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Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson

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known?" Then in a few rapid words she told Alessandro all that
the Senora had told her. "Is that what Juan Can said?" she asked.

"All except the father's name," stammered Alessandro.

"Who did he say was my father?" she asked.

Alessandro was silent.

"It matters not," said Ramona. "He was wrong. The Senora, of
course, knew. He was a friend of hers, and of the Senora Ortegna,
to whom he gave me. But I think, Alessandro, I have more of my
mother than of my father."

"Yes, you have, my Senorita," replied Alessandro, tenderly. "After
I knew it, I then saw what it was in your face had always seemed to
me like the faces of my own people,"

"Are you not glad, Alessandro?"

"Yes, my Senorita."

What more should Ramona say? Suddenly her heart gave way; and
without premeditation, without resolve, almost without
consciousness of what she was doing, she flung herself on
Alessandro's breast, and cried: "Oh, Alessandro, take me with you!
take me with you! I would rather die than have you leave me
again!"

XV

ALESSANDRO'S first answer to this cry of Ramona's was a
tightening of his arms around her; closer and closer he held her, till
it was almost pain; she could hear the throbs of his heart, but he
did not speak. Then, letting his arms fall, taking her hand in his, he
laid it on his forehead reverently, and said, in a voice which was so
husky and trembling she could barely understand his words: "My
Senorita knows that my life is hers. She can ask me to go into the
fire or into the sea, and neither the fire nor the sea would frighten
me; they would but make me glad for her sake. But I cannot take
my Senorita's life to throw it away. She is tender; she would die;
she cannot lie on the earth for a bed, and have no food to eat. My
Senorita does not know what she says."

His solemn tone; this third-person designation, as if he were
speaking of her, not with her, almost as if he were thinking aloud
to God rather than speaking to her, merely calmed and
strengthened, did not deter Ramona. "I am strong; I can work too,
Alessandro. You do not know. We can both work. I am not afraid
to lie on the earth; and God will give us food," she said.

"That was what I thought, my Senorita, until now. When I rode
away that morning, I had it in my thoughts, as you say, that if you
were not afraid, I would not be; and that there would at least
always be food, and I could make it that you should never suffer;
but, Senorita, the saints are displeased. They do not pray for us any
more. It is as my father said, they have forsaken us. These
Americans will destroy us all. I do not know but they will
presently begin to shoot us and poison us, to get us all out of the
country, as they do the rabbits and the gophers; it would not be any
worse than what they have done. Would not you rather be dead,
Senorita, than be as I am to-day?"

Each word he spoke but intensified Ramona's determination to
share his lot. "Alessandro," she interrupted, "there are many men
among your people who have wives, are there not?"

"Yes, Senorita!" replied Alessandro, wonderingly.

"Have their wives left them and gone away, now that this trouble
has come?"

"No, Senorita." still more wonderingly; "how could they?"

"They are going to stay with them, help them to earn money, try to
make them happier, are they not?"

"Yes, Senorita." Alessandro began to see whither these questions
tended. It was not unlike the Senora's tactics, the way in which
Ramona narrowed in her lines of interrogation.

"Do the women of your people love their husbands very much?"

"Very much, Senorita." A pause. It was very dark now. Alessandro
could not see the hot currents running swift and red over Ramona's
face; even her neck changed color as she asked her last question.
"Do you think any one of them loves her husband more than I love
you, Alessandro?"

Alessandro's arms were again around her, before the words were
done. Were not such words enough to make a dead man live?
Almost; but not enough to make such a love as Alessandro's
selfish. Alessandro was silent.

"You know there is not one!" said Ramona, impetuously.

"Oh, it is too much!" cried Alessandro, throwing his arms up
wildly. Then, drawing her to him again, he said, the words pouring
out breathless: "My Senorita, you take me to the door of heaven,
but I dare not go in. I know it would kill you, Senorita, to live the
life we must live. Let me go, dearest Senorita; let me go! It had
been better if you had never seen me."

"Do you know what I was going to do, Alessandro, if you had not
come?" said Ramona. "I was going to run away from the Senora's
house, all alone, and walk all the way to Santa Barbara, to Father
Salvierderra, and ask him to put me in the convent at San Juan
Bautista; and that is what I will do now if you leave me!"

"Oh, no, no, Senorita, my Senorita, you will not do that! My
beautiful Senorita in the convent! No, no!" cried Alessandro,
greatly agitated.

"Yes, if you do not let me come with you, I shall do it. I shall set
out to-morrow."

Her words carried conviction to Alessandro's soul. He knew she
would do as she said. "Even that would not be so dreadful as to be
hunted like a wild beast, Senorita; as you may be, if you come with
me."

"When I thought you were dead, Alessandro, I did not think the
convent would be dreadful at all. I thought it would be peace; and I
could do good, teaching the children. But if I knew you were alive,
I could never have peace; not for one minute have peace,
Alessandro! I would rather die, than not be where you are. Oh,
Alessandro, take me with you!"

Alessandro was conquered. "I will take you, my most beloved
Senorita," he said gravely,-- no lover's gladness in his tone, and his
voice was hollow; "I will take you. Perhaps the saints will have
mercy on you, even if they have forsaken me and my people!"

"Your people are my people, dearest; and the saints never forsake
any one who does not forsake them. You will be glad all our lives
long, Alessandro," cried Ramona; and she laid her head on his
breast in solemn silence for a moment, as if registering a vow.

Well might Felipe have said that he would hold himself fortunate
if any woman ever loved him as Ramona loved Alessandro.

When she lifted her head, she said timidly, now that she was sure,
"Then you will take your Ramona with you, Alessandro?"

"I will take you with me till I die; and may the Madonna guard
you, my Ramona," replied Alessandro, clasping her to his breast,
and bowing his head upon hers. But there were tears in his eyes,
and they were not tears of joy; and in his heart he said, as in his
rapturous delight when he first saw Ramona bending over the
brook under the willows he had said aloud, "My God! what shall I
do!"

It was not easy to decide on the best plan of procedure now.
Alessandro wished to go boldly to the house, see Senor Felipe, and
if need be the Senora. Ramona quivered with terror at the bare
mention of it. "You do not know the Senora, Alessandro," she
cried, "or you would never think of it. She has been terrible all this
time. She hates me so that she would kill me if she dared. She
pretends that she will do nothing to prevent my going away; but I
believe at the last minute she would throw me in the well in the
court-yard, rather than have me go with you."

"I would never let her harm you," said Alessandro. "Neither would
Senor Felipe."

"She turns Felipe round her finger as if he were soft wax,"
answered Ramona. "She makes him of a hundred minds in a
minute, and he can't help himself. Oh, I think she is in league with
the fiends, Alessandro! Don't dare to come near the house; I will
come here as soon as every one is asleep. We must go at once."

Ramona's terrors overruled Alessandro's judgment, and he
consented to wait for her at the spot where they now stood. She
turned back twice to embrace him again. "Oh, my Alessandro,
promise me that you will not stir from this place till I come," she
said.

"I will be here when you come," he said.

"It will not be more than two hours," she said, "or three, at the
utmost. It must be nine o'clock now."

She did not observe that Alessandro had evaded the promise not to
leave the spot. That promise Alessandro would not have given. He
had something to do in preparation for this unexpected flight of
Ramona. In her innocence, her absorption in her thoughts of
Alessandro and of love, she had never seemed to consider how she
would make this long journey. As Alessandro had ridden towards
Temecula, eighteen days ago, he had pictured himself riding back
on his fleet, strong Benito, and bringing Antonio's matchless little
dun mare for Ramona to ride. Only eighteen short days ago; and as
he was dreaming that very dream, he had looked up and seen
Antonio on the little dun mare, galloping towards him like the
wind, the overridden creature's breath coming from her like pants
of a steam-engine, and her sides dripping blood, where Antonio,
who loved her, had not spared the cruel spurs; and Antonio, seeing
him, had uttered a cry, and flinging himself off, came with a bound
to his side, and with gasps between his words told him. Alessandro
could not remember the words, only that after them he set his
teeth, and dropping the bridle, laid his head down between Benito's
ears, and whispered to him; and Benito never stopped, but
galloped on all that day, till he came into Temecula; and there
Alessandro saw the roofless houses, and the wagons being loaded,
and the people running about, the women and children wailing;
and then they showed him the place where his father lay on the
ground, under the tule, and jumping off Benito he let him go, and
that was the last he ever saw of him. Only eighteen days ago! And
now here he was, under the willows,-- the same copse where he
first halted, at his first sight of Ramona; and it was night, dark
night, and Ramona had been there, in his arms; she was his; and
she was going back presently to go away with him,-- where! He
had no home in the wide world to which to take her,-- and this
poor beast he had ridden from Temecula, had it strength enough
left to carry her? Alessandro doubted. He had himself walked more
than half the distance, to spare the creature, and yet there had been
good pasture all the way; but the animal had been too long starved
to recover quickly. In the Pachanga canon, where they had found
refuge, the grass was burned up by the sun, and the few horses
taken over there had suffered wretchedly; some had died. But
Alessandro, even while his arms were around Ramona, had
revolved in his mind a project he would not have dared to confide
to her. If Baba, Ramona's own horse, was still in the corral,
Alessandro could without difficulty lure him out. He thought it
would be no sin. At any rate, if it were, it could not be avoided.
The Senorita must have a horse, and Baba had always been her
own; had followed her about like a dog ever since he could run; in
fact, the only taming he had ever had, had been done by Ramona,
with bread and honey. He was intractable to others; but Ramona
could guide him by a wisp of his silky mane. Alessandro also had
nearly as complete control over him; for it had been one of his
greatest pleasures, during the summer, when he could not see
Ramona, to caress and fondle her horse, till Baba knew and loved
him next to his young mistress. If only Baba were in the corral, all
would be well. As soon as the sound of Ramona's footsteps had
died away, Alessandro followed with quick but stealthy steps;
keeping well down in the bottom, below the willows, he skirted
the terrace where the artichoke-patch and the sheepfolds lay, and
then turned up to approach the corral from the farther side. There
was no light in any of the herdsmen's huts. They were all asleep.
That was good. Well Alessandro knew how sound they slept; many
a night while he slept there with them he had walked twice over
their bodies as they lay stretched on skins on the floor,-- out and in
without rousing them. If only Baba would not give a loud whinny.
leaning on the corral-fence, Alessandro gave a low, hardly audible
whistle. The horses were all in a group together at the farther end
of the corral. At the sound there was a slight movement in the
group; and one of them turned and came a pace or two toward
Alessandro.

"I believe that is Baba himself," thought Alessandro; and he made
another low sound. The horse quickened. his steps; then halted, as
if he suspected some mischief.

"Baba," whispered Alessandro. The horse knew his name as well
as any dog; knew Alessandro's voice too; but the sagacious
creature seemed instinctively to know that here was an occasion
for secrecy and caution. If Alessandro whispered, he, Baba, would
whisper back; and it was little more than a whispered whinny
which he gave, as he trotted quickly to the fence, and put his nose
to Alessandro's face, rubbing and kissing and giving soft
whinnying sighs.

