Over the next few days, Felipe began to show remarkable signs of improvement much to the relief of the de la Vega household. And what was even more important, was that no one else at the hacienda had exhibited any symptoms of the disease.
Felipe's condition had improved to the extent that Dr. Hernandez allowed him to go about his daily routine provided he did not try to do too much at one time. Of course Diego being the attentive guardian, made sure that Felipe followed the doctor's orders.
Diego felt another factor that aided in Felipe's recovery, was at night when Victoria and Alejandro would be in bed, he would go into Felipe's room and get Felipe and they would sneak down into the cave and visit Tornado. He knew how much Felipe loved Tornado and it appeared that it was a mutual feeling.
The moment that they entered the cave and Tornado saw Felipe, he tossed his head and neighed with delight. Felipe quickly ran up to Tornado and threw his slender arms around the big stallion's neck and hugged him as if he was never going to see Tornado again. Tornado stood patiently in his stall while Felipe tickled him under his chin and scratched him behind the ears, which to a horse is sheer heaven. Tornado returned the favor by gently nuzzling Felipe's cheek and checking to see if Felipe had brought him a treat, which of course he did. A big red apple, Tornado's favorite. Afterwards, Diego and Felipe would quietly slip through the secret door and return to their beds.
Having Victoria stay at the hacienda was truly an asset. She was very attentive to Felipe, making sure that he was getting enough to eat, as well Alejandro and Diego. Diego even teased that he and his father were starting to gain a few extra pounds from her wonderful cooking. Victoria would just smile and shake her head.
The worst was over at the de la Vega hacienda, but not so for the rest of the people of Los Angeles. It was during this time that things were becoming increasingly difficult for Dr. Hernandez. More and more people in the surrounding areas were suddenly falling prey to the influenza and it was quickly turning into an epidemic. The Reyes' family managed to pull through thanks to Dr. Hernandez, but some of the people in the surrounding areas were less fortunate.
Dr. Hernandez wiped his brow and released a remorseful sigh as he pulled the sheet over the face of his first victim of this heartless disease. A feeling of guilt filled his heart as he walked out of the bedroom and looked upon the faces of the family of the deceased. It was an elderly woman that had been the matriarch in the family and had lived a full and productive life. Maybe longer, thought Hernandez if only he had arrived a few days sooner and had given her the quinine. If only ... the two words echoed in his mind, as he tried to console the family members upon their tragic loss. The son of the deceased offered Hernandez a few pesos as payment for his time, but he shook his head and looked at him resolutely.
"I did nothing señor. I was too late! Keep your money to feed your family." He replied, looking at the man earnestly. His eyes briefly widened as he reached into his pocket and found a few pieces of silver that Alejandro had paid him for Felipe. He handed the man the silver and looked at him reassuringly.
"Here señor, take this money to give your mother a decent burial. She was a good woman and respected by many people. I am very sorry for your loss." He replied sincerely as he put a reassuring hand on the man's shoulder.
The man pulled out his handkerchief and wiped his tear stained face and shook Dr. Hernandez's hand and graciously thanked him. "te Dios de bendiga!" he replied managing a smile.
Dr. Hernandez gathered his bag, gave his last minute condolences and said good-bye. As he stepped up into the buggy he glanced back at the small adobe home and shook his head and sighed. Death was not a stranger to Dr. Hernandez. After all, it came with being a doctor.
He had witnessed it many times in the army camps during the war when soldiers died on the battlefield. It was especially tragic, when they died of blood poisoning due to infections from their wounds. And if that was not enough, they also died from one of the many diseases that were common where the conditions are unsanitary and reek of rotten food and foul water.
This was different. The devastation of war was the product of man, but this was a product of a virus. A virus that was just as deadly and indiscriminate as war but had to be fought with a different kind of weapon, and that weapon was medicine. Medicine that Dr. Hernandez wasn't sure he had enough of.
Dr. Hernandez gave a quick snap of the reins to the back of the horse as he headed the buggy toward the de la Vega Hacienda. He had finally made the decision to open up the tavern for an infirmary. His cases were getting far too numerous for him to handle individually. If he could just get everyone into one place, then he would be able to isolate the critical cases from the ones that were recovering. This was the only way that he could make sure everyone was getting the proper treatment.
Dr. Hernandez pulled back on the reins as he halted the horse in front the hacienda. He picked up his bag and slowly climbed out the buggy. It had been a long and strenuous day and the thoughts of the epidemic weighed heavily upon his mind.
As he stepped up to the door, he gave a few weary knocks against the wooden panel and stood and waited for an answer. It wasn't long until the door quickly swung open and Dr. Hernandez was greeted by a very bright-eyed, young boy who stood looking at him and flashing a very broad smile. Dr. Hernandez's eyes widened in amazement as he looked at Felipe and smiled.
"Madre de Dios! This couldn't be the same young boy I was treating several days ago!" Hernandez remarked as Felipe ushered him into the house and slightly blushed.
Hernandez instinctively put his hand to Felipe's forehead and then putting his hand under his chin, slightly turned his head from side to side and then looked into his eyes.
"Well, well ... " He began smiling. "You have truly made a remarkable recovery young man!" he commented as he nodded in approval. He gently patted Felipe's cheek and smiled.
