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cut Felipe to the heart. He was finding out, in thus being witness of
Ramona's suffering, that she was far nearer and dearer to him than he
had realized. It would have taken very little, at such moments as these,
to have made Felipe her lover again; he felt now like springing to her
side, folding his arms around her, and bidding his mother defiance. It
took all the self-control he could gather, to remain silent, and trust
to Ramona's understanding him later.

Ramona's cry made no break in the smooth, icy flow of the Senora's
sentences. She gave no sign of having heard it, but continued: "My son
tells me that he thinks our forbidding it would make no difference; that
you would go away with the man all the same. I suppose he is right in
thinking so, as you yourself told me that even if Father Salvierderra
forbade it, you would disobey him. Of course, if this is your
determination, we are powerless. Even if I were to put you in the
keeping of the Church, which is what I am sure my sister, who adopted
you as her child, would do, if she were alive, you would devise some
means of escape, and thus bring a still greater and more public scandal
on the family. Felipe thinks that it is not worth while to attempt to
bring you to reason in that way; and we shall therefore do nothing. I
wish to impress it upon you that my son, as head of this house, and I,
as my sister's representative, consider you a member of our own family.
So long as we have a home for ourselves, that home is yours, as it
always has been. If you choose to leave it, and to disgrace yourself and
us by marrying an Indian, we cannot help ourselves."

The Senora paused. Ramona did not speak. Her eyes were fixed on the
Senora's face, as if she would penetrate to her inmost soul; the girl
was beginning to recognize the Senora's true nature; her instincts and
her perceptions were sharpened by love.

"Have you anything to say to me or to my son?" asked the Senora.

"No, Senora," replied Ramona; "I do not think of anything more to say
than I said this morning. Yes," she added, "there is. Perhaps I shall
not speak with you again before I go away. I thank you once more for
the home you have given me for so many years. And you too, Felipe," she
continued, turning towards Felipe, her face changing, all her pent-up
affection and sorrow looking out of her tearful eyes, - "you too, dear
Felipe. You have always been so good to me. I shall always love you as
long as I live;" and she held out both her hands to him. Felipe took
them in his, and was about to speak, when the Senora interrupted
him. She did not intend to have any more of this sort of affectionate
familiarity between her son and Ramona.

"Are we to understand that you are taking your leave now?" she said. "Is
it your purpose to go at once?"

"I do not know, Senora," stammered Ramona; "I have not seen Alessandro;
I have not heard - " And she looked up in distress at Felipe, who
answered compassionately, -

"Alessandro has gone."

"Gone!" shrieked Ramona. "Gone! not gone, Felipe!"

"Only for four days," replied Felipe. "To Temecula. I thought it would
be better for him to be away for a day or two. He is to come back
immediately. Perhaps he will be back day after to-morrow."

"Did he want to go? What did he go for? Why didn't you let me go with
him? Oh, why, why did he go?" cried Ramona.

"He went because my son told him to go," broke in the Senora, impatient
of this scene, and of the sympathy she saw struggling in Felipe's
expressive features. "My son thought, and rightly, that the sight of him
would be more than I could bear just now; so he ordered him to go away,
and Alessandro obeyed."

Like a wounded creature at bay, Ramona turned suddenly away from Felipe,
and facing the Senora, her eyes resolute and dauntless spite of the
streaming tears, exclaimed, lifting her right hand as she spoke, "You
have been cruel; God will punish you!" and without waiting to see what
effect her words had produced, without looking again at Felipe, she
walked swiftly out of the room.

"You see," said the Senora, "you see she defies us."

"She is desperate," said Felipe. "I am sorry I sent Alessandro away."

"No, my son," replied the Senora, "you were wise, as you always are.
It may bring her to her senses, to have a few days' reflection in

"You do not mean to keep her locked up, mother, do you?" cried Felipe.

The Senora turned a look of apparently undisguised amazement on him.
"You would not think that best, would you? Did you not say that all we
could do, was simply not to interfere with her in any way? To wash our
hands, so far as is possible, of all responsibility about her?"

"Yes, yes," said the baffled Felipe; "that was what I said. But,
mother - " He stopped. He did not know what he wanted to say.

The Senora looked tenderly at him, her face full of anxious inquiry.

