Part 8 out of 9
The baby had thrived; as placid, laughing a little thing as if its
mother had never known sorrow. "One would think she had
suckled pain," thought Ramona, "so constantly have I grieved this
year; but the Virgin has kept her well."
If prayers could compass it, that would surely have been so; for
night and day the devout, trusting, and contrite Ramona had knelt
before the Madonna and told her golden beads, till they were
wellnigh worn smooth of all their delicate chasing.
At midsummer was to be a fete in the Saboba village, and the San
Bernardino priest would come there. This would be the time to
take the baby down to be christened; this also would be the time to
send the letter to Felipe, enclosed in one to Aunt Ri, who would
send it for her from San Bernardino. Ramona felt half guilty as she
sat plotting what she should say and how she should send it,-- she,
who had never had in her loyal, transparent breast one thought
secret from Alessandro since they were wedded. But it was all for
his sake. When he was well, he would thank her.
She wrote the letter with much study and deliberation; her dread of
its being read by the Senora was so great, that it almost paralyzed
her pen as she wrote. More than once she destroyed pages, as
being too sacred a confidence for unloving eyes to read. At last,
the day before the fete, it was done, and safely hidden away. The
baby's white robe, finely wrought in open-work, was also done,
and freshly washed and ironed. No baby would there be at the fete
so daintily wrapped as hers; and Alessandro had at last given his
consent that the name should be Majella. It was a reluctant
consent, yielded finally only to please Ramona; and, contrary to
her wont, she had been willing in this instance to have her own
wish fulfilled rather than his. Her heart was set upon having the
seal of baptism added to the name she so loved; and, "If I were to
die," she thought, "how glad Alessandro would be, to have still a
All her preparations were completed, and it was yet not noon. She
seated herself on the veranda to watch for Alessandro, who had
been two days away, and was to have returned the previous
evening, to make ready for the trip to Saboba. She was disquieted
at his failure to return at the appointed time. As the hours crept on
and he did not come, her anxiety increased. The sun had gone
more than an hour past the midheavens before he came. He had
ridden fast; she had heard the quick strokes of the horse's hoofs on
the ground before she saw him. "Why comes he riding like that?"
she thought, and ran to meet him. As he drew near, she saw to her
surprise that he was riding a new horse. "Why, Alessandro!" she
cried. "What horse is this?"
He looked at her bewilderedly, then at the horse. True; it was not
his own horse! He struck his hand on his forehead, endeavoring to
collect his thoughts. "Where is my horse, then?" he said.
"My God! Alessandro," cried Ramona. "Take the horse back
instantly. They will say you stole it."
"But I left my pony there in the corral," he said. "They will know I
did not mean to steal it. How could I ever have made the mistake?
I recollect nothing, Majella. I must have had one of the
Ramona's heart was cold with fear. Only too well she knew what
summary punishment was dealt in that region to horse-thieves.
"Oh, let me take it back, dear!" she cried, "Let me go down with it.
They will believe me."
"Majella!" he exclaimed, "think you I would send you into the fold
of the wolf? My wood-dove! It is in Jim Farrar's corral I left my
pony. I was there last night, to see about his sheep-shearing in the
autumn. And that is the last I know. I will ride back as soon as I
have rested. I am heavy with sleep."
Thinking it safer to let him sleep for an hour, as his brain was
evidently still confused, Ramona assented to this, though a sense
of danger oppressed her. Getting fresh hay from the corral, she
with her own hands rubbed the horse down. It was a fine, powerful
black horse; Alessandro had evidently urged him cruelly up the
steep trail, for his sides were steaming, his nostrils white with
foam. Tears stood in Ramona's eyes as she did what she could for
him. He recognized her good-will, and put his nose to her face. "It
must be because he was black like Benito, that Alessandro took
him," she thought. "Oh, Mary Mother, help us to get the creature
safe back!" she said.
When she went into the house, Alessandro was asleep. Ramona
glanced at the sun. It was already in the western sky. By no
possibility could Alessandro go to Farrar's and back before dark.
She was on the point of waking him, when a furious barking from
Capitan and the other dogs roused him instantly from his sleep,
and springing to his feet, he ran out to see what it meant. In a
moment more Ramona followed,-- only a moment, hardly a
moment; but when she reached the threshold, it was to hear a
gun-shot, to see Alessandro fall to the ground, to see, in the same
second, a ruffianly man leap from his horse, and standing over
Alessandro's body, fire his pistol again, once, twice, into the
forehead, cheek. Then with a volley of oaths, each word of which
seemed to Ramona's reeling senses to fill the air with a sound like
thunder, he untied the black horse from the post where Ramona
had fastened him, and leaping into his saddle again, galloped
away, leading the horse. As he rode away, he shook his fist at
Ramona, who was kneeling on the ground, striving to lift
Alessandro's head, and to stanch the blood flowing from the
ghastly wounds. "That'll teach you damned Indians to leave off
stealing our horses!" he cried, and with another volley of terrible
oaths was out of sight.
With a calmness which was more dreadful than any wild outcry of
grief, Ramona sat on the ground by Alessandro's body, and held his
hands in hers. There was nothing to be done for him. The first shot
had been fatal, close to his heart,-- the murderer aimed well; the
after-shots, with the pistol, were from mere wanton brutality. After
a few seconds Ramona rose, went into the house, brought out the
white altar-cloth, and laid it over the mutilated face. As she did
this, she recalled words she had heard Father Salvierderra quote as
having been said by Father Junipero, when one of the Franciscan
Fathers had been massacred by the Indians, at San Diego. "Thank
God." he said, "the ground is now watered by the blood of a
"The blood of a martyr!" The words seemed to float in the air; to
cleanse it from the foul blasphemies the murderer had spoken.
"My Alessandro!" she said. "Gone to be with the saints; one of the
blessed martyrs; they will listen to what a martyr says." His hands
were warm. She laid them in her bosom, kissed them again and
again. Stretching herself on the ground by his side, she threw one
arm over him, and whispered in his ear, "My love, my Alessandro!
Oh, speak once to Majella! Why do I not grieve more? My
Alessandro! Is he not blest already? And soon we will be with him!
The burdens were too great. He could not bear them!" Then waves
of grief broke over her, and she sobbed convulsively; but still she
shed no tears. Suddenly she sprang to her feet, and looked wildly
around. The sun was not many hours high. Whither should she go
for help? The old Indian woman had gone away with the sheep,
and would not be back till dark. Alessandro must not lie there on
the ground. To whom should she go? To walk to Saboba was out
of the question. There was another Indian village nearer,-- the
village of the Cahuillas, on one of the high plateaus of San Jacinto.
She had once been there. Could she find that trail now? She must
try. There was no human help nearer,
Taking the baby in her arms, she knelt by Alessandro, and kissing
him, whispered, "Farewell, my beloved. I will not be long gone. I
go to bring friends." As she set off, swiftly running, Capitan, who
had been lying by Alessandro's side, uttering heart-rending howls,
bounded to his feet to follow her. "No, Capitan," she said; and
leading him back to the body, she took his head in her hands,
looked into his eyes, and said, "Capitan, watch here." With a
whimpering cry, he licked her hands, and stretched himself on the
ground. He understood, and would obey; but his eyes followed her
wistfully till she disappeared from sight.
The trail was rough, and hard to find. More than once Ramona
stopped, baffled, among the rocky ridges and precipices. Her
clothes were torn, her face bleeding, from the thorny shrubs; her
feet seemed leaden, she made her way so slowly. It was dark in the
ravines; as she climbed spur after spur, and still saw nothing but
pine forests or bleak opens, her heart sank within her. The way had
not seemed so long before. Alessandro had been with her; it was a
joyous, bright day, and they had lingered wherever they liked, and
yet the way had seemed short. Fear seized her that she was lost. If
that were so, before morning she would be with Alessandro; for
fierce beasts roamed San Jacinto by night. But for the baby's sake,
she must not die. Feverishly she pressed on. At last, just as it had
grown so dark she could see only a few hand-breadths before her,
and was panting more from terror than from running, lights
suddenly gleamed out, only a few rods ahead. It was the Cahuilla
village. In a few moments she was there,
It is a poverty-stricken little place, the Cahuilla village, -- a cluster
of tule and adobe huts, on a narrow bit of bleak and broken
ground, on San Jacinto Mountain; the people are very poor, but are
proud and high-spirited,-- veritable mountaineers in nature, fierce
Alessandro had warm friends among them, and the news that he
had been murdered, and that his wife had run all the way down the
mountain, with her baby in her arms, for help, went like wild-fire
through the place. The people gathered in an excited group around
the house where Ramona had taken refuge. She was lying, half
unconscious, on a bed. As soon as she had gasped out her terrible
story, she had fallen forward on the floor, fainting, and the baby
had been snatched from her arms just in time to save it. She did
not seem to miss the child; had not asked for it, or noticed it when
it was brought to the bed. A merciful oblivion seemed to be fast
stealing over her senses. But she had spoken words enough to set
the village in a blaze of excitement. It ran higher and higher. Men
were everywhere mounting their horses,-- some to go up and bring
Alessandro's body down; some organizing a party to go at once to
Jim Farrar's house and shoot him: these were the younger men,
friends of Alessandro. Earnestly the aged Capitan of the village
implored them to refrain from such violence.
"Why should ten be dead instead of one, my sons?" he said. "Will
you leave your wives and your children like his? The whites will
kill us all if you lay hands on the man. Perhaps they themselves
will punish him."
A derisive laugh rose from the group. Never yet within their
experience had a white man been punished for shooting an Indian.
The Capitan knew that as well as they did. Why did he command
them to sit still like women, and do nothing, when a friend was
"Because I am old, and you are young. I have seen that we fight in
vain," said the wise old man. "It is not sweet to me, any more than
to you. It is a fire in my veins; but I am old. I have seen. I forbid
you to go."
The women added their entreaties to his, and the young men
abandoned their project. But it was with sullen reluctance; and
mutterings were to be heard, on all sides, that the time would come
yet. There was more than one way of killing a man. Farrar would
not be long seen in the valley. Alessandro should be avenged.
As Farrar rode slowly down the mountain, leading his recovered
horse, he revolved in his thoughts what course to pursue. A few
years before, he would have gone home, no more disquieted at
having killed an Indian than if he had killed a fox or a wolf. But
things were different now. This Agent, that the Government had
taken it into its head to send out to look after the Indians, had
made it hot, the other day, for some fellows in San Bernardino
who had maltreated an Indian; he had even gone so far as to arrest
several liquor-dealers for simply selling whiskey to Indians. If he
were to take this case of Alessandro's in hand, it might be
troublesome. Farrar concluded that his wisest course would be to
make a show of good conscience and fair-dealing by delivering
himself up at once to the nearest justice of the peace, as having
killed a man in self-defence, Accordingly he rode straight to the
house of a Judge Wells, a few miles below Saboba, and said that
he wished to surrender himself as having committed "justifiable
homicide" on an Indian, or Mexican, he did net know which, who
had stolen his horse. He told a plausible story. He professed not to
know the man, or the place; but did not explain how it was, that,
knowing neither, he had gone so direct to the spot.
He said: "I followed the trail for some time, but when I reached a
turn, I came into a sort of blind trail, where I lost the track. I think
the horse had been led up on hard sod, to mislead any one on the
track. I pushed on, crossed the creek, and soon found the tracks
again in soft ground. This part of the mountain was perfectly
unknown to me, and very wild. Finally I came to a ridge, from
which I looked down on a little ranch. As I came near the house,
the dogs began to bark, just as I discovered my horse tied to a tree.
Hearing the dogs, an Indian, or Mexican, I could not tell which,
came out of the house, flourishing a large knife. I called out to
him, 'Whose horse is that?' He answered in Spanish, 'It is mine.'
'Where did you get it?' I asked. 'In San Jacinto,' was his reply. As
he still came towards me, brandishing the knife, I drew my gun,
and said, 'Stop, or I'll shoot!' He did not stop, and I fired; still he
did not stop, so I fired again; and as he did not fall, I knocked him
down with the butt of my gun. After he was down, I shot him twice
with my pistol."
