Part 7 out of 9
she said. "It was a cruel fate to rob me of you at the last!"
"Mother! mother!" he cried in anguish. "I am yours,-- wholly,
devotedly yours! Why do you torture me thus?"
"I will not torture you more," she said wearily, in a feeble tone. "I
ask only one thing of you; let me never hear again the name of that
wretched girl, who has brought all this woe on our house; let her
name never be spoken on this place by man, woman, or child. Like
a thief in the night! Ay, a horse-thief!"
Felipe sprang to his feet.
"Mother." he said, "Baba was Ramona's own; I myself gave him to
her as soon as he was born!"
The Senora made no reply. She had fainted. Calling the maids, in
terror and sorrow Felipe bore her to her bed, and she did not leave
it for many days. She seemed hovering between life and death.
Felipe watched over her as a lover might; her great mournful eyes
followed his every motion. She spoke little, partly because of
physical weakness, partly from despair. The Senora had got her
death-blow. She would die hard. It would take long. Yet she was
dying, and she knew it.
Felipe did not know it. When he saw her going about again, with a
step only a little slower than before, and with a countenance not so
much changed as he had feared, he thought she would be well
again, after a time. And now he would go in search of Ramona.
How he hoped he should find them in Santa Barbara! He must
leave them there, or wherever he should find them; never again
would he for a moment contemplate the possibility of bringing
them home with him. But he would see them; help them, if need
be. Ramona should not feel herself an outcast, so long as he lived.
When he said, agitatedly, to his mother, one night, "You are so
strong now, mother, I think I will take a journey; I will not be away
long,-- not over a week," she understood, and with a deep sigh
replied: "I am not strong; but I am as strong as I shall ever be. If
the journey must be taken, it is as well done now."
How was the Senora changed!
"It must be, mother," said Felipe, "or I would not leave you. I will
set off before sunrise, so I will say farewell tonight."
But in the morning, at his first step, his mother's window opened,
and there she stood, wan, speechless, looking at him. "You must
go, my son?" she asked at last.
"I must, mother!" and Felipe threw his arms around her, and kissed
her again and again. "Dearest mother! Do smile! Can you not?"
"No, my son, I cannot. Farewell. The saints keep you. Farewell."
And she turned, that she might not see him go.
Felipe rode away with a sad heart, but his purpose did not falter.
Following straight down the river road to the sea, he then kept up
along the coast, asking here and there, cautiously, if persons
answering to the description of Alessandro and Ramona had been
seen. No one had seen any such persons.
When, on the night of the second day, he rode up to the Santa
Barbara Mission, the first figure he saw was the venerable Father
Salvierderra sitting in the corridor. As Felipe approached, the old
man's face beamed with pleasure, and he came forward totteringly,
leaning on a staff in each hand. "Welcome, my son!" he said. "Are
all well? You find me very feeble just now; my legs are failing me
sorely this autumn."
Dismay seized on Felipe at the Father's first words. He would not
have spoken thus, had he seen Ramona. Barely replying to the
greeting, Felipe exclaimed: "Father, I come seeking Ramona. Has
she not been with you?"
Father Salvierderra's face was reply to the question. "Ramona!" he
cried. "Seeking Ramona! What has befallen the blessed child?"
It was a bitter story for Felipe to tell; but he told it, sparing himself
no shame. He would have suffered less in the telling, had he
known how well Father Salvierderra understood his mother's
character, and her almost unlimited power over all persons around
her. Father Salvierderra was not shocked at the news of Ramona's
attachment for Alessandro. He regretted it, but he did not think it
shame, as the Senora had done. As Felipe talked with him, he
perceived even more clearly how bitter and unjust his mother had
been to Alessandro.
"He is a noble young man," said Father Salvierderra. "His father
was one of the most trusted of Father Peyri's assistants. You must
find them, Felipe. I wonder much they did not come to me.
Perhaps they may yet come. When you find them, bear them my
blessing, and say that I wish they would come hither. I would like
to give them my blessing before I die. Felipe, I shall never leave
Santa Barbara again. My time draws near."
Felipe was so full of impatience to continue his search, that he
hardly listened to the Father's words. "I will not tarry," he said. "I
cannot rest till I find her. I will ride back as far as Ventura
"You will send me word by a messenger, when you find them,"
said the Father. "God grant no harm has befallen them. I will pray
for them, Felipe;" and he tottered into the church.
Felipe's thoughts, as he retraced his road, were full of
bewilderment and pain. He was wholly at loss to conjecture what
course Alessandro and Ramona had taken, or what could have led
them to abandon their intention of going to Father Salvierderra.
Temecula seemed the only place, now, to look for them; and yet
from Temecula Felipe had heard, only a few days before leaving
home, that there was not an Indian left in the valley. But he could
at least learn there where the Indians had gone. Poor as the clew
seemed, it was all he had. Cruelly Felipe urged his horse on his
return journey. He grudged an hour's rest to himself or to the beast;
and before he reached the head of the Temecula canon the creature
was near spent. At the steepest part he jumped off and walked, to
save her strength. As he was toiling slowly up a narrow, rocky
pass, he suddenly saw an Indian's head peering over the ledge. He
made signs to him to come down. The Indian turned his head, and
spoke to some one behind; one after another a score of figures
rose. They made signs to Felipe to come up. "Poor things!" he
thought; "they are afraid." He shouted to them that his horse was
too tired to climb that wall; but if they would come down, he
would give them money, holding up a gold-piece. They consulted
among themselves; presently they began slowly descending, still
halting at intervals, and looking suspiciously at him. He held up
the gold again, and beckoned. As soon as they could see his face
distinctly, they broke into a run. That was no enemy's face.
Only one of the number could speak Spanish. On hearing this
man's reply to Felipe's first question, a woman, who had listened
sharply and caught the word Alessandro, came forward, and spoke
rapidly in the Indian tongue.
"This woman has seen Alessandro," said the man.
"Where?" said Felipe, breathlessly.
"In Temecula, two weeks ago," he said.
"Ask her if he had any one with him," said Felipe.
"No," said the woman. "He was alone."
A convulsion passed over Felipe's face. "Alone!" What did this
mean! He reflected. The woman watched him. "Is she sure he was
alone; there was no one with him?"
"Was he riding a big black horse?"
"No, a white horse," answered the woman, promptly. "A small
It was Carmena, every nerve of her loyal nature on the alert to
baffle this pursuer of Alessandro and Ramona. Again Felipe
reflected. "Ask her if she saw him for any length of time; how long
she saw him."
"All night," he answered. "He spent the night where she did."
Felipe despaired. "Does she know where he is now?" he asked.
"He was going to San Luis Obispo, to go in a ship to Monterey."
"What to do?"
"She does not know."
"Did he say when he would come back?"
"Never! He said he would never set foot in Temecula again."
"Does she know him well?"
"As well as her own brother."
What more could Felipe ask? With a groan, wrung from the very
depths of his heart, he tossed the man a gold-piece; another to the
woman. "I am sorry," he said. "Alessandro was my friend. I wanted
to see him;" and he rode away, Carmena's eyes following him with
a covert gleam of triumph.
When these last words of his were interpreted to her, she started,
made as if she would run after him, but checked herself. "No," she
thought. "It may be a lie. He may be an enemy, for all that. I will
not tell. Alessandro wished not to be found. I will not tell."
And thus vanished the last chance of succor for Ramona; vanished
in a moment; blown like a thistledown on a chance breath,-- the
breath of a loyal, loving friend, speaking a lie to save her.
Distraught with grief, Felipe returned home. Ramona had been
very ill when she left home. Had she died, and been buried by the
lonely, sorrowing Alessandro? And was that the reason Alessandro
was going away to the North, never to return? Fool that he was, to
have shrunk from speaking Ramona's name to the Indians! He
would return, and ask again. As soon as he had seen his mother, he
would set off again, and never cease searching till he had found
either Ramona or her grave. But when Felipe entered his mother's
presence, his first look in her face told him that he would not leave
her side again until he had laid her at rest in the tomb.
"Thank God! you have come, Felipe," she said in a feeble voice. "I
had begun to fear you would not come in time to say farewell to
me. I am going to leave you, my son;" and the tears rolled down
Though she no longer wished to live, neither did she wish to die,--
this poor, proud, passionate, defeated, bereft Senora. All the
consolations of her religion seemed to fail her. She had prayed
incessantly, but got no peace. She fixed her imploring eyes on the
Virgin's face and on the saints; but all seemed to her to wear a
forbidding look. "If Father Salvierderra would only come!" she
groaned. "He could give me peace. If only I can live till he comes
When Felipe told her of the old man's feeble state, and that he
would never again make the journey, she turned her face to the
wall and wept. Not only for her own soul's help did she wish to see
him: she wished to put into his hands the Ortegna jewels. What
would become of them? To whom should she transfer the charge?
Was there a secular priest within reach that she could trust? When
her sister had said, in her instructions, "the Church," she meant, as
the Senora Moreno well knew, the Franciscans. The Senora dared
not consult Felipe; yet she must. Day by day these fretting
anxieties and perplexities wasted her strength, and her fever grew
higher and higher. She asked no questions as to the result of
Felipe's journey, and he dared not mention Ramona's name. At last
he could bear it no longer, and one day said, "Mother, I found no
trace of Ramona. I have not the least idea where she is. The Father
had not seen her or heard of her. I fear she is dead."
"Better so," was the Senora's sole reply; and she fell again into still
deeper, more perplexed thought about the hidden treasure. Each
day she resolved, "To-morrow I will tell Felipe;" and when
to-morrow came, she put it off again. Finally she decided not to do
it till she found herself dying. Father Salvierderra might yet come
once more, and then all would be well. With trembling hands she
wrote him a letter, imploring him to be brought to her, and sent it
by messenger, who was empowered to hire a litter and four men to
bring the Father gently and carefully all the way. But when the
messenger reached Santa Barbara, Father Salvierderra was too
feeble to be moved; too feeble even to write. He could write only
by amanuensis, and wrote, therefore, guardedly, sending her his
blessing, and saying that he hoped her foster-child might yet be
restored to the keeping of her friends. The Father had been in sore
straits of mind, as month after month had passed without tidings of
his "blessed child."
Soon after this came the news that the Father was dead. This dealt
the Senora a terrible blow. She never left her bed after it. And so
the year had worn on; and Felipe, mourning over his sinking and
failing mother, and haunted by terrible fears about the lost
Ramona, had been tortured indeed.
But the end drew near, now. The Senora was plainly dying. The
Ventura doctor had left off coming, saying that he could do no
more; nothing remained but to give her what ease was possible; in
a day or two more all would be over. Felipe hardly left her bedside.
Rarely was mother so loved and nursed by son. No daughter could
have shown more tenderness and devotion. In the close relation
and affection of these last days, the sense of alienation and
antagonism faded from both their hearts.
"My adorable Felipe!" she would murmur. "What a son hast thou
been!" And, "My beloved mother! How shall I give you up?" Felipe
would reply, bowing his head on her hands,-- so wasted now, so
white, so weak; those hands which had been cruel and strong little
more than one short year ago. Ah, no one could refuse to forgive
the Senora now! The gentle Ramona, had she seen her, had wept
tears of pity. Her eyes wore at times a look almost of terror. It was
the secret. How should she speak it? What would Felipe say? At
last the moment came. She had been with difficulty roused from a
long fainting; one more such would be the last, she knew,-- knew
even better than those around her. As she regained consciousness,
she gasped, "Felipe! Alone!"