"Hush! hush! Baba," whispered Alessandro, as if he were speaking
to a human being. "Hush!" and he proceeded cautiously to lift off
the upper rails and bushes of the fence. The horse understood
instantly; and as soon as the fence was a little lowered, leaped over
it and stood still by Alessandro's side, while he replaced the rails,
smiling to himself, spite of his grave anxiety, to think of Juan
Can's wonder in the morning as to how Baba had managed to get
out of the corral.

This had taken only a few moments. It was better luck than
Alessandro had hoped for; emboldened by it, he began to wonder
if he could not get the saddle too. The saddles, harnesses, bridles,
and all such things hung on pegs in an open barn, such as is
constantly to be seen in Southern California; as significant a
testimony, in matter of climate, as any Signal Service Report could
be,-- a floor and a roof; no walls, only corner posts to hold the
roof. Nothing but summerhouses on a large scale are the South
California barns. Alessandro stood musing. The longer he thought,
the greater grew his desire for that saddle.

"Baba, if only you knew what I wanted of you, you'd lie down on
the ground here and wait while I got the saddle. But I dare not risk
leaving you. Come, Baba!" and he struck down the hill again, the
horse following him softly. When he got down below the terrace,
he broke into a run, with his hand in Baba's mane, as if it were a
frolic; and in a few moments they were safe in the willow copse,
where Alessandro's poor pony was tethered. Fastening Baba with
the same lariat, Alessandro patted him on the neck, pressed his
face to his nose, and said aloud, "Good Baba, stay here till the
Senorita comes." Baba whinnied.

"Why shouldn't he know the Senorita's name! I believe he does!"
thought Alessandro, as he turned and again ran swiftly back to the
corral. He felt strong now,-- felt like a new man. Spite of all the
terror, joy thrilled him. When he reached the corral, all was yet
still. The horses had not moved from their former position.
Throwing himself flat on the ground, Alessandro crept on his
breast from the corral to the barn, several rods' distance. This was
the most hazardous part of his adventure; every other moment he
paused, lay motionless for some seconds, then crept a few paces
more. As he neared the corner where Ramona's saddle always
hung, his heart beat. Sometimes, of a warm night, Luigo slept on
the barn floor. If he were there to-night, all was lost. Groping in
the darkness, Alessandro pulled himself up on the post, felt for the
saddle, found it, lifted it, and in a trice was flat on the ground
again, drawing the saddle along after him. Not a sound had he
made, that the most watchful of sheep-dogs could hear.

"Ha, old Capitan, caught you napping this time!" said Alessandro
to himself, as at last he got safe to the bottom of the terrace, and,
springing to his feet, bounded away with the saddle on his
shoulders. It was a weight for a starving man to carry, but he felt it
not, for the rejoicing he had in its possession. Now his Senorita
would go in comfort. To ride Baba was to be rocked in a cradle. If
need be, Baba would carry them both, and never know it; and it
might come to that, Alessandro thought, as he knelt by the side of
his poor beast, which was stretched out on the ground exhausted;
Baba standing by, looking down in scornful wonder at this strange
new associate.

"The saints be praised!" thought Alessandro, as he seated himself
to wait. "This looks as if they would not desert my Senorita."

Thoughts whirled in his brain. Where should they go first? What
would be best? Would they be pursued? Where could they hide?
Where should he seek a new home?

It was bootless thinking, until Ramona was by his side. He must
lay each plan before her. She must decide. The first thing was to
get to San Diego, to the priest, to be married. That would be three
days' hard ride; five for the exhausted Indian pony. What should
they eat on the ways Ah! Alessandro bethought him of the violin at
Hartsel's. Mr. Hartsel would give him money on that; perhaps buy
it. Then Alessandro remembered his own violin. He had not once
thought of it before. It lay in its case on a table in Senor Felipe's
room when he came away, Was it possible? No, of course it could
not be possible that the Senorita would think to bring it. What
would she bring? She would be wise, Alessandro was sure.

How long the hours seemed as he sat thus plotting and
conjecturing; more and more thankful, as each hour went by, to
see the sky still clouded, the darkness dense. "It must have been
the saints, too, that brought me on a night when there was no
moon," he thought; and then he said again, devout and
simple-minded man that he was. "They mean to protect my
Senorita; they will let me take care of her."

Ramona was threading a perilous way, through great difficulties.
She had reached her room unobserved, so far as she could judge.
Luckily for her, Margarita was in bed with a terrible toothache, for
which her mother had given her a strong sleeping-draught.
Margarita was disposed of. If she had not been, Ramona would
never have got away, for Margarita would have known that she had
been out of the house for two hours, and would have watched to
see what it meant.

Ramona came in through the court-yard; she dared not go by the
veranda, sure that Felipe and his mother were sitting there still, for
it was not late.

As she entered her room, she heard them talking. She closed one
of her windows, to let them know she was there. Then she knelt at
the Madonna's feet, and in an inaudible whisper told her all she
was going to do, and prayed that she would watch over her and
Alessandro, and show them where to go.

"I know she will! I am sure she will!" whispered Ramona to herself
as she rose from her knees.

Then she threw herself on her bed, to wait till the Senora and
Felipe should be asleep. Her brain was alert, clear. She knew
exactly what she wished to do. She had thought that all out, more
than two weeks ago, when she was looking for Alessandro hour by
hour.

Early in the summer Alessandro had given to her, as curiosities,
two of the large nets which the Indian women use for carrying all
sorts of burdens. They are woven out of the fibres of a flax-like
plant, and are strong as iron. The meshes being large, they are very
light; are gathered at each end, and fastened to a band which goes
around the forehead. In these can be carried on the back, with
comparative ease, heavier loads than could be lifted in any other
way. Until Ramona recollected these, she had been perplexed to
know how she should carry the things which she had made up her
mind it would be right for her to take,-- only a few; simply
necessaries; one stuff gown and her shawls; the new altar-cloth,
and two changes of clothes; that would not be a great deal; she had
a right to so much, she thought, now that she had seen the jewels
in the Senora's keeping. "I will tell Father Salvierderra exactly
what I took," she thought, "and ask him if it was too much." She
did not like to think that all these clothes she must take had been
paid for with the Senora Moreno's money.

And Alessandro's violin. Whatever else she left, that must go.
What would life be to Alessandro without a violin! And if they
went to Los Angeles, he might earn money by playing at dances.
Already Ramona had devised several ways by which they could
both earn money.

There must be also food for the journey. And it must be good food,
too; wine for Alessandro. Anguish filled her heart as she recalled
how gaunt he looked. "Starving," he said they had been. Good
God! Starving! And she had sat down each day at loaded tables,
and seen, each day, good food thrown to the dogs to eat.

It was long before the Senora went to her room; and long after that
before Felipe's breathing had become so deep and regular that
Ramona dared feel sure that he was asleep. At last she ventured
out. All was dark; it was past midnight.

"The violin first!" she said; and creeping into the dining-room, and
through the inner door to Felipe's room, she brought it out, rolled it
in shawl after shawl, and put it in the net with her clothes. Then
she stole out, with this net on her back, "like a true Indian woman
as I am," she said, almost gayly, to herself,-- through the
court-yard, around the southeast corner of the house, past the
garden, down to the willows, where she laid down her load, and
went back for the second.

This was harder. Wine she was resolved to have and bread and
cold meat. She did not know so well where to put her hand on old
Marda's possessions as on her own, and she dared not strike a light.
She made several journeys to the kitchen and pantry before she
had completed her store. Wine, luckily, she found in the
dining-room,-- two full bottles; also milk, which she poured into a
leathern flask which hung on the wall in the veranda.

Now all was ready. She leaned from her window, and listened to
Felipe's breathing. "How can I go without bidding him good-by?"
she said. "How can I?" and she stood irresolute.

"Dear Felipe! Dear Felipe! He has always been so good to me! He
has done all he could for me. I wish I dared kiss him. I will leave a
note for him."

Taking a pencil and paper, and a tiny wax taper, whose light would
hardly be seen across a room, she slipped once more into the
dining-room, knelt on the floor behind the door, lighted her taper,
and wrote:--

"DEAR FELIPE,-- Alessandro has come, and I am going away
with him to-night. Don't let anything be done to us, if you can help
it. I don't know where we are going. I hope, to Father Salvierderra.
I shall love you always. Thank you, dear Felipe, for all your
kindness.

"RAMONA."

It had not taken a moment. She blew out her taper, and crept back
into her room. Felipe's bed was now moved close to the wall of the
house. From her window she could reach its foot. Slowly,
cautiously, she stretched out her arm and dropped the little paper
on the coverlet, just over Felipe's feet. There was a risk that the
Senora would come out in the morning, before Felipe awaked, and
see the note first; but that risk she would take.

"Farewell, dear Felipe!" she whispered, under her breath, as she
turned from the window.

The delay had cost her dear. The watchful Capitan, from his bed at
the upper end of the court, had half heard, half scented, something
strange going on. As Ramona stepped out, he gave one short, quick
bark, and came bounding down.

"Holy Virgin, I am lost!" thought Ramona; but, crouching on the
ground, she quickly opened her net, and as Capitan came towards
her, gave him a piece of meat, fondling and caressing him. While
he ate it, wagging his tail, and making great demonstrations of joy,
she picked up her load again, and still fondling him, said, "Come
on, Capitan!" It was her last chance. If he barked again, somebody
would be waked; if he went by her side quietly, she might escape.
A cold sweat of terror burst on her forehead as she took her first
step cautiously. The dog followed. She quickened her pace; he
trotted along, still smelling the meat in the net. When she reached
the willows, she halted, debating whether she should give him a
large piece of meat, and try to run away while he was eating it, or
whether she should let him go quietly along. She decided on the
latter course; and, picking up her other net, walked on. She was
safe now. She turned, and looked back towards the house; all was
dark and still. She could hardly see its outline. A great wave of
emotion swept over her. It was the only home she had ever known.
All she had experienced of happiness, as well as of bitter pain, had
been there,-- Felipe, Father Salvierderra, the servants, the birds, the
garden, the dear chapel! Ah, if she could have once more prayed in
the chapel! Who would put fresh flowers and ferns in the chapel
now? How Felipe would miss her, when he knelt before the altar!
For fourteen years she had knelt by his side. And the Senora,-- the
hard, cold Senora! She would alone be glad. Everybody else would
be sorry. "They will all be sorry I have gone,-- all but the Senora! I
wish it had been so that I could have bidden them all good-by, and
had them all bid me good-by, and wish us good fortune!" thought
the gentle, loving girl, as she drew a long sigh, and, turning her
back on her home, went forward in the path she had chosen.

She stooped and patted Capitan on the head. "Will you come with
me, Capitan?" she said; and Capitan leaped up joyfully, giving two
or three short, sharp notes of delight. "Good Capitan, come! They
will not miss him out of so many," she thought, "and it will always
seem like something from home, as long as I have Capitan."