The duty of a justice in such a case as this was clear. Taking the
prisoner into custody, he sent out messengers to summon a jury of
six men to hold inquest on the body of said Indian, or Mexican;
and early the next morning, led by Farrar, they set out for the
mountain. When they reached the ranch, the body had been
removed; the house was locked; no signs left of the tragedy of the
day before, except a few blood-stains on the ground, where
Alessandro had fallen. Farrar seemed greatly relieved at this
unexpected phase of affairs. However, when he found that Judge
Wells, instead of attempting to return to the valley that night,
proposed to pass the night at a ranch only a few miles from the
Cahuilla village, he became almost hysterical with fright. He
declared that the Cahuillas would surely come and murder him in
the night, and begged piteously that the men would all stay with
him to guard him.
At midnight Judge Wells was roused by the arrival of the Capitan
and head men of the Cahuilla village. They had heard of his arrival
with his jury, and they had come to lead them to their village,
where the body of the murdered man lay. They were greatly
distressed on learning that they ought not to have removed the
body from the spot where the death had taken place, and that now
no inquest could be held.
Judge Wells himself, however, went back with them, saw the
body, and heard the full account of the murder as given by
Ramona on her first arrival. Nothing more could now be learned
from her, as she was in high fever and delirium; knew no one, not
even her baby when they laid it on her breast. She lay restlessly
tossing from side to side, talking incessantly, clasping her rosary in
her hands, and constantly mingling snatches of prayers with cries
for Alessandro and Felipe; the only token of consciousness she
gave was to clutch the rosary wildly, and sometimes hide it in her
bosom, if they attempted to take it from her.
Judge Wells was a frontiersman, and by no means sentimentally
inclined; but the tears stood in his eyes as he looked at the
Farrar had pleaded that the preliminary hearing might take place
immediately; but after this visit to the village, the judge refused his
request, and appointed the trial a week from that day, to give time
for Ramona to recover, and appear as a witness. He impressed
upon the Indians as strongly as he could the importance of having
her appear. It was evident that Farrar's account of the affair was
false from first to last. Alessandro had no knife. He had not had
time to go many steps from the door; the volley of oaths, and the
two shots almost simultaneously, were what Ramona heard as she
ran to the door. Alessandro could not have spoken many words.
The day for the hearing came. Farrar had been, during the interval,
in a merely nominal custody; having been allowed to go about his
business, on his own personal guarantee of appearing in time for
the trial. It was with a strange mixture of regret and relief that
Judge Wells saw the hour of the trial arrive, and not a witness on
the ground except Farrar himself. That Farrar was a brutal ruffian,
the whole country knew. This last outrage was only one of a long
series; the judge would have been glad to have committed him for
trial, and have seen him get his deserts. But San Jacinto Valley,
wild, sparsely settled as it was, had yet as fixed standards and
criterions of popularity as the most civilized of communities could
show; and to betray sympathy with Indians was more than any
man's political head was worth. The word "justice" had lost its
meaning, if indeed it ever had any, so far as they were concerned.
The valley was a unit on that question, however divided it might
be upon others. On the whole, the judge was relieved, though it
was not without a bitter twinge, as of one accessory after the deed,
and unfaithful to a friend; for he had known Alessandro well. Yet,
on the whole, he was relieved when he was forced to accede to the
motion made by Farrar's counsel, that "the prisoner be discharged
on ground of justifiable homicide, no witnesses having appeared
He comforted himself by thinking -- what was no doubt true -- that
even if the case had been brought to a jury trial, the result would
have been the same; for there would never have been found a San
Diego County jury that would convict a white man of murder for
killing an Indian, if there were no witnesses to the occurrence
except the Indian wife. But he derived small comfort from this.
Alessandro's face haunted him, and also the memory of Ramona's,
as she lay tossing and moaning in the wretched Cahuilla hovel. He
knew that only her continued illness, or her death, could explain
her not having come to the trial. The Indians would have brought
her in their arms all the way, if she had been alive and in
possession of her senses.
During the summer that she and Alessandro had lived in Saboba he
had seen her many times, and had been impressed by her rare
quality. His children knew her and loved her; had often been in her
house; his wife had bought her embroidery. Alessandro also had
worked for him; and no one knew better than Judge Wells that
Alessandro in his senses was as incapable of stealing a horse as
any white man in the valley. Farrar knew it; everybody knew it.
Everybody knew, also, about his strange fits of wandering mind;
and that when these half-crazed fits came on him, he was wholly
irresponsible. Farrar knew this. The only explanation of Farrar's
deed was, that on seeing his horse spent and exhausted from
having been forced up that terrible trail, he was seized by
ungovernable rage, and fired on the second, without knowing what
he did. "But he wouldn't have done it, if it hadn't been an Indian!"
mused the judge. "He'd ha' thought twice before he shot any white
man down, that way."
Day after day such thoughts as these pursued the judge, and he
could not shake them off. An uneasy sense that he owed something
to Ramona, or, if Ramona were dead, to the little child she had
left, haunted him. There might in some such way be a sort of
atonement made to the murdered, unavenged Alessandro. He
might even take the child, and bring it up in his own house. That
was by no means an uncommon thing in the valley. The longer he
thought, the more he felt himself eased in his mind by this
purpose; and he decided that as soon as he could find leisure he
would go to the Cahuilla village and see what could be done.
But it was not destined that stranger hands should bring succor to
Ramona. Felipe had at last found trace of her. Felipe was on the
EFFECTUALLY misled by the faithful Carmena, Felipe had begun
his search for Alessandro by going direct to Monterey. He found
few Indians in the place, and not one had ever heard Alessandro's
name. Six miles from the town was a little settlement of them, in
hiding, in the bottoms of the San Carlos River, near the old
Mission. The Catholic priest advised him to search there;
sometimes, he said, fugitives of one sort and another took refuge
in this settlement, lived there for a few months, then disappeared
as noiselessly as they had come. Felipe searched there also; equally
He questioned all the sailors in port; all the shippers. No one had
heard of an Indian shipping on board any vessel; in fact, a captain
would have to be in straits before he would take an Indian in his
"But this was an exceptionally good worker, this Indian; he could
turn his hand to anything; he might have gone as ship's carpenter."
"That might be," they said; "nobody had ever heard of any such
thing, however;" and very much they all wondered what it was that
made the handsome, sad Mexican gentleman so anxious to find
Felipe wasted weeks in Monterey. Long after he had ceased to
hope, he lingered. He felt as if he would like to stay till every ship
that had sailed out of Monterey in the last three years had returned.
Whenever he heard of one coming into harbor, he hastened to the
shore, and closely watched the disembarking. His melancholy
countenance, with its eager, searching look, became a familiar
sight to every one; even the children knew that the pale gentleman
was looking for some one he could not find. Women pitied him,
and gazed at him tenderly, wondering if a man could look like that
for anything save the loss of a sweetheart. Felipe made no
confidences. He simply asked, day after day, of every one he met,
for an Indian named Alessandro Assis.
Finally he shook himself free from the dreamy spell of the place,
and turned his face southward again. He went by the route which
the Franciscan Fathers used to take, when the only road on the
California coast was the one leading from Mission to Mission.
Felipe had heard Father Salvierderra say that there were in the
neighborhood of each of the old Missions Indian villages, or
families still living. He thought it not improbable that, from
Alessandro's father's long connection with the San Luis Rey
Mission, Alessandro might be known to some of these Indians. He
would leave no stone unturned; no Indian village unsearched; no
San Juan Bautista came first; then Soledad, San Antonio, San
Miguel, San Luis Obispo, Santa Inez; and that brought him to
Santa Barbara. He had spent two months on the journey. At each
of these places he found Indians; miserable, half-starved creatures,
most of them. Felipe's heart ached, and he was hot with shame, at
their condition. The ruins of the old Mission buildings were sad to
see, but the human ruins were sadder. Now Felipe understood why
Father Salvierderra's heart had broken, and why his mother had
been full of such fierce indignation against the heretic usurpers
and despoilers of the estates which the Franciscans once held. He
could not understand why the Church had submitted, without
fighting, to such indignities and robberies. At every one of the
Missions he heard harrowing tales of the sufferings of those
Fathers who had clung to their congregations to the last, and died
at their posts. At Soledad an old Indian, weeping, showed him the
grave of Father Sarria, who had died there of starvation. "He gave
us all he had, to the last," said the old man. "He lay on a raw-hide
on the ground, as we did; and one morning, before he had finished
the mass, he fell forward at the altar and was dead. And when we
put him in the grave, his body was only bones, and no flesh; he had
gone so long without food, to give it to us."
At all these Missions Felipe asked in vain for Alessandro. They
knew very little, these northern Indians, about those in the south,
they said. It was seldom one from the southern tribes came
northward. They did not understand each other's speech. The more
Felipe inquired, and the longer he reflected, the more he doubted
Alessandro's having ever gone to Monterey. At Santa Barbara he
made a long stay. The Brothers at the College welcomed him
hospitably. They had heard from Father Salvierderra the sad story
of Ramona, and were distressed, with Felipe, that no traces had
been found of her. It grieved Father Salvierderra to the last, they
said; he prayed for her daily, but said he could not get any
certainty in his spirit of his prayers being heard. Only the day
before he died, he had said this to Father Francis, a young
Brazilian monk, to whom he was greatly attached.
In Felipe's overwrought frame of mind this seemed to him a
terrible omen; and he set out on his journey with a still heavier
heart than before. He believed Ramona was dead, buried in some
unknown, unconsecrated spot, never to be found; yet he would not
give up the search. As he journeyed southward, he began to find
persons who had known of Alessandro; and still more, those who
had known his father, old Pablo. But no one had heard anything of
Alessandro's whereabouts since the driving out of his people from
Temecula; there was no knowing where any of those Temecula
people were now. They had scattered "like a flock of ducks," one
Indian said,-- "like a flock of ducks after they are fired into. You'd
never see all those ducks in any one place again. The Temecula
people were here, there, and everywhere, all through San Diego
County. There was one Temecula man at San Juan Capistrano,
however. The Senor would better see him. He no doubt knew
about Alessandro. He was living in a room in the old Mission
building. The priest had given it to him for taking care of the
chapel and the priest's room, and a little rent besides. He was a
hard man, the San Juan Capistrano priest; he would take the last
dollar from a poor man."
It was late at night when Felipe reached San Juan Capistrano; but
he could not sleep till he had seen this man. Here was the first
clew he had gained. He found the man, with his wife and children,
in a large corner room opening on the inner court of the Mission
quadrangle. The room was dark and damp as a cellar; a fire
smouldered in the enormous fireplace; a few skins and rags were
piled near the hearth, and on these lay the woman, evidently ill.
The sunken tile floor was icy cold to the feet; the wind swept in at
a dozen broken places in the corridor side of the wall; there was
not an article of furniture. "Heavens!" thought Felipe, as he
entered, "a priest of our Church take rent for such a hole as this!"
There was no light in the place, except the little which came from
the fire. "I am sorry I have no candle, Senor," said the man, as he
came forward. "My wife is sick, and we are very poor."
"No matter," said Felipe, his hand already at his purse. "I only want
to ask you a few questions. You are from Temecula, they tell me."
"Yes, Senor," the man replied in a dogged tone,-- no man of
Temecula could yet hear the word without a pang,-- "I was of
"I want to find one Alessandro Assis who lived there. You knew
him, I suppose," said Felipe, eagerly.