He understood, and waved the rest away.
"Alone!" she said again, turning her eyes to the door.
"Leave the room," said Felipe; "all -- wait outside;" and he closed
the door on them. Even then the Senora hesitated. Almost was she
ready to go out of life leaving the hidden treasure to its chance of
discovery, rather than with her own lips reveal to Felipe what she
saw now, saw with the terrible, relentless clear-sightedness of
death, would make him, even after she was in her grave, reproach
her in his thoughts.
But she dared not withhold it. It must be said. Pointing to the
statue of Saint Catharine, whose face seemed, she thought, to
frown unforgiving upon her, she said, "Felipe -- behind that statue
Felipe thought her delirious, and said tenderly, "Nothing is there,
dearest mother. Be calm. I am here."
New terror seized the dying woman. Was she to be forced to carry
the secret to the grave? to be denied this late avowal? "No! no!
Felipe -- there is a door there -- secret door. Look! Open! I must
Hastily Felipe moved the statue. There was indeed the door, as she
"Do not tell me now, mother dear. Wait till you are stronger," he
said. As he spoke, he turned, and saw, with alarm, his mother
sitting upright in the bed, her right arm outstretched, her hand
pointing to the door, her eyes in a glassy stare, her face convulsed.
Before a cry could pass his lips, she had fallen back. The Senora
Moreno was dead.
At Felipe's cry, the women waiting in the hall hurried in, wailing
aloud as their first glance showed them all was over. In the
confusion, Felipe, with a pale, set face, pushed the statue back into
its place. Even then a premonition of horror swept over him. What
was he, the son, to find behind that secret door, at sight of which
his mother had died with that look of anguished terror in her eyes?
All through the sad duties of the next four days Felipe was
conscious of the undercurrent of this premonition. The funeral
ceremonies were impressive. The little chapel could not hold the
quarter part of those who came, from far and near. Everybody
wished to do honor to the Senora Moreno. A priest from Ventura
and one from San Luis Obispo were there. When all was done,
they bore the Senora to the little graveyard on the hillside, and laid
her by the side of her husband and her children; silent and still at
last, the restless, passionate, proud, sad heart! When, the night
after the funeral, the servants saw Senor Felipe going into his
mother's room, they shuddered, and whispered, "Oh, he must not!
He will break his heart, Senor Felipe! How he loved her!"
Old Marda ventured to follow him, and at the threshold said: "Dear
Senor Felipe, do not! It is not good to go there! Come away!"
But he put her gently by, saying, "I would rather be here, good
Marda;" and went in and locked the door.
It was past midnight when he came out. His face was stern. He had
buried his mother again. Well might the Senora have dreaded to
tell to Felipe the tale of the Ortegna treasure. Until he reached the
bottom of the jewel-box, and found the Senora Ortegna's letter to
his mother, he was in entire bewilderment at all he saw. After he
had read this letter, he sat motionless for a long time, his head
buried in his hands. His soul was wrung.
"And she thought that shame, and not this!" he said bitterly.
But one thing remained for Felipe now, If Ramona lived, he would
find her, and restore to her this her rightful property. If she were
dead, it must go to the Santa Barbara College.
"Surely my mother must have intended to give it to the Church," he
said. "But why keep it all this time? It is this that has killed her.
Oh, shame! oh, disgrace!" From the grave in which Felipe had
buried his mother now, was no resurrection.
Replacing everything as before in the safe hiding-place, he sat
down and wrote a letter to the Superior of the Santa Barbara
College, telling him of the existence of these valuables, which in
certain contingencies would belong to the College. Early in the
morning he gave this letter to Juan Canito, saying: "I am going
away, Juan, on a journey. If anything happens to me, and I do not
return, send this letter by trusty messenger to Santa Barbara."
"Will you be long away, Senor Felipe?" asked the old man,
"I cannot tell, Juan," replied Felipe. "It may be only a short time; it
may be long. I leave everything in your care. You will do all
according to your best judgment, I know. I will say to all that I
have left you in charge."
"Thanks, Senor Felipe! Thanks!" exclaimed Juan, happier than he
had been for two years. "Indeed, you may trust me! From the time
you were a boy till now, I have had no thought except for your
Even in heaven the Senora Moreno had felt woe as if in hell, had
she known the thoughts with which her Felipe galloped this
morning out of the gateway through which, only the day before, he
had walked weeping behind her body borne to burial.
"And she thought this no shame to the house of Moreno!" he said.
DURING the first day of Ramona's and Alessandro's sad journey
they scarcely spoke. Alessandro walked at the horses' heads, his
face sunk on his breast, his eyes fixed on the ground. Ramona
watched him in anxious fear. Even the baby's voice and cooing
laugh won from him no response. After they were camped for the
night, she said, "Dear Alessandro, will you not tell me where we
In spite of her gentleness, there was a shade of wounded feeling in
her tone. Alessandro flung himself on his knees before her, and
cried: "My Majella! my Majella! it seems to me I am going mad! I
cannot tell what to do. I do not know what I think; all my thoughts
seem whirling round as leaves do in brooks in the time of the
spring rains. Do you think I can be going mad? It was enough to
Ramona, her own heart wrung with fear, soothed him as best she
could. "Dear Alessandro," she said, "let us go to Los Angeles, and
not live with the Indians any more. You could get work there. You
could play at dances sometimes; there must be plenty of work. I
could get more sewing to do, too. It would be better, I think."
He looked horror-stricken at the thought. "Go live among the white
people!" he cried. "What does Majella think would become of one
Indian, or two, alone among whites? If they will come to our
villages and drive us out a hundred at a time, what would they do
to one man alone? Oh, Majella is foolish!"
"But there are many of your people at work for whites at San
Bernardino and other places," she persisted. "Why could not we do
as they do?"
"Yes," he said bitterly, "at work for whites; so they are, Majella
has not seen. No man will pay an Indian but half wages; even long
ago, when the Fathers were not all gone, and tried to help the
Indians, my father has told me that it was the way only to pay an
Indian one-half that a white man or a Mexican had. It was the
Mexicans, too, did that, Majella. And now they pay the Indians in
money sometimes, half wages; sometimes in bad flour, or things
he does not want; sometimes in whiskey; and if he will not take it,
and asks for his money, they laugh, and tell him to go, then. One
man in San Bernardino last year, when an Indian would not take a
bottle of sour wine for pay for a day's work, shot him in the cheek
with his pistol, and told him to mind how he was insolent any
more! Oh, Majella, do not ask me to go work in the towns! I
should kill some man, Majella, if I saw things like that."
Ramona shuddered, and was silent. Alessandro continued: "If
Majella would not be afraid, I know a place, high up on the
mountain, where no white man has ever been, or ever will be. I
found it when I was following a bear. The beast led me up. It was
his home; and I said then, it was a fit hiding-place for a man. There
is water, and a little green valley. We could live there; but it would
be no more than to live,, it is very small, the valley. Majella would
"Yes, Alessandro, I would be afraid, all alone on a high mountain.
Oh, do not let us go there! Try something else first, Alessandro. Is
there no other Indian village you know?"
"There is Saboba," he said, "at foot of the San Jacinto Mountain; I
had thought of that. Some of my people went there from
Temecula; but it is a poor little village, Majella. Majella would not
like to live in it. Neither do I believe it will long be any safer than
San Pasquale. There was a kind, good old man who owned all that
valley,-- Senor Ravallo; he found the village of Saboba there when
he came to the country. It is one of the very oldest of all; he was
good to all Indians, and he said they should never be disturbed,
never. He is dead; but his three sons have the estate yet, and I think
they would keep their father's promise to the Indians. But you see,
to-morrow, Majella, they may die, or go back to Mexico, as Senor
Valdez did, and then the Americans will get it, as they did
Temecula. And there are already white men living in the valley.
We will go that way, Majella. Majella shall see. If she says stay,
we will stay."
It was in the early afternoon that they entered the broad valley of
San Jacinto. They entered it from the west. As they came in,
though the sky over their heads was overcast and gray, the eastern
and northeastern part of the valley was flooded with a strange
light, at once ruddy and golden. It was a glorious sight. The jagged
top and spurs of San Jacinto Mountain shone like the turrets and
posterns of a citadel built of rubies. The glow seemed
"Behold San Jacinto!" cried Alessandro.
Ramona exclaimed in delight. "It is an omen!" she said. "We are
going into the sunlight, out of the shadow;" and she glanced back
at the west, which was of a slaty blackness.
"I like it not!" said Alessandro. "The shadow follows too fast!"
Indeed it did. Even as he spoke, a fierce wind blew from the north,
and tearing off fleeces from the black cloud, sent them in scurrying
masses across the sky. In a moment more, snow-flakes began to
"Holy Virgin!" cried Alessandro. Too well he knew what it meant.
He urged the horses, running fast beside them. It was of no use.
Too much even for Baba and Benito to make any haste, with the
heavily loaded wagon.
"There is an old sheep-corral and a hut not over a mile farther, if
we could but reach it!" groaned Alessandro. "Majella, you and the
child will freeze."
"She is warm on my breast," said Ramona; "but, Alessandro, what
ice in this wind! It is like a knife at my back!"
Alessandro uttered another ejaculation of dismay. The snow was
fast thickening; already the track was covered. The wind lessened.
"Thank God, that wind no longer cuts as it did," said Ramona, her
teeth chattering, clasping the baby closer and closer.
"I would rather it blew than not," said Alessandro; "it will carry the
snow before it. A little more of this, and we cannot see, any more
than in the night."
Still thicker and faster fell the snow; the air was dense; it was, as
Alessandro had said, worse than the darkness of night,-- this
strange opaque whiteness, thick, choking, freezing one's breath.
Presently the rough jolting of the wagon showed that they were off
the road. The horses stopped; refused to go on.
"We are lost, if we stay here!" cried Alessandro. "Come, my
Benito, come!" and he took him by the head, and pulled him by
main force back into the road, and led him along. It was terrible.
Ramona's heart sank within her. She felt her arms growing numb;
how much longer could she hold the baby safe? She called to
Alessandro. He did not hear her; the wind had risen again; the
snow was being blown in masses; it was like making headway
among whirling snow-drifts.
"We will die," thought Ramona. "Perhaps it is as well!" And that
was the last she knew, till she heard a shouting, and found herself
being shaken and beaten, and heard a strange voice saying, "Sorry
ter handle yer so rough, ma'am, but we've got ter git yer out ter the
"Fire!" Were there such things as fire and warmth? Mechanically
she put the baby into the unknown arms that were reaching up to
her, and tried to rise from her seat; but she could not move.
"Set still! set still!" said the strange voice. "I'll jest carry the baby
ter my wife, an' come back fur you. I allowed yer couldn't git up on
yer feet;" and the tall form disappeared. The baby, thus vigorously
disturbed from her warm sleep, began to cry.
"Thank God!" said Alessandro, at the plunging horses' heads. "The
child is alive! Majella!" he called.
"Yes, Alessandro," she answered faintly, the gusts sweeping her
voice like a distant echo past him.
