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Senora's anger should have spent itself.

After her first dismay at suddenly learning that Alessandro had gone,
had passed, she had reflected that it was just as well. He would come
back prepared to take her with him. How, or where, she did not know;
but she would go with no questions. Perhaps she would not even bid the
Senora good-by; she wondered how that would arrange itself, and how far
Alessandro would have to take her, to find a priest to marry them. It
was a terrible thing to have to do, to go out of a home in such a way:
no wedding - no wedding clothes - no friends - to go unmarried, and journey
to a priest's house, to have the ceremony performed; "but it is not my
fault," said Ramona to herself; "it is hers. She drives me to do it. If
it is wrong, the blame will be hers. Father Salvierderra would gladly
come here and marry us, if she would send for him. I wish we could go to
him, Alessandro and I; perhaps we can. I would not be afraid to ride so
far; we could do it in two days." The more Ramona thought of this, the
more it appeared to her the natural thing for them to do. "He will be on
our side, I know he will," she thought. "He always liked Alessandro, and
he loves me."

It was strange how little bitterness toward the Senora was in the girl's
mind; how comparatively little she thought of her. Her heart was too
full of Alessandro and of their future; and it had never been Ramona's
habit to dwell on the Senora in her thoughts. As from her childhood up
she had accepted the fact of the Senora's coldness toward her, so now
she accepted her injustice and opposition as part of the nature of
things, and not to be altered.

During all these hours, during the coming and going of these crowds
of fears, sorrows, memories, anticipations in Ramona's heart, all that
there was to be seen to the eye was simply a calm, quiet girl, sitting
on the veranda, diligently working at her lace-frame. Even Felipe was
deceived by her calmness, and wondered what it meant, - if it could be
that she was undergoing the change that his mother had thought possible,
and designated as coming "to her senses." Even Felipe did not know the
steadfast fibre of the girl's nature; neither did he realize what a bond
had grown between her and Alessandro. In fact, he sometimes wondered of
what this bond had been made. He had himself seen the greater part
of their intercourse with each other; nothing could have been farther
removed from anything like love-making. There had been no crisis
of incident, or marked moments of experience such as in Felipe's
imaginations of love were essential to the fulness of its growth. This
is a common mistake on the part of those who have never felt love's true
bonds. Once in those chains, one perceives that they are not of the sort
full forged in a day. They are made as the great iron cables are made,
on which bridges are swung across the widest water-channels, - not of
single huge rods, or bars, which would be stronger, perhaps, to look
at, but of myriads of the finest wires, each one by itself so fine, so
frail, it would barely hold a child's kite in the wind: by hundreds,
hundreds of thousands of such, twisted, re-twisted together, are made
the mighty cables, which do not any more swerve from their place in the
air, under the weight and jar of the ceaseless traffic and tread of two
cities, than the solid earth swerves under the same ceaseless weight and
jar. Such cables do not break.

Even Ramona herself would have found it hard to tell why she thus loved
Alessandro; how it began, or by what it grew. It had not been a sudden
adoration, like his passion for her; it was, in the beginning, simply
a response; but now it was as strong a love as his, - as strong, and as
unchangeable. The Senora's harsh words had been like a forcing-house air
to it, and the sudden knowledge of the fact of her own Indian descent
seemed to her like a revelation, pointing out the path in which destiny
called her to walk. She thrilled with pleasure at the thought of the joy
with which Alessandro would hear this, - the joy and the surprise. She
imagined to herself, in hundreds of ways, the time, place, and phrase in
which she would tell him. She could not satisfy herself as to the best;
as to which would give keenest pleasure to him and to her. She would
tell him, as soon as she saw him; it should be her first word of
greeting. No! There would be too much of trouble and embarrassment then.
She would wait till they were far away, till they were alone, in the
wilderness; and then she would turn to him, and say, "Alessandro, my
people are your people!" Or she would wait, and keep her secret until
she had reached Temecula, and they had begun their life there, and
Alessandro had been astonished to see how readily and kindly she took
to all the ways of the Indian village; and then, when he expressed
some such emotion, she would quietly say, "But I too am an Indian,

Strange, sad bride's dreams these; but they made Ramona's heart beat
with happiness as she dreamed them.