At this moment a brand broke in the smouldering fire, and for one
second a bright blaze shot up; only for a second, then all was dark
again. But the swift blaze had fallen on Felipe's face, and with a
start which he could not control, but which Felipe did not see, the
Indian had recognized him. "Ha, ha!" he thought to himself. "Senor
Felipe Moreno, you come to the wrong house asking for news of
It was Antonio,-- Antonio, who had been at the Moreno
sheep-shearing; Antonio, who knew even more than Carmena had
known, for he knew what a marvel and miracle it seemed that the
beautiful Senorita from the Moreno house should have loved
Alessandro, and wedded him; and he knew that on the night she
went away with him, Alessandro had lured out of the corral a
beautiful horse for her to ride. Alessandro had told him all about
it,-- Baba, fiery, splendid Baba, black as night, with a white star in
his forehead. Saints! but it was a bold thing to do, to steal such a
horse as that, with a star for a mark; and no wonder that even now,
though near three years afterwards, Senor Felipe was in search of
him. Of course it could be only the horse he wanted. Ha! much
help might he get from Antonio!
"Yes, Senor, I knew him," he replied.
"Do you know where he is now?"
"Do you know where he went, from Temecula?"
"A woman told me he went to Monterey. I have been there looking
"I heard, too, he had gone to Monterey."
"Where did you see him last?"
"Was he alone?"
"Did you ever hear of his being married?"
"Where are the greater part of the Temecula people now?"
"Like this, Senor," with a bitter gesture, pointing to his wife. "Most
of us are beggars. A few here, a few there. Some have gone to
Capitan Grande, some way down into Lower California."
Wearily Felipe continued his bootless questioning. No suspicion
that the man was deceiving him crossed his mind. At last, with a
sigh, he said, "I hoped to have found Alessandro by your means. I
am greatly disappointed.
"I doubt not that, Senor Felipe Moreno," thought Antonio. "I am
sorry, Senor," he said.
It smote his conscience when Felipe laid in his hand a generous
gold-piece, and said, "Here is a bit of money for you. I am sorry to
see you so poorly off."
The thanks which he spoke sounded hesitating and gruff, so
remorseful did he feel. Senor Felipe had always been kind to them.
How well they had fared always in his house! It was a shame to lie
to him; yet the first duty was to Alessandro. It could not be
avoided. And thus a second time help drifted away from Ramona.
At Temecula, from Mrs. Hartsel, Felipe got the first true
intelligence of Alessandro's movements; but at first it only
confirmed his worst forebodings. Alessandro had been at Mrs.
Hartsel's house; he had been alone, and on foot; he was going to
walk all the way to San Pasquale, where he had the promise of
How sure the kindly woman was that she was telling the exact
truth. After long ransacking of her memory and comparing of
events, she fixed the time so nearly to the true date, that it was to
Felipe's mind a terrible corroboration of his fears. It was, he
thought, about a week after Ramona's flight from home that
Alessandro had appeared thus, alone, on foot, at Mrs. Hartsel's. In
great destitution, she said; and she had lent him money on the
expectation of selling his violin; but they had never sold it; there it
was yet. And that Alessandro was dead, she had no more doubt
than that she herself was alive; for else, he would have come back
to pay her what he owed. The honestest fellow that ever lived, was
Alessandro. Did not the Senor Moreno think so? Had he not found
him so always? There were not many such Indians as Alessandro
and his father. If there had been, it would have been better for their
people. "If they'd all been like Alessandro, I tell you," she said, "it
would have taken more than any San Diego sheriff to have put
them out of their homes here."
"But what could they do to help themselves, Mrs. Hartsel?" asked
Felipe. "The law was against them. We can't any of us go against
that. I myself have lost half my estate in the same way."
"Well, at any rate they wouldn't have gone without fighting!" she
said. "'If Alessandro had been here!' they all said."
Felipe asked to see the violin. "But that is not Alessandro's," he
exclaimed. "I have seen his."
"No!" she said. "Did I say it was his? It was his father's. One of the
Indians brought it in here to hide it with us at the time they were
driven out. It is very old, they say, and worth a great deal of
money, if you could find the right man to buy it. But he has not
come along yet. He will, though. I am not a bit afraid but that we'll
get our money back on it. If Alessandro was alive, he'd have been
here long before this."
Finding Mrs. Hartsel thus friendly, Felipe suddenly decided to tell
her the whole story. Surprise and incredulity almost overpowered
her at first. She sat buried in thought for some minutes; then she
sprang to her feet, and cried: "If he's got that girl with him, he's
hiding somewhere. There's nothing like an Indian to hide; and if he
is hiding, every other Indian knows it, and you just waste your
breath asking any questions of any of them. They will die before
they will tell you one thing. They are as secret as the grave. And
they, every one of them, worshipped Alessandro. You see they
thought he would be over them, after Pablo, and they were all
proud of him because he could read and write, and knew more
than most of them. If I were in your place," she continued, "I
would not give it up yet. I should go to San Pasquale. Now it might
just be that she was along with him that night he stopped here, hid
somewhere, while he came in to get the money. I know I urged
him to stay all night, and he said he could not do it. I don't know,
though, where he could possibly have left her while he came here."
Never in all her life had Mrs. Hartsel been so puzzled and so
astonished as now. But her sympathy, and her confident belief that
Alessandro might yet be found, gave unspeakable cheer to Felipe.
"If I find them, I shall take them home with me, Mrs. Hartsel," he
said as he rode away; "and we will come by this road and stop to
see you." And the very speaking of the words cheered him all the
way to San Pasquale,
But before he had been in San Pasquale an hour, he was plunged
into a perplexity and disappointment deeper than he had yet felt.
He found the village in disorder, the fields neglected, many houses
deserted, the remainder of the people preparing to move away. In
the house of Ysidro, Alessandro's kinsman, was living a white
family,-- the family of a man who had pre-empted the greater part
of the land on which the village stood. Ysidro, profiting by
Alessandro's example, when he found that there was no help, that
the American had his papers from the land-office, in all due form,
certifying that the land was his, had given the man his option of
paying for the house or having it burned down. The man had
bought the house; and it was only the week before Felipe arrived,
that Ysidro had set off, with all his goods and chattels, for Mesa
Grande. He might possibly have told the Senor more, the people
said, than any one now in the village could; but even Ysidro did
not know where Alessandro intended to settle. He told no one. He
went to the north. That was all they knew.
To the north! That north which Felipe thought he had thoroughly
searched. He sighed at the word. The Senor could, if he liked, see
the house in which Alessandro had lived. There it was, on the
south side of the valley, just in the edge of the foothills; some
Americans lived in it now. Such a good ranch Alessandro had; the
best wheat in the valley. The American had paid Alessandro
something for it,-- they did not know how much; but Alessandro
was very lucky to get anything. If only they had listened to him. He
was always telling them this would come. Now it was too late for
most of them to get anything for their farms. One man had taken
the whole of the village lands, and he had bought Ysidro's house
because it was the best; and so they would not get anything. They
were utterly disheartened, broken-spirited.
In his sympathy for them, Felipe almost forgot his own distresses.
"Where are you going?" he asked of several.
"Who knows, Senor?" was their reply. "Where can we go? There is
When, in reply to his questions in regard to Alessandro's wife,
Felipe heard her spoken of as "Majella," his perplexity deepened.
Finally he asked if no one had ever heard the name Ramona.
What could it mean? Could it be possible that this was another
Alessandro than the one of whom he was in search? Felipe
bethought himself of a possible marriage-record. Did they know
where Alessandro had married this wife of his, of whom every
word they spoke seemed both like and unlike Ramona?
Yes. It was in San Diego they had been married, by Father
Hoping against hope, the baffled Felipe rode on to San Diego; and
here, as ill-luck would have it, he found, not Father Gaspara, who
would at his first word have understood all, but a young Irish
priest, who had only just come to be Father Gaspara's assistant.
Father Gaspara was away in the mountains, at Santa Ysabel. But
the young assistant would do equally well, to examine the records.
He was courteous and kind; brought out the tattered old book, and,
looking over his shoulder, his breath coming fast with excitement
and fear, there Felipe read, in Father Gaspara's hasty and blotted
characters, the fatal entry of the names, "Alessandro Assis and
Majella Fa --"
Heart-sick, Felipe went away. Most certainly Ramona would never
have been married under any but her own name. Who, then, was
this woman whom Alessandro Assis had married in less than ten
days from the night on which Ramona had left her home? Some
Indian woman for whom he felt compassion, or to whom he was
bound by previous ties? And where, in what lonely, forever hidden
spot, was the grave of Ramona?
Now at last Felipe felt sure that she was dead. It was useless
searching farther. Yet, after he reached home, his restless
conjectures took one more turn, and he sat down and wrote a letter
to every priest between San Diego and Monterey, asking if there
were on his books a record of the marriage of one Alessandro
Assis and Ramona Ortegna.
It was not impossible that there might be, after all, another
Alessandro Assis, The old Fathers, in baptizing their tens of
thousands of Indian converts, were sore put to it to make out
names enough. There might have been another Assis besides old
Pablo, and of Alessandros there were dozens everywhere.
This last faint hope also failed. No record anywhere of an
Alessandro Assis, except in Father Gaspara's book.
As Felipe was riding out of San Pasquale, he had seen an Indian
man and woman walking by the side of mules heavily laden. Two
little children, two young or too feeble to walk, were so packed in
among the bundles that their faces were the only part of them in
sight. The woman was crying bitterly. "More of these exiles. God
help the poor creatures!" thought Felipe; and he pulled out his
purse, and gave the woman a piece of gold. She looked up in as
great astonishment as if the money had fallen from the skies.
"Thanks! Thanks, Senor!" she exclaimed; and the man coming up
to Felipe said also, "God reward you, Senor! That is more money
than I had in the world! Does the Senor know of any place where I
could get work?"
Felipe longed to say, "Yes, come to my estate; there you shall have
work!" In the olden time he would have done it without a second
thought, for both the man and the woman had good faces,-- were
young and strong. But the pay-roll of the Moreno estate was even
now too long for its dwindled fortunes. "No, my man, I am sorry to
say I do not," he answered. "I live a long way from here. Where
were you thinking of going?"
"Somewhere in San Jacinto," said the man. "They say the
Americans have not come in there much yet. I have a brother
living there. Thanks, Senor; may the saints reward you!"
"San Jacinto!" After Felipe returned home, the name haunted his
thoughts. The grand mountain-top bearing that name he had
known well in many a distant horizon. "Juan Can," he said one
day, "are there many Indians in San Jacinto?"
"The mountain?" said Juan Can.
"Ay, I suppose, the mountain," said Felipe. "What else is there?"
"The valley, too," replied Juan. "The San Jacinto Valley is a fine,
broad valley, though the river is not much to be counted on. It is
mostly dry sand a good part of the year. But there is good grazing.
There is one village of Indians I know in the valley; some of the
San Luis Rey Indians came from there; and up on the mountain is
a big village; the wildest Indians in all the country live there. Oh,
they are fierce, Senor!"
The next morning Felipe set out for San Jacinto. Why had no one
mentioned, why had he not himself known, of these villages?
Perhaps there were yet others he had not heard of. Hope sprang in
Felipe's impressionable nature as easily as it died. An hour, a
moment, might see him both lifted up and cast down. When he
rode into the sleepy little village street of San Bernardino, and
saw, in the near horizon, against the southern sky, a superb
mountain-peak, changing in the sunset lights from turquoise to
ruby, and from ruby to turquoise again, he said to himself, "She is
there! I have found her!"
The sight of the mountain affected him, as it had always affected
Aunt Ri, with an indefinable, solemn sense of something revealed,
yet hidden. "San Jacinto?" he said to a bystander, pointing to it
with his whip.
"Yes, Senor," replied the man. As he spoke, a pair of black horses
came whirling round the corner, and he sprang to one side,
narrowly escaping being knocked down. "That Tennessee fellow'll
run over somebody yet, with those black devils of his, if he don't
look out," he muttered, as he recovered his balance.
