Part 2 out of 9
THE room in which Father Salvierderra always slept when at the
Senora Moreno's house was the southeast corner room. It had a
window to the south and one to the east. When the first glow of
dawn came in the sky, this eastern window was lit up as by a fire.
The Father was always on watch for it, having usually been at
prayer for hours. As the first ray reached the window, he would
throw the casement wide open, and standing there with bared
head, strike up the melody of the sunrise hymn sung in all devout
Mexican families. It was a beautiful custom, not yet wholly
abandoned. At the first dawn of light, the oldest member of the
family arose, and began singing some hymn familiar to the
household. It was the duty of each person hearing it to immediately
rise, or at least sit up in bed, and join in the singing. In a few
moments the whole family would be singing, and the joyous
sounds pouring out from the house like the music of the birds in
the fields at dawn. The hymns were usually invocations to the
Virgin, or to the saint of the day, and the melodies were sweet and
On this morning there was another watcher for the dawn besides
Father Salvierderra. It was Alessandro, who had been restlessly
wandering about since midnight, and had finally seated himself
under the willow-trees by the brook, at the spot where he had seen
Ramona the evening before. He recollected this custom of the
sunrise hymn when he and his band were at the Senora's the last
year, and he had chanced then to learn that the Father slept in the
southeast room. From the spot where he sat, he could see the south
window of this room. He could also see the low eastern horizon, at
which a faint luminous line already showed. The sky was like
amber; a few stars still shone faintly in the zenith. There was not a
sound. It was one of those rare moments in which one can without
difficulty realize the noiseless spinning of the earth through space.
Alessandro knew nothing of this; he could not have been made to
believe that the earth was moving. He thought the sun was coming
up apace, and the earth was standing still,-- a belief just as grand,
just as thrilling, so far as all that goes, as the other: men
worshipped the sun long before they found out that it stood still.
Not the most reverent astronomer, with the mathematics of the
heavens at his tongue's end, could have had more delight in the
wondrous phenomenon of the dawn, than did this simple-minded,
His eyes wandered from the horizon line of slowly increasing light,
to the windows of the house, yet dark and still. "Which window is
hers? Will she open it when the song begins?" he thought. "Is it on
this side of the house? Who can she be? She was not here last year.
Saw the saints ever so beautiful a creature!"
At last came the full red ray across the meadow. Alessandro sprang
to his feet. In the next second Father Salvierderra flung up his
south window, and leaning out, his cowl thrown off, his thin gray
locks streaming back, began in a feeble but not unmelodious voice
"O beautiful Queen,
Princess of Heaven."
Before he had finished the second line, a half-dozen voices had
joined in,-- the Senora, from her room at the west end of the
veranda, beyond the flowers; Felipe, from the adjoining room;
Ramona, from hers, the next; and Margarita and other of the maids
already astir in the wings of the house. As the volume of melody
swelled, the canaries waked, and the finches and the linnets in the
veranda roof. The tiles of this roof were laid on bundles of tule
reeds, in which the linnets delighted to build their nests. The roof
was alive with them,-- scores and scores, nay hundreds, tame as
chickens; their tiny shrill twitter was like the tuning of myriads of
"Singers at dawn
From the heavens above
People all regions;
Gladly we too sing,"
continued the hymn, the birds corroborating the stanza. Then men's
voices joined in,-- Juan and Luigo, and a dozen more, walking
slowly up from the sheepfolds. The hymn was a favorite one,
known to all.
"Come, O sinners,
Come, and we will sing
To our refuge,"
was the chorus, repeated after each of the five verses of the hymn.
Alessandro also knew the hymn well. His father, Chief Pablo, had
been the leader of the choir at the San Luis Rey Mission in the last
years of its splendor, and had brought away with him much of the
old choir music. Some of the books had been written by his own
hand, on parchment. He not only sang well, but was a good player
on the violin. There was not at any of the Missions so fine a band
of performers on stringed instruments as at San Luis Rey. Father
Peyri was passionately fond of music, and spared no pains in
training all the neophytes under his charge who showed any
special talent in that direction. Chief Pablo, after the breaking up
of the Mission, had settled at Temecula, with a small band of his
Indians, and endeavored, so far as was in his power, to keep up the
old religious services. The music in the little chapel of the
Temecula Indians was a surprise to all who heard it.
Alessandro had inherited his father's love and talent for music, and
knew all the old Mission music by heart. This hymn to the
Princess of Heaven,"
was one of his special favorites; and as he heard verse after verse
rising, he could not forbear striking in.
At the first notes of this rich new voice, Ramona's voice ceased in
surprise; and, throwing up her window, she leaned out, eagerly
looking in all directions to see who it could be. Alessandro saw
her, and sang no more.
"What could it have been? Did I dream it?" thought Ramona, drew
in her head, and began to sing again.
With the next stanza of the chorus, the same rich barytone notes.
They seemed to float in under all the rest, and bear them along, as
a great wave bears a boat. Ramona had never heard such a voice.
Felipe had a good tenor, and she liked to sing with him, or to hear
him; but this -- this was from another world, this sound. Ramona
felt every note of it penetrating her consciousness with a subtle
thrill almost like pain. When the hymn ended, she listened eagerly,
hoping Father Salvierderra would strike up a second hymn, as he
often did; but he did not this morning; there was too much to be
done; everybody was in a hurry to be at work: windows shut, doors
opened; the sounds of voices from all directions, ordering,
questioning, answering, began to be heard. The sun rose and let a
flood of work-a-day light on the whole place.
Margarita ran and unlocked the chapel door, putting up a heartfelt
thanksgiving to Saint Francis and the Senorita, as she saw the
snowy altar-cloth in its place, looking, from that distance at least,
as good as new.
The Indians and the shepherds, and laborers of all sorts, were
coming towards the chapel. The Senora, with her best black silk
handkerchief bound tight around her forehead, the ends hanging
down each side of her face, making her look like an Assyrian
priestess, was descending the veranda steps, Felipe at her side; and
Father Salvierderra had already entered the chapel before Ramona
appeared, or Alessandro stirred from his vantage-post of
observation at the willows.
When Ramona came out from the door she bore in her hands a
high silver urn filled with ferns. She had been for many days
gathering and hoarding these. They were hard to find, growing
only in one place in a rocky canon, several miles away.
As she stepped from the veranda to the ground, Alessandro walked
slowly up the garden-walk, facing her. She met his eyes, and,
without knowing why, thought, "That must be the Indian who
sang." As she turned to the right and entered the chapel,
Alessandro followed her hurriedly, and knelt on the stones close to
the chapel door. He would be near when she came out. As he
looked in at the door, he saw her glide up the aisle, place the ferns
on the reading-desk, and then kneel down by Felipe in front of the
altar. Felipe turned towards her, smiling slightly, with a look as of
"Ah, Senor Felipe has married. She is his wife," thought
Alessandro, and a strange pain seized him. He did not analyze it;
hardly knew what it meant. He was only twenty-one. He had not
thought much about women. He was a distant, cold boy, his own
people of the Temecula village said. It had come, they believed, of
learning to read, which was always bad. Chief Pablo had not done
his son any good by trying to make him like white men. If the
Fathers could have stayed, and the life at the Mission have gone
on, why, Alessandro could have had work to do for the Fathers, as
his father had before him. Pablo had been Father Peyri's right-hand
man at the Mission; had kept all the accounts about the cattle; paid
the wages; handled thousands of dollars of gold every month. But
that was "in the time of the king;" it was very different now. The
Americans would not let an Indian do anything but plough and sow
and herd cattle. A man need not read and write, to do that.
Even Pablo sometimes doubted whether he had done wisely in
teaching Alessandro all he knew himself. Pablo was, for one of his
race, wise and far-seeing. He perceived the danger threatening his
people on all sides. Father Peyri, before he left the country, had
said to him: "Pablo, your people will be driven like sheep to the
slaughter, unless you keep them together. Knit firm bonds between
them; band them into pueblos; make them work; and above all,
keep peace with the whites. It is your only chance."
Most strenuously Pablo had striven to obey Father Peyri's
directions. He had set his people the example of constant industry,
working steadily in his fields and caring well for his herds. He had
built a chapel in his little village, and kept up forms of religious
service there. Whenever there were troubles with the whites, or
rumors of them, he went from house to house, urging, persuading,
commanding his people to keep the peace. At one time when there
was an insurrection of some of the Indian tribes farther south, and
for a few days it looked as if there would be a general Indian war,
he removed the greater part of his band, men, women, and children
driving their flocks and herds with them, to Los Angeles, and
camped there for several days, that they might be identified with
the whites in case hostilities became serious.
But his labors did not receive the reward that they deserved. With
every day that the intercourse between his people and the whites
increased, he saw the whites gaining, his people surely losing
ground, and his anxieties deepened. The Mexican owner of the.
Temecula valley, a friend of Father Peyri's, and a good friend also
of Pablo's, had returned to Mexico in disgust with the state of
affairs in California, and was reported to be lying at the point of
death. This man's promise to Pablo, that he and his people should
always live in the valley undisturbed, was all the title Pablo had to
the village lands. In the days when the promise was given, it was
all that was necessary. The lines marking off the Indians' lands
were surveyed, and put on the map of the estate. No Mexican
proprietor ever broke faith with an Indian family or village. thus
placed on his lands.
But Pablo had heard rumors, which greatly disquieted him, that
such pledges and surveyed lines as these were corning to be held
as of no value, not binding on purchasers of grants. He was
intelligent enough to see that if this were so, he and his people
were ruined. All these perplexities and fears he confided to
Alessandro; long anxious hours the father and son spent together,
walking back and forth in the village, or sitting in front of their
little adobe house, discussing what could be done. There was
always the same ending to the discussion,-- a long sigh, and, "We
must wait, we can do nothing."
No wonder Alessandro seemed, to the more ignorant and
thoughtless young men and women of his village, a cold and
distant lad. He was made old before his time. He was carrying in
his heart burdens of which they knew nothing. So long as the
wheat fields came up well, and there was no drought, and the
horses and sheep had good pasture, in plenty, on the hills, the
Temecula people could be merry, go day by day to their easy work,
play games at sunset, and sleep sound all night. But Alessandro
and his father looked beyond. And this was the one great reason
why Alessandro had not yet thought about women, in way of love;
this, and .also the fact that even the little education he had
received was sufficient to raise a slight barrier, of which he was
unconsciously aware, between him and the maidens of the village.
If a quick, warm fancy for any one of them ever stirred in his
veins, he found himself soon, he knew not how, cured of it. For a
dance, or a game, or a friendly chat, for the trips into the
mountains after acorns, or to the marshes for grasses and reeds, he
was their good comrade, and they were his; but never had the
desire to take one of them for his wife, entered into Alessandro's
mind. The vista of the future, for him, was filled full by thoughts
which left no room for love's dreaming; one purpose and one fear
filled it,-- the purpose to be his father's worthy successor, for Pablo
was old now, and very feeble; the fear, that exile and ruin were in
store for them all.