It was a marvellous rescue. They had been nearer the old
sheep-corral than Alessandro had thought; but except that other
storm-beaten travellers had reached it before them, Alessandro had
never found it. Just as he felt his strength failing him, and had
thought to himself, in almost the same despairing words as
Ramona, "This will end all our troubles," he saw a faint light to the
left. Instantly he had turned the horses' heads towards it. The
ground was rough and broken, and more than once he had been in
danger of overturning the wagon; but he had pressed on, shouting
at intervals for help. At last his call was answered, and another
light appeared; this time a swinging one, coming slowly towards
him,-- a lantern, in the hand of a man, whose first words, "Wall,
stranger, I allow yer inter trouble," were as intelligible to
Alessandro as if they had been spoken in the purest San Luiseno
Not so, to the stranger, Alessandro's grateful reply in Spanish.
"Another o' these no-'count Mexicans, by thunder!" thought Jeff
Hyer to himself. "Blamed ef I'd lived in a country all my life, ef I
wouldn't know better'n to git caught out in such weather's this!"
And as he put the crying babe into his wife's arms, he said half
impatiently, "Ef I'd knowed 't wuz Mexicans, Ri, I wouldn't ev'
gone out ter 'um. They're more ter hum 'n I am, 'n these yer
"Naow, Jeff, yer know yer wouldn't let ennythin' in shape ev a
human creetur go perishin' past aour fire sech weather's this,"
replied the woman, as she took the baby, which recognized the
motherly hand at its first touch, and ceased crying.
"Why, yer pooty, blue-eyed little thing!" she exclaimed, as she
looked into the baby's face. "I declar, Jos, think o' sech a mite's this
bein' aout'n this weather. I'll jest warm up some milk for it this
"Better see't th' mother fust, Ri," said Jeff, leading, half carrying,
Ramona into the hut. "She's nigh abaout froze stiff!"
But the sight of her baby safe and smiling was a better restorative
for Ramona than anything else, and in a few moments she had
fully recovered. It was in a strange group she found herself. On a
mattress, in the corner of the hut, lay a young man apparently
about twenty-five, whose bright eyes and flushed cheeks told but
too plainly the story of his disease. The woman, tall, ungainly, her
face gaunt, her hands hardened and wrinkled, gown ragged, shoes
ragged, her dry and broken light hair wound in a careless,
straggling knot in her neck, wisps of it flying over her forehead,
was certainly not a prepossessing figure. Yet spite of her careless,
unkempt condition, there was a certain gentle dignity in her
bearing, and a kindliness in her glance, which won trust and
warmed hearts at once. Her pale blue eyes were still keen-sighted;
and as she fixed them on Ramona, she thought to herself, "This
ain't no common Mexican, no how." "Be ye movers?" she said.
Ramona stared. In the little English she knew, that word was not
included. "Ah, Senora," she said regretfully, "I cannot talk in the
English speech; only in Spanish."
"Spanish, eh? Yer mean Mexican? Jos, hyar, he kin talk thet. He
can't talk much, though; 'tain't good fur him; his lungs is out er
kilter. Thet's what we're bringin' him hyar fur,-- fur warm climate!
'pears like it, don't it?" and she chuckled grimly, but with a side
glance of ineffable tenderness at the sick man. "Ask her who they
be, Jos," she added.
Jos lifted himself on his elbow, and fixing his shining eyes on
Ramona, said in Spanish, "My mother asks if you are travellers?"
"Yes," said Ramona. "We have come all the way from San Diego.
We are Indians."
"Injuns!" ejaculated Jos's mother. "Lord save us, Jos! Hev we reelly
took in Injuns? What on airth -- Well, well, she's fond uv her
baby's enny white woman! I kin see thet; an', Injun or no Injun,
they've got to stay naow. Yer couldn't turn a dog out 'n sech
weather's this. I bet thet baby's father wuz white, then. Look at
them blue eyes."
Ramona listened and looked intently, but could understand
nothing. Almost she doubted if the woman were really speaking
English. She had never before heard so many English sentences
without being able to understand one word. The Tennessee drawl
so altered even the commonest words, that she did not recognize
them. Turning to Jos, she said gently, "I know very little English. I
am so sorry I cannot understand. Will it tire you to interpret to me
what your mother said?"
Jos was as full of humor as his mother. "She wants me to tell her
what you wuz sayin'," he said, "I allow, I'll only tell her the part
on't she'll like best.-- My mother says you can stay here with us till
the storm is over," he said to Ramona.
Swifter than lightning, Ramona had seized the woman's hand and
carried it to her heart, with an expressive gesture of gratitude and
emotion. "Thanks! thanks! Senora!" she cried.
"What is it she calls me, Jos?" asked his mother.
"Senora," he replied. "It only means the same as lady."
"Shaw, Jos! You tell her I ain't any lady. Tell her everybody round
where we live calls me 'Aunt Ri,' or 'Mis Hyer;' she kin call me
whichever she's a mind to. She's reel sweet-spoken."
With some difficulty Jos explained his mother's disclaimer of the
title of Senora, and the choice of names she offered to Ramona.
Ramona, with smiles which won both mother and son, repeated
after him both names, getting neither exactly right at first trial, and
finally said, "I like 'Aunt Ri' best; she is so kind, like aunt, to every
"Naow, ain't thet queer, Jos," said Aunt Ri, "aout here 'n thes
wilderness to ketch sumbody sayin' thet,-- jest what they all say ter
hum? I donno's I'm enny kinder'n ennybody else. I don't want ter
see ennybody put upon, nor noways sufferin', ef so be's I kin help;
but thet ain't ennythin' stronary, ez I know. I donno how ennybody
could feel enny different."
"There's lots doos, mammy," replied Jos, affectionately. "Yer'd
find out fast enuf, ef yer went raound more. There's mighty few's
good's you air ter everybody."
Ramona was crouching in the corner by the fire, her baby held
close to her breast. The place which at first had seemed a haven of
warmth, she now saw was indeed but a poor shelter against the
fearful storm which raged outside. It was only a hut of rough
boards, carelessly knocked together for a shepherd's temporary
home. It had been long unused, and many of the boards were loose
and broken. Through these crevices, at every blast of the wind, the
fine snow swirled. On the hearth were burning a few sticks of
wood, dead cottonwood branches, which Jef Hyer had hastily
collected before the storm reached its height. A few more sticks
lay by the hearth. Aunt Ri glanced at them anxiously. A poor
provision for a night in the snow. "Be ye warm, Jos?" she asked.
"Not very, mammy," he said; "but I ain't cold, nuther; an' thet's
It was the way in the Hyer family to make the best of things; they
had always possessed this virtue to such an extent, that they
suffered from it as from a vice. There was hardly to be found in all
Southern Tennessee a more contented, shiftless, ill-bestead family
than theirs. But there was no grumbling. Whatever went wrong,
whatever was lacking, it was "jest like aour luck," they said, and
did nothing, or next to nothing, about it. Good-natured,
affectionate, humorous people; after all, they got more comfort out
of life than many a family whose surface conditions were
incomparably better than theirs. When Jos, their oldest child and
only son, broke down, had hemorrhage after hemorrhage, and the
doctor said the only thing that could save him was to go across the
plains in a wagon to California, they said, "What good luck 'Lizy
was married last year! Now there ain't nuthin' ter hinder sellin' the
farm 'n goin' right off." And they sold their little place for half it
was worth, traded cattle for a pair of horses and a covered wagon,
and set off, half beggared, with their sick boy on a bed in the
bottom of the wagon, as cheery as if they were rich people on a
pleasure-trip. A pair of steers "to spell" the horses, and a cow to
give milk for Jos, they drove before them; and so they had come by
slow stages, sometimes camping for a week at a time, all the way
from Tennessee to the San Jacinto Valley. They were rewarded.
Jos was getting well. Another six months, they thought, would see
him cured; and it would have gone hard with any one who had
tried to persuade either Jefferson or Maria Hyer that they were not
as lucky a couple as could be found. Had they not saved Joshua,
Nicknames among this class of poor whites in the South seem
singularly like those in vogue in New England. From totally
opposite motives, the lazy, easy-going Tennesseean and the
hurry-driven Vermonter cut down all their family names to the
shortest. To speak three syllables where one will answer, seems to
the Vermonter a waste of time; to the Tennesseean, quite too much
trouble. Mrs. Hyer could hardly recollect ever having heard her
name, "Maria," in full; as a child, and until she was married, she
was simply "Ri;" and as soon as she had a house of her own, to
become a centre of hospitality and help, she was adopted by
common consent of the neighborhood, in a sort of titular and
universal aunt-hood, which really was a much greater tribute and
honor than she dreamed. Not a man, woman, or child, within her
reach, that did not call her or know of her as "Aunt Ri."
"I donno whether I'd best make enny more fire naow or not," she
said reflectively; "ef this storm's goin' to last till mornin', we'll
come short o' wood, thet's clear." As she spoke, the door of the hut
burst open, and her husband staggered in, followed by Alessandro,
both covered with snow, their arms full of wood. Alessandro,
luckily, knew of a little clump of young cottonwood-trees in a
ravine, only a few rods from the house; and the first thing he had
thought of, after tethering the horses in shelter between the hut and
the wagons, was to get wood. Jeff, seeing him take a hatchet from
the wagon, had understood, got his own, and followed; and now
there lay on the ground enough to keep them warm for hours. As
soon as Alessandro had thrown down his load, he darted to
Ramona, and kneeling down, looked anxiously into the baby's
face, then into hers; then he said devoutly, "The saints be praised,
my Majella! It is a miracle!"
Jos listened in dismay to this ejaculation. "Ef they ain't Catholics!"
he thought. "What kind o' Injuns be they I wonder. I won't tell
mammy they're Catholics; she'd feel wuss'n ever. I don't care what
they be. Thet gal's got the sweetest eyes'n her head ever I saw
sence I wuz born."
By help of Jos's interpreting, the two families soon became well
acquainted with each other's condition and plans; and a feeling of
friendliness, surprising under the circumstances, grew up between
"Jeff," said Aunt Ri,-- "Jeff, they can't understand a word we say,
so't's no harm done, I s'pose, to speak afore 'em, though't don't
seem hardly fair to take advantage o' their not knowin' any
language but their own; but I jest tell you thet I've got a lesson'n
the subjeck uv Injuns. I've always hed a reel mean feelin' about
'em; I didn't want ter come nigh 'em, nor ter hev 'em come nigh me.
This woman, here, she's ez sweet a creetur's ever I see; 'n' ez bound
up 'n thet baby's yer could ask enny woman to be; 'n' 's fur thet
man, can't yer see, Jeff, he jest worships the ground she walks on?
Thet's a fact, Jeff. I donno's ever I see a white man think so much
uv a woman; come, naow, Jeff, d' yer think yer ever did yerself?"
Aunt Ri was excited. The experience was, to her, almost
incredible. Her ideas of Indians had been drawn from newspapers,
and from a book or two of narratives of massacres, and from an
occasional sight of vagabond bands or families they had
encountered in their journey across the plains. Here she found
herself sitting side by side in friendly intercourse with an Indian
man and Indian woman, whose appearance and behavior were
attractive; towards whom she felt herself singularly drawn.