When Alessandro first saw Ramona's figure dimly in the gloom,
drawing slowly nearer, he did not recognize it, and he was full of
apprehension at the sight. What stranger could it be, abroad in
these lonely meadows at this hour of the night? Hastily he led the
horses farther back into the copse, and hid himself behind a tree, to
watch. In a few moments more he thought he recognized Capitan,
bounding by the side of this bent and slow-moving figure. Yet this
was surely an Indian woman toiling along under a heavy load. But
what Indian woman would have so superb a collie as Capitan?
Alessandro strained his eyes through the darkness. Presently he
saw the figure halt,-- drop part of its .burden.

"Alessandro!" came in a sweet, low call.

He bounded like a deer, crying, "My Senorita! my Senorita! Can
that be you? To think that you have brought these heavy loads!"

Ramona laughed. "Do you remember the day you showed me how
the Indian women carried so much on their backs, in these nets? I
did not think then I would use it so soon. But it hurts my forehead,
Alessandro. It isn't the weight, but the strings cut. I couldn't have
carried them much farther!"

"Ah, you had no basket to cover the head," replied Alessandro, as
he threw up the two nets on his shoulders as if they had been
feathers. In doing so, he felt the violin-case.

"Is it the violin?" he cried. "My blessed one, where did you get it?"

"Off the table in Felipe's room," she answered. "I knew you would
rather have it than anything else. I brought very little, Alessandro;
it seemed nothing while I was getting it; but it is very heavy to
carry. Will it be too much for the poor tired horse? You and I can
walk. And see, Alessandro, here is Capitan. He waked up, and I
had to bring him, to keep him still. Can't he go with us?"

Capitan was leaping up, putting his paws on Alessandro's breast,
licking his face, yelping, doing all a dog could do, to show
welcome and affection.

Alessandro laughed aloud. Ramona had not more than two or three
times heard him do this. It frightened her. "Why do you laugh,
Alessandro?" she said.

"To think what I have to show you, my Senorita," he said. "Look
here;" and turning towards the willows, he gave two or three low
whistles, at the first note of which Baba came trotting out of the
copse to the end of his lariat, and began to snort and whinny with
delight as soon as he perceived Ramona.

Ramona burst into tears. The surprise was too great.

"Are you not glad, Senorita?" cried Alessandro, aghast. "Is it not
your own horse? If you do not wish to take him, I will lead him
back. My pony can carry you, if we journey very slowly. But I
thought it would be joy to you to have Baba."

"Oh, it is! it is!" sobbed Ramona, with her head on Baba's neck. "It
is a miracle,-- a miracle. How did he come here? And ,,the saddle
too!" she cried, for the first time observing that. "Alessandro," in
an awe-struck whisper, "did the saints send him? Did you find him
here?" It would have seemed to Ramona's faith no strange thing,
had this been so.

"I think the saints helped me to bring him," answered Alessandro,
seriously, "or else I had not done it so easily. I did but call, near the
corral-fence, and he came to my hand, and leaped over the rails at
my word, as quickly as Capitan might have done. He is yours,
Senorita. It is no harm to take him?"

"Oh, no!" answered Ramona. "He is more mine than anything else
I had; for it was Felipe gave him to me when he could but just
stand on his legs; he was only two days old; and I have fed him out
of my hand every day till now; and now he is five. Dear Baba, we
will never be parted, never!" and she took his head in both her
hands, and laid her cheek against it lovingly.

Alessandro was busy, fastening the two nets on either side of the
saddle. "Baba will never know he has a load at all; they are not so
heavy as my Senorita thought," he said. "It was the weight on the
forehead, with nothing to keep the strings from the skin, which
gave her pain."

Alessandro was making all haste. His hands trembled. "We must
make all the speed we can, dearest Senorita," he said, "for a few
hours. Then we will rest. Before light, we will be in a spot where
we can hide safely all day. We will journey only by night, lest they
pursue us."

"They will not," said Ramona. "There is no danger. The Senora
said she should do nothing. 'Nothing!'" she repeated, in a bitter
tone. "That is what she made Felipe say, too. Felipe wanted to help
us. He would have liked to have you stay with us; but all he could
get was, that she would do 'nothing!' But they will not follow us.
They will wish never to hear of me again. I mean, the Senora will
wish never to hear of me. Felipe will be sorry. Felipe is very good,
Alessandro."

They were all ready now,-- Ramona on Baba, the two packed nets
swinging from her saddle, one on either side. Alessandro, walking,
led his tired pony. It was a sad sort of procession for one going to
be wed, but Ramona's heart was full of joy.

"I don't know why it is, Alessandro," she said; "I should think I
would be afraid, but I have not the least fear,-- not the least; not of
anything that can come, Alessandro," she reiterated with emphasis.
"Is it not strange?"

"Yes, Senorita," he replied solemnly, laying his hand on hers as he
walked close at her side. "It is strange. I am afraid,-- afraid for you,
my Senorita! But it is done, and we will not go back; and perhaps
the saints will help you, and will let me take care of you. They
must love you, Senorita; but they do not love me, nor my people."

"Are you never going to call me by my name?" asked Ramona. "I
hate your calling me Senorita. That was what the Senora always
called me when she was displeased."

"I will never speak the word again!" cried Alessandro. "The saints
forbid I should speak to you in the words of that woman!"

"Can't you say Ramona?" she asked.

Alessandro hesitated. He could not have told why it seemed to him
difficult to say Ramona.

"What was that other name, you said you always thought of me
by?" she continued. "The Indian name,-- the name of the dove?"

"Majel," he said. "It is by that name I have oftenest thought of you
since the night I watched all night for you, after you had kissed me,
and two wood-doves were calling and answering each other in the
dark; and I said to myself, that is what my love is like, the
wood-dove: the wood-dove's voice is low like hers, and sweeter
than any other sound in the earth; and the wood-dove is true to one
mate always --" He stopped.

"As I to you, Alessandro," said Ramona, leaning from her horse,
and resting her hand on Alessandro's shoulder.

Baba stopped. He was used to knowing by the most trivial signs
what his mistress wanted; he did not understand this new situation;
no one had ever before, when Ramona was riding him, walked by
his side so close that he touched his shoulders, and rested his hand
in his mane. If it had been anybody else than Alessandro, Baba
would not have permitted it even now. But it must be all right,
since Ramona was quiet; and now she had stretched out her hand
and rested it on Alessandro's shoulder. Did that mean halt for a
moment? Baba thought it might, and acted accordingly; turning his
head round to the right, and looking back to see what came of it.

Alessandro's arms around Ramona, her head bent down to his,
their lips together,-- what could Baba think? As mischievously as
if he had been a human being or an elf, Baba bounded to one side
and tore the lovers apart. They both laughed, and cantered on,--
Alessandro running; the poor Indian pony feeling the contagion,
and loping as it had not done for many a day.

"Majel is my name, then," said Ramona, "is it? It is a sweet sound,
but I would like it better Majella. Call me Majella."

"That will be good," replied Alessandro, "for the reason that never
before had any one the same name. It will not be hard for me to
say Majella. I know not why your name of Ramona has always
been hard to my tongue."

"Because it was to be that you should call me Majella," said
Ramona. "Remember, I am Ramona no longer. That also was the
name the Senora called me by -- and dear Felipe too," she added
thoughtfully. "He would not know me by my new name. I would
like to have him always call me Ramona. But for all the rest of the
world I am Majella, now,-- Alessandro's Majel!"

XVI

AFTER they reached the highway, and had trotted briskly on for a
mile, Alessandro suddenly put out his hand, and taking Baba by
the rein, began turning him round and round in the road.

"We will not go any farther in the road," he said, "but I must
conceal our tracks here. We will go backwards for a few paces."
The obedient Baba backed slowly, half dancing, as if he
understood the trick; the Indian pony, too, curvetted awkwardly,
then by a sudden bound under Alessandro's skilful guidance,
leaped over a rock to the right, and stood waiting further orders.
Baba followed, and Capitan; and there was no trail to show where
they had left the road.

After trotting the pony round and round again in ever-widening
circles, cantering off in one direction after another, then backing
over the tracks for a few moments, Ramona docilely following,
though much bewildered as to what it all meant, Alessandro said:
"I think now they will never discover where we left the road. They
will ride along, seeing our tracks plain, and then they will be so
sure that we would have kept straight on, that they will not notice
for a time; and when they do, they will never be able to see where
the trail ended. And now my Majella has a very hard ride before
her. Will she be afraid?"

"Afraid." laughed Ramona. "Afraid,-- on Baba, and with you!"

But it was indeed a hard ride. Alessandro had decided to hide for
the day in a canon he knew, from which a narrow trail led direct to
Temecula,-- a trail which was known to none but Indians. Once in
this canon, they would be safe from all possible pursuit.
Alessandro did not in the least share Ramona's confidence that no
effort would be made to overtake them. To his mind, it appeared
certain that the Senora would never accept the situation without
making an attempt to recover at least the horse and the dog. "She
can say, if she chooses, that I have stolen one of her horses," he
thought to himself bitterly; "and everybody would believe her.
Nobody would believe us, if we said it was the Senorita's own
horse."

The head of the canon was only a couple of miles from the road;
but it was in a nearly impenetrable thicket of chaparral, where
young oaks had grown up so high that their tops made, as it were, a
second stratum of thicket. Alessandro had never ridden through it;
he had come up on foot once from the other side, and, forcing his
way through the tangle had found, to his surprise, that he was near
the highway. It was from this canon that he had brought the ferns
which it had so delighted Ramona to arrange for the decoration of
the chapel. The place was filled with them, growing almost in
tropical luxuriance; but this was a mile or so farther down, and to
reach that spot from above, Alessandro had had to let himself
down a sheer wall of stone. The canon at its head was little more
than a rift in the rocks, and the stream which had its rise in it was
only a trickling spring at the beginning. It was this precious water,
as well as the inaccessibility of the spot, which had decided
Alessandro to gain the place at all hazards and costs. But a wall of
granite would not have seemed a much more insuperable obstacle
than did this wall of chaparral, along which they rode, vainly
searching for a break in it. It appeared to Alessandro to have
thickened and knit even since the last spring. At last they made
their way down a small side canon,-- a sort of wing to the main
canon; a very few rods down this, and they were as hidden from
view from above as if the earth had swallowed them. The first red
tints of the dawn were coming. From the eastern horizon to the
zenith, the whole sky was like a dappled crimson fleece.

"Oh, what a lovely place." exclaimed Ramona. "I am sure this was
not a hard ride at all, Alessandro! Is this where we are to stay?"

Alessandro turned a compassionate look upon her. "How little
does the wood-dove know of rough places!" he said. "This is only
the beginning; hardly is it even the beginning."

Fastening his pony to a bush, he reconnoitred the place,
disappearing from sight the moment he entered the chaparral in
any direction. Returning at last, with a grave face, he said, "Will
Majella let me leave her here for a little time? There is a way, but I
can find it only on foot. I will not be gone long. I know it is near."

Tears came into Ramona's eyes. The only thing she dreaded was
the losing sight of Alessandro. He gazed at her anxiously. "I must
go, Majella," he said with emphasis. "We are in danger here."

"Go! go! Alessandro," she cried. "But, oh, do not be long!"

