’Zorro’s Christmas Carol?

 

By Kay Long

 

 

 

 

As Zorro turned Tornado back onto the path back to the secret cave, he took a deep breath and spoke to the mighty black stallion, “That was too close for comfort, my friend.  We better head home while we can.”   

As if he understood his master, the horse snorted as he came upon the secret trail back to the cave. 

The black clothed masked man had just released a prisoner that had been unjustly jailed. An angry ranchero had ordered Sergeant Garcia, the acting Commandante of the cuartel, to put the man in prison for breaking into his hacienda the night before.  The stranger, who had never been in Los Angeles before, lost his horse a few days previously and was trying to get somebody to help him at the rancho.  The owner had arrived home late at night from a poker’s game at the tavern and thought he saw the stranger trying to get into his home. 

Zorro as Don Diego de la Vega talked with the stranger after the big and kind heart Sergeant Garcia reluctantly put him in his jail.  Diego knew that this Don Miguel de la Macho, an old family friend of his father, hated all strangers that came to his rancho and may have mistaken the stranger’s action for robbery at his home, especially at night. 

Don Miguel was once a fine gentleman, who came to California in his younger years from Spain.  And he had brought a large rancho along side the De la Vega’s rancho and worked and managed it for many years.  He and Don Alejandro became good friends as they both kept breeding their cattle together..  Don Miguel left the rancho in the hand of his caporal and Alejandro as he went back to Spain to get the senorita that has been promised to him for marriage.  He had been gone for almost a year when he returned. And he returned alone.  

Don Miguel came back from Spain a broken man.  Even Alejandro was shocked to see his young friend old looking and his personality changed.  At first, the young man wouldn’t even talk with his friend, Alejandro, but finally broke down and told him about the trip.  As the broken caballero spoke of the trip over by the ocean, Alejandro began to feel the same pain in his own heart.   

Not knowing, Don Miguel arrived just in time for the funeral of his beloved, who had died a few days earlier.  The young woman was killed after the horse she was riding, slipped and fell on her.  After the funeral, Don Miguel went berserk and tried to drown his pain with drink.  But his family kept their eyes on him and tried to make him stay in Spain.   

He refused and returned to California, to the rancho that he had hoped for himself and his own family.  Even then he tried to destroy his hacienda by setting it on fire, but Alejandro, on his way to see him, saw the smoke and stopped the fire before it got out of hand.   

With the help of his old friend, Don Miguel finally decided to keep the rancho going and lived his life the best way he could.  But in time, as he got older, Miguel became a bitter and quiet man and always alone.  Outside his servants at his home and his only friend, Alejandro, he rarely associated himself with other people.  Even Diego always felt sorry for his father’s old friend, even though Miguel hardly spoke to the young lad.   

As the young don grew up, he saw his father often reasoning with his friend, especially if the confused don had been drinking.  Finally Diego asked his father why Don Miguel like that, so bitter and so alone.  Carefully and wisely, Alejandro told the old story about his friend’s unhappiness.  Seeing the reason behind it all, his son asked him about the loss of his mother and why he, himself, had not turned bitter like Miguel.   

He looked at the oil painting of his beloved wife, holding their only child, smiled at the lad and said to Diego, “Because I had you, my son, to remind me of your mother’s love.” 

Since then, the tall and lanky lad tried his best to include the old man into his life.  As his father had done before him, Diego had to go to Spain to finish his education.  Before he went, he asked his father about Spain, her people and cultures.  Hoping, it wouldn’t pain the old and bitter don, he also asked Miguel, and surprisingly, his father’s friend told many stories about the times he spent in Spain.  Alejandro was pleased that Diego took the time to spend with Don Miguel before his son left.  It seemed for a while that his friend was coming out of his dark and moody self. 

When Diego left to finish his education, Don Miguel missed the young lad more than he realized.  Alejandro was about to write to Diego, asking him to write to Miguel when the don came riding, with a big smile, telling him told that Diego had written to him.  But it was not enough, because slowly but surely, Alejandro saw his friend going back to his depression. 

When Diego was called home by his father because of the evil Capitan Monastrio, Don Miguel had withdrawn more to himself.  He no longer associated with anyone, even Don Alejandro.  Diego went and see his old friend when he got home, but even he was turned away.  