It was of these things he had been thinking as be walked alone, in
advance of his men, on the previous night, when he first saw
Ramona kneeling at the brook. Between that moment and the
present, it seemed to Alessandro that some strange miracle must
have happened to him. The purposes and the fears had alike gone.
A face replaced them; a vague wonder, pain, joy, he knew not
what, filled him so to overflowing that he was bewildered. If he
had been what the world calls a civilized man, he would have
known instantly and would have been capable of weighing,
analyzing, and reflecting on his sensations at leisure. But he was
not a civilized man; he had to bring to bear on his present situation
only simple, primitive, uneducated instincts and impulses. If
Ramona had been a maiden of his own people or race, he would
have drawn near to her as quickly as iron to the magnet. But now,
if he had gone so far as to even think of her in such a way, she
would have been, to his view, as far removed from him as was the
morning star beneath whose radiance he had that morning
watched, hoping for sight of her at her window. He did not,
however, go so far as to thus think of her. Even that would have
been impossible. He only knelt on the stones outside the chapel
door, mechanically repeating the prayers with the rest, waiting for
her to reappear. He had no doubt, now, that she was Senor Felipe's
wife; all the same he wished to kneel there till she came out, that
he might see her face again. His vista of purpose, fear, hope, had
narrowed now down to that,-- just one more sight of her. Ever so
civilized, he could hardly have worshipped a woman better. The
mass seemed to him endlessly long. Until near the last, he forgot to
sing; then, in the closing of the final hymn, he suddenly
remembered, and the clear deep-toned voice pealed out, as before,
like the undertone of a great sea-wave, sweeping along.
Ramona heard the first note, and felt again the same thrill. She was
as much a musician born as Alessandro himself. As she rose from
her knees, she whispered to Felipe: "Felipe, do find out which one
of the Indians it is has that superb voice. I never heard anything
"Oh, that is Alessandro," replied Felipe, "old Pablo's son. He is a
splendid fellow. Don't you recollect his singing two years ago?"
"I was not here," replied Ramona; "you forget."
"Ah, yes, so you were away; I had forgotten," said Felipe. "Well,
he was here. They made him captain of the shearing-band, though
he was only twenty, and he managed the men splendidly. They
saved nearly all their money to carry home, and I never knew them
do such a thing before. Father Salvierderra was here, which might
have had something to do with it; but I think it was quite as much
Alessandro. He plays the violin beautifully. I hope he has brought
it along. He plays the old San Luis Rey music. His father was
Ramona's eyes kindled with pleasure. "Does your mother like it, to
have him play?" she asked.
Felipe nodded. "We'll have him up on the veranda tonight," he
While this whispered colloquy was going on, the chapel had
emptied, the Indians and Mexicans all hurrying out to set about the
day's work. Alessandro lingered at the doorway as long as he
dared, till he was sharply called by Juan Canito, looking back:
"What are you gaping at there, you Alessandro! Hurry, now, and
get your men to work. After waiting till near midsummer for this
shearing, we'll make as quick work of it as we can. Have you got
your best shearers here?"
"Ay, that I have," answered Alessandro; "not a man of them but
can shear his hundred in a day, There is not such a band as ours in
all San Diego County; and we don't turn out the sheep all bleeding,
either; you'll see scarce a scratch on their sides."
"Humph." retorted Juan Can. "'Tis a poor shearer, indeed, that
draws blood to speak of. I've sheared many a thousand sheep in my
day, and never a red stain on the shears. But the Mexicans have
always been famed for good shearers."
Juan's invidious emphasis on the word "Mexicans" did not escape
Alessandro. "And we Indians also," he answered, good-naturedly,
betraying no annoyance; "but as for these Americans, I saw one at
work the other day, that man Lomax, who settled near Temecula,
and upon my faith, Juan Can, I thought it was a slaughter-pen, and
not a shearing. The poor beasts limped off with the blood running."
Juan did not see his way clear at the moment to any fitting
rejoinder to this easy assumption, on Alessandro's part, of the
equal superiority of Indians and Mexicans in the sheep-shearing
art; so, much vexed, with another "Humph!" he walked away;
walked away so fast, that he lost the sight of a smile on
Alessandro's face, which would have vexed him still further.
At the sheep-shearing sheds and pens all was stir and bustle. The
shearing shed was a huge caricature of a summerhouse,-- a long,
narrow structure, sixty feet long by twenty or thirty wide, all roof
and pillars; no walls; the supports, slender rough posts, as far apart
as was safe, for the upholding of the roof, which was of rough
planks loosely laid from beam to beam. On three sides of this were
the sheep-pens filled with sheep and lambs.
A few rods away stood the booths in which the shearers' food was
to be cooked and the shearers fed. These were mere temporary
affairs, roofed only by willow boughs with the leaves left on. Near
these, the Indians had already arranged their camp; a hut or two of
green boughs had been built, but for the most part they would
sleep rolled up in their blankets, on the ground. There was a brisk
wind, and the gay colored wings of the windmill blew furiously
round and round, pumping out into the tank below a stream of
water so swift and strong, that as the men crowded around, wetting
and sharpening their knives, they got well spattered, and had much
merriment, pushing and elbowing each other into the spray.
A high four-posted frame stood close to the shed; in this, swung
from the four corners, hung one of the great sacking bags in which
the fleeces were to be packed. A big pile of bags lay on the ground
at the foot of the posts. Juan Can eyed them with a chuckle. "We'll
fill more than those before night, Senor Felipe," he said. He was in
his element, Juan Can, at shearing times. Then came his reward for
the somewhat monotonous and stupid year's work. The world held
no better feast for his eyes than the sight of a long row of big bales
of fleece, tied, stamped with the Moreno brand, ready to be drawn
away to the mills. "Now, there is something substantial," he
thought; "no chance of wool going amiss in market!"
If a year's crop were good, Juan's happiness was assured for the
next six months. If it proved poor, he turned devout immediately,
and spent the next six months calling on the saints for better luck,
and redoubling his exertions with the sheep.
On one of the posts of the shed short projecting slats were nailed,
like half-rounds of a ladder. Lightly as a rope-walker Felipe ran up
these, to the roof, and took his stand there, ready to take the
fleeces and pack them in the bag as fast as they should be tossed
up from below. Luigo, with a big leathern wallet fastened in front
of him, filled with five-cent pieces, took his stand in the centre of
the shed. The thirty shearers, running into the nearest pen, dragged
each his sheep into the shed, in a twinkling of an eye had the
creature between his knees, helpless, immovable, and the sharp
sound of the shears set in. The sheep-shearing had begun. No rest
now. Not a second's silence from the bleating, baa-ing, opening
and shutting, clicking, sharpening of shears, flying of fleeces
through the air to the roof, pressing and stamping them down in
the bales; not a second's intermission, except the hour of rest at
noon, from sunrise till sunset, till the whole eight thousand of the
Senora Moreno's sheep were shorn. It was a dramatic spectacle. As
soon as a sheep was shorn, the shearer ran with the fleece in his
hand to Luigo, threw it down on a table, received his five-cent
piece, dropped it in his pocket, ran to the pen, dragged out another
sheep, and in less than five minutes was back again with a second
fleece. The shorn sheep, released, bounded off into another pen,
where, light in the head no doubt from being three to five pounds
lighter on their legs, they trotted round bewilderedly for a moment,
then flung up their heels and capered for joy.
It was warm work. The dust from the fleeces and the trampling
feet filled the air. As the sun rose higher in the sky the sweat
poured off the men's faces; and Felipe, standing without shelter on
the roof, found out very soon that he had by no means yet got back
his full strength since the fever. Long before noon, except for sheer
pride, and for the recollection of Juan Canito's speech, he would
have come down and yielded his place to the old man. But he was
resolved not to give up, and he worked on, though his face was
purple and his head throbbing. After the bag of fleeces is half full,
the packer stands in it, jumping with his full weight on the wool,
as he throws in the fleeces, to compress them as much as possible.
When Felipe began to do this, he found that he had indeed
overrated his strength. As the first cloud of the sickening dust
came up, enveloping his head, choking his breath, he turned
suddenly dizzy, and calling faintly, "Juan, I am ill," sank helpless
down in the wool. He had fainted. At Juan Canito's scream of
dismay, a great hubbub and outcry arose; all saw instantly what
had happened. Felipe's head was hanging limp over the edge of the
bag, Juan in vain endeavoring to get sufficient foothold by his side
to lift him. One after another the men rushed up the ladder, until
they were all standing, a helpless, excited crowd, on the roof, one
proposing one thing, one another. Only Luigo had had the presence
of mind to run to the house for help. The Senora was away from
home. She had gone with Father Salvierderra to a friend's house, a
half-day's journey off. But Ramona was there. Snatching all she
could think of in way of restoratives, she came flying back with
Luigo, followed by every servant of the establishment, all talking,
groaning, gesticulating, suggesting, wringing their hands,-- as
disheartening a Babel as ever made bad matters worse.
Reaching the shed, Ramona looked up to the roof bewildered.
"Where is he?" she cried. The next instant she saw his head, held
in Juan Canito's arms, just above the edge of the wool-bag. She
groaned, "Oh, how will he ever be lifted out!"
"I will lift him, Senora," cried Alessandro, coming to the front, "I
am very strong. Do not be afraid; I will bring him safe down." And
swinging himself down the ladder, he ran swiftly to the camp, and
returned, bringing in his hands blankets. Springing quickly to the
roof again, he knotted the blankets firmly together, and tying them
at the middle around his waist, threw the ends to his men, telling
them to hold him firm. He spoke in the Indian tongue as he was
hurriedly doing this, and Ramona did not at first understand his
plan. But when she saw the Indians move a little back from the
edge of the roof, holding the blankets firm grasped, while
Alessandro stepped out on one of the narrow cross-beams from
which the bag swung, she saw what he meant to do. She held her
breath. Felipe was a slender man; Alessandro was much heavier,
and many inches taller. Still, could any man carry such a burden
safely on that narrow beam! Ramona looked away, and shut her
eyes, through the silence which followed. It was only a few
moments; but it seemed an eternity before a glad murmur of voices
told her that it was done, and looking up, she saw Felipe lying on
the roof, unconscious, his face white, his eyes shut. At this sight,
all the servants broke out afresh, weeping and wailing, "He is
dead! He is dead!"
Ramona stood motionless, her eyes fixed on Felipe's face. She, too,
believed him dead; but her thought was of the Senora.
"He is not dead," cried Juan Canito, who had thrust his hand under
Felipe's shirt. "He is not dead. It is only a faint,"
At this the first tears rolled down Ramona's face. She looked
piteously at the ladder up and down which she had seen
Alessandro run as if it were an easy indoor staircase. "If I could
only get up there!" she said, looking from one to another. "I think I
can;" and she put one foot on the lower round.
"Holy Virgin!" cried Juan Can, seeing her movement. "Senorita!
