primitive peoples, are thus impressive because they are truly and
grandly dramatic; but she was none the less stirred by them, because she
could not analyze or explain them.
"I will go and see her every day," she said; "she shall be like my
mother, whom I never saw."
"We must both go each day," said Alessandro. "What we have said is a
solemn promise among my people; it would not be possible to break it."
Ysidro's home was in the centre of the village, on a slightly rising
ground; it was a picturesque group of four small houses, three of tule
reeds and one of adobe, - the latter a comfortable little house of two
rooms, with a floor and a shingled roof, both luxuries in San Pasquale.
The great fig-tree, whose luxuriance and size were noted far and near
throughout the country, stood half-way down the slope; but its boughs
shaded all three of the tule houses. On one of its lower branches was
fastened a dove-cote, ingeniously made of willow wands, plastered with
adobe, and containing so many rooms that the whole tree seemed sometimes
a-flutter with doves and dovelings. Here and there, between the houses,
were huge baskets, larger than barrels, woven of twigs, as the eagle
weaves its nest, only tighter and thicker. These were the outdoor
granaries; in these were kept acorns, barley, wheat, and corn. Ramona
thought them, as well she might, the prettiest things she ever saw.
"Are they hard to make?" she asked. "Can you make them, Alessandro? I
shall want many."
"All you want, my Majella," replied Alessandro. "We will go together to
get the twigs; I can, I dare say, buy some in the village. It is only
two days to make a large one."
"No. Do not buy one," she exclaimed. "I wish everything in our house
to be made by ourselves." In which, again, Ramona was unconsciously
striking one of the keynotes of pleasure in the primitive harmonies of
The tule house which stood nearest to the dove-cote was, by a lucky
chance, now empty. Ysidro's brother Ramon, who had occupied it, having
gone with his wife and baby to San Bernardino, for the winter, to work;
this house Ysidro was but too happy to give to Alessandro till his own
should be done. It was a tiny place, though it was really two houses
joined together by a roofed passage-way. In this passage-way the tidy
Juana, Ramon's wife, kept her few pots and pans, and a small stove.
It looked to Ramona like a baby-house. Timidly Alessandro said: "Can
Majella live in this small place for a time? It will not be very long;
there are adobes already made."
His countenance cleared as Ramona replied gleefully, "I think it will be
very comfortable, and I shall feel as if we were all doves together in
"Majel!" exclaimed Alessandro; and that was all he said.
Only a few rods off stood the little chapel; in front of it swung on
a cross-bar from two slanting posts an old bronze bell which had once
belonged to the San Diego Mission. When Ramona read the date, "1790," on
its side, and heard that it was from the San Diego Mission church it had
come, she felt a sense of protection in its presence.
"Think, Alessandro," she said; "this bell, no doubt, has rung many times
for the mass for the holy Father Junipero himself. It is a blessing to
the village. I want to live where I can see it all the time. It will be
like a saint's statue in the house."
With every allusion that Ramona made to the saints' statues,
Alessandro's desire to procure one for her deepened. He said nothing;
but he revolved it in his mind continually. He had once gone with his
shearers to San Fernando, and there he had seen in a room of the old
Mission buildings a dozen statues of saints huddled in dusty confusion.
The San Fernando church was in crumbled ruins, and such of the church
properties as were left there were in the keeping of a Mexican not
over-careful, and not in the least devout. It would not trouble him to
part with a saint or two, Alessandro thought, and no irreverence to
the saint either; on the contrary, the greatest of reverence, since
the statue was to be taken from a place where no one cared for it, and
brought into one where it would be tenderly cherished, and worshipped
every day. If only San Fernando were not so far away, and the wooden
saints so heavy! However, it should come about yet. Majella should
have a saint; nor distance nor difficulty should keep Alessandro from
procuring for his Majel the few things that lay within his power. But he
held his peace about it. It would be a sweeter gift, if she did not know
it beforehand. He pleased himself as subtly and secretly as if he had
come of civilized generations, thinking how her eyes would dilate, if
she waked up some morning and saw the saint by her bedside; and how sure
she would be to think, at first, it was a miracle, - his dear, devout
Majella, who, with all her superior knowledge, was yet more credulous
than he. All her education had not taught her to think, as he, untaught,
had learned, in his solitude with nature.