Felipe glanced at the horses, then driving his spurs deep into his
horse's sides, galloped after them. "Baba! by God!" he cried aloud
in his excitement and forgetful of everything, he urged his horse
faster, shouting as he rode, "Stop that man! Stop that man with the
Jos, hearing his name called on all sides, reined in Benito and
Baba as soon as he could, and looked around in bewilderment to
see what had happened. Before he had time to ask any questions,
Felipe had overtaken him, and riding straight to Baba's head, had
flung himself from his own horse and taken Baba by the rein,
crying, "Baba! Baba!" Baba knew his voice, and began to whinny
and plunge. Felipe was nearly unmanned. For the second, he forgot
everything. A crowd was gathering around them. It had never been
quite clear to the San Bernardino mind that Jos's title to Benito and
Baba would bear looking into; and it was no surprise, therefore, to
some of the on-lookers, to hear Felipe cry in a loud voice, looking
suspiciously at Jos, "How did you get him?"
Jos was a wag, and Jos was never hurried. The man did not live,
nor could the occasion arrive, which would quicken his
constitutional drawl. Before even beginning his answer he crossed
one leg over the other and took a long, observant look at Felipe;
then in a pleasant voice he said: "Wall, Senor,-- I allow yer air a
Senor by yer color,-- it would take right smart uv time tew tell
yeow haow I cum by thet hoss, 'n' by the other one tew. They ain't
mine, neither one on 'em."
Jos's speech was as unintelligible to Felipe as it had been to
Ramona, Jos saw it, and chuckled.
"Mebbe 't would holp yer tew understand me ef I wuz tew talk
Mexican," he said, and proceeded to repeat in tolerably good
Spanish the sum and substance of what he had just said, adding:
"They belong to an Indian over on San Jacinto; at least, the off one
does; the nigh one's his wife's; he wouldn't ever call thet one
anything but hers. It had been hers ever sence she was a girl, they
said, I never saw people think so much of hosses as they did."
Before Jos had finished speaking, Felipe had bounded into the
wagon, throwing his horse's reins to a boy in the crowd, and
crying, "Follow along with my horse, will you? I must speak to this
Found! Found,-- the saints be praised,-- at last! How should he tell
this man fast enough? How should he thank him enough?
Laying his hand on Jos's knee, he cried: "I can't explain to you; I
can't tell you. Bless you forever,-- forever! It must be the saints led
"Oh, Lawd!" thought Jos; "another o' them 'saint' fellers! I allow
not, Senor," he said, relapsing into Tennesseean. "It wur Tom
Wurmsee led me; I wuz gwine ter move his truck fur him this
"Take me home with you to your house," said Felipe, still
trembling with excitement; "we cannot talk here in the street. I
want to hear all you can tell me about them. I have been searching
for them all over California."
Jos's face lighted up. This meant good fortune for that gentle,
sweet Ramona, he was sure. "I'll take you straight there," he said;
"but first I must stop at Tom's. He will be waiting for me."
The crowd dispersed, disappointed; cheated out of their
anticipated scene of an arrest for horse-stealing. "Good for you,
Tennessee!" and, "Fork over that black horse, Jos!" echoed from
the departing groups. Sensations were not so common in San
Bernardino that they could afford to slight so notable an occasion
As Jos turned the corner into the street where he lived, he saw his
mother coming at a rapid run towards them, her sun-bonnet half
off her head, her spectacles pushed up in her hair.
"Why, thar's mammy!" he exclaimed. "What ever hez gone wrong
Before he finished speaking, she saw the black horses, and
snatching her bonnet from her head waved it wildly, crying, "Yeow
Jos! Jos, hyar! Stop! I wuz er comin' ter hunt yer!"
Breathlessly she continued talking, her words half lost in the sound
of the wheels. Apparently she did not see the stranger sitting by
Jos's side. "Oh, Jos, thar's the terriblest news come! Thet Injun
Alessandro's got killed; murdered; jest murdered, I say; 'tain't no
less. Thar wuz an Injun come down from ther mounting with a
letter to the Agent."
"Good God! Alessandro killed!" burst from Felipe's lips in a
Jos looked bewilderedly from his mother to Felipe; the
complication was almost beyond him. "Oh, Lawd!" he gasped.
Turning to Felipe, "Thet's mammy," he said. "She wuz real fond o'
both on 'em." Turning to his mother, "This hyar's her brother," he
said. "He jest knowed me by Baba, hyar on ther street. He's been
huntin' 'em everywhar."
Aunt Ri grasped the situation instantly. Wiping her streaming eyes,
she sobbed out: "Wall, I'll allow, arter this, thar is sech a thing ez a
Providence, ez they call it. 'Pears like ther couldn't ennythin' less
brung yer hyar jest naow. I know who yer be; ye're her brother
Feeleepy, ain't yer? Menny's ther time she's tolt me about yer! Oh,
Lawd! How air we ever goin' to git ter her? I allow she's dead! I
allow she'd never live arter seein' him shot down dead! He tolt me
thar couldn't nobody git up thar whar they'd gone; no white folks, I
mean. Oh, Lawd, Lawd!"
Felipe stood paralyzed, horror-stricken. He turned in despair to
Jos. "Tell me in Spanish,." he said. "I cannot understand."
As Jos gradually drew out the whole story from his mother's
excited and incoherent speech, and translated it, Felipe groaned
aloud, "Too late! Too late!" He too felt, as Aunt Ri had, that
Ramona never could have survived the shock of seeing her
husband murdered. "Too late! Too late!" he cried, as he staggered
into the house. "She has surely died of the sight."
"I allow she didn't die, nuther," said Jos; "not ser long ez she hed
thet young un to look arter!"
"Yer air right, Jos!" said Aunt Ri. "I allow yer air right. Thar
couldn't nothin' kill her, short er wild beasts, ef she hed ther baby
'n her arms! She ain't dead, not ef the baby ez erlive, I allow. Thet's
Felipe sat with his face buried in his hands. Suddenly looking up,
he said, "How far is it?"
"Thirty miles 'n' more inter the valley, where we wuz," said Jos; "'n'
the Lawd knows how fur 'tis up on ter the mounting, where they
wuz livin'. It's like goin' up the wall uv a house, goin' up San
Jacinto Mounting, daddy sez. He wuz thar huntin' all summer with
How strange, how incredible it seemed, to hear Alessandro's name
thus familiarly spoken,-- spoken by persons who had known him
so recently, and who were grieving, grieving as friends, to hear of
his terrible death! Felipe felt as if he were in a trance. Rousing
himself, he said, "We must go. We must start at once. You will let
me have the horses?"
"Wall, I allow yer've got more right ter 'em 'n --" began Jos,
energetically, forgetting himself; then, dropping Tennesseean, he
completed in Spanish his cordial assurances that the horses were at
"Jos! He's got ter take me!" cried Aunt Ri. "I allow I ain't never
gwine ter set still hyar, 'n' thet girl inter sech trouble; 'n' if so be ez
she is reely dead, thar's the baby. He hadn't orter go alone by
Felipe was thankful, indeed, for Aunt Ri's companionship, and
expressed himself in phrases so warm, that she was embarrassed.
"Yeow tell him, Jos," she said, "I can't never git used ter bein'
called Senory. Yeow tell him his' sister allers called me Aunt Ri, 'n'
I jest wish he would. I allow me 'n' him'll git along all right. 'Pears
like I'd known him all my days, jest ez 't did with her, arter the
fust. I'm free to confess I take more ter these Mexicans than I do
ter these low-down, driven Yankees, ennyhow,-- a heap more; but I
can't stand bein' Senory'd! Yeow tell him, Jos. I s'pose thar's a word
for 'aunt' in Mexican, ain't there? 'Pears like thar couldn't be no
langwedge 'thout sech a word! He'll know what it means! I'd go off
with him a heap easier ef he'd call me jest plain Aunt Ri, ez I'm
used ter, or Mis Hyer, either un on 'em; but Aunt Ri's the
Jos had some anxiety about his mother's memory of the way to San
Jacinto. She laughed.
"Don't yeow be a mite oneasy," she said. "I bet yeow I'd go clean
back ter the States ther way we cum. I allow I've got every mile on
't 'n my hed plain's a turnpike. Yeow nor yer dad, neiry one on yer,
couldn't begin to do 't. But what we air gwine ter do, fur gettin' up
the mounting, thet's another thing. Thet's more 'n I dew know. But
thar'll be a way pervided, Jos, sure's yeow're bawn. The Lawd ain't
gwine to get hisself hindered er holpin' Ramony this time; I ain't a
Felipe could not have found a better ally. The comparative silence
enforced between them by reason of lack of a common vehicle for
their thoughts was on the whole less of a disadvantage than would
have at first appeared. They understood each other well enough for
practical purposes, and their unity in aim, and in affection for
Ramona, made a bond so strong, it could not have been enhanced
It was past sundown when they left San Bernardino, but a full
moon made the night as good as day for their journey. When it first
shone out, Aunt Ri, pointing to it, said curtly, "Thet's lucky."
"Yes," replied Felipe, who did not know either of the words she
had spoken, "it is good. It shows to us the way."
"Thar, naow, say he can't understand English!" thought Aunt Ri.
Benito and Baba travelled as if they knew the errand on which they
were hurrying. Good forty miles they had gone without flagging
once, when Aunt Ri, pointing to a house on the right hand of the
road, the only one they had seen for many miles, said: "We'll hev
to sleep hyar. I donno the road beyant this. I allow they're gone ter
bed; but they'll hev to git up 'n' take us in. They're used ter doin' it.
They dew consid'able business keepin' movers. I know 'em. They're
reel friendly fur the kind o' people they air. They're druv to death.
It can't be far frum their time to git up, ennyhow. They're up every
mornin' uv thar lives long afore daylight, a feedin' their stock, an'
gittin' ready fur the day's work. I used ter hear 'em 'n' see 'em, when
we wuz campin' here. The fust I saw uv it, I thought somebody
wuz sick in the house, to git 'em up thet time o' night; but
arterwards we found out 't wan't nothin' but thar reggerlar way.
When I told dad, sez I, 'Dad, did ever yer hear sech a thing uz
gittin' up afore light to feed stock?' 'n' ter feed theirselves tew.
They'd their own breakfast all clared away, 'n' dishes washed, too,
afore light; 'n' prayers said beside; they're Methodys, terrible pious.
I used ter tell dad they talked a heap about believin' in God; I don't
allow but what they dew believe in God, tew, but they don't
worship Him so much's they worship work; not nigh so much.
Believin' 'n' worshippin' 's tew things. Yeow wouldn't see no sech
doin's in Tennessee. I allow the Lawd meant some time fur
sleepin'; 'n' I'm satisfied with his times o' lightin' up. But these
Merrills air reel nice folks, fur all this I've ben tellin' yer! -- Lawd!
I don't believe he's understood a word I've said, naow!" thought
Aunt Ri to herself, suddenly becoming aware of the hopeless
bewilderment on Felipe's face. "'Tain't much use sayin' anything
more'n plain yes 'n' no, between folks thet can't understand each
other's langwedge; 'n' s' fur's thet goes, I allow thar ain't any gret
use'n the biggest part o' what's sed between folks thet doos!"
When the Merrill family learned Felipe's purpose of going up the
mountain to the Cahuilla village, they attempted to dissuade him
from taking his own horses. He would kill them both, high-spirited
horses like those, they said, if he took them over that road. It was a
cruel road. They pointed out to him the line where it wound,
doubling and tacking on the sides of precipices, like a path for a
goat or chamois. Aunt Ri shuddered at the sight, but said nothing.
"I'm gwine whar he goes," she said grimly to herself. "I ain't a
gwine ter back daown naow; but I dew jest wish Jeff Hyer wuz
Felipe himself disliked what he saw and heard of the grade. The
road had been built for bringing down lumber, and for six miles it
was at perilous angles. After this it wound along on ridges and in
ravines till it reached the heart of a great pine forest, where stood a
saw-mill. Passing this, it plunged into still darker, denser woods,
some fifteen miles farther on, and then came out among vast
opens, meadows, and grassy foot-hills, still on the majestic
mountain's northern or eastern slopes. From these, another steep
road, little more than a trail, led south, and up to the Cahuilla
village. A day and a half's hard journey, at the shortest, it was from
Merrill's; and no one unfamiliar with the country could find the
last part of the way without a guide. Finally it was arranged that
one of the younger Merrills should go in this capacity, and should
also take two of his strongest horses, accustomed to the road. By
the help of these the terrible ascent was made without difficulty,
though Baba at first snorted, plunged, and resented the humiliation
of being harnessed with his head at another horse's tail.