"I'm free to confess, Jos," she said, "I wouldn't ha' bleeved it. I
hain't seen nobody, black, white, or gray, sence we left hum, I've
took to like these yere folks. An' they're real dark; 's dark's any
nigger in Tennessee; 'n' he's pewer Injun; her father wuz white, she
sez, but she don't call herself nothin' but an Injun, the same's he is.
D' yer notice the way she looks at him, Jos? Don't she jest set a
store by thet feller? 'N' I don't blame her."
Indeed, Jos had noticed. No man was likely to see Ramona with
Alessandro without perceiving the rare quality of her devotion to
him. And now there was added to this devotion an element of
indefinable anxiety which made its vigilance unceasing. Ramona
feared for Alessandro's reason. She had hardly put it into words to
herself, but the terrible fear dwelt with her. She felt that another
blow would be more than he could bear.
The storm lasted only a few hours. When it cleared, the valley was
a solid expanse of white, and the stars shone out as if in an Arctic
"It will be all gone by noon to-morrow," said Alessandro to Jos,
who was dreading the next day.
"Not really!" he said.
"You will see," said Alessandro. "I have often known it thus. It is
like death while it lasts; but it is never long."
The Hyers were on their way to some hot springs on the north side
of the valley. Here they proposed to camp for three months, to try
the waters for Jos. They had a tent, and all that was necessary for
living in their primitive fashion. Aunt Ri was looking forward to
the rest with great anticipation; she was heartily tired of being on
the move. Her husband's anticipations were of a more stirring
nature. He had heard that there was good hunting on San Jacinto
Mountain. When he found that Alessandro knew the region
thoroughly, and had been thinking of settling there, he was
rejoiced, and proposed to him to become his companion and guide
in hunting expeditions. Ramona grasped eagerly at the suggestion;
companionship, she was sure, would do Alessandro good,--
companionship, the outdoor life, and the excitement of hunting, of
which he was fond. This hot-spring canon was only a short
distance from the Saboba village, of which they had spoken as a
possible home; which she had from the first desired to try. She no
longer had repugnance to the thought of an Indian village; she
already felt a sense of kinship and shelter with any Indian people.
She had become, as Carmena had said, "one of them."
A few days saw the two families settled,-- the Hyers in their tent
and wagon, at the hot springs, and Alessandro and Ramona, with
the baby, in a little adobe house in the Saboba village. The house
belonged to an old Indian woman who, her husband having died,
had gone to live with a daughter, and was very glad to get a few
dollars by renting her own house. It was a wretched place; one
small room, walled with poorly made adobe bricks, thatched with
tule, no floor, and only one window. When Alessandro heard
Ramona say cheerily, "Oh, this will do very well, when it is
repaired a little," his face was convulsed, and he turned away; but
he said nothing. It was the only house to be had in the village, and
there were few better. Two months later, no one would have
known it. Alessandro had had good luck in hunting. Two fine
deerskins covered the earth floor; a third was spread over the
bedstead; and the horns, hung on the walls, served for hooks to
hang clothes upon. The scarlet calico canopy was again set up over
the bed, and the woven cradle, on its red manzanita frame, stood
near. A small window in the door, and one more cut in the walls,
let in light and air. On a shelf near one of these windows stood the
little Madonna, again wreathed with vines as in San Pasquale.
When Aunt Ri first saw the room, after it was thus arranged, she
put both arms akimbo, and stood in the doorway, her mouth wide
open, her eyes full of wonder. Finally her wonder framed itself in
an ejaculation: "Wall, I allow yer air fixed up!"
Aunt Ri, at her best estate, had never possessed a room which had
the expression of this poor little mud hut of Ramona's. She could
not understand it. The more she studied the place, the less she
understood it. On returning to the tent, she said to Jos: "It beats all
ever I see, the way thet Injun woman's got fixed up out er nothin'.
It ain't no more'n a hovel, a mud hovel, Jos, not much bigger'n this
yer tent, fur all three on 'em, an' the bed an' the stove an' everythin';
an' I vow, Jos, she's fixed it so't looks jest like a parlor! It beats me,
it does. I'd jest like you to see it."
And when Jos saw it, and Jeff, they were as full of wonder as Aunt
Ri had been. Dimly they recognized the existence of a principle
here which had never entered into their life. They did not know it
by name, and it could not have been either taught, transferred, or
explained to the good-hearted wife and mother who had been so
many years the affectionate disorderly genius of their home. But
they felt its charm; and when, one day, after the return of
Alessandro and Jeff from a particularly successful hunt, the two
families had sat down together to a supper of Ramona's cooking, --
stewed venison and artichokes, and frijoles with chili,-- their
wonder was still greater.
"Ask her if this is Injun style of cooking, Jos," said Aunt Ri. "I
never thought nothin' o' beans; but these air good, 'n' no mistake!"
Ramona laughed. "No; it is Mexican," she said. "I learned to cook
from an old Mexican woman."
"Wall, I'd like the receipt on't; but I allow I shouldn't never git the
time to fuss with it," said Aunt Ri; "but I may's well git the rule,
naow I'm here."
Alessandro began to lose some of his gloom. He had earned
money. He had been lifted out of himself by kindly
companionship; he saw Ramona cheerful, the little one sunny; the
sense of home, the strongest passion Alessandro possessed, next to
his love for Ramona, began again to awake in him. He began to
talk about building a house. He had found things in the village
better than he feared. It was but a poverty-stricken little handful, to
be sure; still, they were unmolested; the valley was large; their
stock ran free; the few white settlers, one at the upper end and two
or three on the south side, had manifested no disposition to crowd
the Indians; the Ravallo brothers were living on the estate still, and
there was protection in that, Alessandro thought. And Majella was
content. Majella had found friends. Something, not quite hope, but
akin to it, began to stir in Alessandro's heart. He would build a
house; Majella should no longer live in this mud hut. But to his
surprise, when he spoke of it, Ramona said no; they had all they
needed, now. Was not Alessandro comfortable? She was. It would
be wise to wait longer before building.
Ramona knew many things that Alessandro did not. While he had
been away on his hunts, she had had speech with many a one he
never saw. She had gone to the store and post-office several times,
to exchange baskets or lace for flour, and she had heard talk there
which disquieted her. She did not believe that Saboba was safe.
One day she had heard a man say, "If there is a drought we shall
have the devil to pay with our stock before winter is over." "Yes,"
said another; "and look at those damned Indians over there in
Saboba, with water running all the time in their village! It's a
shame they should have that spring!"
Not for worlds would Ramona have told this to Alessandro. She
kept it locked in her own breast, but it rankled there like a
ceaseless warning and prophecy. When she reached home that day
she went down to the spring in the centre of the village, and stood
a long time looking at the bubbling water. It was indeed a priceless
treasure; a long irrigating ditch led from it down into the bottom,
where lay the cultivated fields,-- many acres in wheat, barley, and
vegetables. Alessandro himself had fields there from which they
would harvest all they needed for the horses and their cow all
winter, in case pasturage failed. If the whites took away this water,
Saboba would be ruined. However, as the spring began in the very
heart of the village, they could not take it without destroying the
village. "And the Ravallos would surely never let that be done,"
thought Ramona. "While they live, it will not happen."
It was a sad day for Ramona and Alessandro when the kindly
Hyers pulled up their tent-stakes and left the valley. Their intended
three months had stretched into six, they had so enjoyed the
climate, and the waters had seemed to do such good to Jos. But,
"We ain't rich folks, yer know, not by a long ways, we ain't," said
Aunt Ri; "an' we've got pretty nigh down to where Jeff an' me's got
to begin airnin' suthin'. Ef we kin git settled 'n some o' these towns
where there's carpenterin' to be done. Jeff, he's a master hand to
thet kind o' work, though yer mightn't think it; 'n I kin airn right
smart at weavin'; jest give me a good carpet-loom, 'n I won't be
beholden to nobody for vittles. I jest du love weavin'. I donno how
I've contented myself this hull year, or nigh about a year, without a
loom. Jeff, he sez to me once, sez he, 'Ri, do yer think yer'd be
contented in heaven without yer loom?' an' I was free to say I didn't
know's I should."
"Is it hard?" cried Ramona. "Could I learn to do it?" It was
wonderful what progress in understanding and speaking English
Ramona had made in these six months. She now understood nearly
all that was said directly to her, though she could not follow
general and confused conversation.
"Wall, 'tis, an' 'tain't," said Aunt Ri. "I don't s'pose I'm much of a
jedge; fur I can't remember when I fust learned it. I know I set in
the loom to weave when my feet couldn't reach the floor; an' I
don't remember nothin' about fust learnin' to spool 'n' warp. I've
tried to teach lots of folks; an' sum learns quick, an' some don't
never learn; it's jest 's 't strikes 'em. I should think, naow, thet you
wuz one o' the kind could turn yer hands to anythin'. When we get
settled in San Bernardino, if yer'll come down thar, I'll teach yer all
I know, 'n' be glad ter. I donno's 't 's goin' to be much uv a place for
carpet-weavin' though, anywheres raound 'n this yer country; not
but what thar's plenty o' rags, but folks seems to be wearin' 'em;
pooty gen'ral wear, I sh'd say. I've seen more cloes on folks' backs
hyar, thet wan't no more'n fit for carpet-rags, than any place ever I
struck. They're drefful sheftless lot, these yere Mexicans; 'n' the
Injuns is wuss. Naow when I say Injuns, I don't never mean yeow,
yer know thet. Yer ain't ever seemed to me one mite like an Injun."
"Most of our people haven't had any chance," said Ramona. "You
wouldn't believe if I were to tell you what things have been done to
them; how they are robbed, and cheated, and turned out of their
Then she told the story of Temecula, and of San Pasquale, in
Spanish, to Jos, who translated it with no loss in the telling. Aunt
Ri was aghast; she found no words to express her indignation.
"I don't bleeve the Guvvermunt knows anything about it." she said.
"Why, they take folks up, n'n penetentiarize 'em fur life, back 'n
Tennessee, fur things thet ain't so bad's thet! Somebody ought ter
be sent ter tell 'em 't Washington what's goin' on hyar."
"I think it's the people in Washington that have done it," said
Ramona, sadly. "Is it not in Washington all the laws are made?"
"I bleeve so!" said Aunt Ri, "Ain't it, Jos? It's Congress ain't 't,
makes the laws?"
"I bleeve so." said Jos. "They make some, at any rate. I donno's
they make 'em all."
"It is all done by the American law," said Ramona, "all these
things; nobody can help himself; for if anybody goes against the
law he has to be killed or put in prison; that was what the sheriff
told Alessandro, at Temecula. He felt very sorry for the Temecula
people, the sheriff did; but he had to obey the law himself.
Alessandro says there isn't any help."
Aunt Ri shook her head. She was not convinced. "I sh'll make a
business o' findin' out abaout this thing yit," she said. "I think yer
hain't got the rights on't yit. There's cheatin' somewhere!"
"It's all cheating." said Ramona; "but there isn't any help for it,
Aunt Ri. The Americans think it is no shame to cheat for money."