After what he had been through today, it lifted his spirits to see one of his patients who had managed to pull through this devastating illness.
"I hope you've been taking it easy Felipe! We wouldn't want you to have a relapse!" he commented earnestly.
Felipe looked at Dr. Hernandez and nodded and slightly shrugged his shoulders. Dr. Hernandez momentarily looked up as he saw Diego walking into the room.
"Buenos tardes Diego." responded Dr. Hernandez amiably.
Diego slightly smiled as he saw Dr. Hernandez standing beside Felipe.
"Buenos tardes Dr. Hernandez. What brings you to the hacienda?" inquired Diego walking up to Hernandez.
Dr. Hernandez looked at Diego resolutely. "I wish I could say that I was here to bring you good news, but I fear that is not the case." He replied looking at Diego anxiously.
Diego cast an intense look at the troubled doctor. "Is it the influenza doctor?" Diego inquired discerningly.
"Sí, I'm afraid it has become much worse." He replied shaking his head remorsefully. "The disease has already claimed its first victim and many more people are becoming seriously ill." He remarked gravely. He glanced over at Felipe and slightly smiled and looked at Diego. "I am so glad that Felipe is much better. I am glad that medicine was effective. However, the way this influenza is spreading, I don't know how far the medicine will go." He remarked worriedly.
Diego looked at the doctor earnestly and put a reassuring arm around his shoulder. "Come and sit down, you must be very tired." He commented warmly as he ushered him into the den. He momentarily turned to Felipe.
"Felipe, go bring Dr. Hernandez some tea." Diego stated resolutely.
Felipe nodded and ambled off into the kitchen.
At that moment Alejandro and Victoria walked into the room and briefly greeted Dr. Hernandez. Dr. Hernandez and Diego momentarily stood as Dr. Hernandez shook hands with Alejandro and cast an amiable smile at Victoria and Alejandro. They quickly found some chairs and sat down. Soon Felipe returned carrying the tea tray with extra cups and saucers. He placed it on a marble table near Diego and Dr. Hernandez and proceeded to pour some tea for the kindly doctor and the others. When everyone had been served, Felipe walked over and pulled up a chair beside Diego and sat down.
Alejandro looked at Dr. Hernandez earnestly as he took a sip of his tea and sat it down.
"Ah Dr. Hernandez, it's good to see you. We haven't seen you in awhile. Is everything all right?" Inquired Alejandro, his face reflecting deep concern.
"I wish I could say it was Alejandro!" Replied Dr. Hernandez slightly shrugging his shoulders and shaking his head somberly. "As I told Diego, the influenza is spreading and it's becoming more difficult for me to handle alone." He replied looking at Alejandro pointedly.
Alejandro's eyes held a steady yet pensive gaze on Dr. Hernandez as he looked at him.
"Madre de Dios! I had no idea it was that serious!" He remarked as he cast an anxious look at Victoria and Diego and shook his head.
"That is why I have come here." Replied Dr. Hernandez as he slightly leaned in and cast an urgent look at Victoria.
"Victoria, I need your permission to convert the tavern into an infirmary. It would be much easier to handle all the serious cases if we could isolate them from the imminent and recovering cases. Your consent and generosity would be greatly appreciated" He requested earnestly as his dark experienced eyes peered into hers.
Victoria smiled warmly and looked at Dr. Hernandez decisively. "Of course Dr. Hernandez. I would gladly offer my tavern, if it would be of any benefit to you! You know that I would do anything to help you!" She replied kindly.
Doctor Hernandez smiled and released a small sigh of relief as he sat back in his chair.
"Muchas Gracias Señorita! Que Dios de Bendiga! That is good to know! He replied sincerely.
Victoria looked at the doctor decisively. "When do you need the use of my tavern doctor?" she inquired earnestly.
"As soon as possible! The sooner we get things set up the easier it will be to treat the illness!" responded Dr. Hernandez earnestly.
Diego looked at Dr. Hernandez intently. "We will be more than happy to help you in anyway we can doctor." Replied Diego sincerely. He momentarily turned to Felipe.
"Felipe, if you're feeling up to it, we can go help Victoria get her tavern set up for doctor Hernandez." He commented decisively.
Felipe nodded enthusiastically and smiled at Diego.
Diego patted Felipe on the shoulder and smiled. He glanced over at doctor Hernandez and looked at him earnestly. "Doctor, do you think it will be all right if Felipe helps out?" he inquired casting a concerned look at the doctor.
Dr. Hernandez eyed Felipe reflectively and then nodded. "I don't see why not, if he is feeling up to it. We could use the extra help!" he replied resolutely.
Alejandro looked at Dr. Hernandez and smiled. "We will all help you doctor. I will see if I can't get some of the caballeros from the surrounding haciendas to donate extra blankets and pillows for the tavern. The mission may be able to donate a few things also." Alejandro remarked earnestly.
Dr. Hernandez looked at Victoria warmly and smiled. "This is so generous of you to do this! Thank you Victoria!" he replied sincerely.
Victoria smiled amiably at Dr. Hernandez. "You are welcome doctor. It is no problem at all. As I said, I am glad that I could help you!" she replied graciously.