THE first day had gone, it was near night of the second, and not a word
had passed between Felipe and Ramona, except in the presence of the
Senora. It would have been beautiful to see, if it had not been so cruel
a thing, the various and devious methods by which the Senora had brought
this about. Felipe, oddly enough, was more restive under it than Ramona.
She had her dreams. He had nothing but his restless consciousness that
he had not done for her what he hoped; that he must seem to her to have
been disloyal; this, and a continual wonder what she could be planning
or expecting which made her so placid, kept Felipe in a fever of unrest,
of which his mother noted every sign, and redoubled her vigilance.

Felipe thought perhaps he could speak to Ramona in the night, through
her window. But the August heats were fierce now; everybody slept with
wide-open windows; the Senora was always wakeful; if she should chance
to hear him thus holding secret converse with Ramona, it would indeed
make bad matters worse. Nevertheless, he decided to try it. At the first
sound of his footsteps on the veranda floor, "My son, are you ill? Can I
do anything?" came from the Senora's window. She had not been asleep at
all. It would take more courage than Felipe possessed, to try that plan
again; and he lay on his veranda bed, this afternoon, tossing about with
sheer impatience at his baffled purpose. Ramona sat at the foot of the
bed, taking the last stitches in the nearly completed altar-cloth. The
Senora sat in her usual seat, dozing, with her head thrown back. It
was very hot; a sultry south-wind, with dust from the desert, had been
blowing all day, and every living creature was more or less prostrated
by it.

As the Senora's eyes closed, a sudden thought struck Felipe. Taking
out a memorandum-book in which he kept his accounts, he began rapidly
writing. Looking up, and catching Ramona's eye, he made a sign to her
that it was for her. She glanced apprehensively at the Senora. She was
asleep. Presently Felipe, folding the note, and concealing it in his
hand, rose, and walked towards Ramona's window, Ramona terrifiedly
watching him; the sound of Felipe's steps roused the Senora, who sat
up instantly, and gazed about her with that indescribable expression
peculiar to people who hope they have not been asleep, but know they
have. "Have I been asleep?" she asked.

"About one minute, mother," answered Felipe, who was leaning, as he
spoke, against Ramona's open window, his arms crossed behind him.
Stretching them out, and back and forth a few times, yawning idly, he
said, "This heat is intolerable!" Then he sauntered leisurely down the
veranda steps into the garden-walk, and seated himself on the bench
under the trellis there.

The note had been thrown into Ramona's room. She was hot and cold with
fear lest she might not be able to get it unobserved. What if the
Senora were to go first into the room! She hardly dared look at her. But
fortune is not always on the side of tyrants. The Senora was fast dozing
off again, relieved that Felipe was out of speaking distance of Ramona.
As soon as her eyes were again shut, Ramona rose to go. The Senora
opened her eyes. Ramona was crossing the threshold of the door; she was
going into the house. Good! Still farther away from Felipe.

"Are you going to your room, Ramona?" said the Senor.

"I was," replied Ramona, alarmed. "Did you want me here?"

"No," said the Senora; and she closed her eyes again.

In a second more the note was safe in Ramona's hands.

"Dear Ramona," Felipe had written, "I am distracted because I cannot
speak with you alone. Can you think of any way? I want to explain things
to you. I am afraid you do not understand. Don't be unhappy. Alessandro
will surely be back in four days. I want to help you all I can, but you
saw I could not do much. Nobody will hinder your doing what you please;
but, dear, I wish you would not go away from us!"

Tearing the paper into small fragments, Ramona thrust them into her
bosom, to be destroyed later. Then looking out of the window, and seeing
that the Senora was now in a sound sleep, she ventured to write a reply
to Felipe, though when she would find a safe opportunity to give it to
him, there was no telling. "Thank you, dear Felipe. Don't be anxious. I
am not unhappy. I understand all about it. But I must go away as soon as
Alessandro comes." Hiding this also safe in her bosom, she went back to
the veranda. Felipe rose, and walked toward the steps. Ramona, suddenly
bold, stooped, and laid her note on the second step. Again the tired
eyes of the Senora opened. They had not been shut five minutes; Ramona
was at her work; Felipe was coming up the steps from the garden. He
nodded laughingly to his mother, and laid his finger on his lips. All
was well. The Senora dozed again. Her nap had cost her more than she
would ever know. This one secret interchange between Felipe and Ramona
then, thus making, as it were, common cause with each other as against
her, and in fear of her, was a step never to be recalled, - a step whose
significance could scarcely be overestimated. Tyrants, great and
small, are apt to overlook such possibilities as this; to forget the
momentousness which the most trivial incident may assume when forced
into false proportions and relations. Tyranny can make liars and cheats
out of the honestest souls. It is done oftener than any except close
students of human nature realize. When kings and emperors do this, the
world cries out with sympathy, and holds the plotters more innocent than
the tyrant who provoked the plot. It is Russia that stands branded in
men's thoughts, and not Siberia.

