Part 3 out of 9
say that!" he said. "Faith, it will be little the Senorita gets more
than enough for her bread, may be, out of the Moreno estate. Hark
ye, Alessandro; if you will not tell, I will tell you the story of the
Senorita. You know she is not of the Moreno blood; is no relation
"Yes," said Alessandro; "Margarita has said to me that the Senorita
Ramona was only the foster-child of the Senora Moreno."
"Foster-child!" repeated Juan Can, contemptuously, "there is
something to the tale I know not, nor ever could find out; for when
I was in Monterey the Ortegna house was shut, and I could not get
speech of any of their people. But this much I know, that it was the
Senora Ortegna that had the girl first in keeping; and there was a
scandalous tale about her birth."
If Juan Can's eyes had not been purblind with old age, he would
have seen that in Alessandro's face which would have made him
choose his words more carefully. But he went on: "It was after the
Senora Ortegna was buried, that our Senora returned, bringing this
child with her; and I do assure you, lad, I have seen the Senora
look at her many a time as if she wished her dead. And it is a
shame, for she was always as fair and good a child as the saints
ever saw. But a stain on the blood, a stain on the blood, lad, is a
bitter thing in a house. This much I know, her mother was an
Indian. Once when I was in the chapel, behind the big Saint Joseph
there, I overheard the Senora say as much. She was talking to
Father Salvierderra, and she said, 'If the child had only the one
blood in her veins, it would be different. I like not these crosses
If Alessandro had been civilized, he would at this word "Indian"
have bounded to his feet. Being Alessandro, he stood if possible
stiller than before, and said in a low voice, "How know you it was
the mother that was the Indian?"
Juan laughed again, maliciously: "Ha, it is the Ortegna face she
has; and that Ortegna, why, he was the scandal byword of the
whole coast. There was not a decent woman would have spoken to
him, except for his wife's sake."
"But did you not say that it was in the Senora Ortegna's keeping
that the child was?" asked Alessandro, breathing harder and faster
each moment now; stupid old Juan Can so absorbed in relish of his
gossip, that he noticed nothing.
"Ay, ay. So I said," he went on; "and so it was. There be such
saints, you know; though the Lord knows if she had been minded
to give shelter to all her husband's bastards, she might have taken
lease of a church to hold them. But there was a story about a man's
coming with this infant and leaving it in the Senora's room; and
she, poor lady, never having had a child of her own, did warm to it
at first sight, and kept it with her to the last; and I wager me, a
hard time she had to get our Senora to take the child when she
died; except that it was to spite Ortegna, I think our Senora would
as soon the child had been dead."
"Has she not treated her kindly?" asked Alessandro, in a husky
Juan Can's pride resented this question. "Do you suppose the
Senora Moreno would do an unkindness to one under her roof?" he
asked loftily. "The Senorita has been always, in all things, like
Senor Felipe himself. It was so that she promised the Senora
Ortegna, I have heard."
"Does the Senorita know all this?" asked Alessandro.
Juan Can crossed himself. "Saints save us, no!" he exclaimed. "I'll
not forget, to my longest day, what it cost me, once I spoke in her
hearing, when she was yet small. I did not know she heard; but she
went to the Senora, asking who was her mother. And she said I had
said her mother was no good, which in faith I did, and no wonder.
And the Senora came to me, and said she, 'Juan Canito, you have
been a long time in our house; but if ever I hear of your
mentioning aught concerning the Senorita Ramona, on this estate
or anywhere else in the country, that day you leave my service!' --
And you'd not do me the ill-turn to speak of it, Alessandro, now?"
said the old man, anxiously. "My tongue runs away with me, lying
here on this cursed bed, with nothing to do,-- an active man like
"No, I'll not speak of it, you may be assured," said Alessandro,
walking away slowly.
"Here! Here!" called Juan. "What about that plan you had for
making a bed for Senor Felipe on the verandah Was it of raw-hide
"Ah, I had forgotten," said Alessandro, returning. "Yes, that was it.
There is great virtue in a raw-hide, tight stretched; my father says
that it is the only bed the Fathers would ever sleep on, in the
Mission days. I myself like the ground even better; but my father
sleeps always on the rawhide. He says it keeps him well. Do you
think I might speak of it to the Senora?"
"Speak of it to Senor Felipe himself," said Juan. "It will be as he
says. He rules this place now, from beginning to end; and it is but
yesterday I held him on my knee. It is soon that the old are pushed
to the wall, Alessandro."
"Nay, Juan Canito," replied Alessandro, kindly. "It is not so. My
father is many years older than you are, and he rules our people
to-day as firmly as ever. I myself obey him, as if I were a lad still."
"What else, then, but a lad do you call yourself, I wonder?" thought
Juan; but he answered, "It is not so with us. The old are not held in
"That is not well," replied Alessandro. "We have been taught
differently. There is an old man in our village who is many, many
years older than my father. He helped to carry the mortar at the
building of the San Diego Mission, I do not know how many years
ago. He is long past a hundred years of age. He is blind and
childish, and cannot walk; but he is cared for by every one. And
we bring him in our arms to every council, and set him by my
father's side. He talks very foolishly sometimes, but my father will
not let him be interrupted. He says it brings bad luck to affront the
aged. We will presently be aged ourselves."
"Ay, ay!" said Juan, sadly. "We must all come to it. It is beginning
to look not so far off to me!"
Alessandro stared, no less astonished at Juan Can's unconscious
revelation of his standard of measurement of years than Juan had
been at his. "Faith, old man, what name dost give to yourself
to-day!" he thought; but went on with the topic of the raw-hide
bed. "I may not so soon get speech with Senor Felipe," he said. "It
is usually when he is sleepy that I go to play for him or to sing. But
it makes my heart heavy to see him thus languishing day by day,
and all for lack of the air and the sun, I do believe, indeed, Juan."
"Ask the Senorita, then," said Juan. "She has his ear at all times."
Alessandro made no answer. Why was it that it did not please
him,-- this suggestion of speaking to Ramona of his plan for
Felipe's welfare? He could not have told; but he did not wish to
speak of it to her.
"I will speak to the Senora," he said; and as luck would have it, at
that moment the Senora stood in the doorway, come to ask after
Juan Can's health.
The suggestion of the raw-hide bed struck her favorably. She
herself had, in her youth, heard much of their virtues, and slept on
them. "Yes," she said, "they are good. We will try it. It was only
yesterday that Senor Felipe was complaining of the bed he lies on;
and when he was well, he thought nothing could be so good; he
brought it here, at a great price, for me, but I could not lie on it. It
seemed as if it would throw me off as soon as I lay down; it is a
cheating device, like all these innovations the Americans have
brought into the country. But Senor Felipe till now thought it a
luxury; now he tosses on it, and says it is throwing him all the
Alessandro smiled, in spite of his reverence for the Senora. "I once
lay down on one myself, Senora," he said, "and that was what I
said to my father. It was like a wild horse under me, making
himself ready to buck. I thought perhaps the invention was of the
saints, that men should not sleep too long."
"There is a pile of raw-hides," said Juan, "well cured, but not too
stiff; Juan Jose was to have sent them off to-day to be sold; one of
those will be just right. It must not be too dry."
"The fresher the better," said Alessandro, "so it have no dampness.
Shall I make the bed, Senora?" he asked, "and will the Senora
permit that I make it on the veranda? I was just asking Juan Can if
he thought I might be so bold as to ask you to let me bring Senor
Felipe into the outer air. With us, it is thought death to be shut up
in walls, as he has been so long. Not till we are sure to die, do we
go into the dark like that."
The Senora hesitated. She did not share Alessandro's prejudice in
favor of fresh air.
"Night and day both?" she said. "Surely it is not well to sleep out in
"That is the best of all, Senora," replied Alessandro, earnestly. "I
beg the Senora to try it. If Senor Felipe have not mended greatly
after the first night he had so slept, then Alessandro will be a liar."
"No, only mistaken," said the Senora, gently. She felt herself
greatly drawn to this young man by his devotion, as she thought, of
Felipe. "When I die and leave Felipe here," she had more than once
said to herself, "it would be a great good to him to have such a
servant as this on the place."
"Very well, Alessandro," she replied; "make the bed, and we will
try it at once."
This was early in the forenoon. The sun was still high in the west,
when Ramona, sitting as usual in the veranda, at her embroidery,
saw Alessandro coming, followed by two men, bearing the
"What can that be?" she said. "Some new invention of
Alessandro's, but for what?"
"A bed for the Senor Felipe, Senorita," said Alessandro, running
lightly up the steps. "The Senora has given permission to place it
here on the veranda, and Senor Felipe is to lie here day and night;
and it will be a marvel in your eyes how he will gain strength. It is
the close room which is keeping him weak now; he has no illness."
"I believe that is the truth, Alessandro," exclaimed Ramona; "I
have been thinking the same thing. My head aches after I am in
that room but an hour, and when I come here I am well. But the
nights too, Alessandro? Is it not harmful to sleep out in the night
"Why, Senorita?" asked Alessandro, simply.
And Ramona had no answer, except, "I do not know; I have always
"My people do not think so," replied Alessandro; "unless it is cold,
we like it better. It is good, Senorita, to look up at the sky in the
"I should think it would be," cried Ramona. "I never thought of it. I
should like to do it."
Alessandro was busy, with his face bent down, arranging the
bedstead in a sheltered corner of the veranda. If his face had been
lifted, Ramona would have seen a look on it that would have
startled her more than the one she had surprised a few days
previous, after the incident with Margarita. All day there had been
coming and going in Alessandro's brain a confused procession of
thoughts., vague yet intense. Put in words, they would have been
found to be little more than ringing changes on this idea: "The
Senorita Ramona has Indian blood in her veins. The Senorita
Ramona is alone. The Senora loves her not. Indian blood! Indian
blood!" These, or something like them, would have been the
words; but Alessandro did not put them in words. He only worked
away on the rough posts for Senor Felipe's bedstead, hammered,
fitted, stretched the raw-hide and made it tight and firm, driving
every nail, striking every blow, with a bounding sense of exultant
strength, as if there were suddenly all around him a new heaven
and a new earth.
Now, when he heard Ramona say suddenly in her girlish, eager
tone, "It must be; I never thought of it; I should like to try it," these
vague confused thoughts of the day, and the day's bounding sense
of exultant strength, combined in a quick vision before
Alessandro's eyes,-- a vision of starry skies overhead, Ramona and
himself together, looking up to them. But when he raised his head,
all he. said was, "There, Senorita! That is all firm, now. If Senor
Felipe will let me lay him an this bed, he will sleep as he has not
slept since he fell ill."
