Part 4 out of 9
Do go back to your room! Did she not tell you to stay there?"
"Yes," sobbed Ramona, "but I cannot. Oh, Felipe, I am so afraid!
Do help us! Do you think you can? You won't let her shut me up in
the convent, will you, Felipe? Where is Alessandro? Why can't I go
away with him this minute? Where is he? Dear Felipe, let me go
Felipe's face was horror-stricken. "Shut you in the convent!" he
gasped. "Did she say that? Ramona, dear, fly back to your room.
Let me talk to her. Fly, I implore you. I can't do anything for you if
she sees me talking with you now;" and he turned away, and
walked swiftly down the terrace.
Ramona felt as if she were indeed alone in the world. How could
she go back into that house! Slowly she walked up the garden-path
again, meditating a hundred wild plans of escape. Where, where
was Alessandro? Why did he not appear for her rescue? Her heart
failed her; and when she entered her room, she sank on the floor in
a paroxysm of hopeless weeping. If she had known that Alessandro
was already a good half-hour's journey on his way to Temecula,
galloping farther and farther away from her each moment, she
would have despaired indeed.
This was what Felipe, after hearing the whole story, had
counselled him to do. Alessandro had given him so vivid a
description of the Senora's face and tone, when she had ordered
him out of her sight, that Felipe was alarmed. He had never seen
his mother angry like that. He could not conceive why her wrath
should have been so severe. The longer he talked with Alessandro,
the more he felt that it would be wiser for him to be out of sight till
the first force of her anger had been spent. "I will say that I sent
you," said Felipe, "so she cannot feel that you have committed any
offence in going. Come back in four days, and by that time it will
be all settled what you shall do."
It went hard with Alessandro to go without seeing Ramona; but it
did not need Felipe's exclamation of surprise, to convince him that
it would be foolhardy to attempt it. His own judgment had told him
that it would be out of the question.
"But you will tell her all, Senor Felipe? You will tell her that it is
for her sake I go?" the poor fellow said piteously, gazing into
Felipe's eyes as if he would read his inmost soul.
"I will, indeed, Alessandro; I will," replied Felipe; and he held his
hand out to Alessandro, as to a friend and equal. "You may trust
me to do all I can do for Ramona and for you."
"God bless you, Senor Felipe," answered Alessandro, gravely, a
slight trembling of his voice alone showing how deeply he was
"He's a noble fellow," said Felipe to himself, as he watched
Alessandro leap on his horse, which had been tethered near the
corral all night,-- "a noble fellow! There isn't a man among all my
friends who would have been manlier or franker than he has been
in this whole business. I don't in the least wonder that Ramona
loves him. He's a noble fellow! But what is to be done! What is to
Felipe was sorely perplexed. No sharp crisis of disagreement had
ever arisen between him and his mother, but he felt that one was
coming now. He was unaware of the extent of his influence over
her. He doubted whether he could move her very far. The threat of
shutting Ramona up in the convent terrified him more than he
liked to admit to himself. Had she power to do that? Felipe did not
know. She must believe that she had, or she would not have made
the threat. Felipe's whole soul revolted at the cruel injustice of the
"As if it were a sin for the poor girl to love Alessandro!" he said.
"I'd help her to run away with him, if worse comes to worst. What
can make my mother feel so!" And Felipe paced back and forth till
the sun was high, and the sharp glare and heat reminded him that
he must seek shelter; then he threw himself down under the
willows. He dreaded to go into the house. His instinctive shrinking
from the disagreeable, his disposition to put off till another time,
held him back, hour by hour. The longer he thought the situation
over, the less he knew how to broach the subject to his mother; the
more uncertain he felt whether it would be wise for him to broach
it at all. Suddenly he heard his name called. It was Margarita, who
had been sent to call him to dinner. "Good heavens! dinner
already!" he cried, springing to his feet.
"Yes, Senor," replied Margarita, eyeing him observantly. She had
seen him talking with Alessandro, had seen Alessandro galloping
away down the river road. She had also gathered much from the
Senora's look, and Ramona's, as they passed the dining-room door
together soon after breakfast. Margarita could have given a
tolerably connected account of all that had happened within the
last twenty-four hours to the chief actors in this tragedy which had
so suddenly begun in the Moreno household. Not supposed to
know anything, she yet knew nearly all; and her every pulse was
beating high with excited conjecture and wonder as to what would
Dinner was a silent and constrained meal,-- Ramona absent, the
fiction of her illness still kept up; Felipe embarrassed, and unlike
himself; the Senora silent, full of angry perplexity. At her first
glance in Felipe's face, she thought to herself, "Ramona has spoken
to him. When and how did she do it?" For it had been only a few
moments after Ramona had left her presence, that she herself had
followed, and, seeing the girl in her own room, had locked the
door as before, and had spent the rest of the morning on the
veranda within hands' reach of Ramona's window. How, when, and
where had she contrived to communicate with Felipe? The longer
the Senora studied over this, the angrier and more baffled she felt;
to be outwitted was even worse to her than to be disobeyed. Under
her very eyes, as it were, something evidently had happened, not
only against her will, but which she could not explain. Her anger
even rippled out towards Felipe, and was fed by the recollection of
Ramona's unwise retort, "Felipe would not let you!" What had
Felipe done or said to make the girl so sure that he would be on her
side and Alessandro's? Was it come to this, that she, the Senora
Moreno, was to be defied in her own house by children and
It was with a tone of severe displeasure that she said to Felipe, as
she rose from the dinner-table, "My son, I would like to have some
conversation with you in my room, if you are at leisure."
"Certainly, mother," said Felipe, a load rolling off his mind at her
having thus taken the initiative, for which he lacked courage; and
walking swiftly towards her, he attempted to put his arm around
her waist, as it was his affectionate habit frequently to do. She
repulsed him gently, but bethinking herself, passed her hand
through his arm, and leaning on it heavily as she walked, said:
"This is the most fitting way, my son. I must lean more and more
heavily on you each year now. Age is telling on me fast. Do you
not find me greatly changed, Felipe, in the last year?"
"No, madre mia," replied Felipe, "indeed I do not. I see not that
you have changed in the last ten years." And he was honest in this.
His eyes did not note the changes so clear to others, and for the
best of reasons. The face he saw was one no one else ever beheld;
it was kindled by emotion, transfigured by love, whenever it was
turned towards him.
The Senora sighed deeply as she answered: "That must be because
you so love me, Felipe. I myself see the changes even day by day.
Troubles tell on me as they did not when I was younger. Even
within the last twenty-four hours I seem to myself to have aged
frightfully;" and she looked keenly at Felipe as she seated herself
in the arm-chair where poor Ramona had swooned a few hours
before. Felipe remained standing before her, gazing, with a tender
expression, upon her features, but saying nothing.
"I see that Ramona has told you all!" she continued, her voice
hardening as she spoke. What a fortunate wording of her sentence!
"No, mother; it was not Ramona, it was Alessandro, who told me
this morning, early," Felipe answered hastily, hurrying on, to draw
the conversation as far away from Ramona as possible. "He came
and spoke to me last night after I was in bed; but I told him to wait
till morning, and then I would hear all he had to say."
"Ah!" said the Senora, relieved. Then, as Felipe remained silent,
she asked, "And what did he say?"
"He told me all that had happened."
"All!" said the Senora, sneeringly. "Do you suppose that he told
"He said that you had bidden him begone out of your sight," said
Felipe, "and that he supposed he must go. So I told him to go at
once. I thought you would prefer not to see him again."
"Ah!" said the Senora again, startled, gratified that Felipe had so
promptly seconded her action, but sorry that Alessandro had gone.
"Ah, I did not know whether you would think it best to discharge
him at once or not; I told him he must answer to you. I did not
know but you might devise some measures by which he could be
retained on the estate."
Felipe stared. Could he believe his ears? This did not sound like
the relentless displeasure he had expected. Could Ramona have
been dreaming? In his astonishment, he did not weigh his mother's
words carefully; he did not carry his conjecture far enough; he did
not stop to make sure that retaining Alessandro on the estate might
not of necessity bode any good to Ramona; but with his usual
impetuous ardor, sanguine, at the first glimpse of hope, that all
was well, he exclaimed joyfully, "Ah, dear mother, if that could
only be done, all would be well;" and, never noting the expression
of his mother's face, nor pausing to take breath, he poured out all
he thought and felt on the subject.
"That is just what I have been hoping for ever since I saw that he
and Ramona were growing so fond of each other. He is a splendid
fellow, and the best hand we have ever had on the place. All the
men like him; he would make a capital overseer; and if we put him
in charge of the whole estate, there would not be any objection to
his marrying Ramona. That would give them a good living here
"Enough!" cried the Senora, in a voice which fell on Felipe's ears
like a voice from some other world,-- so hollow, so strange. He
stopped speaking, and uttered an ejaculation of amazement. At the
first words he had uttered, the Senora had fixed her eyes on the
floor,-- a habit of hers when she wished to listen with close
attention. Lifting her eyes now, fixing them full on Felipe, she
regarded him with a look which not all his filial reverence could
bear without resentment. It was nearly as scornful as that with
which she had regarded Ramona. Felipe colored.
"Why do you look at me like that, mother?" he exclaimed. "What
have I done?"
The Senora waved her hand imperiously. "Enough!" she reiterated.
"Do not say any more. I wish to think for a few moments;" and she
fixed her eyes on the floor again.
Felipe studied her countenance. A more nearly rebellious feeling
than he had supposed himself capable of slowly arose in his heart.
Now he for the first time perceived what terror his mother must
inspire in a girl like Ramona.
"Poor little one!" he thought. "If my mother looked at her as she
did at me just now, I wonder she did not die."
A great storm was going on in the Senora's bosom. Wrath against
Ramona was uppermost in it. In addition to all else, the girl had
now been the cause, or at least the occasion, of Felipe's having, for
the first time in his whole life, angered her beyond her control.
"As if I had not suffered enough by reason of that creature," she
thought bitterly to herself, "without her coming between me and
But nothing could long come between the Senora and Felipe. Like
a fresh lava-stream flowing down close on the track of its
predecessor, came the rush of the mother's passionate love for her
son close on the passionate anger at his words.
When she lifted her eyes they were full of tears, which it smote
Felipe to see. As she gazed at him, they rolled down her cheeks,
and she said in trembling tones: "Forgive me, my child; I had not
thought anything could make me thus angry with you. That
shameless creature is costing us too dear. She must leave the
Felipe's heart gave a bound; Ramona had not been mistaken, then.
A bitter shame seized him at his mother's cruelty. But her tears
made him tender; and it was in a gentle, even pleading voice that
he replied: "I do not see, mother, why you call Ramona shameless.
There is nothing wrong in her loving Alessandro."
"I found her in his arms!" exclaimed the Senora.
"I know," said Felipe; "Alessandro told me that he had just at that
instant told her he loved her, and she had said she loved him, and
would marry him, just as you came up."
"Humph!" retorted the Senora; "do you think that Indian would
have dared to speak a word of love to the Senorita Ramona
Ortegna, if she had not conducted herself shamelessly? I wonder
that he concerned himself to speak about marriage to her at all."