After the arrest of Capitan Monastrio, Diego spend time and tried to reasoning with Don Miguel.  Especially at Christmas time, but the older don didn’t want anything to do with the holiday’s season.  For it was too painful for the old man, remembering the times with his beautiful love, Maria, and how she loved the Christmas season and spend the time with the children at the church.  It was then that he realized that he had fallen in love with her, her beautiful spirit and laughter.  Miguel and Maria had known each other for a long time and she was in love with him for some time before he realized that she was the one for him.  He had asked her father for her hand in marriage at Christmas time before he sailed for California to buy a rancho and build the hacienda.  Then they were to be married on his return.

Diego had always loved the jolly seasons and often participate in the Christmas fiesta himself.  After he returned home from Spain, he kept up the tradition that he had learned there.  Even though the culture was the same, he made sure that the children understood the true meaning of Christmas.  And for several years now, it was Zorro who brought the gifts to the parents who could not afford to buy them.  It was the few times that he didn’t have to fight or run from the lancers as long as Sergeant Garcia knew what he was up to.  The kind and big Sergeant had delivered a few gifts of his own as Father Christmas, but the Capitan Monastrio had made him stop.  Afterward, since Zorro seemed to afford it, the sergeant let the outlaw do his good deed for the children at Christmas Eve. 

But Don Miguel hated the Christmas season and refused to be any part of it.  He would stay at his house while the fiesta was going on.  Even Alejandro and Diego tried to get him to come over their house, but he turned them down every time.  Even the few servants that worked for him had offered to stay with him just to keep him company, but he insisted that they go on home.

As the years went by, Don Miguel became unbearable to be around, especially since the partner of his business died.  Miguel had a small, but a thriving business, which brought him more wealth than he could use.  Don Alejandro would not go with him on this business because it didn’t feel right with him.  Don Masco was a friend to both Don Miguel and Alejandro for very many years.  But he didn’t do the business the correct way and that bothered Alejandro, but to Miguel who didn’t care one way or other, it just was something for him to do. 

The shipping business thrived, but as soon as Don Masco died, Miguel kept it going and kept all the profits to himself.  Soon everyone didn’t want anything to do with the business, because it was costing the peons and even the dons more than it usually did.   But Don Miguel didn’t care. 

Soon the Christmas season came upon the pueblo once again and the De La Vegas and Bernardo and their servants were getting ready for it.  Padre Felipe and the church’s children were once again decorating the pueblo with ribbons, holly and pine tree branches.  The people were soon singing the Christmas hymns and Sergeant Garcia with his beautiful voice, was the one that they admired the most.  Especially in the church, the padre noticed the moods as he gave thanks for the season.   But the moods had not affected the old Don Miguel.  He went about his way as usual, and didn’t care about anything or anyone, including his old friend. 

Diego knew that his father was hurt by the actions of Don Miguel.  But he gave up, trying to talk to the old man and told his father that there wasn’t anything that anyone, even Zorro, could do anything about it.  He even told his faithful servant and friend, Bernardo, that he was just aggravated about the whole thing with Don Miguel.  Bernard never saw his master so disappointed as both of them tried to think of some answers to this problem. 

Before the people knew it, it was Christmas Eve and most of them were getting to go to the church and celebrate the birth of the Christ child.  Pedro, Don Miguel’s head servant, was trying to get everything done so he can go home and be with his family for Christmas.   He had been the only one who had managed to stay with his master so long.  He felt sorry for the old man, but he knew that there was nothing he could do to make things better for him.   

Don Miguel has just come home when Pedro finished his last chore for the day.  The servant came and helped his master out of his coat.  Quietly, the old man acknowledged the Indian and went to sit down in the sala.   Then Pedro went to the kitchen and came back with a tray of a teapot and a cup.  Silently he poured the tea and put the cup on a small table next to the chair Don Miguel sat.  The old man looked up and asked “Don’t you have to go, Pedro? 

“Si, Patron, I will be leaving soon to spend Christmas Eve with my family.  I was going to ask you if I could have Christmas day off to spend with them.  And I assure you, Senor, that I will be back first thing the day after.”  

Don Miguel listened to his request and started to object, but he didn’t and just nodded at his servant.  The younger man bowed and quietly left the hacienda and walked up the road where he saw three of his children coming to meet him.  Two boys and one girl were up the hill, when he saw one of his sons fell to the ground.  The little boy, Timmo, his youngest, was trying to keep up with the others, but one of his legs was hurt long ago.  The doctor had said that there was hope for the little one, but it was in Monterey and the young family didn’t have the means to do so.  In the meantime, Pedro was trying to find some extra work from the other ranchos, but he didn’t have the time for it. 