The Senora had a Siberia of her own, and it was there that Ramona was
living in these days. The Senora would have been surprised to know how
little the girl felt the cold. To be sure, it was not as if she had ever
felt warmth in the Senora's presence; yet between the former chill and
this were many degrees, and except for her new life, and new love, and
hope in the thought of Alessandro, Ramona could not have borne it for a

The fourth day came; it seemed strangely longer than the others had.
All day Ramona watched and listened. Felipe, too; for, knowing what
Alessandro's impatience would be, he had, in truth, looked for him on
the previous night. The horse he rode was a fleet one, and would have
made the journey with ease in half the time. But Felipe reflected that
there might be many things for Alessandro to arrange at Temecula. He
would doubtless return prepared to take Ramona back with him, in case
that proved the only alternative left them. Felipe grew wretched as
his fancy dwelt on the picture of Ramona's future. He had been in the
Temecula village. He knew its poverty; the thought of Ramona there was
monstrous, To the indolent, ease-loving Felipe it was incredible that a
girl reared as Ramona had been, could for a moment contemplate leading
the life of a poor laboring man's wife. He could not conceive of love's
making one undertake any such life. Felipe had much to learn of love.
Night came; no Alessandro. Till the darkness settled down, Ramona sat,
watching the willows. When she could no longer see, she listened. The
Senora, noting all, also listened. She was uneasy as to the next stage
of affairs, but she would not speak. Nothing should induce her to swerve
from the line of conduct on which she had determined. It was the full of
the moon. When the first broad beam of its light came over the hill, and
flooded the garden and the white front of the little chapel, just as it
had done on that first night when Alessandro watched with Felipe on the
veranda, Ramona pressed her face against the window-panes, and gazed out
into the garden. At each flickering, motion of the shadows she saw the
form of a man approaching. Again and again she saw it. Again and again
the breeze died, and the shadow ceased. It was near morning before,
weary, sad, she crept to bed; but not to sleep. With wide-open, anxious
eyes, she still watched and listened. Never had the thought once crossed
her mind that Alessandro might not come at the time Felipe had said. In
her childlike simplicity she had accepted this as unquestioningly as
she had accepted other facts in her life. Now that he did not come,
unreasoning and unfounded terror took possession of her, and she asked
herself continually, "Will he ever come! They sent him away; perhaps he
will be too proud to come back!" Then faith would return, and saying to
herself, "He would never, never forsake me; he knows I have no one in
the whole world but him; he knows how I love him," she would regain
composure, and remind herself of the many detentions which might have
prevented his coming at the time set. Spite of all, however, she was
heavy at heart; and at breakfast her anxious eyes and absent look were
sad to see. They hurt Felipe. Too well he knew what it meant. He also
was anxious. The Senora saw it in his face, and it vexed her. The girl
might well pine, and be mortified if her lover did not appear. But why
should Felipe disquiet himself? The Senora disliked it. It was a bad
symptom. There might be trouble ahead yet. There was, indeed, trouble
ahead, - of a sort the Senora's imaginings had not pictured.

Another day passed; another night; another, and another. One week now
since Alessandro, as he leaped on his horse, had grasped Felipe's hand,
and said: "You will tell the Senorita; you will make sure that she
understands why I go; and in four days I will be back." One week, and he
had not come. The three who were watching and wondering looked covertly
into each other's faces, each longing to know what the others thought.

