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"Senora," she said slowly, "I tried to tell you last night, but you
would not hear me. If you had listened, you would not have been so
angry. Neither Alessandro nor I have done anything wrong, and we were
not ashamed. We love each other, and we are going to be married, and go
away. I thank you, Senora, for all you have done for me; I am sure
you will be a great deal happier when I am away;" and Ramona looked
wistfully, with no shade of resentment, into the Senora's dark, shrunken
face. "You have been very good to do so much for a girl you did not
love. Thank you for the bread and milk last night. Perhaps I can go away
with Alessandro to-day. I do not know what he will wish. We had only
just that minute spoken of being married, when you found us last night."

The Senora's face was a study during the few moments that it took to say
these words. She was dumb with amazement. Instantaneously, on the
first sense of relief that the disgrace had not been what she supposed,
followed a new wrath, if possible hotter than the first; not so much
scorn, but a bitterer anger. "Marry! Marry that Indian!" she cried, as
soon as she found voice. "You marry an Indian? Never! Are you mad? I
will never permit it."

Ramona looked anxiously at her. "I have never disobeyed you, Senora,"
she said, "but this is different from all other things; you are not my
mother. I have promised to marry Alessandro."

The girl's gentleness deceived the Senora.

"No," she said icily, "I am not your mother; but I stand in a mother's
place to you. You were my sister's adopted child, and she gave you to
me. You cannot marry without my permission, and I forbid you ever to
speak again of marrying this Indian."

The moment had come for the Senora Moreno to find out, to her surprise
and cost, of what stuff this girl was made, - this girl, who had
for fourteen years lived by her side, docile, gentle, sunny, and
uncomplaining in her loneliness. Springing to her feet, and walking
swiftly till she stood close face to face with the Senora, who, herself
startled by the girl's swift motion, had also risen to her feet, Ramona
said, in a louder, firmer voice: "Senora Moreno, you may forbid me
as much as you please. The whole world cannot keep me from marrying
Alessandro. I love him. I have promised, and I shall keep my word." And
with her young lithe arms straight down at her sides, her head thrown
back, Ramona flashed full in the Senora's face a look of proud defiance.
It was the first free moment her soul had ever known. She felt herself
buoyed up as by wings in air. Her old terror of the Senora fell from her
like a garment thrown off.

"Pshaw!" said the Senora, contemptuously, half amused, in spite of her
wrath, by the girl's, as she thought, bootless vehemence, "you talk like
a fool. Do you not know that I can shut you up in the nunnery to-morrow,
if I choose?"

"No, you cannot!" replied Ramona.

"Who, then, is to hinder me." said the Senora, insolently.

"Alessandro!" answered Ramona, proudly.

"Alessandro!" the Senora sneered. "Alessandro! Ha! a beggarly Indian, on
whom my servants will set the dogs, if I bid them! Ha, ha!"

The Senora's sneering tone but roused Ramona more. "You would never
dare!" she cried; "Felipe would not permit it!" A most unwise retort for

"Felipe!" cried the Senora, in a shrill voice. "How dare you pronounce
his name! He will none of you, from this hour! I forbid him to speak to
you. Indeed, he will never desire to set eyes on you when he hears the

"You are mistaken, Senora," answered Ramona, more gently. "Felipe is
Alessandro's friend, and - mine," she added, after a second's pause.

"So, ho! the Senorita thinks she is all-powerful in the house of
Moreno!" cried the Senora. "We will see! we will see! Follow me,
Senorita Ramona!" And throwing open the door, the Senora strode out,
looking back over her shoulder.

"Follow me!" she cried again sharply, seeing that Ramona hesitated; and
Ramona went; across the passage-way leading to the dining-room, out into
the veranda, down the entire length of it, to the Senora's room, - the
Senora walking with a quick, agitated step, strangely unlike her usual
gait; Ramona walking far slower than was her habit, and with her eyes
bent on the ground. As they passed the dining-room door, Margarita,
standing just inside, shot at Ramona a vengeful, malignant glance.

"She would help the Senora against me in anything," thought Ramona; and
she felt a thrill of fear, such as the Senora with all her threats had
not stirred.

The Senora's windows were open. She closed them both, and drew the
curtains tight. Then she locked the door, Ramona watching her every

"Sit down in that chair," said the Senora, pointing to one near the
fireplace. A sudden nervous terror seized Ramona.