Before Alessandro had been two days in San Pasquale, he had heard of a
piece of good-fortune which almost passed his belief, and which startled
him for once out of his usual impassive demeanor.
"You know I have a herd of cattle of your father's, and near a hundred
sheep?" said Ysidro.
"Holy Virgin!" cried Alessandro, "you do not mean that! How is that?
They told me all our stock was taken by the Americans."
"Yes, so it was, all that was in Temecula," replied Ysidro; "but in the
spring your father sent down to know if I would take a herd for him up
into the mountains, with ours, as he feared the Temecula pasture would
fall short, and the people there, who could not leave, must have their
cattle near home; so he sent a herd over, - I think, near fifty head;
and many of the cows have calved; and he sent, also, a little flock of
sheep, - a hundred, Ramon said; he herded them with ours all summer, and
he left a man up there with them. They will be down next week. It is
time they were sheared."
Before he had finished speaking, Alessandro had vanished, bounding like
a deer. Ysidro stared after him; but seeing him enter the doorway of the
little tule hut, he understood, and a sad smile passed over his face. He
was not yet persuaded that this marriage of Alessandro's would turn out
a blessing. "What are a handful of sheep to her!" he thought.
Breathless, panting, Alessandro burst into Ramona's presence. "Majella!
my Majella! There are cattle - and sheep," he cried. "The saints be
praised! We are not like the beggars, as I said."
"I told you that God would give us food, dear Alessandro," replied
"You do not wonder! You do not ask!" he cried, astonished at her calm.
"Does Majella think that a sheep or a steer can come down from the
"Nay, not as our eyes would see," she answered; "but the holy ones who
live in the skies can do anything they like on the earth. Whence came
these cattle, and how are they ours?"
When he told her, her face grew solemn. "Do you remember that night in
the willows," she said, "when I was like one dying, because you would
not bring me with you? You had no faith that there would be food. And
I told you then that the saints never forsook those who loved them, and
that God would give food. And even at that moment, when you did not know
it, there were your cattle and your sheep feeding in the mountains,
in the keeping of God! Will my Alessandro believe after this?" and she
threw her arms around his neck and kissed him.
"It is true," said Alessandro. "I will believe, after this, that the
saints love my Majella."
But as he walked at a slower pace back to Ysidro, he said to himself:
"Majella did not see Temecula. What would she have said about the
saints, if she had seen that, and seen the people dying for want of
food? It is only for her that the saints pray. They are displeased with
ONE year, and a half of another year, had passed. Sheep-shearings and
vintages had been in San Pasquale; and Alessandro's new house, having
been beaten on by the heavy spring rains, looked no longer new. It stood
on the south side of the valley, - too far, Ramona felt, from the blessed
bell; but there had not been land enough for wheat-fields any nearer,
and she could see the chapel, and the posts, and, on a clear day, the
bell itself. The house was small. "Small to hold so much joy," she said,
when Alessandro first led her to it, and said, deprecatingly, "It is
small, Majella, - too small;" and he recollected bitterly, as he spoke,
the size of Ramona's own room at the Senora's house. "Too small," he
"Very small to hold so much joy, my Alessandro," she laughed; "but quite
large enough to hold two persons."
It looked like a palace to the San Pasquale people, after Ramona had
arranged their little possessions in it; and she herself felt rich as
she looked around her two small rooms. The old San Luis Rey chairs
and the raw-hide bedstead were there, and, most precious of all, the
statuette of the Madonna. For this Alessandro had built a niche in the
wall, between the head of the bed and the one window. The niche was deep
enough to hold small pots in front of the statuette; and Ramona kept
constantly growing there wild-cucumber plants, which wreathed and
re-wreathed the niche till it looked like a bower. Below it hung her
gold rosary and the ivory Christ; and many a woman of the village, when
she came to see Ramona, asked permission to go into the bedroom and say
her prayers there; so that it finally came to be a sort of shrine for
the whole village.
A broad veranda, as broad as the Senora's, ran across the front of the
little house. This was the only thing for which Ramona had asked. She
could not quite fancy life without a veranda, and linnets in the thatch.