Ramona was wan and haggard. She had scarcely slept. The idea had taken
possession of her that Alessandro was dead. On the sixth and seventh
days she had walked each afternoon far down the river road, by which he
would be sure to come; down the meadows, and by the cross-cut, out
to the highway; at each step straining her tearful eyes into the
distance, - the cruel, blank, silent distance. She had come back
after dark, whiter and more wan than she went out. As she sat at the
supper-table, silent, making no feint of eating, only drinking glass
after glass of milk, in thirsty haste, even Margarita pitied her. But
the Senora did not. She thought the best thing which could happen, would
be that the Indian should never come back. Ramona would recover from it
in a little while; the mortification would be the worst thing, but even
that, time would heal. She wondered that the girl had not more pride
than to let her wretchedness be so plainly seen. She herself would have
died before she would go about with such a woe-begone face, for a whole
household to see and gossip about.

On the morning of the eighth day, Ramona, desperate, waylaid Felipe, as
he was going down the veranda steps. The Senora was in the garden, and
saw them; but Ramona did not care. "Felipe!" she cried, "I must, I must
speak to you! Do you think Alessandro is dead? What else could keep him
from coming?" Her lips were dry, her cheeks scarlet, her voice husky.
A few more days of this, and she would be in a brain fever, Felipe
thought, as he looked compassionately at her.

"Oh, no, no, dear! Do not think that!" he replied. "A thousand things
might have kept him."

"Ten thousand things would not! Nothing could!" said Ramona. "I know he
is dead. Can't you send a messenger, Felipe, and see?"

The Senora was walking toward them. She overheard the last words.
Looking toward Felipe, no more regarding Ramona than if she had not been
within sight or hearing, the Senora said, "It seems to me that would not
be quite consistent with dignity. How does it strike you, Felipe' If
you thought best, we might spare a man as soon as the vintage is done, I

Ramona walked away. The vintage would not be over for a week. There
were several vineyards yet which had not been touched; every hand on the
place was hard at work, picking the grapes, treading them out in tubs,
emptying the juice into stretched raw-hides swung from cross-beams in
a long shed. In the willow copse the brandy-still was in full blast; it
took one man to watch it; this was Juan Can's favorite work; for reasons
of his own he liked best to do it alone; and now that he could no longer
tread grapes in the tubs, he had a better chance for uninterrupted work
at the still. "No ill but has its good," he thought sometimes, as he lay
comfortably stretched out in the shade, smoking his pipe day after day,
and breathing the fumes of the fiery brandy.

As Ramona disappeared in the doorway, the Senora, coming close to
Felipe, and laying her hand on his arm, said in a confidential tone,
nodding her head in the direction in which Ramona had vanished: "She
looks badly, Felipe. I don't know what we can do. We surely cannot send
to summon back a lover we do not wish her to marry, can we? It is very
perplexing. Most unfortunate, every way. What do you think, my son?"
There was almost a diabolical art in the manner in which the Senora
could, by a single phrase or question, plant in a person's mind the
precise idea she wished him to think he had originated himself.

"No; of course we can't send for him," replied Felipe, angrily; "unless
it is to send him to marry her; I wish he had never set foot on the
place. I am sure I don't know what to do. Ramona's looks frighten me. I
believe she will die."

"I cannot wish Alessandro had never set foot on the place," said the
Senora, gently, "for I feel that I owe your life to him, my Felipe; and
he is not to blame for Ramona's conduct. You need not fear her dying,
She may be ill; but people do not die of love like hers for Alessandro."

"Of what kind do they die, mother?" asked Felipe, impatiently.

The Senora looked reproachfully at him. "Not often of any," she said;
"but certainly not of a sudden passion for a person in every way beneath
them, in position, in education, in all points which are essential to
congeniality of tastes or association of life."

The Senora spoke calmly, with no excitement, as if she were discussing
an abstract case. Sometimes, when she spoke like this, Felipe for
the moment felt as if she were entirely right, as if it were really a
disgraceful thing in Ramona to have thus loved Alessandro. It could not
be gainsaid that there was this gulf, of which she spoke. Alessandro was
undeniably Ramona's inferior in position, education, in all the external
matters of life; but in nature, in true nobility of soul, no! Alessandro
was no man's inferior in these; and in capacity to love, - Felipe
sometimes wondered whether he had ever known Alessandro's equal in that.
This thought had occurred to him more than once, as from his sick-bed he
had, unobserved, studied the expression with which Alessandro gazed at
Ramona. But all this made no difference in the perplexity of the present
dilemma, in the embarrassment of his and his mother's position now. Send
a messenger to ask why Alessandro did not return! Not even if he had
been an accepted and publicly recognized lover, would Felipe do that!
Ramona ought to have more pride. She ought of herself to know that. And
when Felipe, later in the day, saw Ramona again, he said as much to her.
He said it as gently as he could; so gently that she did not at first
comprehend his idea. It was so foreign, so incompatible with her faith,
how could she?