 

Pedro ran to his crippled son and pickd him up with the help of his other two.   He smiled at his children and told them to come along.  He put Timmo on his shoulder and walked toward his home.    

Pedro’s wife, Tami, saw her family coming down the road and smiled.  She had hoped that Don Miguel would agree to let her husband be home for Christmas.  Pedro didn’t spend enough time with his family, but she knew that it couldn’t be helped.  She hurried to get supper ready so they were going to the mission tonight. 

Later, Diego decided to go by Don Miguel and tried to convince the old friend to come and eat Christmas dinner with him and his father.  But as soon as the door was opened, he knew that it was hopeless task.  Before him at the door, Don Miguel, drinking again.  The younger don took his old friend back inside in the sala and tried to talk to him.  But he wouldn’t listen and went to sleep in his chair.  Feeling pity, Diego left. 

As the evening became night, Don Miguel woke with a start, realized it was dark in his home.  Tired, he lighted a small candle and started to his bedroom.  Suddenly he heard a strange sound, a rattle of chains.  Bewildered, he looked around the hacienda and found nothing amiss.  So again, he started toward his bedroom and again, the sound came.  A little scared, he continued walking to his room and there on his door, he thought he saw the head of his business partner.  He rubbed his eyes and the horrific vision was gone.  

Shaking his head, he laughed and thought his mind was getting to him.  He went inside and locked his door.  Suddenly, feeling very tired, he got ready for bed.  As he got into the bed, the weird sounds returned and this time, they wouldn’t stop.  Terrified, he then saw what seemed to be the ghost of Don Masco with the chains around his neck and body.   

Don Masco’s ghost was horrific to look at.  The clothes were all torn, a bandage around the head, no shoes, and all sizes of chains were hanging on the body.   As the being came closer, Don Miguel became so terrified that he could not even scream.   

“Don Miguel,” said the raspy voice of the ghost, “I came to you so that you can save yourself from this hell that I had found myself in.  Please listen to me, mi amigo, you must change your ways.” Then the ghost disappeared and with it, all the strange sounds. 

Don Miguel rubbed his eyes and thought he must have fell asleep for a few moment, dreaming the ghost.  Carefully, he looked around in his room, yawned and then lay down and went to sleep. 

A short time later, the old don awoke and thought he heard another sound, a friendly laughter in the form of a voice of an old friend.   He sat up and saw in a dreamy state, the younger Don Alejandro de la Vega.  Alejandro was talking to another man, and surely, it was the young Don Miguel.  The old man realized that he was dreaming about the past and he saw himself as a young man.   

Those were the good times, he thought.  And he heard that the two young men were talking about the young wife and the newborn son of de la Vega.  The young Dona Isabelle, holding her first born, Diego, smiled at the two caballeros.  She asked Don Miguel when he was bringing his bride back from Spain.  Then as quickly as she said those words, the old don found himself in Spain, at a funeral.  “Oh, NOOOoooooo!” he screamed in his mind.  His betrothed’s funeral!  

He screamed again, and this time, hearing his voice, he awoke from the nightmare.  Breathing hard, Don Miguel looked around and found himself back in his bedroom.  Claiming down, he thought it was strange and so real because it has been years since he had the dream.  

He got up shaken and went to the kitchen.  He wished that at least one of his servants was there, but he allowed all of them to go on home for Christmas.   He heated some water and made himself a cup of tea and took it back to the bedroom.   

After sipping on the tea, he climbed back into his bed.   Still feeling the effect of the alcohol, he went to sleep soon.  Suddenly, the figures of Diego and his deaf and mute servant, Bernardo, appeared before him.  Both were smiling at him and Diego said, “Don Miguel, come, we have something to show you.”   

And suddenly they were at the Tavern, listening to what everybody was saying.  And the conversations were about him, Don Miguel.  Some of the dons and the vaqueros were angry with him.  Then he tried to interfere, but Don Diego stopped him and said, “They won’t be able to hear or see you, because we are spirits in your dreams.  Just listen.”  

As Don Miguel listened to the talking of the men, he looked up at the young Diego, once the lad who took the time to listen to many of his stories, the very same person who wrote to him from Spain.  And the same man who never gave up on him when the young don came back from the mother country.   And like his father, Don Alejandro, Diego always made the time to check on him.  But the arguing intensified and Don Miguel began to really listen.  Some of the men were saying that he was charging too much for all the goods and that he was cheating on the people. 