Senorita! do not attempt it. It is not too easy for a man. You will
break your neck. He is fast coming to his senses."
Alessandro caught the words. Spite of all the confusion and terror
of the scene, his heart heard the word, "Senorita." Ramona was not
the wife of Felipe, or of any man. Yet Alessandro recollected that
he had addressed her as Senora, and she did not seem surprised.
Coming to the front of the group he said, bending forward,
"Senorita!" There must have been something in the tone which
made Ramona start. The simple word could not have done it.
"Senorita," said Alessandro, "it will be nothing to bring Senor
Felipe down the ladder. He is, in my arms, no more than one of the
lambs yonder. I will bring him down as soon as he is recovered. He
is better here till then. He will very soon be himself again. It was
only the heat." Seeing that the expression of anxious distress did
not grow less on Ramona's face, he continued, in a tone still more
earnest, "Will not the Senorita trust me to bring him safe down?"
Ramona smiled faintly through her tears. "Yes," she said, "I will
trust you. You are Alessandro, are you not?"
"Yes, Senorita," he answered, greatly surprised, "I am Alessandro."
A BAD beginning did not make a good ending of the Senora
Moreno's sheep-shearing this year. One as superstitiously
prejudiced against Roman Catholic rule as she was in favor of it,
would have found, in the way things fell out, ample reason for a
belief that the Senora was being punished for having let all the
affairs of her place come to a standstill, to await the coming of an
old monk. But the pious Senora, looking at the other side of the
shield, was filled with gratitude that, since all this ill luck was to
befall her, she had the good Father Salvierderra at her side to give
her comfort and counsel.
It was not yet quite noon of the first day, when Felipe fainted and
fell in the wool; and it was only a little past noon of the third,
when Juan Canito, who, not without some secret exultation, had
taken Senor Felipe's place at the packing, fell from the cross-beam
to the ground, and broke his right leg,-- a bad break near the knee;
and Juan Canito's bones were much too old for fresh knitting. He
would never again be able to do more than hobble about on
crutches, dragging along the useless leg. It was a cruel blow to the
old man. He could not be resigned to it. He lost faith in his saints,
and privately indulged in blasphemous beratings and reproaches of
them, which would have filled the Senora with terror, had she
known that such blasphemies were being committed under her
"As many times as I have crossed that plank, in my day!" cried
Juan; "only the fiends themselves could have made me trip; and
there was that whole box of candles I paid for with my own money
last month, and burned to Saint Francis in the chapel for this very
sheep-shearing! He may sit in the dark, for all me, to the end of
time! He is no saint at all! What are they for, if not to keep us from
harm when we pray to them? I'll pray no more. I believe the
Americans are right, who laugh at us." From morning till night,
and nearly from night till morning, for the leg ached so he slept
little, poor Juan groaned and grumbled and swore, and swore and
grumbled and groaned. Taking care of him was enough, Margarita
said, to wear out the patience of the Madonna herself. There was
no pleasing him, whatever you did, and his tongue was never still a
minute. For her part, she believed that it must be as he said, that
the fiends had pushed him off the plank, and that the saints had
had their reasons for leaving him to his fate. A coldness and
suspicion gradually grew up in the minds of all the servants
towards him. His own reckless language, combined with
Margarita's reports, gave the superstitious fair ground for believing
that something had gone mysteriously wrong, and that the Devil
was in a fair way to get his soul, which was very hard for the old
man, in addition to all the rest he had to bear. The only alleviation
he had for his torments, was in having his fellow-servants, men
and women, drop in, sit by his pallet, and chat with him, telling
him all that was going on; and when by degrees they dropped off,
coming more and more seldom, and one by one leaving off coming
altogether, it was the one drop that overflowed his cup of misery;
and he turned his face to the wall, left off grumbling, and spoke
only when he must.
This phase frightened Margarita even more than the first. Now, she
thought, surely the dumb terror and remorse of one who belongs to
the Devil had seized him, and her hands trembled as she went
through the needful ministrations for him each day. Three months,
at least, the doctor, who had come from Ventura to set the leg, had
said he must lie still in bed and be thus tended. "Three months!"
sighed Margarita. "If I be not dead or gone crazy myself before the
end of that be come!"
The Senora was too busy with Felipe to pay attention or to give
thought to Juan. Felipe's fainting had been the symptom and
beginning of a fierce relapse of the fever, and he was lying in his
bed, tossing and raving in delirium, always about the wool.
"Throw them faster, faster! That's a good fleece; five pounds more;
a round ton in those bales. Juan! Alessandro! Captain! -- Jesus,
how this sun burns my head!"
Several times he had called "Alessandro" so earnestly, that Father
Salvierderra advised bringing Alessandro into the room, to see if
by any chance there might have been something in his mind that he
wished to say to him. But when Alessandro stood by the bedside,
Felipe gazed at him vacantly, as he did at all the others, still
repeating, however, "Alessandro! Alessandro!"
"I think perhaps he wants Alessandro to play on his violin," sobbed
out Ramona. "He was telling me how beautifully Alessandro
played, and said he would have him up on the veranda in the
evening to play to us."
"We might try it," said Father Salvierderra. "Have you your violin
"Alas, no, Father," replied Alessandro, "I did not bring it."
"Perhaps it would do him good it you were to sing, then," said
Ramona. "He was speaking of your voice also."
"Oh, try, try." said the Senorita, turning to Alessandro. "Sing
something low and soft."
Alessandro walked from the bed to the open window, and after
thinking for a moment, began a slow strain from one of the
At the first note, Felipe became suddenly quiet, evidently listening.
An expression of pleasure spread over his feverish face. He turned
his head to one side, put his hand under his cheek and closed his
eyes. The three watching him looked at each other in
"It is a miracle," said Father Salvierderra. "He will sleep."
"It was what he wanted!" whispered Ramona.
The Senora spoke not, but buried her face in the bedclothes for a
second; then lifting it, she gazed at Alessandro as if she were
praying to a saint. He, too, saw the change in Felipe, and sang
lower and lower, till the notes sounded as if they came from afar;
lower and lower, slower; finally they ceased, as if they died away
lost in distance. As they ceased, Felipe opened his eyes.
"Oh, go on, go on!" the Senora implored in a whisper shrill with
anxiety. "Do not stop!"
Alessandro repeated the strain, slow, solemn; his voice trembled;
the air in the room seemed stifling, spite of the open window; he
felt something like terror, as he saw Felipe evidently sinking to
sleep by reason of the notes of his voice. There had been nothing
in Alessandro's healthy outdoor experience to enable him to
understand such a phenomenon. Felipe breathed more and more
slowly, softly, regularly; soon he was in a deep sleep. The singing
stopped; Felipe did not stir.
"Can I go?" whispered Alessandro.
"No, no." replied the Senora, impatiently. "He may wake any
Alessandro looked troubled, but bowed his head submissively, and
remained standing by the window. Father Salvierderra was
kneeling on one side of the bed, the Senora at the other, Ramona at
the foot,-- all praying; the silence was so great that the slight
sounds of the rosary beads slipping against each other seemed
loud. In a niche in the wall, at the head of the bed, stood a statue of
the Madonna, on the other side a picture of Santa Barbara. Candles
were burning before each. The long wicks smouldered and died
down, sputtering, then flared up again as the ends fell into the
melted wax. The Senora's eyes were fixed on the Madonna. The
Father's were closed. Ramona gazed at Felipe with tears streaming
down her face as she mechanically told her beads.
"She is his betrothed, no doubt," thought Alessandro. "The saints
will not let him die;" and Alessandro also prayed. But the
oppression of the scene was too much for him. Laying his hand on
the low window-sill, he vaulted over it, saying to Ramona, who
turned her head at the sound, "I will not go away, Senorita, I will
be close under the window, if he awakes."
Once in the open air, he drew a long breath, and gazed
bewilderedly about him, like one just recovering consciousness
after a faint. Then he threw himself on the ground under the
window, and lay looking up into the sky. Capitan came up, and
with a low whine stretched himself out at full length by his side.
The dog knew as well as any other one of the house that danger
and anguish were there.
One hour passed, two, three; still no sound from Felipe's room.
Alessandro rose, and looked in at the window. The Father and the
Senora had not changed their attitudes; their lips were yet moving
in prayer. But Ramona had yielded to her fatigue; slipped from her
knees into a sitting posture, with her head leaning against the post
of the bedstead, and fallen asleep. Her face was swollen and
discolored by weeping, and heavy circles under her eyes told how
tired she was. For three days and nights she had scarcely rested, so
constant were the demands on her. Between Felipe's illness and
Juan Can's, there was not a moment without something to be done,
or some perplexing question to be settled, and above all, and
through all, the terrible sorrow. Ramona was broken down with
grief at the thought of Felipe's death. She had never known till she
saw him lying there delirious, and as she in her inexperience
thought, dying, how her whole life was entwined with his. But
now, at the very thought of what it would be to live without him,
her heart sickened. "When he is buried, I will ask Father
Salvierderra to take me away. I never can live here alone," she said
to herself, never for a moment perceiving that the word "alone"
was a strange one to have come into her mind in the connection.
The thought of the Senora did not enter into her imaginations of
the future which so smote her with terror. In the Senora's presence,
Ramona always felt herself alone.
Alessandro stood at the window, his arms folded, leaning on the
sill, his eyes fixed on Ramona's face and form. To any other than a
lover's eyes she had not looked beautiful now; but to Alessandro
she looked more beautiful than the picture of Santa Barbara on the
wall beyond. With a lover's instinct he knew the thoughts which
had written such lines on her face in the last three days. "It will kill
her if he dies," he thought, "if these three days have made her look
like that." And Alessandro threw himself on the ground again, his
face down. He did not know whether it were an hour or a day that
he had lain there, when he heard Father Salvierderra's voice
speaking his name. He sprang up, to see the old monk standing in
the window, tears running down his cheeks. "God be praised," he
said, "the Senor Felipe will get well. A sweat has broken out on his
skin; he still sleeps, but when he wakes he will be in his right
mind. The strength of the fever is broken. But, Alessandro, we
know not how to spare you. Can you not let the men go without
you, and remain here? The Senora would like to have you remain
in Juan Can's place till he is about. She will give you the same
wages he had. Would it not be a good thing for you, Alessandro?
You cannot be sure of earning so much as that for the next three
months, can you?"
While the Father was speaking, a tumult had been going on in
Alessandro's breast. He did not know by name any of the impulses
which were warring there, tearing him in twain, as it were, by their
pulling in opposite directions; one saying "Stay!" and the other
saying "Go!" He would not have known what any one meant, who
had said to him, "It is danger to stay; it is safety to fly." All the
same, he felt as if he could do neither.
"There is another shearing yet, Father," he began, "at the Ortega's
ranch. I had promised to go to them as soon as I had finished here,
and they have been wroth enough with us for the delay already. It
will not do to break the promise, Father."
