A New Beginning
                                                                   Chapter Nine

With his life in total confusion Capitan Monastario sought help from the priest at the mission at San Gabriel.  With Padre Felipe's aid Monastario faced his fears and doubts bringing a renewed faith and strength to rebuild his life.  Now determined to make things right with Leonar, Monastario headed toward the de la Vega rancho.

Approaching the outskirts of Los Angeles, Monastario remembered a small item he placed in his jacket for luck before leaving the cuartel that morning.  Reaching into his pocket he pulled out a small cloth bag and removed the contents.  In his hand he held a small object; a gold ring that belonged to his late mother.  Monastario smiled as he remembered the joy on his mother's face whenever his father was near.  Proudly she wore the ring signifying the love shared between her husband and herself.  It was not until she was dying that she removed the ring to be sent to her only son in the New World along with a sealed letter.  It was her hope that the tragic death of her son's wife had with time given way to a new beginning.

My dear Enrique,

It is with sadness that this ring is sent to you for my life is about to end.  Do not grieve, my son, for my life has been full and rich.  I loved your dear father with all my heart and was blessed with many years of happiness.  I have no fortune to leave you only this ring.  It is my most prized possession since it was a gift from your loving father. 

Enrique it is my hope that the pain of Francesca's death has eased and that you are no longer angry at the world.  It broke my heart to see you in such pain day after day.  It is my fondest wish that with the passing of time you find another woman with whom to share your love and life.  I pray that she will make you happy once again.

Until this day comes hold this ring close to your heart.  When the time is right share it with someone special.  It will bind you together as it did your father and I. 

Time grows short and soon I will join your father.  I am only sorry that I was not able to see you once more.  Remember my dear, Enrique, you are forever in my heart.

All my love,


Monastario continued toward his destination the burden he carried finally put to rest. It would be hours before he arrived at the de la Vega hacienda but the long ride would allow him to put his thoughts in order before seeing Leonar.  With "luck" Monastario hoped he could make Leonar understand his hurried departure from the rancho and the reason he stayed away for so long.  Leonar had given her heart and soul to the commandante refusing to believe that he was the "heartless monster" referred to by her father and Don Alejandro.  Truly she was the special woman his mother spoke of in her last letter.  Carefully he returned his mother's ring to the cloth bag and placed it safely in his breast pocket. 

In the meantime at the de la Vega hacienda Leonar sat quietly waiting on the patio as she had for weeks but unlike other days Diego was about to spring his surprise.

"Buenos dias, Leonar," said Diego.  "We missed you this morning at breakfast."

"I was not hungry," she said without looking up.

"Leonar, you have been sitting each day waiting for the commandante and nothing," stated Diego. "Today you will join Anna Maria and myself on a picnic to the lake.  I will not hear of you sitting alone another day."

"This is very kind but…" her voice trailed off.

"No buts…you will join us," insisted Diego.  "Now go upstairs and get your shawl.  Anna Maria and I will be waiting for you.  Go."

"Very well," she smiled as she headed toward the stairs.

Anna Maria joined arms with Diego and together they stood watching as Leonar climbed the stairs to her room.  Poor Leonar had sat each day on the patio more broken hearted then the day before waiting for the commandante.  Looking at Diego, Anna Maria smiled and touched his face with her soft hand.

"Diego, my heart breaks for Leonar.  I do hope taking her away for a little while helps but she loves the Capitan so much."

"True but it is not over yet.  If our illustrious commandante gets his life together there might be a chance for the two of them.  Only time will tell.  For now, we must cheer up our lonely friend."

As the carriage carrying the threesome headed for the lake lush green forests flanked them while a gentle breeze flowed.  At the lake Diego helped the ladies from the carriage then carried the picnic basket and blanket to a spot beneath a large willow tree.  The branches gently swayed as the three settled themselves down for a leisurely afternoon.

Miles from the lake the commandante took a shortcut through the foothills down a jagged path to the winding road on the other side. Once passed the lake on the de la Vega property it would be a short ride to the hacienda.  Dusty and tired from the long journey, Monastario decided to stop briefly at the lake to shake the dust from his uniform and give his horse a much needed rest.  As his horse galloped forward Monastario observed a horse and carriage stopped in the distance.  Slowly he maneuvered closer until he was side by side the empty carriage.  Tying his mount to the buggy he looked about.  There seated about 100 yards away from where he stood near the water's edge were Anna Maria, Diego and Leonar.  Timidly he moved closer trying to remain unnoticed.  

"Gracias for allowing me to share the day with you both," Leonar remarked.  "What a beautiful day!"

"We are so happy that you are enjoying yourself," responded Anna Maria.

From their seated position opposite Leonar the de la Vega's had a clear view of the area all the way to the buggy.  As they conversed Anna Maria and Diego became aware of a single figure wearing a soldier's uniform moving closer to them.  It was not long before the two realized the identity of the newcomer.  Both husband and wife looked searchingly at one another.

Trying to remain at ease Anna Maria said, "Leonar, please don't lose hope.  The commandante may surprise you when you least expect."

"Perhaps...but I must face the truth," replied Leonar.  "Enrique may have changed his mind about our relationship.  I love Capitan Monastario but nothing will come from sitting day after day on the patio.  I must consider returning to Monterey...is something wrong?" Leonar asked noticing the odd glances passing between Anna Maria and Diego.

Standing behind Leonar the stranger suddenly spoke, "Leonar." 

Leonar turned suddenly to find Monastario looking down at her.  After weeks of waiting patiently there was Monastario standing in front of her.  Anna Maria and Diego immediately excused themselves to give Leonar and the Capitan time alone.  Strolling to the other side of the lake Don Diego and Anna Maria found a shaded spot to sit.  From time to time they would look across the lake to see what was happening.

"Leonar, I am sorry," Monastario said.  "I never meant to hurt you and I see I have.  I needed time to settle things in my mind.  This morning I spoke with Padre Felipe and with his help I have put my past to rest.  I wish to go on and make a new life but not without you.  I love you and I need you.  Can you find it in your hear to forgive me?  I do not have much to offer but I promise to love and protect you."

"There is nothing to forgive, mi amor," said Leonar standing.  "Knowing you love me and want me in your life is all I need.  I do not need riches and power...it is you that I have always wanted.  I wish to be your wife and share your life."

Monastario took her hand in his and brought it to his lips.  Looking deeply into his face Leonar lifted her other hand to touch his cheek.  He moved closer lowering his head until their lips met.  Across the lake Diego and Anna Maria smiled.