As he disappeared in the thicket, the tough boughs crackling and
snapping before him, it seemed to Ramona that she was again
alone in the world. Capitan, too, bounded after Alessandro, and did
not return at her call. All was still. Ramona laid her head on Baba's
neck. The moments seemed hours. At last, just as the yellow light
streamed across the sky, and the crimson fleeces turned in one
second to gold, she heard Alessandro's steps, the next moment saw
his face. It was aglow with joy.

"I have found the trail!" he exclaimed; "but we must climb up
again out of this; and it is too light. I like it not."

With fear and trembling they urged their horses up and out into the
open again, and galloped a half-mile farther west, still keeping as
close to the chaparral thicket as possible. Here Alessandro, who
led the way, suddenly turned into the very thicket itself; no
apparent opening; but the boughs parted and closed, and his head
appeared above them; still the little pony was trotting bravely
along. Baba snorted with displeasure as he plunged into the same
bristling pathway. The thick-set, thorny branches smote Ramona's
cheeks. What was worse, they caught the nets swung on Baba's
sides; presently these were held fast, and Baba began to rear and
kick. Here was a real difficulty. Alessandro dismounted, cut the
strings, and put both the packages securely on the back of his own
pony. "I will walk," he said. "It was only a little way longer I would
have ridden. I shall lead Baba, where it is narrow."

"Narrow," indeed. It was from sheer terror, soon, that Ramona shut
her eyes. A path, it seemed to her only a hand's-breadth wide,-- a
stony, crumbling path,-- on the side of a precipice, down which the
stones rolled, and rolled, and rolled, echoing, far out of sight, as
they passed; at each step the beasts took, the stones rolled and fell.
Only the yucca-plants, with their sharp bayonet-leaves, had made
shift to keep foothold on this precipice. Of these there were
thousands; and their tall flower-stalks, fifteen, twenty feet high, set
thick with the shining, smooth seed-cups, glistened like satin
chalices in the sun. Below -- hundreds of feet below -- lay the
canon bottom, a solid bed of chaparral, looking soft and even as a
bed of moss. Giant sycamore-trees lifted their heads, at intervals,
above this; and far out in the plain glistened the loops of the river,
whose sources, unknown to the world, seen of but few human
eyes, were to be waters of comfort to these fugitives this day.

Alessandro was cheered. The trail was child's play to him. At the
first tread of Baba's dainty steps on the rolling stones, he saw that
the horse was as sure-footed as an Indian pony. In a few short
hours, now, they would be all at rest. He knew where, under a
sycamore-clump, there was running water, clear as crystal, and
cold,-- almost colder than one could drink,-- and green grass too;
plenty for two days' feed for the horses, or even three; and all
California might be searched over in vain for them, once they were
down this trail. His heart full of joy at these thoughts, he turned, to
see Ramona pallid, her lips parted, her eyes full of terror. He had
forgotten that her riding had hitherto been only on the smooth
ways of the valley and the plain, There she was so fearless, that he
had had no misgiving about her nerves here; but she had dropped
the reins, was clutching Baba's mane with both hands, and sitting
unsteadily in her saddle. She had been too proud to cry out; but she
was nearly beside herself with fright. Alessandro halted so
suddenly that Baba, whose nose was nearly on his shoulder, came
to so sharp a stop that Ramona uttered a cry. She thought he had
lost his footing.

Alessandro looked at her in dismay. To dismount on that perilous
trail was impossible; moreover, to walk there would take more
nerve than to ride. Yet she looked as if she could not much longer
keep her seat.

"Carita," he cried, "I was stupid not to have told you how narrow
the way is; but it is safe. I can run in it. I ran all this way with the
ferns on my back I brought for you."

"Oh, did you?" gasped Ramona, diverted, for the moment, from
her contemplation of the abyss, and more reassured by that change
of her thoughts than she could have been by anything else. "Did
you? It is frightful, Alessandro. I never heard of such a trail. I feel
as if I were on a rope in the air. If I could get down and go on my
hands and knees, I think I would like it better. Could I?"

"I would not dare to have you get off, just here, Majella," answered
Alessandro, sorrowfully. "It is dreadful to me to see you suffer so;
I will go very slowly. Indeed, it is safe; we all came up here, the
whole band, for the sheep-shearing,-- old Fernando on his horse all
the way."

"Really," said Ramona, taking comfort at each word, "I will try not
to be so silly. Is it far, dearest Alessandro?"

"Not much more as steep as this, dear, nor so narrow; but it will be
an hour yet before we stop."

But the worst was over for Ramona now, and long before they
reached the bottom of the precipice she was ready to laugh at her
fears; only, as she looked back at the zigzag lines of the path over
which she had come,-- little more than a brown thread, they
seemed, flung along the rock,-- she shuddered.

Down in the bottom of the canon it was still the dusky gloaming
when they arrived. Day came late to this fairy spot. Only at high
noon did the sun fairly shine in. As Ramona looked around her,
she uttered an exclamation of delight, which satisfied Alessandro.
"Yes," he said, "when I came here for the ferns, I wished to myself
many times that you could see it. There is not in all this country so
beautiful a place. This is our first home, my Majella," he added, in
a tone almost solemn; and throwing his arms around her, he drew
her to his breast, with the first feeling of joy he had experienced.

"I wish we could live here always," cried Ramona.

"Would Majella be content?" said Alessandro.

"Very," she answered.

He sighed. "There would not be land enough, to live here," he said.
"If there were, I too would like to stay here till I died, Majella, and
never see the face of a white man again!" Already the instinct of
the hunted and wounded animal to seek hiding, was striving in
Alessandro's blood. "But there would be no food. We could not
live here." Ramona's exclamation had set Alessandro to thinking,
however. "Would Majella be content to stay here three days now?"
he asked. "There is grass enough for the horses for that time. We
should be very safe here; and I fear very much we should not be
safe on any road. I think, Majella, the Senora will send men after
Baba."

"Baba!" cried Ramona, aghast at the idea. "My own horse! She
would not dare to call it stealing a horse, to take my own Baba!"
But even as she spoke, her heart misgave her. The Senora would
dare anything; would misrepresent anything; only too well
Ramona knew what the very mention of the phrase
"horse-stealing" meant all through the country. She looked
piteously at Alessandro. He read her thoughts.

"Yes, that is it, Majella," he said. "If she sent men after Baba, there
is no knowing what they might do. It would not do any good for
you to say he was yours. They would not believe you; and they
might take me too, if the Senora had told them to, and put me into
Ventura jail."

"She's just wicked enough to do it!" cried Ramona. "Let us not stir
out of this spot, Alessandro,-- not for a week! Couldn't we stay a
week? By that time she would have given over looking for us."

"I am afraid not a week. There is not feed for the horses; and I do
not know what we could eat. I have my gun, but there is not much,
now, to kill."

"But I have brought meat and bread, Alessandro," said Ramona,
earnestly, "and we could eat very little each day, and make it last!"
She was like a child, in her simplicity and eagerness. Every other
thought was for the time being driven out of her mind by the terror
of being pursued. Pursuit of her, she knew, would not be in the
Senora's plan; but the reclaiming of Baba and Capitan, that was
another thing. The more Ramona thought of it, the more it seemed
to her a form of vengeance which would be likely to commend
itself to the Senora's mind. Felipe might possibly prevent it. It was
he who had given Baba to her. He would feel that it would be
shameful to recall or deny the gift. Only in Felipe lay Ramona's
hope.

If she had thought to tell Alessandro that in her farewell note to
Felipe she had said that she supposed they were going to Father
Salvierderra, it would have saved both her and Alessandro much
disquietude. Alessandro would have known that men pursuing
them, on that supposition, would have gone straight down the river
road to the sea, and struck northward along the coast. But it did not
occur to Ramona to mention this; in fact, she hardly recollected it
after the first day. Alessandro had explained to her his plan, which
was to go by way of Temecula to San Diego, to be married there
by Father Gaspara, the priest of that parish, and then go to the
village or pueblo of San Pasquale, about fifteen miles northwest of
San Diego. A cousin of Alessandro's was the head man of this
village, and had many times begged him to come there to live; but
Alessandro had steadily refused, believing it to be his duty to
remain at Temecula with his father. San Pasquale was a regularly
established pueblo, founded by a number of the Indian neophytes
of the San Luis Rey Mission at the time of the breaking up of that
Mission. It was established by a decree of the Governor of
California, and the lands of the San Pasquale Valley given to it. A
paper recording this establishment and gift, signed by the
Governor's own hand, was given to the Indian who was the first
Alcalde of the pueblo. He was Chief Pablo's brother. At his death
the authority passed into the hands of his son, Ysidro, the cousin of
whom Alessandro had spoken.

"Ysidro has that paper still," Alessandro said, "and he thinks it will
keep them their village. Perhaps it will; but the Americans are
beginning to come in at the head of the valley, and I do not
believe, Majella, there is any safety anywhere. Still, for a few years
we can perhaps stay there. There are nearly two hundred Indians in
the valley; it is much better than Temecula, and Ysidro's people
are much better off than ours were. They have splendid herds of
cattle and horses, and large wheat-fields. Ysidro's house stands
under a great fig-tree; they say it is the largest fig-tree in the
country."

"But, Alessandro," cried Ramona, "why do you think it is not safe
there, if Ysidro has the paper? I thought a paper made it all right."

"I don't know," replied Alessandro. "Perhaps it may be; but I have
got the feeling now that nothing will be of any use against the
Americans. I don't believe they will mind the paper."

"They didn't mind the papers the Senora had for all that land of
hers they took away," said Ramona, thoughtfully. "But Felipe said
that was because Pio Pico was a bad man, and gave away lands he
had no right to give away."

"That's just it," said Alessandro. "Can't they say that same thing
about any governor, especially if he has given lands to us? If the
Senora couldn't keep hers, with Senor Felipe to help her, and he
knows all about the law, and can speak the American language,
what chance is there for us? We can't take care of ourselves any
better than the wild beasts can, my Majella. Oh, why, why did you
come with me? Why did I let you?"

After such words as these, Alessandro would throw himself on the
ground, and for a few moments not even Ramona's voice would
make him look up. It was strange that the gentle girl, unused to
hardship, or to the thought of danger, did net find herself terrified
by these fierce glooms and apprehensions of her lover. But she was
appalled by nothing. Saved from the only thing in life she had
dreaded, sure that Alessandro lived, and that he would not leave
her, she had no fears. This was partly from her inexperience, from
her utter inability to conceive of the things Alessandro's
imagination painted in colors only too true; but it was also largely
due to the inalienable loyalty and quenchless courage of her soul,--
qualities in her nature never yet tested; qualities of which she
hardly knew so much as the name, but which were to bear her
steadfast and buoyant through many sorrowful years.

Before nightfall of this their first day in the wilderness, Alessandro
had prepared for Ramona a bed of finely broken twigs of the
manzanita and ceanothus, both of which grew in abundance all
through the canon. Above these he spread layers of glossy ferns,
five and six feet long; when it was done, it was a couch no queen
need have scorned. As Ramona seated herself on it, she exclaimed:
"Now I shall see how it feels to lie and look up at the stars at night!
Do you recollect, Alessandro, the night you put Felipe's bed on the
veranda, when you told me how beautiful it was to lie at night out
of doors and look up at the stars?"