"What is it, Felipe dear? Is there anything more you think I ought to
say or do?" she asked.

"What is it you are going to do, mother?" said Felipe. "I don't seem to
understand what you are going to do."

"Nothing, Felipe! You have entirely convinced me that all effort would
be thrown away. I shall do nothing," replied the Senora. "Nothing

"Then as long as Ramona is here, everything will be just as it always
has been?" said Felipe.

The Senora smiled sadly. "Dear Felipe, do you think that possible? A
girl who has announced her determination to disobey not only you and
me, but Father Salvierderra, who is going to bring disgrace both on the
Moreno and the Ortegna name, - we can't feel exactly the same towards her
as we did before, can we?"

Felipe made an impatient gesture. "No, of course not. But I mean, is
everything to be just the same, outwardly, as it was before?"

"I supposed so," said the Senora. "Was not that your idea? We must try
to have it so, I think. Do not you?"

"Yes," groaned Felipe, "if we can!"


THE Senora Moreno had never before been so discomfited as in this matter
of Ramona and Alessandro. It chafed her to think over her conversation
with Felipe; to recall how far the thing she finally attained was from
the thing she had in view when she began. To have Ramona sent to the
convent, Alessandro kept as overseer of the place, and the Ortegna
jewels turned into the treasury of the Church, - this was the plan she
had determined on in her own mind. Instead of this, Alessandro was not
to be overseer on the place; Ramona would not go to the convent: she
would be married to Alessandro, and they would go away together; and
the Ortegna jewels, - well, that was a thing to be decided in the future;
that should be left to Father Salvierderra to decide. Bold as the Senora
was, she had not quite the courage requisite to take that question
wholly into her own hands.

One thing was clear, Felipe must not be consulted in regard to them. He
had never known of them, and need not now. Felipe was far too much in
sympathy with Ramona to take a just view of the situation. He would be
sure to have a quixotic idea of Ramona's right of ownership. It was not
impossible that Father Salvierderra might have the same feeling. If so,
she must yield; but that would go harder with her than all the rest.
Almost the Senora would have been ready to keep the whole thing a secret
from the Father, if he had not been at the time of the Senora Ortegna's
death fully informed of all the particulars of her bequest to her
adopted child. At any rate, it would be nearly a year before the Father
came again, and in the mean time she would not risk writing about it.
The treasure was as safe in Saint Catharine's keeping as it had been all
these fourteen years; it should still lie hidden there. When Ramona went
away with Alessandro, she would write to Father Salvierderra, simply
stating the facts in her own way, and telling him that all further
questions must wait for decision until they met.

And so she plotted and planned, and mapped out the future in her
tireless weaving brain, till she was somewhat soothed for the partial
failure of her plans.

There is nothing so skilful in its own defence as imperious pride. It
has an ingenious system of its own, of reprisals, - a system so ingenious
that the defeat must be sore indeed, after which it cannot still
find some booty to bring off! And even greater than this ingenuity at
reprisals is its capacity for self-deception. In this regard, it outdoes
vanity a thousandfold. Wounded vanity knows when it is mortally hurt;
and limps off the field, piteous, all disguises thrown away. But pride
carries its banner to the last; and fast as it is driven from one field
unfurls it in another, never admitting that there is a shade less honor
in the second field than in the first, or in the third than in the
second; and so on till death. It is impossible not to have a certain
sort of admiration for this kind of pride. Cruel, those who have it, are
to all who come in their way; but they are equally cruel to themselves,
when pride demands the sacrifice. Such pride as this has led many a
forlorn hope, on the earth, when all other motives have died out of
men's breasts; has won many a crown, which has not been called by its
true name.