"Oh, mother! mother!" was all that Felipe could say to this. He was
aghast. He saw now, in a flash, the whole picture as it lay in his
mother's mind, and his heart sank within him. "Mother!" he
repeated, in a tone which spoke volumes.
"Ay," she continued, "that is what I say. I see no reason why he
hesitated to take her, as he would take any Indian squaw, with
small ceremony of marrying."
"Alessandro would not take any woman that way any quicker than
I would, mother," said Felipe courageously; "you do him injustice."
He longed to add, "And Ramona too," but he feared to make bad
matters worse by pleading for her at present.
"No, I do not," said the Senora; "I do Alessandro full justice. I
think very few men would have behaved as well as he has under
the same temptation. I do not hold him in the least responsible for
all that has happened. It is all Ramona's fault."
Felipe's patience gave way. He had not known, till now, how very
closely this pure and gentle girl, whom he had loved as a sister in
his boyhood, and had come near loving as a lover in his manhood,
had twined herself around his heart. He could not remain silent
another moment, and hear her thus wickedly accused.
"Mother!" he exclaimed, in a tone which made the Senora look up
at him in sudden astonishment. "Mother, I cannot help it if I make
you very angry; I must speak; I can't bear to hear you say such
things of Ramona. I have seen for a long time that Alessandro
loved the very ground under her feet; and Ramona would not have
been a woman if she had not seen it too! She has seen it, and has
felt it, and has come to love him with all her soul, just as I hope
some woman will love me one of these days. If I am ever loved as
well as she loves Alessandro, I shall be lucky. I think they ought to
be married; and I think we ought to take Alessandro on to the
estate, so that they can live here. I don't see anything disgraceful in
it, nor anything wrong, nor anything but what was perfectly
natural. You know, mother, it isn't as if Ramona really belonged to
our family; you know she is half Indian." A scornful ejaculation
from his mother interrupted him here; but Felipe hurried on, partly
because he was borne out of himself at last by impetuous feeling,
partly that he dreaded to stop, because if he did, his mother would
speak; and already he felt a terror of what her next words might be.
"I have often thought about Ramona's future, mother. You know a
great many men would not want to marry her, just because she is
half Indian. You, yourself, would never have given your consent to
my marrying her, if I had wanted to." Again an exclamation from
the Senora, this time more of horror than of scorn. But Felipe
pressed on. "No, of course you would not, I always knew that;
except for that, I might have loved her myself, for a sweeter girl
never drew breath in this God's earth." Felipe was reckless now;
having entered on this war, he would wage it with every weapon
that lay within his reach; if one did not tell, another might. "You
have never loved her. I don't know that you have ever even liked
her; I don't think you have. I know, as a little boy, I always used to
see how much kinder you were to me than to her, and I never
could understand it. And you are unjust to her now. I've been
watching her all summer; I've seen her and Alessandro together
continually. You know yourself, mother, he has been with us on
the veranda, day after day, just as if he were one of the family. I've
watched them by the hour, when I lay there so sick; I thought you
must have seen it too. I don't believe Alessandro has ever looked or
said or done a thing I wouldn't have done in his place; and I don't
believe Ramona has ever looked, said, or done a thing I would not
be willing to have my own sister do!" Here Felipe paused. He had
made his charge; like a young impetuous general, massing all his
forces at the onset; he had no reserves. It is not the way to take
When he paused, literally breathless, he had spoken so fast,-- and
even yet Felipe was not quite strong, so sadly had the fever
undermined his constitution,-- the Senora looked at him
interrogatively, and said in a now composed tone: "You do not
believe that Ramona has done anything that you would not be
willing to have your own sister do? Would you be willing that your
own sister should marry Alessandro?"
Clever Senora Moreno! During the few moments that Felipe had
been speaking, she had perceived certain things which it would be
beyond her power to do; certain others that it would be impolitic to
try to do. Nothing could possibly compensate her for antagonizing
Felipe. Nothing could so deeply wound her, as to have him in a
resentful mood towards her; or so weaken her real control of him,
as to have him feel that she arbitrarily overruled his preference or
his purpose. In presence of her imperious will, even her wrath
capitulated and surrendered. There would be no hot words between
her and her son. He should believe that he determined the policy of
the Moreno house, even in this desperate crisis.
Felipe did not answer. A better thrust was never seen on any field
than the Senora's question. She repeated it, still more deliberately,
in her wonted gentle voice. The Senora was herself again, as she
had not been for a moment since she came upon Alessandro and
Ramona at the brook. How just and reasonable the question
sounded, as she repeated it slowly, with an expression in her eyes,
of poising and weighing matters. "Would you be willing that your
own sister should marry Alessandro?"
Felipe was embarrassed. He saw whither he was being led. He
could give but one answer to this question. "No, mother," he said,
"I should not; but --"
"Never mind buts," interrupted his mother; "we have not got to
those yet;" and she smiled on Felipe,-- an affectionate smile, but it
somehow gave him a feeling of dread. "Of course I knew you
could make but one answer to my question. If you had a sister, you
would rather see her dead than married to any one of these
Felipe opened his lips eagerly, to speak. "Not so," he said.
"Wait, dear!" exclaimed his mother. "One thing at a time, I see
how full your loving heart is, and I was never prouder of you as my
son than when listening just now to your eloquent defence of
Ramona, Perhaps you may be right and I wrong as to her character
and conduct. We will not discuss those points." It was here that the
Senora had perceived some things that it would be out of her
power to do. "We will not discuss those, because they do not touch
the real point at issue. What it is our duty to do by Ramona, in
such a matter as this, does not turn on her worthiness or
unworthiness. The question is, Is it right for you to allow her to do
what you would not allow your own sister to do?" The Senora
paused for a second, noted with secret satisfaction how puzzled
and unhappy Felipe looked; then, in a still gentler voice, she went
on, "You surely would not think that right, my son, would you?"
And now the Senora waited for an answer.
"No, mother," came reluctantly from Felipe's lips. "I suppose not;
"I was sure my own son could make no other reply," interrupted
the Senora. She did not wish Felipe at present to do more than
reply to her questions. "Of course it would not be right for us to let
Ramona do anything which we would not let her do if she were
really of our own blood. That is the way I have always looked at
my obligation to her. My sister intended to rear her as her own
daughter. She had given her her own name. When my sister died,
she transferred to me all her right and responsibility in and for the
child. You do not suppose that if your aunt had lived, she would
have ever given her consent to her adopted daughter's marrying an
Indian, do you?"
Again the Senora paused for a reply, and again the reluctant Felipe
said, in a low tone, "No, I suppose she would not."
"Very well. Then that lays a double obligation on us. It is not only
that we are not to permit Ramona to do a thing which we would
consider disgraceful to one of our own blood; we are not to betray
the trust reposed in us by the only person who had a right to
control her, and who transferred that trust to us. Is not that so?"
"Yes, mother," said the unhappy Felipe.
He saw the meshes closing around him. He felt that there was a
flaw somewhere in his mother's reasoning, but he could not point it
out; in fact, he could hardly make it distinct to himself. His brain
was confused. Only one thing he saw clearly, and that was, that
after all had been said and done, Ramona would still marry
Alessandro. But it was evident that it would never be with his
mother's consent. "Nor with mine either, openly, the way she puts
it. I don't see how it can be; and yet I have promised Alessandro to
do all I could for him. Curse the luck, I wish he had never set foot
on the place!" said Felipe in his heart, growing unreasonable, and
tired with the perplexity.
The Senora continued: "I shall always blame myself bitterly for
having failed to see what was going on. As you say, Alessandro
has been with us a great deal since your illness, with his music,
and singing, and one thing and another; but I can truly say that I
never thought of Ramona's being in danger of looking upon him in
the light of a possible lover, any more than of her looking thus
upon Juan Canito, or Luigo, or any other of the herdsmen or
laborers. I regret it more than words can express, and I do not
know what we can do, now that it has happened."
"That's it, mother! That's it!" broke in Felipe. "You see, you see it
is too late now."
The Senora went on as if Felipe had not spoken. "I suppose you
would really very much regret to part with Alessandro, and your
word is in a way pledged to him, as you had asked him if he would
stay on the place, Of course, now that all this has happened, it
would be very unpleasant for Ramona to stay here, and see him
continually -- at least for a time, until she gets over this strange
passion she seems to have conceived for him. It will not last. Such
sudden passions never do." The Senora artfully interpolated, "What
should you think, Felipe, of having her go back to the Sisters'
school for a time? She was very happy there."
The Senora had strained a point too far. Felipe's self-control
suddenly gave way, and as impetuously as he had spoken in the
beginning, he spoke again now, nerved by the memory of
Ramona's face and tone as she had cried to him in the garden, "Oh,
Felipe, you won't let her shut me up in the convent, will you?"
"Mother!" he cried, "you would never do that. You would not shut
the poor girl up in the convent!"
The Senora raised her eyebrows in astonishment. "Who spoke of
shutting up?" she said. "Ramona has already been there at school.
She might go again. She is not too old to learn. A change of scene
and occupation is the best possible cure for a girl who has a thing
of this sort to get over. Can you propose anything better, my son?
What would you advise?" And a third time the Senora paused for
These pauses and direct questions of the Senora's were like
nothing in life so much as like that stage in a spider's processes
when, withdrawing a little way from a half-entangled victim,
which still supposes himself free, it rests from its weaving, and
watches the victim flutter. Subtle questions like these, assuming,
taking for granted as settled, much which had never been settled at
all, were among the best weapons in the Senora's armory. They
rarely failed her.
"Advise!" cried Felipe, excitedly. "Advise! This is what I advise --
to let Ramona and Alessandro marry. I can't help all you say about
our obligations. I dare say you're right; and it's a cursedly awkward
complication for us, anyhow, the way you put it."
"Yes, awkward for you, as the head of our house," interrupted the
Senora, sighing. "I don't quite see how you would face it."
"Well, I don't propose to face it," continued Felipe, testily. "I don't
propose to have anything to do with it, from first to last. Let her go
away with him, if she wants to.'
"Without our consent?" said the Senora, gently.
"Yes, without it, if she can't go with it; and I don't see, as you have
stated it, how we could exactly take any responsibility about
marrying her to Alessandro. But for heaven's sake, mother, let her
go! She will go, any way. You haven't the least idea how she loves
Alessandro, or how he loves her. Let her go!"
"Do you really think she would run away with him, if it came to
that?" asked the Senora, earnestly. "Run away and marry him, spite
of our refusing to consent to the marriage?"
"I do," said Felipe.
"Then it is your opinion, is it, that the only thing left for us to do, is
to wash our hands of it altogether, and leave her free to do what
"That's just what I do think, mother," replied Felipe, his heart
growing lighter at her words. "That's just what I do think. We can't
prevent it, and it is of no use to try. Do let us tell them they can do
as they like."
"Of course, Alessandro must leave us, then," said the Senora.
"They could not stay here."
"I don't see why!" said Felipe, anxiously.
"You will, my son, if you think a moment. Could we possibly give
a stronger indorsement to their marriage than by keeping them
here? Don't you see that would be so?"