"I'm an Ummeriken!" cried Aunt Ri; "an' Jeff Hyer, and Jos! We're
Ummerikens! 'n' we wouldn't cheat nobody, not ef we knowed it,
not out er a doller. We're pore, an' I allus expect to be, but we're
above cheatin'; an' I tell you, naow, the Ummeriken people don't
want any o' this cheatin' done, naow! I'm going to ask Jeff haow
'tis. Why, it's a burnin' shame to any country! So 'tis! I think
something oughter be done abaout it! I wouldn't mind goin' myself,
ef thar wan't anybody else!"
A seed had been sown in Aunt Ri's mind which was not destined to
die for want of soil. She was hot with shame and anger, and full of
impulse to do something. "I ain't nobody," she said; "I know thet
well enough,-- I ain't nobody nor nothin'; but I allow I've got suthin'
to say abaout the country I live in, 'n' the way things hed oughter
be; or 't least Jeff hez; 'n' thet's the same thing. I tell yer, Jos, I ain't
goin' to rest, nor ter give yeou 'n' yer father no rest nuther, till yeou
find aout what all this yere means she's been tellin' us."
But sharper and closer anxieties than any connected with rights to
lands and homes were pressing upon Alessandro and Ramona. All
summer the baby had been slowly drooping; so slowly that it was
each day possible for Ramona to deceive herself, thinking that
there had been since yesterday no loss, perhaps a little gain; but
looking back from the autumn to the spring, and now from the
winter to the autumn, there was no doubt that she had been
steadily going down. From the day of that terrible chill in the
snow-storm, she had never been quite well, Ramona thought.
Before that, she was strong, always strong, always beautiful and
merry, Now her pinched little face was sad to see, and sometimes
for hours she made a feeble wailing cry without any apparent
cause. All the simple remedies that Aunt Ri had known, had failed
to touch her disease; in fact, Aunt Ri from the first had been
baffled in her own mind by the child's symptoms. Day after day
Alessandro knelt by the cradle, his hands clasped, his face set.
Hour after hour, night and day, indoors and out, he bore her in his
arms, trying to give her relief. Prayer after prayer to the Virgin, to
the saints, Ramona had said; and candles by the dozen, though
money was now scant, she had burned before the Madonna; all in
vain. At last she implored Alessandro to go to San Bernardino and
see a doctor. "Find Aunt Ri," she said; "she will go with you, with
Jos, and talk to him; she can make him understand. Tell Aunt Ri
she seems just as she did when they were here, only weaker and
Alessandro found Aunt Ri in a sort of shanty on the outskirts of
San Bernardino. "Not to rights yit," she said,-- as if she ever would
be. Jeff had found work; and Jos, too, had been able to do a little
on pleasant days. He had made a loom and put up a loom-house for
his mother,-- a floor just large enough to hold the loom, rough
walls, and a roof; one small square window,-- that was all; but if
Aunt Ri had been presented with a palace, she would not have
been so well pleased. Already she had woven a rag carpet for
herself, was at work on one for a neighbor, and had promised as
many more as she could do before spring; the news of the arrival
of a rag-carpet weaver having gone with despatch all through the
lower walks of San Bernardino life. "I wouldn't hev bleeved they
hed so many rags besides what they're wearin'," said Aunt Ri, as
sack after sack appeared at her door. Already, too, Aunt Ri had
gathered up the threads of the village life; in her friendly,
impressionable way she had come into relation with scores of
people, and knew who was who, and what was what, and why,
among them all, far better than many an old resident of the town.
When she saw Benito galloping up to her door, she sprang down
from her high stool at the loom, and ran bareheaded to the gate,
and before Alessandro had dismounted, cried: "Ye're jest the man I
wanted; I've been tryin' to 'range it so's we could go down 'n' see
yer, but Jeff couldn't leave the job he's got; an' I'm druv nigh
abaout off my feet, 'n' I donno when we'd hev fetched it. How's all?
Why didn't yer come in ther wagon 'n' fetch 'em 'long? I've got
heaps ter tell yer. I allowed yer hadn't got the rights o' all them
things. The Guvvermunt ain't on the side o' the thieves, as yer said.
I knowed they couldn't be,' an' they've jest sent out a man a purpose
to look after things fur yer,-- to take keer o' the Injuns 'n' nothin'
else. That's what he's here fur. He come last month; he's a reel nice
man. I seen him 'n' talked with him a spell, last week; I'm gwine to
make his wife a rag carpet. 'N' there's a doctor, too, to 'tend ter yer
when ye're sick, 'n' the Guvvermunt pays him; yer don't hev to pay
nothin'; 'n' I tell yeow, thet's a heap o' savin', to git yer docterin' fur
Aunt Ri was out of breath. Alessandro had not understood half she
said. He looked about helplessly for Jos. Jos was away. In his
broken English he tried to explain what Ramona had wished her to
"Doctor! Thet's jest what I'm tellin' yer! There is one here's paid by
the Guvvermunt to 'tend to the Injuns thet's sick. I'll go 'n' show yer
ter his house. I kin tell him jest how the baby is. P'r'aps he'll drive
down 'n' see her!"
Ah! if he would! What would Majella say, should she see him
enter the door bringing a doctor!
Luckily Jos returned in time to go with them to the doctor's house
as interpreter. Alessandro was bewildered. He could not
understand this new phase of affairs, Could it be true? As they
walked along, he listened with trembling, half-incredulous hope to
Jos's interpretation of Aunt Ri's voluble narrative.
The doctor was in his office. To Aunt Ri's statement of
Alessandro's errand he listened indifferently, and then said, "Is he
an Agency Indian?"
"A what?" exclaimed Aunt Ri.
"Does he belong to the Agency? Is his name on the Agency
"No," said she; "he never heern uv any Agency till I wuz tellin'
him, jest naow. We knoo him, him 'n' her, over 'n San Jacinto. He
lives in Saboba. He's never been to San Bernardino sence the
Agent come aout."
"Well, is he going to put his name down on the books?" said the
doctor, impatiently. "You ought to have taken him to the Agent
"Ain't you the Guvvermunt doctor for all Injuns?" asked Aunt Ri,
wrathfully. "Thet's what I heerd."
"Well, my good woman, you hear a great deal, I expect, that isn't
true;" and the doctor laughed coarsely but not ill-naturedly,
Alessandro all the time studying his face with the scrutiny of one
awaiting life and death; "I am the Agency physician, and I suppose
all the Indians will sooner or later come in and report themselves
to the Agent; you'd better take this man over there. What does he
Aunt Ri began to explain the baby's case. Cutting her short, the
doctor said, "Yes, yes, I understand. I'll give him something that
will help her;" and going into an inner room, he brought out a
bottle of dark-colored liquid, wrote a few lines of prescription, and
handed it to Alessandro, saying, "That will do her good, I guess."
"Thanks, Senor, thanks," said Alessandro.
The doctor stared. "That's the first Indian's said 'Thank you' in this
office," he said. "You tell the Agent you've brought him a rara
"What's that, Jos?" said Aunt Ri, as they went out.
"Donno!" said Jos. "I don't like thet man, anyhow, mammy. He's no
Alessandro looked at the bottle of medicine like one in a dream.
Would it make the baby well? Had it indeed been given to him by
that great Government in Washington? Was he to be protected
now? Could this man, who had been sent out to take care of
Indians, get back his San Pasquale farm for him? Alessandro's
brain was in a whirl.
From the doctor's office they went to the Agent's house. Here, Aunt
Ri felt herself more at home.
"I've brought ye thet Injun I wuz tellin' ye uv," she said, with a
wave of her hand toward Alessandro. "We've ben ter ther doctor's
to git some metcen fur his baby. She's reel sick, I'm afeerd."
The Agent sat down at his desk, opened a large ledger, saying as
he did so, "The man's never been here before, has he?"
"No," said Aunt Ri.
"What is his name?"
Jos gave it, and the Agent began to write it in the book. "Stop
him." cried Alessandro, agitatedly to Jos. "Don't let him write, till I
know what he puts my name in his book for!"
"Wait," said Jos. "He doesn't want you to write his name in that
book. He wants to know what it's put there for."
Wheeling his chair with a look of suppressed impatience, yet
trying to speak kindly, the Agent said: "There's no making these
Indians understand anything. They seem to think if I have their
names in my book, it gives me some power over them."
"Wall, don't it?" said the direct-minded Aunt Ri. "Hain't yer got
any power over 'em? If yer hain't got it over them, who have yer
got it over? What yer goin' to do for 'em?"
The Agent laughed in spite of himself. "Well, Aunt Ri," -- she was
already "Aunt Ri" to the Agent's boys,-- "that's just the trouble with
this Agency. It is very different from what it would be if I had all
my Indians on a reservation."
Alessandro understood the words "my Indians." He had heard them
"What does he mean by his Indians, Jos?" he asked fiercely. "I will
not have my name in his book if it makes me his."
When Jos reluctantly interpreted this, the Agent lost his temper.
"That's all the use there is trying to do anything with them! Let him
go, then, if he doesn't want any help from the Government!"
"Oh, no, no." cried Aunt Ri. "Yeow jest explain it to Jos, an' he'll
make him understand."
Alessandro's face had darkened. All this seemed to him
exceedingly suspicious. Could it be possible that Aunt Ri and Jos,
the first whites except Mr. Hartsel he had ever trusted, were
deceiving him? No; that was impossible. But they themselves
might be deceived. That they were simple and ignorant,
Alessandro well knew. "Let us go!" he said. "I do not wish to sign
"Naow don't be a fool, will yeow? Yeow ain't signin' a thing!" said
Aunt Ri. "Jos, yeow tell him I say there ain't anythin' a bindin' him,
hevin' his name 'n' thet book, It's only so the Agent kin know what
Injuns wants help, 'n' where they air. Ain't thet so?" she added,
turning to the Agent. "Tell him he can't hev the Agency doctor, ef
he ain't on the Agency books."
Not have the doctor? Give up this precious medicine which might
save his baby's life? No! he could not do that. Majella would say,
let the name be written, rather than that.
"Let him write the name, then," said Alessandro, doggedly; but he
went out of the room feeling as if he had put a chain around his
THE medicine did the baby no good. In fact, it did her harm. She
was too feeble for violent remedies. In a week, Alessandro
appeared again at the Agency doctor's door. This time he had come
with a request which to his mind seemed not unreasonable. He had
brought Baba for the doctor to ride. Could the doctor then refuse to
go to Saboba? Baba would carry him there in three hours, and it
would be like a cradle all the way. Alessandro's name was in the
Agency books. It was for this he had written it,-- for this and
nothing else,-- to save the baby's life. Having thus enrolled himself
as one of the Agency Indians, he had a claim on this the Agency
.doctor. And that his application might be all in due form, he took
with him the Agency interpreter. He had had a misgiving, before,
that Aunt Ri's kindly volubility had not been well timed. Not one
unnecessary word, was Alessandro's motto.
To say that the Agency doctor was astonished at being requested to
ride thirty miles to prescribe for an ailing Indian baby, would be a
mild statement of the doctor's emotion. He could hardly keep from
laughing, when it was made clear to him that this was what the
Indian father expected.
"Good Lord!" he said, turning to a crony who chanced to be
lounging in the office. "Listen to that beggar, will you? I wonder
what he thinks the Government pays me a year for doctoring
Alessandro listened so closely it attracted the doctor's attention.
"Do you understand English?" he asked sharply.
"A very little, Senor," replied Alessandro.