"I would rather stand, Senora," she said.

"Do as I bid you." said the Senora, in a husky tone; and Ramona obeyed.
It was a low, broad armchair, and as she sank back into it, her senses
seemed leaving her. She leaned her head against the back and closed
her eyes. The room swam. She was roused by the Senora's strong
smelling-salts held for her to breathe, and a mocking taunt from the
Senora's iciest voice: "The Senorita does not seem so over-strong as she
did a few moments back!"

Ramona tried to reason with herself; surely no ill could happen to her,
in this room, within call of the whole house. But an inexplicable terror
had got possession of her; and when the Senora, with a sneer on her
face, took hold of the Saint Catharine statue, and wheeling it half
around, brought into view a door in the wall, with a big iron key in the
keyhole, which she proceeded to turn, Ramona shook with fright. She had
read of persons who had been shut up alive in cells in the wall, and
starved to death. With dilating eyes she watched the Senora, who, all
unaware of her terror, was prolonging it and intensifying it by her
every act. First she took out the small iron box, and set it on a table.
Then, kneeling, she drew out from an inner recess in the closet a large
leather-covered box, and pulled it, grating and scraping along the
floor, till it stood in front of Ramona. All this time she spoke no
word, and the cruel expression of her countenance deepened each moment.
The fiends had possession of the Senora Moreno this morning, and no
mistake. A braver heart than Ramona's might have indeed been fearful, at
being locked up alone with a woman who looked like that.

Finally, she locked the door and wheeled the statue back into its place.
Ramona breathed freer. She was not, after all, to be thrust into
the wall closet and left to starve. She gazed with wonder at the old
battered boxes. What could it all mean?

"Senorita Ramona Ortegna," began the Senora, drawing up a chair, and
seating herself by the table on which stood the iron box, "I will now
explain to you why you will not marry the Indian Alessandro."

At these words, this name, Ramona was herself again, - not her old self,
her new self, Alessandro's promised wife. The very sound of his name,
even on an enemy's tongue, gave her strength. The terrors fled away.
She looked up, first at the Senora, then at the nearest window. She was
young and strong; at one bound, if worst came to worst, she could leap
through the window, and fly for her life, calling on Alessandro.

"I shall marry the Indian Alessandro, Senora Moreno," she said, in a
tone as defiant, and now almost as insolent, as the Senora's own.

The Senora paid no heed to the words, except to say, "Do not interrupt
me again. I have much to tell you;" and opening the box, she lifted out
and placed on the table tray after tray of jewels. The sheet of written
paper lay at the bottom of the box.

"Do you see this paper, Senorita Ramona?" she asked, holding it up.
Ramona bowed her head. "This was written by my sister, the Senora
Ortegna, who adopted you and gave you her name. These were her final
instructions to me, in regard to the disposition to be made of the
property she left to you."

Ramona's lips parted. She leaned forward, breathless, listening, while
the Senora read sentence after sentence. All the pent-up pain, wonder,
fear of her childhood and her girlhood, as to the mystery of her birth,
swept over her anew, now. Like one hearkening for life or death, she
listened. She forgot Alessandro. She did not look at the jewels. Her
eyes never left the Senora's face. At the close of the reading, the
Senora said sternly, "You see, now, that my sister left to me the entire
disposition of everything belonging to you."

"But it hasn't said who was my mother," cried Ramona. "Is that all there
is in the paper?"

The Senora looked stupefied. Was the girl feigning? Did she care nothing
that all these jewels, almost a little fortune, were to be lost to her

"Who was your mother?" she exclaimed, scornfully, "There was no need to
write that down. Your mother was an Indian. Everybody knew that!"

At the word "Indian," Ramona gave a low cry.

The Senora misunderstood it. "Ay," she said, "a low, common Indian. I
told my sister, when she took you, the Indian blood in your veins would
show some day; and now it has come true."

Ramona's cheeks were scarlet. Her eyes flashed. "Yes, Senora Moreno,"
she said, springing to her feet; "the Indian blood in my veins shows
to-day. I understand many things I never understood before. Was it
because I was an Indian that you have always hated me?"