Felipe's eyes fell. "Then I suppose they couldn't be married here,
either," he said,
"What more could we do than that, for a marriage that we heartily
approved of, my son?"
"True, mother;" and Felipe clapped his hand to his forehead. "But
then we force them to run away!"
"Oh, no." said the Senora, icily. "If they go, they will go of their
own accord. We hope they will never do anything so foolish and
wrong. If they do, I suppose we shall always be held in a measure
responsible for not having prevented it. But if you think it is not
wise, or of no use to attempt that, I do not see what there is to be
Felipe did not speak. He felt discomfited; felt as if he had betrayed
his friend Alessandro, his sister Ramona; as if a strange
complication, network of circumstances, had forced him into a
false position; he did not see what more he could ask, what more
could be asked, of his mother; he did not see, either, that much less
could have been granted to Alessandro and Ramona; he was angry,
The Senora studied his face. "You do not seem satisfied, Felipe
dear," she said tenderly. "As, indeed, how could you be in this
unfortunate state of affairs? But can you think of anything different
for us to do?"
"No," said Felipe, bitterly. "I can't, that's the worst of it. It is just
turning Ramona out of the house, that's all."
"Felipe! Felipe!" exclaimed the Senora, "how unjust you are to
yourself! You know you would never do that! You know that she
has always had a home here as if she were a daughter; and always
will have, as long as she wishes it. If she chooses to turn her back
on it, and go away, is it our fault? Do not let your pity for this
misguided girl blind you to what is just to yourself and to me. Turn
Ramona out of the house! You know I promised my sister to bring
her up as my own child; and I have always felt that my son would
receive the trust from me, when I died. Ramona has a home under
the Moreno roof so long as she will accept it. It is not just, Felipe,
to say that we turn her out;" and tears stood in the Senora's eyes.
"Forgive me, dear mother," cried the unhappy Felipe. "Forgive me
for adding one burden to all you have to bear. Truth is, this
miserable business has so distraught my senses, I can't seem to see
anything as it is. Dear mother, it is very hard for you. I wish it were
"Thanks for your precious sympathy, my Felipe," replied the
Senora. "If it were not for you, I should long ago have broken
down beneath my cares and burdens. But among them all, have
been few so grievous as this. I feel myself and our home
dishonored. But we must submit. As you say, Felipe, I wish it were
done with. It would be as well, perhaps, to send for Ramona at
once, and tell her what we have decided. She is no doubt in great
anxiety; we will see her here."
Felipe would have greatly preferred to see Ramona alone; but as
he knew not how to bring this about he assented to his mother's
Opening her door, the Senora walked slowly down the
passage-way, unlocked Ramona's door, and said: "Ramona, be so
good as to come to my room. Felipe and I have something to say to
Ramona followed, heavy-hearted. The words, "Felipe and I,"
boded no good.
"The Senora has made Felipe think just as she does herself,"
thought Ramona. "Oh, what will become of me!" and she stole a
reproachful, imploring look at Felipe. He smiled back in a way
which reassured her; but the reassurance did not last long.
"Senorita Ramona Ortegna," began the Senora. Felipe shivered. He
had had no conception that his mother could speak in that way.
The words seemed to open a gulf between Ramona and all the rest
of the world, so cold and distant they sounded,-- as the Senora
might speak to an intruding stranger.
"Senorita Ramona Ortegna," she said, "my son and I have been
discussing what it is best for us to do in the mortifying and
humiliating position in which you place us by your relation with
the Indian Alessandro. Of course you know -- or you ought to
know -- that it is utterly impossible for us to give our consent to
your making such a marriage; we should be false to a trust, and
dishonor our own family name, if we did that."
Ramona's eyes dilated, her cheeks paled; she opened her lips, but
no sound came from them; she looked toward Felipe, and seeing
him with downcast eyes, and an expression of angry
embarrassment on his face, despair seized her. Felipe had deserted
their cause. Oh, where, where was Alessandro! Clasping her hands,
she uttered a low cry,-- a cry that cut Felipe to the heart. He was
finding out, in thus being witness of Ramona's suffering, that she
was far nearer and dearer to him than he had realized. It would
have taken very little, at such moments as these, to have made
Felipe her lover again; he felt now like springing to her side,
folding his arms around her, and bidding his mother defiance. It
took all the self-control he could gather, to remain silent, and trust
to Ramona's understanding him later.
Ramona's cry made no break in the smooth, icy flow of the
Senora's sentences. She gave no sign of having heard it, but
continued: "My son tells me that he thinks our forbidding it would
make no difference; that you would go away with the man all the
same. I suppose he is right in thinking so, as you yourself told me
that even if Father Salvierderra forbade it, you would disobey him.
Of course, if this is your determination, we are powerless. Even if I
were to put you in the keeping of the Church, which is what I am
sure my sister, who adopted you as her child, would do, if she were
alive, you would devise some means of escape, and thus bring a
still greater and more public scandal on the family. Felipe thinks
that it is not worth while to attempt to bring you to reason in that
way; and we shall therefore do nothing. I wish to impress it upon
you that my son, as head of this house, and I, as my sister's
representative, consider you a member of our own family. So long
as we have a home for ourselves, that home is yours, as it always
has been. If you choose to leave it, and to disgrace yourself and us
by marrying an Indian, we cannot help ourselves."
The Senora paused. Ramona did not speak. Her eyes were fixed on
the Senora's face, as if she would penetrate to her inmost soul; the
girl was beginning to recognize the Senora's true nature; her
instincts and her perceptions were sharpened by love.
"Have you anything to say to me or to my son?" asked the Senora.
"No, Senora," replied Ramona; "I do not think of anything more to
say than I said this morning. Yes," she added, "there is. Perhaps I
shall not speak with you again before I go away. I thank you once
more for the home you have given me for so many years. And you
too, Felipe," she continued, turning towards Felipe, her face
changing, all her pent-up affection and sorrow looking out of her
tearful eyes,-- "you too, dear Felipe. You have always been so good
to me. I shall always love you as long as I live;" and she held out
both her hands to him. Felipe took them in his, and was about to
speak, when the Senora interrupted him. She did not intend to have
any more of this sort of affectionate familiarity between her son
"Are we to understand that you are taking your leave now?" she
said. "Is it your purpose to go at once?"
"I do not know, Senora," stammered Ramona; "I have not seen
Alessandro; I have not heard --" And she looked up in distress at
Felipe, who answered compassionately,--
"Alessandro has gone."
"Gone!" shrieked Ramona. "Gone! not gone, Felipe!"
"Only for four days," replied Felipe. "To Temecula. I thought it
would be better for him to be away for a day or two. He is to come
back immediately. Perhaps he will be back day after to-morrow."
"Did he want to go? What did he go for? Why didn't you let me go
with him? Oh, why, why did he go?" cried Ramona.
"He went because my son told him to go," broke in the Senora,
impatient of this scene, and of the sympathy she saw struggling in
Felipe's expressive features. "My son thought, and rightly, that the
sight of him would be more than I could bear just now; so he
ordered him to go away, and Alessandro obeyed."
Like a wounded creature at bay, Ramona turned suddenly away
from Felipe, and facing the Senora, her eyes resolute and dauntless
spite of the streaming tears, exclaimed, lifting her right hand as she
spoke, "You have been cruel; God will punish you!" and without
waiting to see what effect her words had produced, without
looking again at Felipe, she walked swiftly out of the room.
"You see," said the Senora, "you see she defies us."
"She is desperate," said Felipe. "I am sorry I sent Alessandro
"No, my son," replied the Senora, "you were wise, as you always
are. It may bring her to her senses, to have a few days' reflection in
"You do not mean to keep her locked up, mother, do you?" cried
The Senora turned a look of apparently undisguised amazement on
him. "You would not think that best, would you? Did you not say
that all we could do, was simply not to interfere with her in any
way? To wash our hands, so far as is possible, of all responsibility
"Yes, yes," said the baffled Felipe; "that was what I said. But,
mother --" He stopped. He did not know what he wanted to say.
The Senora looked tenderly at him, her face full of anxious
"What is it, Felipe dear? Is there anything more you think I ought
to say or do?" she asked.
"What is it you are going to do, mother?" said Felipe. "I don't seem
to understand what you are going to do."
"Nothing, Felipe! You have entirely convinced me that all effort
would be thrown away. I shall do nothing," replied the Senora.
"Then as long as Ramona is here, everything will be just as it
always has been?" said Felipe.
The Senora smiled sadly. "Dear Felipe, do you think that possible?
A girl who has announced her determination to disobey not only
you and me, but Father Salvierderra, who is going to bring disgrace
both on the Moreno and the Ortegna name,-- we can't feel exactly
the same towards her as we did before, can we?"
Felipe made an impatient gesture. "No, of course not. But I mean,
is everything to be just the same, outwardly, as it was before?"
"I supposed so," said the Senora. "Was not that your idea? We
must try to have it so, I think. Do not you?"
"Yes," groaned Felipe, "if we can!"
THE Senora Moreno had never before been so discomfited as in
this matter of Ramona and Alessandro. It chafed her to think over
her conversation with Felipe; to recall how far the thing she finally
attained was from the thing she had in view when she began. To
have Ramona sent to the convent, Alessandro kept as overseer of
the place, and the Ortegna jewels turned into the treasury of the
Church,-- this was the plan she had determined on in her own
mind. Instead of this, Alessandro was not to be overseer on the
place; Ramona would not go to the convent: she would be married
to Alessandro, and they would go away together; and the Ortegna
jewels,-- well, that was a thing to be decided in the future; that
should be left to Father Salvierderra to decide. Bold as the Senora
was, she had not quite the courage requisite to take that question
wholly into her own hands.
One thing was clear, Felipe must not be consulted in regard to
them. He had never known of them, and need not now. Felipe was
far too much in sympathy with Ramona to take a just view of the
situation. He would be sure to have a quixotic idea of Ramona's
right of ownership. It was not impossible that Father Salvierderra
might have the same feeling. If so, she must yield; but that would
go harder with her than all the rest. Almost the Senora would have
been ready to keep the whole thing a secret from the Father, if he
had not been at the time of the Senora Ortegna's death fully
informed of all the particulars of her bequest to her adopted child.
At any rate, it would be nearly a year before the Father came again,
and in the mean time she would not risk writing about it. The
treasure was as safe in Saint Catharine's keeping as it had been all
these fourteen years; it should still lie hidden there. When Ramona
went away with Alessandro, she would write to Father
Salvierderra, simply stating the facts in her own way, and telling
him that all further questions must wait for decision until they met.
And so she plotted and planned, and mapped out the future in her
tireless weaving brain, till she was somewhat soothed for the
partial failure of her plans.