Father Salvierderra's face fell. "No, my son, certainly not," he said;
"but could no one else take your place with the band?"
Hearing these words, Ramona came to the window, and leaning
out, whispered, "Are you talking about Alessandro's staying? Let
me come and talk to him. He must not go." And running swiftly
through the hall, across the veranda, and down the steps, she stood
by Alessandro's side in a moment. Looking up in his face
pleadingly, she said: "We can't let you go, Alessandro. The Senor
will pay wages to some other to go in your place with the shearers.
We want you to stay here in Juan Can's place till he is well. Don't
say you can't stay! Felipe may need you to sing again, and what
would we do then? Can't you stay?"
"Yes, I can stay, Senorita," answered Alessandro, gravely. "I will
stay so long as you need me."
"Oh, thank you, Alessandro!" Ramona cried. "You are good, to
stay. The Senora will see that it is no loss to you;" and she flew
back to the house.
"It is not for the wages, Senorita," Alessandro began; but Ramona
was gone. She did not hear him, and he turned away with a sense
of humiliation. "I don't want the Senorita to think that it was the
money kept me," he said, turning to Father Salvierderra. "I would
not leave the band for money; it is to help, because they are in
"Yes, yes, son. I understand that," replied the monk, who had
known Alessandro since he was a little fellow playing in the
corridors of San Luis Rey, the pet of all the Brothers there. "That is
quite right of you, and the Senora will not be insensible of it. It is
not for such things that money can pay. They are indeed in great
trouble now, and only the two women in the house; and I must
soon be going on my way North again."
"Is it sure that Senor Felipe will get well?" asked Alessandro.
"I think so," replied Father Salvierderra. "These relapses are
always worse than the first attack; but I have never known one to
die, after he had the natural sweat to break from the skin, and got
good sleep. I doubt not he will be in his bed, though, for many
days, and there will be much to be seen to. It was an ill luck to
have Juan Can laid up, too, just at this time. I must go and see him;
I hear he is in most rebellious frame of mind, and blasphemes
"That does he!" said Alessandro. "He swears the saints gave him
over to the fiends to push him off the plank, and he'll have none of
them from this out! I told him to beware, or they might bring him
to worse things yet if he did not mend his speech of them."
Sighing deeply as they walked along, the monk said: "It is but a
sign of the times. Blasphemers are on the highway. The people are
being corrupted. Keeps your father the worship in the chapel still,
and does a priest come often to the village?"
"Only twice a year," replied Alessandro; "and sometimes for a
funeral, if there is money enough to pay for the mass. But my
father has the chapel open, and each Sunday we sing what we
know of the mass; and the people are often there praying."
"Ay, ay! Ever for money!" groaned Father Salvierderra, not
heeding the latter part of the sentence. "Ever for money! It is a
shame. But that it were sure to be held as a trespass, I would go
myself to Temecula once in three months; but I may not. The
priests do not love our order."
"Oh, if you could, Father," exclaimed Alessandro, "it would make
my father very glad! He speaks often to me of the difference he
sees between the words of the Church now and in the days of the
Mission. He is very sad, Father, and in great fear about our village.
They say the Americans, when they buy the Mexicans' lands, drive
the Indians away as if they were dogs; they say we have no right to
our lands. Do you think that can be so, Father, when we have
always lived on them, and the owners promised them to us
Father Salvierderra was silent a long time before replying, and
Alessandro watched his face anxiously. He seemed to be hesitating
for words to convey his meaning. At last he said: "Got your father
any notice, at any time since the Americans took the country,--
notice to appear before a court, or anything about a title to the
"No, Father," replied Alessandro.
"There has to be some such paper, as I understand their laws,"
continued the monk; "some notice, before any steps can be taken
to remove Indians from an estate. It must be done according to the
law, in the courts. If you have had no such notice, you are not in
"But, Father," persisted Alessandro, "how could there be a law to
take away from us the land which the Senor Valdez gave us
"Gave he to you any paper, any writing to show it?"
"No, no paper; but it is marked in red lines on the map. It was
marked off by Jose Ramirez, of Los Angeles, when they marked all
the boundaries of Senor Valdez's estate. They had many
instruments of brass and wood to measure with, and a long chain,
very heavy, which I helped them carry. I myself saw it marked on
the map. They all slept in my father's house,-- Senor Valdez, and
Ramirez, and the man who made the measures. He hired one of
our men to carry his instruments, and I went to help, for I wished
to see how it was done; but I could understand nothing, and Jose
told me a man must study many years to learn the way of it. It
seemed to me our way, by the stones, was much better. But I know
it is all marked on the map, for it was with a red line; and my
father understood it, and Jose Ramirez and Senor Valdez both
pointed to it with their finger, and they said, 'All this here is your
land, Pablo, always.' I do not think my father need fear, do you?"
"I hope not," replied Father Salvierderra, cautiously; "but since the
way that all the lands of the Missions have been taken away, I have
small faith in the honesty of the Americans. I think they will take
all that they can. The Church has suffered terrible loss at their
"That is what my father says," replied Alessandro. "He says, 'Look
at San Luis Rey! Nothing but the garden and orchard left, of all
their vast lands where they used to pasture thirty thousand sheep. If
the Church and the Fathers could not keep their lands, what can we
Indians do?' That is what my father says."
"True, true!" said the monk, as he turned into the door of the room
where Juan Can lay on his narrow bed, longing yet fearing to see
Father Salvierderra's face coming in. "We are all alike helpless in
their hands, Alessandro. They possess the country, and can make
what laws they please. We can only say, 'God's will be done,'" and
he crossed himself devoutly, repeating the words twice.
Alessandro did the same, and with a truly devout spirit, for he was
full of veneration for the Fathers and their teachings; but as he
walked on towards the shearing-shed he thought: "Then, again,
how can it be God's will that wrong be done? It cannot be God's
will that one man should steal from another all he has. That would
make God no better than a thief, it looks to me. But how can it
happen, if it is not God's will?"
It does not need that one be educated, to see the logic in this
formula. Generations of the oppressed and despoiled, before
Alessandro, had grappled with the problem in one shape or
At the shearing-shed, Alessandro found his men in confusion and
ill-humor. The shearing had been over and done by ten in the
morning, and why were they not on their way to the Ortega's?
Waiting all day,-- it was now near sunset,-- with nothing to do, and
still worse with not much of anything to eat, had made them all
cross; and no wonder. The economical Juan Can, finding that the
work would be done by ten, and supposing they would be off
before noon, had ordered only two sheep killed for them the day
before, and the mutton was all gone, and old Marda, getting her
cue from Juan, had cooked no more frijoles than the family needed
themselves; so the poor shearers had indeed had a sorry day of it,
in no wise alleviated either by the reports brought from time to
time that their captain was lying on the ground, face down, under
Senor Felipe's window, and must not be spoken to.
It was not a propitious moment for Alessandro to make the
announcement of his purpose to leave the band; but he made a
clean breast of it in few words, and diplomatically diverted all
resentment from himself by setting them immediately to voting for
a new captain to take his place for the remainder of the season.
"Very well!" they said hotly; "captain for this year, captain for
next, too!" It wasn't so easy to step out and in again of the
captaincy of the shearers!
"All right," said Alessandro; "please yourselves! It is all the same
to me. But here I am going to stay for the present. Father
Salvierderra wishes it."
"Oh, if the Father wishes it, that is different." "Ah, that alters the
case!" "Alessandro is right!" came up in confused murmur from
the appeased crowd. They were all good Catholics, every one of
the Temecula men, and would never think of going against the
Father's orders. But when they understood that Alessandro's
intention was to remain until Juan Canito's leg should be well
enough for him to go about again, fresh grumblings began. That
would not do. It would be all summer. Alessandro must be at home
for the Saint Juan's Day fete, in midsummer,-- no doing anything
without Alessandro then. What was he thinking of? Not of the
midsummer fete, that was certain, when he promised to stay as
long as the Senorita Ramona should need him. Alessandro had
remembered nothing except the Senorita's voice, while she was
speaking to him. If he had had a hundred engagements for the
summer, he would have forgotten them all. Now that he was
reminded of the midsummer fete, it must be confessed he was for
a moment dismayed at the recollection; for that was a time, when,
as he well knew. his father could not do without his help. There
were sometimes a thousand Indians at this fete, and disorderly
whites took advantage of the occasion to sell whisky and
encourage all sorts of license and disturbance. Yes, Alessandro's
clear path of duty lay at Temecula when that fete came off. That
"I will manage to be at home then," he said. "If I am not through
here by that time, I will at least come for the fete. That you may
The voting for the new captain did not take long. There was, in
fact, but one man in the band fit for the office. That was Fernando,
the only old man in the band; all the rest were young men under
thirty, or boys. Fernando had been captain for several years, but
had himself begged, two years ago, that the band would elect
Alessandro in his place. He was getting old, and he did not like to
have to sit up and walk about the first half of every night, to see
that the shearers were not gambling away all their money at cards;
he preferred to roll himself up in his blanket at sunset and sleep till
dawn the next morning. But just for these few remaining weeks he
had no objection to taking the office again. And Alessandro was
right, entirely right, in remaining; they ought all to see that,
Fernando said; and his word had great weight with the men.
The Senora Moreno, he reminded them, had always been a good
friend of theirs, and had said that so long as she had sheep to shear,
the Temecula shearers should do it; and it would be very
ungrateful now if they did not do all they could to help her in her
The blankets were rolled up, the saddles collected, the ponies
caught and driven up to the shed, when Ramona and Margarita
were seen coming at full speed from the house.
"Alessandro! Alessandro!" cried Ramona, out of breath, "I have
only just now heard that the men have had no dinner to-day. I am
ashamed; but you know it would not have happened except for the
sickness in the house. Everybody thought they were going away
this morning. Now they must have a good supper before they go. It
is already cooking. Tell them to wait."
Those of the men who understood the Spanish language, in which
Ramona spoke, translated it to those who did not, and there was a
cordial outburst of thanks to the Senorita from all lips. All were
only too ready to wait for the supper. Their haste to begin on the
Ortega sheep-shearing had suddenly faded from their minds. Only
"It is a good six hours' ride to Ortega's," he said to the men. "You'll
be late in, if you do not start now."
"Supper will be ready in an hour," said Ramona. "Please let them
stay; one hour can't make any difference."
Alessandro smiled. "It will take nearer two, Senorita, before they
are off," he said; "but it shall be as you wish, and many thanks to
you, Senorita, for thinking of it."
"Oh, I did not think of it myself," said Ramona. "It was Margarita,
here, who came and told me. She knew we would be ashamed to
have the shearers go away hungry. I am afraid they are very hungry
indeed," she added ruefully. "It must be dreadful to go a whole day
without anything to eat; they had their breakfast soon after sunrise,
did they not?"
"Yes, Senorita," answered Alessandro, "but that is not long; one
can do without food very well for one day. I often do."