But the linnets had not yet come. In vain Ramona strewed food for them,
and laid little trains of crumbs to lure them inside the posts; they
would not build nests inside. It was not their way in San Pasquale. They
lived in the canons, but this part of the valley was too bare of trees
for them. "In a year or two more, when we have orchards, they will
come," Alessandro said.
With the money from that first sheep-shearing, and from the sale of part
of his cattle, Alessandro had bought all he needed in the way of farming
implements, - a good wagon and harnesses, and a plough. Baba and Benito,
at first restive and indignant, soon made up their minds to work. Ramona
had talked to Baba about it as she would have talked to a brother. In
fact, except for Ramona's help, it would have been a question whether
even Alessandro could have made Baba work in harness. "Good Baba!"
Ramona said, as she slipped piece after piece of the harness over his
neck, - "Good Baba, you must help us; we have so much work to do, and
you are so strong! Good Baba, do you love me?" and with one hand in his
mane, and her cheek, every few steps, laid close to his, she led Baba up
and down the first furrows he ploughed.
"My Senorita!" thought Alessandro to himself, half in pain, half in
pride, as, running behind with the unevenly jerked plough, he watched
her laughing face and blowing hair, - "my Senorita!"
But Ramona would not run with her hand in Baba's mane this winter. There
was a new work for her, indoors. In a rustic cradle, which Alessandro
had made, under her directions, of the woven twigs, like the great
outdoor acorn-granaries, only closer woven, and of an oval shape, and
lifted from the floor by four uprights of red manzanita stems, - in
this cradle, on soft white wool fleeces, covered with white homespun
blankets, lay Ramona's baby, six months old, lusty, strong, and
beautiful, as only children born of great love and under healthful
conditions can be. This child was a girl, to Alessandro's delight; to
Ramona's regret, - so far as a loving mother can feel regret connected
with her firstborn. Ramona had wished for an Alessandro; but the
disappointed wish faded out of her thoughts, hour by hour, as she gazed
into her baby-girl's blue eyes, - eyes so blue that their color was the
first thing noticed by each person who looked at her.
"Eyes of the sky," exclaimed Ysidro, when he first saw her.
"Like the mother's," said Alessandro; on which Ysidro turned an
astonished look upon Ramona, and saw for the first time that her eyes,
too, were blue.
"Wonderful!" he said. "It is so. I never saw it;" and he wondered in his
heart what father it had been, who had given eyes like those to one born
of an Indian mother.
"Eyes of the sky," became at once the baby's name in the village; and
Alessandro and Ramona, before they knew it, had fallen into the way of
so calling her. But when it came to the christening, they demurred. The
news was brought to the village, one Saturday, that Father Gaspara would
hold services in the valley the next day, and that he wished all the
new-born babes to be brought for christening. Late into the night,
Alessandro and Ramona sat by their sleeping baby and discussed what
should be her name. Ramona wondered that Alessandro did not wish to name
"No! Never but one Majella," he said, in a tone which gave Ramona a
sense of vague fear, it was so solemn.
They discussed "Ramona," "Isabella." Alessandro suggested Carmena. This
had been his mother's name.
At the mention of it Ramona shuddered, recollecting the scene in
the Temecula graveyard. "Oh, no, no! Not that!" she cried. "It is
ill-fated;" and Alessandro blamed himself for having forgotten her only
association with the name.
At last Alessandro said: "The people have named her, I think, Majella.
Whatever name we give her in the chapel, she will never be called
anything but 'Eyes of the Sky,' in the village."
"Let that name be her true one, then," said Ramona. And so it was
settled; and when Father Gaspara took the little one in his arms,
and made the sign of the cross on her brow, he pronounced with some
difficulty the syllables of the Indian name, which meant "Blue Eyes," or
"Eyes of the Sky."
Heretofore, when Father Gaspara had come to San Pasquale to say mass, he
had slept at Lomax's, the store and post-office, six miles away, in the
Bernardo valley. But Ysidro, with great pride, had this time ridden to
meet him, to say that his cousin Alessandro, who had come to live in the
valley, and had a good new adobe house, begged that the Father would do
him the honor to stay with him.
"And indeed, Father," added Ysidro, "you will be far better lodged and
fed than in the house of Lomax. My cousin's wife knows well how all
should be done."
"Alessandro! Alessandro!" said the Father, musingly. "Has he been long
"No, Father," answered Ysidro. "But little more than two years. They
were married by you, on their way from Temecula here."
