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closer, and laid one hand on his shoulder, and turned her face to his.
Ah, what else mattered! There was the whole world; if she loved him like
this, nothing could make them wretched; his love would be enough for
her, - and for him hers was an empire.

It was indeed true, though neither the Senora nor Margarita would have
believed it, that this had been the first word of love ever spoken
between Alessandro and Ramona, the first caress ever given, the first
moment of unreserve. It had come about, as lovers' first words, first
caresses, are so apt to do, unexpectedly, with no more premonition, at
the instant, than there is of the instant of the opening of a flower.
Alessandro had been speaking to Ramona of the conversation Felipe had
held with him in regard to remaining on the place, and asked her if she
knew of the plan.

"Yes," she said; "I heard the Senora talking about it with Felipe, some
days ago."

"Was she against my staying?" asked Alessandro, quickly.

"I think not," said Ramona, "but I am not sure. It is not easy to be
sure what the Senora wishes, till afterward. It was Felipe that proposed

This somewhat enigmatical statement as to the difficulty of knowing the
Senora's wishes was like Greek to Alessandro's mind.

"I do not understand, Senorita," he said. "What do you mean by

"I mean," replied Ramona, "that the Senora never says she wishes
anything; she says she leaves everything to Felipe to decide, or to
Father Salvierderra. But I think it is always decided as she wishes to
have it, after all. The Senora is wonderful, Alessandro; don't you think

"She loves Senor Felipe very much," was Alessandro's evasive reply.

"Oh, yes," exclaimed Ramona. "You do not begin to know how much. She
does not love any other human being. He takes it all. She hasn't any
left. If he had died, she would have died too. That is the reason she
likes you so much; she thinks you saved Felipe's life. I mean, that
is one reason," added Ramona, smiling, and looking up confidingly at
Alessandro, who smiled back, not in vanity, but honest gratitude that
the Senorita was pleased to intimate that he was not unworthy of the
Senora's regard.

"I do not think she likes me," he said. "I cannot tell why; but I do
not think she likes any one in the world. She is not like any one I ever
saw, Senorita."

"No," replied Ramona, thoughtfully. "She is not. I am, oh, so afraid of
her, Alessandro! I have always been, ever since I was a little girl. I
used to think she hated me; but now I think she does not care one way or
the other, if I keep out of her way."

While Ramona spoke these words, her eyes were fixed on the running
water at her feet. If she had looked up, and seen the expression in
Alessandro's eyes as he listened, the thing which was drawing near would
have drawn near faster, would have arrived at that moment; but she did
not look up. She went on, little dreaming how hard she was making it for

"Many's the time I've come down here, at night, to this brook, and
looked at it, and wished it was a big river, so I could throw myself
in, and be carried away out to the sea, dead. But it is a fearful sin,
Father Salvierderra says, to take one's own life; and always the next
morning, when the sun came out, and the birds sang, I've been glad
enough I had not done it. Were you ever so unhappy as that, Alessandro?"

"No, Senorita, never," replied Alessandro; "and it is thought a great
disgrace, among us, to kill one's self. I think I could never do it.
But, oh, Senorita, it is a grief to think of your being unhappy. Will
you always be so? Must you always stay here?"

"Oh, but I am not always unhappy!" said Ramona, with her sunny little
laugh. "Indeed, I am generally very happy. Father Salvierderra says that
if one does no sin, one will be always happy, and that it is a sin not
to rejoice every hour of the day in the sun and the sky and the work
there is to do; and there is always plenty of that." Then, her face
clouding, she continued: "I suppose I shall always stay here. I have no
other home; you know I was the Senora's sister's adopted child. She died
when I was little, and the Senora kindly took me. Father Salvierderra
says I must never forget to be grateful to her for all she has done for
me, and I try not to."

Alessandro eyed her closely. The whole story, as Juan Can had told it to
him, of the girl's birth, was burning in his thoughts. How he longed to
cry out, "O my loved one, they have made you homeless in your home. They
despise you. The blood of my race is in your veins; come to me; come to
me! be surrounded with love!" But he dared not. How could he dare?