Except for their sad errand, both Felipe and Aunt Ri would have
experienced a keen delight in this ascent. With each fresh lift on
the precipitous terraces, the view off to the south and west
broadened, until the whole San Jacinto Valley lay unrolled at their
feet. The pines were grand; standing, they seemed shapely
columns; fallen, the upper curve of their huge yellow disks came
above a man's head, so massive was their size. On many of them
the bark had been riddled from root to top, as by myriads of
bullet-holes. In each hole had been cunningly stored away an
acorn,-- the woodpeckers' granaries.
"Look at thet, naow!" exclaimed the observant Aunt Ri; "an' thar's
folk's thet sez dumb critters ain't got brains. They ain't noways
dumb to each other, I notice; an' we air dumb aourselves when we
air ketched with furriners. I allow I'm next door to dumb myself
with this hyar Mexican I'm er travellin' with."
"That's so!" replied Sam Merrill. "When we fust got here, I thought
I'd ha' gone clean out o' my head tryin' to make these Mexicans
sense my meanin'; my tongue was plaguy little use to me. But now
I can talk their lingo fust-rate; but pa, he can't talk to 'em nohow;
he hain't learned the fust word; 'n' he's ben here goin' on two years
longer'n we have."
The miles seemed leagues to Felipe. Aunt Ri's drawling tones, as
she chatted volubly with young Merrill, chafed him. How could
she chatter! But when he thought this, it would chance that in a
few moments more he would see her clandestinely wiping away
tears, and his heart would warm to her again.
They slept at a miserable cabin in one of the clearings, and at early
dawn pushed on, reaching the Cahuilla village before noon. As
their carriage came in sight, a great running to and fro of people
was to be seen. Such an event as the arrival of a comfortable
carriage drawn by four horses had never before taken place in the
village. The agitation into which the people had been thrown by
the murder of Alessandro had by no means subsided; they were all
on the alert, suspicious of each new occurrence. The news had
only just reached the village that Farrar had been set at liberty, and
would not be punished for his crime, and the flames of indignation
and desire for vengeance, which the aged Capitan had so much
difficulty in allaying in the outset, were bursting forth again this
morning. It was therefore a crowd of hostile and lowering faces
which gathered around the carriage as it stopped in front of the
Aunt Ri's face was a ludicrous study of mingled terror, defiance,
and contempt. "Uv all ther low-down, no-'count, beggarly trash
ever I laid eyes on," she said in a low tone to Merrill, "I allow
these yere air the wust! But I allow they'd flatten us all aout in jest
abaout a minnit, if they wuz to set aout tew! Ef she ain't hyar, we
air in a scrape, I allow."
"Oh, they're friendly enough," laughed Merrill. "They're all stirred
up, now, about the killin' o' that Injun; that's what makes 'em look
so fierce. I don't wonder! 'Twas a derned mean thing Jim Farrar
did, a firin' into the man after he was dead. I don't blame him for
killin' the cuss, not a bit; I'd have shot any man livin' that 'ad taken
a good horse o' mine up that trail. That's the only law we stock
men've got out in this country. We've got to protect ourselves. But
it was a mean, low-lived trick to blow the feller's face to pieces
after he was dead; but Jim's a rough feller, 'n' I expect he was so
mad, when he see his horse, that he didn't know what he did."
Aunt Ri was half paralyzed with astonishment at this speech.
Felipe had leaped out of the carriage, and after a few words with
the old Capitan, had hurried with him into his house. Felipe had
evidently forgotten that she was still in the carriage. His going into
the house looked as if Ramona was there. Aunt Ri, in all her
indignation and astonishment, was conscious of this train of
thought running through her mind; but not even the near prospect
of seeing Ramona could bridle her tongue now, or make her defer
replying to the extraordinary statements she had just heard. The
words seemed to choke her as she began. "Young man," she said,
"I donno much abaout yeour raisin'. I've heered yeour folks wuz
great on religion. Naow, we ain't, Jeff 'n' me; we warn't raised thet
way; but I allow ef I wuz ter hear my boy, Jos,-- he's jest abaout
yeour age, 'n' make tew, though he's narrerer chested,-- ef I should
hear him say what yeou've jest said, I allow I sh'd expect to see
him struck by lightnin'; 'n' I sh'dn't think he hed got more 'n his
deserts, I allow I sh'dn't!"
What more Aunt Ri would have said to the astounded Merrill was
never known, for at that instant the old Capitan, returning to the
door, beckoned to her; and springing from her seat to the ground,
sternly rejecting Sam's offered hand, she hastily entered the house.
As she crossed the threshold, Felipe turned an anguished face
toward her, and said, "Come, speak to her." He was on his knees
by a wretched pallet on the floor. Was that Ramona,-- that
prostrate form; hair dishevelled, eyes glittering, cheeks scarlet,
hands playing meaninglessly, like the hands of one crazed, with a
rosary of gold beads? Yes, it was Ramona; and it was like this she
had lain there now ten days; and the people had exhausted all their
simple skill for her in vain.
Aunt Ri burst into tears. "Oh, Lawd!" she said. "Ef I had some 'old
man' hyar, I'd bring her aout er thet fever! I dew bleeve I seed some
on 't growin' not more'n er mile back." And without a second look,
or another word, she ran out of the door, and springing into the
carriage, said, speaking faster than she had been heard to speak for
thirty years: "Yeow jest turn raound 'n' drive me back a piece, the
way we come. I allow I'll git a weed thet'll break thet fever. Faster,
faster! Run yer hosses. 'Tain't above er mile back, whar I seed it,"
she cried, leaning out, eagerly scrutinizing each inch of the barren
ground. "Stop! Here 'tis!" she cried. "I knowed I smelt the bitter on
't somewhars along hyar;" and in a few minutes more she had a
mass of the soft, shining, gray, feathery leaves in her hands, and
was urging the horses fiercely on their way back. "This'll cure her,
ef ennything will," she said, as she entered the room again; but her
heart sank as she saw Ramona's eyes roving restlessly over Felipe's
face, no sign of recognition in them. "She's bad," she said, her lips
trembling; "but, 'never say die!' ez allers our motto; 'tain't never
tew late fur ennything but oncet, 'n' yer can't tell when thet time's
come till it's past 'n' gone."
Steaming bowls of the bitterly odorous infusion she held at
Ramona's nostrils; with infinite patience she forced drop after drop
of it between the unconscious lips; she bathed the hands and head,
her own hands blistered by the heat. It was a fight with death; but
love and life won. Before night Ramona was asleep.
Felipe and Aunt Ri sat by her, strange but not uncongenial
watchers, each taking heart from the other's devotion. All night
long Ramona slept. As Felipe watched her, he remembered his
own fever, and how she had knelt by his bed and prayed there. He
glanced around the room. In a niche in the mud wall was a cheap
print of the Madonna, one candle just smouldering out before it.
The village people had drawn heavily on their poverty-stricken
stores, keeping candles burning for Alessandro and Ramona during
the past ten days. The rosary had slipped from Ramona's hold;
taking it cautiously in his hand, Felipe went to the Madonna's
picture, and falling on his knees, began to pray as simply as if he
were alone. The Indians, standing on the doorway, also fell on
their knees, and a low-whispered murmur was heard.
For a moment Aunt Ri looked at the kneeling figures with
contempt. "Oh, Lawd!" she thought, "the pore heathen, prayin' ter a
picter!" Then a sudden revulsion seized her. "I allow I ain't gwine
ter be the unly one out er the hull number thet don't seem to hev
nothin' ter pray ter; I allow I'll jine in prayer, tew, but I shan't say
mine ter no picter!" And Aunt Ri fell on her knees; and when a
young Indian woman by her side slipped a rosary into her hand,
Aunt Ri did not repulse it, but hid it in the folds of her gown till
the prayers were done. It was a moment and a lesson Aunt Ri
THE Capitan's house faced the east. Just as day broke, and the
light streamed in at the open door, Ramona's eyes unclosed. Felipe
and Aunt Ri were both by her side. With a look of bewildered
terror, she gazed at them.
"Thar, thar, naow! Yer jest shet yer eyes 'n' go right off ter sleep
agin, honey," said Aunt Ri, composedly, laying her hand on
Ramona's eyelids, and compelling them down. "We air hyar,
Feeleepy 'n' me, 'n' we air goin' ter stay. I allow yer needn't be
afeerd o' nothin'. Go ter sleep, honey."
The eyelids quivered beneath Aunt Ri's fingers. Tears forced their
way, and rolled slowly down the cheeks. The lips trembled; the
voice strove to speak, but it was only like the ghost of a whisper,
the faint question that came,-- "Felipe?"
"Yes, dear! I am here, too," breathed Felipe; "go to sleep. We will
not leave you!"
And again Ramona sank away into the merciful sleep which was
saving her life.
"Ther longer she kin sleep, ther better," said Aunt Ri, with a sigh,
deep-drawn like a groan. "I allow I dread ter see her reely come to.
'T'll be wus'n the fust; she'll hev ter live it all over again!"
But Aunt Ri did not know what forces of fortitude had been
gathering in Ramona's soul during these last bitter years. Out of
her gentle constancy had been woven the heroic fibre of which
martyrs are made; this, and her inextinguishable faith, had made
her strong, as were those of old, who "had trial of cruel mocking,
wandering about, being destitute, afflicted, tormented, wandered in
deserts and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth."
When she waked the second time, it was with a calm, almost
beatific smile that she gazed on Felipe, and whispered, "How did
you find me, dear Felipe?" It was rather by the motions of her lips
than by any sound that he knew the words. She had not yet strength
enough to make an audible sound. When they laid her baby on her
breast, she smiled again, and tried to embrace her, but was too
weak. Pointing to the baby's eyes, she whispered, gazing earnestly
at Felipe, "Alessandro." A convulsion passed over her face as she
spoke the word, and the tears flowed.
Felipe could not speak. He glanced helplessly at Aunt Ri, who
promptly responded: "Naow, honey, don't yeow talk. 'Tain't good
fur ye; 'n' Feeleepy 'n' me, we air in a powerful hurry ter git yer
strong 'n' well, 'n' tote ye out er this --" Aunt Ri stopped. No
substantive in her vocabulary answered her need at that moment. "I
allow ye kin go 'n a week, ef nothin' don't go agin ye more'n I see
naow; but ef yer git ter talkin', thar's no tellin' when yer'll git up.
Yeow jest shet up, honey. We'll look arter everythin'."
Feebly Ramona turned her grateful, inquiring eyes on Felipe. Her
lips framed the words, "With you?"
"Yes, dear, home with me," said Felipe, clasping her hand in his. "I
have been searching for you all this time."
An anxious look came into the sweet face. Felipe knew what it
meant. How often he had seen it in the olden time. He feared to
shock her by the sudden mention of the Senora's death; yet that
would harm her less than continued anxiety. "I am alone, dear
Ramona," he whispered. "There is no one now but you, my sister,
to take care of me. My mother has been dead a year."
The eyes dilated, then filled with sympathetic tears. "Dear Felipe!"
she sighed; but her heart took courage. Felipe's phrase was like one
inspired; another duty, another work, another loyalty, waiting for
Ramona. Not only her child to live for, but to "take care of Felipe"!
Ramona would not die! Youth, a mother's love, a sister's affection
and duty, on the side of life,-- the battle was won, and won
To the simple Cahuillas it seemed like a miracle; and they looked
on Aunt Ri's weather-beaten face with something akin to a
superstitious reverence. They themselves were not ignorant of the
value of the herb by means of which she had wrought the
marvellous cure; but they had made repeated experiments with it
upon Ramona, without success. It must be that there had been
some potent spell in Aunt Ri's handling. They would hardly
believe her when, in answer to their persistent questioning, she
reiterated the assertion that she had used nothing except the hot
water and "old man," which was her name for the wild wormwood;
and which, when explained to them, impressed them greatly, as
having no doubt some significance in connection with the results
of her preparation of the leaves.