"Ay, ay. I remember," said Father Gaspara. "I will come;" and it was
with no small interest that he looked forward to meeting again the
couple that had so strongly impressed him.
Ramona was full of eager interest in her preparations for entertaining
the priest. This was like the olden time; and as she busied herself with
her cooking and other arrangements, the thought of Father Salvierderra
was much in her mind. She could, perhaps, hear news of him from Father
Gaspara. It was she who had suggested the idea to Alessandro; and when
he said, "But where will you sleep yourself, with the child, Majella,
if we give our room to the Father? I can lie on the floor outside; but
you?" - "I will go to Ysidro's, and sleep with Juana," she replied. "For
two nights, it is no matter; and it is such shame to have the Father
sleep in the house of an American, when we have a good bed like this!"
Seldom in his life had Alessandro experienced such a sense of
gratification as he did when he led Father Gaspara into his and Ramona's
bedroom. The clean whitewashed walls, the bed neatly made, with broad
lace on sheets and pillows, hung with curtains and a canopy of bright
red calico, the old carved chairs, the Madonna shrine in its bower of
green leaves, the shelves on the walls, the white-curtained window, - all
made up a picture such as Father Gaspara had never before seen in
his pilgrimages among the Indian villages. He could not restrain an
ejaculation of surprise. Then his eye falling on the golden rosary, he
exclaimed, "Where got you that?"
"It is my wife's," replied Alessandro, proudly. "It was given to her by
"Ah!" said the Father. "He died the other day."
"Dead! Father Salvierderra dead!" cried Alessandro. "That will be a
terrible blow. Oh, Father, I implore you not to speak of it in her
presence. She must not know it till after the christening. It will make
her heart heavy, so that she will have no joy."
Father Gaspara was still scrutinizing the rosary and crucifix. "To be
sure, to be sure," he said absently; "I will say nothing of it; but this
is a work of art, this crucifix; do you know what you have here? And
this, - is this not an altar-cloth?" he added, lifting up the beautiful
wrought altar-cloth, which Ramona, in honor of his coming, had pinned on
the wall below the Madonna's shrine.
"Yes, Father, it was made for that. My wife made it. It was to be a
present to Father Salvierderra; but she has not seen him, to give it to
him. It will take the light out of the sun for her, when first she hears
that he is dead."
Father Gaspara was about to ask another question, when Ramona appeared
in the doorway, flushed with running. She had carried the baby over to
Juana's and left her there, that she might be free to serve the Father's
"I pray you tell her not," said Alessandro, under his breath; but it
was too late. Seeing the Father with her rosary in his hand, Ramona
"That, Father, is my most sacred possession. It once belonged to Father
Peyri, of San Luis Rey, and he gave it to Father Salvierderra, who gave
it to me, Know you Father Salvierderra? I was hoping to hear news of him
"Yes, I knew him, - not very well; it is long since I saw him," stammered
Father Gaspara. His hesitancy alone would not have told Ramona
the truth; she would have set that down to the secular priest's
indifference, or hostility, to the Franciscan order; but looking at
Alessandro, she saw terror and sadness on his face. No shadow there
ever escaped her eye. "What is it, Alessandro?" she exclaimed. "Is it
something about Father Salvierderra? Is he ill?"
Alessandro shook his head. He did not know what to say. Looking from
one to the other, seeing the confused pain in both their faces, Ramona,
laying both her hands on her breast, in the expressive gesture she had
learned from the Indian women, cried out in a piteous tone: "You will
not tell me! You do not speak! Then he is dead!" and she sank on her
"Yes, my daughter, he is dead," said Father Gaspara, more tenderly than
that brusque and warlike priest often spoke. "He died a month ago, at
Santa Barbara. I am grieved to have brought you tidings to give you
such sorrow. But you must not mourn for him. He was very feeble, and he
longed to die, I heard. He could no longer work, and he did not wish to
Ramona had buried her face in her hands. The Father's words were only
a confused sound in her ears. She had heard nothing after the words, "a
month ago." She remained silent and motionless for some moments; then
rising, without speaking a word, or looking at either of the men, she
crossed the room and knelt down before the Madonna. By a common impulse,
both Alessandro and Father Gaspara silently left the room. As they stood
together outside the door, the Father said, "I would go back to Lomax's
if it were not so late. I like not to be here when your wife is in such
"That would but be another grief, Father," said Alessandro. "She has
been full of happiness in making ready for you. She is very strong of
soul. It is she who makes me strong often, and not I who give strength
"My faith, but the man is right," thought Father Gaspara, a half-hour
later, when, with a calm face, Ramona summoned them to supper. He did
not know, as Alessandro did, how that face had changed in the half-hour.