There is nothing so skilful in its own defence as imperious pride. It
has an ingenious system of its own, of reprisals, -- a system so
ingenious that the defeat must be sore indeed, after which it cannot
still find some booty to bring off! And even greater than this
ingenuity at reprisals is its capacity for self-deception. In this
regard, it outdoes vanity a thousandfold. Wounded vanity knows
when it is mortally hurt; and limps off the field, piteous, all
disguises thrown away. But pride carries its banner to the last; and
fast as it is driven from one field unfurls it in another, never
admitting that there is a shade less honor in the second field than
in the first, or in the third than in the second; and so on till death. It
is impossible not to have a certain sort of admiration for this kind
of pride. Cruel, those who have it, are to all who come in their
way; but they are equally cruel to themselves, when pride demands
the sacrifice. Such pride as this has led many a forlorn hope, on the
earth, when all other motives have died out of men's breasts; has
won many a crown, which has not been called by its true name.
Before the afternoon was over, the Senora had her plan, her chart
of the future, as it were, all reconstructed; the sting of her
discomfiture soothed; the placid quiet of her manner restored; her
habitual occupations also, and little ways, all resumed. She was
going to do "nothing" in regard to Ramona. Only she herself knew
how much that meant; how bitterly much! She wished she were
sure that Felipe also would do "nothing;" but her mind still
misgave her about Felipe. Unpityingly she had led him on, and
entangled him in his own words, step by step, till she had brought
him to the position she wished him to take. Ostensibly, his position
and hers were one, their action a unit; all the same, she did not
deceive herself as to his real feeling about the affair. He loved
Ramona. He liked Alessandro. Barring the question of family
pride, which he had hardly thought of till she suggested it, and
which he would not dwell on apart from her continuing to press
it,-- barring this, he would have liked to have Alessandro marry
Ramona and remain on the place. All this would come uppermost
in Felipe's mind again when he was removed from the pressure of
her influence. Nevertheless, she did not intend to speak with him
on the subject again, or to permit him to speak to her. Her ends
would be best attained by taking and keeping the ground that the
question of their non-interference having been settled once for all,
the painful topic should never be renewed between them. In
patient silence they must await Ramona's action; must bear
whatever of disgrace and pain she chose to inflict on the family
which had sheltered her from her infancy till now.
The details of the "nothing" she proposed to do, slowly arranged
themselves in her mind. There should be no apparent change in
Ramona's position in the house. She should come and go as freely
as ever; no watch on her movements; she should eat, sleep, rise up
and sit down with them, as before; there should be not a word, or
act, that Felipe's sympathetic sensitiveness could construe into any
provocation to Ramona to run away. Nevertheless, Ramona should
be made to feel, every moment of every hour, that she was in
disgrace; that she was with them, but not of them; that she had
chosen an alien's position, and must abide by it. How this was to
be done, the Senora did not put in words to herself, but she knew
very well. If anything would bring the girl to her senses, this
would. There might still be a hope, the Senora believed, so little
did she know Ramona's nature, or the depth of her affection for
Alessandro, that she might be in this manner brought to see the
enormity of the offence she would commit if she persisted in her
purpose. And if she did perceive this, confess her wrong, and give
up the marriage,-- the Senora grew almost generous and tolerant in
her thoughts as she contemplated this contingency,-- if she did thus
humble herself and return to her rightful allegiance to the Moreno
house, the Senora would forgive her, and would do more for her
than she had ever hitherto done. She would take her to Los
Angeles and to Monterey; would show her a little more of the
world; and it was by no means unlikely that there might thus come
about for her a satisfactory and honorable marriage. Felipe should
see that she was not disposed to deal unfairly by Ramona in any
way, if Ramona herself would behave properly.
Ramona's surprise, when the Senora entered her room just before
supper, and, in her ordinary tone, asked a question about the chili
which was drying on the veranda, was so great, that she could not
avoid showing it both in her voice and look.
The Senora recognized this immediately, but gave no sign of
having done so, continuing what she had to say about the chili, the
hot sun, the turning of the grapes, etc., precisely as she would have
spoken to Ramona a week previous. At least, this was what
Ramona at first thought; but before the sentences were finished,
she had detected in the Senora's eye and tone the weapons which
were to be employed against her. The emotion of half-grateful
wonder with which she had heard the first words changed quickly
to heartsick misery before they were concluded; and she said to
herself: "That's the way she is going to break me down, she thinks!
But she can't do it. I can bear anything for four days; and the
minute Alessandro comes, I will go away with him." This train of
thought in Ramona's mind was reflected in her face. The Senora
saw it, and hardened herself still more. It was to be war, then. No
hope of surrender. Very well. The girl had made her choice.
Margarita was now the most puzzled person in the household. She
had overheard snatches of the conversation between Felipe and his
mother and Ramona, having let her curiosity get so far the better
of her discretion as to creep to the door and listen. In fact, she
narrowly escaped being caught, having had barely time to begin
her feint of sweeping the passage-way, when Ramona, flinging the
door wide open, came out, after her final reply to the Senora, the
words of which Margarita had distinctly heard: "God will punish
"Holy Virgin! how dare she say that to the Senora?" ejaculated
Margarita, under her breath; and the next second Ramona rushed
by, not even seeing her. But the Senora's vigilant eyes, following
Ramona, saw her; and the Senora's voice had a ring of suspicion in
it, as she called, "How comes it you are sweeping the passage-way
at this hour of the day, Margarita?"
It was surely the devil himself that put into Margarita's head the
quick lie which she instantaneously told. "There was early
breakfast, Senora, to be cooked for Alessandro, who was setting
off in haste, and my mother was not up, so I had it to cook."
As Margarita said this, Felipe fixed his eyes steadily upon her. She
changed color. Felipe knew this was a lie. He had seen Margarita
peering about among the willows while he was talking with
Alessandro at the sheepfold; he had seen Alessandro halt for a
moment and speak to her as he rode past,-- only for a moment;
then, pricking his horse sharply, he had galloped off down the
valley road. No breakfast had Alessandro had at Margarita's hands,
or any other's, that morning. What could have been Margarita's
motive for telling this lie?
But Felipe had too many serious cares on his mind to busy himself
long with any thought of Margarita or her fibs. She had said the
first thing which came into her head, most likely, to shelter herself
from the Senora's displeasure; which was indeed very near the
truth, only there was added a spice of malice against Alessandro. A
slight undercurrent of jealous antagonism towards him had begun
to grow up among the servants of late; fostered, if not originated,
by Margarita's sharp sayings as to his being admitted to such
strange intimacy with the family.
While Felipe continued ill, and was so soothed to rest by his
music, there was no room for cavil. It was natural that Alessandro
came and went as a physician might. But after Felipe had
recovered, why should this freedom and intimacy continue? More
than once there had been sullen mutterings of this kind on the
north veranda, when all the laborers and servants were gathered
there of an evening, Alessandro alone being absent from the group,
and the sounds of his voice or his violin coming from the south
veranda, where the family sat.
"It would be a good thing if we too had a bit of music now and
then," Juan Canito would grumble; "but the lad's chary enough of
his bow on this side the house."
"Ho! we're not good enough for him to play to!" Margarita would
reply; "'Like master, like servant,' is a good proverb sometimes, but
not always. But there's a deal going on, on the veranda yonder,
besides fiddling!" and Margarita's lips would purse themselves up
in an expression of concentrated mystery and secret knowledge,
well fitted to draw from everybody a fire of questions, none of
which, however, would she answer. She knew better than to
slander the Senorita Ramona, or to say a word even reflecting
upon her unfavorably. Not a man or a woman there would have
borne it. They all had loved Ramona ever since she came among
them as a toddling baby. They petted her then, and idolized her
now. Not one of them whom she had not done good offices for,--
nursed them, cheered them, remembered their birthdays and their
saints'-days. To no one but her mother had Margarita unbosomed
what she knew, and what she suspected; and old Marda, frightened
at the bare pronouncing of such words, had terrified Margarita into
the solemnest of promises never, under any circumstances
whatever, to say such things to any other member of the family.
Marda did not believe them. She could not. She believed that
Margarita's jealousy had imagined all.
"And the Senora; she'd send you packing off this place in an hour,
and me too, long's I've lived here, if ever she was to know of you
blackening the Senorita. An Indian, too! You must be mad,
When Margarita, in triumph, had flown to tell her that the Senora
had just dragged the Senorita Ramona up the garden-walk, and
shoved her into her room and locked the door, and that it was
because she had caught her with Alessandro at the washing-stones,
Marda first crossed herself in sheer mechanical fashion at the
shock of the story, and then cuffed Margarita's ears for telling her.
"I'll take the head off your neck, if you say that aloud again!
Whatever's come to the Senora! Forty years I've lived under this
roof, and I never saw her lift a hand to a living creature yet. You're
out of your senses, child!" she said, all the time gazing fearfully
towards the room.
"You'll see whether I am out of my senses or not," retorted
Margarita, and ran back to the dining-room. And after the
dining-room door was shut, and the unhappy pretence of a supper
had begun, old Marda had herself crept softly to the Senorita's door
and listened, and heard Ramona sobbing as if her heart would
break. Then she knew that what Margarita had said must be true,
and her faithful soul was in sore straits what to think. The Senorita
misdemean herself! Never! Whatever happened, it was not that!
There was some horrible mistake somewhere. Kneeling at the
keyhole, she had called cautiously to Ramona, "Oh, my lamb, what
is it?" But Ramona had not heard her, and the danger was too great
of remaining; so scrambling up with difficulty from her rheumatic
knees, the old woman had hobbled back to the kitchen as much in
the dark as before, and, by a curiously illogical consequence,
crosser than ever to her daughter. All the next day she watched for
herself, and could not but see that all appearances bore out
Margarita's statements. Alessandro's sudden departure had been a
tremendous corroboration of the story. Not one of the men had had
an inkling of it; Juan Canito, Luigo, both alike astonished; no word
left, no message sent; only Senor Felipe had said carelessly to Juan
Can, after breakfast: "You'll have to look after things yourself for a
few days, Juan. Alessandro has gone to Temecula."
"For a few days!" exclaimed Margarita, sarcastically, when this
was repeated to her. "That's easy said! If Alessandro Assis is seen
here again, I'll eat my head! He's played his last tune on the south
veranda, I wager you."
But when at supper-time of this same eventful day the Senora was
heard, as she passed the Senorita's door, to say in her ordinary
voice, "Are you ready for supper, Ramona?" and Ramona was seen
to come out and walk by the Senora's side to the dining-room;
silent, to be sure,-- but then that was no strange thing, the Senorita
always was more silent in the Senora's presence,-- when Marda,
standing in the court-yard, feigning to be feeding her chickens, but
keeping a close eye on the passage-ways, saw this, she was
relieved, and thought: "It's only a dispute there has been. There
will be disputes in families sometimes. It is none of our affair. All
is settled now."
And Margarita, standing in the dining-room, when she saw them
all coming in as usual,-- the Senora, Felipe, Ramona,-- no change,
even to her scrutinizing eye, in anybody's face, was more surprised
than she had been for many a day; and began to think again, as she
had more than once since this tragedy began, that she must have
dreamed much that she remembered.
But surfaces are deceitful, and eyes see little. Considering its
complexity, the fineness and delicacy of its mechanism, the results
attainable by the human eye seem far from adequate to the
expenditure put upon it. We have flattered ourselves by inventing
proverbs of comparison in matter of blindness,-- "blind as a bat,"
for instance. It would be safe to say that there cannot be found in
the animal kingdom a bat, or any other creature, so blind in its own
range of circumstance and connection, as the greater majority of
human beings are in the bosoms of their families. Tempers strain
and recover, hearts break and heal, strength falters, fails, and
comes near to giving way altogether, every day, without being
noted by the closest lookers-on.
