Zorro - The Legend Through The Years

   Zorro Frees Some Slaves
   by Johnston McCulley

Fray Felipe tells Don Alejandro and Don Diego about 15 men, who had been jailed for debt, who had been sold to Juan Garza.  Garza is building a rancho near San Luis Rey and will use the men as slave labor, perfectly legal in California.  The great injustice is that Garza is treating the men worse than animals.  He forces the men to walk even though he has empty carts in which the men could sit.  He starves the men and whips them cruelly.  The men will never be free because under the system, the owner charges the men with broken tools and such so that the debt is never worked out.  Don Diego is interested in the plight of the men and decides that Zorro must do something to help them.  Don Diego travels to the pueblo to assess the situation. Garza and his men, by the light of the fire, saw the masked man on the black horse, saw the gleaming pistol in his hand.
When Don Diego enters the plaza, he sees the men huddled in a small patch of shade.  The men look hungry and thirsty while their guards sit nearby drinking wine.  Juan Garza approaches, and Don Diego speaks to him, suggesting that he might get more work from the men if he were to treat them better.  Don Diego next mentions Zorro and that Zorro might attack Garza on behalf of the men.  Garza seems afraid but replies that he has spoken to Capitan Ortega and that Ortega has promised him protection while he is in the Los Angeles area.  Garza reveals that troops will be watching his camp that night in case Zorro attacks.

Later, Don Diego meets Bernardo at a certain hut on the Vega property, where he changes into his Zorro disguise.  Zorro and Bernardo ride out to Garza's camp.  Bernardo waits nearby while Zorro rides into the camp and confronts Garza.  Zorro speaks loudly so that the waiting troops can hear him.  As soon as Zorro hears their horses, Zorro rides away from the camp.  At a bend in the road, Zorro hides behind a rock and Bernardo rides in his place, drawing the soldiers away from the camp.  Zorro returns to the camp to continue his confrontation with Garza.

Zorro asks Garza to total up the debt owed by all of the men and to make certain that he does not make any mistakes.  After the debt is totaled, Zorro pays the debt and makes Garza write out a receipt for each man.  Zorro gives each man his receipt and a coin so that he cannot be charged with vagrancy.  Zorro tells the men to head back to their homes.  Zorro once again faces Garza, telling him that he must be punished.  Zorro lashes Garza repeatedly with his whip until Garza's shirt is soaked with blood.  As Zorro prepares to leave, Sergeant Garcia arrives and fights Zorro.  After a brief fight, Zorro makes his escape.  Zorro goes back to the hut on the Vega property and removes his disguise.  Don Diego returns to the hacienda after carefully dusting off his boots.  He sits down to quietly tell his father of that evening's events.

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