"Often." exclaimed Ramona; "but why should you do that?" Then
suddenly bethinking herself, she said in her heart, "Oh, what a
thoughtless question! Can it be they are so poor as that?" And to
save Alessandro from replying, she set off on a run for the house,
saying, "Come, come, Margarita, we must go and help at the
"Will the Senorita let me help, too," asked Alessandro, wondering
at his own boldness,-- "if there is anything I can do?"
"Oh, no," she cried, "there is not. Yes, there is, too. You can help
carry the things down to the booth; for we are short of hands now,
with Juan Can in bed, and Luigo gone to Ventura for the doctor.
You and some of your men might carry all the supper over. I'll call
you when we are ready."
The men sat down in a group and waited contentedly, smoking,
chatting, and laughing. Alessandro walked up and down between
the kitchen and the shed. He could hear the sounds of rattling
dishes, jingling spoons, frying, pouring water. Savory smells began
to be wafted out. Evidently old Marda meant to atone for the
shortcoming of the noon. Juan Can, in his bed, also heard and
smelled what was going on. "May the fiends get me," he growled,
"if that wasteful old hussy isn't getting up a feast for those beasts
of Indians! There's mutton and onions, and peppers stewing, and
potatoes, I'll be bound, and God knows what else, for beggars that
are only too thankful to get a handful of roasted wheat or a bowl of
acorn porridge at home. Well, they'll have to say they were well
feasted at the Moreno's, -- that's one comfort. I wonder if
Margarita'll think I am worthy of tasting that stew! San Jose! but it
smells well! Margarita! Margarita!" he called at top of his lungs;
but Margarita did not hear. She was absorbed in her duties in the
kitchen; and having already taken Juan at sundown a bowl of the
good broth which the doctor had said was the only sort of food he
must eat for two weeks, she had dismissed him from her mind for
the night. Moreover, Margarita was absent-minded to-night. She
was more than half in love with the handsome Alessandro, who,
when he had been on the ranch the year before, had danced with
her, and said many a light pleasant word to her, evenings, as a
young man may; and what ailed him now, that he seemed, when he
saw her, as if she were no more than a transparent shade, through
which he stared at the sky behind her, she did not know. Senor
Felipe's illness, she thought, and the general misery and confusion,
had perhaps put everything else out of his head; but now he was
going to stay, and it would be good fun having him there, if only
Senor Felipe got well, which he seemed likely to do. And as
Margarita flew about, here, there, and everywhere, she cast
frequent glances at the tall straight figure pacing up and down in
the dusk outside.
Alessandro did not see her. He did not see anything. He was
looking off at the sunset, and listening. Ramona had said, "I will
call you when we are ready." But she did not do as she said. She
told Margarita to call.
"Run, Margarita," she said. "All is ready now; see if Alessandro is
in sight. Call him to come and take the things."
So it was Margarita's voice, and not Ramona's, that called
"Alessandro! Alessandro! the supper is ready."
But it was Ramona who, when Alessandro reached the doorway,
stood there holding in her arms a huge smoking platter of the stew
which had so roused poor Juan Can's longings; and it was Ramona
who said, as she gave it into Alessandro's hands, "Take care,
Alessandro, it is very full. The gravy will run over if you are not
careful. You are not used to waiting on table;" and as she said it,
she smiled full into Alessandro's eyes,-- a little flitting, gentle,
friendly smile, which went near to making him drop the platter,
mutton, gravy, and all, then and there, at her feet.
The men ate fast and greedily, and it was not, after all, much more
than an hour, when, full fed and happy, they were mounting their
horses to set off. At the last moment Alessandro drew one of them
aside. "Jose," he said, "whose horse is the faster, yours or
"Mine," promptly replied Jose. "Mine, by a great deal. I will run
Antonio any day he likes."
Alessandro knew this as well before asking as after. But
Alessandro was learning a great many things in these days, among
other things a little diplomacy. He wanted a man to ride at the
swiftest to Temecula and back. He knew that Jose's pony could go
like the wind. He also knew that there was a perpetual feud of
rivalry between him and Antonio, in matter of the fleetness of their
respective ponies. So, having chosen Jose for his messenger, he
went thus to work to make sure that he would urge his horse to its
Whispering in Jose's ear a few words, he said, "Will you go? I will
pay you for the time, all you could earn at the shearing."
"I will go," said Jose, elated. "You will see me back tomorrow by
"Not earlier?" asked Alessandro. "I thought by noon."
"Well, by noon be it, then," said Jose. "The horse can do it."
"Have great care!" said Alessandro.
"That will I," replied Jose; and giving his horse's sides a sharp
punch with his knees, set off at full gallop westward.
"I have sent Jose with a message to Temecula," said Alessandro,
walking up to Fernando. "He will be back here tomorrow noon,
and join you at the Ortega's the next morning."
"Back here by noon to-morrow!" exclaimed Fernando. "Not unless
he kills his horse!"
"That was what he said," replied Alessandro, nonchalantly.
"Easy enough, too!" cried Antonio, riding up on his little dun mare.
"I'd go in less time than that, on this mare. Jose's is no match for
her, and never was. Why did you not send me, Alessandro?"
"Is your horse really faster than Jose's?" said Alessandro. "Then I
wish I had sent you. I'll send you next time."
IT was strange to see how quickly and naturally Alessandro fitted
into his place in the household. How tangles straightened out, and
rough places became smooth, as he quietly took matters in hand.
Luckily, old Juan Can had always liked him, and felt a great sense
of relief at the news of his staying on. Not a wholly unselfish
relief, perhaps, for since his accident Juan had not been without
fears that he might lose his place altogether; there was a Mexican
he knew, who had long been scheming to get the situation, and had
once openly boasted at a fandango, where he was dancing with
Anita, that as soon as that superannuated old fool, Juan Canito,
was out of the way, he meant to be the Senora Moreno's head
shepherd himself. To have seen this man in authority on the place,
would have driven Juan out of his mind.
But the gentle Alessandro, only an Indian,-- and of course the
Senora would never think of putting an Indian permanently in so
responsible a position on the estate,-- it was exactly as Juan would
have wished; and he fraternized with Alessandro heartily from the
outset; kept him in his room by the hour, giving him hundreds of
long-winded directions and explanations about things which, if
only he had known it, Alessandro understood far better than he
Alessandro's father had managed the Mission flocks and herds at
San Luis Rey for twenty years; few were as skilful as he; he
himself owned nearly as many sheep as the Senora Moreno; but
this Juan did not know. Neither did he realize that Alessandro, as
Chief Pablo's son, had a position of his own not without dignity
and authority. To Juan, an Indian was an Indian, and that was the
end of it. The gentle courteousness of Alessandro's manner, his
quiet behavior, were all set down in Juan's mind to the score of the
boy's native amiability and sweetness. If Juan had been told that
the Senor Felipe himself had not been more carefully trained in all
precepts of kindliness, honorable dealing, and polite usage, by the
Senora, his mother, than had Alessandro by his father, he would
have opened his eyes wide. The standards of the two parents were
different, to be sure; but the advantage could not be shown to be
entirely on the Senora's side. There were many things that Felipe
knew, of which Alessandro was profoundly ignorant; but there
were others in which Alessandro could have taught Felipe; and
when it came to the things of the soul, and of honor, Alessandro's
plane was the higher of the two. Felipe was a fair-minded,
honorable man, as men go; but circumstances and opportunity
would have a hold on him they could never get on Alessandro.
Alessandro would not lie; Felipe might. Alessandro was by nature
full of veneration and the religious instinct; Felipe had been
trained into being a good Catholic. But they were both singularly
pure-minded, open-hearted, generous-souled young men, and
destined, by the strange chance which had thus brought them into
familiar relations, to become strongly attached to each other. After
the day on which the madness of Felipe's fever had been so
miraculously soothed and controlled by Alessandro's singing, he
was never again wildly delirious. When he waked in the night from
that first long sleep, he was, as Father Salvierderra had predicted,
in his right mind; knew every one, and asked rational questions.
But the over-heated and excited brain did not for some time wholly
resume normal action. At intervals he wandered, especially when
just arousing from sleep; and, strangely enough, it was always for
Alessandro that he called at these times, and it seemed always to
be music that he craved. He recollected Alessandro's having sung
to him that first night. "I was not so crazy as you all thought," he
said. "I knew a great many of the things I said, but I couldn't help
saying them; and I heard Ramona ask Alessandro to sing; and
when he began, I remember I thought the Virgin had reached down
and put her hand on my head and cooled it."
On the second evening, the first after the shearers had left,
Alessandro, seeing Ramona in the veranda, went to the foot of the
steps, and said, "Senorita, would Senor Felipe like to have me play
on the violin to him tonight?"
"Why, whose violin have you got?" exclaimed Ramona,
"My own, Senorita."
"Your own! I thought you said you did not bring it."
"Yes, Senorita, that is true; but I sent for it last night, and it is
"Sent to Temecula and back already!" cried Ramona.
"Yes, Senorita. Our ponies are swift and strong. They can go a
hundred miles in a day, and not suffer. It was Jose brought it, and
he is at the Ortega's by this time."
Ramona's eyes glistened. "I wish I could have thanked him," she
said. "You should have let me know. He ought to have been paid
"I paid him, Senorita; he went for me," said Alessandro, with a
shade of wounded pride in the tone, which Ramona should have
perceived, but did not, and went on hurting the lover's heart still
"But it was for us that you sent for it, Alessandro; the Senora
would rather pay the messenger herself."
"It is paid, Senorita. It is nothing. If the Senor Felipe wishes to
hear the violin, I will play;" and Alessandro walked slowly away.
Ramona gazed after him. For the first time, she looked at him with
no thought of his being an Indian,-- a thought there had surely been
no need of her having, since his skin was not a shade darker than
Felipe's; but so strong was the race feeling, that never till that
moment had she forgotten it.
"What a superb head, and what a walk!" she thought. Then,
looking more observantly, she said: "He walks as if he were
offended. He did not like my offering to pay for the messenger. He
wanted to do it for dear Felipe. I will tell Felipe, and we will give
him some present when he goes away."
"Isn't he splendid, Senorita?" came in a light laughing tone from
Margarita's lips close to her ear, in the fond freedom of their
relation. "Isn't he splendid? And oh, Senorita, you can't think how
he dances! Last year I danced with him every night; he has wings
on his feet, for all he is so tall and big."
There was a coquettish consciousness in the girl's tone, that was
suddenly, for some unexplained reason, exceedingly displeasing to
Ramona. Drawing herself away, she spoke to Margarita in a tone
she had never before in her life used. "It is not fitting to speak like
that about young men. The Senora would be displeased if she
heard you," she said, and walked swiftly away leaving poor
Margarita as astounded as if she had got a box on the ear.
She looked after Ramona's retreating figure, then after
Alessandro's. She had heard them talking together just before she
came up. Thoroughly bewildered and puzzled, she stood
motionless for several seconds, reflecting; then, shaking her head,
she ran away, trying to dismiss the harsh speech from her mind.