Before night of this second day since the trouble had burst like a
storm-cloud on the peaceful Moreno household, everything had so
resumed the ordinary expression and routine, that a shrewder
observer and reasoner than Margarita might well be excused for
doubting if any serious disaster could have occurred to any one.
Senor Felipe sauntered about in his usual fashion, smoking his
cigarettes, or lay on his bed in the veranda, dozing. The Senora
went her usual rounds of inspection, fed her birds, spoke to every
one in her usual tone, sat in her carved chair with her hands folded,
gazing out on the southern sky. Ramona busied herself with her
usual duties, dusted the chapel, put fresh flowers before all the
Madonnas, and then sat down at her embroidery. Ramona had
been for a long time at work on a beautiful altar-cloth for the
chapel. It was to have been a present to the Senora. It was nearly
done. As she held up the frame in which it was stretched, and
looked at the delicate tracery of the pattern, she sighed. It had been
with a mingled feeling of interest and hopelessness that she had for
months been at work on it, often saying to herself, "She won't care
much for it, beautiful as it is, just because I did it; but Father
Salvierderra will be pleased when he sees it."
Now, as she wove the fine threads in and out, she thought: "She
will never let it be used on the altar. I wonder if I could any way
get it to Father Salvierderra, at Santa Barbara. I would like to give
it to him. I will ask Alessandro. I'm sure the Senora would never
use it, and it would be a shame to leave it here. I shall take it with
me." But as she thought these things, her face was unruffled. A
strange composure had settled on Ramona. "Only four days; only
four days; I can bear anything for four days!" these words were
coming and going in her mind like refrains of songs which haunt
one's memory and will not be still. She saw that Felipe looked
anxiously at her, but she answered his inquiring looks always with
a gentle smile. It was evident that the Senora did not intend that
she and Felipe should have any private conversation; but that did
not so much matter. After all, there was not so much to be said.
Felipe knew all. She could tell him nothing; Felipe had acted for
the best, as he thought, in sending Alessandro away till the heat of
the Senora's anger should have spent itself.
After her first dismay at suddenly learning that Alessandro had
gone, had passed, she had reflected that it was just as well. He
would come back prepared to take her with him. How, or where,
she did not know; but she would go with no questions. Perhaps she
would not even bid the Senora good-by; she wondered how that
would arrange itself, and how far Alessandro would have to take
her, to find a priest to marry them. It was a terrible thing to have to
do, to go out of a home in such a way: no wedding -- no wedding
clothes -- no friends -- to go unmarried, and journey to a priest's
house, to have the ceremony performed; "but it is not my fault,"
said Ramona to herself; "it is hers. She drives me to do it. If it is
wrong, the blame will be hers. Father Salvierderra would gladly
come here and marry us, if she would send for him. I wish we
could go to him, Alessandro and I; perhaps we can. I would not be
afraid to ride so far; we could do it in two days." The more
Ramona thought of this, the more it appeared to her the natural
thing for them to do. "He will be on our side, I know he will," she
thought. "He always liked Alessandro, and he loves me."
It was strange how little bitterness toward the Senora was in the
girl's mind; how comparatively little she thought of her. Her heart
was too full of Alessandro and of their future; and it had never
been Ramona's habit to dwell on the Senora in her thoughts. As
from her childhood up she had accepted the fact of the Senora's
coldness toward her, so now she accepted her injustice and
opposition as part of the nature of things, and not to be altered.
During all these hours, during the coming and going of these
crowds of fears, sorrows, memories, anticipations in Ramona's
heart, all that there was to be seen to the eye was simply a calm,
quiet girl, sitting on the veranda, diligently working at her
lace-frame. Even Felipe was deceived by her calmness, and
wondered what it meant,-- if it could be that she was undergoing
the change that his mother had thought possible, and designated as
coming "to her senses." Even Felipe did not know the steadfast
fibre of the girl's nature; neither did he realize what a bond had
grown between her and Alessandro. In fact, he sometimes
wondered of what this bond had been made. He had himself seen
the greater part of their intercourse with each other; nothing could
have been farther removed from anything like love-making. There
had been no crisis of incident, or marked moments of experience
such as in Felipe's imaginations of love were essential to the
fulness of its growth. This is a common mistake on the part of
those who have never felt love's true bonds. Once in those chains,
one perceives that they are not of the sort full forged in a day. They
are made as the great iron cables are made, on which bridges are
swung across the widest water-channels,-- not of single huge rods,
or bars, which would be stronger, perhaps, to look at, but of
myriads of the finest wires, each one by itself so fine, so frail, it
would barely hold a child's kite in the wind: by hundreds, hundreds
of thousands of such, twisted, re-twisted together, are made the
mighty cables, which do not any more swerve from their place in
the air, under the weight and jar of the ceaseless traffic and tread
of two cities, than the solid earth swerves under the same ceaseless
weight and jar. Such cables do not break.
Even Ramona herself would have found it hard to tell why she thus
loved Alessandro; how it began, or by what it grew. It had not been
a sudden adoration, like his passion for her; it was, in the
beginning, simply a response; but now it was as strong a love as
his,-- as strong, and as unchangeable. The Senora's harsh words
had been like a forcing-house air to it, and the sudden knowledge
of the fact of her own Indian descent seemed to her like a
revelation, pointing out the path in which destiny called her to
walk. She thrilled with pleasure at the thought of the joy with
which Alessandro would hear this,-- the joy and the surprise. She
imagined to herself, in hundreds of ways, the time, place, and
phrase in which she would tell him. She could not satisfy herself as
to the best; as to which would give keenest pleasure to him and to
her. She would tell him, as soon as she saw him; it should be her
first word of greeting. No! There would be too much of trouble
and embarrassment then. She would wait till they were far away,
till they were alone, in the wilderness; and then she would turn to
him, and say, "Alessandro, my people are your people!" Or she
would wait, and keep her secret until she had reached Temecula,
and they had begun their life there, and Alessandro had been
astonished to see how readily and kindly she took to all the ways
of the Indian village; and then, when he expressed some such
emotion, she would quietly say, "But I too am an Indian,
Strange, sad bride's dreams these; but they made Ramona's heart
beat with happiness as she dreamed them.
THE first day had gone, it was near night of the second, and not a
word had passed between Felipe and Ramona, except in the
presence of the Senora. It would have been beautiful to see, if it
had not been so cruel a thing, the various and devious methods by
which the Senora had brought this about. Felipe, oddly enough,
was more restive under it than Ramona. She had her dreams. He
had nothing but his restless consciousness that he had not done for
her what he hoped; that he must seem to her to have been disloyal;
this, and a continual wonder what she could be planning or
expecting which made her so placid, kept Felipe in a fever of
unrest, of which his mother noted every sign, and redoubled her
Felipe thought perhaps he could speak to Ramona in the night,
through her window. But the August heats were fierce now;
everybody slept with wide-open windows; the Senora was always
wakeful; if she should chance to hear him thus holding secret
converse with Ramona, it would indeed make bad matters worse.
Nevertheless, he decided to try it. At the first sound of his
footsteps on the veranda floor, "My son, are you ill? Can I do
anything?" came from the Senora's window. She had not been
asleep at all. It would take more courage than Felipe possessed, to
try that plan again; and he lay on his veranda bed, this afternoon,
tossing about with sheer impatience at his baffled purpose.
Ramona sat at the foot of the bed, taking the last stitches in the
nearly completed altar-cloth. The Senora sat in her usual seat,
dozing, with her head thrown back. It was very hot; a sultry
south-wind, with dust from the desert, had been blowing all day,
and every living creature was more or less prostrated by it.
As the Senora's eyes closed, a sudden thought struck Felipe.
Taking out a memorandum-book in which he kept his accounts, he
began rapidly writing. Looking up, and catching Ramona's eye, he
made a sign to her that it was for her. She glanced apprehensively
at the Senora. She was asleep. Presently Felipe, folding the note,
and concealing it in his hand, rose, and walked towards Ramona's
window, Ramona terrifiedly watching him; the sound of Felipe's
steps roused the Senora, who sat up instantly, and gazed about her
with that indescribable expression peculiar to people who hope
they have not been asleep, but know they have. "Have I been
asleep?" she asked.
"About one minute, mother," answered Felipe, who was leaning, as
he spoke, against Ramona's open window, his arms crossed behind
him. Stretching them out, and back and forth a few times, yawning
idly, he said, "This heat is intolerable!" Then he sauntered leisurely
down the veranda steps into the garden-walk, and seated himself
on the bench under the trellis there.
The note had been thrown into Ramona's room. She was hot and
cold with fear lest she might not be able to get it unobserved. What
if the Senora were to go first into the room! She hardly dared look
at her. But fortune is not always on the side of tyrants. The Senora
was fast dozing off again, relieved that Felipe was out of speaking
distance of Ramona. As soon as her eyes were again shut, Ramona
rose to go. The Senora opened her eyes. Ramona was crossing the
threshold of the door; she was going into the house. Good! Still
farther away from Felipe.
"Are you going to your room, Ramona?" said the Senor .
"I was," replied Ramona, alarmed. "Did you want me here?"
"No," said the Senora; and she closed her eyes again.
In a second more the note was safe in Ramona's hands.
"Dear Ramona," Felipe had written, "I am distracted because I
cannot speak with you alone. Can you think of any way? I want to
explain things to you. I am afraid you do not understand. Don't be
unhappy. Alessandro will surely be back in four days. I want to
help you all I can, but you saw I could not do much. Nobody will
hinder your doing what you please; but, dear, I wish you would not
go away from us!"
Tearing the paper into small fragments, Ramona thrust them into
her bosom, to be destroyed later. Then looking out of the window,
and seeing that the Senora was now in a sound sleep, she ventured
to write a reply to Felipe, though when she would find a safe
opportunity to give it to him, there was no telling. "Thank you,
dear Felipe. Don't be anxious. I am not unhappy. I understand all
about it. But I must go away as soon as Alessandro comes." Hiding
this also safe in her bosom, she went back to the veranda. Felipe
rose, and walked toward the steps. Ramona, suddenly bold,
stooped, and laid her note on the second step. Again the tired eyes
of the Senora opened. They had not been shut five minutes;
Ramona was at her work; Felipe was coming up the steps from the
garden. He nodded laughingly to his mother, and laid his finger on
his lips. All was well. The Senora dozed again. Her nap had cost
her more than she would ever know. This one secret interchange
between Felipe and Ramona then, thus making, as it were,
common cause with each other as against her, and in fear of her,
was a step never to be recalled,-- a step whose significance could
scarcely be overestimated. Tyrants, great and small, are apt to
overlook such possibilities as this; to forget the momentousness
which the most trivial incident may assume when forced into false
proportions and relations. Tyranny can make liars and cheats out
of the honestest souls. It is done oftener than any except close
students of human nature realize. When kings and emperors do
this, the world cries out with sympathy, and holds the plotters
more innocent than the tyrant who provoked the plot. It is Russia
that stands branded in men's thoughts, and not Siberia.
