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feeding the mothers. The vines had all grown and spread out to their
thickest; no need any longer of the gay blanket Alessandro had pinned up
that first morning to keep the sun off Felipe's head.

What was the odds between a to-day and a to-morrow in such a spot
as this? "To-morrow," said Felipe, "I will speak to my mother," and
"to-morrow," and "to-morrow;" but he did not.

There was one close observer of these pleasant veranda days that Felipe
knew nothing about. That was Margarita. As the girl came and went about
her household tasks, she was always on the watch for Alessandro, on the
watch for Ramona. She was biding her time. Just what shape her revenge
was going to take, she did not know. It was no use plotting. It must be
as it fell out; but that the hour and the way for her revenge would come
she never doubted.

When she saw the group on the veranda, as she often did, all listening
to Alessandro's violin, or to his singing, Alessandro himself now at his
ease and free in the circle, as if he had been there always, her anger
was almost beyond bounds.

"Oh, ho! like a member of the family; quite so!" she sneered. "It is new
times when a head shepherd spends his time with the ladies of the house,
and sits in their presence like a guest who is invited! We shall see; we
shall see what comes of all this!" And she knew not which she hated the
more of the two, Alessandro or Ramona.

Since the day of the scene at the artichoke-field she had never spoken
to Alessandro, and had avoided, so far as was possible, seeing him. At
first Alessandro was sorry for this, and tried to be friendly with her.
As soon as he felt assured that the incident had not hurt him at all in
the esteem of Ramona, he began to be sorry for Margarita. "A man should
not be rude to any maiden," he thought; and he hated to remember how he
had pushed Margarita from him, and snatched his hand away, when he
had in the outset made no objection to her taking it. But Margarita's
resentment was not to be appeased. She understood only too clearly how
little Alessandro's gentle advances meant, and she would none of them.
"Let him go to his Senorita," she said bitterly, mocking the reverential
tone in which she had overheard him pronounce the word. "She is fond
enough of him, if only the fool had eyes to see it. She'll be ready to
throw herself at his head before long, if this kind of thing keeps up.
'It is not well to speak thus freely of young men, Margarita!' Ha,
ha! Little I thought that day which way the wind set in my mistress's
temper! I'll wager she reproves me no more, under this roof or any
other! Curse her! What did she want of Alessandro, except to turn his
head, and then bid him go his way!"

To do Margarita justice, she never once dreamed of the possibility of
Ramona's wedding Alessandro. A clandestine affair, an intrigue of more
or less intensity, such as she herself might have carried on with any
one of the shepherds, - this was the utmost stretch of Margarita's angry
imaginations in regard to her young mistress's liking for Alessandro.
There was not, in her way of looking at things, any impossibility of
such a thing as that. But marriage! It might be questioned whether that
idea would have been any more startling to the Senora herself than to

Little had passed between Alessandro and Ramona which Margarita did not
know. The girl was always like a sprite, - here, there, everywhere, in
an hour, and with eyes which, as her mother often told her, saw on all
sides of her head. Now, fired by her new purpose, new passion, she moved
swifter than ever, and saw and heard even more, There were few hours of
any day when she did not know to a certainty where both Alessandro and
Ramona were; and there had been few meetings between them which she had
not either seen or surmised.

In the simple life of such a household as the Senora's, it was not
strange that this was possible; nevertheless, it argued and involved
untiring vigilance on Margarita's part. Even Felipe, who thought
himself, from his vantage-post of observation on the veranda, and from
his familiar relation with Ramona, well informed of most that happened,
would have been astonished to hear all that Margarita could have
told him. In the first days Ramona herself had guilelessly told him
much, - had told him how Alessandro, seeing her trying to sprinkle and
bathe and keep alive the green ferns with which she had decorated the
chapel for Father Salvierderra's coming, had said: "Oh, Senorita, they
are dead! Do not take trouble with them! I will bring you fresh ones;"
and the next morning she had found, lying at the chapel door, a pile of
such ferns as she had never before seen; tall ones, like ostrich-plumes,
six and eight feet high; the feathery maidenhair, and the gold fern, and
the silver, twice as large as she ever had found them. The chapel was
beautiful, like a conservatory, after she had arranged them in vases and
around the high candlesticks.