Before the afternoon was over, the Senora had her plan, her chart of
the future, as it were, all reconstructed; the sting of her discomfiture
soothed; the placid quiet of her manner restored; her habitual
occupations also, and little ways, all resumed. She was going to do
"nothing" in regard to Ramona. Only she herself knew how much that
meant; how bitterly much! She wished she were sure that Felipe also
would do "nothing;" but her mind still misgave her about Felipe.
Unpityingly she had led him on, and entangled him in his own words,
step by step, till she had brought him to the position she wished him to
take. Ostensibly, his position and hers were one, their action a unit;
all the same, she did not deceive herself as to his real feeling about
the affair. He loved Ramona. He liked Alessandro. Barring the question
of family pride, which he had hardly thought of till she suggested
it, and which he would not dwell on apart from her continuing to press
it, - barring this, he would have liked to have Alessandro marry Ramona
and remain on the place. All this would come uppermost in Felipe's
mind again when he was removed from the pressure of her influence.
Nevertheless, she did not intend to speak with him on the subject again,
or to permit him to speak to her. Her ends would be best attained
by taking and keeping the ground that the question of their
non-interference having been settled once for all, the painful topic
should never be renewed between them. In patient silence they must await
Ramona's action; must bear whatever of disgrace and pain she chose to
inflict on the family which had sheltered her from her infancy till now.

The details of the "nothing" she proposed to do, slowly arranged
themselves in her mind. There should be no apparent change in Ramona's
position in the house. She should come and go as freely as ever; no
watch on her movements; she should eat, sleep, rise up and sit down
with them, as before; there should be not a word, or act, that Felipe's
sympathetic sensitiveness could construe into any provocation to Ramona
to run away. Nevertheless, Ramona should be made to feel, every moment
of every hour, that she was in disgrace; that she was with them, but not
of them; that she had chosen an alien's position, and must abide by it.
How this was to be done, the Senora did not put in words to herself, but
she knew very well. If anything would bring the girl to her senses, this
would. There might still be a hope, the Senora believed, so little did
she know Ramona's nature, or the depth of her affection for Alessandro,
that she might be in this manner brought to see the enormity of the
offence she would commit if she persisted in her purpose. And if she did
perceive this, confess her wrong, and give up the marriage, - the Senora
grew almost generous and tolerant in her thoughts as she contemplated
this contingency, - if she did thus humble herself and return to her
rightful allegiance to the Moreno house, the Senora would forgive her,
and would do more for her than she had ever hitherto done. She would
take her to Los Angeles and to Monterey; would show her a little more
of the world; and it was by no means unlikely that there might thus come
about for her a satisfactory and honorable marriage. Felipe should see
that she was not disposed to deal unfairly by Ramona in any way, if
Ramona herself would behave properly.

Ramona's surprise, when the Senora entered her room just before supper,
and, in her ordinary tone, asked a question about the chili which was
drying on the veranda, was so great, that she could not avoid showing it
both in her voice and look.

The Senora recognized this immediately, but gave no sign of having done
so, continuing what she had to say about the chili, the hot sun, the
turning of the grapes, etc., precisely as she would have spoken to
Ramona a week previous. At least, this was what Ramona at first thought;
but before the sentences were finished, she had detected in the Senora's
eye and tone the weapons which were to be employed against her. The
emotion of half-grateful wonder with which she had heard the first words
changed quickly to heartsick misery before they were concluded; and
she said to herself: "That's the way she is going to break me down, she
thinks! But she can't do it. I can bear anything for four days; and the
minute Alessandro comes, I will go away with him." This train of thought
in Ramona's mind was reflected in her face. The Senora saw it, and
hardened herself still more. It was to be war, then. No hope of
surrender. Very well. The girl had made her choice.

Margarita was now the most puzzled person in the household. She had
overheard snatches of the conversation between Felipe and his mother and
Ramona, having let her curiosity get so far the better of her discretion
as to creep to the door and listen. In fact, she narrowly escaped
being caught, having had barely time to begin her feint of sweeping the
passage-way, when Ramona, flinging the door wide open, came out,
after her final reply to the Senora, the words of which Margarita had
distinctly heard: "God will punish you."

"Holy Virgin! how dare she say that to the Senora?" ejaculated
Margarita, under her breath; and the next second Ramona rushed by, not
even seeing her. But the Senora's vigilant eyes, following Ramona,
saw her; and the Senora's voice had a ring of suspicion in it, as she
called, "How comes it you are sweeping the passage-way at this hour of
the day, Margarita?"

It was surely the devil himself that put into Margarita's head the quick
lie which she instantaneously told. "There was early breakfast, Senora,
to be cooked for Alessandro, who was setting off in haste, and my mother
was not up, so I had it to cook."