The Senora had a Siberia of her own, and it was there that Ramona
was living in these days. The Senora would have been surprised to
know how little the girl felt the cold. To be sure, it was not as if
she had ever felt warmth in the Senora's presence; yet between the
former chill and this were many degrees, and except for her new
life, and new love, and hope in the thought of Alessandro, Ramona
could not have borne it for a day.
The fourth day came; it seemed strangely longer than the others
had. All day Ramona watched and listened. Felipe, too; for,
knowing what Alessandro's impatience would be, he had, in truth,
looked for him on the previous night. The horse he rode was a fleet
one, and would have made the journey with ease in half the time.
But Felipe reflected that there might be many things for
Alessandro to arrange at Temecula. He would doubtless return
prepared to take Ramona back with him, in case that proved the
only alternative left them. Felipe grew wretched as his fancy dwelt
on the picture of Ramona's future. He had been in the Temecula
village. He knew its poverty; the thought of Ramona there was
monstrous, To the indolent, ease-loving Felipe it was incredible
that a girl reared as Ramona had been, could for a moment
contemplate leading the life of a poor laboring man's wife. He
could not conceive of love's making one undertake any such life.
Felipe had much to learn of love. Night came; no Alessandro. Till
the darkness settled down, Ramona sat, watching the willows.
When she could no longer see, she listened. The Senora, noting all,
also listened. She was uneasy as to the next stage of affairs, but she
would not speak. Nothing should induce her to swerve from the
line of conduct on which she had determined. It was the full of the
moon. When the first broad beam of its light came over the hill,
and flooded the garden and the white front of the little chapel, just
as it had done on that first night when Alessandro watched with
Felipe on the veranda, Ramona pressed her face against the
window-panes, and gazed out into the garden. At each flickering,
motion of the shadows she saw the form of a man approaching.
Again and again she saw it. Again and again the breeze died, and
the shadow ceased. It was near morning before, weary, sad, she
crept to bed; but not to sleep. With wide-open, anxious eyes, she
still watched and listened. Never had the thought once crossed her
mind that Alessandro might not come at the time Felipe had said.
In her childlike simplicity she had accepted this as unquestioningly
as she had accepted other facts in her life. Now that he did not
come, unreasoning and unfounded terror took possession of her,
and she asked herself continually, "Will he ever come! They sent
him away; perhaps he will be too proud to come back!" Then faith
would return, and saying to herself, "He would never, never
forsake me; he knows I have no one in the whole world but him;
he knows how I love him," she would regain composure, and
remind herself of the many detentions which might have prevented
his coming at the time set. Spite of all, however, she was heavy at
heart; and at breakfast her anxious eyes and absent look were sad
to see. They hurt Felipe. Too well he knew what it meant. He also
was anxious. The Senora saw it in his face, and it vexed her. The
girl might well pine, and be mortified if her lover did not appear.
But why should Felipe disquiet himself? The Senora disliked it. It
was a bad symptom. There might be trouble ahead yet. There was,
indeed, trouble ahead,-- of a sort the Senora's imaginings had not
Another day passed; another night; another, and another. One
week now since Alessandro, as he leaped on his horse, had grasped
Felipe's hand, and said: "You will tell the Senorita; you will make
sure that she understands why I go; and in four days I will be
back." One week, and he had not come. The three who were
watching and wondering looked covertly into each other's faces,
each longing to know what the others thought.
Ramona was wan and haggard. She had scarcely slept. The idea
had taken possession of her that Alessandro was dead. On the sixth
and seventh days she had walked each afternoon far down the river
road, by which he would be sure to come; down the meadows, and
by the cross-cut, out to the highway; at each step straining her
tearful eyes into the distance,-- the cruel, blank, silent distance.
She had come back after dark, whiter and more wan than she went
out. As she sat at the supper-table, silent, making no feint of
eating, only drinking glass after glass of milk, in thirsty haste, even
Margarita pitied her. But the Senora did not. She thought the best
thing which could happen, would be that the Indian should never
come back. Ramona would recover from it in a little while; the
mortification would be the worst thing, but even that, time would
heal. She wondered that the girl had not more pride than to let her
wretchedness be so plainly seen. She herself would have died
before she would go about with such a woe-begone face, for a
whole household to see and gossip about.
On the morning of the eighth day, Ramona, desperate, waylaid
Felipe, as he was going down the veranda steps. The Senora was in
the garden, and saw them; but Ramona did not care. "Felipe!" she
cried, "I must, I must speak to you! Do you think Alessandro is
dead? What else could keep him from coming?" Her lips were dry,
her cheeks scarlet, her voice husky. A few more days of this, and
she would be in a brain fever, Felipe thought, as he looked
compassionately at her.
"Oh, no, no, dear! Do not think that!" he replied. "A thousand
things might have kept him."
"Ten thousand things would not! Nothing could!" said Ramona. "I
know he is dead. Can't you send a messenger, Felipe, and see?"
The Senora was walking toward them. She overheard the last
words. Looking toward Felipe, no more regarding Ramona than if
she had not been within sight or hearing, the Senora said, "It seems
to me that would not be quite consistent with dignity. How does it
strike you, Felipe' If you thought best, we might spare a man as
soon as the vintage is done, I suppose."
Ramona walked away. The vintage would not be over for a week.
There were several vineyards yet which had not been touched;
every hand on the place was hard at work, picking the grapes,
treading them out in tubs, emptying the juice into stretched
raw-hides swung from cross-beams in a long shed. In the willow
copse the brandy-still was in full blast; it took one man to watch it;
this was Juan Can's favorite work; for reasons of his own he liked
best to do it alone; and now that he could no longer tread grapes in
the tubs, he had a better chance for uninterrupted work at the still.
"No ill but has its good," he thought sometimes, as he lay
comfortably stretched out in the shade, smoking his pipe day after
day, and breathing the fumes of the fiery brandy.
As Ramona disappeared in the doorway, the Senora, coming close
to Felipe, and laying her hand on his arm, said in a confidential
tone, nodding her head in the direction in which Ramona had
vanished: "She looks badly, Felipe. I don't know what we can do.
We surely cannot send to summon back a lover we do not wish her
to marry, can we? It is very perplexing. Most unfortunate, every
way. What do you think, my son?" There was almost a diabolical
art in the manner in which the Senora could, by a single phrase or
question, plant in a person's mind the precise idea she wished him
to think he had originated himself.
"No; of course we can't send for him," replied Felipe, angrily;
"unless it is to send him to marry her; I wish he had never set foot
on the place. I am sure I don't know what to do. Ramona's looks
frighten me. I believe she will die."
"I cannot wish Alessandro had never set foot on the place," said
the Senora, gently, "for I feel that I owe your life to him, my
Felipe; and he is not to blame for Ramona's conduct. You need not
fear her dying, She may be ill; but people do not die of love like
hers for Alessandro."
"Of what kind do they die, mother?" asked Felipe, impatiently.
The Senora looked reproachfully at him. "Not often of any," she
said; "but certainly not of a sudden passion for a person in every
way beneath them, in position, in education, in all points which are
essential to congeniality of tastes or association of life."
The Senora spoke calmly, with no excitement, as if she were
discussing an abstract case. Sometimes, when she spoke like this,
Felipe for the moment felt as if she were entirely right, as if it were
really a disgraceful thing in Ramona to have thus loved
Alessandro. It could not be gainsaid that there was this gulf, of
which she spoke. Alessandro was undeniably Ramona's inferior in
position, education, in all the external matters of life; but in nature,
in true nobility of soul, no! Alessandro was no man's inferior in
these; and in capacity to love,-- Felipe sometimes wondered
whether he had ever known Alessandro's equal in that. This
thought had occurred to him more than once, as from his sick-bed
he had, unobserved, studied the expression with which Alessandro
gazed at Ramona. But all this made no difference in the perplexity
of the present dilemma, in the embarrassment of his and his
mother's position now. Send a messenger to ask why Alessandro
did not return! Not even if he had been an accepted and publicly
recognized lover, would Felipe do that! Ramona ought to have
more pride. She ought of herself to know that. And when Felipe,
later in the day, saw Ramona again, he said as much to her. He
said it as gently as he could; so gently that she did not at first
comprehend his idea. It was so foreign, so incompatible with her
faith, how could she?
When she did understand, she said slowly: "You mean that it will
not do to send to find out if Alessandro is dead, because it will
look as if I wished him to marry me whether he wished it or not?"
and she fixed her eyes on Felipe's, with an expression he could not
"Yes, dear," he answered, "something like that, though you put it
"Is it not true," she persisted, "that is what you mean?"
Reluctantly Felipe admitted that it was.
Ramona was silent for some moments; then she said, speaking still
more slowly, "If you feel like that, we had better never talk about
Alessandro again. I suppose it is not possible that you should
know, as I do, that nothing but. his being dead would keep him
from coming back. Thanks, dear Felipe;" and after this she did not
speak again of Alessandro.
Days went by; a week. The vintage was over. The Senora
wondered if Ramona would now ask again for a messenger to go
to Temecula. Almost even the Senora relented, as she looked into
the girl's white and wasted face, as she sat silent, her hands folded
in her lap, her eyes fixed on the willows. The altar-cloth was done,
folded and laid away. It would never hang in the Moreno chapel. It
was promised, in Ramona's mind, to Father Salvierderra. She had
resolved to go to him; if he, a feeble old man, could walk all the
way between Santa Barbara and their home, she could surely do
the same. She would not lose the way. There were not many roads;
she could ask. The convent, the bare thought of which had been so
terrible to Ramona fourteen days ago, when the Senora had
threatened her with it, now seemed a heavenly refuge, the only
shelter she craved. There was a school for orphans attached to the
convent at San Juan Bautista, she knew; she would ask the Father
to let her go there, and she would spend the rest of her life in
prayer, and in teaching the orphan girls. As hour after hour she sat
revolving this plan, her fancy projected itself so vividly into the
future, that she lived years of her life. She felt herself middle-aged,
old. She saw the procession of nuns, going to vespers, leading the
children by the hand; herself wrinkled and white-haired, walking
between two of the little ones. The picture gave her peace. As soon
as she grew a little stronger, she would set off on her journey to the
Father; she could not go just yet, she was too weak; her feet
trembled if she did but walk to the foot of the garden. Alessandro
was dead; there could be no doubt of that. He was buried in that
little walled graveyard of which he had told her. Sometimes she
thought she would try to go there and see his grave, perhaps see his
father; if Alessandro had told him of her, the old man would be
glad to see her; perhaps, after all, her work might lie there, among
Alessandro's people. But this looked hard: she had not courage for
it; shelter and rest were what she wanted,-- the sound of the
Church's prayers, and the Father's blessing every day. The convent
was the best.
She thought she was sure that Alessandro was dead; but she was
not, for she still listened, still watched. Each day she walked out
on the river road, and sat waiting till dusk. At last came a day
when she could not go; her strength failed her. She lay all day on
her bed. To the Senora, who asked frigidly if she were ill, she
answered: "No, Senora, I do not think I am ill, I have no pain, but I
cannot get up. I shall be better to-morrow."