It was Alessandro, too, who had picked up in the artichoke-patch all
of the last year's seed-vessels which had not been trampled down by the
cattle, and bringing one to her, had asked shyly if she did not think
it prettier than flowers made out of paper. His people, he said, made
wreaths of them. And so they were, more beautiful than any paper flowers
which ever were made, - great soft round disks of fine straight threads
like silk, with a kind of saint's halo around them of sharp, stiff
points, glossy as satin, and of a lovely creamy color. It was the
strangest thing in the world nobody had ever noticed them as they lay
there on the ground. She had put a great wreath of them around Saint
Joseph's head, and a bunch in the Madonna's hand; and when the Senora
saw them, she exclaimed in admiration, and thought they must have been
made of silk and satin.

And Alessandro had brought her beautiful baskets, made by the Indian
women at Pala, and one which had come from the North, from the Tulare
country; it had gay feathers woven in with the reeds, - red and yellow,
in alternate rows, round and round. It was like a basket made out of a
bright-colored bird.

And a beautiful stone bowl Alessandro had brought her, glossy black,
that came all the way from Catalina Island; a friend of Alessandro's got
it. For the first few weeks it had seemed as if hardly a day passed
that there was not some new token to be chronicled of Alessandro's
thoughtfulness and good-will. Often, too, Ramona had much to tell that
Alessandro had said, - tales of the old Mission days that he had heard
from his father; stories of saints, and of the early Fathers, who were
more like saints than like men, Alessandro said, - Father Junipero, who
founded the first Missions, and Father Crespi, his friend. Alessandro's
grandfather had journeyed with Father Crespi as his servant, and many a
miracle he had with his own eyes seen Father Crespi perform. There was a
cup out of which the Father always took his chocolate for breakfast, - a
beautiful cup, which was carried in a box, the only luxury the Father
had; and one morning it was broken, and everybody was in terror and
despair. "Never mind, never mind," said the Father; "I will make it
whole;" and taking the two pieces in his hands, he held them tight
together, and prayed over them, and they became one solid piece again,
and it was used all through the journey, just as before.

But now, Ramona never spoke voluntarily of Alessandro. To Felipe's
sometimes artfully put questions or allusions to him, she made brief
replies, and never continued the topic; and Felipe had observed another
thing: she now rarely looked at Alessandro. When he was speaking to
others she kept her eyes on the ground. If he addressed her, she
looked quickly up at him, but lowered her eyes after the first glance.
Alessandro also observed this, and was glad of it. He understood it. He
knew how differently she could look in his face in the rare moments when
they were alone together. He fondly thought he alone knew this; but he
was mistaken. Margarita knew. She had more than once seen it.

It had happened more than once that he had found Ramona at the willows
by the brook, and had talked with her there. The first time it happened,
it was a chance; after that never a chance again, for Alessandro went
often seeking the spot, hoping to find her. In Ramona's mind too, not
avowed, but half consciously, there was, if not the hope of seeing him
there, at least the memory that it was there they had met. It was a
pleasant spot, - cool and shady even at noon, and the running water
always full of music. Ramona often knelt there of a morning, washing out
a bit of lace or a handkerchief; and when Alessandro saw her, it went
hard with him to stay away. At such moments the vision returned to him
vividly of that first night when, for the first second, seeing her face
in the sunset glow, he had thought her scarce mortal. It was not that
he even now thought her less a saint; but ah, how well he knew her to
be human! He had gone alone in the dark to this spot many a time, and,
lying on the grass, put his hands into the running water, and played
with it dreamily, thinking, in his poetic Indian fashion, thoughts like
these: "Whither have gone the drops that passed beneath her hands, just
here? These drops will never find those in the sea; but I love this

Margarita had seen him thus lying, and without dreaming of the refined
sentiment which prompted his action, had yet groped blindly towards it,
thinking to herself: "He hopes his Senorita will come down to him there.
A nice place it is for a lady to meet her lover, at the washing-stones!
It will take swifter water than any in that brook, Senorita Ramona, to
wash you white in the Senora's eyes, if ever she come upon you there
with the head shepherd, making free with him, may be! Oh, but if that
could only happen, I'd die content!" And the more Margarita watched,
the more she thought it not unlikely that it might turn out so. It was
oftener at the willows than anywhere else that Ramona and Alessandro
met; and, as Margarita noticed with malicious satisfaction, they talked
each time longer, each time parted more lingeringly. Several times it
had happened to be near supper-time; and Margarita, with one eye on
the garden-walk, had hovered restlessly near the Senora, hoping to be
ordered to call the Senorita to supper.