Rumors about Felipe ran swiftly throughout the region. The
presence in the Cahuilla village of a rich Mexican gentleman who
spent gold like water, and kept mounted men riding day and night,
after everything, anything, he wanted for his sick sister, was an
event which in the atmosphere of that lonely country loomed into
colossal proportions. He had travelled all over California, with
four horses, in search of her. He was only waiting till she was well,
to take her to his home in the south; and then he was going to
arrest the man who had murdered her husband, and have him
hanged, -- yes, hanged! Small doubt about that; or, if the law
cleared him, there was still the bullet. This rich Senor would see
him shot, if rope were not to be had. Jim Farrar heard these tales,
and quaked in his guilty soul. The rope he had small fear of, for
well he knew the temper of San Diego County juries and judges;
but the bullet, that was another thing; and these Mexicans were
like Indians in their vengeance. Time did not tire them, and their
memories were long. Farrar cursed the day he had let his temper
get the better of him on that lonely mountainside; how much the
better, nobody but he himself knew,-- nobody but he and Ramona:
and even Ramona did not know the bitter whole. She knew that
Alessandro had no knife, and had gone forward with no hostile
intent; but she knew nothing beyond that. Only the murderer
himself knew that the dialogue which he had reported to the judge
and jury, to justify his act, was an entire fabrication of his own,
and that, instead of it, had been spoken but four words by
Alessandro, and those were, "Senor, I will explain;" and that even
after the first shot had pierced his lungs, and the blood was
choking in his throat, he had still run a step or two farther, with his
hand uplifted deprecatingly, and made one more effort to speak
before he fell to the ground dead. Callous as Farrar was, and clear
as it was in his mind that killing an Indian was no harm, he had not
liked to recall the pleading anguish in Alessandro's tone and in his
face as he fell. He had not liked to recall this, even before he heard
of this rich Mexican brother-in-law who had appeared on the
scene; and now, he found the memories still more unpleasant. Fear
is a wonderful goad to remorse. There was another thing, too,
which to his great wonder had been apparently overlooked by
everybody; at least, nothing had been said about it; but the bearing
of it on his case, if the case were brought up a second time and
minutely investigated, would be most unfortunate. And this was,
that the only clew he had to the fact of Alessandro's having taken
his horse, was that the poor, half-crazed fellow had left his own
well-known gray pony in the corral in place of the horse he took. A
strange thing, surely, for a horse-thief to do! Cold sweat burst out
on Farrar's forehead, more than once, as he realized how this,
coupled with the well-known fact of Alessandro's liability to
attacks of insanity, might be made to tell against him, if he should
be brought to trial for the murder. He was as cowardly as he was
cruel: never yet were the two traits separate in human nature; and
after a few days of this torturing suspense and apprehension, he
suddenly resolved to leave the country, if not forever, at least for a
few years, till this brother-in-law should be out of the way. He lost
no time in carrying out his resolution; and it was well he did not,
for it was only three days after he had disappeared, that Felipe
walked into Judge Wells's office, one morning, to make inquiries
relative to the preliminary hearing which had been held there in
the matter of the murder of the Indian, Alessandro Assis, by James
Farrar. And when the judge, taking down his books, read to Felipe
his notes of the case, and went on to say, "If Farrar's testimony is
true, Ramona's, the wife's, must be false," and "at any rate, her
testimony would not be worth a straw with any jury," Felipe sprang
to his feet, and cried, "She of whom you speak is my foster-sister;
and, by God, Senor, if I can find that man, I will shoot him as I
would a dog! And I'll see, then, if a San Diego County jury will
hang me for ridding the country of such a brute!" and Felipe would
have been as good as his word. It was a wise thing Farrar had done
in making his escape.
When Aunt Ri heard that Farrar had fled the country, she pushed
up her spectacles and looked reflectively at her informant. It was
young Merrill. "Fled ther country, hez he?" she said. "Wall, he kin
flee ez many countries ez he likes, an' 't won't dew him no good. I
know yeow folks hyar don't seem ter think killin' an Injun's enny
murder, but I say 'tis; an' yeow'll all git it brung home ter yer afore
yer die: ef 'tain't brung one way, 't'll be anuther; yeow jest mind
what I say, 'n' don't yeow furgit it. Naow this miser'ble murderer,
this Farrar, thet's lighted out er hyar, he's nothin' more'n a skunk,
but he's got the Lawd arter him, naow. It's jest's well he's gawn; I
never did b'leeve in hangin'. I never could. It's jest tew men dead
'stead o' one. I don't want to see no man hung, no marter what he's
done, 'n' I don't want to see no man shot down, nuther, no marter
what he's done; 'n' this hyar Feeleepy, he's thet highstrung, he'd ha'
shot thet Farrar, any minnit, quicker'n lightnin', ef he'd ketched
him; so it's better all raound he's lit aout. But I tell yeow, naow, he
hain't made much by goin'! Thet Injun he murdered 'll foller him
night 'n' day, till he dies, 'n' long arter; he'll wish he wuz dead afore
he doos die, I allow he will, naow. He'll be jest like a man I
knowed back in Tennessee. I wa'n't but a mite then, but I never
forgot it. 'Tis a great country fur gourds, East Tennessee is, whar I
wuz raised; 'n' thar wuz two houses, 'n' a fence between 'em, 'n'
these gourds a runnin' all over the fence; 'n' one o' ther childun
picked one o' them gourds, an' they fit abaout it; 'n' then the women
took it up,-- ther childun's mothers, yer know, -- 'n' they got fightin'
abaout it; 'n' then 't the last the men took it up, 'n' they fit; 'n'
Rowell he got his butcher-knife, 'n' he ground it up, 'n' he picked a
querril with Claiborne, 'n' he cut him inter pieces. They hed him up
for 't, 'n' somehow they clared him. I don't see how they ever did,
but they put 't off, 'n' put 't off, 'n' 't last they got him free; 'n' he
lived on thar a spell, but he couldn't stan' it; 'peared like he never
hed no peace; 'n' he came over ter our 'us, 'n' sed he, 'Jake,' -- they
allers called daddy 'Jake,' or 'Uncle Jake,' -- 'Jake,' sed he, 'I can't
stan' it, livin' hyar.' 'Why,' sez daddy, 'the law o' the country's clar'd
ye.' 'Yes,' sez he, 'but the law o' God hain't; 'n' I've got Claiborne
allers with me. Thar ain't any path so narrer, but he's a walkin' in it,
by my side, all day; 'n' come night, I sleep with him ter one side, 'n'
my wife 't other; 'n' I can't stan' it.' Them's ther very words I heered
him say, 'n' I wuzn't ennythin' but a mite, but I didn't furgit it. Wall,
sir, he went West, way aout hyar to Californy, 'n' he couldn't stay
thar nuther, 'n' he came back hum agin; 'n' I wuz bigger then, a gal
grown, 'n' daddy sez to him,-- I heern him,-- 'Wal,' sez he, 'did
Claiborne foller yer?' 'Yes,' sez he, 'he follered me. I'll never git
shet o' him in this world. He's allers clost to me everywhar.' Yer
see, 'twas jest his conscience er whippin' him. Thet's all 't wuz. 'T
least, thet's all I think 't wuz; though thar wuz those thet said 't wuz
Claiborne's ghost. 'N' thet'll be the way 't 'll be with this miser'ble
Farrar. He'll live ter wish he'd let hisself be hanged er shot, er erry
which way, ter git out er his misery."
Young Merrill listened with unwonted gravity to Aunt Ri's earnest
words. They reached a depth in his nature which had been long
untouched; a stratum, so to speak, which lay far beneath the
surface. The character of the Western frontiersman is often a
singular accumulation of such strata, -- the training and beliefs of
his earliest days overlain by successions of unrelated and violent
experiences, like geological deposits. Underneath the exterior
crust of the most hardened and ruffianly nature often remains -- its
forms not yet quite fossilized -- a realm full of the devout customs,
doctrines, religious influences, which the boy knew, and the man
remembers, By sudden upheaval, in some great catastrophe or
struggle in his mature life, these all come again into the light.
Assembly Catechism definitions, which he learned in his
childhood, and has not thought of since, ring in his ears, and he is
thrown into all manner of confusions and inconsistencies of
feeling and speech by this clashing of the old and new man within
him. It was much in this way that Aunt Ri's words smote upon
young Merrill. He was not many years removed from the sound of
a preaching of the straitest New England Calvinism. The wild
frontier life had drawn him in and under, as in a whirlpool; but he
was New Englander yet at heart.
"That's so, Aunt Ri!" he exclaimed. "That's so! I don't s'pose a man
that's committed murder 'll ever have any peace in this world, nor
in the next nuther, without he repents; but ye see this horse-stealin'
business is different. 'Tain't murder to kill a hoss-thief, any way
you can fix it; everybody admits that. A feller that's caught
horse-stealin' had ought to be shot; and he will be, too, I tell you,
in this country!"
A look of impatient despair spread over Aunt Ri's face. "I hain't no
patience left with yer," she said, "er talkin' abaout stealin' hosses ez
ef hosses wuz more'n human bein's! But lettin' thet all go, this
Injun, he wuz crazy. Yer all knowed it. Thet Farrar knowed it.
D'yer think ef he'd ben stealin' the hoss, he'd er left his own hoss in
the corral, same ez, yer might say, leavin' his kyerd to say 't wuz he
done it; 'n' the hoss er tied in plain sight 'n front uv his house fur
ennybody ter see?"
"Left his own horse, so he did!" retorted Merrill. "A poor,
miserable, knock-kneed old pony, that wa'n't worth twenty dollars;
'n' Jim's horse was worth two hundred, 'n' cheap at that."
"Thet ain't nuther here nor thar in what we air sayin'," persisted
Aunt Ri. "I ain't a speakin' on 't ez a swap er hosses. What I say is,
he wa'n't tryin' to cover 't up thet he'd tuk the hoss. We air sum
used ter hoss-thieves in Tennessee; but I never heered o' one yit
thet left his name fur a refference berhind him, ter show which
road he tuk, 'n' fastened ther stolen critter ter his front gate when
he got hum! I allow me 'n' yeow hedn't better say anythin' much
more on ther subjeck, fur I allow we air bound to querril ef we
dew;" and nothing that Merrill said could draw another word out
of Aunt Ri in regard to Alessandro's death. But there was another
subject on which she was tireless, and her speech eloquent. It was
the kindness and goodness of the Cahuilla people. The last vestige
of her prejudice against Indians had melted and gone, in the
presence of their simple-hearted friendliness. "I'll never hear a
word said agin 'em, never, ter my longest day," she said. "The way
the pore things hed jest stripped theirselves, to git things fur
Ramony, beat all ever I see among white folks, 'n' I've ben raound
more'n most. 'N' they wa'n't lookin' fur no pay, nuther; fur they
didn't know, till Feeleepy 'n' me cum, thet she had any folks
ennywhar, 'n' they'd ha' taken care on her till she died, jest the
same. The sick allers ez took care on among them, they sed, 's long
uz enny on em hez got a thing left. Thet's ther way they air raised; I
allow white folks might take a lesson on 'em, in thet; 'n' in heaps
uv other things tew. Oh, I'm done talkin' again Injuns, naow, don't
yeow furgit it! But I know, fur all thet, 't won't make any
difference; 'pears like there cuddn't nobody b'leeve ennythin' 'n this
world 'thout seein' 't theirselves. I wuz thet way tew; I allow I hain't
got no call ter talk; but I jest wish the hull world could see what
I've seen! Thet's all!"
It was a sad day in the village when Ramona and her friends
departed. Heartily as the kindly people rejoiced in her having
found such a protector for herself and her child, and deeply as they
felt Felipe's and Aunt Ri's good-will and gratitude towards them,
they were yet conscious of a loss,-- of a void. The gulf between
them and the rest of the world seemed defined anew, their sense of
isolation deepened, their hopeless poverty emphasized. Ramona,
wife of Alessandro, had been as their sister,-- one of them; as such,
she would have had share in all their life had to offer. But its
utmost was nothing, was but hardship and deprivation; and she
was being borne away from it, like one rescued, not so much from
death, as from a life worse than death.