Then there was one strong voice, calmly speaking until all was quiet.  Don Alejandro slowly got up from his chair and said.  “My people, I realized that Don Miguel has wronged you all, but he is my old and dear friend.  He was hurt so many years ago when he lost the one lady he loved back in Spain.  So please, please be patience with him.” 

One of the dons, Pasco, stood up, walked to Don Alejandro and put his hand on the older don’s shoulder and said, “Alejandro, you are a very dear friend to all of us, and we realize that Don Miguel is very important to you, but all of us have lost loved ones, including yourself.  And your son also had lost his beloved mother and yet you and Diego kept going and live your life to the fullest as your beloved Dona Isabelle would have wanted you to do.” 

“I realized that Miguel is beyond bitterness and grief, but I am hoping that one of these days, he would turn from his way and be the man I came to know and love when we were young.   Please be patient and say a prayer for him.  It’s Christmastime and miracles do happen all the time,” Don Alejandro said.   

Don Pasco looked about him and saw the dons nodded at him.  He smiled and nodded back.  He squeezed his arm around the older man and said “You are right, Alejandro.  Perhaps a miracle is what Miguel need.”  

“Gracias, mi amigos, muchas gracias!”   

Miguel looked up at Diego and saw the young man’s eyes in tears, but there were also pride in them for his father.  In the old man’s mind, he knew he used the death of the one he loved for the reason and pity he had bestow upon himself.  And for the first time he felt shame in what he had done all these years.  Diego and Bernardo were quietly watching the drama before them and knew that it had touched Miguel’s heart.  Perhaps it’ll be enough, but there was one more place that they needed to be.  

Before Miguel knew it, the three of them were at the place of Pedro and his family.  The servant was chopping wood for heat in his hut.  His youngest child, the cripple boy, was watching his father, admiring him.  After Pedro finished, he picked up the wood and with one arm, grabbed his son and went inside the hut.  

Then the next moment, the three men were inside, watching the family gathering around Pedro.  His wife, Tami, sat down on the ground, holding Timmo, and the other children, Dino and Cama, sat next to her.  Then Pedro began to tell the story of the Christ Child.  He knew the story by heart, for he grew up in the mission.  As he tell it, Timmo started coughing so violently that his father stopped and picked the child up and started rubbing his son’s back.  Pedro and Tami looked at each other, worried.   

Miguel turned to ask Diego and immediately knew what was happening.  He didn’t have to ask, the younger don’s face told it all.  The little child was going to die.  Miguel turned from them, and suddenly he was back in his bed.  

Shaken, Miguel looked around for Diego or Bernardo, but they were nowhere to be found.  Another dream?  He wasn’t sure.  But his heart was hurting as he realized he had not felt like this in years.  Not sure of himself, the don knew that he was going to have to change, or he would never get another chance like this again.  But he didn’t have any idea how to do it.   

Miguel got up from his bed and made himself another cup of tea.  He decided to sit in his chair and drink it.  Not realizing how tired he was, he started to doze off. 

Then Miguel awoke again and saw someone at his window.  It was dark, but he could see the figure quite well.  It was the black clothed, masked avenger, El Zorro.  His face was quite serious.  And he smiled and spoke. 

“Buenos noches, Don Miguel.” 

“Zorro, why have you come here?  I don’t know what is going on, but please go away!  I am so tired because I have been dreaming all night.” 

“Then, Don Miguel, you are to have one more.  With me.”

As Zorro sat on the windowsill, the outlaw began to speak to him.

“My friend, I didn’t come to hurt you.  I just want to show you something, if you please.” 

Feeling as though he had no other choice, Don Miguel went over to Zorro.   Then suddenly, the two men were outside the church.   As the don began to wonder what was going, the church’s door opened and the few people were coming out of the mission.  Apparently there was a funeral and the priest came out first, then the few men were carried the coffin out to the cemetery.  And Don Alejandro and his son, Diego were the only ones behind the coffin.   

Not realizing what was going on, the don turned to face the outlaw and saw a tear fell down on Zorro’s black mask.  Even the avenger was affected by what they saw.  As the don started to ask, the feminine voices behind him told him the truth.  “Poor Don Miguel.  He didn’t know what he had.”

The unspoken question, and it was answered.  Zorro turned to face him, but the old don was heartbroken.  But he knew that it was no one else’s fault but his own.   A second later, they were at the cemetery and the grave was already there.  There was another fresh grave, only smaller one.  Immediately, Miguel knew who it was. 