Ramona ran eagerly into Felipe's room, "The bed is all ready on
the veranda," she exclaimed. "Shall Alessandro come in and carry
Felipe looked up, startled. The Senora turned on Ramona that
expression of gentle, resigned displeasure, which always hurt the
girl's sensitive nature far worse than anger. "I had not spoken to
Felipe yet of the change, Ramona," she said. "I supposed that
Alessandro would have informed me when the bed was ready; I am
sorry you came in so suddenly. Felipe is still very weak, you see."
"What is it? What is it?" exclaimed Felipe, impatiently.
As soon as it was explained to him, he was like a child in his haste
to be moved.
"That's just what I needed!" he exclaimed. "This cursed bed racks
every bone in my body, and I have longed for the sun more than
ever a thirsty man longed for water. Bless you, Alessandro," he
went on, seeing Alessandro in the doorway. "Come here, and take
me up in those long arms of yours, and carry me quick. Already I
feel myself better."
Alessandro lifted him as if he were a baby; indeed, it was but a
light burden now, Felipe's wasted body, for a man much less strong
than Alessandro to lift.
Ramona, chilled and hurt, ran in advance, carrying pillows and
blankets. As she began to arrange them on the couch, the Senora
took them from her hands, saying, "I will arrange them myself;"
and waved Ramona away.
It was a little thing. Ramona was well used to such. Ordinarily it
would have given her no pain she could not conceal. But the girl's
nerves were not now in equilibrium. She had had hard work to
keep back her tears at the first rebuff. This second was too much.
She turned, and walked swiftly away, the tears rolling down her
Alessandro saw it; Felipe saw it.
To Felipe the sight was, though painful, not a surprise. He knew
but too well how often his mother hurt Ramona. All he thought
now, in his weakness, was, "Alas! what a pity my mother does not
To Alessandro the sight was the one drop too much in the cup. As
he stooped to lay Felipe on the bed, he trembled so that Felipe
looked up, half afraid.
"Am I still so heavy, Alessandro?" he said smiling.
"It is not your weight, Senor Felipe," answered Alessandro, off
guard, still trembling, his eyes following Ramona.
Felipe saw. In the next second, the eyes of the two young men met.
Alessandro's fell before Felipe's. Felipe gazed on, steadily, at
"Ah!" he said; and as he said it, he closed his eyes, and let his head
sink back into the pillow.
"Is that comfortable? Is that right?" asked the Senora, who had
"The first comfortable moment I have had, mother," said Felipe.
"Stay, Alessandro, I want to speak to you as soon as I am rested.
This move has shaken me up a good deal. Wait."
"Yes, Senor," replied Alessandro, and seated himself on the
"If you are to stay, Alessandro," said the Senora, "I will go and
look after some matters that need my attention. I feel always at
ease about Senor Felipe when you are with him. You will stay till I
"Yes, Senora," said Alessandro, in a tone cold as the Senora's own
had been to Ramona. He was no longer in heart the Senora
Moreno's servant. In fact, he was at that very moment revolving
confusedly in his mind whether there could be any possibility of
his getting away before the expiration of the time for which he had
agreed to stay.
It was a long time before Felipe opened his eyes. Alessandro
thought he was asleep.
At last Felipe spoke. He had been watching Alessandro's face for
some minutes. "Alessandro," he said.
Alessandro sprang to his feet, and walked swiftly to the bedside.
He did not know what the next word might be. He felt that the
Senor Felipe had seen straight into his heart in that one moment's
look, and Alessandro was preparing for anything.
"Alessandro," said Felipe, "my mother has been speaking to me
about your remaining with us permanently. Juan Can is now very
old, and after this accident will go on crutches the rest of his days,
poor soul! We are in great need of some man who understands
sheep, and the care of the place generally."
As he spoke, he watched Alessandro's face closely. Swift changing
expressions passed over it. Surprise predominated. Felipe
misunderstood the surprise. "I knew you would be surprised," he
said. "I told my mother that you would not think of it; that you had
stayed now only because we were in trouble."
Alessandro bowed his head gratefully. This recognition from
Felipe gave him pleasure.
"Yes, Senor," he said, "that was it. I told Father Salvierderra it was
not for the wages. But my father and I have need of all the money
we can earn. Our people are very poor, Senor. I do not know
whether my father would think I ought to take the place you offer
me, or not, Senor. It would be as he said. I will ask him."
"Then you would be willing to take it?" asked Felipe.
"Yes, Senor, if my father wished me to take it," replied
Alessandro, looking steadily and gravely at Felipe; adding, after a
second's pause, "if you are sure that you desire it, Senor Felipe, it
would be a pleasure to me to be of help to you."
And yet it was only a few moments ago that Alessandro had been
turning over in his mind the possibility of leaving the Senora
Moreno's service immediately. This change had not been a caprice,
not been an impulse of passionate desire to remain near Ramona;
it had come from a sudden consciousness that the Senor Felipe
would be his friend. And Alessandro was not mistaken.
WHEN the Senora came back to the veranda, she found Felipe
asleep, Alessandro standing at the foot of the bed, with his arms
crossed on his breast, watching him. As the Senora drew near,
Alessandro felt again the same sense of dawning hatred which had
seized him at her harsh speech to Ramona. He lowered his eyes,
and waited to be dismissed.
"You can go now, Alessandro," said the Senora. "I will sit here.
You are quite sure that it will be safe for Senor Felipe to sleep here
"It will cure him before many nights," replied Alessandro, still
without raising his eyes, and turning to go.
"Stay," said the Senora. Alessandro paused. "It will not do for him
to be alone here in the night, Alessandro.'
Alessandro had thought of this, and had remembered that if he lay
on the veranda floor by Senor Felipe's side, he would also lie under
the Senorita's window.
"No, Senora," he replied. "I will lie here by his side. That was what
I had thought, if the Senora is willing."
"Thank you, Alessandro," said the Senora, in a tone which would
have surprised poor Ramona, still sitting alone in her room, with
sad eyes. She did not know the Senora could speak thus sweetly to
any one but Felipe. "Thank you! You are kind. I will have a bed
made for you."
"Oh, no." cried Alessandro; "if the Senora will excuse me, I could
not lie on a bed. A raw-hide like Senor Felipe's, and my blanket,
are all I want. I could not lie on any bed."
"To be sure," thought the Senora; "what was I thinking of! How the
boy makes one forget he is an Indian! But the floor is harder than
the ground, Alessandro," she said kindly.
"No, Senora," he said, "it is all one; and to-night I will not sleep. I
will watch Senor Felipe, in case there should be a wind, or he
should wake and need something."
"I will watch him myself till midnight," said the Senora. "I should
feel easier to see how he sleeps at first."
It was the balmiest of summer nights, and as still as if no living
thing were on the earth. There was a full moon, which shone on
the garden, and on the white front of the little chapel among the
trees. Ramona, from her window, saw Alessandro pacing up and
down the walk. She had seen him spread down the raw-hide by
Felipe's bed, and had seen the Senora take her place in one of the
big carved chairs. She wondered if they were both going to watch;
she wondered why the Senora would never let her sit up and watch
"I am not of any use to anybody," she thought sadly. She dared not
go out and ask any questions about the arrangements for the night.
At supper the Senora had spoken to her only in the same cold and
distant manner which always made her dumb and afraid. She had
not once seen Felipe alone during the day. Margarita, who, in the
former times, -- ah, how far away those former times looked now!
-- had been a greater comfort to Ramona than she realized,--
Margarita now was sulky and silent, never came into Ramona's
presence if she could help it, and looked at her sometimes with an
expression which made Ramona tremble, and say to herself, "She
hates me; She has always hated me since that morning."
It had been a long, sad day to Ramona; and as she sat in her
window leaning her head against the sash, and looked at
Alessandro pacing up and down, she felt for the first time, and did
not shrink from it nor in any wise disavow or disguise it to herself,
that she was glad he loved her. More than this she did not think;
beyond this she did not go. Her mind was not like Margarita's, full
of fancies bred of freedom in intercourse with men. But distinctly,
tenderly glad that Alessandro loved her, and distinctly, tenderly
aware how well he loved her, she was, as she sat at her window
this night, looking out into the moonlit garden; after she had gone
to bed, she could still hear his slow, regular steps on the
garden-walk, and the last thought she had, as she fell asleep, was
that she was glad Alessandro loved her.
The moon had been long set, and the garden, chapel-front, trees,
vines, were all wrapped in impenetrable darkness, when Ramona
awoke, sat up in her bed, and listened. All was so still that the
sound of Felipe's low, regular breathing came in through her open
window. After hearkening to it for a few moments, she rose
noiselessly from her bed, and creeping to the window parted the
curtains and looked out; noiselessly, she thought; but it was not
noiselessly enough to escape Alessandro's quick ear; without a
sound, he sprang to his feet, and stood looking at Ramona's
"I am here, Senorita," he whispered. "Do you want anything?"
"Has he slept all night like this?" she whispered back.
"Yes, Senorita. He has not once moved."
"How good!" said Ramona. "How good!"
Then she stood still; she wanted to speak again to Alessandro, to
hear him speak again, but she could think of no more to say.
Because she could not, she gave a little sigh.
Alessandro took one swift step towards the window. "May the
saints bless you, Senorita," he whispered fervently.
"Thank you, Alessandro," murmured Ramona, and glided back to
her bed, but not to sleep. It lacked not much of dawn; as the first
faint light filtered through the darkness, Ramona heard the
Senora's window open.
"Surely she will not strike up the hymn and wake Felipe," thought
Ramona; and she sprang again to the window to listen. A few low
words between the Senora and Alessandro, and then the Senora's
window closed again, and all was still.
"I thought she would not have the heart to wake him," said
Ramona to herself. "The Virgin would have had no pleasure in our
song, I am sure; but I will say a prayer to her instead;" and she
sank on her knees at the head of her bed, and began saying a
whispered prayer. The footfall of a spider in Ramona's room had
not been light enough to escape the ear of that watching lover
outside. Again Alessandro's tall figure arose from the floor, turning
towards Ramona's window; and now the darkness was so far
softened to dusk, that the outline of his form could be seen.
Ramona felt it rather than saw it, and stopped praying. Alessandro
was sure he had heard her voice.
"Did the Senorita speak?" he whispered, his face close at the
curtain. Ramona, startled, dropped her rosary, which rattled as it
fell on the wooden floor.
"No, no, Alessandro," she said, "I did not speak." And she
trembled, she knew not why. The sound of the beads on the floor
explained to Alessandro what had been the whispered words he
"She was at her prayers," he thought, ashamed and sorry. "Forgive
me," he whispered, "I thought you called;" and he stepped back to
the outer edge of the veranda, and seated himself on the railing. He
would lie down no more. Ramona remained on her knees, gazing
at the window. Through the transparent muslin curtain the
dawning light came slowly, steadily, till at last she could see
Alessandro distinctly. Forgetful of all else, she knelt gazing at him.