"If but I could come on them of a sudden, and say to her as she did to
me, 'You are wanted in the house'! Oh, but it would do my soul good! I'd
say it so it would sting like a lash laid on both their faces! It will
come! It will come! It will be there that she'll be caught one of these
fine times she's having! I'll wait! It will come!"


IT came. And when it came, it fell out worse for Ramona than Margarita's
most malicious hopes had pictured; but Margarita had no hand in it. It
was the Senora herself.

Since Felipe had so far gained as to be able to be dressed, sit in his
chair on the veranda, and walk about the house and garden a little,
the Senora, at ease in her mind about him, had resumed her old habit of
long, lonely walks on the place. It had been well said by her servants,
that there was not a blade of grass on the estate that the Senora had
not seen. She knew every inch of her land. She had a special purpose
in walking over it now. She was carefully examining to see whether she
could afford to sell to the Ortegas a piece of pasture-land which they
greatly desired to buy, as it joined a pasturage tract of theirs. This
bit of land lay farther from the house than the Senora realized, and it
had taken more time than she thought it would, to go over it; and it was
already sunset on this eventful day, when, hurrying home, she turned
off from the highway into the same shortcut path in which Father
Salvierderra had met Ramona in the spring. There was no difficulty now
in getting through the mustard tangle. It was parched and dry, and had
been trampled by cattle. The Senora walked rapidly, but it was
dusky twilight when she reached the willows; so dusky that she saw
nothing - and she stepped so lightly on the smooth brown path that she
made no sound - until suddenly, face to face with a man and a woman
standing locked in each other's arms, she halted, stepped back a pace,
gave a cry of surprise, and, in the same second, recognized the faces of
the two, who, stricken dumb, stood apart, each gazing into her face with

Strangely enough, it was Ramona who spoke first. Terror for herself had
stricken her dumb; terror for Alessandro gave her a voice.

"Senora," she began.

"Silence! Shameful creature!" cried the Senora. "Do not dare to speak!
Go to your room!"

Ramona did not move.

"As for you," the Senora continued, turning to Alessandro, "you," - she
was about to say, "You are discharged from my service from this hour,"
but recollecting herself in time, said, - "you will answer to Senor
Felipe. Out of my sight!" And the Senora Moreno actually, for once in
her life beside herself with rage, stamped her foot on the ground. "Out
of my sight!" she repeated.

Alessandro did not stir, except to turn towards Ramona with an inquiring
look. He would run no risk of doing what she did not wish. He had no
idea what she would think it best to do in this terrible dilemma.

"Go, Alessandro," said Ramona, calmly, still looking the Senora full in
the eye. Alessandro obeyed; before the words had left her lips, he had
walked away.

Ramona's composure, and Alessandro's waiting for further orders than her
own before stirring from the spot, were too much for Senora Moreno. A
wrath, such as she had not felt since she was young, took possession of
her. As Ramona opened her lips again, saying, "Senora," the Senora did a
shameful deed; she struck the girl on the mouth, a cruel blow.

"Speak not to me!" she cried again; and seizing her by the arm, she
pushed rather than dragged her up the garden-walk.

"Senora, you hurt my arm," said Ramona, still in the same calm voice.
"You need not hold me. I will go with you. I am not afraid."

Was this Ramona? The Senora, already ashamed, let go the arm, and
stared in the girl's face. Even in the twilight she could see upon it
an expression of transcendent peace, and a resolve of which no one would
have thought it capable. "What does this mean?" thought the Senora,
still weak, and trembling all over, from rage. "The hussy, the
hypocrite!" and she seized the arm again.

This time Ramona did not remonstrate, but submitted to being led like
a prisoner, pushed into her own room, the door slammed violently and
locked on the outside.

All of which Margarita saw. She had known for an hour that Ramona
and Alessandro were at the willows, and she had been consumed with
impatience at the Senora's prolonged absence. More than once she had
gone to Felipe, and asked with assumed interest if he were not hungry,
and if he and the Senorita would not have their supper.