Some strange spell seemed to have unloosed Ramona's tongue to-night.
She had never before spoken to Alessandro of her own personal history or
burdens; but she went on: "The worst thing is, Alessandro, that she will
not tell me who my mother was; and I do not know if she is alive or not,
or anything about her. Once I asked the Senora, but she forbade me ever
to ask her again. She said she herself would tell me when it was proper
for me to know. But she never has."

How the secret trembled on Alessandro's lips now. Ramona had never
seemed so near, so intimate, so trusting. What would happen if he were
to tell her the truth? Would the sudden knowledge draw her closer to
him, or repel her?

"Have you never asked her again?" he said.

Ramona looked up astonished. "No one ever disobeyed the Senora," she
said quickly.

"I would!" exclaimed Alessandro.

"You may think so," said Ramona, "but you couldn't. When you tried, you
would find you couldn't. I did ask Father Salvierderra once."

"What did he say?" asked Alessandro, breathless.

"The same thing. He said I must not ask; I was not old enough. When the
time came, I would be told," answered Ramona, sadly. "I don't see what
they can mean by the time's coming. What do you suppose they meant?"

"I do not know the ways of any people but my own, Senorita," replied
Alessandro. "Many things that your people do, and still more that these
Americans do, are to me so strange, I know nothing what they mean.
Perhaps they do not know who was your mother?"

"I am sure they do," answered Ramona, in a low tone, as if the words
were wrung from her. "But let us talk about something else, Alessandro;
not about sad things, about pleasant things. Let us talk about your
staying here."

"Would it be truly a pleasure to the Senorita Ramona, if I stayed?" said

"You know it would," answered Ramona, frankly, yet with a tremor in her
voice, which Alessandro felt. "I do not see what we could any of us do
without you. Felipe says he shall not let you go."

Alessandro's face glowed. "It must be as my father says, Senorita," he
said. "A messenger came from him yesterday, and I sent him back with a
letter telling him what the Senor Felipe had proposed to me, and asking
him what I should do. My father is very old, Senorita, and I do not see
how he can well spare me. I am his only child, and my mother died years
ago. We live alone together in our house, and when I am away he is very
lonely. But he would like to have me earn the wages, I know, and I hope
he will think it best for me to stay. There are many things we want to
do for the village; most of our people are poor, and can do little more
than get what they need to eat day by day, and my father wishes to see
them better off before he dies. Now that the Americans are coming in all
around us, he is afraid and anxious all the time. He wants to get a big
fence built around our land, so as to show where it is; but the people
cannot take much time to work on the fence; they need all their time to
work for themselves and their families. Indians have a hard time to live
now, Senorita. Were you ever in Temecula?"

"No," said Ramona. "Is it a large town?"

Alessandro sighed. "Dear Senorita, it is not a town; it is only a little
village not more than twenty houses in all, and some of those are built
only of tule. There is a chapel, and a graveyard. We built an adobe wall
around the graveyard last year. That my father said we would do, before
we built the fence round the village."

"How many people are there in the village?" asked Ramona.

"Nearly two hundred, when they are all there; but many of them are away
most of the time. They must go where they can get work; they are
hired by the farmers, or to do work on the great ditches, or to go as
shepherds; and some of them take their wives and children with them. I
do not believe the Senorita has ever seen any very poor people."

"Oh, yes, I have, Alessandro, at Santa Barbara. There were many poor
people there, and the Sisters used to give them food every week."

"Indians?" said Alessandro.

Ramona colored. "Yes," she said, "some of them were, but not like your
men, Alessandro. They were very different; miserable looking; they could
not read nor write, and they seemed to have no ambition."

"That is the trouble," said Alessandro, "with so many of them; it is
with my father's people, too. They say, 'What is the use?' My father
gets in despair with them, because they will not learn better. He gives
them a great deal, but they do not seem to be any better off for it.
There is only one other man in our village who can read and write,
besides my father and me, Senorita; and yet my father is all the time
begging them to come to his house and learn of him. But they say they
have no time; and indeed there is much truth in that, Senorita. You see
everybody has troubles, Senorita."

Ramona had been listening with sorrowful face. All this was new to her.
Until to-night, neither she nor Alessandro had spoken of private and
personal matters.