Indeed did Alessandro remember that night,-- the first moment he
had ever dared to dream of the Senorita Ramona as his own. "Yes,
I remember it, my Majella," he answered slowly; and in a moment
more added, "That was the day Juan Can had told me that your
mother was of my people; and that was the night I first dared in my
thoughts to say that perhaps you might some day love me."

"But where are you going to sleep, Alessandro?" said Ramona,
seeing that he spread no more boughs. "You have made yourself
no bed."

Alessandro laughed. "I need no bed," he said. "We think it is on
our mother's lap we lie, when we lie on the ground. It is not hard,
Majella. It is soft, and rests one better than beds. But to-night I
shall not sleep. I will sit by this tree and watch."

"Why, what are you afraid of?" asked Ramona.

"It may grow so cold that I must make a fire for Majella," he
answered. "It sometimes gets very cold before morning in these
canons; so I shall feel safer to watch to-night."

This he said, not to alarm Ramona. His real reason for watching
was, that he had seen on the edge of the stream tracks which gave
him uneasiness. They were faint and evidently old; but they looked
like the tracks of a mountain lion. As soon as it was dark enough to
prevent the curl of smoke from being seen from below, he would
light a fire, and keep it blazing all night, and watch, gun in hand,
lest the beast return.

"But you will be dead, Alessandro, if you do not sleep. You are not
strong," said Ramona, anxiously.

"I am strong now, Majella," answered Alessandro. And indeed he
did already look like a renewed man, spite of all his fatigue and
anxiety. "I am no longer weak; and to-morrow I will sleep, and you
shall watch."

"Will you lie on the fern-bed then?" asked Ramona, gleefully.

"I would like the ground better," said honest Alessandro.

Ramona looked disappointed. "That is very strange," she said. "It is
not so soft, this bed of boughs, that one need fear to be made
tender by lying on it," she continued, throwing herself down; "but
oh, how sweet, how sweet it smells!"

"Yes, there is spice-wood in it," he answered. "I put it in at the
head, for Majella's pillow."

Ramona was very tired, and she was happy. All night long she
slept like a child. She did not hear Alessandro's steps. She did not
hear the crackling of the fire he lighted. She did not hear the
barking of Capitan, who more than once, spite of all Alessandro
could do to quiet him, made the canon echo with sharp, quick
notes of warning, as he heard the stealthy steps of wild creatures in
the chaparral. Hour after hour she slept on. And hour after hour
Alessandro sat leaning against a huge sycamore-trunk, and
watched her. As the fitful firelight played over her face, he thought
he had never seen it so beautiful, Its expression of calm repose
insensibly soothed and strengthened him. She looked like a saint,
he thought; perhaps it was as a saint of help and guidance, the
Virgin was sending her to him and his people. The darkness
deepened, became blackness; only the red gleams from the fire
broke it, in swaying rifts, as the wind makes rifts in black
storm-clouds in the heavens. With the darkness, the stillness also
deepened. Nothing broke that, except an occasional motion of
Baba or the pony, or an alert signal from Capitan; then all seemed
stiller than ever. Alessandro felt as if God himself were in the
canon. Countless times in his life before he had lain in lonely
places under the sky and watched the night through, but he never
felt like this. It was ecstasy, and yet it was pain. What was to come
on the morrow, and the next morrow, and the next, and the next,
all through the coming years? What was to come to this beloved
and loving woman who lay there sleeping, so confident, so trustful,
guarded only by him,-- by him, Alessandro, the exile, fugitive,
homeless man?

Before the dawn, wood-doves began their calling. The canon was
full of them, no two notes quite alike, it seemed to Alessandro's
sharpened sense; pair after pair, he fancied that he recognized,
speaking and replying, as did the pair whose voices had so
comforted him the night he watched under the geranium hedge by
the Moreno chapel,-- "Love?" "Here!" "Love?" "Here!" They
comforted him still more now. "They too have only each other," he
thought, as he bent his eyes lovingly on Ramona's face.

It was dawn, and past dawn, on the plains, before it was yet
morning twilight in the canon; but the birds in the upper boughs' of
the sycamores caught the tokens of the coming day, and began to
twitter in the dusk. Their notes fell on Ramona's sleeping ear, like
the familiar sound of the linnets in the veranda-thatch at home, and
waked her instantly. Sitting up bewildered, and looking about her,
she exclaimed, "Oh, is it morning already, and so dark? The birds
can see more sky than we! Sing, Alessandro," and she began the
hymn: --

"'Singers at dawn
From the heavens above
People all regions;
Gladly we too sing,'"

Never went up truer invocation, from sweeter spot.

"Sing not so loud, my Majel," whispered Alessandro, as her voice
went carolling like a lark's in the pure ether. "There might be
hunters near who would hear;" and he joined in with low and
muffled tones.

As she dropped her voice at this caution, it seemed even sweeter
than before: --

"'Come, O sinners,
Come, and we will sing
Tender hymns
To our refuge,'"

"Ah, Majella, there is no sinner here, except me!" said Alessandro.
"My Majella is like one of the Virgin's own saints." And indeed he
might have been forgiven the thought. as he gazed at Ramona,
sitting there in the shimmering light, her face thrown out into relief
by the gray wall of fern-draped rock behind her; her splendid hair,
unbound, falling in tangled masses to her waist; her cheeks
flushed, her face radiant with devout and fervent supplication, her
eyes uplifted to the narrow belt of sky overhead, where filmy
vapors were turning to gold, touched by a sun she could not see.

"Hush, my love," she breathed rather than said. "That would be a
sin, if you really thought it.

'O beautiful Queen,
Princess of Heaven,'"

she continued, repeating the first lines of the song; and then,
sinking on her knees, reached out one hand for Alessandro's, and
glided, almost without a break in the melodious sound, into a low
recitative of the morning-prayers. Her rosary was of fine-chased
gold beads, with an ivory crucifix; a rare and precious relic of the
Missions' olden times. It had belonged to Father Peyri himself, was
given by him to Father Salvierderra, and by Father Salvierderra to
the "blessed child," Ramona, at her confirmation. A warmer token
of his love and trust he could not have bestowed upon her, and to
Ramona's religious and affectionate heart it had always seemed a
bond and an assurance, not only of Father Salvierderra's love, but
of the love and protection of the now sainted Peyri.

As she pronounced the last words of her trusting prayer, and
slipped the last of the golden beads along on its string, a thread of
sunlight shot into the canon through a deep narrow gap in its rocky
eastern crest,-- shot in for a second, no more; fell aslant the rosary,
lighted it; by a flash as if of fire, across the fine-cut facets of the
beads, on Ramona's hands, and on the white face of the ivory
Christ. Only a flash, and it was gone! To both Ramona and
Alessandro it came like an omen,-- like a message straight from
the Virgin. Could she choose better messenger,-- she, the
compassionate one, the loving woman in heaven; mother of the
Christ to whom they prayed, through her,-- mother, for whose sake
He would regard their least cry,-- could she choose better
messenger, or swifter, than the sunbeam, to say that she heard and
would help them in these sore straits'

Perhaps there were not, in the whole great world, at that moment
to be found, two souls who were experiencing so vivid a happiness
as thrilled the veins of these two friendless ones, on their knees,
alone in the wilderness, gazing half awe-stricken at the shining
rosary.

XVII

BEFORE the end of their second day in the canon, the place had
become to Ramona so like a friendly home, that she dreaded to
leave its shelter. Nothing is stronger proof of the original intent of
Nature to do more for man than the civilization in its arrogance
will long permit her to do, than the quick and sure way in which
she reclaims his affection, when by weariness, idle chance, or
disaster, he is returned, for an interval, to her arms. How soon he
rejects the miserable subterfuges of what he had called habits;
sheds the still more miserable pretences of superiority, makeshifts
of adornment, and chains of custom! "Whom the gods love, die
young," has been too long carelessly said. It is not true, in the sense
in which men use the words. Whom the gods love, dwell with
nature; if they are ever lured away, return to her before they are
old. Then, however long they live before they die, they die young.
Whom the gods love, live young -- forever.

With the insight of a lover added to the instinct of the Indian,
Alessandro saw how, hour by hour, there grew in Ramona's eyes
the wonted look of one at home; how she watched the shadows,
and knew what they meant.

"If we lived here, the walls would be sun-dials for us, would they
not?" she said, in a tone of pleasure. "I see that yon tall yucca has
gone in shadow sooner than it did yesterday."

And, "What millions of things grow here, Alessandro! I did not
know there were so many. Have they all names? The nuns taught
us some names; but they were hard, and I forgot them, We might
name them for ourselves, if we lived here. They would be our
relations."

And, "For one year I should lie and look up at the sky, my
Alessandro, and do nothing else. It hardly seems as if it would be a
sin to do nothing for a year, if one gazed steadily at the sky all the
while."

And, "Now I know what it is I have always seen in your face,
Alessandro. It is the look from the sky. One must be always serious
and not unhappy, but never too glad, I think, when he lives with
nothing between him and the sky, and the saints can see him every
minute."

And, "I cannot believe that it is but two days I have lived in the air,
Alessandro. This seems to me the first home I have ever had. Is it
because I am Indian, Alessandro, that it gives me such joy?"

It was strange how many more words Ramona spoke than
Alessandro, yet how full she felt their intercourse to be. His silence
was more than silent; it was taciturn. Yet she always felt herself
answered. A monosyllable of Alessandro's, nay, a look, told what
other men took long sentences to say, and said less eloquently.

After long thinking over this, she exclaimed, "You speak as the
trees speak, and like the rock yonder, and the flowers, without
saying anything!"

This delighted Alessandro's very heart. "And you, Majella," he
exclaimed; "when you say that, you speak in the language of our
people; you are as we are."

And Ramona, in her turn, was made happy by his words, -- happier
than she would have been made by any other praise or fondness.

Alessandro found himself regaining all his strength as if by a
miracle. The gaunt look had left his face. Almost it seemed that its
contour was already fuller. There is a beautiful old Gaelic legend
of a Fairy who wooed a Prince, came again and again to him, and,
herself invisible to all but the Prince, hovered in the air, sang
loving songs to draw him away from the crowd of his indignant
nobles, who heard her voice and summoned magicians to rout her
by all spells and enchantments at their command. Finally they
succeeded in silencing her and driving her off; but as she vanished
from the Prince's sight she threw him an apple,-- a magic golden
apple. Once having tasted of this, he refused all other food. Day
after day, night after night, he ate only this golden apple; and yet,
morning after morning, evening after evening, there lay the golden
fruit, still whole and shining, as if he had not fed upon it; and when
the Fairy came the next time, the Prince leaped into her magic
boat, sailed away with her, and never was seen in his kingdom
again. It was only an allegory, this legend,-- a beautiful allegory,
and true,-- of love and lovers. The food on which Alessandro was,
hour by hour, now growing strong, was as magic and invisible as
Prince Connla's apple, and just as strength-giving.