"You are not an Indian, and I have never hated you," interrupted the

Ramona heeded her not, but went on, more and more impetuously. "And if
I am an Indian, why do you object to my marrying Alessandro? Oh, I am
glad I am an Indian! I am of his people. He will be glad!" The words
poured like a torrent out of her lips. In her excitement she came closer
and closer to the Senora. "You are a cruel woman," she said. "I did not
know it before; but now I do. If you knew I was an Indian, you had no
reason to treat me so shamefully as you did last night, when you saw me
with Alessandro. You have always hated me. Is my mother alive'? Where
does she live? Tell me; and I will go to her to-day. Tell me! She will
be glad that Alessandro loves me!"

It was a cruel look, indeed, and a crueller tone, with which the Senora
answered: "I have not the least idea who your mother was, or if she is
still alive, Nobody ever knew anything about her, - some low, vicious
creature, that your father married when he was out of his senses, as you
are now, when you talk of marrying Alessandro!"

"He married her, then?" asked Ramona, with emphasis. "How know you that,
Senora Moreno?"

"He told my sister so," replied the Senora, reluctantly. She grudged the
girl even this much of consolation.

"What was his name?" asked Ramona.

"Phail; Angus Phail," the Senora replied almost mechanically. She found
herself strangely constrained by Ramona's imperious earnestness, and she
chafed under it. The tables were being turned on her, she hardly knew
how. Ramona seemed to tower in stature, and to have the bearing of
the one in authority, as she stood before her pouring out passionate
question after question. The Senora turned to the larger box, and opened
it. With unsteady hands she lifted out the garments which for so many
years had rarely seen the light. Shawls and ribosos of damask, laces,
gowns of satin, of velvet. As the Senora flung one after another on the
chairs, it was a glittering pile of shining, costly stuffs. Ramona's
eyes rested on them dreamily.

"Did my adopted mother wear all these?" she asked, lifting in her hand a
fold of lace, and holding it up to the light, in evident admiration.

Again the Senora misconceived her. The girl seemed not insensible to the
value and beauty of this costly raiment. Perhaps she would be lured by

"All these are yours, Ramona, you understand, on your wedding day, if
you marry worthily, with my permission," said the Senora, in a voice
a shade less cold than had hitherto come from her lips. "Did you
understand what I read you?"

The girl did not answer. She had taken up in her hand a ragged, crimson
silk handkerchief, which, tied in many knots, lay in one corner of the

"There are pearls in that," said the Senora; "that came with the things
your father sent to my sister when he died."

Ramona's eyes gleamed. She began untying the knots. The handkerchief was
old, the knots tied tight, and undisturbed for years. As she reached the
last knot, and felt the hard stones, she paused. "This was my father's,
then." she said.

"Yes," said the Senora, scornfully. She thought she had detected a new
baseness in the girl. She was going to set up a claim to all which had
been her father's property. "They were your father's, and all these
rubies, and these yellow diamonds;" and she pushed the tray towards her.

Ramona had untied the last knot. Holding the handkerchief carefully
above the tray, she shook the pearls out. A strange, spicy fragrance
came from the silk. The pearls fell in among the rubies, rolling right
and left, making the rubies look still redder by contrast with their
snowy whiteness.

"I will keep this handkerchief," she said, thrusting it as she spoke,
by a swift resolute movement into her bosom. "I am very glad to have one
thing that belonged to my father. The jewels, Senora, you can give to
the Church, if Father Salvierderra thinks that is right. I shall marry
Alessandro;" and still keeping one hand in her bosom where she had
thrust the handkerchief, she walked away and seated herself again in her

Father Salvierderra! The name smote the Senora like a spear-thrust,
There could be no stronger evidence of the abnormal excitement under
which she had been laboring for the last twenty-four hours, than the
fact that she had not once, during all this time, thought to ask herself
what Father Salvierderra would say, or might command, in this crisis.
Her religion and the long habit of its outward bonds had alike gone from
her in her sudden wrath against Ramona. It was with a real terror that
she became conscious of this.

"Father Salvierderra?" she stammered; "he has nothing to do with it."

But Ramona saw the change in the Senora's face, at the word, and
followed up her advantage. "Father Salvierderra has to do with
everything," she said boldly. "He knows Alessandro, He will not forbid
me to marry him, and if he did - " Ramona stopped. She also was smitten
with a sudden terror at the vista opening before her, - of a disobedience
to Father Salvierderra.

"And if he did," repeated the Senora, eyeing Ramona keenly, "would you
disobey him?"

"Yes," said Ramona.

"I will tell Father Salvierderra what you say," retorted the Senora,
sarcastically, "that he may spare himself the humiliation of laying any
commands on you, to be thus disobeyed."

