangements were made Alejandro took his leave and embarked on the next ship leaving for Spain.  With the help of family members still living in Spain, Alejandro quickly settled into the university.  It took a while for the naive young man to get accustomed to his new environment but soon he thrived.  Alejandro loved his academic studies, fencing, social life at court and the many close friendships he made among the students.  One such comrade was a young man from a well to do family named Carlos Ramirez.  Carlos was helpful in turning the young Californian into the man his parents believed he could be.

During a visit to court his friend, Carlos, introduced Alejandro to the most beautiful girl he had ever seen.  This was Isabella de la Cruz.  Once Alejandro met this lovely young woman he could think of none other.  Within a few months Isabella and Alejandro were betrothed.  The years at the university went by very quickly and soon Alejandro was finished but not before a lavish wedding was planned.  The de la Cruz family even though somewhat "flamboyant"was held in high respect by court society.  Isabella's parents bestowed the finest wedding on their only daughter and her intended.  In the weeks following Alejandro prepared his wife and himself for the long voyage home.

California with its lush green trees, aromatic colored flowers, and grand mountains mesmerized the newcomer as she stood on the bow of the ship.  A little fearful of the new life she was to begin once they landed, Isabella pressed her body close to that of her husband for support and comfort.  Unbeknown to the young couple an accident a month earlier had taken the life of the elder de la Vega leaving Alejandro to pick up where his father left off.  With trepedations the young couple took over the rancho but soon all uncertainty melted away as Isabella found herself swept up as the wife of a haciendado.  The Dona de la Vega took great patience in teaching Isabella the social graces that were expected of a young  woman in the new world.

The years that followed brought a new heir to the de la Vega fortune and saw the death of Alejandro's mother.  It was the Dona's love of California and it's people that were her greatest gift to her grandson, Diego.  The rancho continued to grow with each passing year until it was one of the finest in Spanish California thanks to the astute business endeavors of Alejandro.  Yet the riches he accumulated never came before his love of his family and friends.  When Alejandro discovered he was to become a father for a second tine he could barely contain his pleasure.

It was a month prior to the birth of Alejandro and Isabella's child when everything began to go wrong.  A dry spell had caused the loss of much of the de la Vega cattle and a riding mishap caused minor injuries to young Diego.  Isabella had taken to her bed stricken with severe abdominal pains from worry over the rancho and her son. Once again the doctor was called to the hacienda...this time for Isabella.  Diego was too young to understand the severity of all that was going on but he could sense his father's fears.

"Father, I am to blame," sobbed Diego.  "Mama is feeling bad because of me."

"No, my son," Alejandro tried to console his son.  "Sometimes people become ill.  We must accept these things."

Once the doctor arrived Alejandro was sent from the bedroom under protest with his young son.  Alejandro passed nervously back and forth outside the room while his son sat by the door his head resting on his knees sobbing.  Slowly the door opened allowing the doctor to pass through.  With deep sorrow the doctor revealed his news.

"I am sorry Alejandro but the baby is dead," uttered the doctor looking into Alejandro's shocked face.  "Isabella is very weak...you should go to her...now."

Alejandro looked down at the frightened child and reached for his hand.  Together father and son walked silently into the bedroom...but it was too late.  On the bed laid Isabella, pale with her eyes closed, embracing the child she would now love in death.  Dropping to his knees Alejandro wept...there would be no final good-bye.  This was not supposed to be the end for there should have been years they shared loving their children and grandchildren together.  Alejandro turned to his son and took him in his arms.  He tried to reassure the trembling child that he would always be there for him, to love and protect him but...

Alejandro placed his hands on his desk and stood up.  How could he protect his son from going through what he had?  There was nothing he could do but say a pray for Diego, Anna Maria and the child to remain safe and well.  With sadness in his heart Alejandro left his work and walked out to the graves where his dear wife and child were buried.