"My Alessandro, how is it you look so well, so soon?" said
Ramona, studying his countenance with loving care. "I thought that
night you would die. Now you look nearly strong as ever; your
eyes shine, and your hand is not hot! It is the blessed air; it has
cured you, as it cured Felipe of the fever."

"If the air could keep me well, I had not been ill, Majella," replied
Alessandro. "I had been under no roof except the tule-shed, till I
saw you. It is not the air;" and he looked at her with a gaze that
said the rest.

At twilight of the third day, when Ramona saw Alessandro leading
up Baba, saddled ready for the journey, the tears filled her eyes. At
noon Alessandro had said to her: "To-night, Majella, we must go.
There is not grass enough for another day. We must go while the
horses are strong. I dare not lead them any farther down the canon
to graze, for there is a ranch only a few miles lower. To-day I
found one of the man's cows feeding near Baba."

Ramona made no remonstrance. The necessity was too evident;
but the look on her face gave Alessandro a new pang. He, too, felt
as if exiled afresh in leaving the spot. And now, as he led the
horses slowly up, and saw Ramona sitting in a dejected attitude
beside the nets in which were again carefully packed their small
stores, his heart ached anew. Again the sense of his homeless and
destitute condition settled like an unbearable burden on his soul.
Whither and to what was he leading his Majella?

But once in the saddle, Ramona recovered cheerfulness. Baba was
in such gay heart, she could not be wholly sad. The horse seemed
fairly rollicking with satisfaction at being once more on the move.
Capitan, too, was gay. He had found the canon dull, spite of its
refreshing shade and cool water. He longed for sheep. He did not
understand this inactivity. The puzzled look on his face had made
Ramona laugh more than once, as he would come and stand before
her, wagging his tail and fixing his eyes intently on her face, as if
he said in so many words, "What in the world are you about in this
canon, and do not you ever intend to return home? Or if you will
stay here, why not keep sheep? Do you not see that I have nothing
to do?"

"We must ride all night, Majella," said Alessandro, "and lose no
time. It is a long way to the place where we shall stay to-morrow."

"Is it a canon?" asked Ramona, hopefully.

"No," he replied, "not a canon; but there are beautiful oak-trees. It
is where we get our acorns for the winter. It is on the top of a high
hill."

"Will it be safe there?" she asked.

"I think so," he replied; "though not so safe as here. There is no
such place as this in all the country."

"And then where shall we go next?" she asked.

"That is very near Temecula," he said. "We must go into
Temecula, dear Majella. I must go to Mr. Hartsel's. He is friendly.
He will give me money for my father's violin. If it were not for
that, I would never go near the place again."

"I would like to see it, Alessandro," she said gently.

"Oh, no, no, Majella!" he cried; "you would not. It is terrible; the
houses all unroofed,-- all but my father's and Jose's. They were
shingled roofs; they will be just the same; all the rest are only
walls. Antonio's mother threw hers down; I don't know how the old
woman ever had the strength; they said she was like a fury. She
said nobody should ever live in those walls again; and she took a
pole, and made a great hole in one side, and then she ran Antonio's
wagon against it with all her might, till it fell in. No, Majella. It
will be dreadful."

"Wouldn't you like to go into the graveyard again, Alessandro?"
she said timidly.

"The saints forbid!" he said solemnly. "I think it would make me a
murderer to stand in that graveyard! If I had not you, my Majel, I
should kill some white man when I came out. Oh, do not speak of
it!" he added, after a moment's silence; "it takes the strength all out
of my blood again, Majella. It feels as if I should die!"

And the word "Temecula" was not mentioned between them again
until dusk the next day, when, as they were riding slowly along
between low, wooded hills, they suddenly came to an opening, a
green, marshy place, with a little thread of trickling water, at
which their horses stopped, and drank thirstily; and Ramona,
looking ahead, saw lights twinkling in the distance. "Lights,
Alessandro, lights!" she exclaimed, pointing to them.

"Yes, Majella," he replied, "it is Temecula," and springing off his
pony he came to her side, and putting both his hands on hers, said:
"I have been thinking, for a long way back, Carita, what is to be
done here. I do not know. What does Majella think will be wise? If
men have been sent out to pursue us, they may be at Hartsel's. His
store is the place where everybody stops, everybody goes. I dare
not have you go there, Majella; yet I must go. The only way I can
get any money is from Mr. Hartsel."

"I must wait somewhere while you go!" said Ramona, her heart
beating as she gazed ahead into the blackness of the great plain. It
looked vast as the sea. "That is the only safe thing, Alessandro."

"I think so too," he said; "but, oh, I am afraid for you; and will not
you be afraid?"

"Yes," she replied, "I am afraid. But it is not so dangerous as the
other."

"If anything were to happen to me, and I could not come back to
you, Majella, if you give Baba his reins he will take you safe
home,-- he and Capitan."

Ramona shrieked aloud. She had not thought of this possibility.
Alessandro had thought of everything. "What could happen?" she
cried.

"I mean if the men were there, and if they took me for stealing the
horse," he said.

"But you would not have the horse with you," she said. "How could
they take you?"

"That mightn't make any difference," replied Alessandro. "They
might take me, to make me tell where the horse was."

"Oh, Alessandro," sobbed Ramona, "what shall we do!" Then in
another second, gathering her courage, she exclaimed,
"Alessandro, I know what I will do. I will stay in the graveyard. No
one will come there. Shall I not be safest there?"

"Holy Virgin! would my Majel stay there?" exclaimed Alessandro.

"Why not?" she said. "It is not the dead that will harm us. They
would all help us if they could. I have no fear. I will wait there
while you go; and if you do not come in an hour, I will come to
Mr. Hartsel's after you. If there are men of the Senora's there, they
will know me; they will not dare to touch me. They will know that
Felipe would punish them. I will not be afraid. And if they are
ordered to take Baba, they can have him; we can walk when the
pony is tired."

Her confidence was contagious. "My wood-dove has in her breast
the heart of the lion," said Alessandro, fondly. "We will do as she
says. She is wise;" and he turned their horses' heads in the
direction of the graveyard. It was surrounded by a low adobe wall,
with one small gate of wooden paling. As they reached it,
Alessandro exclaimed, "The thieves have taken the gate!"

"What could they have wanted with that?" said Ramona

"To burn," he said doggedly, "It was wood; but it was very little.
They might have left the graves safe from wild beasts and cattle!"

As they entered the enclosure, a dark figure rose from one of the
graves. Ramona started.

"Fear nothing," whispered Alessandro. "It must be one of our
people. I am glad; now you will not be alone. It is Carmena, I am
sure. That was the corner where they buried Jose. I will speak to
her;" and leaving Ramona at the gate, he went slowly on, saying in
a low voice, in the Luiseno language, "Carmena, is that you? Have
no fear. It is I, Alessandro!"

It was Carmena. The poor creature, nearly crazed with grief, was
spending her days by her baby's grave in Pachanga, and her nights
by her husband's in Temecula. She dared not come to Temecula by
day, for the Americans were there, and she feared them. After a
short talk with her, Alessandro returned, leading her along.
Bringing her to Ramona's side, he laid her feverish hand in
Ramona's, and said: "Majella, I have told her all. She cannot speak
a word of Spanish, but she is very glad, she says, that you have
come with me, and she will stay close by your side till I come
back."

Ramona's tender heart ached with desire to comfort the girl; but all
she could do was to press her hand in silence. Even in the darkness
she could see the hollow, mournful eyes and the wasted cheek.
Words are less needful to sorrow than to joy. Carmena felt in every
fibre how Ramona was pitying her. Presently she made a gentle
motion, as if to draw her from the saddle. Ramona bent down and
looked inquiringly into her face. Again she drew her gently with
one hand, and with the other pointed to the corner from which she
had come. Ramona understood. "She wants to show me her
husband's grave," she thought. "She does not like to be away from
it. I will go with her."

Dismounting, and taking Baba's bridle over her arm, she bowed
her head assentingly, and still keeping firm hold of Carmena's
hand, followed her. The graves were thick, and irregularly placed,
each mound marked by a small wooden cross. Carmena led with
the swift step of one who knew each inch of the way by heart.
More than once Ramona stumbled and nearly fell, and Baba was
impatient and restive at the strange inequalities under his feet.
When they reached the corner, Ramona saw the fresh-piled earth
of the new grave. Uttering a wailing cry, Carmena, drawing
Ramona to the edge of it, pointing down with her right hand, then
laid both hands on her heart, and gazed at Ramona piteously.
Ramona burst into weeping, and again clasping Carmena's hand,
laid it on her own breast, to show her sympathy. Carmena did not
weep. She was long past that; and she felt for the moment lifted
out of herself by the sweet, sudden sympathy of this stranger,-- this
girl like herself, yet so different, so wonderful, so beautiful,
Carmena was sure she must be. Had the saints sent her from
heaven to Alessandro? What did it mean? Carmena's bosom was
heaving with the things she longed to say and to ask; but all she
could do was to press Ramona's hand again and again, and
occasionally lay her soft cheek upon it.

"Now, was it not the saints that put it into my head to come to the
graveyard?" thought Ramona. "What a comfort to this poor
heart-broken thing to see Alessandro! And she keeps me from all
fear. Holy Virgin! but I had died of terror here all alone. Not that
the dead would harm me; but simply from the vast, silent plain,
and the gloom."

Soon Carmena made signs to Ramona that they would return to the
gate. Considerate and thoughtful, she remembered that Alessandro
would expect to find them there. But it was a long and weary
watch they had, waiting for Alessandro to come.

After leaving them, and tethering his pony, he had struck off at a
quick run for Hartsel's, which was perhaps an eighth of a mile
from the graveyard. His own old home lay a little to the right. As
he drew near, he saw a light in its windows. He stopped as if shot.
"A light in our house!" he exclaimed; and he clenched his hands.
"Those cursed robbers have gone into it to live already!" His blood
seemed turning to fire. Ramona would not have recognized the
face of her Alessandro now. It was full of implacable vengeance.
Involuntarily he felt for his knife. It was gone. His gun he had left
inside the graveyard, leaning against the wall. Ah! in the
graveyard! Yes, and there also was Ramona waiting for him.
Thoughts of vengeance fled. The world held now but one work,
one hope, one passion, for him. But he would at least see who
were these dwellers in his father's house. A fierce desire to see
their faces burned within him. Why should he thus torture himself?
Why, indeed? But he must. He would see the new home-life
already begun on the grave of his. Stealthily creeping under the
window from which the light shone, he listened. He heard
children's voices; a woman's voice; at intervals the voice of a man,
gruff and surly; various household sounds also. It was evidently the
supper-hour. Cautiously raising himself till his eyes were on a
level with the lowest panes in the window, he looked in.