Ramona's lip quivered, and her eyes filled with the tears which no other
of the Senora's taunts had been strong enough to bring. Dearly she
loved the old monk; had loved him since her earliest recollection. His
displeasure would be far more dreadful to her than the Senora's. His
would give her grief; the Senora's, at utmost, only terror.

Clasping her hands, she said, "Oh, Senora, have mercy! Do not say that
to the Father!"

"It is my duty to tell the Father everything that happens in my family,"
answered the Senora, chillingly. "He will agree with me, that if you
persist in this disobedience you will deserve the severest punishment. I
shall tell him all;" and she began putting the trays back in the box.

"You will not tell him as it really is, Senora," persisted Ramona. "I
will tell him myself."

"You shall not see him! I will take care of that!" cried the Senora, so
vindictively that Ramona shuddered.

"I will give you one more chance," said the Senora, pausing in the
act of folding up one of the damask gowns. "Will you obey me? Will you
promise to have nothing more to do with this Indian?"

"Never, Senora," replied Ramona; "never!"

"Then the consequences be on your own head," cried the Senora. "Go to
your room! And, hark! I forbid you to speak of all this to Senor Felipe.
Do you hear?"

Ramona bowed her head. "I hear," she said; and gliding out of the room,
closed the door behind her, and instead of going to her room, sped like
a hunted creature down the veranda steps, across the garden, calling in
a low tone, "Felipe! Felipe! Where are you, Felipe?"


THE little sheepfold, or corral, was beyond the artichoke-patch, on that
southern slope whose sunshine had proved so disastrous a temptation to
Margarita in the matter of drying the altar-cloth. It was almost like a
terrace, this long slope; and the sheepfold, being near the bottom,
was wholly out of sight of the house. This was the reason Felipe had
selected it as the safest spot for his talk with Alessandro.

When Ramona reached the end of the trellised walk in the garden, she
halted and looked to the right and left. No one was in sight. As she
entered the Senora's room an hour before, she had caught a glimpse of
some one, she felt almost positive it was Felipe, turning off in the
path to the left, leading down to the sheepfold. She stood irresolute
for a moment, gazing earnestly down this path. "If the saints would only
tell me where he is!" she said aloud. She trembled as she stood there,
fearing each second to hear the Senora's voice calling her. But fortune
was favoring Ramona, for once; even as the words passed her lips, she
saw Felipe coming slowly up the bank. She flew to meet him. "Oh, Felipe,
Felipe!" she began.

"Yes, dear, I know it all," interrupted Felipe; "Alessandro has told

"She forbade me to speak to you, Felipe," said Ramona, "but I could not
bear it. What are we to do? Where is Alessandro?"

"My mother forbade you to speak to me!" cried Felipe, in a tone of
terror. "Oh, Ramona, why did you disobey her? If she sees us talking,
she will be even more displeased. Fly back to your room. Leave it all to
me. I will do all that I can."

"But, Felipe," began Ramona, wringing her hands in distress.

"I know! I know!" said Felipe; "but you must not make my mother any more
angry. I don't know what she will do till I talk with her. Do go back to
your room! Did she not tell you to stay there?"

"Yes," sobbed Ramona, "but I cannot. Oh, Felipe, I am so afraid! Do help
us! Do you think you can? You won't let her shut me up in the convent,
will you, Felipe? Where is Alessandro? Why can't I go away with him this
minute? Where is he? Dear Felipe, let me go now."

Felipe's face was horror-stricken. "Shut you in the convent!" he gasped.
"Did she say that? Ramona, dear, fly back to your room. Let me talk
to her. Fly, I implore you. I can't do anything for you if she sees me
talking with you now;" and he turned away, and walked swiftly down the

Ramona felt as if she were indeed alone in the world. How could she
go back into that house! Slowly she walked up the garden-path again,
meditating a hundred wild plans of escape. Where, where was Alessandro?
Why did he not appear for her rescue? Her heart failed her; and when
she entered her room, she sank on the floor in a paroxysm of hopeless
weeping. If she had known that Alessandro was already a good half-hour's
journey on his way to Temecula, galloping farther and farther away from
her each moment, she would have despaired indeed.