“Timmo, the little one.”

Zorro slowly nodded. 

“While I wallowed in my anger and grief, the poor little one died.  And I could have help him.”

“Yes, my friend.”  said the masked man.

“Oooh, why didn’t I help him?”  grieved the don. 

Suddenly Zorro bowed his head and disappeared and Miguel was all alone.  Standing in the cemetery when it began to rain, and in his tears, Don Miguel prayed.  “O Heavenly Father, in Thy mercy, if the future is to alter by my actions, let it be for the best for those you love the most.”

Then all of sudden, he was back in his own bed.  Shaken, he stared for a moment.  There on his knees, he silently said a pray of thanks. 

Then Don Miguel ran outside in his robes.  He stopped a rider that was heading toward the pueblo.

“What day is it, Senor?” he asked the stranger.

“Why, Senor, it is Christmas Day,” the stranger said, and then rode off.

“Thank you, God.  I haven’t missed it,” he said gleefully.

He went back into his hacienda and quickly dressed.  Then he saddled his horse and rode to the pueblo.  At once, he saw one of his servants and told him to kill a turkey and prepare a fiesta at his home.  The man was amazed because he has never seen his master in such a mood, but he went ahead and did what he has been asked.

Then Don Miguel did what he hadn’t done in a long time.  He went to church, slipped in quietly and went to sit by Don Alejandro and Diego.  Both the La De Vegas were surprise, but happy to see him.

As Padre Felipe went about the service and told the Christmas story, Miguel listened as he heard it for the first time in a long time.  And in tears, he gave thanks for the lessons that he learned the night before. 

Then the service ended and quickly Don Miguel got up and asked the priest if he could speak a few words to the people.  Padre Felipe nodded and the old don turned to the people and slowly spoke.  “My old friends and those who don’t know me, I wish to apologize for all the wrongs that I have done and for my behavior in all these years.  And I will change, hopefully for the good.”

The people murmured quietly, but Don Miguel still had more to say.  He smiled and said in a happier voice.  “And I wish to invite all of you to celebrate the Christmas fiesta at my rancho.”

Next he saw the acting Commandante, Sergeant Garcia and his soldiers sitting in the church.  And he smiled,  “Even you, Sergeant Garcia and your lancers.”

The people cheered and got up to greet Don Miguel.  After all was said and done, Don Alejandro came and hugged his old friend.  Diego did the same and smiled at the don.  “We will be there, my old friend, but I must ask, what happened that made you change?’

Don Miguel just smiled and told him.  “I had a dream that made me realized how much I had wasted my life and in this dream, your father, mother, you, Bernardo and even Zorro was in it.’ 

Diego just scratched the back of his head and mischievously smiled at him.  “Huh!  Zorro?  That is really strange.  But I am glad he could help.” 

Don Miguel just smiled and turned to Alejandro.  “My old friend, I know I don’t deserve your friendship.  But I am grateful that you stuck with me, even in my hard time.” 

The older La De Vega just hugged him once again and said.  “I knew you would change back into the man that I grew very fond of years ago.”

Just then Don Miguel saw his head servant and his family in the back of the church.  He excused himself and went to Pedro as he was leaving the mission. 

“Pedro, I need and must talk to you, por favor.”

The head servant bowed his head and said, “Feliz Navidad, Patron.  What can I do for you?”

Don Miguel looked at Pedro’s family and smiled at the young mother and her children. 

“I wish for you and your family to come to the fiesta as my guests.”

Pedro was shocked and looked at his wife, Tami, who calmly smiled and nodded.  Pedro turned to his master and agreed. 

“Good!  And also I wish for all of you to live in my guesthouse.  And please, Pedro, allow me help you with your little son.  We will seek and get help for him.”

Pedro was speechless at the request that his master has asked of him.  With tears in his eyes, he nodded to him.  Don Miguel extended his hand and the two men shook on the deal.

Alejandro, Diego and Bernardo quietly witnessed the miracle of Don Miguel and all three gave thanks in their own way.  Even Zorro had helped, they thought. 

Later, at his hacienda, Don Miguel joined all his friends to celebrate the Christmas and every Christmas season afterward.  He became the good friend of all people and in the midst of it all, he helped the little boy, Timmo, to walk and live happily.  The child and his siblings considered him a “Grandfather.”  Don Miguel was deeply moved and accepted the title. 

Yes, it was truly a miracle.  And for that, Merry Christmas and God bless us all.  uh, Huh

 

 

 

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