"Alessandro must have vexed the Senorita," she thought, "to make
her speak like that to me." But the incident was not so easily
dismissed from Margarita's thoughts. Many times in the day it
recurred to her, still a bewilderment and a puzzle, as far from
solution as ever. It was a tiny seed, whose name she did not dream
of; but it was dropped in soil where it would grow some day, --
forcing-house soil, and a bitter seed; and when it blossomed,
Ramona would have an enemy.
All unconscious, equally of Margarita's heart and her own,
Ramona proceeded to Felipe's room. Felipe was sleeping, the
Senora sitting by his side, as she had sat for days and nights,-- her
dark face looking thinner and more drawn each day; her hair
looking even whiter, if that could be; and her voice growing
hollow from faintness and sorrow.
"Dear Senora," whispered Ramona, "do go out for a few moments
while he sleeps, and let me watch,-- just on the walk in front of the
veranda. The sun is still lying there, bright and warm. You will be
ill if you do not have air."
The Senora shook her head. "My place is here," she answered,
speaking in a dry, hard tone. Sympathy was hateful to the Senora
Moreno; she wished neither to give it nor take it. "I shall not leave
him. I do not need the air."
Ramona had a cloth-of-gold rose in her hand. The veranda eaves
were now shaded with them, hanging down like a thick fringe of
golden tassels. It was the rose Felipe loved best. Stooping, she laid
it on the bed, near Felipe's head. "He will like to see it when he
wakes," she said.
The Senora seized it, and flung it far out in the room. "Take it
away! Flowers are poison when one is ill," she said coldly. "Have I
never told you that?"
"No, Senora," replied Ramona, meekly; and she glanced
involuntarily at the saucer of musk which the Senora kept on the
table close to Felipe's pillow.
"The musk is different," said the Senora, seeing the glance. "Musk
is a medicine; it revives."
Ramona knew, but she would have never dared to say, that Felipe
hated musk. Many times he had said to her how he hated the odor;
but his mother was so fond of it, that it must always be that the
veranda and the house would be full of it. Ramona hated it too. At
times it made her faint, with a deadly faintness. But neither she nor
Felipe would have confessed as much to the Senora; and if they
had, she would have thought it all a fancy.
"Shall I stay?" asked Ramona, gently.
"As you please," replied the Senora. The simple presence of
Ramona irked her now with a feeling she did not pretend to
analyze, and would have been terrified at if she had. She would not
have dared to say to herself, in plain words: "Why is that girl well
and strong, and my Felipe lying here like to die! If Felipe dies, I
cannot bear the sight of her. What is she, to be preserved of the
But that, or something like it, was what she felt whenever Ramona
entered the room; still more, whenever she assisted in ministering
to Felipe. If it had been possible, the Senora would have had no
hands but her own do aught for her boy. Even tears from Ramona
sometimes irritated her. "What does she know about loving Felipe!
He is nothing to her!" thought the Senora, strangely mistaken,
strangely blind, strangely forgetting how feeble is the tie of blood
in the veins by the side of love in the heart.
If into this fiery soul of the Senora's could have been dropped one
second's knowledge of the relative positions she and Ramona
already occupied in Felipe's heart, she would, on the spot, have
either died herself or have slain Ramona, one or the other. But no
such knowledge was possible; no such idea could have found
entrance into the Senora's mind. A revelation from Heaven of it
could hardly have reached even her ears. So impenetrable are the
veils which, fortunately for us all, are forever held by viewless
hands between us and the nearest and closest of our daily
At twilight of this day Felipe was restless and feverish again. He
had dozed at intervals all day long, but had had no refreshing
"Send for Alessandro," he said. "Let him come and sing to me."
"He has his violin now; he can play, if you would like that better,"
said Ramona; and she related what Alessandro had told her of the
messenger's having ridden to Temecula and back in a night and
half a day, to bring it.
"I wanted to pay the man," she said; "I knew of course your mother
would wish to reward him. But I fancy Alessandro was offended.
He answered me shortly that it was paid, and it was nothing."
"You couldn't have offended him more," said Felipe. "What a pity!
He is as proud as Lucifer himself, that Alessandro. You know his
father has always been the head of their band; in fact, he has
authority over several bands; General, they call it now, since they
got the title from the Americans; they used to call it Chief., and
until Father Peyri left San Luis Rey, Pablo was in charge of all the
sheep, and general steward and paymaster. Father Peyri trusted
him with everything; I've heard he would leave boxes full of
uncounted gold in Pablo's charge to pay off the Indians. Pablo
reads and writes, and is very well off; he has as many sheep as we
have, I fancy!"
"What!" exclaimed Ramona, astonished. "They all look as if they
"Oh, well, so they are," replied Felipe, "compared with us; but one
reason is, they share everything with each other. Old Pablo feeds
and supports half his village, they say. So long as he has anything,
he will never see one of his Indians hungry."
"How generous!" warmly exclaimed Ramona; "I think they are
better than we are, Felipe!"
"I think so, too," said Felipe. "That's what I have always said. The
Indians are the most generous people in the world. Of course they
have learned it partly from us; but they were very much so when
the Fathers first came here. You ask Father Salvierderra some day.
He has read all Father Junipero's and Father Crespi's diaries, and
he says it is wonderful how the wild savages gave food to every
one who came."
"Felipe. you are talking too much," said the Senora's voice, in the
doorway; and as she spoke she looked reproachfully at Ramona. If
she had said in words, "See how unfit you are to be trusted with
Felipe. No wonder I do not leave the room except when I must!"
her meaning could not have been plainer. Ramona felt it keenly,
and not without some misgiving that it was deserved.
"Oh, dear Felipe, has it hurt you?" she said timidly; and to the
Senora, "Indeed, Senora, he has been speaking but a very few
moments, very low."
"Go call Alessandro, Ramona, will you?" said Felipe. "Tell him to
bring his violin. I think I will go to sleep if he plays."
A long search Ramona had for Alessandro. Everybody had seen
him a few minutes ago, but nobody knew where he was now.
Kitchens, sheepfolds, vineyards, orchards, Juan Can's
bedchamber,-- Ramona searched them all in vain. At last, standing
at the foot of the veranda steps, and looking down the garden, she
thought she saw figures moving under the willows by the
"Can he be there?" she said. "What can he be doing there? Who is
it with him?" And she walked down the path, calling, "Alessandro!
At the first sound, Alessandro sprang from the side of his
companion, and almost before the second syllables had been said,
was standing face to face with Ramona.
"Here I am, Senorita. Does Senor Felipe want me? I have my
violin here. I thought perhaps he would like to have me play to him
in the twilight."
"Yes," replied Ramona, "he wishes to hear you. I have been
looking everywhere for you." As she spoke, she was half
unconsciously peering beyond into the dusk, to see whose figure it
was, slowly moving by the brook.
Nothing escaped Alessandro's notice where Ramona was
concerned. "It is Margarita," he said instantly. "Does the Senorita
want her? Shall I run and call her?"
"No," said Ramona, again displeased, she knew not why, nor in
fact knew she was displeased; "no, I was not looking for her. What
is she doing there?"
"She is washing," replied Alessandro, innocently.
"Washing at this time of day!" thought Ramona, severely. "A mere
pretext. I shall watch Margarita. The Senora would never allow
this sort of thing." And as she walked back to the house by
Alessandro's side, she meditated whether or no she would herself
speak to Margarita on the subject in the morning.
Margarita, in the mean time, was also having her season of
reflections not the pleasantest. As she soused her aprons up and
down in the water, she said to herself, "I may as well finish them
now I am here. How provoking! I've no more than got a word with
him, than she must come, calling him away. And he flies as if he
was shot on an arrow, at the first word. I'd like to know what's
come over the man, to be so different. If I could ever get a good
half-hour with him alone, I'd soon find out. Oh, but his eyes go
through me, through and through me! I know he's an Indian, but
what do I care for that. He's a million times handsomer than Senor
Felipe. And Juan Jose said the other day he'd make enough better
head shepherd than old Juan Can, if Senor Felipe'd only see it; and
why shouldn't he get to see it, if Alessandro's here all summer?"
And before the aprons were done, Margarita had a fine air-castle
up: herself and Alessandro married, a nice little house, children
playing in the sunshine below the artichoke-patch, she herself still
working for the Senora. "And the Senorita will perhaps marry
Senor Felipe," she added, her thoughts moving more hesitatingly.
"He worships the ground she walks on. Anybody with quarter of a
blind eye can see that; but maybe the Senora would not let him.
Anyhow, Senor Felipe is sure to have a wife, and so and so." It was
an innocent, girlish castle, built of sweet and natural longings, for
which no maiden, high or low, need blush; but its foundations
were laid in sand, on which would presently beat such winds and
floods as poor little Margarita never dreamed of.
The next day Margarita and Ramona both went about their day's
business with a secret purpose in their hearts. Margarita had made
up her mind that before night she would, by fair means or foul,
have a good long talk with Alessandro. "He was fond enough of
me last year, I know," she said to herself, recalling some of the
dances and the good-night leave-takings at that time. "It's because
he is so put upon by everybody now. What with Juan Can in one
bed sending for him to prate to him about the sheep, and Senor
Felipe in another sending for him to fiddle him to sleep, and all the
care of the sheep, it's a wonder he's not out of his mind altogether.
But I'll find a chance, or make one, before this day's sun sets. If I
can once get a half-hour with him, I'm not afraid after that; I know
the way it is with men!" said the confident Margarita, who, truth
being told, it must be admitted, did indeed know a great deal about
the way it is with men, and could be safely backed, in a fair field,
with a fair start, against any girl of her age and station in the
country. So much for Margarita's purpose, at the outset of a day
destined to be an eventful one in her life.
Ramona's purpose was no less clear. She had decided, after some
reflection, that she would not speak to the Senora about
Margarita's having been under the willows with Alessandro in the
previous evening, but would watch her carefully and see whether
there were any farther signs of her attempting to have clandestine
interviews with him.
This course she adopted, she thought, chiefly because of her
affection for Margarita, and her unwillingness to expose her to the
Senora's displeasure, which would be great, and terrible to bear.
She was also aware of an unwillingness to bring anything to light
which would reflect ever so lightly upon Alessandro in the
Senora's estimation. "And he is not really to blame," thought
Ramona, "if a girl follows him about and makes free with him. She
must have seen him at the willows, and gone down there on
purpose to meet him, making a pretext of the washing. For she
never in this world would have gone to wash in the dark, as he
must have known, if he were not a fool. He is not the sort of
person, it seems to me, to be fooling with maids. He seems as full
of grave thought as Father Salvierderra. If I see anything amiss in
Margarita to-day, I shall speak to her myself, kindly but firmly,
and tell her to conduct herself more discreetly."
Then, as the other maiden's had done, Ramona's thoughts, being
concentrated on Alessandro, altered a little from their first key,
and grew softer and more imaginative; strangely enough, taking
some of the phrases, as it were, out of the other maiden's mouth.