The rosary lay on the floor, forgotten. Ramona would not finish
that prayer, that day. But her heart was full of thanksgiving and
gratitude, and the Madonna had a better prayer than any in the
The sun was up, and the canaries, finches, and linnets had made
the veranda ring with joyous racket, before Felipe opened his eyes.
The Senora had come and gone and come again, looking at him
anxiously, but he stirred not. Ramona had stolen timidly out,
glancing at Alessandro only long enough to give him one quick
smile, and bent over Felipe's bed, holding her breath, he lay so
"Ought he to sleep so long?" she whispered.
"Till the noon, it may be," answered Alessandro; "and when he
wakes, you will see by his eye that he is another man."
It was indeed so. When Felipe first looked about him, he laughed
outright with pure pleasure. Then catching sight of Alessandro at
the steps, he called, in a stronger voice than had yet been heard
from him, "Alessandro, you are a famous physician. Why couldn't
that fool from Ventura have known as much? With all his learning,
he had had me in the next world before many days, except for you.
Now, Alessandro, breakfast! I'm hungry. I had forgotten what the
thought of food was like to a hungry stomach. And plenty! plenty!"
he called, as Alessandro ran toward the kitchen. "Bring all they
When the Senora saw Felipe bolstered up in the bed, his eye
bright, his color good, his voice clear, eating heartily like his old
self, she stood like a statue in the middle of the veranda for a
moment; then turning to Alessandro, she said chokingly, "May
Heaven reward you!" and disappeared abruptly in her own room.
When she came out, her eyes were red. All day she moved and
spoke with a softness unwonted, indeed inconceivable. She even
spoke kindly and without constraint to Ramona. She felt like one
brought back from the dead.
After this, a new sort of life began for them all. Felipe's bed on the
veranda was the rallying point for everything and everybody.. The
servants came to look up at him, and wish him well, from the
garden-walk below. Juan Can, when he first hobbled out on the
stout crutches Alessandro had made him of manzanita wood,
dragged himself all the way round the house, to have a look at
Senor Felipe and a word with him. The Senora sat there, in the big
carved chair, looking like a sibyl with her black silk banded
head-dress severely straight across her brow, and her large dark
eyes gazing out, past Felipe, into the far south sky. Ramona lived
there too, with her embroidery or her book, sitting on cushions on
the floor in a corner, or at the foot of Felipe's bed, always so
placed, however,-- if anybody had noticed, but nobody did, -- so
placed that she could look at Felipe without looking full at the
Senora's chair, even if the Senora were not in it.
Here also came Alessandro many times a day,-- sometimes sent
for, sometimes of his own accord. He was freely welcome. When
he played or sang he sat on the upper step of the stairs leading
down to the garden. He also had a secret, which he thought all his
own, in regard to the positions he chose. He sat always, when
Ramona was there, in the spot which best commanded a view of
her face. The secret was not all his own. Felipe knew it. Nothing
was escaping Felipe in these days. A bomb-shell exploding at their
feet would not have more astonished the different members of this
circle, the Senora, Ramona, Alessandro, than it would to have been
made suddenly aware of the thoughts which were going on in
Felipe's mind now, from day to day, as he lay there placidly
looking at them all.
It is probable that if Felipe had been in full health and strength
when the revelation suddenly came to him that Alessandro loved
Ramona, and that Ramona might love Alessandro, he would have
been instantly filled with jealous antagonism. But at the time when
this revelation came, he was prostrate, feeble, thinking many times
a day that he must soon die; it did not seem to Felipe that a man
could be so weak as he was, and ever again be strong and well.
Side by side with these forebodings of his own death, always came
the thought of Ramona. What would become of her, if he were
gone? Only too well he knew that the girl's heart would be broken;
that she could not live on alone with his mother. Felipe adored his
mother; but he understood her feeling about Ramona.
With his feebleness had also come to Felipe, as is often the case in
long illnesses, a greater clearness of perception. Ramona had
ceased to puzzle him. He no longer asked himself what her long,
steady look into his eyes meant. He knew. He saw it mean that as a
sister she loved him, had always loved him, and could love him in
no other way. He wondered a little at himself that this gave him no
more pain; only a sort of sweet, mournful tenderness towards her.
It must be because he was so soon going out of the world, he
thought. Presently he began to be aware that a new quality was
coming into his love for her. He himself was returning to the
brother love which he had had for her when they were children
together, and in which he had felt no change until he became a
man and Ramona a woman. It was strange what a peace fell upon
Felipe when this was finally clear and settled in his mind. No
doubt he had had more misgiving and fear about his mother in the
matter than he had ever admitted to himself; perhaps also the
consciousness of Ramona's unfortunate birth had rankled at times;
but all this was past now. Ramona was his sister. He was her
brother. What course should he pursue in the crisis which he saw
drawing near? How could he best help Ramona? What would be
best for both her and Alessandro? Long before the thought of any
possible union between himself and Ramona had entered into
Alessandro's mind, still longer before it had entered into Ramona's
to think of Alessandro as a husband, Felipe had spent hours in
forecasting, plotting, and planning for them. For the first time in
his life he felt himself in the dark as to his mother's probable
action. That any concern as to Ramona's personal happiness or
welfare would influence her, he knew better than to think for a
moment. So far as that was concerned, Ramona might wander out
the next hour, wife of a homeless beggar, and his mother would
feel no regret. But Ramona had been the adopted daughter of the
Senora Ortegna, bore the Ortegna name, and had lived as
foster-child in the house of the Morenos. Would the Senora permit
such a one to marry an Indian?
Felipe doubted. The longer he thought, the more he doubted. The
more he watched, the more he saw that the question might soon
have to be decided. Any hour might precipitate it. He made plan
after plan for forestalling trouble, for preparing his mother; but
Felipe was by nature indolent, and now he was, in addition, feeble.
Day after day slipped by. It was exceedingly pleasant on the
veranda. Ramona was usually with him; his mother was gentler,
less sad, than he had ever seen her. Alessandro was always at hand,
ready for any service,-- in the field, in the house,-- his music a
delight, his strength and fidelity a repose, his personal presence
always agreeable. "If only my mother could think it," reflected
Felipe, "it would be the best thing, all round, to have Alessandro
stay here as overseer of the place, and then they might be married.
Perhaps before the summer is over she will come to see it so."
And the delicious, languid, semi-tropic summer came hovering
over the valley. The apricots turned golden, the peaches glowed,
the grapes filled and hardened, like opaque emeralds hung thick
under the canopied vines. The garden was a shade brown, and the
roses had all fallen; but there were lilies, and orange-blossoms,
and poppies, and carnations, and geraniums in the pots, and
musk,-- oh, yes, ever and always musk. It was like an enchanter's
spell, the knack the Senora had of forever keeping relays of musk
to bloom all the year; and it was still more like an enchanter's
spell, that Felipe would never confess that he hated it.' But the bees
liked it, and the humming-birds,-- the butterflies also; and the air
was full of them. The veranda was a quieter place now as the
season's noon grew near. The linnets were all nesting, and the
finches and the canaries too; and the Senora spent hours, every
day, tirelessly feeding the mothers. The vines had all grown and
spread out to their thickest; no need any longer of the gay blanket
Alessandro had pinned up that first morning to keep the sun off
What was the odds between a to-day and a to-morrow in such a
spot as this? "To-morrow," said Felipe, "I will speak to my
mother," and "to-morrow," and "to-morrow;" but he did not.
There was one close observer of these pleasant veranda days that
Felipe knew nothing about. That was Margarita. As the girl came
and went about her household tasks, she was always on the watch
for Alessandro, on the watch for Ramona. She was biding her
time. Just what shape her revenge was going to take, she did not
know. It was no use plotting. It must be as it fell out; but that the
hour and the way for her revenge would come she never doubted.
When she saw the group on the veranda, as she often did, all
listening to Alessandro's violin, or to his singing, Alessandro
himself now at his ease and free in the circle, as if he had been
there always, her anger was almost beyond bounds.
"Oh, ho! like a member of the family; quite so!" she sneered. "It is
new times when a head shepherd spends his time with the ladies of
the house, and sits in their presence like a guest who is invited! We
shall see; we shall see what comes of all this!" And she knew not
which she hated the more of the two, Alessandro or Ramona.
Since the day of the scene at the artichoke-field she had never
spoken to Alessandro, and had avoided, so far as was possible,
seeing him. At first Alessandro was sorry for this, and tried to be
friendly with her. As soon as he felt assured that the incident had
not hurt him at all in the esteem of Ramona, he began to be sorry
for Margarita. "A man should not be rude to any maiden," he
thought; and he hated to remember how he had pushed Margarita
from him, and snatched his hand away, when he had in the outset
made no objection to her taking it. But Margarita's resentment was
not to be appeased. She understood only too clearly how little
Alessandro's gentle advances meant, and she would none of them.
"Let him go to his Senorita," she said bitterly, mocking the
reverential tone in which she had overheard him pronounce the
word. "She is fond enough of him, if only the fool had eyes to see
it. She'll be ready to throw herself at his head before long, if this
kind of thing keeps up. 'It is not well to speak thus freely of young
men, Margarita!' Ha, ha! Little I thought that day which way the
wind set in my mistress's temper! I'll wager she reproves me no
more, under this roof or any other! Curse her! What did she want
of Alessandro, except to turn his head, and then bid him go his
To do Margarita justice, she never once dreamed of the possibility
of Ramona's wedding Alessandro. A clandestine affair, an intrigue
of more or less intensity, such as she herself might have carried on
with any one of the shepherds,-- this was the utmost stretch of
Margarita's angry imaginations in regard to her young mistress's
liking for Alessandro. There was not, in her way of looking at
things, any impossibility of such a thing as that. But marriage! It
might be questioned whether that idea would have been any more
startling to the Senora herself than to Margarita.
Little had passed between Alessandro and Ramona which
Margarita did not know. The girl was always like a sprite,-- here,
there, everywhere, in an hour, and with eyes which, as her mother
often told her, saw on all sides of her head. Now, fired by her new
purpose, new passion, she moved swifter than ever, and saw and
heard even more, There were few hours of any day when she did
not know to a certainty where both Alessandro and Ramona were;
and there had been few meetings between them which she had not
either seen or surmised.
In the simple life of such a household as the Senora's, it was not
strange that this was possible; nevertheless, it argued and involved
untiring vigilance on Margarita's part. Even Felipe, who thought
himself, from his vantage-post of observation on the veranda, and
from his familiar relation with Ramona, well informed of most
that happened, would have been astonished to hear all that
Margarita could have told him. In the first days Ramona herself
had guilelessly told him much,-- had told him how Alessandro,
seeing her trying to sprinkle and bathe and keep alive the green
ferns with which she had decorated the chapel for Father
Salvierderra's coming, had said: "Oh, Senorita, they are dead! Do
not take trouble with them! I will bring you fresh ones;" and the
next morning she had found, lying at the chapel door, a pile of
such ferns as she had never before seen; tall ones, like
ostrich-plumes, six and eight feet high; the feathery maidenhair,
and the gold fern, and the silver, twice as large as she ever had
found them. The chapel was beautiful, like a conservatory, after
she had arranged them in vases and around the high candlesticks.