It wore a look Alessandro had never seen upon it. Almost he dreaded to
speak to her.
When he walked by her side, later in the evening, as she went across the
valley to Fernando's house, he ventured to mention Father Salvierderra's
name. Ramona laid her hand on his lips. "I cannot talk about him yet,
dear," she said. "I never believed that he would die without giving us
his blessing. Do not speak of him till to-morrow is over."
Ramona's saddened face smote on all the women's hearts as they met her
the next morning. One by one they gazed, astonished, then turned away,
and spoke softly among themselves. They all loved her, and half revered
her too, for her great kindness, and readiness to teach and to help
them. She had been like a sort of missionary in the valley ever since
she came, and no one had ever seen her face without a smile. Now she
smiled not. Yet there was the beautiful baby in its white dress, ready
to be christened; and the sun shone, and the bell had been ringing
for half an hour, and from every corner of the valley the people were
gathering, and Father Gaspara, in his gold and green cassock, was
praying before the altar; it was a joyous day in San Pasquale. Why did
Alessandro and Ramona kneel apart in a corner, with such heart-stricken
countenances, not even looking glad when their baby laughed, and reached
up her hands? Gradually it was whispered about what had happened. Some
one had got it from Antonio, of Temecula, Alessandro's friend. Then
all the women's faces grew sad too. They all had heard of Father
Salvierderra, and many of them had prayed to the ivory Christ in
Ramona's room, and knew that he had given it to her.
As Ramona passed out of the chapel, some of them came up to her, and
taking her hand in theirs, laid it on their hearts, speaking no word.
The gesture was more than any speech could have been.
When Father Gaspara was taking leave, Ramona said, with quivering lips,
"Father, if there is anything you know of Father Salvierderra's last
hours, I would be grateful to you for telling me."
"I heard very little," replied the Father, "except that he had been
feeble for some weeks; yet he would persist in spending most of the
night kneeling on the stone floor in the church, praying."
"Yes," interrupted Ramona; "that he always did."
"And the last morning," continued the Father, "the Brothers found him
there, still kneeling on the stone floor, but quite powerless to move;
and they lifted him, and carried him to his room, and there they found,
to their horror, that he had had no bed; he had lain on the stones; and
then they took him to the Superior's own room, and laid him in the bed,
and he did not speak any more, and at noon he died."
"Thank you very much, Father," said Ramona, without lifting her eyes
from the ground; and in the same low, tremulous tone, "I am glad that I
know that he is dead."
"Strange what a hold those Franciscans got on these Indians!" mused
Father Gaspara, as he rode down the valley. "There's none of them would
look like that if I were dead, I warrant me! There," he exclaimed, "I
meant to have asked Alessandro who this wife of his is! I don't believe
she is a Temecula Indian. Next time I come, I will find out. She's had
some schooling somewhere, that's plain. She's quite superior to the
general run of them. Next time I come, I will find out about her."
"Next time!" In what calendar are kept the records of those next times
which never come? Long before Father Gaspara visited San Pasquale again,
Alessandro and Ramona were far away, and strangers were living in their
It seemed to Ramona in after years, as she looked back over this life,
that the news of Father Salvierderra's death was the first note of
the knell of their happiness. It was but a few days afterward, when
Alessandro came in one noon with an expression on his face that
terrified her; seating himself in a chair, he buried his face in his
hands, and would neither look up nor speak; not until Ramona was near
crying from his silence, did he utter a word. Then, looking at her with
a ghastly face, he said in a hollow voice, "It has begun!" and buried
his face again. Finally Ramona's tears wrung from him the following
Ysidro, it seemed, had the previous year rented a canon, at the head of
the valley, to one Doctor Morong. It was simply as bee-pasture that the
Doctor wanted it, he said. He put his hives there, and built a sort of