The doctor would be more careful in his speech, then. But he made
it most emphatically clear that the thing Alessandro had asked was
not only out of the question, but preposterous. Alessandro pleaded.
For the child's sake he could do it. The horse was at the door; there
was no such horse in San Bernardino County; he went like the
wind, and one would not know he was in motion, it was so easy.
Would not the doctor come down and look at the horse? Then he
would see what it would be like to ride him.
"Oh, I've seen plenty of your Indian ponies," said the doctor. "I
know they can run."
Alessandro lingered. He could not give up this last hope. The tears
came into his eyes. "It is our only child, Senor," he said. "It will
take you but six hours in all. My wife counts the moments till you
come! If the child dies, she will die."
"No! no!" The doctor was weary of being importuned. "Tell the
man it is impossible! I'd soon have my hands full, if I began to go
about the country this way. They'd be sending for me down to
Agua Caliente next, and bringing up their ponies to carry me."
"He will not go?" asked Alessandro.
The interpreter shook his head. "He cannot," he said.
Without a word Alessandro left the room. Presently he returned.
"Ask him if he will come for money?" he said. "I have gold at
home. I will pay him, what the white men pay him."
"Tell him no man of any color could pay me for going sixty
miles!" said the doctor.
And Alessandro departed again, walking so slowly, however, that
he heard the coarse laugh, and the words, "Gold! Looked like it,
didn't he?" which followed his departure from the room.
When Ramona saw him returning alone, she wrung her hands. Her
heart seemed breaking. The baby had lain in a sort of stupor since
noon; she was plainly worse, and Ramona had been going from the
door to the cradle, from the cradle to the door, for an hour, looking
each moment for the hoped-for aid. It had not once crossed her
mind that the doctor would not come. She had accepted in much
fuller faith than Alessandro the account of the appointment by the
Government of these two men to look after the Indians' interests.
What else could their coming mean, except that, at last, the Indians
were to have justice? She thought, in her simplicity, that the doctor
must have died, since Alessandro was riding home alone.
"He would not come!" said Alessandro, as he threw himself off his
"Would not!" cried Ramona. "Would not! Did you not say the
Government had sent him to be the doctor for Indians?"
"That was what they said," he replied. "You see it is a lie, like the
rest! But I offered him gold, and he would not come then. The
child must die, Majella!"
"She shall not die!" cried Ramona. "We will carry her to him!" The
thought struck them both as an inspiration. Why had they not
thought of it before? "You can fasten the cradle on Baba's back,
and he will go so gently, she will think it is but play; and I will
walk by her side, or you, all the way!" she continued. "And we can
sleep at Aunt Ri's house. Oh, why, why did we not do it before?
Early in the morning we will start."
All through the night they sat watching the little creature. If they
had ever seen death, they would have known that there was no
hope for the child. But how should Ramona and Alessandro know?
The sun rose bright and warm. Before it was up, the cradle was
ready, ingeniously strapped on Baba's back. When the baby was
placed in it, she smiled. "The first smile she has given for days,"
cried Ramona. "Oh, the air itself will do good to her! Let me walk
by her first! Come, Baba! Dear Baba!" and Ramona stepped almost
joyfully by the horse's side, Alessandro riding Benito. As they
paced along, their eyes never leaving the baby's face, Ramona said,
in a low tone, "Alessandro, I am almost afraid to tell you what I
have done. I took the little Jesus out of the Madonna's arms and
hid it! Did you never hear, that if you do that, the Madonna will
grant you anything, to get him back again in her arms' Did you ever
hear of it?"
"Never!" exclaimed Alessandro, with horror in his tone. "Never,
Majella! How dared you?"
"I dare anything now!" said Ramona. "I have been thinking to do it
for some days, and to tell her she could not have him any more till
she gave me back the baby well and strong; but I knew I could not
have courage to sit and look at her all lonely without him in her
arms, so I did not do it. But now we are to be away, I thought, that
is the time; and I told her, 'When we come back with our baby
well, you shall have your little Jesus again, too; now, Holy Mother,
you go with us, and make the doctor cure our baby!' Oh, I have
heard, many times, women tell the Senora they had done this, and
always they got what they wanted. Never will she let the Jesus be
out of her arms more than three weeks before she will grant any
prayer one can make. It was that way she brought you to me,
Alessandro. I never before told you. I was afraid. I think she had
brought you sooner, but I could keep the little Jesus hid from her
only at night. In the day I could not, because the Senora would see.
So she did not miss him so much; else she had brought you
"But, Majella," said the logical Alessandro, "it was because I could
not leave my father that I did not come. As soon as he was buried,
"If it had not been for the Virgin, you would never have come at
all," said Ramona, confidently.
For the first hour of this sad journey it seemed as if the child were
really rallying; the air, the sunlight, the novel motion, the smiling
mother by her side, the big black horses she had already learned to
love, all roused her to an animation she had not shown for days.
But it was only the last flicker of the expiring flame. The eyes
drooped, closed; a strange pallor came over the face. Alessandro
saw it first. He was now walking, Ramona riding Benito.
"Majella!" he cried, in a tone which told her all.
In a second she was at the baby's side, with a cry which smote the
dying child's consciousness. Once more the eyelids lifted; she
knew her mother; a swift spasm shook the little frame; a
convulsion as of agony swept over the face, then it was at peace.
Ramona's shrieks were heart-rending. Fiercely she put Alessandro
away from her, as he strove to caress her. She stretched her arms
up towards the sky. "I have killed her! I have killed her!" she cried.
"Oh, let me die!"
Slowly Alessandro turned Baba's head homeward again.
"Oh, give her to me! Let her lie on my breast! I will hold her
warm!" gasped Ramona.
Silently Alessandro laid the body in her arms. He had not spoken
since his first cry of alarm, If Ramona had looked at him, she
would have forgotten her grief for her dead child. Alessandro's
face seemed turned to stone.
When they reached the house, Ramona, laying the child on the
bed, ran hastily to a corner of the room, and lifting the deerskin,
drew from its hiding-place the little wooden Jesus. With tears
streaming, she laid it again in the Madonna's arms, and flinging
herself on her knees, sobbed out prayers for forgiveness.
Alessandro stood at the foot of the bed, his arms folded, his eyes
riveted on the child. Soon he went out, still without speaking.
Presently Ramona heard the sound of a saw. She groaned aloud,
and her tears flowed faster: Alessandro was making the baby's
coffin. Mechanically she rose, and, moving like one half
paralyzed, she dressed the little one in fresh white clothes for the
burial; then laying her in the cradle, she spread over it the beautiful
lace-wrought altar-cloth. As she adjusted its folds, her mind was
carried back to the time when she embroidered it, sitting on the
Senora's veranda; the song of the finches, the linnets; the voice and
smile of Felipe; Alessandro sitting on the steps, drawing divine
music from his violin. Was that she, -- that girl who sat there
weaving the fine threads in the beautiful altar-cloth? Was it a
hundred years ago? Was it another world? Was it Alessandro
yonder, driving those nails into a coffin? How the blows rang,
louder and louder! The air seemed deafening full of sound. With
her hands pressed to her temples, Ramona sank to the floor. A
merciful unconsciousness set her free, for an interval, from her
When she opened her eyes, she was lying on the bed. Alessandro
had lifted her and laid her there, making no effort to rouse her. He
thought she would die too; and even that thought did not stir him
from his lethargy. When she opened her eyes, and looked at him,
he did not speak. She closed them. He did not move. Presently she
opened them again. "I heard you out there," she said.
"Yes," he replied. "It is done." And he pointed to a little box of
rough boards by the side of the cradle.
"Is Majella ready to go to the mountain now?" he asked.
"Yes, Alessandro, I am ready," she said.
"We will hide forever," he said.
"It makes no difference," she replied.
The Saboba women did not know what to think of Ramona now.
She had never come into sympathetic relations with them, as she
had with the women of San Pasquale. Her intimacy with the Hyers
had been a barrier the Saboba people could not surmount. No one
could be on such terms with whites, and be at heart an Indian, they
thought; so they held aloof from Ramona. But now in her
bereavement they gathered round her. They wept at sight of the
dead baby's face, lying in its tiny white coffin. Ramona had
covered the box with white cloth, and the lace altar-cloth thrown
over it fell in folds to the floor. "Why does not this mother weep?
Is she like the whites, who have no heart?" said the Saboba
mothers among themselves; and they were embarrassed before her,
and knew not what to say. Ramona perceived it, but had no life in
her to speak to them. Benumbing terrors, which were worse than
her grief, were crowding Ramona's heart now. She had offended
the Virgin; she had committed a blasphemy: in one short hour the
Virgin had punished her, had smitten her child dead before her
eyes. And now Alessandro was going mad; hour by hour Ramona
fancied she saw changes in him. What form would the Virgin's
vengeance take next? Would she let Alessandro become a raging
madman, and finally kill both himself and her? That seemed to
Ramona the most probable fate in store for them. When the funeral
was over, and they returned to their desolate home, at the sight of
the empty cradle Ramona broke down.
"Oh, take me away, Alessandro! Anywhere! I don't care where!
anywhere, so it is not here!" she cried.
"Would Majella be afraid, now, on the high mountain, the place I
told her of?" he said.
"No!" she replied earnestly. "No! I am afraid of nothing! Only take
A gleam of wild delight flitted across Alessandro's face. "It is
well," he said. "My Majella, we will go to the mountain; we will
be safe there."
The same fierce restlessness which took possession of him at San
Pasquale again showed itself in his every act. His mind was
unceasingly at work, planning the details of their move and of the
new life. He mentioned them one after another to Ramona. They
could not take both horses; feed would be scanty there, and there
would be no need of two horses. The cow also they must give up.
Alessandro would kill her, and the meat, dried, would last them for
a long time. The wagon he hoped he could sell; and he would buy
a few sheep; sheep and goats could live well in these heights to
which they were going. Safe at last! Oh, yes, very safe; not only
against whites, who, because the little valley was so small and
bare, would not desire it, but against Indians also. For the Indians,
silly things, had a terror of the upper heights of San Jacinto; they
believed the Devil lived there, and money would not hire one of
the Saboba Indians to go so high as this valley which Alessandro
had discovered. Fiercely he gloated over each one of these features
of safety in their hiding-place. "The first time I saw it, Majella,-- I
believe the saints led me there,-- I said, it is a hiding-place. And
then I never thought I would be in want of such,-- of a place to
keep my Majella safe! safe! Oh, my Majel!" And he clasped her to
his breast with a terrifying passion.
For an Indian to sell a horse and wagon in the San Jacinto valley
was not an easy thing, unless he would give them away.
Alessandro had hard work to give civil answers to the men who
wished to buy Benito and the wagon for quarter of their value. He
knew they would not have dared to so much as name such prices to
a white man. Finally Ramona, who had felt unconquerable
misgivings as to the wisdom of thus irrevocably parting from their
most valuable possessions, persuaded him to take both horses and
wagon to San Bernardino, and offer them to the Hyers to use for
It would be just the work for Jos, to keep him in the open air, if he
could get teaming to do; she was sure he would be thankful for the
chance. "He is as fond of the horses as we are ourselves,
Alessandro," she said. "They would be well cared for; and then, if
we did not like living on the mountain, we could have the horses
and wagon again when we came down, or Jos could sell them for
us in San Bernardino. Nobody could see Benito and Baba working
together, and not want them."