It was Alessandro, too, who had picked up in the artichoke-patch
all of the last year's seed-vessels which had not been trampled
down by the cattle, and bringing one to her, had asked shyly if she
did not think it prettier than flowers made out of paper. His people,
he said, made wreaths of them. And so they were, more beautiful
than any paper flowers which ever were made,-- great soft round
disks of fine straight threads like silk, with a kind of saint's halo
around them of sharp, stiff points, glossy as satin, and of a lovely
creamy color. It was the strangest thing in the world nobody had
ever noticed them as they lay there on the ground. She had put a
great wreath of them around Saint Joseph's head, and a bunch in
the Madonna's hand; and when the Senora saw them, she
exclaimed in admiration, and thought they must have been made
of silk and satin.
And Alessandro had brought her beautiful baskets, made by the
Indian women at Pala, and one which had come from the North,
from the Tulare country; it had gay feathers woven in with the
reeds,-- red and yellow, in alternate rows, round and round. It was
like a basket made out of a bright-colored bird.
And a beautiful stone bowl Alessandro had brought her, glossy
black, that came all the way from Catalina Island; a friend of
Alessandro's got it. For the first few weeks it had seemed as if
hardly a day passed that there was not some new token to be
chronicled of Alessandro's thoughtfulness and good-will. Often,
too, Ramona had much to tell that Alessandro had said,-- tales of
the old Mission days that he had heard from his father; stories of
saints, and of the early Fathers, who were more like saints than
like men, Alessandro said,-- Father Junipero, who founded the first
Missions, and Father Crespi, his friend. Alessandro's grandfather
had journeyed with Father Crespi as his servant, and many a
miracle he had with his own eyes seen Father Crespi perform.
There was a cup out of which the Father always took his chocolate
for breakfast,-- a beautiful cup, which was carried in a box, the
only luxury the Father had; and one morning it was broken, and
everybody was in terror and despair. "Never mind, never mind,"
said the Father; "I will make it whole;" and taking the two pieces
in his hands, he held them tight together, and prayed over them,
and they became one solid piece again, and it was used all through
the journey, just as before.
But now, Ramona never spoke voluntarily of Alessandro. To
Felipe's sometimes artfully put questions or allusions to him, she
made brief replies, and never continued the topic; and Felipe had
observed another thing: she now rarely looked at Alessandro.
When he was speaking to others she kept her eyes on the ground. If
he addressed her, she looked quickly up at him, but lowered her
eyes after the first glance. Alessandro also observed this, and was
glad of it. He understood it. He knew how differently she could
look in his face in the rare moments when they were alone
together. He fondly thought he alone knew this; but he was
mistaken. Margarita knew. She had more than once seen it.
It had happened more than once that he had found Ramona at the
willows by the brook, and had talked with her there. The first time
it happened, it was a chance; after that never a chance again, for
Alessandro went often seeking the spot, hoping to find her. In
Ramona's mind too, not avowed, but half consciously, there was, if
not the hope of seeing him there, at least the memory that it was
there they had met. It was a pleasant spot,-- cool and shady even at
noon, and the running water always full of music. Ramona often
knelt there of a morning, washing out a bit of lace or a
handkerchief; and when Alessandro saw her, it went hard with him
to stay away. At such moments the vision returned to him vividly
of that first night when, for the first second, seeing her face in the
sunset glow, he had thought her scarce mortal. It was not that he
even now thought her less a saint; but ah, how well he knew her to
be human! He had gone alone in the dark to this spot many a time,
and, lying on the grass, put his hands into the running water, and
played with it dreamily, thinking, in his poetic Indian fashion,
thoughts like these: "Whither have gone the drops that passed
beneath her hands, just here? These drops will never find those in
the sea; but I love this water!"
Margarita had seen him thus lying, and without dreaming of the
refined sentiment which prompted his action, had yet groped
blindly towards it, thinking to herself: "He hopes his Senorita will
come down to him there. A nice place it is for a lady to meet her
lover, at the washing-stones! It will take swifter water than any in
that brook, Senorita Ramona, to wash you white in the Senora's
eyes, if ever she come upon you there with the head shepherd,
making free with him, may be! Oh, but if that could only happen,
I'd die content!" And the more Margarita watched, the more she
thought it not unlikely that it might turn out so. It was oftener at
the willows than anywhere else that Ramona and Alessandro met;
and, as Margarita noticed with malicious satisfaction, they talked
each time longer, each time parted more lingeringly. Several times
it had happened to be near supper-time; and Margarita, with one
eye on the garden-walk, had hovered restlessly near the Senora,
hoping to be ordered to call the Senorita to supper.
"If but I could come on them of a sudden, and say to her as she did
to me, 'You are wanted in the house'! Oh, but it would do my soul
good! I'd say it so it would sting like a lash laid on both their faces!
It will come! It will come! It will be there that she'll be caught one
of these fine times she's having! I'll wait! It will come!"
IT came. And when it came, it fell out worse for Ramona than
Margarita's most malicious hopes had pictured; but Margarita had
no hand in it. It was the Senora herself.
Since Felipe had so far gained as to be able to be dressed, sit in his
chair on the veranda, and walk about the house and garden a little,
the Senora, at ease in her mind about him, had resumed her old
habit of long, lonely walks on the place. It had been well said by
her servants, that there was not a blade of grass on the estate that
the Senora had not seen. She knew every inch of her land. She had
a special purpose in walking over it now. She was carefully
examining to see whether she could afford to sell to the Ortegas a
piece of pasture-land which they greatly desired to buy, as it joined
a pasturage tract of theirs. This bit of land lay farther from the
house than the Senora realized, and it had taken more time than
she thought it would, to go over it; and it was already sunset on
this eventful day, when, hurrying home, she turned off from the
highway into the same shortcut path in which Father Salvierderra
had met Ramona in the spring. There was no difficulty now in
getting through the mustard tangle. It was parched and dry, and
had been trampled by cattle. The Senora walked rapidly, but it was
dusky twilight when she reached the willows; so dusky that she
saw nothing -- and she stepped so lightly on the smooth brown
path that she made no sound -- until suddenly, face to face with a
man and a woman standing locked in each other's arms, she halted,
stepped back a pace, gave a cry of surprise, and, in the same
second, recognized the faces of the two, who, stricken dumb, stood
apart, each gazing into her face with terror.
Strangely enough, it was Ramona who spoke first. Terror for
herself had stricken her dumb; terror for Alessandro gave her a
"Senora," she began,
"Silence! Shameful creature!" cried the Senora. "Do not dare to
speak! Go to your room!"
Ramona did not move.
"As for you," the Senora continued, turning to Alessandro, "you,"
-- she was about to say, "You are discharged from my service from
this hour," but recollecting herself in time, said,-- "you will answer
to Senor Felipe. Out of my sight!" And the Senora Moreno
actually, for once in her life beside herself with rage, stamped her
foot on the ground. "Out of my sight!" she repeated.
Alessandro did not stir, except to turn towards Ramona with an
inquiring look. He would run no risk of doing what she did not
wish. He had no idea what she would think it best to do in this
"Go, Alessandro," said Ramona, calmly, still looking the Senora
full in the eye. Alessandro obeyed; before the words had left her
lips, he had walked away.
Ramona's composure, and Alessandro's waiting for further orders
than her own before stirring from the spot, were too much for
Senora Moreno. A wrath, such as she had not felt since she was
young, took possession of her. As Ramona opened her lips again,
saying, "Senora," the Senora did a shameful deed; she struck the
girl on the mouth, a cruel blow.
"Speak not to me!" she cried again; and seizing her by the arm, she
pushed rather than dragged her up the garden-walk.
"Senora, you hurt my arm," said Ramona, still in the same calm
voice. "You need not hold me. I will go with you. I am not afraid."
Was this Ramona? The Senora, already ashamed, let go the arm,
and stared in the girl's face. Even in the twilight she could see
upon it an expression of transcendent peace, and a resolve of
which no one would have thought it capable. "What does this
mean?" thought the Senora, still weak, and trembling all over,
from rage. "The hussy, the hypocrite!" and she seized the arm
This time Ramona did not remonstrate, but submitted to being led
like a prisoner, pushed into her own room, the door slammed
violently and locked on the outside.
All of which Margarita saw. She had known for an hour that
Ramona and Alessandro were at the willows, and she had been
consumed with impatience at the Senora's prolonged absence.
More than once she had gone to Felipe, and asked with assumed
interest if he were not hungry, and if he and the Senorita would not
have their supper.
"No, no, not till the Senora returns," Felipe had answered. He, too,
happened this time to know where Ramona and Alessandro were.
He knew also where the Senora had gone, and that she would be
late home; but he did not know that there would be any chance of
her returning by way of the willows at the brook; if he had known
it, he would have contrived to summon Ramona.
When Margarita saw Ramona shoved into her room by the pale
and trembling Senora, saw the key turned, taken out, and dropped
into the Senora's pocket, she threw her apron over her head, and
ran into the back porch. Almost a remorse seized her. She
remembered in a flash how often Ramona had helped her in times
gone by,-- sheltered her from the Senora's displeasure. She
recollected the torn altar-cloth. "Holy Virgin! what will be done to
her now?" she exclaimed, under her breath. Margarita had never
conceived of such an extremity as this. Disgrace, and a sharp
reprimand, and a sundering of all relations with Alessandro, -- this
was all Margarita had meant to draw down on Ramona's head. But
the Senora looked as if she might kill her.
"She always did hate her, in her heart," reflected Margarita; "she
shan't starve her to death, anyhow. I'll never stand by and see that.
But it must have been something shameful the Senora saw, to have
brought her to such a pass as this;" and Margarita's jealousy again
got the better of her sympathy. "Good enough for her. No more
than she deserved. An honest fellow like Alessandro, that would
make a good husband for any girl!" Margarita's short-lived remorse
was over. She was an enemy again.
It was an odd thing, how identical were Margarita's and the
Senora's view and interpretation of the situation. The Senora
looking at it from above, and Margarita looking at it from below,
each was sure, and they were both equally sure, that it could be
nothing more nor less than a disgraceful intrigue. Mistress and
maid were alike incapable either of conjecturing or of believing
As ill luck would have it,-- or was it good luck? -- Felipe also had
witnessed the scene in the garden-walk. Hearing voices, he had
looked out of his window, and, almost doubting the evidence of his
senses, had seen his mother violently dragging Ramona by the
arm,-- Ramona pale, but strangely placid; his mother with rage and
fury in her white face. The sight told its own tale to Felipe.