A table was set in the middle of the floor, and there were sitting at
it a man, woman, and two children. The youngest, little more than
a baby, sat in its high chair, drumming with a spoon on the table,
impatient for its supper. The room was in great confusion,-- beds
made on the floor, open boxes half unpacked, saddles and harness
thrown down in the corners; evidently there were new-comers into
the house. The window was open by an inch. It had warped, and
would not shut down. Bitterly Alessandro recollected how he had
put off from day to day the planing of that window to make it shut
tight. Now, thanks to the crack, he could hear all that was said.
The woman looked weary and worn. Her face was a sensitive one,
and her voice kindly; but the man had the countenance of a brute,--
of a human brute. Why do we malign the so-called brute creation,
making their names a unit of comparison for base traits which
never one of them possessed?

"It seems as if I never should get to rights in this world!" said the
woman. Alessandro understood enough English to gather the
meaning of what she said. He listened eagerly. "When will the next
wagon get here?"

"I don't know," growled her husband. "There's been a slide in that
cursed canon, and blocked the road. They won't be here for several
days yet. Hain't you got stuff enough round now? If you'd clear up
what's here now, then 'twould be time enough to grumble because
you hadn't got everything."

"But, John," she replied, "I can't clear up till the bureau comes, to
put the things away in, and the bedstead. I can't seem to do
anything."

"You can grumble, I take notice," he answered. "That's about all
you women are good for, anyhow. There was a first-rate raw-hide
bedstead in here. If Rothsaker hadn't been such a fool's to let those
dogs of Indians carry off all their truck, we might have had that!"

The woman looked at him reproachfully, but did not speak for a
moment. Then her cheeks flushed, and seeming unable to repress
the speech, she exclaimed, "Well, I'm thankful enough he did let
the poor things take their furniture. I'd never have slept a wink an
that bedstead, I know, if it had ha' been left here. It's bad enough to
take their houses this way!"

"Oh, you shut up your head for a blamed fool, will you!" cried the
man. He was half drunk, his worst and most dangerous state. She
glanced at him half timorously, half indignantly, and turning to the
children, began feeding the baby. At that second the other child
looked up, and catching sight of the outline of Alessandro's head,
cried out, "There's a man there! There, at the window!"

Alessandro threw himself flat on the ground, and held his breath.
Had he imperilled all, brought danger on himself and Ramona, by
yielding to this mad impulse to look once more inside the walls of
his home? With a fearful oath, the half-drunken man exclaimed,
"One of those damned Indians, I expect. I've seen several hangin'
round to-day. We'll have to shoot two or three of 'em yet, before
we're rid of 'em!" and he took his gun down from the pegs above
the fireplace, and went to the door with it in his hand.

"Oh, don't fire, father, don't." cried the woman. "They'll come and
murder us all in our sleep if you do! Don't fire!" and she pulled
him back by the sleeve.

Shaking her off, with another oath, he stepped across the
threshold, and stood listening, and peering into the darkness.
Alessandro's heart beat like a hammer in his breast. Except for the
thought of Ramona, he would have sprung on the man, seized his
gun, and killed him.

"I don't believe it was anybody, after all, father," persisted the
woman. "Bud's always seein' things. I don't believe there was
anybody there. Come in; supper's gettin' all cold."

"Well, I'll jest fire, to let 'em know there's powder 'n shot round
here," said the fiend. "If it hits any on 'em roamin' round, he won't
know what hurt him;" and levelling his gun at random, with his
drunken, unsteady hand he fired. The bullet whistled away
harmlessly into the empty darkness. Hearkening a few moments,
and hearing no cry, he hiccuped, "Mi-i-issed him that time," and
went in to his supper.

Alessandro did not dare to stir for a long time. How he cursed his
own folly in having brought himself into this plight! What needless
pain of waiting he was inflicting on the faithful one, watching for
him in that desolate and fearful place of graves! At last he
ventured,-- sliding along on his belly a few inches at a time, till,
several rods from the house, he dared at last to spring to his feet
and bound away at full speed for Hartsel's.

Hartsel's was one of those mongrel establishments to be seen
nowhere except in Southern California. Half shop, half farm, half
tavern, it gathered up to itself all the threads of the life of the
whole region. Indians, ranchmen, travellers of all sorts, traded at
Hartsel's, drank at Hartsel's, slept at Hartsel's. It was the only place
of its kind within a radius of twenty miles; and it was the least bad
place of its kind within a much wider radius.

Hartsel was by no means a bad fellow -- when he was sober; but as
that condition was not so frequent as it should have been, he
sometimes came near being a very bad fellow indeed. At such
times everybody was afraid of him,-- wife, children, travellers,
ranchmen, and all. "It was only a question of time and occasion,"
they said, "Hartsel's killing somebody sooner or later;" and it
looked as if the time were drawing near fast. But, out of his cups,
Hartsel was kindly, and fairly truthful; entertaining, too, to a
degree which held many a wayfarer chained to his chair till small
hours of the morning, listening to his landlord's talk. How he had
drifted from Alsace to San Diego County, he could hardly have
told in minute detail himself, there had been so many stages and
phases of the strange journey; but he had come to his last halt now.
Here, in this Temecula, he would lay his bones. He liked the
country. He liked the wild life, and, for a wonder, he liked the
Indians. Many a good word he spoke for them to travellers who
believed no good of the race, and evidently listened with polite
incredulity when he would say, as he often did: "I've never lost a
dollar off these Indians yet. They do all their trading with me.
There's some of them I trust as high's a hundred dollars. If they
can't pay this year, they'll pay next; and if they die, their relations
will pay their debts for them, a little at a time, till they've got it all
paid off. They'll pay in wheat, or bring a steer, maybe, or baskets
or mats the women make; but they'll pay. They're honester 'n the
general run of Mexicans about paying; I mean Mexicans that are as
poor's they are."

Hartsel's dwelling-house was a long, low adobe building, with still
lower flanking additions, in which were bedrooms for travellers,
the kitchen, and storerooms. The shop was a separate building, of
rough planks, a story and a half high, the loft of which was one
great dormitory well provided with beds on the floor, but with no
other article of bedroom furniture. They who slept in this loft had
no fastidious standards of personal luxury. These two buildings,
with some half-dozen out-houses of one sort and another, stood in
an enclosure surrounded by a low white picket fence, which gave
to the place a certain home-like look, spite of the neglected
condition of the ground, which was bare sand, or sparsely tufted
with weeds and wild grass. A few plants, parched and straggling,
stood in pots and tin cans around the door of the dwelling-house.
One hardly knew whether they made the place look less desolate
or more so. But they were token of a woman's hand, and of a
nature which craved something more than the unredeemed
wilderness around her afforded.

A dull and lurid light streamed out from the wide-open door of the
store. Alessandro drew cautiously near. The place was full of men,
and he heard loud laughing and talking. He dared not go in.
Stealing around to the rear, he leaped the fence, and went to the
other house and opened the kitchen door. Here he was not afraid.
Mrs. Hartsel had never any but Indian servants in her employ. The
kitchen was lighted only by one dim candle. On the stove were
sputtering and hissing all the pots and frying-pans it would hold.
Much cooking was evidently going on for the men who were
noisily rollicking in the other house.

Seating himself by the fire, Alessandro waited. In a few moments
Mrs. Hartsel came hurrying back to her work. It was no uncommon
experience to find an Indian quietly sitting by her fire. In the dim
light she did not recognize Alessandro, but mistook him, as he sat
bowed over, his head in his hands, for old Ramon, who was a sort
of recognized hanger-on of the place, earning his living there by
odd jobs of fetching and carrying, and anything else he could do.

"Run, Ramon," she said, "and bring me more wood; this cotton
wood is so dry, it burns out like rotten punk; I'm off my feet
to-night, with all these men to cook for;" then turning to the table,
she began cutting her bread, and did not see how tall and unlike
Ramon was the man who silently rose and went out to do her
bidding. When, a few moments later, Alessandro re-entered,
bringing a huge armful of wood, which it would have cost poor old
Ramon three journeys at least to bring, and throwing it down, on
the hearth, said, "Will that be enough, Mrs. Hartsel?" she gave a
scream of surprise, and dropped her knife. "Why, who --" she
began; then, seeing his face, her own lighting up with pleasure, she
continued, "Alessandro! Is it you? Why, I took you in the dark for
old Ramon! I thought you were in Pachanga."

"In Pachanga!" Then as yet no one had come from the Senora
Moreno's to Hartsel's in search of him and the Senorita Ramona!
Alessandro's heart felt almost light in his bosom, From the one
immediate danger he had dreaded, they were safe; but no trace of
emotion showed on his face, and he did not raise his eyes as he
replied; "I have been in Pachanga. My father is dead. I have buried
him there."

"Oh, Alessandro! Did he die?" cried the kindly woman, coming
closer to Alessandro, and laying her hand on his shoulder. "I heard
he was sick." She paused; she did not know what to say. She had
suffered so at the time of the ejectment of the Indians, that it had
made her ill. For two days she had kept her doors shut and her
windows close curtained, that she need not see the terrible sights.
She was not a woman of many words. She was a Mexican, but
there were those who said that some Indian blood ran in her veins.
This was not improbable; and it seemed more than ever probable
now, as she stood still by Alessandro's side, her hand on his
shoulder, her eyes fixed in distress on his face. How he had
altered! How well she recollected his lithe figure, his alert motion,
his superb bearing, his handsome face, when she last saw him in
the spring!

"You were away all summer, Alessandro?" she said at last, turning
back to her work.

"Yes," he said: "at the Senora Moreno's."

"So I heard," she said. "That is a fine great place, is it not? Is her
son grown a fine man? He was a lad when I saw him. He went
through here with a drove of sheep once."

"Ay, he is a man now," said Alessandro, and buried his face in his
hands again.

"Poor fellow! I don't wonder he does not want to speak," thought
Mrs. Hartsel. "I'll just let him alone;" and she spoke no more for
some moments.

Alessandro sat still by the fire. A strange apathy seemed to have
seized him; at last he said wearily: "I must be going now. I wanted
to see Mr. Hartsel a minute, but he seems to be busy in the store."

"Yes," she said, "a lot of San Francisco men; they belong to the
company that's coming in here in the valley; they've been here two
days. Oh, Alessandro," she continued, bethinking herself, "Jim's
got your violin here; Jose brought it."

"Yes, I know it," answered Alessandro. "Jose told me; and that was
one thing I stopped for."

"I'll run and get it," she exclaimed.

"No," said Alessandro, in a slow, husky voice. "I do not want it. I
thought Mr. Hartsel might buy it. I want some money. It was not
mine; it was my father's. It is a great deal better than mine. My
father said it would bring a great deal of money. It is very old."

"Indeed it is," she replied; "one of those men in there was looking
at it last night. He was astonished at it, and he would not believe
Jim when he told him about its having come from the Mission."

"Does he play? Will he buy it?" cried Alessandro,

"I don't know; I'll call Jim," she said; and running out she looked in
at the other door, saying, "Jim! Jim!"

Alas, Jim was in no condition to reply. At her first glance in his
face, her countenance hardened into an expression of disgust and
defiance. Returning to the kitchen, she said scornfully, disdaining
all disguises, "Jim's drunk. No use your talking to him to-night.
Wait till morning."