"Majella is wiser than the dove!" cried Alessandro. "She has seen
what is the best thing to do. I will take them."
When he was ready to set off, he implored Ramona to go with
him; but with a look of horror she refused. "Never," she cried, "one
step on that accursed road! I will never go on that road again
unless it is to be carried, as we brought her, dead."
Neither did Ramona wish to see Aunt Ri. Her sympathy would be
intolerable, spite of all its affectionate kindliness. "Tell her I love
her," she said, "but I do not want to see a human being yet; next
year perhaps we will go down,-- if there is any other way besides
Aunt Ri was deeply grieved. She could not understand Ramona's
feeling. It rankled deep. "I allow I'd never hev bleeved it uv her,
never," she said. "I shan't never think she wuz quite right 'n her
head, to do 't! I allow we shan't never set eyes on ter her, Jos. I've
got jest thet feelin' abaout it. 'Pears like she'd gone klar out 'er this
yer world inter anuther."
The majestic bulwark of San Jacinto Mountain looms in the
southern horizon of the San Bernardino valley. It was in full sight
from the door of the little shanty in which Aunt Ri's carpet-loom
stood. As she sat there hour after hour, sometimes seven hours to
the day, working the heavy treadle, and slipping the shuttle back
and forth, she gazed with tender yearnings at the solemn, shining
summit. When sunset colors smote it, it glowed like fire; on
cloudy days, it was lost in the clouds.
"'Pears like 'twas next door to heaven, up there, Jos," Aunt Ri
would say. "I can't tell yer the feelin' 't comes over me, to look up 't
it, ever sence I knowed she wuz there. 'T shines enuf to put yer
eyes aout, sometimes; I allow 'tain't so light's thet when you air
into 't; 't can't be; ther couldn't nobody stan' it, ef 't wuz. I allow 't
must be like bein' dead, Jos, don't yer think so, to be livin' thar? He
sed ther couldn't nobody git to 'em. Nobody ever seed the place but
hisself. He found it a huntin'. Thar's water thar, 'n' thet's abaout all
thar is, fur's I cud make aout; I allow we shan't never see her agin."
The horses and the wagon were indeed a godsend to Jos. It was the
very thing he had been longing for; the only sort of work he was as
yet strong enough to do, and there was plenty of it to be had in San
Bernardino. But the purchase of a wagon suitable for the purpose
was at present out of their power; the utmost Aunt Ri had hoped to
accomplish was to have, at the end of a year, a sufficient sum laid
up to buy one. They had tried in vain to exchange their heavy
emigrant-wagon for one suitable for light work. "'Pears like I'd die
o' shame," said Aunt Ri, "sometimes when I ketch myself er
thinkin' what luck et's ben to Jos, er gettin' thet Injun's hosses an'
waggin. But ef Jos keeps on, airnin' ez much ez he hez so fur, he's
goin' ter pay the Injun part on 't, when he cums. I allow ter Jos
'tain't no more'n fair. Why, them hosses, they'll dew good tew days'
work'n one. I never see sech hosses; 'n' they're jest like kittens;
they've ben drefful pets, I allow. I know she set all the world, 'n'
more tew, by thet nigh one. He wuz hern, ever sence she wuz a
child. Pore thing,-- 'pears like she hedn't hed no chance!"
Alessandro had put off, from day to day, the killing of the cow. It
went hard with him to slaughter the faithful creature, who knew
him, and came towards him at the first sound of his voice. He had
pastured her, since the baby died, in a canon about three miles
northeast of the village,-- a lovely green canon with oak-trees and
a running brook. It was here that he had thought of building his
house if they had stayed in Saboba. But Alessandro laughed
bitterly to himself now, as he recalled that dream. Already the
news had come to Saboba that a company had been formed for the
settling up of the San Jacinto valley; the Ravallo brothers had sold
to this company a large grant of land. The white ranchmen in the
valley were all fencing in their lands; no more free running of
stock. The Saboba people were too poor to build miles of fencing;
they must soon give up keeping stock; and the next thing would be
that they would be driven out, like the people of Temecula. It was
none too soon that he had persuaded Majella to flee to the
mountain. There, at least, they could live and die in peace,-- a
poverty-stricken life, and the loneliest of deaths; but they would
have each other. It was well the baby had died; she was saved all
this misery. By the time she had grown to be a woman, if she had
lived, there would be no place in all the country where an Indian
could find refuge. Brooding over such thoughts as these,
Alessandro went up into the canon one morning. It must be done.
Everything was ready for their move; it would take many days to
carry even their few possessions up the steep mountain trail to
their new home; the pony which had replaced Benito and Baba
could not carry a heavy load. While this was being done, Ramona
would dry the beef which would be their supply of meat for many
months. Then they would go,
At noon he came down with the first load of the meat, and
Ramona began cutting it into long strips, as is the Mexican fashion
of drying. Alessandro returned for the remainder. Early in the
afternoon, as Ramona went to and fro about her work, she saw a
group of horsemen riding from house to house, in the upper part of
the village; women came running out excitedly from each house as
the horsemen left it; finally one of them darted swiftly up the hill
to Ramona. "Hide it! hide it!" she cried, breathless; "hide the meat!
It is Merrill's men, from the end of the valley. They have lost a
steer, and they say we stole it. They found the place, with blood on
it, where it was killed; and they say we did it. Oh, hide the meat!
They took all that Fernando had; and it was his own, that he
bought; he did not know anything about their steer!"
"I shall not hide it!" cried Ramona, indignantly. "It is our own cow.
Alessandro killed it to-day."
"They won't believe you!" said the woman, in distress. "They'll
take it all away. Oh, hide some of it!" And she dragged a part of it
across the floor, and threw it under the bed, Ramona standing by,
Before she had spoken again, the forms of the galloping riders
darkened the doorway; the foremost of them, leaping off his horse,
exclaimed: "By God! here's the rest of it. If they ain't the
damnedest impudent thieves! Look at this woman, cutting it up!
Put that down, will you? We'll save you the trouble of dryin' our
meat for us, besides killin' it! Fork over, now, every bit you've got,
you --" And he called Ramona by a vile epithet.
Every drop of blood left Ramona's face. Her eyes blazed, and she
came forward with the knife uplifted in her hand. "Out of my
house, you dogs of the white color!" she said. "This meat is our
own; my husband killed the creature but this morning."
Her tone and bearing surprised them. There were six of the men,
and they had all swarmed into the little room.
"I say, Merrill," said one of them, "hold on; the squaw says her
husband only jest killed it to-day. It might be theirs."
Ramona turned on him like lightning. "Are you liars, you all," she
cried, "that you think I lie? I tell you the meat is ours; and there is
not an Indian in this village would steal cattle!"
A derisive shout of laughter from all the men greeted this speech;
and at that second, the leader, seeing the mark of blood where the
Indian woman had dragged the meat across the ground, sprang to
the bed, and lifting the deerskin, pointed with a sneer to the beef
hidden there. "Perhaps, when you know Injun's well's I do," he
said, "you won't be for believin' all they say! What's she got it hid
under the bed for, if it was their own cow?" and he stooped to drag
the meat out. "Give us a hand here, Jake!"
"If you touch it, I will kill you!" cried Ramona, beside herself with
rage; and she sprang between the men, her uplifted knife gleaming.
"Hoity-toity!" cried Jake, stepping back; "that's a handsome squaw
when she's mad! Say, boys, let's leave her some of the meat. She
wasn't to blame; of course, she believes what her husband told
"You go to grass for a soft-head, you Jake!" muttered Merrill, as he
dragged the meat out from beneath the bed.
"What is all this?" said a deep voice in the door; and Ramona,
turning, with a glad cry, saw Alessandro standing there, looking
on, with an expression which, even in her own terror and
indignation, gave her a sense of dread, it was so icily defiant. He
had his hand on his gun. "What is all this?" he repeated. He knew
"It's that Temecula man," said one of the men, in a low tone, to
Merrill. "If I'd known 't was his house, I wouldn't have let you
come here. You're up the wrong tree, sure!"
Merrill dropped the meat he was dragging over the floor, and
turned to confront Alessandro's eyes. His countenance fell. Even
he saw that he had made a mistake. He began to speak. Alessandro
interrupted him. Alessandro could speak forcibly in Spanish.
Pointing to his pony, which stood at the door with a package on its
back, the remainder of the meat rolled in the hide, he said: "There
is the remainder of the beef. I killed the creature this morning, in
the canon. I will take Senor Merrill to the place, if he wishes it.
Senor Merrill's steer was killed down in the willows yonder,
"That's so!" cried the men, gathering around him. "How did you
know? Who did it?"
Alessandro made no reply. He was looking at Ramona. She had
flung her shawl over her head, as the other woman had done, and
the two were cowering in the corner, their faces turned away.
Ramona dared not look on; she felt sure Alessandro would kill
some one. But this was not the type of outrage that roused
Alessandro to dangerous wrath. He even felt a certain enjoyment
in the discomfiture of the self-constituted posse of searchers for
stolen goods. To all their questions in regard to the stolen steer, he
maintained silence. He would not open his lips. At last, angry,
ashamed, with a volley of coarse oaths at him for his obstinacy,
they rode away. Alessandro went to Ramona's side. She was
trembling. Her hands were like ice.
"Let us go to the mountain to-night!" she gasped. "Take me where I
need never see a white face again!"
A melancholy joy gleamed in Alessandro's eyes. Ramona, at last,
felt as he did.
"I would not dare to leave Majella there alone, while there is no
house," he said; "and I must go and come many times, before all
the things can be carried."
"It will be less danger there than here, Alessandro," said Ramona,
bursting into violent weeping as she recalled the insolent leer with
which the man Jake had looked at her. "Oh! I cannot stay here!"
"It will not be many days, my Majel. I will borrow Fernando's
pony, to take double at once; then we can go sooner."
"Who was it stole that man's steer?" said Ramona. "Why did you
not tell them? They looked as if they would kill you."
"It was that Mexican that lives in the bottom, Jose Castro. I myself
came on him, cutting the steer up. He said it was his; but I knew
very well, by the way he spoke, he was lying. But why should I
tell? They think only Indians will steal cattle. I can tell them, the
Mexicans steal more."
"I told them there was not an Indian in this village would steal
cattle," said Ramona, indignantly.
"That was not true, Majella," replied Alessandro, sadly. "When
they are very hungry, they will steal a heifer or steer. They lose
many themselves, and they say it is not so much harm to take one
when they can get it. This man Merrill, they say, branded twenty
steers for his own, last spring, when he knew they were Saboba
"Why did they not make him give them up?" cried Ramona.
"Did not Majella see to-day why they can do nothing? There is no
help for us, Majella, only to hide; that is all we can do!"