Smiting his forehead with his hand, he groaned out: "Fool that I
was, to let her be surprised; she has come on them unawares; now
she will never, never forgive it!" And Felipe threw himself on his
bed, to think what should be done. Presently he heard his mother's
voice, still agitated, calling his name. He remained silent, sure she
would soon seek him in his room. When she entered, and, seeing
him on the bed, came swiftly towards him, saying, "Felipe, dear,
are you ill?" he replied in a feeble voice, "No, mother, only tired a
little to-night;" and as she bent over him, anxious, alarmed, he
threw his arms around her neck and kissed her warmly. "Mother
mia!" he said passionately, "what should I do without you?" The
caress, the loving words, acted like oil on the troubled waters.
They restored the Senora as nothing else could. What mattered
anything, so long as she had her adoring and adorable son! And she
would not speak to him, now that he was so tired, of this
disgraceful and vexing matter of Alessandro. It could wait till
morning. She would send him his supper in his room, and he
would not miss Ramona, perhaps.
"I will send your supper here, Felipe," she said;. "you must not
overdo; you have been walking too much. Lie still." And kissing
him affectionately, she went to the dining-room, where Margarita,
vainly trying to look as if nothing had happened, was standing,
ready to serve supper. When the Senora entered, with her
countenance composed, and in her ordinary tones said, "Margarita,
you can take Senor Felipe's supper into his room; he is lying down,
and will not get up; he is tired," Margarita was ready to doubt if
she had not been in a nightmare dream. Had she, or had she not,
within the last half-hour, seen the Senora, shaking and speechless
with rage, push the Senorita Ramona into her room, and lock her
up there? She was so bewildered that she stood still and gazed at
the Senora, with her mouth wide open.
"What are you staring at, girl?" asked the Senora, so sharply that
"Oh, nothing, nothing, Senora! And the Senorita, will she come to
supper? Shall I call her?" she said.
The Senora eyed her. Had she seen? Could she have seen? The
Senora Moreno was herself again. So long as Ramona was under
her roof, no matter what she herself might do or say to the girl, no
servant should treat her with disrespect, or know that aught was
"The Senorita is not well," she said coldly. "She is in her room. I
myself will take her some supper later, if she wishes it. Do not
disturb her." And the Senora returned to Felipe.
Margarita chuckled inwardly, and proceeded to clear the table she
had spread with such malicious punctuality two short hours before.
In those two short hours how much had happened!
"Small appetite for supper will our Senorita have, I reckon," said
the bitter Margarita, "and the Senor Alessandro also! I'm curious to
see how he will carry himself."
But her curiosity was not gratified. Alessandro came not to the
kitchen. The last of the herdsmen had eaten and gone; it was past
nine o'clock, and no Alessandro. Slyly Margarita ran out and
searched in some of the places where she knew he was in the habit
of going; but Alessandro was not to be found. Once she brushed so
near his hiding-place that he thought he was discovered, and was
on the point of speaking, but luckily held his peace, and she passed
on. Alessandro was hid behind the geranium clump at the chapel
door; sitting on the ground, with his knees drawn up to his chin,
watching Ramona's window. He intended to stay there all night.
He felt that he might be needed: if Ramona wanted him, she would
either open her window and call, or would come out and go down
through the garden-walk to the willows. In either case, he would
see her from the hiding-place he had chosen. He was racked by his
emotions; mad with joy one minute, sick at heart with misgiving
the next. Ramona loved him. She had told him so. She had said she
would go away with him and be his wife. The words had but just
passed her lips, at that dreadful moment when the Senora appeared
in their presence. As he lived the scene over again, he
re-experienced the joy and the terror equally.
What was not that terrible Senora capable of doing? Why did she
look at him and at Ramona with such loathing scorn? Since she
knew that the Senorita was half Indian, why should she think it so
dreadful a thing for her to marry an Indian man? It did not once
enter into Alessandro's mind, that the Senora could have had any
other thought, seeing them as she did, in each other's arms. And
again what had he to give to Ramona? Could she live in a house
such as he must live in,-- live as the Temecula women lived? No!
for her sake he must leave his people; must go to some town, must
do -- he knew not what -- something to earn more money. Anguish
seized him as he pictured to himself Ramona suffering
deprivations. The more he thought of the future in this light, the
more his joy faded and his fear grew. He had never had sufficient
hope that she could be his, to look forward thus to the practical
details of life; he had only gone on loving, and in a vague way
dreaming and hoping; and now,-- now, in a moment, all had been
changed; in a moment he had spoken, and she had spoken, and
such words once spoken, there was no going back; and he had put
his arms around her, and felt her head on his shoulder, and kissed
her! Yes, he, Alessandro, had kissed the Senorita Ramona, and she
had been glad of it, and had kissed him on the lips, as no maiden
kisses a man unless she will wed with him,-- him, Alessandro! Oh,
no wonder the man's brain whirled, as he sat there in the silent
darkness, wondering, afraid, helpless; his love wrenched from him,
in the very instant of their first kiss,-- wrenched from him, and he
himself ordered, by one who had the right to order him, to begone!
What could an Indian do against a Moreno!
Would Felipe help him? Ay, there was Felipe! That Felipe was his
friend, Alessandro knew with a knowledge as sure as the wild
partridge's instinct for the shelter of her brood; but could Felipe
move the Senora? Oh, that terrible Senora! What would become of
As in the instant of drowning, men are said to review in a second
the whole course of their lives, so in this supreme moment of
Alessandro's love there flashed through his mind vivid pictures of
every word and act of Ramona's since he first knew her. He
recollected the tone in which she had said, and the surprise with
which he heard her say it, at the time of Felipe's fall, "You are
Alessandro, are you not?" He heard again her soft-whispered
prayers the first night Felipe slept on the veranda. He recalled her
tender distress because the shearers had had no dinner; the evident
terribleness to her of a person going one whole day without food.
"O God! will she always have food each day if she comes with
me?" he said. And at the bare thought he was ready to flee away
from her forever. Then he recalled her look and her words only a
few hours ago, when he first told her he loved her; and his heart
took courage. She had said, "I know you love me, Alessandro, and
I am glad of it," and had lifted her eyes to his, with all the love that
a woman's eyes can carry; and when he threw his arms around her,
she had of her own accord come closer, and laid one hand on his
shoulder, and turned her face to his. Ah, what else mattered! There
was the whole world; if she loved him like this, nothing could
make them wretched; his love would be enough for her,-- and for
him hers was an empire.
It was indeed true, though neither the Senora nor Margarita would
have believed it, that this had been the first word of love ever
spoken between Alessandro and Ramona, the first caress ever
given, the first moment of unreserve. It had come about, as lovers'
first words, first caresses, are so apt to do, unexpectedly, with no
more premonition, at the instant, than there is of the instant of the
opening of a flower. Alessandro had been speaking to Ramona of
the conversation Felipe had held with him in regard to remaining
on the place, and asked her if she knew of the plan.
"Yes," she said; "I heard the Senora talking about it with Felipe,
some days ago."
"Was she against my staying?" asked Alessandro, quickly.
"I think not," said Ramona, "but I am not sure. It is not easy to be
sure what the Senora wishes, till afterward. It was Felipe that
This somewhat enigmatical statement as to the difficulty of
knowing the Senora's wishes was like Greek to Alessandro's mind.
"I do not understand, Senorita," he said. "What do you mean by
"I mean," replied Ramona, "that the Senora never says she wishes
anything; she says she leaves everything to Felipe to decide, or to
Father Salvierderra. But I think it is always decided as she wishes
to have it, after all. The Senora is wonderful, Alessandro; don't you
"She loves Senor Felipe very much," was Alessandro's evasive
"Oh, yes," exclaimed Ramona. "You do not begin to know how
much. She does not love any other human being. He takes it all.
She hasn't any left. If he had died, she would have died too. That is
the reason she likes you so much; she thinks you saved Felipe's
life. I mean, that is one reason," added Ramona, smiling, and
looking up confidingly at Alessandro, who smiled back, not in
vanity, but honest gratitude that the Senorita was pleased to
intimate that he was not unworthy of the Senora's regard.
"I do not think she likes me," he said. "I cannot tell why; but I do
not think she likes any one in the world. She is not like any one I
ever saw, Senorita."
"No," replied Ramona, thoughtfully. "She is not. I am, oh, so afraid
of her, Alessandro! I have always been, ever since I was a little
girl. I used to think she hated me; but now I think she does not care
one way or the other, if I keep out of her way."
While Ramona spoke these words, her eyes were fixed on the
running water at her feet. If she had looked up, and seen the
expression in Alessandro's eyes as he listened, the thing which was
drawing near would have drawn near faster, would have arrived at
that moment; but she did not look up. She went on, little dreaming
how hard she was making it for Alessandro.
"Many's the time I've come down here, at night, to this brook, and
looked at it, and wished it was a big river, so I could throw myself
in, and be carried away out to the sea, dead. But it is a fearful sin,
Father Salvierderra says, to take one's own life; and always the
next morning, when the sun came out, and the birds sang, I've been
glad enough I had not done it. Were you ever so unhappy as that,
"No, Senorita, never," replied Alessandro; "and it is thought a great
disgrace, among us, to kill one's self. I think I could never do it.
But, oh, Senorita, it is a grief to think of your being unhappy. Will
you always be so? Must you always stay here?"
"Oh, but I am not always unhappy!" said Ramona, with her sunny
little laugh. "Indeed, I am generally very happy. Father
Salvierderra says that if one does no sin, one will be always happy,
and that it is a sin not to rejoice every hour of the day in the sun
and the sky and the work there is to do; and there is always plenty
of that." Then, her face clouding, she continued: "I suppose I shall
always stay here. I have no other home; you know I was the
Senora's sister's adopted child. She died when I was little, and the
Senora kindly took me. Father Salvierderra says I must never
forget to be grateful to her for all she has done for me, and I try not
Alessandro eyed her closely. The whole story, as Juan Can had
told it to him, of the girl's birth, was burning in his thoughts. How
he longed to cry out, "O my loved one, they have made you
homeless in your home. They despise you. The blood of my race is
in your veins; come to me; come to me! be surrounded with love!"
But he dared not. How could he dare?
Some strange spell seemed to have unloosed Ramona's tongue
to-night. She had never before spoken to Alessandro of her own
personal history or burdens; but she went on: "The worst thing is,
Alessandro, that she will not tell me who my mother was; and I do
not know if she is alive or not, or anything about her. Once I asked
the Senora, but she forbade me ever to ask her again. She said she
herself would tell me when it was proper for me to know. But she
How the secret trembled on Alessandro's lips now. Ramona had
never seemed so near, so intimate, so trusting. What would happen
if he were to tell her the truth? Would the sudden knowledge draw
her closer to him, or repel her?