As Margarita said this, Felipe fixed his eyes steadily upon her. She
changed color. Felipe knew this was a lie. He had seen Margarita peering
about among the willows while he was talking with Alessandro at the
sheepfold; he had seen Alessandro halt for a moment and speak to her as
he rode past, - only for a moment; then, pricking his horse sharply, he
had galloped off down the valley road. No breakfast had Alessandro had
at Margarita's hands, or any other's, that morning. What could have been
Margarita's motive for telling this lie?

But Felipe had too many serious cares on his mind to busy himself long
with any thought of Margarita or her fibs. She had said the first thing
which came into her head, most likely, to shelter herself from the
Senora's displeasure; which was indeed very near the truth, only there
was added a spice of malice against Alessandro. A slight undercurrent of
jealous antagonism towards him had begun to grow up among the servants
of late; fostered, if not originated, by Margarita's sharp sayings as to
his being admitted to such strange intimacy with the family.

While Felipe continued ill, and was so soothed to rest by his music,
there was no room for cavil. It was natural that Alessandro came and
went as a physician might. But after Felipe had recovered, why should
this freedom and intimacy continue? More than once there had been sullen
mutterings of this kind on the north veranda, when all the laborers
and servants were gathered there of an evening, Alessandro alone being
absent from the group, and the sounds of his voice or his violin coming
from the south veranda, where the family sat.

"It would be a good thing if we too had a bit of music now and then,"
Juan Canito would grumble; "but the lad's chary enough of his bow on
this side the house."

"Ho! we're not good enough for him to play to!" Margarita would reply;
"'Like master, like servant,' is a good proverb sometimes, but not
always. But there's a deal going on, on the veranda yonder, besides
fiddling!" and Margarita's lips would purse themselves up in an
expression of concentrated mystery and secret knowledge, well fitted to
draw from everybody a fire of questions, none of which, however, would
she answer. She knew better than to slander the Senorita Ramona, or to
say a word even reflecting upon her unfavorably. Not a man or a woman
there would have borne it. They all had loved Ramona ever since she came
among them as a toddling baby. They petted her then, and idolized her
now. Not one of them whom she had not done good offices for, - nursed
them, cheered them, remembered their birthdays and their saints'-days.
To no one but her mother had Margarita unbosomed what she knew, and what
she suspected; and old Marda, frightened at the bare pronouncing of such
words, had terrified Margarita into the solemnest of promises never,
under any circumstances whatever, to say such things to any other member
of the family. Marda did not believe them. She could not. She believed
that Margarita's jealousy had imagined all.

"And the Senora; she'd send you packing off this place in an hour,
and me too, long's I've lived here, if ever she was to know of you
blackening the Senorita. An Indian, too! You must be mad, Margarita!"

When Margarita, in triumph, had flown to tell her that the Senora had
just dragged the Senorita Ramona up the garden-walk, and shoved her into
her room and locked the door, and that it was because she had caught her
with Alessandro at the washing-stones, Marda first crossed herself in
sheer mechanical fashion at the shock of the story, and then cuffed
Margarita's ears for telling her.

"I'll take the head off your neck, if you say that aloud again!
Whatever's come to the Senora! Forty years I've lived under this roof,
and I never saw her lift a hand to a living creature yet. You're out of
your senses, child!" she said, all the time gazing fearfully towards the

"You'll see whether I am out of my senses or not," retorted Margarita,
and ran back to the dining-room. And after the dining-room door was
shut, and the unhappy pretence of a supper had begun, old Marda had
herself crept softly to the Senorita's door and listened, and heard
Ramona sobbing as if her heart would break. Then she knew that what
Margarita had said must be true, and her faithful soul was in sore
straits what to think. The Senorita misdemean herself! Never! Whatever
happened, it was not that! There was some horrible mistake somewhere.
Kneeling at the keyhole, she had called cautiously to Ramona, "Oh, my
lamb, what is it?" But Ramona had not heard her, and the danger was too
great of remaining; so scrambling up with difficulty from her rheumatic
knees, the old woman had hobbled back to the kitchen as much in the dark
as before, and, by a curiously illogical consequence, crosser than ever
to her daughter. All the next day she watched for herself, and could
not but see that all appearances bore out Margarita's statements.
Alessandro's sudden departure had been a tremendous corroboration of the
story. Not one of the men had had an inkling of it; Juan Canito, Luigo,
both alike astonished; no word left, no message sent; only Senor Felipe
had said carelessly to Juan Can, after breakfast: "You'll have to look
after things yourself for a few days, Juan. Alessandro has gone to

"For a few days!" exclaimed Margarita, sarcastically, when this was
repeated to her. "That's easy said! If Alessandro Assis is seen here
again, I'll eat my head! He's played his last tune on the south veranda,
I wager you."