"I will send you strong broth and a medicine," the Senora said; and
sent her both by the hands of Margarita, whose hatred and jealousy
broke down at the first sight of Ramona's face on the pillow; it
looked so much thinner and sharper there than it had when she was
sitting up. "Oh, Senorita! Senorita!" she cried, in a tone of poignant
grief, "are you going to die? Forgive me, forgive me!"
"I have nothing to forgive you, Margarita," replied Ramona, raising
herself on her elbow, and lifting her eyes kindly to the girl's face as
she took the broth from her hands. "I do not know why you ask me
to forgive you."
Margarita flung herself on her knees by the bed, in a passion of
weeping. "Oh, but you do know, Senorita, you do know! Forgive
"No, I know nothing," replied Ramona; "but if you know anything,
it is all forgiven. I am not going to die, Margarita. I am going
away," she added, after a second's pause. Her inmost instinct told
her that she could trust Margarita now. Alessandro being dead,
Margarita would no longer be her enemy, and Margarita could
perhaps help her. "I am going away, Margarita, as soon as I feel a
little stronger. I am going to a convent; but the Senora does not
know. You will not tell?"
"No, Senorita!" whispered Margarita,-- thinking in her heart, "Yes,
she is going away, but it will be with the angels." -- "No, Senorita,
I will not tell. I will do anything you want me to."
"Thanks, Margarita mia," replied Ramona. "I thought you would;"
and she lay back on her pillow, and closed her eyes, looking so
much more like death than like life that Margarita's tears flowed
faster than before, and she ran to her mother, sobbing out,
"Mother, mother! the Senorita is ill to death. I am sure she is. She
has taken to her bed; and she is as white as Senor Felipe was at the
worst of the fever."
"Ay," said old Marda, who had seen all this for days back; "ay, she
has wasted away, this last week, like one in a fever, sure enough; I
have seen it. It must be she is starving herself to death."
"Indeed, she has not eaten for ten days,-- hardly since that day;"
and Margarita and her mother exchanged looks. It was not
necessary to further define the day.
"Juan Can says he thinks he will never be seen here again,"
"The saints grant it, then," said Marda, hotly, "if it is he has cost
the Senorita all this! I am that turned about in my head with it all,
that I've no thoughts to think; but plain enough it is, he is mixed up
with whatever 'tis has gone wrong."
"I could tell what it is," said Margarita, her old pertness coming
uppermost for a moment; "but I've got no more to say, now the
Senorita's lying on her bed, with the face she's got. It's enough to
break your heart to look at her. I could just go down on my knees
to her for all I've said; and I will, and to Saint Francis too! She's
going to be with him before long; I know she is."
"No," said the wiser, older Marda. "She is not so ill as you think.
She is young. It's the heart's gone out of her; that's all. I've been
that way myself. People are, when they're young."
"I'm young!" retorted Margarita. "I've never been that way."
"There's many a mile to the end of the road, my girl," said Marda,
significantly; "and 'It's ill boasting the first day out,' was a proverb
when I was your age!"
Marda had never been much more than half-way fond of this own
child of hers. Their natures were antagonistic. Traits which, in
Margarita's father, had embittered many a day of Marda's early
married life, were perpetually cropping out in Margarita, making
between the mother and daughter a barrier which even parental
love was not always strong enough to surmount. And, as was
inevitable, this antagonism was constantly leading to things which
seemed to Margarita, and in fact were, unjust and ill-founded.
"She's always flinging out at me, whatever I do," thought
Margarita. "I know one thing; I'll never tell her what the Senorita's
told me; never,-- not till after she's gone."
A sudden suspicion flashed into Margarita's mind. She seated
herself on the bench outside the kitchen door, to wrestle with it.
What if it were not to a convent at all, but to Alessandro, that the
Senorita meant to go! No; that was preposterous. If it had been
that, she would have gone with him in the outset. Nobody who was
plotting to run away with a lover ever wore such a look as the
Senorita wore now. Margarita dismissed the thought; yet it left its
trace. She would be more observant for having had it; her
resuscitated affection far her young mistress was not yet so strong
that it would resist the assaults of jealousy, if that passion were to
be again aroused in her fiery soul. Though she had never been
deeply in love with Alessandro herself, she had been enough so,
and she remembered him vividly enough, to feel yet a sharp
emotion of displeasure at the recollection of his devotion to the
Senorita. Now that the Senorita seemed to be deserted, unhappy,
prostrated, she had no room for anything but pity for her; but let
Alessandro come on the stage again, and all would be changed.
The old hostility would return. It was but a dubious sort of ally,
after all, that Ramona had so unexpectedly secured in Margarita.
She might prove the sharpest of broken reeds.
It was sunset of the eighteenth day since Alessandro's departure.
Ramona had lain for four days well-nigh motionless on her bed.
She herself began to think she must be going to die. Her mind
seemed to be vacant of all thought. She did not even sorrow for
Alessandro's death; she seemed torpid, body and soul. Such
prostrations as these are Nature's enforced rests. It is often only by
help of them that our bodies tide over crises, strains, in which, if
we continued to battle, we should be slain.
As Ramona lay half unconscious,-- neither awake nor yet asleep,--
on this evening, she was suddenly aware of a vivid impression
produced upon her; it was not sound, it was not sight. She was
alone; the house was still as death; the warm September twilight
silence reigned outside, She sat up in her bed, intent -- half
alarmed -- half glad -- bewildered -- alive. What had happened?
Still there was no sound, no stir. The twilight was fast deepening;
not a breath of air moving. Gradually her bewildered senses and
faculties awoke from their long-dormant condition; she looked
around the room; even the walls seemed revivified; she clasped
her hands, and leaped from the bed. "Alessandro is not dead!" she
said aloud; and she laughed hysterically. "He is not dead!" she
repeated. "He is not dead! He is somewhere near!"
With quivering hands she dressed, and stole out of the house. After
the first few seconds she found herself strangely strong; she did
not tremble; her feet trod firm on the ground. "Oh, miracle!" she
thought, as she hastened down the garden-walk; "I am well again!
Alessandro is near!" So vivid was the impression, that when she
reached the willows and found the spot silent, vacant, as when she
had last sat there, hopeless, broken-hearted, she experienced a
revulsion of disappointment. "Not here!" she cried; "not here!" and
a swift fear shook her. "Am I mad? Is it this way, perhaps, people
lose their senses, when they are as I have been!"
But the young, strong blood was running swift in her veins. No!
this was no madness; rather a newly discovered power; a fulness of
sense; a revelation. Alessandro was near.
Swiftly she walked down the river road. The farther she went, the
keener grew her expectation, her sense of Alessandro's nearness. In
her present mood she would have walked on and on, even to
Temecula itself, sure that she was at each step drawing nearer to
As she approached the second willow copse, which lay perhaps a
quarter of a mile west of the first, she saw the figure of a man,
standing, leaning against one of the trees. She halted. It could not
be Alessandro. He would not have paused for a moment so near
the house where he was to find her. She was afraid to go on. It was
late to meet a stranger in this lonely spot. The figure was strangely
still; so still that, as she peered through the dusk, she half fancied
it might be an optical illusion. She advanced a few steps,
hesitatingly, then stopped. As she did so, the man advanced a few
steps, then stopped. As he came out from the shadows of the trees,
she saw that he was of Alessandro's height. She quickened her
steps, then suddenly stopped again. What did this mean? It could
not be Alessandro. Ramona wrung her hands in agony of suspense.
An almost unconquerable instinct urged her forward; but terror
held her back. After standing irresolute for some minutes, she
turned to walk back to the house, saying, "I must not run the risk of
its being a stranger. If it is Alessandro, he will come."
But her feet seemed to refuse to move in the opposite direction.
Slower and slower she walked for a few paces, then turned again.
The man had returned to his former place, and stood as at first,
leaning against the tree.
"It may be a messenger from him," she said; "a messenger who has
been told not to come to the house until after dark."
Her mind was made up. She quickened her pace to a run. A few
moments more brought her so near that she could see distinctly. It
was -- yes, it was Alessandro. He did not see her. His face was
turned partially away, his head resting against the tree; he must be
ill. Ramona flew, rather than ran. In a moment more, Alessandro
had heard the light steps, turned, saw Ramona, and, with a cry,
bounded forward, and they were clasped in each other's arms
before they had looked in each other's faces. Ramona spoke first.
Disengaging herself gently, and looking up, she began:
"Alessandro --" But at the first sight of his face she shrieked. Was
this Alessandro, this haggard, emaciated, speechless man, who
gazed at her with hollow eyes, full of misery, and no joy! "O God,"
cried Ramona, "You have been ill! you are ill! My God,
Alessandro, what is it?"
Alessandro passed his hand slowly over his forehead, as if trying to
collect his thoughts before speaking, all the while keeping his eyes
fixed on Ramona, with the same anguished look, convulsively
holding both her hands in his.
"Senorita," he said, "my Senorita!" Then he stopped. His tongue
seemed to refuse him utterance; and this voice,-- this strange, hard,
unresonant voice,-- whose voice was it? Not Alessandro's.
"My Senorita," he began again, "I could not go without one sight of
your face; but when I was here, I had not courage to go near the
house. If you had not come, I should have gone back without
Ramona heard these words in fast-deepening terror, What did they
mean? Her look seemed to suggest a new thought to Alessandro.
"Heavens, Senorita!" he cried, "have you not heard? Do you not
know what has happened?"
"I know nothing, love," answered Ramona. "I have heard nothing
since you went away. For ten days I have been sure you were dead;
but to-night something told me that you were near, and I came to
At the first words of Ramona's sentence, Alessandro threw his
arms around her again. As she said "love," his whole frame shook
"My Senorita!" he whispered, "my Senorita! how shall I tell you!
How shall I tell you!"
"What is there to tell, Alessandro?" she said. "I am afraid of
nothing, now that you are here, and not dead, as I thought."
But Alessandro did not speak. It seemed impossible. At last,
straining her closer to his breast, he cried: "Dearest Senorita! I feel
as if I should die when I tell you,-- I have no home; my father is
dead; my people are driven out of their village. I am only a beggar
now, Senorita; like those you used to feed and pity in Los Angeles
convent!" As he spoke the last words, he reeled, and, supporting
himself against the tree, added: "I am not strong, Senorita; we have
Ramona's face did not reassure him. Even in the dusk he could see
its look of incredulous horror. He misread it.
"I only came to look at you once more," he continued. "I will go
now. May the saints bless you, my Senorita, always. I think the
Virgin sent you to me to-night. I should never have seen your face
if you had not come."
While he was speaking, Ramona had buried her face in his bosom.
Lifting it now, she said, "Did you mean to leave me to think you
were dead, Alessandro?"