"Have you never asked her again?" he said.
Ramona looked up astonished. "No one ever disobeyed the
Senora," she said quickly.
"I would!" exclaimed Alessandro.
"You may think so," said Ramona, "but you couldn't. When you
tried, you would find you couldn't. I did ask Father Salvierderra
"What did he say?" asked Alessandro, breathless.
"The same thing. He said I must not ask; I was not old enough.
When the time came, I would be told," answered Ramona, sadly. "I
don't see what they can mean by the time's coming. What do you
suppose they meant?"
"I do not know the ways of any people but my own, Senorita,"
replied Alessandro. "Many things that your people do, and still
more that these Americans do, are to me so strange, I know
nothing what they mean. Perhaps they do not know who was your
"I am sure they do," answered Ramona, in a low tone, as if the
words were wrung from her. "But let us talk about something else,
Alessandro; not about sad things, about pleasant things. Let us talk
about your staying here."
"Would it be truly a pleasure to the Senorita Ramona, if I stayed?"
"You know it would," answered Ramona, frankly, yet with a
tremor in her voice, which Alessandro felt. "I do not see what we
could any of us do without you. Felipe says he shall not let you
Alessandro's face glowed. "It must be as my father says, Senorita,"
he said. "A messenger came from him yesterday, and I sent him
back with a letter telling him what the Senor Felipe had proposed
to me, and asking him what I should do. My father is very old,
Senorita, and I do not see how he can well spare me. I am his only
child, and my mother died years ago. We live alone together in our
house, and when I am away he is very lonely. But he would like to
have me earn the wages, I know, and I hope he will think it best
for me to stay. There are many things we want to do for the
village; most of our people are poor, and can do little more than
get what they need to eat day by day, and my father wishes to see
them better off before he dies. Now that the Americans are coming
in all around us, he is afraid and anxious all the time. He wants to
get a big fence built around our land, so as to show where it is; but
the people cannot take much time to work on the fence; they need
all their time to work for themselves and their families. Indians
have a hard time to live now, Senorita. Were you ever in
"No," said Ramona. "Is it a large town?"
Alessandro sighed. "Dear Senorita, it is not a town; it is only a
little village not more than twenty houses in all, and some of those
are built only of tule. There is a chapel, and a graveyard. We built
an adobe wall around the graveyard last year. That my father said
we would do, before we built the fence round the village."
"How many people are there in the village?" asked Ramona.
"Nearly two hundred, when they are all there; but many of them
are away most of the time. They must go where they can get work;
they are hired by the farmers, or to do work on the great ditches, or
to go as shepherds; and some of them take their wives and children
with them. I do not believe the Senorita has ever seen any very
"Oh, yes, I have, Alessandro, at Santa Barbara. There were many
poor people there, and the Sisters used to give them food every
"Indians?" said Alessandro.
Ramona colored. "Yes," she said, "some of them were, but not like
your men, Alessandro. They were very different; miserable
looking; they could not read nor write, and they seemed to have no
"That is the trouble," said Alessandro, "with so many of them; it is
with my father's people, too. They say, 'What is the use?' My father
gets in despair with them, because they will not learn better. He
gives them a great deal, but they do not seem to be any better off
for it. There is only one other man in our village who can read and
write, besides my father and me, Senorita; and yet my father is all
the time begging them to come to his house and learn of him. But
they say they have no time; and indeed there is much truth in that,
Senorita. You see everybody has troubles, Senorita."
Ramona had been listening with sorrowful face. All this was new
to her. Until to-night, neither she nor Alessandro had spoken of
private and personal matters.
"Ah, but these are real troubles," she said. "I do not think mine
were real troubles at all. I wish I could do something for your
people, Alessandro. If the village were only near by, I could teach
them, could I not? I could teach them to read. The Sisters always
said, that to teach the ignorant and the poor was the noblest work
one could do. I wish I could teach your people. Have you any
relatives there besides your father? Is there any one in the village
that you -- love, Alessandro?"
Alessandro was too much absorbed in thoughts of his people, to
observe the hesitating emphasis with which Ramona asked this
"Yes, Senorita, I love them all. They are like my brothers and
sisters, all of my father's people," he said; "and I am unhappy about
them all the time."
During the whole of this conversation Ramona had had an
undercurrent of thought going on, which was making her uneasy.
The more Alessandro said about his father and his people, the
more she realized that he was held to Temecula by bonds that
would be hard to break, the more she feared his father would not
let him remain away from home for any length of time. At the
thought of his going away, her very heart sickened. Taking a
sudden step towards him, she said abruptly, "Alessandro, I am
afraid your father will not give his consent to your staying here."
"So am I, Senorita," he replied sadly.
"And you would not stay if he did not approve of it, of course," she
"How could I, Senorita?"
"No," she said, "it would not be right;" but as she said these words,
the tears filled her eyes.
Alessandro saw them. The world changed in that second.
"Senorita! Senorita Ramona!" he cried, "tears have come in your
eyes! O Senorita, then you will not be angry if I say that I love
you!" and Alessandro trembled with the terror and delight of
having said the words.
Hardly did he trust his palpitating senses to be telling him true the
words that followed, quick, firm, though only in a whisper,-- "I
know that you love me, Alessandro, and I am glad of it!" Yes, this
was what the Senorita Ramona was saying! And when he
stammered, "But you, Senorita, you do not -- you could not --"
"Yes, Alessandro, I do -- I love you!" in the same clear, firm
whisper; and the next minute Alessandro's arms were around
Ramona, and he had kissed her, sobbing rather than saying, "O
Senorita, do you mean that you will go with me? that you are
mine? Oh, no, beloved Senorita, you cannot mean that!" But he
was kissing her. He knew she did mean it; and Ramona,
whispering, "Yes, Alessandro, I do mean it; I will go with you,"
clung to him with her hands, and kissed him, and repeated it, "I
will go with you, I love you." And then, just then, came the
Senora's step, and her sharp cry of amazement, and there she stood,
no more than an arm's-length away, looking at them with her
indignant, terrible eyes.
What an hour this for Alessandro to be living over and over, as he
crouched in the darkness, watching! But the bewilderment of his
emotions did not dull his senses. As if stalking deer in a forest, he
listened for sounds from the house. It seemed strangely still. As the
darkness deepened, it seemed still stranger that no lamps were lit.
Darkness in the Senora's room, in the Senorita's; a faint light in the
dining-room, soon put out,-- evidently no supper going on there.
Only from under Felipe's door streamed a faint radiance; and
creeping close to the veranda, Alessandro heard voices fitfully
talking,-- the Senora's and Felipe's; no word from Ramona.
Piteously he fixed his eyes on her window; it was open, but the
curtains tight drawn; no stir, no sound. Where was she? What had
been done to his love? Only the tireless caution and infinite
patience of his Indian blood kept Alessandro from going to her
window. But he would imperil nothing by acting on his own
responsibility. He would wait, if it were till daylight, till his love
made a sign. Certainly before long Senor Felipe would come to his
veranda bed, and then he could venture to speak to him. But it was
near midnight when the door of Felipe's room opened, and he and
his mother came out, still speaking in low tones. Felipe lay down
on his couch; his mother, bending over, kissed him, bade him
good-night, and went into her own room.
It had been some time now since Alessandro had left off sleeping
on the veranda floor by Felipe's side. Felipe was so well it was not
needful. But Felipe felt sure he would come to-night, and was not
surprised when, a few minutes after the Senora's door closed, he
heard a low voice through the vines, "Senor Felipe?"
"Hush, Alessandro," whispered Felipe. "Do not make a sound.
To-morrow morning early I will see you, behind the little
sheepfold. It is not safe to talk here."
"Where is the Senorita?" Alessandro breathed rather than said.
"In her room," answered Felipe.
"Well?" said Alessandro.
"Yes," said Felipe, hoping he was not lying; and this was all
Alessandro had to comfort himself with, through his long night of
watching. No, not all; one other thing comforted him,-- the notes
of two wood-doves, that at intervals he heard, cooing to each
other; just the two notes, the call and the answer, "Love?" "Here."
"Love?" "Here," -- and long intervals of silence between. Plain as if
written on a page was the thing they told.
"That is what my Ramona is like," thought he, "the gentle
wood-dove. If she is my wife my people will call her Majel, the
WHEN the Senora bade Felipe good-night, she did not go to bed.
After closing her door, she sat down to think what should be done
about Ramona. It had been a hard task she had set herself, talking
all the evening with Felipe without alluding to the topic uppermost
in her mind. But Felipe was still nervous and irritable. She would
not spoil his night's rest, she thought, by talking of disagreeable
things. Moreover, she was not clear in her own mind what she
wished to have done about Alessandro. If Ramona were to be sent
away to the nuns, which was the only thing the Senora could think
of as yet, there would be no reason for discharging Alessandro.
And with him the Senora was by no means ready to part, though in
her first anger she had been ready to dismiss him on the spot. As
she pursued her reflections, the whole situation cleared itself in her
mind; so easily do affairs fall into line, in the plottings and
plannings of an arbitrary person, who makes in his formula no
allowance for a human element which he cannot control.
Ramona should be sent in disgrace to the Sisters' School, to be a
servant there for the rest of her life. The Senora would wash her
hands of her forever. Even Father Salvierderra himself could not
expect her any longer to keep such a shameless creature under her
roof. Her sister's written instructions had provided for the
possibility of just such a contingency. Going to a secret closet in
the wall, behind a life-size statue of Saint Catharine, the Senora
took out an iron box, battered and rusty with age, and set it on the
bed. The key turned with difficulty in the lock. It was many years
since the Senora had opened this box. No one but herself knew of
its existence. There had been many times in the history of the
Moreno house when the price of the contents of that box would
have averted loss and misfortune; but the Senora no more thought
of touching the treasure than if it had been guarded by angels with
fiery swords. There they lay, brilliant and shining even in the dim
light of the one candle,-- rubies, emeralds, pearls, and yellow
diamonds. The Senora's lip curled as she looked at them. "Fine
dowry, truly, for a creature like this!" she said. "Well I knew in the
beginning no good would come of it; base begotten, base born, she
has but carried out the instincts of her nature. I suppose I may be
grateful that my own son was too pure to be her prey!" "To be
given to my adopted daughter, Ramona Ortegna, on her wedding
day," -- so the instructions ran,-- "if she weds worthily and with
your approval. Should such a misfortune occur, which I do not
anticipate, as that she should prove unworthy, then these jewels,
and all I have left to her of value, shall be the property of the
"No mention as to what I am to do with the girl herself if she
proves unworthy," thought the Senora, bitterly; "but the Church is
the place for her; no other keeping will save her from the lowest
depths of disgrace. I recollect my sister said that Angus had at first
intended to give the infant to the Church. Would to God he had
done so, or left it with its Indian mother!" and the Senora rose, and
paced the floor. The paper of her dead sister's handwriting fell at
her feet. As she walked, her long skirt swept it rustling to and fro.