But when at supper-time of this same eventful day the Senora was heard,
as she passed the Senorita's door, to say in her ordinary voice, "Are
you ready for supper, Ramona?" and Ramona was seen to come out and walk
by the Senora's side to the dining-room; silent, to be sure, - but then
that was no strange thing, the Senorita always was more silent in the
Senora's presence, - when Marda, standing in the court-yard, feigning to
be feeding her chickens, but keeping a close eye on the passage-ways,
saw this, she was relieved, and thought: "It's only a dispute there has
been. There will be disputes in families sometimes. It is none of our
affair. All is settled now."

And Margarita, standing in the dining-room, when she saw them all
coming in as usual, - the Senora, Felipe, Ramona, - no change, even to
her scrutinizing eye, in anybody's face, was more surprised than she had
been for many a day; and began to think again, as she had more than
once since this tragedy began, that she must have dreamed much that she

But surfaces are deceitful, and eyes see little. Considering its
complexity, the fineness and delicacy of its mechanism, the results
attainable by the human eye seem far from adequate to the expenditure
put upon it. We have flattered ourselves by inventing proverbs of
comparison in matter of blindness, - "blind as a bat," for instance. It
would be safe to say that there cannot be found in the animal kingdom
a bat, or any other creature, so blind in its own range of circumstance
and connection, as the greater majority of human beings are in the
bosoms of their families. Tempers strain and recover, hearts break and
heal, strength falters, fails, and comes near to giving way altogether,
every day, without being noted by the closest lookers-on.

Before night of this second day since the trouble had burst like a
storm-cloud on the peaceful Moreno household, everything had so resumed
the ordinary expression and routine, that a shrewder observer and
reasoner than Margarita might well be excused for doubting if any
serious disaster could have occurred to any one. Senor Felipe sauntered
about in his usual fashion, smoking his cigarettes, or lay on his bed in
the veranda, dozing. The Senora went her usual rounds of inspection, fed
her birds, spoke to every one in her usual tone, sat in her carved chair
with her hands folded, gazing out on the southern sky. Ramona busied
herself with her usual duties, dusted the chapel, put fresh flowers
before all the Madonnas, and then sat down at her embroidery. Ramona had
been for a long time at work on a beautiful altar-cloth for the chapel.
It was to have been a present to the Senora. It was nearly done. As she
held up the frame in which it was stretched, and looked at the delicate
tracery of the pattern, she sighed. It had been with a mingled feeling
of interest and hopelessness that she had for months been at work on it,
often saying to herself, "She won't care much for it, beautiful as it
is, just because I did it; but Father Salvierderra will be pleased when
he sees it."

Now, as she wove the fine threads in and out, she thought: "She will
never let it be used on the altar. I wonder if I could any way get it to
Father Salvierderra, at Santa Barbara. I would like to give it to him.
I will ask Alessandro. I'm sure the Senora would never use it, and it
would be a shame to leave it here. I shall take it with me." But as she
thought these things, her face was unruffled. A strange composure had
settled on Ramona. "Only four days; only four days; I can bear anything
for four days!" these words were coming and going in her mind like
refrains of songs which haunt one's memory and will not be still. She
saw that Felipe looked anxiously at her, but she answered his inquiring
looks always with a gentle smile. It was evident that the Senora did
not intend that she and Felipe should have any private conversation;
but that did not so much matter. After all, there was not so much to be
said. Felipe knew all. She could tell him nothing; Felipe had acted for
the best, as he thought, in sending Alessandro away till the heat of the

Online LibraryHelen Hunt JacksonRamona → online text (page 15 of 35)