This was what Felipe, after hearing the whole story, had counselled him
to do. Alessandro had given him so vivid a description of the Senora's
face and tone, when she had ordered him out of her sight, that Felipe
was alarmed. He had never seen his mother angry like that. He could not
conceive why her wrath should have been so severe. The longer he talked
with Alessandro, the more he felt that it would be wiser for him to be
out of sight till the first force of her anger had been spent. "I will
say that I sent you," said Felipe, "so she cannot feel that you have
committed any offence in going. Come back in four days, and by that time
it will be all settled what you shall do."

It went hard with Alessandro to go without seeing Ramona; but it did not
need Felipe's exclamation of surprise, to convince him that it would be
foolhardy to attempt it. His own judgment had told him that it would be
out of the question.

"But you will tell her all, Senor Felipe? You will tell her that it is
for her sake I go?" the poor fellow said piteously, gazing into Felipe's
eyes as if he would read his inmost soul.

"I will, indeed, Alessandro; I will," replied Felipe; and he held his
hand out to Alessandro, as to a friend and equal. "You may trust me to
do all I can do for Ramona and for you."

"God bless you, Senor Felipe," answered Alessandro, gravely, a slight
trembling of his voice alone showing how deeply he was moved.

"He's a noble fellow," said Felipe to himself, as he watched Alessandro
leap on his horse, which had been tethered near the corral all
night, - "a noble fellow! There isn't a man among all my friends who
would have been manlier or franker than he has been in this whole
business. I don't in the least wonder that Ramona loves him. He's a
noble fellow! But what is to be done! What is to be done!"

Felipe was sorely perplexed. No sharp crisis of disagreement had ever
arisen between him and his mother, but he felt that one was coming
now. He was unaware of the extent of his influence over her. He doubted
whether he could move her very far. The threat of shutting Ramona up in
the convent terrified him more than he liked to admit to himself. Had
she power to do that? Felipe did not know. She must believe that she
had, or she would not have made the threat. Felipe's whole soul revolted
at the cruel injustice of the idea.

"As if it were a sin for the poor girl to love Alessandro!" he said.
"I'd help her to run away with him, if worse comes to worst. What can
make my mother feel so!" And Felipe paced back and forth till the sun
was high, and the sharp glare and heat reminded him that he must seek
shelter; then he threw himself down under the willows. He dreaded to
go into the house. His instinctive shrinking from the disagreeable, his
disposition to put off till another time, held him back, hour by hour.
The longer he thought the situation over, the less he knew how to broach
the subject to his mother; the more uncertain he felt whether it would
be wise for him to broach it at all. Suddenly he heard his name called.
It was Margarita, who had been sent to call him to dinner. "Good
heavens! dinner already!" he cried, springing to his feet.

"Yes, Senor," replied Margarita, eyeing him observantly. She had seen
him talking with Alessandro, had seen Alessandro galloping away down
the river road. She had also gathered much from the Senora's look,
and Ramona's, as they passed the dining-room door together soon after
breakfast. Margarita could have given a tolerably connected account of
all that had happened within the last twenty-four hours to the chief
actors in this tragedy which had so suddenly begun in the Moreno
household. Not supposed to know anything, she yet knew nearly all; and
her every pulse was beating high with excited conjecture and wonder as
to what would come next.

Dinner was a silent and constrained meal, - Ramona absent, the fiction of
her illness still kept up; Felipe embarrassed, and unlike himself; the
Senora silent, full of angry perplexity. At her first glance in Felipe's
face, she thought to herself, "Ramona has spoken to him. When and how
did she do it?" For it had been only a few moments after Ramona had left
her presence, that she herself had followed, and, seeing the girl in her
own room, had locked the door as before, and had spent the rest of the
morning on the veranda within hands' reach of Ramona's window. How,
when, and where had she contrived to communicate with Felipe? The longer
the Senora studied over this, the angrier and more baffled she felt; to
be outwitted was even worse to her than to be disobeyed. Under her very
eyes, as it were, something evidently had happened, not only against
her will, but which she could not explain. Her anger even rippled out
towards Felipe, and was fed by the recollection of Ramona's unwise
retort, "Felipe would not let you!" What had Felipe done or said to make
the girl so sure that he would be on her side and Alessandro's? Was it
come to this, that she, the Senora Moreno, was to be defied in her own
house by children and servants!

It was with a tone of severe displeasure that she said to Felipe, as
she rose from the dinner-table, "My son, I would like to have some

Online LibraryHelen Hunt JacksonRamona → online text (page 13 of 35)