She stooped, picked it up, read it again, with increasing bitterness.
No softness at the memory of her sister's love for the little child;
no relenting. "Unworthy!" Yes, that was a mild word to apply to
Ramona, now. It was all settled; and when the girl was once out of
the house, the Senora would breathe easier. She and Felipe would
lead their lives together, and Felipe would wed some day. Was
there a woman fair enough, good enough, for Felipe to wed? But
he must wed; and the place would be gay with children's voices,
and Ramona would be forgotten.
The Senora did not know how late it was. "I will tell her to-night,"
she said. "I will lose no time; and now she shall hear who her
It was a strange freak of just impulse in the Senora's angry soul,
which made her suddenly remember that Ramona had had no
supper, and led her to go to the kitchen, get a jug of milk and some
bread, and take them to the room. Turning the key cautiously, that
Felipe might not hear, she opened the door and glided in. No voice
greeted her; she held her candle high up; no Ramona in sight; the
bed was empty. She glanced at the window. It was open. A terror
seized the Senora; fresh anger also. "She has run off with
Alessandro," she thought, "What horrible disgrace." Standing
motionless, she heard a faint, regular breathing from the other side
of the bed. Hastily crossing the room, she saw a sight which had
melted a heart that was only ice; but the Senora's was stone toward
Ramona. There lay Ramona on the floor, her head on a pillow at
the feet of the big Madonna which stood in the corner. Her left
hand was under her cheek, her right arm flung tight around the
base of the statue. She was sound asleep. Her face was wet with
tears. Her whole attitude was full of significance. Even helpless in
sleep, she was one who had taken refuge in sanctuary. This
thought had been distinct in the girl's mind when she found herself,
spite of all her woe and terror, growing sleepy. "She won't dare to
hurt me at the Virgin's feet," she had said; "and the window is
open. Felipe would hear if I called; and Alessandro will watch."
And with a prayer on her lips she fell asleep.
It was Felipe's nearness more than the Madonna's, which saved her
from being roused to hear her doom. The Senora stood for some
moments looking at her, and at the open window. With a hot rush
of disgraceful suspicions, she noted what she had never before
thought of, that Alessandro, through all his watching with Felipe,
had had close access to Ramona's window. "Shameful creature!"
she repeated to herself. "And she can sleep! It is well she prayed, if
the Virgin will hear such!" and she turned away, first setting down
the jug of milk and the bread on a table. Then, with a sudden and
still more curious mingling of justness in her wrath, she returned,
and lifting the coverlet from the bed, spread it over Ramona,
covering her carefully from head to foot. Then she went out and
again locked the door.
Felipe, from his bed, heard and divined all, but made no sound.
"Thank God, the poor child is asleep!" he said; "and my poor dear
mother feared to awake me by speaking to her! What will become
of us all to-morrow!" And Felipe tossed and turned, and had barely
fallen into an uneasy sleep, when his mother's window opened, and
she sang the first line of the sunrise hymn. Instantly Ramona
joined, evidently awake and ready; and no sooner did the watching
Alessandro hear the first note of her voice, than he struck in; and
Margarita, who had been up for an hour, prowling, listening,
peering, wondering, her soul racked between her jealousy and her
fears,-- even Margarita delayed not to unite; and Felipe, too, sang
feebly; and the volume of the song went up as rounded and
melodious as if all hearts were at peace and in harmony, instead of
being all full of sorrow, confusion, or hatred. But there was no one
of them all who was not the better for the singing; Ramona and
Alessandro most of all.
"The saints be praised," said Alessandro. "There is my wood-dove's
voice. She can sing!" And, "Alessandro was near. He watched all
night. I am glad he loves me," said Ramona.
"To hear those two voices." said the Senora; "would one suppose
they could sing like that? Perhaps it is not so bad as I think."
As soon as the song was done, Alessandro ran to the sheepfold,
where Felipe had said he would see him. The minutes would be
like years to Alessandro till he had seen Felipe.
Ramona, when she waked and found herself carefully covered, and
bread and milk standing on the table, felt much reassured. Only the
Senora's own hand had done this, she felt sure, for she had heard
her the previous evening turn the key in the lock, then violently
take it out; and Ramona knew well that the fact of her being thus a
prisoner would be known to none but the Senora herself. The
Senora would not set servants to gossiping. She ate her bread and
milk thankfully, for she was very hungry. Then she set her room in
order, said her prayers, and sat down to wait. For what? She could
not imagine; in truth, she did not much try. Ramona had passed
now into a country where the Senora did not rule. She felt little
fear. Felipe would not see her harmed, and she was going away
presently with Alessandro. It was wonderful what peace and
freedom lay in the very thought. The radiance on her face of these
two new-born emotions was the first thing the Senora observed as
she opened the door, and slowly, very slowly, eyeing Ramona with
a steady look, entered the room. This joyous composure on
Ramona's face angered the Senora, as it had done before, when she
was dragging her up the garden-walk. It seemed to her like nothing
less than brazen effrontery, and it changed the whole tone and
manner of her address.
Seating herself opposite Ramona, but at the farthest side of the
room, she said, in a tone scornful and insulting, "What have you to
say for yourself?"
Returning the Senora's gaze with one no less steady, Ramona
spoke in the same calm tone in which she had twice the evening
before attempted to stay the Senora's wrath. This time, she was not
"Senora," she said slowly, "I tried to tell you last night, but you
would not hear me. If you had listened, you would not have been
so angry. Neither Alessandro nor I have done anything wrong, and
we were not ashamed. We love each other, and we are going to be
married, and go away. I thank you, Senora, for all you have done
for me; I am sure you will be a great deal happier when I am
away;" and Ramona looked wistfully, with no shade of resentment,
into the Senora's dark, shrunken face. "You have been very good to
do so much for a girl you did not love. Thank you for the bread
and milk last night. Perhaps I can go away with Alessandro to-day.
I do not know what he will wish. We had only just that minute
spoken of being married, when you found us last night."
The Senora's face was a study during the few moments that it took
to say these words. She was dumb with amazement.
Instantaneously, on the first sense of relief that the disgrace had
not been what she supposed, followed a new wrath, if possible
hotter than the first; not so much scorn, but a bitterer anger.
"Marry! Marry that Indian!" she cried, as soon as she found voice.
"You marry an Indian? Never! Are you mad? I will never permit
Ramona looked anxiously at her. "I have never disobeyed you,
Senora," she said, "but this is different from all other things; you
are not my mother. I have promised to marry Alessandro."
The girl's gentleness deceived the Senora.
"No," she said icily, "I am not your mother; but I stand in a
mother's place to you. You were my sister's adopted child, and she
gave you to me. You cannot marry without my permission, and I
forbid you ever to speak again of marrying this Indian."
The moment had come for the Senora Moreno to find out, to her
surprise and cost, of what stuff this girl was made, -- this girl, who
had for fourteen years lived by her side, docile, gentle, sunny, and
uncomplaining in her loneliness. Springing to her feet, and
walking swiftly till she stood close face to face with the Senora,
who, herself startled by the girl's swift motion, had also risen to
her feet, Ramona said, in a louder, firmer voice: "Senora Moreno,
you may forbid me as much as you please. The whole world
cannot keep me from marrying Alessandro. I love him. I have
promised, and I shall keep my word." And with her young lithe
arms straight down at her sides, her head thrown back, Ramona
flashed full in the Senora's face a look of proud defiance. It was
the first free moment her soul had ever known. She felt herself
buoyed up as by wings in air. Her old terror of the Senora fell from
her like a garment thrown off.
"Pshaw!" said the Senora, contemptuously, half amused, in spite of
her wrath, by the girl's, as she thought, bootless vehemence, "you
talk like a fool. Do you not know that I can shut you up in the
nunnery to-morrow, if I choose?"
"No, you cannot!" replied Ramona,
"Who, then, is to hinder me." said the Senora, insolently.
"Alessandro!" answered Ramona, proudly.
"Alessandro!" the Senora sneered. "Alessandro! Ha! a beggarly
Indian, on whom my servants will set the dogs, if I bid them! Ha,
The Senora's sneering tone but roused Ramona more. "You would
never dare!" she cried; "Felipe would not permit it!" A most
unwise retort for Ramona.
"Felipe!" cried the Senora, in a shrill voice. "How dare you
pronounce his name! He will none of you, from this hour! I forbid
him to speak to you. Indeed, he will never desire to set eyes on you
when he hears the truth."
"You are mistaken, Senora," answered Ramona, more gently.
"Felipe is Alessandro's friend, and -- mine," she added, after a
"So, ho! the Senorita thinks she is all-powerful in the house of
Moreno!" cried the Senora. "We will see! we will see! Follow me,
Senorita Ramona!" And throwing open the door, the Senora strode
out, looking back over her shoulder.
"Follow me!" she cried again sharply, seeing that Ramona
hesitated; and Ramona went; across the passage-way leading to the
dining-room, out into the veranda, down the entire length of it, to
the Senora's room,-- the Senora walking with a quick, agitated
step, strangely unlike her usual gait; Ramona walking far slower
than was her habit, and with her eyes bent on the ground. As they
passed the dining-room door, Margarita, standing just inside, shot
at Ramona a vengeful, malignant glance.
"She would help the Senora against me in anything," thought
Ramona; and she felt a thrill of fear, such as the Senora with all
her threats had not stirred.
The Senora's windows were open. She closed them both, and drew
the curtains tight. Then she locked the door, Ramona watching her
"Sit down in that chair," said the Senora, pointing to one near the
fireplace. A sudden nervous terror seized Ramona.
"I would rather stand, Senora," she said.
"Do as I bid you." said the Senora, in a husky tone; and Ramona
obeyed. It was a low, broad armchair, and as she sank back into it,
her senses seemed leaving her. She leaned her head against the
back and closed her eyes. The room swam. She was roused by the
Senora's strong smelling-salts held for her to breathe, and a
mocking taunt from the Senora's iciest voice: "The Senorita does
not seem so over-strong as she did a few moments back!"