When she did understand, she said slowly: "You mean that it will not do
to send to find out if Alessandro is dead, because it will look as if I
wished him to marry me whether he wished it or not?" and she fixed her
eyes on Felipe's, with an expression he could not fathom.

"Yes, dear," he answered, "something like that, though you put it

"Is it not true," she persisted, "that is what you mean?"

Reluctantly Felipe admitted that it was.

Ramona was silent for some moments; then she said, speaking still
more slowly, "If you feel like that, we had better never talk about
Alessandro again. I suppose it is not possible that you should know, as
I do, that nothing but his being dead would keep him from coming
back. Thanks, dear Felipe;" and after this she did not speak again of

Days went by; a week. The vintage was over. The Senora wondered if
Ramona would now ask again for a messenger to go to Temecula. Almost
even the Senora relented, as she looked into the girl's white and wasted
face, as she sat silent, her hands folded in her lap, her eyes fixed on
the willows. The altar-cloth was done, folded and laid away. It would
never hang in the Moreno chapel. It was promised, in Ramona's mind, to
Father Salvierderra. She had resolved to go to him; if he, a feeble old
man, could walk all the way between Santa Barbara and their home, she
could surely do the same. She would not lose the way. There were not
many roads; she could ask. The convent, the bare thought of which
had been so terrible to Ramona fourteen days ago, when the Senora had
threatened her with it, now seemed a heavenly refuge, the only shelter
she craved. There was a school for orphans attached to the convent at
San Juan Bautista, she knew; she would ask the Father to let her go
there, and she would spend the rest of her life in prayer, and in
teaching the orphan girls. As hour after hour she sat revolving this
plan, her fancy projected itself so vividly into the future, that she
lived years of her life. She felt herself middle-aged, old. She saw the
procession of nuns, going to vespers, leading the children by the hand;
herself wrinkled and white-haired, walking between two of the little
ones. The picture gave her peace. As soon as she grew a little stronger,
she would set off on her journey to the Father; she could not go just
yet, she was too weak; her feet trembled if she did but walk to the foot
of the garden. Alessandro was dead; there could be no doubt of that.
He was buried in that little walled graveyard of which he had told
her. Sometimes she thought she would try to go there and see his grave,
perhaps see his father; if Alessandro had told him of her, the old man
would be glad to see her; perhaps, after all, her work might lie there,
among Alessandro's people. But this looked hard: she had not courage for
it; shelter and rest were what she wanted, - the sound of the Church's
prayers, and the Father's blessing every day. The convent was the best.

She thought she was sure that Alessandro was dead; but she was not, for
she still listened, still watched. Each day she walked out on the river
road, and sat waiting till dusk. At last came a day when she could not
go; her strength failed her. She lay all day on her bed. To the Senora,
who asked frigidly if she were ill, she answered: "No, Senora, I do not
think I am ill, I have no pain, but I cannot get up. I shall be better

"I will send you strong broth and a medicine," the Senora said; and sent
her both by the hands of Margarita, whose hatred and jealousy broke down
at the first sight of Ramona's face on the pillow; it looked so much
thinner and sharper there than it had when she was sitting up. "Oh,
Senorita! Senorita!" she cried, in a tone of poignant grief, "are you
going to die? Forgive me, forgive me!"

"I have nothing to forgive you, Margarita," replied Ramona, raising
herself on her elbow, and lifting her eyes kindly to the girl's face
as she took the broth from her hands. "I do not know why you ask me to
forgive you."

Margarita flung herself on her knees by the bed, in a passion of
weeping. "Oh, but you do know, Senorita, you do know! Forgive me!"

Online LibraryHelen Hunt JacksonRamona → online text (page 16 of 35)