Chapter Eight

Diego remained awake throughout the night watching Anna Maria sleep.  Hours passed along with the storm yet he did not have the heart to wake the woman in his arms.  Would Anna Maria be able to understand and forgive Diego's deception?  He could only hope.  As the sun rose faint streaks of light filled the cave.  Anna Maria blinked her eyes as she awoke still safe within Diego's arms. 

"Buenos dias," said Diego softly.  "The storm has passed.  We must be on our way."

By staying out all night Diego and Anna Maria had far surpassed what was considered a responsible and respectable time together.  Diego readied himself for the mixed emotions Don Grigorio would have when they arrived at the hacienda.  Once the horses were saddled they rode directly to the rancho.

Meanwhile Don Alejandro and Grigorio spent the entire night pacing the floor of the sala unable to sleep.  Where were Anna Maria and Diego?  The storm had ended long ago yet they had not returned.  Bernardo waited with the dons hoping to see the young couple open the door to the patio and walk through but the hours went by and nothing.  Finally the entrance door swung open and Diego and Anna Maria were home.  The three men hastened to meet them.            

"We were so worried," Grigorio said half relieved and half angry.  "Where have you been?"

"We were caught in the storm and took refuge in a cave," answered Anna Maria.

"But the storm has been over for hours," Don Grigorio said looking at his daughter and Diego.

"I am sorry, Don Grigorio," Diego said apologetically. "We should have made our way back sooner but...,"

"We will speak of this later when you are both rested," Don Grigorio said looking at his daughter..

Taking Anna Maria by the arm her father led her upstairs leaving the others in the sala.   Bernardo hoped Diego had a good explanation for their late arrival.  It seemed an apology would not be enough for Don Grigorio or Don Alejandro.  Diego turned to his father to explain but found him just as upset as Don Grigorio.

"Diego, Don Grigorio is furious," said Don Alejandro. "You have compromised his daughter's reputation as well as your own."

"Not you too!" Diego said staring at his father.  "Father, we simply fell asleep waiting for the storm to end."

"This explanation will not sit well with Grigorio," remarked Alejandro.  "At least did you tell Anna Maria Zorro's true identity.    

"No, the storm interrupted our conversation," said Diego shaking his head. "Nothing was said after that."

"I am sorry," said Don Alejandro embracing his son. "I believe you but Grigorio will not easily acept your explantion."        

In her bedroom Anna Maria felt her father's disappintment.  Don Grigorio had found her behavior inappropriate for a young woman of her upbringing.  She listened closely as her father spoke of the unwise decision she made to remain out all night with young de la Vega.

"You must know how bad this looks," said Grigorio  "The servants will talk.  What will people say?  Why did you not use more sense?"

"Father, Diego would never take unwanted liberties," responded Anna Maria.  "He is an honorable man."

"My child, I am only thinking of you," Don Grigorio said his voice filled with pain. "This matter is not over but it will wait until you have had time to rest."

Diego left the sala and continued to his room with Bernardo close behind.   The young don   insisted on seeing Anna Maria.  There was nothing Bernardo could say to change his mind.  However Bernardo convinced Diego it would be better for him to go as Zorro.   Diego agreed. Before opening the cabinet to Anna Maria's room he peeked through the small hole in the door.  The room was dark and empty.  Quietly he slipped in and looked about.  On a table near the open balcony door a candle flickered and here standing alone on the balcony was Anna Maria.

"Anna Maria," whispered Zorro.  "I must speak with you."

"Of course," she said.

"I wanted to accept the Governor's offer of amnesty in Monterey so we could be together but it was not the right time.  I could not desert the people who needed Zorro.  Do you understand?"

"Si, I do."

"Also I did not think you could accept the man without the mask..." 

"Mi amor, I would love you no matter who you are," she said. 

"Then you must know everything."

Zorro stood back and removed his hat.  Then he reached behind his head to untie the mask but there came a knock at the door.  They looked at one another without saying a word.  There came another knock but this time Don Grigorio called out to his daughter.

"I must go," Zorro said putting on his hat.  "However this is not finished."

As Grigorio entered he said, "I am sorry for the way I left things.  Forgive me."

"There is nothing to forgive," she said embracing her father.

"Then I hope you will understand what I am about to tell you," he said hopefully.  "Don Alejandro and I feel your reputation has been put in jeopardy so we have come to a decision.  Diego and you shall marry."  


The Visit