Chapter Nine

Diego woke late that morning after another restless night.  Would if he ever find the right opportunity to tell Anna Maria that he was Zorro?  He knew that if they were to have a relationship she needed to hear the truth.  A knock on the door brought Bernardo to his room with a request from Don Alejandro to join him in his study.  Bernardo picked up Diego's jacket and waited to help him put it on.  Diego followed Bernard downstairs but stopped when he saw Anna Maria sitting on the patio with a dazed look upon her face.

"Is there something wrong?" asked Diego concerned.

"Si Diego," she said visibly disturbed.  "I am afraid something is terribly wrong."

"Anna Maria, my father is waiting for me but I should not be long.  Please wait for me here."  

Diego followed Bernardo to his father's study and once the young man entered the door was closed.  Whatever his father wished to discuss must be serious.  First Anna Maria and now his father...what could the problem be?

"Ah Diego," said Alejandro.  "Please be seated.  I need to speak with you before Don Grigorio joins us."

"What is so important father?" Diego asked.

"Last evening Don Grigorio and I had a long conversation about Anna Maria and yourself."

"About us?" questioned Zorro.

"Don Grigorio is most concerned about the affect of your "adventure" on his daugther's reputation.  Diego, I ask you...what were you thinking?  The two of you alone throughout the night.  Surely you know people will talk.  Diego, Don Grigorio feels that no matter what took place his daughter will be looked on with disgrace.  To insure this does not happen he suggested a plan. 

"A plan," repeated Diego.

"Si, an arranged marriage between our two families.  It will stop any unnessary questions.

"Father, I...", stuttered Diego.

"Diego, this is the perfect solution for all."

Don Grigorio entered the room and was warmly greetly by Alejandro.  The wedding would take place as soon as arrangements were made.  Don Grigorio eagerly embraced Diego, who numb with surprise, just smiled.  Deeply shaken Diego walked out to the patio to see Anna Maria.  He felt so strange.  He wished to marry Anna Maria since Monterey but not under these circumstances.  Slowly she came toward him with questioning eyes.

"From the look on your face I can see that your father has told you," she sighed.

"Si, he told me," replied Diego.  "We are to be married shortly." 

"Excuse me children," intervened Grigorio.  "As tradition dictates until you are married you must have a chaperone to insure proper behavior.  Amalia and Bernardo will be available if you need them."

"Diego looked to his father, who was standing next to Grigorio, but he only shrugged his shoulders.  It was decided that the young couple should ride to the church and set the date.  Within minutes Diego and Anna Maria were on their way with Bernardo and Amalia accompanying them.  Unable to speak openly the young couple said nothing.

At the mission Padre Felipe eagerly met his visitors.  What a delight to see Diego looking so fit and accompanied by a handsome young woman.  The priest wondered if this was the young woman Alejandro invited to the hacienda from Monterey.  Happily he embraced the young man.

"Diego, my son, it is good to see you," said the priest.

"It is good to see you too," smiled Diego.  "I would like you to meet Anna Maria Verdugo, my betrothed."

"By the saints, this is wonderful," Padre Felipe said thrilled by the news.  "Please come into my study so that we may speak further."

Diego motioned to Bernardo and Amalia to have a seat in the sactuary.  After all Diego and Anna Maria could not be in better hands then that of the padre.  In his study Padre Felipe expressed his joy at the news of their marriage and asked if they had set a date.  To his surprise Diego related their desire to be married as soon as possible.  Bewildered by the rush the padre finally conceded to the couples request.  What a joyous event for the family and the pueblo.  The de la Vegas were well thought of by all and surely all would be involved in the festivities.

After bidding the priest good-bye the four headed toward the pueblo for some lunch.  In the tavern Bernardo and Amaila were seated at a separate table from Anna Marie and Diego.  Finally they were alone and able to speak freely.

"Diego, I am sorry," said Anna Maria sadly.  "I had no idea that you would be forced into marrying me."

"Anna Maria, I am not upset with you.  It is the idea of a forced match by our fathers.  I always thought when I was ready to marry I would make the choice.  Do you understand?"

"Of course," she said placing her hand on his.  "If you choose not to marry me I would understand." 

"Anna Maria, do you wish to marry me?" questioned Diego.

"I would be honored Diego," she blushed.

"Then we must not have any secrets between us," he said seriously.  "There is something I must tell you."

The Visit