"Ah, but these are real troubles," she said. "I do not think mine were
real troubles at all. I wish I could do something for your people,
Alessandro. If the village were only near by, I could teach them, could
I not? I could teach them to read. The Sisters always said, that to
teach the ignorant and the poor was the noblest work one could do. I
wish I could teach your people. Have you any relatives there
besides your father? Is there any one in the village that you - love,

Alessandro was too much absorbed in thoughts of his people, to observe
the hesitating emphasis with which Ramona asked this question.

"Yes, Senorita, I love them all. They are like my brothers and sisters,
all of my father's people," he said; "and I am unhappy about them all
the time."

During the whole of this conversation Ramona had had an undercurrent of
thought going on, which was making her uneasy. The more Alessandro said
about his father and his people, the more she realized that he was held
to Temecula by bonds that would be hard to break, the more she feared
his father would not let him remain away from home for any length of
time. At the thought of his going away, her very heart sickened. Taking
a sudden step towards him, she said abruptly, "Alessandro, I am afraid
your father will not give his consent to your staying here."

"So am I, Senorita," he replied sadly.

"And you would not stay if he did not approve of it, of course," she

"How could I, Senorita?"

"No," she said, "it would not be right;" but as she said these words,
the tears filled her eyes.

Alessandro saw them. The world changed in that second. "Senorita!
Senorita Ramona!" he cried, "tears have come in your eyes! O Senorita,
then you will not be angry if I say that I love you!" and Alessandro
trembled with the terror and delight of having said the words.

Hardly did he trust his palpitating senses to be telling him true the
words that followed, quick, firm, though only in a whisper, - "I know
that you love me, Alessandro, and I am glad of it!" Yes, this was
what the Senorita Ramona was saying! And when he stammered, "But you,
Senorita, you do not - you could not - " "Yes, Alessandro, I do - I love
you!" in the same clear, firm whisper; and the next minute Alessandro's
arms were around Ramona, and he had kissed her, sobbing rather than
saying, "O Senorita, do you mean that you will go with me? that you
are mine? Oh, no, beloved Senorita, you cannot mean that!" But he was
kissing her. He knew she did mean it; and Ramona, whispering, "Yes,
Alessandro, I do mean it; I will go with you," clung to him with her
hands, and kissed him, and repeated it, "I will go with you, I love
you." And then, just then, came the Senora's step, and her sharp cry
of amazement, and there she stood, no more than an arm's-length away,
looking at them with her indignant, terrible eyes.

What an hour this for Alessandro to be living over and over, as he
crouched in the darkness, watching! But the bewilderment of his emotions
did not dull his senses. As if stalking deer in a forest, he listened
for sounds from the house. It seemed strangely still. As the darkness
deepened, it seemed still stranger that no lamps were lit. Darkness in
the Senora's room, in the Senorita's; a faint light in the dining-room,
soon put out, - evidently no supper going on there. Only from under
Felipe's door streamed a faint radiance; and creeping close to the
veranda, Alessandro heard voices fitfully talking, - the Senora's and
Felipe's; no word from Ramona. Piteously he fixed his eyes on her
window; it was open, but the curtains tight drawn; no stir, no sound.
Where was she? What had been done to his love? Only the tireless caution
and infinite patience of his Indian blood kept Alessandro from going
to her window. But he would imperil nothing by acting on his own
responsibility. He would wait, if it were till daylight, till his
love made a sign. Certainly before long Senor Felipe would come to his
veranda bed, and then he could venture to speak to him. But it was near
midnight when the door of Felipe's room opened, and he and his mother
came out, still speaking in low tones. Felipe lay down on his couch; his
mother, bending over, kissed him, bade him good-night, and went into her
own room.

It had been some time now since Alessandro had left off sleeping on the
veranda floor by Felipe's side. Felipe was so well it was not needful.
But Felipe felt sure he would come to-night, and was not surprised
when, a few minutes after the Senora's door closed, he heard a low voice
through the vines, "Senor Felipe?"

"Hush, Alessandro," whispered Felipe. "Do not make a sound. To-morrow
morning early I will see you, behind the little sheepfold. It is not
safe to talk here."

"Where is the Senorita?" Alessandro breathed rather than said.

"In her room," answered Felipe.

"Well?" said Alessandro.