A new terror had entered into Ramona's life; she dared not tell it to
Alessandro; she hardly put it into words in her thoughts. But she
was haunted by the face of the man Jake, as by a vision of evil, and
on one pretext and another she contrived to secure the presence of
some one of the Indian women in her house whenever Alessandro
was away. Every day she saw the man riding past. Once he had
galloped up to the open door, looked in, spoken in a friendly way
to her, and ridden on. Ramona's instinct was right. Jake was
merely biding his time. He had made up his mind to settle in the
San Jacinto valley, at least for a few years, and he wished to have
an Indian woman come to live with him and keep his house. Over
in Santa Ysabel, his brother had lived in that way with an Indian
mistress for three years; and when he sold out, and left Santa
Ysabel, he had given the woman a hundred dollars and a little
house for herself and her child. And she was not only satisfied, but
held herself, in consequence of this temporary connection with a
white man, much above her Indian relatives and friends. When an
Indian man had wished to marry her, she had replied scornfully
that she would never marry an Indian; she might marry another
white man, but an Indian,-- never. Nobody had held his brother in
any less esteem for this connection; it was quite the way in the
country. And if Jake could induce this handsomest squaw he had
ever seen, to come and live with him in a smaller fashion, he
would consider himself a lucky man, and also think he was doing a
good thing for the squaw. It was all very clear and simple in his
mind; and when, seeing Ramona walking alone in the village one
morning, he overtook her, and walking by her side began to sound
her on the subject, he had small misgivings as to the result.
Ramona trembled as he approached her. She walked faster, and
would not look at him; but he, in his ignorance, misinterpreted
these signs egregiously.
"Are you married to your husband?" he finally said. "It is but a
poor place he gives you to live in. If you will come and live with
me, you shall have the best house in the valley, as good as the
Ravallos'; and --" Jake did not finish his sentence. With a cry
which haunted his memory for years, Ramona sprang from his side
as if to run; then, halting suddenly, she faced him, her eyes like
javelins, her breath coming fast. "Beast!" she said, and spat
towards him; then turned and fled to the nearest house, where she
sank on the floor and burst into tears, saying that the man below
there in the road had been rude to her. Yes, the women said, he
was a bad man; they all knew it. Of this Ramona said no word to
Alessandro. She dared not; she believed he would kill Jake.
When the furious Jake confided to his friend Merrill his repulse,
and the indignity accompanying it, Merrill only laughed at him,
and said: "I could have told you better than to try that woman.
She's married, fast enough. There's plenty you can get, though, if
you want 'em. They're first-rate about a house, and jest's faithful's
dogs. You can trust 'em with every dollar you've got."
From this day, Ramona never knew an instant's peace or rest till
she stood on the rim of the refuge valley, high on San Jacinto.
Then, gazing around, looking up at the lofty pinnacles above,
which seemed to pierce the sky, looking down upon the world,-- it
seemed the whole world, so limitless it stretched away at her
feet,-- feeling that infinite unspeakable sense of nearness to
Heaven, remoteness from earth which comes only on mountain
heights, she drew in a long breath of delight, and cried: "At last! at
last, Alessandro! Here we are safe! This is freedom! This is joy!"
"Can Majella be content?" he asked.
"I can almost be glad, Alessandro!" she cried, inspired by the
glorious scene. "I dreamed not it was like this!"
It was a wondrous valley. The mountain seemed to have been cleft
to make it. It lay near midway to the top, and ran transversely on
the mountain's side, its western or southwestern end being many
feet lower than the eastern. Both the upper and lower ends were
closed by piles of rocks and tangled fallen trees; the rocky summit
of the mountain itself made the southern wall; the northern was a
spur, or ridge, nearly vertical, and covered thick with pine-trees. A
man might roam years on the mountain and not find this cleft. At
the upper end gushed out a crystal spring, which trickled rather
than ran, in a bed of marshy green, the entire length of the valley,
disappeared in the rocks at the lower end, and came out no more;
many times Alessandro had searched for it lower down, but could
find no trace of it. During the summer, when he was hunting with
Jeff, he had several times climbed the wall and descended it on the
inner side, to see if the rivulet still ran; and, to his joy, had found it
the same in July as in January. Drought could not harm it, then.
What salvation in such a spring! And the water was pure and sweet
as if it came from the skies.
A short distance off was another ridge or spur of the mountain,
widening out into almost a plateau. This was covered with
acorn-bearing oaks; and under them were flat stones worn into
hollows, where bygone generations of Indians had ground the nuts
into meal. Generations long bygone indeed, for it was not in the
memory of the oldest now living, that Indians had ventured so high
up as this on San Jacinto. It was held to be certain death to climb
to its summit, and foolhardy in the extreme to go far up its sides.
There was exhilaration in the place. It brought healing to both
Alessandro and Ramona. Even the bitter grief for the baby's death
was soothed. She did not seem so far off, since they had come so
much nearer to the sky. They lived at first in a tent; no time to
build a house, till the wheat and vegetables were planted.
Alessandro was surprised, when he came to the ploughing, to see
how much good land he had. The valley thrust itself, in inlets and
coves, into the very rocks of its southern wall; lovely sheltered
nooks these were, where he hated to wound the soft, flower-filled
sward with his plough. As soon as the planting was done, he began
to fell trees for the house. No mournful gray adobe this time, but
walls of hewn pine, with half the bark left on; alternate yellow and
brown, as gay as if glad hearts had devised it. The roof, of thatch,
tule, and yucca-stalks, double laid and thick, was carried out
several feet in front of the house, making a sort of bower-like
veranda, supported by young fir-tree stems, left rough. Once more
Ramona would sit under a thatch with birds'-nests in it. A little
corral for the sheep, and a rough shed for the pony, and the home
was complete: far the prettiest home they had ever had. And here,
in the sunny veranda, when autumn came, sat Ramona, plaiting out
of fragrant willow twigs a cradle. The one over which she had
wept such bitter tears in the valley, they had burned the night
before they left their Saboba home. It was in early autumn she sat
plaiting this cradle. The ground around was strewn with wild
grapes drying; the bees were feasting on them in such clouds that
Ramona rose frequently from her work to drive them away, saying,
as she did so, "Good bees, make our honey from something else;
we gain nothing if you drain our grapes for it; we want these
grapes for the winter;" and as she spoke, her imagination sped
fleetly forward to the winter, The Virgin must have forgiven her,
to give her again the joy of a child in her arms. Ay, a joy! Spite of
poverty, spite of danger, spite of all that cruelty and oppression
could do, it would still be a joy to hold her child in her arms.
The baby was born before winter came. An old Indian woman, the
same whose house they had hired in Saboba, had come up to live
with Ramona. She was friendless now, her daughter having died,
and she thankfully came to be as a mother to Ramona. She was
ignorant and feeble but Ramona saw in her always the picture of
what her own mother might perchance be, wandering, suffering,
she knew not what or where; and her yearning, filial instinct found
sad pleasure in caring for this lonely, childless, aged one.
Ramona was alone with her on the mountain at the time of the
baby's birth. Alessandro had gone to the valley, to be gone two
days; but Ramona felt no fear. When Alessandro returned, and she
laid the child in his arms, she said with a smile, radiant once more,
like the old smiles, "See, beloved! The Virgin has forgiven me; she
has given us a daughter again!"
But Alessandro did not smile. Looking scrutinizingly into the
baby's face, he sighed, and said, "Alas, Majella, her eyes are like
mine, not yours!"
"I am glad of it," cried Ramona. "I was glad the first minute I saw
He shook his head. "It is an ill fate to have the eyes of Alessandro,"
he said. "They look ever on woe;" and he laid the baby back on
Ramona's breast, and stood gazing sadly at her.
"Dear Alessandro," said Ramona, "it is a sin to always mourn.
Father Salvierderra said if we repined under our crosses, then a
heavier cross would be laid on us. Worse things would come."
"Yes," he said. "That is true. Worse things will come." And he
walked away, with his head sunk deep on his breast.
THERE was no real healing for Alessandro. His hurts had gone too
deep. His passionate heart, ever secretly brooding on the wrongs
he had borne, the hopeless outlook for his people in the future, and
most of all on the probable destitution and suffering in store for
Ramona, consumed itself as by hidden fires. Speech, complaint,
active antagonism, might have saved him; but all these were
foreign to his self-contained, reticent, repressed nature. Slowly, so
slowly that Ramona could not tell on what hour or what day her
terrible fears first changed to an even more terrible certainty, his
brain gave way, and the thing, in dread of which he had cried out
the morning they left San Pasquale, came upon him. Strangely
enough, and mercifully, now that it had really come, he did not
know it. He knew that he suddenly came to his consciousness
sometimes, and discovered himself in strange and unexplained
situations; had no recollection of what had happened for an
interval of time, longer or shorter. But he thought it was only a sort
of sickness; he did not know that during those intervals his acts
were the acts of a madman; never violent, aggressive, or harmful
to any one; never destructive. It was piteous to see how in these
intervals his delusions were always shaped by the bitterest
experiences of his life. Sometimes he fancied that the Americans
were pursuing him, or that they were carrying off Ramona, and he
was pursuing them. At such times he would run with maniac
swiftness for hours, till he fell exhausted on the ground, and slowly
regained true consciousness by exhaustion. At other times he
believed he owned vast flocks and herds; would enter any
enclosure he saw, where there were sheep or cattle, go about
among them, speaking of them to passers-by as his own.
Sometimes he would try to drive them away; but on being
remonstrated with, would bewilderedly give up the attempt. Once
he suddenly found himself in the road driving a small flock of
goats, whose he knew not, nor whence he got them. Sitting down
by the roadside, he buried his head in his hands. "What has
happened to my memory?" he said. "I must be ill of a fever!" As he
sat there, the goats, of their own accord, turned and trotted back
into a corral near by, the owner of which stood, laughing, on his
doorsill; and when Alessandro came up, said goodnaturedly, "All
right, Alessandro! I saw you driving off my goats, but I thought
you'd bring 'em back."
Everybody in the valley knew him, and knew his condition. It did
not interfere with his capacity as a worker, for the greater part of
the time. He was one of the best shearers in the region, the best
horse-breaker; and his services were always in demand, spite of
the risk there was of his having at any time one of these attacks of
wandering. His absences were a great grief to Ramona, not only
from the loneliness in which it left her, but from the anxiety she
felt lest his mental disorder might at any time take a more violent
and dangerous shape. This anxiety was all the more harrowing
because she must keep it locked in her own breast, her wise and
loving instinct telling her that nothing could be more fatal to him
than the knowledge of his real condition. More than once he
reached home, breathless, panting, the sweat rolling off his face,
crying aloud, "The Americans have found us out, Majella! They
were on the trail! I baffled them. I came up another way." At such
times she would soothe him like a child; persuade him to lie down
and rest; and when he waked and wondered why he was so tired,
she would say, "You were all out of breath when you came in,
dear. You must not climb so fast; it is foolish to tire one's self so."
In these days Ramona began to think earnestly of Felipe. She
believed Alessandro might be cured. A wise doctor could surely do
something for him. If Felipe knew what sore straits she was in,
Felipe would help her. But how could she reach Felipe without the
Senora's knowing it? And, still more, how could she send a letter
to Felipe without Alessandro's knowing what she had written?
Ramona was as helpless in her freedom on this mountain eyrie as
if she had been chained hand and foot.
And so the winter wore away, and the spring. What wheat grew in
their fields in this upper air! Wild oats, too, in every nook and
corner. The goats frisked and fattened, and their hair grew long
and silky; the sheep were already heavy again with wool, and it
was not yet midsummer. The spring rains had been good; the
stream was full, and flowers grew along its edges thick as in beds.