"I never saw such eyes as Alessandro has," she said. "I wonder any
girl should make free with him. Even I myself, when he fixes his
eyes on me, feel a constraint. There is something in them like the
eyes of a saint, so solemn, yet so mild. I am sure he is very good.
And so the day opened; and if there were abroad in the valley that
day a demon of mischief, let loose to tangle the skeins of human
affairs, things could not have fallen out better for his purpose than
they did; for it was not yet ten o'clock of the morning, when
Ramona, sitting at her embroidery in the veranda, half hid behind
the vines, saw Alessandro going with his pruning-knife in his hand
towards the artichoke-patch at the east of the garden, and joining
the almond orchard. "I wonder what he is going to do there," she
thought. "He can't be going to cut willows;" and her eyes followed
him till he disappeared among the trees.
Ramona was not the only one who saw this. Margarita, looking
from the east window of Father Salvierderra's room, saw the same
thing. "Now's my chance!" she said; and throwing a white reboso
coquettishly over her head, she slipped around the corner of the
house. She ran swiftly in the direction in which Alessandro had
gone. The sound of her steps reached Ramona, who, lifting her
eyes, took in the whole situation at a glance. There was no possible
duty, no possible message, which would take Margarita there.
Ramona's cheeks blazed with a disproportionate indignation. But
she bethought herself, "Ah, the Senora may have sent her to call
Alessandro!" She rose, went to the door of Felipe's room, and
looked in. The Senora was sitting in the chair by Felipe's bed, with
her eyes closed. Felipe was dozing. The Senora opened her eyes,
and looked inquiringly at Ramona.
"Do you know where Margarita is?" said Ramona.
"In Father Salvierderra's room, or else in the kitchen helping
Marda," replied the Senora, in a whisper. "I told her to help Marda
with the peppers this morning."
Ramona nodded, returned to the veranda, and sat down to decide
on her course of action. Then she rose again, and going to Father
Salvierderra's room, looked in. The room was still in disorder.
Margarita had left her work there unfinished. The color deepened
on Ramona's cheeks. It was strange how accurately she divined
each process of the incident. "She saw him from this window,"
said Ramona, "and has run after him. It is shameful. I will go and
call her back, and let her see that I saw it all. It is high time that
this was stopped."
But once back in the veranda, Ramona halted, and seated herself in
her chair again. The idea of seeming to spy was revolting to her.
"I will wait here till she comes back," she said, and took up her
embroidery. But she could not work. As the minutes went slowly
by, she sat with her eyes fixed on the almond orchard, where first
Alessandro and then Margarita had disappeared. At last she could
bear it no longer. It seemed to her already a very long time. It was
not in reality very long,-- a half hour or so, perhaps; but it was long
enough for Margarita to have made great headway, as she thought,
in her talk with Alessandro, and for things to have reached just the
worst possible crisis at which they could have been surprised,
when Ramona suddenly appeared at the orchard gate, saying in a
stern tone, "Margarita, you are wanted in the house!" At a bad
crisis, indeed, for everybody concerned. The picture which
Ramona had seen, as she reached the gate, was this: Alessandro,
standing with his back against the fence, his right hand hanging
listlessly down, with the pruning-knife in it, his left hand in the
hand of Margarita, who stood close to him, looking up in his face,
with a half-saucy, half-loving expression. What made bad matters
worse, was, that at the first sight of Ramona, Alessandro snatched
his hand from Margarita's, and tried to draw farther off from her,
looking at her with an expression which, even in her anger,
Ramona could not help seeing was one of disgust and repulsion.
And if Ramona saw it, how much more did Margarita! Saw it, as
only a woman repulsed in presence of another woman can see and
feel. The whole thing was over in the twinkling of an eye; the
telling it takes double, treble the time of the happening. Before
Alessandro was fairly aware what had befallen, Ramona and
Margarita were disappearing from view under the garden trellis,--
Ramona walking in advance, stately, silent, and Margarita
following, sulky, abject in her gait, but with a raging whirlwind in
It had taken only the twinkling of an eye, but it had told Margarita
the truth. Alessandro too.
"My God." he said, "the Senorita thought me making love to that
girl. May the fiends get her!The Senorita looked at me as if I were
a dog. How could she think a man would look at a woman after he
had once seen her! And I can never, never speak to her to tell her!
Oh, this cannot be borne!" And in his rage Alessandro threw his
pruning-knife whirling through the air so fiercely, it sank to the
hilt in one of the old olive-trees. He wished he were dead. He was
minded to flee the place. How could he ever look the Senorita in
the face again!
"Perdition take that girl!" he said over and over in his helpless
despair. An ill outlook for Margarita after this; and the girl had not
In Margarita's heart the pain was more clearly defined. She had
seen Ramona a half-second before Alessandro had; and dreaming
no special harm, except a little confusion at being seen thus
standing with him,-- for she would tell the Senorita all about it
when matters had gone a little farther, -- had not let go of
Alessandro's hand. But the next second she had seen in his face a
look; oh, she would never forget it, never! That she should live to
have had any man look at her like that! At the first glimpse of the
Senorita, all the blood in his body seemed rushing into his face,
and he had snatched his hand away,-- for it was Margarita herself
that had taken his hand, not he hers,-- had snatched his hand away,
and pushed her from him, till she had nearly fallen. All this might
have been borne, if it had been only a fear of the Senorita's seeing
them, which had made him do it. But Margarita knew a great deal
better than that. That one swift, anguished, shame-smitten,
appealing, worshipping look on Alessandro's face, as his eyes
rested on Ramona, was like a flash of light into Margarita's
consciousness. Far better than Alessandro himself, she now knew
his secret. In her first rage she did not realize either the gulf
between herself and Ramona, or that between Ramona and
Alessandro. Her jealous rage was as entire as if they had all been
equals together. She lost her head altogether, and there was
embodied insolence in the tone in which she said presently, "Did
the Senorita want me?"
Turning swiftly on her, and looking her full in the eye, Ramona
said: "I saw you go to the orchard, Margarita, and I knew what you
went for. I knew that you were at the brook last night with
Alessandro. All I wanted of you was, to tell you that if I see
anything more of this sort, I shall speak to the Senora."
"There is no harm," muttered Margarita, sullenly. "I don't know
what the Senorita means."
"You know very well, Margarita," retorted Ramona. "You know
that the Senora permits nothing of the kind. Be careful, now, what
you do." And with that the two separated, Ramona returning to the
veranda and her embroidery, and Margarita to her neglected duty
of making the good Father's bed. But each girl's heart was hot and
unhappy; and Margarita's would have been still hotter and
unhappier, had she heard the words which were being spoken on
the veranda a little later.
After a few minutes of his blind rage at Margarita, himself, and
fate generally, Alessandro, recovering his senses, had ingeniously
persuaded himself that, as the Senora's; and also the Senorita's
servant, for the time being, he owed it to them to explain the
situation in which he had just been found. Just what he was to say
he did not know; but no sooner had the thought struck him, than he
set off at full speed for the house, hoping to find Ramona on the
veranda, where he knew she spent all her time when not with
When Ramona saw him coming, she lowered her eyes, and was
absorbed in her embroidery. She did not wish to look at him.
The footsteps stopped. She knew he was standing at the steps. She
would not look up. She thought if she did not, he would go away.
She did not know either the Indian or the lover nature. After a
time, finding the consciousness of the soundless presence
intolerable, she looked up, and surprised on Alessandro's face a
gaze which had, in its long interval of freedom from observation,
been slowly gathering up into it all the passion of the man's soul,
as a burning-glass draws the fire of the sun's rays. Involuntarily a
low cry burst from Ramona's lips, and she sprang to her feet.
"Ah! did I frighten the Senorita? Forgive. I have been waiting here
a long time to speak to her. I wished to say --"
Suddenly Alessandro discovered that he did not know what he
wished to say.
As suddenly, Ramona discovered that she knew all he wished to
say. But she spoke not, only looked at him searchingly.
"Senorita," he began again, "I would never be unfaithful to my
duty to the Senora, and to you."
"I believe you, Alessandro," said Ramona. "It is not necessary to
At these words a radiant joy spread over Alessandro's face. He had
not hoped for this. He felt, rather than heard, that Ramona
understood him. He felt, for the first time, a personal relation
between himself and her.
"It is well," he said, in the brief phrase so frequent with his people.
"It is well." And with a reverent inclination of his head, he walked
away. Margarita, still dawdling surlily over her work in Father
Salvierderra's room, heard Alessandro's voice, and running to
discover to whom he was speaking, caught these last, words.
Peering from behind a curtain, she saw the look with which he said
them; saw also the expression on Ramona's face as she listened.
Margarita clenched her hands. The seed had blossomed. Ramona
had an enemy.
"Oh, but I am glad Father Salvierderra has gone!" said the girl,
bitterly. "He'd have had this out of me, spite of everything. I
haven't got to confess for a year, maybe; and much can happen in
FELIPE gained but slowly. The relapse was indeed, as Father
Salvierderra had said, worse than the original attack. Day after day
he lay with little apparent change; no pain, but a weakness so great
that it was almost harder to bear than sharp suffering would have
been. Nearly every day Alessandro was sent for to play or sing to
him. It seemed to be the only thing that roused him from his half
lethargic state. Sometimes he would talk with Alessandro on
matters relative to the estate, and show for a few moments
something like his old animation; but he was soon tired, and would
close his eyes, saying: "I will speak with you again about this,
Alessandro; I am going to sleep now. Sing."
The Senora, seeing Felipe's enjoyment of Alessandro's presence,
soon came to have a warm feeling towards him herself; moreover,
she greatly liked his quiet reticence. There was hardly a surer road
to the Senora's favor, for man or woman, than to be chary of
speech and reserved in demeanor. She had an instinct of kinship to
all that was silent, self-contained, mysterious, in human nature.
The more she observed Alessandro, the more she trusted and
approved him. Luckily for Juan Can, he did not know how matters
were working in his mistress's mind. If he had, he would have been
in a fever of apprehension, and would have got at swords' points
with Alessandro immediately. On the contrary, all unaware of the
real situation of affairs, and never quite sure that the Mexican he
dreaded might not any day hear of his misfortune, and appear,
asking for the place, he took every opportunity to praise
Alessandro to the Senora. She never visited his bedside that he had
not something to say in favor of the lad, as he called him.
"Truly, Senora," he said again and again, "I do marvel where the
lad got so much knowledge, at his age. He is like an old hand at
the sheep business. He knows more than any shepherd I have,-- a
deal more; and it is not only of sheep. He has had experience, too,
in the handling of cattle. Juan Jose has been beholden to him more
than once, already, for a remedy of which he knew not. And such
modesty, withal. I knew not that there were such Indians; surely
there cannot be many such."
"No, I fancy not," the Senora would reply, absently. "His father is a
man of intelligence, and has trained his son well."