"Yes," said Felipe, hoping he was not lying; and this was all Alessandro
had to comfort himself with, through his long night of watching. No, not
all; one other thing comforted him, - the notes of two wood-doves, that
at intervals he heard, cooing to each other; just the two notes, the
call and the answer, "Love?" "Here." "Love?" "Here," - and long intervals
of silence between. Plain as if written on a page was the thing they

"That is what my Ramona is like," thought he, "the gentle wood-dove. If
she is my wife my people will call her Majel, the Wood-Dove."


WHEN the Senora bade Felipe good-night, she did not go to bed. After
closing her door, she sat down to think what should be done about
Ramona. It had been a hard task she had set herself, talking all the
evening with Felipe without alluding to the topic uppermost in her mind.
But Felipe was still nervous and irritable. She would not spoil his
night's rest, she thought, by talking of disagreeable things. Moreover,
she was not clear in her own mind what she wished to have done about
Alessandro. If Ramona were to be sent away to the nuns, which was the
only thing the Senora could think of as yet, there would be no reason
for discharging Alessandro. And with him the Senora was by no means
ready to part, though in her first anger she had been ready to dismiss
him on the spot. As she pursued her reflections, the whole situation
cleared itself in her mind; so easily do affairs fall into line, in the
plottings and plannings of an arbitrary person, who makes in his formula
no allowance for a human element which he cannot control.

Ramona should be sent in disgrace to the Sisters' School, to be a
servant there for the rest of her life. The Senora would wash her hands
of her forever. Even Father Salvierderra himself could not expect
her any longer to keep such a shameless creature under her roof. Her
sister's written instructions had provided for the possibility of just
such a contingency. Going to a secret closet in the wall, behind a
life-size statue of Saint Catharine, the Senora took out an iron box,
battered and rusty with age, and set it on the bed. The key turned with
difficulty in the lock. It was many years since the Senora had opened
this box. No one but herself knew of its existence. There had been many
times in the history of the Moreno house when the price of the contents
of that box would have averted loss and misfortune; but the Senora no
more thought of touching the treasure than if it had been guarded by
angels with fiery swords. There they lay, brilliant and shining even in
the dim light of the one candle, - rubies, emeralds, pearls, and yellow
diamonds. The Senora's lip curled as she looked at them. "Fine dowry,
truly, for a creature like this!" she said. "Well I knew in the
beginning no good would come of it; base begotten, base born, she has
but carried out the instincts of her nature. I suppose I may be grateful
that my own son was too pure to be her prey!" "To be given to my adopted
daughter, Ramona Ortegna, on her wedding day," - so the instructions
ran, - "if she weds worthily and with your approval. Should such a
misfortune occur, which I do not anticipate, as that she should prove
unworthy, then these jewels, and all I have left to her of value, shall
be the property of the Church."

"No mention as to what I am to do with the girl herself if she proves
unworthy," thought the Senora, bitterly; "but the Church is the place
for her; no other keeping will save her from the lowest depths of
disgrace. I recollect my sister said that Angus had at first intended to
give the infant to the Church. Would to God he had done so, or left it
with its Indian mother!" and the Senora rose, and paced the floor. The
paper of her dead sister's handwriting fell at her feet. As she walked,
her long skirt swept it rustling to and fro. She stooped, picked it up,
read it again, with increasing bitterness. No softness at the memory of
her sister's love for the little child; no relenting. "Unworthy!" Yes,
that was a mild word to apply to Ramona, now. It was all settled;
and when the girl was once out of the house, the Senora would breathe
easier. She and Felipe would lead their lives together, and Felipe would
wed some day. Was there a woman fair enough, good enough, for Felipe to
wed? But he must wed; and the place would be gay with children's voices,
and Ramona would be forgotten.

The Senora did not know how late it was. "I will tell her to-night," she
said. "I will lose no time; and now she shall hear who her mother was!"