Ramona tried to reason with herself; surely no ill could happen to
her, in this room, within call of the whole house. But an
inexplicable terror had got possession of her; and when the Senora,
with a sneer on her face, took hold of the Saint Catharine statue,
and wheeling it half around, brought into view a door in the wall,
with a big iron key in the keyhole, which she proceeded to turn,
Ramona shook with fright. She had read of persons who had been
shut up alive in cells in the wall, and starved to death. With
dilating eyes she watched the Senora, who, all unaware of her
terror, was prolonging it and intensifying it by her every act. First
she took out the small iron box, and set it on a table. Then,
kneeling, she drew out from an inner recess in the closet a large
leather-covered box, and pulled it, grating and scraping along the
floor, till it stood in front of Ramona. All this time she spoke no
word, and the cruel expression of her countenance deepened each
moment. The fiends had. possession of the Senora Moreno this
morning, and no mistake. A braver heart than Ramona's might
have indeed been fearful, at being locked up alone with a woman
who looked. like that.
Finally, she locked the door and wheeled the statue back into its
place. Ramona breathed freer. She was not, after all, to be thrust
into the wall closet and left to starve. She gazed with wonder at the
old battered boxes. What could it all mean?
"Senorita Ramona Ortegna," began the Senora, drawing up a chair,
and seating herself by the table on which stood the iron box, "I will
now explain to you why you will not marry the Indian Alessandro."
At these words, this name, Ramona was herself again,-- not her old
self, her new self, Alessandro's promised wife. The very sound of
his name, even on an enemy's tongue, gave her strength. The
terrors fled away. She looked up, first at the Senora, then at the
nearest window. She was young and strong; at one bound, if worst
came to worst, she could leap through the window, and fly for her
life, calling on Alessandro.
"I shall marry the Indian Alessandro, Senora Moreno," she said, in
a tone as defiant, and now almost as insolent, as the Senora's own.
The Senora paid no heed to the words, except to say, "Do not
interrupt me again. I have much to tell you;" and opening the box,
she lifted out and placed on the table tray after tray of jewels. The
sheet of written paper lay at the bottom of the box.
"Do you see this paper, Senorita Ramona?" she asked, holding it
up. Ramona bowed her head. "This was written by my sister, the
Senora Ortegna, who adopted you and gave you her name. These
were her final instructions to me, in regard to the disposition to be
made of the property she left to you."
Ramona's lips parted. She leaned forward, breathless, listening,
while the Senora read sentence after sentence. All the pent-up
pain, wonder, fear of her childhood and her girlhood, as to the
mystery of her birth, swept over her anew, now. Like one
hearkening for life or death, she listened. She forgot Alessandro.
She did not look at the jewels. Her eyes never left the Senora's
face. At the close of the reading, the Senora said sternly, "You see,
now, that my sister left to me the entire disposition of everything
belonging to you,"
"But it hasn't said who was my mother," cried Ramona. "Is that all
there is in the paper?"
The Senora looked stupefied. Was the girl feigning? Did she care
nothing that all these jewels, almost a little fortune, were to be lost
to her forever?
"Who was your mother?" she exclaimed, scornfully, "There was no
need to write that down. Your mother was an Indian. Everybody
At the word "Indian," Ramona gave a low cry.
The Senora misunderstood it. "Ay," she said, "a low, common
Indian. I told my sister, when she took you, the Indian blood in
your veins would show some day; and now it has come true."
Ramona's cheeks were scarlet. Her eyes flashed. "Yes, Senora
Moreno," she said, springing to her feet; "the Indian blood in my
veins shows to-day. I understand many things I never understood
before. Was it because I was an Indian that you have always hated
"You are not an Indian, and I have never hated you," interrupted
Ramona heeded her not, but went on, more and more.
impetuously. "And if I am an Indian, why do you object to my
marrying Alessandro? Oh, I am glad I am an Indian! I am of his
people. He will be glad!" The words poured like a torrent out of
her lips. In her excitement she came closer and closer to the
Senora. "You are a cruel woman," she said. "I did not know it
before; but now I do. If you knew I was an Indian, you had no
reason to treat me so shamefully as you did last night, when you
saw me with Alessandro. You have always hated me. Is my mother
alive'? Where does she live? Tell me; and I will go to her to-day.
Tell me! She will be glad that Alessandro loves me!"
It was a cruel look, indeed, and a crueller tone, with which the
Senora answered: "I have not the least idea who your mother was,
or if she is still alive, Nobody ever knew anything about her,--
some low, vicious creature, that your father married when he was
out of his senses, as you are now, when you talk of marrying
"He married her, then?" asked Ramona, with emphasis. "How
know you that, Senora Moreno?"
"He told my sister so," replied the Senora, reluctantly. She grudged
the girl even this much of consolation.
"What was his name?" asked Ramona.
"Phail; Angus Phail," the Senora replied almost mechanically. She
found herself strangely constrained by Ramona's imperious
earnestness, and she chafed under it. The tables were being turned
on her, she hardly knew how. Ramona seemed to tower in stature,
and to have the bearing of the one in authority, as she stood before
her pouring out passionate question after question. The Senora
turned to the larger box, and opened it. With unsteady hands she
lifted out the garments which for so many years had rarely seen the
light. Shawls and ribosos of damask, laces, gowns of satin, of
velvet. As the Senora flung one after another on the chairs, it was a
glittering pile of shining, costly stuffs. Ramona's eyes rested on
"Did my adopted mother wear all these?" she asked, lifting in her
hand a fold of lace, and holding it up to the light, in evident
Again the Senora misconceived her. The girl seemed not
insensible to the value and beauty of this costly raiment. Perhaps
she would be lured by it.
"All these are yours, Ramona, you understand, on your wedding
day, if you marry worthily, with my permission," said the Senora,
in a voice a shade less cold than had hitherto come from her lips.
"Did you understand what I read you?"
The girl did not answer. She had taken up in her hand a ragged,
crimson silk handkerchief, which, tied in many knots, lay in one
corner of the jewel-box.
"There are pearls in that," said the Senora; "that came with the
things your father sent to my sister when he died."
Ramona's eyes gleamed. She began untying the knots. The
handkerchief was old, the knots tied tight, and undisturbed for
years. As she reached the last knot, and felt the hard stones, she
paused. "This was my father's, then." she said.
"Yes," said the Senora, scornfully. She thought she had detected a
new baseness in the girl. She was going to set up a claim to all
which had been her father's property. "They were your father's, and
all these rubies, and these yellow diamonds;" and she pushed the
tray towards her.
Ramona had untied the last knot. Holding the handkerchief
carefully above the tray, she shook the pearls out. A strange, spicy
fragrance came from the silk. The pearls fell in among the rubies,
rolling right and left, making the rubies look still redder by
contrast with their snowy whiteness.
"I will keep this handkerchief," she said, thrusting it as she spoke,
by a swift resolute movement into her bosom. "I am very glad to
have one thing that belonged to my father. The jewels, Senora, you
can give to the Church, if Father Salvierderra thinks that is right. I
shall marry Alessandro;" and still keeping one hand in her bosom
where she had thrust the handkerchief, she walked away and
seated herself again in her chair.
Father Salvierderra! The name smote the Senora like a
spear-thrust, There could be no stronger evidence of the abnormal
excitement under which she had been laboring for the last
twenty-four hours, than the fact that she had not once, during all
this time, thought to ask herself what Father Salvierderra would
say, or might command, in this crisis. Her religion and the long
habit of its outward bonds had alike gone from her in her sudden
wrath against Ramona. It was with a real terror that she became
conscious of this.
"Father Salvierderra?" she stammered; "he has nothing to do with
But Ramona saw the change in the Senora's face, at the word, and
followed up her advantage. "Father Salvierderra has to do with
everything," she said boldly. "He knows Alessandro, He will not
forbid me to marry him, and if he did --" Ramona stopped. She
also was smitten with a sudden terror at the vista opening before
her,-- of a disobedience to Father Salvierderra.
"And if he did," repeated the Senora, eyeing Ramona keenly,
"would you disobey him?"
"Yes," said Ramona.
"I will tell Father Salvierderra what you say," retorted the Senora,
sarcastically, "that he may spare himself the humiliation of laying
any commands on you, to be thus disobeyed."
Ramona's lip quivered, and her eyes filled with the tears which no
other of the Senora's taunts had been strong enough to bring.
Dearly she loved the old monk; had loved him since her earliest
recollection. His displeasure would be far more dreadful to her
than the Senora's. His would give her grief; the Senora's, at utmost,
Clasping her hands, she said, "Oh, Senora, have mercy! Do not say
that to the Father!"
"It is my duty to tell the Father everything that happens in my
family," answered the Senora, chillingly. "He will agree with me,
that if you persist in this disobedience you will deserve the
severest punishment. I shall tell him all;" and she began putting the
trays back in the box.
"You will not tell him as it really is, Senora," persisted Ramona. "I
will tell him myself."
"You shall not see him! I will take care of that!" cried the Senora,
so vindictively that Ramona shuddered.
"I will give you one more chance," said the Senora, pausing in the
act of folding up one of the damask gowns. "Will you obey me?
Will you promise to have nothing more to do with this Indian?"
"Never, Senora," replied Ramona; "never!"
"Then the consequences be on your own head," cried the Senora.
"Go to your room! And, hark! I forbid you to speak of all this to
Senor Felipe. Do you hear?"
Ramona bowed her head. "I hear," she said; and gliding out of the
room, closed the door behind her, and instead of going to her
room, sped like a hunted creature down the veranda steps, across
the garden, calling in a low tone, "Felipe! Felipe! Where are you,
THE little sheepfold, or corral, was beyond the artichoke-patch, on
that southern slope whose sunshine had proved so disastrous a
temptation to Margarita in the matter of drying the altar-cloth. It
was almost like a terrace, this long slope; and the sheepfold, being
near the bottom, was wholly out of sight of the house. This was the
reason Felipe had selected it as the safest spot for his talk with
When Ramona reached the end of the trellised walk in the garden,
she halted and looked to the right and left. No one was in sight. As
she entered the Senora's room an hour before, she had caught a
glimpse of some one, she felt almost positive it was Felipe, turning
off in the path to the left, leading down to the sheepfold. She stood
irresolute for a moment, gazing earnestly down this path. "If the
saints would only tell me where he is!" she said aloud. She
trembled as she stood there, fearing each second to hear the
Senora's voice calling her. But fortune was favoring Ramona, for
once; even as the words passed her lips, she saw Felipe coming
slowly up the bank. She flew to meet him. "Oh, Felipe, Felipe!"
"Yes, dear, I know it all," interrupted Felipe; "Alessandro has told
"She forbade me to speak to you, Felipe," said Ramona, "but I
could not bear it. What are we to do? Where is Alessandro?"
"My mother forbade you to speak to me!" cried Felipe, in a tone of
terror. "Oh, Ramona, why did you disobey her? If she sees us
talking, she will be even more displeased. Fly back to your room.
Leave it all to me. I will do all that I can."
"But, Felipe," began Ramona, wringing her hands in distress.
"I know! I know!" said Felipe; "but you must not make my mother
any more angry. I don't know what she will do till I talk with her.