"Till morning!" A groan escaped from Alessandro, in spite of
himself. "I can't!" he cried. "I must go on to-night."

"Why, what for?" exclaimed Mrs. Hartsel, much astonished. For
one brief second Alessandro revolved in his mind the idea of
confiding everything to her; only for a second, however. No; the
fewer knew his secret and Ramona's, the better.

"I must be in San Diego to-morrow," he said.

"Got work there?" she said.

"Yes; that is, in San Pasquale," he said; "and I ought to have been
there three days ago."

Mrs. Hartsel mused. "Jim can't do anything to-night," she said;
"that's certain. You might see the man yourself, and ask him if he'd
buy it,"

Alessandro shook his head. An invincible repugnance withheld
him. He could not face one of these Americans who were "coming
in" to his valley. Mrs. Hartsel understood.

"I'll tell you, Alessandro," said the kindly woman, "I'll give you
what money you need to-night, and then, if you say so, Jim'll sell
the violin to-morrow, if the man wants it, and you can pay me back
out of that, and when you're along this way again you can have the
rest. Jim'll make as good a trade for you's he can. He's a real good
friend to all of you, Alessandro, when he's himself."

"I know it, Mrs. Hartsel. I'd trust Mr. Hartsel more than any other
man in this country," said Alessandro. "He's about the only white
man I do trust!"

Mrs. Hartsel was fumbling in a deep pocket in her under-petticoat.
Gold-piece after gold-piece she drew out. "Humph! Got more'n I
thought I had," she said. "I've kept all that's been paid in here
to-day, for I knew Jim'd be drunk before night."

Alessandro's eyes fastened on the gold. How he longed for an
abundance of those little shining pieces for his Majella! He sighed
as Mrs. Hartsel counted them out on the table,-- one, two, three,
four, bright five-dollar pieces.

"That is as much as I dare take," said Alessandro, when she put
down the fourth. "Will you trust me for so much?" he added sadly.
"You know I have nothing left now. Mrs. Hartsel, I am only a
beggar, till I get some work to do."

The tears came into Mrs. Hartsel's eyes. "It's a shame!" she said,--
"a shame, Alessandro! Jim and I haven't thought of anything else,
since it happened. Jim says they'll never prosper, never. Trust you?
Yes, indeed. Jim and I'd trust you, or your father, the last day of
our lives."

"I'm glad he is dead," said Alessandro, as he knotted the gold into
his handkerchief and put it into his bosom. "But he was murdered,
Mrs. Hartsel,-- murdered, just as much as if they had fired a bullet
into him."

"That's true." she exclaimed vehemently. "I say so too; and so was
Jose. That's just what I said at the time,-- that bullets would not be
half so inhuman!"

The words had hardly left her lips, when the door from the
dining-room burst open, and a dozen men, headed by the drunken
Jim, came stumbling, laughing, reeling into the kitchen.

"Where's supper! Give us our supper! What are you about with
your Indian here? I'll teach you how to cook ham!" stammered Jim,
making a lurch towards the stove. The men behind caught him and
saved him. Eyeing the group with scorn, Mrs. Hartsel, who had not
a cowardly nerve in her body, said: "Gentlemen, if you will take
your seats at the table, I will bring in your supper immediately. It is
all ready."

One or two of the soberer ones, shamed by her tone, led the rest
back into the dining-room, where, seating themselves, they began
to pound the table and swing the chairs, swearing, and singing
ribald songs.

"Get off as quick as you can, Alessandro," whispered Mrs. Hartsel,
as she passed by him, standing like a statue, his eyes, full of hatred
and contempt, fixed on the tipsy group. "You'd better go. There's
no knowing what they'll do next."

"Are you not afraid?" he said in a low tone.

"No!" she said. "I'm used to it. I can always manage Jim. And
Ramon's round somewhere,-- he and the bull-pups; if worse comes
to worse, I can call the dogs. These San Francisco fellows are
always the worst to get drunk. But you'd better get out of the way!"

"And these are the men that have stolen our lands, and killed my
father, and Jose, and Carmena's baby!" thought Alessandro, as he
ran swiftly back towards the graveyard. "And Father Salvierderra
says, God is good. It must be the saints no longer pray to Him for
us!"

But Alessandro's heart was too full of other thoughts, now, to
dwell long on past wrongs, however bitter. The present called him
too loudly. Putting his hand in his bosom, and feeling the soft,
knotted handkerchief, he thought: "Twenty dollars! It is not much!
But it will buy food for many days for my Majella and for Baba!"

XVIII

EXCEPT for the reassuring help of Carmena's presence by her
side, Ramona would never have had courage to remain during this
long hour in the graveyard. As it was, she twice resolved to bear
the suspense no longer, and made a movement to go. The chance
of Alessandro's encountering at Hartsel's the men sent in pursuit of
him and of Baba, loomed in her thoughts into a more and more
frightful danger each moment she reflected upon it. It was a most
unfortunate suggestion for Alessandro to have made. Her excited
fancy went on and on, picturing the possible scenes which might
be going on almost within stone's-throw of where she was sitting,
helpless, in the midnight darkness,-- Alessandro seized, tied,
treated as a thief, and she, Ramona, not there to vindicate him, to
terrify the men into letting him go. She could not bear it; she
would ride boldly to Hartsel's door. But when she made a motion
as if she would go, and said in the soft Spanish, of which Carmena
knew no word, but which yet somehow conveyed Ramona's
meaning, "I must go! It is too long! I cannot wait here!" Carmena
had clasped her hand tighter, and said in the San Luiseno tongue,
of which Ramona knew no word, but which yet somehow
conveyed Carmena's meaning, "O beloved lady, you must not go!
Waiting is the only safe thing. Alessandro said, to wait here. He
will come." The word "Alessandro" was plain. Yes, Alessandro
had said, wait; Carmena was right. She would obey, but it was a
fearful ordeal. It was strange how Ramona, who felt herself
preternaturally brave, afraid of nothing, so long as Alessandro was
by her side, became timorous and wretched the instant he was lost
to her sight. When she first heard his steps coming, she quivered
with terror lest they might not be his. The next second she knew;
and with a glad cry, "Alessandro! Alessandro!" she bounded to
him, dropping Baba's reins.

Sighing gently, Carmena picked up the reins, and stood still,
holding the horse, while the lovers clasped each other with
breathless words. "How she loves Alessandro!" thought the
widowed Carmena. "Will they leave him alive to stay with her? It
is better not to love!" But there was no bitter envy in her mind for
the two who were thus blest while she went desolate. All of Pablo's
people had great affection for Alessandro. They had looked
forward to his being over them in his father's place. They knew his
goodness, and were proud of his superiority to themselves.

"Majella, you tremble," said Alessandro, as he threw his arms
around her. "You have feared! Yet you were not alone." He
glanced at Carmena's motionless figure, standing by Baba.

"No, not alone, dear Alessandro, but it was so long!" replied
Ramona; "and I feared the men had taken you, as you feared. Was
there any one there?"

"No! No one has heard anything. All was well. They thought I had
just come from Pachanga," he answered.

"Except for Carmena, I should have ridden after you half an hour
ago," continued Ramona. "But she told me to wait."

"She told you!" repeated Alessandro. "How did you understand her
speech?"

"I do not know. Was it not a strange thing?" replied Ramona. "She
spoke in your tongue, but I thought I understood her, Ask her if she
did not say that I must not go; that it was safer to wait; that you
had so said, and you would soon come."

Alessandro repeated the words to Carmena. "Did you say that?" he
asked.

"Yes," answered Carmena.

"You see, then, she has understood the Luiseno words," he said
delightedly. "She is one of us."

"Yes," said Carmena, gravely, "she is one of us." Then, taking
Ramona's hand in both of her own for farewell, she repeated, in a
tone as of dire prophecy, "One of us, Alessandro! one of us!" And
as she gazed after their retreating forms, almost immediately
swallowed and lost in the darkness, she repeated the words again
to herself,-- "One of us! one of us! Sorrow came to me; she rides to
meet it!" and she crept back to her husband's grave, and threw
herself down, to watch till the dawn.

The road which Alessandro would naturally have taken would
carry them directly by Hartsel's again. But, wishing to avoid all
risk of meeting or being seen by any of the men on the place, he
struck well out to the north, to make a wide circuit around it. This
brought them past the place where Antonio's house had stood.
Here Alessandro halted, and putting his hand on Baba's rein,
walked the horses close to the pile of ruined walls. "This was
Antonio's house, Majella," he whispered. "I wish every house in
the valley had been pulled down like this. Old Juana was right.
The Americans are living in my father's house, Majella," he went
on, his whisper growing thick with rage. "That was what kept me
so long. I was looking in at the window at them eating their
supper. I thought I should go mad, Majella. If I had had my gun, I
should have shot them all dead!"

An almost inarticulate gasp was Ramona's first reply to this.
"Living in your house!" she said. "You saw them?"

"Yes," he said; "the man, and his wife, and two little children; and
the man came out, with his gun, on the doorstep, and fired it. They
thought they heard something moving, and it might be an Indian;
so he fired. That was what kept me so long."

Just at this moment Baba tripped over some small object on the
ground. A few steps farther, and he tripped again. "There is
something caught round his foot, Alessandro," said Ramona. "It
keeps moving."

Alessandro jumped off his horse, and kneeling down, exclaimed,
"It's a stake,-- and the lariat fastened to it. Holy Virgin! what --"
The rest of his ejaculation was inaudible. The next Ramona knew,
he had run swiftly on, a rod or two. Baba had followed, and
Capitan and the pony; and there stood a splendid black horse, as
big as Baba, and Alessandro talking under his breath to him, and
clapping both his hands over the horse's nose, to stop him, as often
as he began whinnying; and it seemed hardly a second more before
he had his saddle off the poor little Indian pony, and striking it
sharply on its sides had turned it free, had saddled the black horse,
and leaping on his back, said, with almost a sob in his voice: "My
Majella, it is Benito, my own Benito. Now the saints indeed have
helped us! Oh, the ass, the idiot, to stake out Benito with such a
stake as that! A jack rabbit had pulled it up. Now, my Majella, we
will gallop! Faster! faster! I will not breathe easy till we are out of
this cursed valley. When we are once in the Santa Margarita
Canon, I know a trail they will never find!"

Like the wind galloped Benito,-- Alessandro half lying on his back,
stroking his forehead, whispering to him, the horse snorting with
joy: which were gladder of the two, horse or man, could not be
said. And neck by neck with Benito came Baba. How the ground
flew away under their feet! This was companionship, indeed,
worthy of Baba's best powers. Not in all the California herds could
be found two superber horses than Benito and Baba. A wild,
almost reckless joy took possession of Alessandro. Ramona was
half terrified as she heard him still talking, talking to Benito. For
an hour they did not draw rein. Both Benito and Alessandro knew
every inch of the ground. Then, just as they had descended into the
deepest part of the canon, Alessandro suddenly reined sharply to
the left, and began climbing the precipitous wall. "Can you follow,
dearest Majella?" he cried.

"Do you suppose Benito can do anything that Baba cannot?" she
retorted, pressing on closely.

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