It was a strange freak of just impulse in the Senora's angry soul, which
made her suddenly remember that Ramona had had no supper, and led her
to go to the kitchen, get a jug of milk and some bread, and take them
to the room. Turning the key cautiously, that Felipe might not hear, she
opened the door and glided in. No voice greeted her; she held her candle
high up; no Ramona in sight; the bed was empty. She glanced at the
window. It was open. A terror seized the Senora; fresh anger also. "She
has run off with Alessandro," she thought, "What horrible disgrace."
Standing motionless, she heard a faint, regular breathing from the other
side of the bed. Hastily crossing the room, she saw a sight which had
melted a heart that was only ice; but the Senora's was stone toward
Ramona. There lay Ramona on the floor, her head on a pillow at the feet
of the big Madonna which stood in the corner. Her left hand was under
her cheek, her right arm flung tight around the base of the statue. She
was sound asleep. Her face was wet with tears. Her whole attitude was
full of significance. Even helpless in sleep, she was one who had taken
refuge in sanctuary. This thought had been distinct in the girl's mind
when she found herself, spite of all her woe and terror, growing sleepy.
"She won't dare to hurt me at the Virgin's feet," she had said; "and
the window is open. Felipe would hear if I called; and Alessandro will
watch." And with a prayer on her lips she fell asleep.

It was Felipe's nearness more than the Madonna's, which saved her from
being roused to hear her doom. The Senora stood for some moments
looking at her, and at the open window. With a hot rush of disgraceful
suspicions, she noted what she had never before thought of, that
Alessandro, through all his watching with Felipe, had had close access
to Ramona's window. "Shameful creature!" she repeated to herself. "And
she can sleep! It is well she prayed, if the Virgin will hear such!" and
she turned away, first setting down the jug of milk and the bread on a
table. Then, with a sudden and still more curious mingling of justness
in her wrath, she returned, and lifting the coverlet from the bed,
spread it over Ramona, covering her carefully from head to foot. Then
she went out and again locked the door.

Felipe, from his bed, heard and divined all, but made no sound. "Thank
God, the poor child is asleep!" he said; "and my poor dear mother feared
to awake me by speaking to her! What will become of us all to-morrow!"
And Felipe tossed and turned, and had barely fallen into an uneasy
sleep, when his mother's window opened, and she sang the first line of
the sunrise hymn. Instantly Ramona joined, evidently awake and ready;
and no sooner did the watching Alessandro hear the first note of her
voice, than he struck in; and Margarita, who had been up for an hour,
prowling, listening, peering, wondering, her soul racked between her
jealousy and her fears, - even Margarita delayed not to unite; and
Felipe, too, sang feebly; and the volume of the song went up as rounded
and melodious as if all hearts were at peace and in harmony, instead of
being all full of sorrow, confusion, or hatred. But there was no one of
them all who was not the better for the singing; Ramona and Alessandro
most of all.

"The saints be praised," said Alessandro. "There is my wood-dove's
voice. She can sing!" And, "Alessandro was near. He watched all night. I
am glad he loves me," said Ramona.

"To hear those two voices." said the Senora; "would one suppose they
could sing like that? Perhaps it is not so bad as I think."

As soon as the song was done, Alessandro ran to the sheepfold, where
Felipe had said he would see him. The minutes would be like years to
Alessandro till he had seen Felipe.

Ramona, when she waked and found herself carefully covered, and bread
and milk standing on the table, felt much reassured. Only the Senora's
own hand had done this, she felt sure, for she had heard her the
previous evening turn the key in the lock, then violently take it out;
and Ramona knew well that the fact of her being thus a prisoner would be
known to none but the Senora herself. The Senora would not set servants
to gossiping. She ate her bread and milk thankfully, for she was very
hungry. Then she set her room in order, said her prayers, and sat down
to wait. For what? She could not imagine; in truth, she did not much
try. Ramona had passed now into a country where the Senora did not rule.
She felt little fear. Felipe would not see her harmed, and she was going
away presently with Alessandro. It was wonderful what peace and freedom
lay in the very thought. The radiance on her face of these two new-born
emotions was the first thing the Senora observed as she opened the door,
and slowly, very slowly, eyeing Ramona with a steady look, entered the
room. This joyous composure on Ramona's face angered the Senora, as it
had done before, when she was dragging her up the garden-walk. It seemed
to her like nothing less than brazen effrontery, and it changed the
whole tone and manner of her address.

Seating herself opposite Ramona, but at the farthest side of the room,
she said, in a tone scornful and insulting, "What have you to say for

Returning the Senora's gaze with one no less steady, Ramona spoke in the
same calm tone in which she had twice the evening before attempted to
stay the Senora's wrath. This time, she was not interrupted.

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