"No, no, not till the Senora returns," Felipe had answered. He, too,
happened this time to know where Ramona and Alessandro were. He knew
also where the Senora had gone, and that she would be late home; but he
did not know that there would be any chance of her returning by way of
the willows at the brook; if he had known it, he would have contrived to
summon Ramona.

When Margarita saw Ramona shoved into her room by the pale and trembling
Senora, saw the key turned, taken out, and dropped into the Senora's
pocket, she threw her apron over her head, and ran into the back porch.
Almost a remorse seized her. She remembered in a flash how often Ramona
had helped her in times gone by, - sheltered her from the Senora's
displeasure. She recollected the torn altar-cloth. "Holy Virgin! what
will be done to her now?" she exclaimed, under her breath. Margarita
had never conceived of such an extremity as this. Disgrace, and a sharp
reprimand, and a sundering of all relations with Alessandro, - this was
all Margarita had meant to draw down on Ramona's head. But the Senora
looked as if she might kill her.

"She always did hate her, in her heart," reflected Margarita; "she
shan't starve her to death, anyhow. I'll never stand by and see that.
But it must have been something shameful the Senora saw, to have brought
her to such a pass as this;" and Margarita's jealousy again got the
better of her sympathy. "Good enough for her. No more than she deserved.
An honest fellow like Alessandro, that would make a good husband for any
girl!" Margarita's short-lived remorse was over. She was an enemy again.

It was an odd thing, how identical were Margarita's and the Senora's
view and interpretation of the situation. The Senora looking at it from
above, and Margarita looking at it from below, each was sure, and they
were both equally sure, that it could be nothing more nor less than a
disgraceful intrigue. Mistress and maid were alike incapable either of
conjecturing or of believing the truth.

As ill luck would have it, - or was it good luck? - Felipe also had
witnessed the scene in the garden-walk. Hearing voices, he had looked
out of his window, and, almost doubting the evidence of his senses, had
seen his mother violently dragging Ramona by the arm, - Ramona pale, but
strangely placid; his mother with rage and fury in her white face. The
sight told its own tale to Felipe. Smiting his forehead with his hand,
he groaned out: "Fool that I was, to let her be surprised; she has come
on them unawares; now she will never, never forgive it!" And Felipe
threw himself on his bed, to think what should be done. Presently he
heard his mother's voice, still agitated, calling his name. He remained
silent, sure she would soon seek him in his room. When she entered, and,
seeing him on the bed, came swiftly towards him, saying, "Felipe, dear,
are you ill?" he replied in a feeble voice, "No, mother, only tired a
little to-night;" and as she bent over him, anxious, alarmed, he threw
his arms around her neck and kissed her warmly. "Mother mia!" he said
passionately, "what should I do without you?" The caress, the loving
words, acted like oil on the troubled waters. They restored the Senora
as nothing else could. What mattered anything, so long as she had her
adoring and adorable son! And she would not speak to him, now that he
was so tired, of this disgraceful and vexing matter of Alessandro. It
could wait till morning. She would send him his supper in his room, and
he would not miss Ramona, perhaps.

"I will send your supper here, Felipe," she said; "you must not
overdo; you have been walking too much. Lie still." And kissing him
affectionately, she went to the dining-room, where Margarita, vainly
trying to look as if nothing had happened, was standing, ready to serve
supper. When the Senora entered, with her countenance composed, and in
her ordinary tones said, "Margarita, you can take Senor Felipe's supper
into his room; he is lying down, and will not get up; he is tired,"
Margarita was ready to doubt if she had not been in a nightmare dream.
Had she, or had she not, within the last half-hour, seen the Senora,
shaking and speechless with rage, push the Senorita Ramona into her
room, and lock her up there? She was so bewildered that she stood still
and gazed at the Senora, with her mouth wide open.

"What are you staring at, girl?" asked the Senora, so sharply that
Margarita jumped.

"Oh, nothing, nothing, Senora! And the Senorita, will she come to
supper? Shall I call her?" she said.

The Senora eyed her. Had she seen? Could she have seen? The Senora
Moreno was herself again. So long as Ramona was under her roof, no
matter what she herself might do or say to the girl, no servant should
treat her with disrespect, or know that aught was wrong.