The tears streamed down Ramona's face as she bade them
farewell. She embraced again and again the young mother who had
for so many days suckled her child, even, it was said, depriving her
own hardier babe that Ramona's should not suffer. "Sister, you
have given me my child," she cried; "I can never thank you; I will
pray for you all my life."
She made no inquiries as to Felipe's plans. Unquestioningly, like a
little child, she resigned herself into his hands. A power greater
than hers was ordering her way; Felipe was its instrument. No
other voice spoke to guide her. The same old simplicity of
acceptance which had characterized her daily life in her girlhood,
and kept her serene and sunny then,-- serene under trials, sunny in
her routine of little duties,-- had kept her serene through all the
afflictions, and calm, if not sunny, under all the burdens of her
later life; and it did not desert her even now,
Aunt Ri gazed at her with a sentiment as near to veneration as her
dry, humorous, practical nature was capable of feeling. "I allow I
donno but I sh'd cum ter believin' in saints tew," she said, "ef I wuz
ter live 'long side er thet gal. 'Pears like she wuz suthin' more 'n
human. 'T beats me plum out, ther way she takes her troubles.
Thar's sum would say she hedn't no feelin'; but I allow she hez
more 'n most folks. I kin see, 'tain't thet. I allow I didn't never
expect ter think 's well uv prayin' to picters, 'n' strings er beads, 'n'
sech; but ef 't 's thet keeps her up ther way she's kept up, I allow
thar's more in it 'n it's hed credit fur. I ain't gwine ter say enny more
agin it' nor agin Injuns. 'Pears like I'm gittin' heaps er new idears
inter my head, these days. I'll turn Injun, mebbe, afore I git
The farewell to Aunt Ri was hardest of all. Ramona clung to her as
to a mother. At times she felt that she would rather stay by her side
than go home with Felipe; then she reproached herself for the
thought, as for a treason and ingratitude. Felipe saw the feeling,
and did not wonder at it. "Dear girl," he thought; "it is the nearest
she has ever come to knowing what a mother's love is like!" And
he lingered in San Bernardino week after week, on the pretence
that Ramona was not yet strong enough to bear the journey home,
when in reality his sole motive for staying was his reluctance to
deprive her of Aunt Ri's wholesome and cheering companionship.
Aunt Ri was busily at work on a rag carpet for the Indian Agent's
wife. She had just begun it, had woven only a few inches, on that
dreadful morning when the news of Alessandro's death reached
her. It was of her favorite pattern, the "hit-er-miss" pattern, as she
called it; no set stripes or regular alternation of colors, but ball
after ball of the indiscriminately mixed tints, woven back and
forth, on a warp of a single color. The constant variety in it, the
unexpectedly harmonious blending of the colors, gave her delight,
and afforded her a subject, too, of not unphilosophical reflection.
"Wall," she said, "it's called ther 'hit-er-miss' pattren; but it's 'hit'
oftener'n 'tis 'miss.' Thar ain't enny accountin' fur ther way ther
breadths'll come, sometimes; 'pears like 't wuz kind er magic, when
they air sewed tergether; 'n' I allow thet's ther way it's gwine ter be
with heaps er things in this life. It's jest a kind er 'hit-er-miss'
pattren we air all on us livin' on; 'tain't much use tryin' ter reckon
how 't 'll come aout; but the breadths doos fit heaps better 'n yer'd
think; come ter sew 'em, 'tain't never no sech colors ez yer thought
't wuz gwine ter be; but it's allers pooty, allers; never see a
'hit-er-miss' pattren 'n my life yit, thet wa'n't pooty. 'N' ther wa'n't
never nobody fetched me rags, 'n' hed 'em all planned aout, 'n' jest
ther way they wanted ther warp, 'n' jest haow ther stripes wuz ter
come, 'n' all, thet they wa'n't orful diserpynted when they cum ter
see 't done. It don't never look's they thought 't would, never! I
larned thet lesson airly; 'n' I allers make 'em write aout on a paper,
jest ther wedth er every stripe, 'n' each er ther colors, so's they kin
see it's what they ordered; 'r else they'd allers say I hedn't wove 't's I
wuz told ter. I got ketched thet way oncet! I allow ennybody's a
bawn fool gits ketched twice runnin' ther same way. But fur me, I'll
take ther 'hit-er-miss' pattren, every time, sir, straight along."
When the carpet was done, Aunt Ri took the roll in her own
independent arms, and strode with it to the Agent's house. She had
been biding the time when she should have this excuse for going
there. Her mind was burdened with questions she wished to ask,
information she wished to give, and she chose an hour when she
knew she would find the Agent himself at home.
"I allow yer heered why I wuz behind time with this yere carpet,"
she said; "I wuz up ter San Jacinto Mounting, where thet Injun wuz
murdered. We brung his widder 'n' ther baby daown with us, me 'n'
her brother. He's tuk her home ter his house ter live. He's reel well
Yes, the Agent had heard this; he had wondered why the widow
did not come to see him; he had expected to hear from her.
"Wall, I did hent ter her thet p'raps yer could dew something, ef
she wuz ter tell yer all abaout it; but she allowed thar wa'n't enny
use in talkin'. Ther jedge, he sed her witnessin' wouldn't be wuth
nuthin' to no jury; 'n' thet wuz what I wuz a wantin' to ask yeow, ef
thet wuz so."
"Yes, that is what the lawyers here told me," said the Agent. "I was
going to have the man arrested, but they said it would be folly to
bring the case to trial. The woman's testimony would not be
"Yeow've got power ter git a man punished fur sellin' whiskey to
Injuns, I notice," broke in Aunt Ri; "hain't yer? I see yeour man 'n'
the marshal here arrestin' 'em pooty lively last month; they sed
'twas yeour doin'; yeow was a gwine ter prossacute every livin' son
o' hell -- them wuz thar words -- thet sold whiskey ter Injuns."
"That's so!" said the Agent. "So I am; I am determined to break up
this vile business of selling whiskey to Indians. It is no use trying
to do anything for them while they are made drunk in this way; it's
a sin and a shame."
"Thet's so, I allow ter yeow," said Aunt Ri. "Thar ain't any
gainsayin' thet. But ef yeow've got power ter git a man put in jail
fur sellin' whiskey 't 'n Injun, 'n' hain't got power to git him
punished ef he goes 'n' kills thet Injun, 't sems ter me thar's suthin'
cur'us abaout thet."
"That is just the trouble in my position here, Aunt Ri," he said. "I
have no real power over my Indians, as I ought to have."
"What makes yer call 'em yeour Injuns?" broke in Aunt Ri.
The Agent colored. Aunt Ri was a privileged character, but her
logical method of questioning was inconvenient.
"I only mean that they are under my charge," he said. "I don't mean
that they belong to me in any way."
"Wall, I allow not," retorted Aunt Ri, "enny more 'n I dew. They air
airnin' their livin', sech 's 'tis, ef yer kin call it a livin'. I've been
'mongst 'em, naow, they hyar last tew weeks, 'n' I allow I've had my
eyes opened ter some things. What's thet docter er yourn, him thet
they call the Agency doctor,-- what's he got ter do?"
"To attend to the Indians of this Agency when they are sick,"
replied the Agent, promptly.
"Wall, thet's what I heern; thet's what yeow sed afore, 'n' thet's why
Alessandro, the Injun thet wuz murdered,-- thet's why he put his
name down 'n yeour books, though 't went agin him orful ter do it.
He wuz high-spereted, 'n' 'd allers took keer er hisself; but he'd ben
druv out er fust one place 'n' then another, tell he'd got clar down,
'n' pore; 'n' he jest begged thet doctor er yourn to go to see his little
gal, 'n' the docter wouldn't; 'n' more'n thet, he laughed at him fur
askin.' 'N' they set the little thing on the hoss ter bring her here, 'n'
she died afore they'd come a mile with her; 'n' 't wuz thet, on top er
all the rest druv Alessandro crazy. He never hed none er them
wandrin' spells till arter thet. Naow I allow thet wa'n't right eh thet
docter. I wouldn't hev no sech docter's thet raound my Agency, ef I
wuz yeow. Pr'aps yer never heered uv thet. I told Ramony I didn't
bleeve yer knowed it, or ye'd hev made him go."
"No, Aunt Ri," said the Agent; "I could not have done that; he is
only required to doctor such Indians as come here."
"I allow, then, thar ain't any gret use en hevin' him at all," said
Aunt Ri; "'pears like thar ain't more'n a harndful uv Injuns raound
here. I expect he gits well paid?" and she paused for an answer.
None came. The Agent did not feel himself obliged to reveal to
Aunt Ri what salary the Government paid the San Bernardino
doctor for sending haphazard prescriptions to Indians he never
After a pause Aunt Ri resumed: "Ef it ain't enny offence ter yeow, I
allow I'd like ter know jest what 'tis yeow air here ter dew fur these
Injuns. I've got my feelin's considdable stirred up, bein' among 'em
'n' knowing this hyar one, thet's ben murdered. Hev ye got enny
power to giv' 'em ennything,-- food or sech? They air powerful
pore, most on 'em."
"I have had a little fund for buying supplies for them in times of
special suffering;" replied the Agent, "a very little; and the
Department has appropriated some money for wagons and
ploughs; not enough, however, to supply every village; you see
these Indians are in the main self-supporting."
"Thet's jest it," persisted Aunt Ri. "Thet's what I've ben seein'; 'n'
thet's why I want so bad ter git at what 'tis the Guvvermunt means
ter hev yeow dew fur 'em. I allow ef yeow ain't ter feed 'em, an' ef
yer can't put folks inter jail fur robbin' 'n' cheatin' 'em, not ter say
killin' 'em,-- ef yer can't dew ennythin' more 'n keep 'em from
gettin' whiskey, wall, I'm free ter say --" Aunt Ri paused; she did
not wish to seem to reflect on the Agent's usefulness, and so
concluded her sentence very differently from her first impulse,--
"I'm free ter say I shouldn't like ter stan' in yer shoes."
"You may very well say that, Aunt Ri," laughed the Agent,
complacently. "It is the most troublesome Agency in the whole list,
and the least satisfactory."
"Wall, I allow it mought be the least satisfyin'," rejoined the
indefatigable Aunt Ri; "but I donno whar the trouble comes in, ef
so be's thar's no more kin be done than yer wuz er tellin'." And she
looked honestly puzzled.
"Look there, Aunt Ri!" said he, triumphantly, pointing to a pile of
books and papers. "All those to be gone through with, and a report
to be made out every month, and a voucher to be sent for every
lead-pencil I buy. I tell you I work harder than I ever did in my life
before, and for less pay."
"I allow yer hev hed easy times afore, then," retorted Aunt Ri,
good-naturedly satirical, "ef yeow air plum tired doin' thet!" And
she took her leave, not a whit clearer in her mind as to the real
nature and function of the Indian Agency than she was in the
Through all of Ramona's journey home she seemed to herself to be
in a dream. Her baby in her arms; the faithful creatures, Baba and
Benito, gayly trotting along at a pace so swift that the carriage
seemed gliding; Felipe by her side, -- the dear Felipe,-- his eyes
wearing the same bright and loving look as of old,-- what strange
thing was it which had happened to her to make it all seem unreal?
Even the little one in her arms,-- she too, seemed unreal! Ramona
did not know it, but her nerves were still partially paralyzed.
Nature sends merciful anaesthetics in the shocks which almost kill
us. In the very sharpness of the blow sometimes lies its own first
healing. It would be long before Ramona would fully realize that
Alessandro was dead. Her worst anguish was yet to come.