"There is nothing he is not ready to do," continued Alessandro's
eulogist. "He is as handy with tools as if he had been 'prenticed to
a carpenter. He has made me a new splint for my leg, which was a
relief like salve to a wound, so much easier was it than before. He
is a good lad,-- a good lad."
None of these sayings of Juan's were thrown away on the Senora.
More and more closely she watched Alessandro; and the very thing
which Juan had feared, and which he had thought to avert by
having Alessandro his temporary substitute, was slowly coming to
pass. The idea was working in the Senora's mind, that she might do
a worse thing than engage this young, strong, active, willing man
to remain permanently in her employ. The possibility of an Indian's
being so born and placed that he would hesitate about becoming
permanently a servant even to the Senora Moreno, did not occur to
her. However, she would do nothing hastily. There would be plenty
of time before Juan Can's leg was well. She would study the young
man more. In the mean time, she would cause Felipe to think of
the idea, and propose it.
So one day she said to Felipe: "What a voice that Alessandro has,
Felipe. We shall miss his music sorely when he goes, shall we
"He's not going!" exclaimed Felipe, startled.
"Oh, no, no; not at present. He agreed to stay till Juan Can was
about again; but that will be not more than six weeks now, or
eight, I suppose. You forget how time has flown while you have
been lying here ill, my son."
"True, true!" said Felipe. "Is it really a month already?" and he
"Juan Can tells me that the lad has a marvellous knowledge for
one of his years," continued the Senora. "He says he is as skilled
with cattle as with sheep; knows more than any shepherd we have
on the place. He seems wonderfully quiet and well-mannered. I
never saw an Indian who had such behavior."
"Old Pablo is just like him," said Felipe. "It was natural enough,
living so long with Father Peyri. And I've seen other Indians, too,
with a good deal the same manner as Alessandro. It's born in
"I can't bear the idea of Alessandro's going away. But by that time
you will be well and strong," said the Senora; "you would not miss
him then, would you?"
"Yes, I would, too!" said Felipe, pettishly. He was still weak
enough to be childish. "I like him about me. He's worth a dozen
times as much as any man we've got. But I don't suppose money
could hire him to stay on any ranch."
"Were you thinking of hiring him permanently?" asked the Senora,
in a surprised tone. "I don't doubt you could do so if you wished.
They are all poor, I suppose; he would not work with the shearers
if he were not poor."
"Oh, it isn't that," said Felipe, impatiently. "You can't understand,
because you've never been among them. But they are just as proud
as we are. Some of them, I mean; such men as old Pablo. They
shear sheep for money just as I sell wool for money. There isn't so
much difference. Alessandro's men in the band obey him, and all
the men in the village obey Pablo, just as implicitly as my men
here obey me. Faith, much more so!" added Felipe, laughing. "You
can't understand it, mother, but it's so. I am not at all sure I could
offer Alessandro Assis money enough to tempt him to stay here as
The Senora's nostrils dilated in scorn. "No, I do not understand it,"
she said. "Most certainly I do not understand it. Of what is it that
these noble lords of villages are so proud? their ancestors,-- naked
savages less than a hundred years ago? Naked savages they
themselves too, to-day, if we had not come here to teach and
civilize them. The race was never meant for anything but servants.
That was all the Fathers ever expected to make of them,-- good,
faithful Catholics, and contented laborers in the fields. Of course
there are always exceptional instances, and I think, myself,
Alessandro is one. I don't believe, however, he is so exceptional,
but that if you were to offer him, for instance, the same wages you
pay Juan Can, he would jump at the chance of staying on the
"Well, I shall think about it," said Felipe. "I'd like nothing better
than to have him here always. He's a fellow I heartily like. I'll think
Which was all the Senora wanted done at present.
Ramona had chanced to come in as this conversation was going
on. Hearing Alessandro's name she seated herself at the window,
looking out, but listening intently. The month had done much for
Alessandro with Ramona, though neither Alessandro nor Ramona
knew it. It had done this much,-- that Ramona knew always when
Alessandro was near, that she trusted him, and that she had ceased
to think of him as an Indian any more than when she thought of
Felipe, she thought of him as a Mexican. Moreover, seeing the two
men frequently together, she had admitted to herself, as Margarita
had done before her, that Alessandro was far the handsomer man
of the two. This Ramona did not like to admit, but she could not
"I wish Felipe were as tall and strong as Alessandro," she said to
herself many a time. "I do not see why he could not have been. I
wonder if the Senora sees how much handsomer Alessandro is."
When Felipe said that he did not believe he could offer Alessandro
Assis money enough to tempt him to stay on the place, Ramona
opened her lips suddenly, as if to speak, then changed her mind,
and remained silent. She had sometimes displeased the Senora by
taking part in conversations between her and her son.
Felipe saw the motion, but he also thought it wiser to wait till after
his mother had left the room, before he asked Ramona what she
was on the point of saying. As soon as the Senora went out, he
said, "What was it, Ramona, you were going to say just now?"
Ramona colored. She had decided not to say it,
"Tell me, Ramona," persisted Felipe. "You were going to say
something about Alessandro's staying; I know you were."
Ramona did not answer. For the first time in her life she found
herself embarrassed before Felipe.
"Don't you like Alessandro?" said Felipe.
"Oh, yes!" replied Ramona, with instant eagerness. "It was not that
at all. I like him very much;" But then she stopped.
"Well, what is it, then? Have you heard anything on the place
about his staying?"
"Oh, no, no; not a word!" said Ramona. "Everybody understands
that he is here only till Juan Can gets well. But you said you did
not believe you could offer him money enough to tempt him to
"Well," said Felipe, inquiringly, "I do not. Do you?"
"I think he would like to stay," said Ramona, hesitatingly. "That
was what I was going to say."
"What makes you think so?" asked Felipe.
"I don't know," Ramona said, still more hesitatingly. Now that she
had said it, she was sorry. Felipe looked curiously at her. Hesitancy
like this, doubts, uncertainty as to her impressions, were not
characteristic of Ramona. A flitting something which was far from
being suspicion or jealousy, and yet was of kin to them both, went
through Felipe's mind,-- went through so swiftly that he was scarce
conscious of it; if he had been, he would have scorned himself.
Jealous of an Indian sheep-shearers Impossible! Nevertheless, the
flitting something left a trace, and prevented Felipe from forgetting
the trivial incident; and after this, it was certain that Felipe would
observe Ramona more closely than he had done; would weigh her
words and actions; and if she should seem by a shade altered in
either, would watch still more closely. Meshes were closing
around Ramona. Three watchers of her every look and act,--
Alessandro in pure love, Margarita in jealous hate, Felipe in love
and perplexity. Only the Senora observed her not. If she had,
matters might have turned out very differently, for the Senora was
clear-sighted, rarely mistaken in her reading of people's motives,
never long deceived; but her observing and discriminating powers
were not in focus, so far as Ramona was concerned. The girl was
curiously outside of the Senora's real life. Shelter, food, clothes, all
external needs, in so far as her means allowed, the Senora would,
without fail, provide for the child her sister had left in her hands as
a trust; but a personal relation with her, a mother's affection, or
even interest and acquaintance, no. The Senora had not that to
give. And if she had it not, was she to blame? What could she do?
Years ago Father Salvierderra had left off remonstrating with her
on this point. "Is there more I should do for the child? Do you see
aught lacking, aught amiss?" the Senora would ask,
conscientiously, but with pride. And the Father, thus inquired of,
could not point out a duty which had been neglected.
"You do not love her, my daughter," he said.
"No." Senora Moreno's truthfulness was of the adamantine order.
"No, I do not. I cannot. One cannot love by act of will."
"That is true," the Father would say sadly; "but affection may be
"Yes, if it exists," was the Senora's constant answer. "But in this
case it does not exist. I shall never love Ramona. Only at your
command, and to save my sister a sorrow, I took her. I will never
fail in my duty to her."
It was of no use. As well say to the mountain, "Be cast into the
sea," as try to turn the Senora's heart in any direction whither it did
not of itself tend. All that Father Salvierderra could do, was to love
Ramona the more himself, which he did heartily, and more and
more each year, and small marvel at it; for a gentler, sweeter
maiden never drew breath than this same Ramona, who had been
all these years, save for Felipe, lonely in the Senora Moreno's
Three watchers of Ramona now. If there had been a fourth, and
that fourth herself, matters might have turned out differently. But
how should Ramona watch? How should Ramona know? Except
for her two years at school with the nuns, she had never been away
from the Senora's house. Felipe was the only young man she had
known,-- Felipe, her brother since she was five years old.
There were no gayeties in the Senora Moreno's home. Felipe, when
he needed them, went one day's journey, or two, or three, to get
them; went as often as he liked. Ramona never went. How many
times she had longed to go to Santa Barbara, or to Monterey, or
Los Angeles; but to have asked the Senora's permission to
accompany her on some of her now infrequent journeys to these
places would have required more courage than Ramona possessed.
It was now three years since she left the convent school, but she
was still as fresh from the hands of the nuns as on the day when,
with loving tears, they had kissed her in farewell. The few
romances and tales and bits of verse she had read were of the most
innocent and old-fashioned kind, and left her hardly less childlike
than before. This childlikeness, combined with her happy
temperament, had kept her singularly contented in her monotonous
life. She had fed the birds, taken care of the flowers, kept the
chapel in order, helped in light household work, embroidered,
sung, and, as the Senora eight years before had bade her do, said
her prayers and pleased Father Salvierderra.
By processes strangely unlike, she and Alessandro had both been
kept strangely free from thoughts of love and of marriage,-- he by
living in the shadow, and she by living in the sun; his heart and
thoughts filled with perplexities and fears, hers filled by a placid
routine of light and easy tasks, and the outdoor pleasures of a
As the days went on, and Felipe still remained feeble, Alessandro
meditated a bold stroke. Each time that he went to Felipe's room to
sing or to play, he felt himself oppressed by the air. An hour of it
made him uncomfortable. The room was large, and had two
windows, and the door was never shut; yet the air seemed to
"I should be as ill as the Senor Felipe, if I had to stay in that room,
and a bed is a weakening thing, enough to pull the strongest man
down," said Alessandro to Juan Can one day. "Do you think I
should anger them if I asked them to let me bring Senor Felipe out
to the veranda and put him on a bed of my making? I'd wager my
head I'd put him on his feet in a week."
"And if you did that, you might ask the Senora for the half of the
estate, and get it, lad," replied Juan, Seeing the hot blood
darkening in Alessandro's face at his words, he hastened to add,
"Do not be so hot-blooded. I meant not that you would ask any
reward for doing it; I was only thinking what joy it would be to the
Senora to see Senor Felipe on his feet again. It has often crossed
my thoughts that if he did not get up from this sickness the Senora
would not be long behind him. It is but for him that she lives. And
who would have the estate in that case, I have never been able to
"Would it not be the Senorita?" asked Alessandro.
Juan Can laughed an ugly laugh. "Ha, ha! Let the Senora hear you