"I thought that the news about our village must have reached you,"
he said, "and that you would know I had no home, and could not
come, to seem to remind you of what you had said. Oh, Senorita, it
was little enough I had before to give you! I don't know how I
dared to believe that you could come to be with me; but I loved
you so much, I had thought of many things I could do; and --"
lowering his voice and speaking almost sullenly -- "it is the saints,
I believe, who have punished me thus for having resolved to leave
my people, and take all I had for myself and you. Now they have
left me nothing;" and he groaned.
"Who?" cried Ramona. "Was there a battle? Was your father
killed?" She was trembling with horror.
"No," answered Alessandro. "There was no battle. There would
have been, if I had had my way; but my father implored me not to
resist. He said it would only make it worse for us in the end. The
sheriff, too, he begged me to let it all go on peaceably, and help
him keep the people quiet. He felt terribly to have to do it. It was
Mr. Rothsaker, from San Diego. We had often worked for him on
his ranch. He knew all about us. Don't you recollect, Senorita, I
told you about him,-- how fair he always was, and kind too? He
has the biggest wheat-ranch in Cajon; we've harvested miles and
miles of wheat for him. He said he would have rather died, almost,
than have had it to do; but if we resisted, he would have to order
his men to shoot. He had twenty men with him. They thought there
would be trouble; and well they might, -- turning a whole village
full of men and women and children out of their houses, and
driving them off like foxes. If it had been any man but Mr.
Rothsaker, I would have shot him dead, if I had hung for it; but I
knew if he thought we must go, there was no help for us."
"But, Alessandro," interrupted Ramona, "I can't understand. Who
was it made Mr. Rothsaker do it? Who has the land now?"
"I don't know who they are," Alessandro replied, his voice full of
anger and scorn. "They're Americans -- eight or ten of them. They
all got together and brought a suit, they call it, up in San Francisco;
and it was decided in the court that they owned all our land. That
was all Mr. Rothsaker could tell about it. It was the law, he said,
and nobody could go against the law."
"Oh," said Ramona, "that's the way the Americans took so much of
the Senora's land away from her. It was in the court up in San
Francisco; and they decided that miles and miles of her land,
which the General had always had, was not hers at all. They said it
belonged to the United States Government."
"They are a pack of thieves and liars, every one of them!" cried
Alessandro. "They are going to steal all the land in this country; we
might all just as well throw ourselves into the sea, and let them
have it. My father had been telling me this for years. He saw it
coming; but I did not believe him. I did not think men could be so
wicked; but he was right. I am glad he is dead. That is the only
thing I have to be thankful for now. One day I thought he was
going to get well, and I prayed to the Virgin not to let him. I did
not want him to live. He never knew anything clear after they took
him out of his house. That was before I got there. I found him
sitting on the ground outside. They said it was the sun that had
turned him crazy; but it was not. It was his heart breaking in his
bosom. He would not come out of his house, and the men lifted
him up and carried him out by force, and threw him on the ground;
and then they threw out all the furniture we had; and when he saw
them doing that, he put his hands up to his head, and called out,
'Alessandro! Alessandro!' and I was not there! Senorita, they said it
was a voice to make the dead hear, that he called with; and nobody
could stop him. All that day and all the night he kept on calling.
God! Senorita, I wonder I did not die when they told me! When I
got there, some one had built up a little booth of tule over his head,
to keep the sun off. He did not call any more, only for water,
water. That was what made them think the sun had done it. They
did all they could; but it was such a dreadful time, nobody could
do much; the sheriff's men were in great hurry; they gave no time.
They said the people must all be off in two days. Everybody was
running hither and thither. Everything out of the houses in piles on
the ground. The people took all the roofs off their houses too. They
were made of the tule reeds; so they would do again. Oh, Senorita,
don't ask me to tell you any more! It is like death. I can't!"
Ramona was crying bitterly. She did not know what to say. What
was love, in face of such calamity? What had she to give to a man
stricken like this'
"Don't weep, Senorita," said Alessandro, drearily. "Tears kill one,
and do no good."
"How long did your father live?" asked Ramona, clasping her arms
closer around his neck. They were sitting on the ground now, and
Ramona, yearning over Alessandro, as if she were the strong one
and he the one to be sheltered, had drawn his head to her bosom,
caressing him as if he had been hers for years. Nothing could have
so clearly shown his enfeebled and benumbed condition, as the
manner in which he received these caresses, which once would
have made him beside himself with joy. He leaned against her
breast as a child might.
"He! He died only four days ago. I stayed to bury him, and then I
came away. I have been three days on the way; the horse, poor
beast, is almost weaker than I. The Americans took my horse,"
"Took your horse!" cried Ramona, aghast. "Is that the law, too?"
"So Mr. Rothsaker told me. He said the judge had said he must
take enough of our cattle and horses to pay all it had cost for the
suit up in San Francisco. They didn't reckon the cattle at what they
were worth, I thought; but they said cattle were selling very low
now. There were not enough in all the village to pay it, so we had
to make it up in horses; and they took mine. I was not there the day
they drove the cattle away, or I would have put a ball into Benito's
head before any American should ever have had him to ride. But I
was over in Pachanga with my father. He would not stir a step for
anybody but me; so I led him all the way; and then after he got
there he was so ill I never left him a minute. He did not know me
any more, nor know anything that had happened. I built a little hut
of tule, and he lay on the ground till he died. When I put him in his
grave, I was glad."
"In Temecula?" asked Ramona.
"In Temecula." exclaimed Alessandro, fiercely. "You don't seem to
understand, Senorita. We have no right in Temecula, not even to
our graveyard full of the dead. Mr. Rothsaker warned us all not to
be hanging about there; for he said the men who were coming in
were a rough set, and they would shoot any Indian at sight, if they
saw him trespassing on their property."
"Their property!" ejaculated Ramona.
"Yes; it is theirs," said Alessandro, doggedly. "That is the law.
They've got all the papers to show it. That is what my father
always said,-- if the Senor Valdez had only given him a paper! But
they never did in those days. Nobody had papers. The American
law is different."
"It's a law of thieves!" cried Ramona.
"Yes, and of murderers too," said Alessandro. "Don't you call my
father murdered just as much as if they had shot him? I do! and, O
Senorita, my Senorita, there was Jose! You recollect Jose, who
went for my violin? But, my beloved one, I am killing you with
these terrible things! I will speak no more."
"No, no, Alessandro. Tell me all, all. You must have no grief I do
not share. Tell me about Jose," cried Ramona, breathlessly.
"Senorita, it will break your heart to hear. Jose was married a year
ago. He had the best house in Temecula, next to my father's. It was
the only other one that had a shingled roof. And he had a barn too,
and that splendid horse he rode, and oxen, and a flock of sheep. He
was at home when the sheriff came. A great many of the men were
away, grapepicking. That made it worse. But Jose was at home; for
his wife had a little baby only a few weeks old, and the child
seemed sickly and not like to live, and Jose would not leave it.
Jose was the first one that saw the sheriff riding into the village,
and the band of armed men behind him, and Jose knew what it
meant. He had often talked it over with me and with my father,
and now he saw that it had come; and he went crazy in one minute,
and fell on the ground all froth at his mouth. He had had a fit like
that once before; and the doctor said if he had another, he would
die. But he did not. They picked him up, and presently he was
better; and Mr. Rothsaker said nobody worked so well in the
moving the first day as Jose did. Most of the men would not lift a
hand. They sat on the ground with the women, and covered up
their faces, and would not see. But Jose worked; and, Senorita, one
of the first things he did, was to run with my father's violin to the
store, to Mrs. Hartsel, and ask her to hide it for us; Jose knew it
was worth money. But before noon the second day he had another
fit, and died in it,-- died right in his own door, carrying out some of
the things; and after Carmena -- that's his wife's name -- saw he
was dead, she never spoke, but sat rocking back and forth on the
ground, with the baby in her arms. She went over to Pachanga at
the same time I did with my father. It was a long procession of us."
"Where is Pachanga?" asked Ramona.
"About three miles from Temecula, a little sort of canon. I told the
people they'd better move over there; the land did not belong to
anybody, and perhaps they could make a living there. There isn't
any water; that's the worst of it."
"No water!" cried Ramona.
"No running water. There is one little spring, and they dug a well
by it as soon as they got there; so there was water to drink, but that
is all. I saw Carmena could hardly keep up, and I carried the baby
for her on one arm, while I led my father with the other hand; but
the baby cried, so she took it back. I thought then it wouldn't live
the day out; but it did live till the morning of the day my father
died. Just a few hours before he died, Carmena came along with
the baby rolled up in her shawl, and sat down by me on the ground,
and did not speak. When I said, 'How is the little one?' she opened
her shawl and showed it to me, dead. 'Good, Carmena!' said I. 'It is
good! My father is dying too. We will bury them together.' So she
sat by me all that morning, and at night she helped me dig the
graves. I wanted to put the baby on my father's breast; but she said,
no, it must have a little grave. So she dug it herself; and we put
them in; and she never spoke, except that once. She was sitting
there by the grave when I came away. I made a cross of two little
trees with the boughs chopped off, and set it up by the graves. So
that is the way our new graveyard was begun,-- my father and the
little baby; it is the very young and the very old that have the
blessed fortune to die. I cannot die, it seems!"
"Where did they bury Jose?" gasped Ramona.
"In Temecula," said Alessandro. "Mr. Rothsaker made two of his
men dig a grave in our old graveyard for Jose. But I think Carmena
will go at night and bring his body away. I would! But, my
Senorita, it is very dark, I can hardly see your beloved eyes. I think
you must not stay longer. Can I go as far as the brook with you,
safely, without being seen? The saints bless you, beloved, for
coming. I could not have lived, I think, without one more sight of
your face;" and, springing to his feet, Alessandro stood waiting for
Ramona to move. She remained still. She was in a sore strait. Her
heart held but one impulse, one desire,-- to go with Alessandro;
nothing was apparently farther from his thoughts than this. Could
she offer to go? Should she risk laying a burden on him greater
than he could bear? If he were indeed a beggar, as he said, would
his life be hindered or helped by her? She felt herself strong and
able. Work had no terrors for her; privations she knew nothing of,
but she felt no fear of them.
"Alessandro!" she said, in a tone which startled him.
"My Senorita!" he said tenderly.
"You have never once called me Ramona."
"I cannot, Senorita!" he replied.
"I do not know. I sometimes think 'Ramona,'" he added faintly;
"but not often. If I think of you by any other name than as my
Senorita, it is usually by a name you never heard."
"What is it?" exclaimed Ramona, wonderingly.
"An Indian word, my dearest one, the name of the bird you are
like,-- the wood-dove. In the Luiseno tongue that is Majel; that was
what I thought my people would have called you, if you had come
to dwell among us. It is a beautiful name, Senorita, and is like
Alessandro was still standing. Ramona rose; coming close to him,
she laid both her hands on his breast, and her head on her hands,
and said: "Alessandro, I have something to tell you. I am an Indian.
I belong to your people."
Alessandro's silence astonished her. "You are surprised," she said.
"I thought you would be glad."
"The gladness of it came to me long ago, my Senorita," he said. "I
"How?" cried Ramona. "And you never told me, Alessandro!"
"How could I?" he replied. "I dared not. Juan Canito, it was told
"Juan Canito!" said Ramona, musingly. "How could he have