"The Senorita is not well," she said coldly. "She is in her room. I
myself will take her some supper later, if she wishes it. Do not disturb
her." And the Senora returned to Felipe.

Margarita chuckled inwardly, and proceeded to clear the table she had
spread with such malicious punctuality two short hours before. In those
two short hours how much had happened!

"Small appetite for supper will our Senorita have, I reckon," said the
bitter Margarita, "and the Senor Alessandro also! I'm curious to see how
he will carry himself."

But her curiosity was not gratified. Alessandro came not to the kitchen.
The last of the herdsmen had eaten and gone; it was past nine o'clock,
and no Alessandro. Slyly Margarita ran out and searched in some of the
places where she knew he was in the habit of going; but Alessandro
was not to be found. Once she brushed so near his hiding-place that he
thought he was discovered, and was on the point of speaking, but
luckily held his peace, and she passed on. Alessandro was hid behind the
geranium clump at the chapel door; sitting on the ground, with his knees
drawn up to his chin, watching Ramona's window. He intended to stay
there all night. He felt that he might be needed: if Ramona wanted him,
she would either open her window and call, or would come out and go down
through the garden-walk to the willows. In either case, he would see her
from the hiding-place he had chosen. He was racked by his emotions; mad
with joy one minute, sick at heart with misgiving the next. Ramona loved
him. She had told him so. She had said she would go away with him and
be his wife. The words had but just passed her lips, at that dreadful
moment when the Senora appeared in their presence. As he lived the scene
over again, he re-experienced the joy and the terror equally.

What was not that terrible Senora capable of doing? Why did she look
at him and at Ramona with such loathing scorn? Since she knew that the
Senorita was half Indian, why should she think it so dreadful a thing
for her to marry an Indian man? It did not once enter into Alessandro's
mind, that the Senora could have had any other thought, seeing them as
she did, in each other's arms. And again what had he to give to Ramona?
Could she live in a house such as he must live in, - live as the Temecula
women lived? No! for her sake he must leave his people; must go to some
town, must do - he knew not what - something to earn more money. Anguish
seized him as he pictured to himself Ramona suffering deprivations. The
more he thought of the future in this light, the more his joy faded and
his fear grew. He had never had sufficient hope that she could be his,
to look forward thus to the practical details of life; he had only gone
on loving, and in a vague way dreaming and hoping; and now, - now, in
a moment, all had been changed; in a moment he had spoken, and she had
spoken, and such words once spoken, there was no going back; and he had
put his arms around her, and felt her head on his shoulder, and kissed
her! Yes, he, Alessandro, had kissed the Senorita Ramona, and she had
been glad of it, and had kissed him on the lips, as no maiden kisses a
man unless she will wed with him, - him, Alessandro! Oh, no wonder the
man's brain whirled, as he sat there in the silent darkness, wondering,
afraid, helpless; his love wrenched from him, in the very instant of
their first kiss, - wrenched from him, and he himself ordered, by one who
had the right to order him, to begone! What could an Indian do against a

Would Felipe help him? Ay, there was Felipe! That Felipe was his
friend, Alessandro knew with a knowledge as sure as the wild partridge's
instinct for the shelter of her brood; but could Felipe move the Senora?
Oh, that terrible Senora! What would become of them?

As in the instant of drowning, men are said to review in a second the
whole course of their lives, so in this supreme moment of Alessandro's
love there flashed through his mind vivid pictures of every word and act
of Ramona's since he first knew her. He recollected the tone in which
she had said, and the surprise with which he heard her say it, at the
time of Felipe's fall, "You are Alessandro, are you not?" He heard again
her soft-whispered prayers the first night Felipe slept on the veranda.
He recalled her tender distress because the shearers had had no dinner;
the evident terribleness to her of a person going one whole day without
food. "O God! will she always have food each day if she comes with me?"
he said. And at the bare thought he was ready to flee away from her
forever. Then he recalled her look and her words only a few hours ago,
when he first told her he loved her; and his heart took courage. She
had said, "I know you love me, Alessandro, and I am glad of it," and had
lifted her eyes to his, with all the love that a woman's eyes can carry;
and when he threw his arms around her, she had of her own accord come

Online LibraryHelen Hunt JacksonRamona → online text (page 11 of 35)