Felipe did not know and could not have understood this; and it was
with a marvelling gratitude that he saw Ramona, day after day,
placid, always ready with a smile when he spoke to her. Her
gratitude for each thoughtfulness of his smote him like a reproach;
all the more that he knew her gentle heart had never held a thought
of reproach in it towards him. "Grateful to me!" he thought. "To
me, who might have spared her all this woe if I had been strong!"
Never would Felipe forgive himself,-- no, not to the day of his
death. His whole life should be devoted to her and her child; but
what a pitiful thing was that to render!
As they drew near home, he saw Ramona often try to conceal from
him that she had shed tears. At last he said to her: "Dearest
Ramona, do not fear to weep before me. I would not be any
constraint on you. It is better for you to let the tears come freely,
my sister. They are healing to wounds."
"I do not think so, Felipe," replied Ramona. "Tears are only selfish
and weak. They are like a cry because we are hurt. It is not
possible always to keep them back; but I am ashamed when I have
wept, and think also that I have sinned, because I have given a sad
sight to others. Father Salvierderra always said that it was a duty to
look happy, no matter how much we might be suffering."
"That is more than human power can do!" said Felipe.
"I think not," replied Ramona. "If it were, Father Salvierderra
would not have commanded it. And do you not recollect, Felipe,
what a smile his face always wore? and his heart had been broken
for many, many years before he died. Alone, in the night, when he
prayed, he used to weep, from the great wrestling he had with God,
he told me; but we never saw him except with a smile. When one
thinks in the wilderness, alone, Felipe, many things become clear. I
have been learning, all these years in the wilderness, as if I had had
a teacher. Sometimes I almost thought that the spirit of Father
Salvierderra was by my side putting thoughts into my mind. I hope
I can tell them to my child when she is old enough. She will
understand them quicker than I did, for she has Alessandro's soul;
you can see that by her eyes. And all these things of which I speak
were in his heart from his childhood. They belong to the air and
the sky and the sun, and all trees know them."
When Ramona spoke thus of Alessandro, Felipe marvelled in
silence. He himself had been afraid to mention Alessandro's name;
but Ramona spoke it as if he were yet by her side. Felipe could not
fathom this. There were to be many things yet which Felipe could
not fathom in this lovely, sorrowing, sunny sister of his.
When they reached the house, the servants, who had been on the
watch for days, were all gathered in the court-yard, old Marda and
Juan Can heading the group; only two absent,-- Margarita and
Luigo. They had been married some months before, and were
living at the Ortegas ranch, where Luigo, to Juan Can's scornful
amusement, had been made head shepherd.
On all sides were beaming faces, smiles, and glad cries of greeting.
Underneath these were affectionate hearts quaking with fear lest
the home-coming be but a sad one after all. Vaguely they knew a
little of what their dear Senorita had been through since she left
them; it seemed that she must be sadly altered by so much sorrow,
and that it would be terrible to her to come back to the place so
full of painful associations. "And the Senora gone, too," said one
of the outdoor hands, as they were talking it over; "it's not the
same place at all that it was when the Senora was here."
"Humph!" muttered Juan Can, more consequential and overbearing
than ever, for this year of absolute control of the estate. "Humph!
that's all you know. A good thing the Senora died when she did, I
can tell you! We'd never have seen the Senorita back here else; I
can tell you that, my man! And for my part, I'd much rather be
under Senor Felipe and the Senorita than under the Senora, peace
to her ashes! She had her day. They can have theirs now."
When these loving and excited retainers saw Ramona -- pale, but
with her own old smile on her face -- coming towards them with
her babe in her arms, they broke into wild cheering, and there was
not a dry eye in the group.
Singling out old Marda by a glance, Ramona held out the baby
towards her, and said in her old gentle, affectionate voice, "I am
sure you will love my baby, Marda!"
"Senorita! Senorita! God bless you, Senorita!" they cried; and
closed up their ranks around the baby, touching her, praising her,
handing her from one to another.
Ramona stood for a few seconds watching them; then she said,
"Give her to me, Marda. I will myself carry her into the house;"
and she moved toward the inner door.
"This way, dear; this way," cried Felipe. "It is Father Salvierderra's
room I ordered to be prepared for you, because it is so sunny for
"Thanks, kind Felipe!" cried Ramona, and her eyes said more than
her words. She knew he had divined the one thing she had most
dreaded in returning,-- the crossing again the threshold of her own
room. It would be long now before she would enter that room.
Perhaps she would never enter it. How tender and wise of Felipe!
Yes; Felipe was both tender and wise, now. How long would the
wisdom hold the tenderness in leash, as he day after day looked
upon the face of this beautiful woman,-- so much more beautiful
now than she had been before her marriage, that Felipe sometimes,
as he gazed at her, thought her changed even in feature? But in this
very change lay a spell which would for a long time surround her,
and set her as apart from lover's thoughts as if she were guarded by
a cordon of viewless spirits. There was a rapt look of holy
communion on her face, which made itself felt by the dullest
perception, and sometimes overawed even where it attracted. It
was the same thing which Aunt Ri had felt, and formulated in her
own humorous fashion. But old Marda put it better, when, one day,
in reply to a half-terrified, low-whispered suggestion of Juan Can,
to the effect that it was "a great pity that Senor Felipe hadn't
married the Senorita years ago,-- what if he were to do it yet?" she
said, also under her breath. "It is my opinion he'd as soon think of
Saint Catharine herself! Not but that it would be a great thing if it
And now the thing that the Senora had imagined to herself so often
had come about,-- the presence of a little child in her house, on the
veranda, in the garden, everywhere; the sunny, joyous, blest
presence. But how differently had it come! Not Felipe's child, as
she proudly had pictured, but the child of Ramona: the friendless,
banished Ramona returned now into full honor and peace as the
daughter of the house,-- Ramona, widow of Alessandro. If the
child had been Felipe's own, he could not have felt for it a greater
love. From the first, the little thing had clung to him as only
second to her mother. She slept hours in his arms, one little hand
hid in his dark beard, close to his lips, and kissed again and again
when no one saw. Next to Ramona herself in Felipe's heart came
Ramona's child; and on the child he could lavish the fondness he
felt that he could never dare to show to the mother, Month by
month it grew clearer to Felipe that the mainsprings of Ramona's
life were no longer of this earth; that she walked as one in constant
fellowship with one unseen. Her frequent and calm mention of
Alessandro did not deceive him. It did not mean a lessening grief:
it meant an unchanged relation.
One thing weighed heavily on Felipe's mind,-- the concealed
treasure. A sense of humiliation withheld him, day after day, from
speaking of it. But he could have no peace until Ramona knew it.
Each hour that he delayed the revelation he felt himself almost as
guilty as he had held his mother to be. At last he spoke. He had not
said many words, before Ramona interrupted him. "Oh, yes!" she
said. "I knew about those things; your mother told me. When we
were in such trouble, I used to wish sometimes we could have had
a few of the jewels. But they were all given to the Church. That
was what the Senora Ortegna said must be done with them if I
married against your mother's wishes."
It was with a shame-stricken voice that Felipe replied: "Dear
Ramona, they were not given to the Church. You know Father
Salvierderra died; and I suppose my mother did not know what to
do with them. She told me about them just as she was dying."
"But why did you not give them to the Church, dear?" asked
"Why?" cried Felipe. "Because I hold them to be yours, and yours
only. I would never have given them to the Church, until I had sure
proof that you were dead and had left no children."
Ramona's eyes were fixed earnestly on Felipe's face. "You have not
read the Senora Ortegna's letter?" she said.
"Yes, I have," he replied, "every word of it."
"But that said I was not to have any of the things if I married
against the Senora Moreno's will."
Felipe groaned. Had his mother lied? "No, dear," he said, "that was
not the word. It was, if you married unworthily."
Ramona reflected. "I never recollected the words," she said. "I was
too frightened; but I thought that was what it meant. I did not
marry unworthily. Do you feel sure, Felipe, that it would be honest
for me to take them for my child?"
"Perfectly," said Felipe.
"Do you think Father Salvierderra would say I ought to keep
"I am sure of it, dear."
"I will think about it, Felipe. I cannot decide hastily. Your mother
did not think I had any right to them, if I married Alessandro. That
was why she showed them to me. I never knew of them till then. I
took one thing,-- a handkerchief of my father's. I was very glad to
have it; but it got lost when we went from San Pasquale.
Alessandro rode back a half-day's journey to find it for me; but it
had blown away. I grieved sorely for it."
The next day Ramona said to Felipe: "Dear Felipe, I have thought
it all over about those jewels. I believe it will be right for my
daughter to have them. Can there be some kind of a paper written
for me to sign, to say that if she dies they are all to be given to the
Church,-- to Father Salvierderra's College, in Santa Barbara? That
is where I would rather have them go."
"Yes, dear," said Felipe; "and then we will put them in some safer
place. I will take them to Los Angeles when I go. It is wonderful
no one has stolen them all these years!"
And so a second time the Ortegna jewels were passed on, by a
written bequest, into the keeping of that mysterious, certain,
uncertain thing we call the future, and delude our selves with the
fancy that we can have much to do with its shaping.
Life ran smoothly in the Moreno household,-- smoothly to the eye.
Nothing could be more peaceful, fairer to see, than the routine of
its days, with the simple pleasures, light tasks, and easy diligence
of all. Summer and winter were alike sunny, and had each its own
joys. There was not an antagonistic or jarring element; and, flitting
back and forth, from veranda to veranda, garden to garden, room
to room, equally at home and equally welcome everywhere, there
went perpetually, running, frisking, laughing, rejoicing, the little
child that had so strangely drifted into this happy shelter,-- the
little Ramona. As unconscious of aught sad or fateful in her
destiny as the blossoms with which it was her delight to play, she
sometimes seemed to her mother to have been from the first in
some mysterious way disconnected from it, removed, set free from
all that could ever by any possibility link her to sorrow.
Ramona herself bore no impress of sorrow; rather her face had
now an added radiance. There had been a period, soon after her
return, when she felt that she for the first time waked to the
realization of her bereavement; when every sight, sound, and place
seemed to cry out, mocking her with the name and the memory of
Alessandro. But she wrestled with this absorbing grief as with a
sin; setting her will steadfastly to the purposes of each day's duty,
and, most of all, to the duty of joyfulness. She repeated to herself
Father Salvierderra's sayings, till she more than knew them by
heart; and she spent long hours of the night in prayer, as it had
been his wont to do.
No one but Felipe dreamed of these vigils and wrestlings. He knew
them; and he knew, too, when they ceased, and the new light of a
new victory diffused itself over Ramona's face: but neither did the
first dishearten, nor the latter encourage him. Felipe was a
clearer-sighted lover now than he had been in his earlier youth. He
knew that into the world where Ramona really lived he did not so
much as enter; yet her every act, word, look, was full of loving
thoughtfulness of and for him, loving happiness in his
companionship. And while this was so, all Felipe's unrest could not
make him unhappy.
There were other causes entering into this unrest besides his
yearning desire to win Ramona for his wife. Year by year the
conditions of life in California were growing more distasteful to
him. The methods, aims, standards of the fast incoming Americans
were to him odious. Their boasted successes, the crowding of
colonies, schemes of settlement and development,-- all were
disagreeable and irritating. The passion for money and reckless
spending of it, the great fortunes made in one hour, thrown away in
another, savored to Felipe's mind more of brigandage and
gambling than of the occupations of gentlemen. He loathed them.
Life under the new government grew more and more intolerable to
him; both his hereditary instincts and prejudices, and his
temperament, revolted. He found himself more and more alone in
the country. Even the Spanish tongue was less and less spoken. He
was beginning to yearn for Mexico,-- for Mexico, which he had
never seen, yet yearned for like an exile. There he might yet live
among men of his own race and degree, and of congenial beliefs
and occupations. Whenever he thought of this change, always
came the quick memory of Ramona. Would she be willing to go?
Could it be that she felt a bond to this land, in which she had
known nothing but sufferings
At last he asked her. To his unutterable surprise, Ramona cried:
"Felipe! The saints be praised! I should never have told you. I did
not think that you could wish to leave this estate. But my most