hut for the man whom he sent up to look after the honey. Ysidro did not
need the land, and thought it a good chance to make a little money. He
had taken every precaution to make the transaction a safe one; had gone
to San Diego, and got Father Gaspara to act as interpreter for him, in
the interview with Morong; it had been a written agreement, and the rent
agreed upon had been punctually paid. Now, the time of the lease having
expired, Ysidro had been to San Diego to ask the Doctor if he wished
to renew it for another year; and the Doctor had said that the land was
his, and he was coming out there to build a house, and live.
Ysidro had gone to Father Gaspara for help, and Father Gaspara had had
an angry interview with Doctor Morong; but it had done no good. The
Doctor said the land did not belong to Ysidro at all, but to the United
States Government; and that he had paid the money for it to the agents
in Los Angeles, and there would very soon come papers from Washington,
to show that it was his. Father Gaspara had gone with Ysidro to a lawyer
in San Diego, and had shown to his lawyer Ysidro's paper, - the old one
from the Mexican Governor of California, establishing the pueblo of San
Pasquale, and saying how many leagues of land the Indians were to have;
but the lawyer had only laughed at Father Gaspara for believing that
such a paper as that was good for anything. He said that was all very
well when the country belonged to Mexico, but it was no good now; that
the Americans owned it now; and everything was done by the American law
now, not by the Mexican law any more.
"Then we do not own any land in San Pasquale at all," said Ysidro. "Is
that what it means?"
And the lawyer had said, he did not know how it would be with the
cultivated land, and the village where the houses were, - he could
not tell about that; but he thought it all belonged to the men at
Father Gaspara was in such rage, Ysidro said, that he tore open his gown
on his breast, and he smote himself, and he said he wished he were a
soldier, and no priest, that he might fight this accursed United States
Government; and the lawyer laughed at him, and told him to look after
souls, - that was his business, - and let the Indian beggars alone! "Yes,
that was what he said, - 'the Indian beggars!' and so they would be all
Alessandro told this by gasps, as it were; at long intervals. His voice
was choked; his whole frame shook. He was nearly beside himself with
rage and despair.
"You see, it is as I said, Majella. There is no place safe. We can do
nothing! We might better be dead!"
"It is a long way off, that canon Doctor Morong had," said Ramona,
piteously. "It wouldn't do any harm, his living there, if no more came."
"Majella talks like a dove, and not like a woman," said Alessandro,
fiercely. "Will there be one to come, and not two? It is the beginning.
To-morrow may come ten more, with papers to show that the land is
theirs. We can do nothing, any more than the wild beasts. They are
better than we."
From this day Alessandro was a changed man. Hope had died in his bosom.
In all the village councils, - and they were many and long now, for the
little community had been plunged into great anxiety and distress
by this Doctor Morong's affair, - Alessandro sat dumb and gloomy. To
whatever was proposed, he had but one reply: "It is of no use. We can do
"Eat your dinners to-day, to-morrow we starve," he said one night,
bitterly, as the council broke up. When Ysidro proposed to him that
they should journey to Los Angeles, where Father Gaspara had said the
headquarters of the Government officers were, and where they could learn
all about the new laws in regard to land, Alessandro laughed at him.
"What more is it, then, which you wish to know, my brother, about the
American laws?" he said. "Is it not enough that you know they have made
a law which will take the land from Indians; from us who have owned
it longer than any can remember; land that our ancestors are buried
in, - will take that land and give it to themselves, and say it is
theirs? Is it to hear this again said in your face, and to see the man
laugh who says it, like the lawyer in San Diego, that you will journey
to Los Angeles? I will not go!"
And Ysidro went alone. Father Gaspara gave him a letter to the Los
Angeles priest, who went with him to the land-office, patiently
interpreted for him all he had to say, and as patiently interpreted
all that the officials had to say in reply. They did not laugh, as
Alessandro in his bitterness had said. They were not inhuman, and
they felt sincere sympathy for this man, representative of two hundred
hard-working, industrious people, in danger of being turned out of house
and home. But they were very busy; they had to say curtly, and in few
words, all there was to be said: the San Pasquale district was certainly
the property of the United States Government, and the lands were in
market, to be filed on, and bought, according to the homestead laws,
These officials had neither authority nor option in the matter. They
were there simply to carry out instructions, and obey orders.
Ysidro understood the substance of all this, though the details were
beyond his comprehension. But he did not regret having taken the
journey; he had now made his last effort for his people. The Los Angeles
priest had promised that he would himself write a letter to Washington,
to lay the case before the head man there, and perhaps something would
be done for their relief. It seemed incredible to Ysidro, as, riding
along day after day, on his sad homeward journey, he reflected on the
subject, - it seemed incredible to him that the Government would permit
such a village as theirs to be destroyed. He reached home just at
sunset; and looking down, as Alessandro and Ramona had done on the
morning of their arrival, from the hillcrests at the west end of the
valley, seeing the broad belt of cultivated fields and orchards, the
peaceful little hamlet of houses, he groaned. "If the people who make
these laws could only see this village, they would never turn us out,
never! They can't know what is being done. I am sure they can't know."
"What did I tell you?" cried Alessandro, galloping up on Benito, and
reining him in so sharply he reared and plunged. "What did I tell you?
I saw by your face, many paces back, that you had come as you went, or
worse! I have been watching for you these two days. Another American
has come in with Morong in the canon; they are making corrals; they will
keep stock. You will see how long we have any pasture-lands in that end
of the valley. I drive all my stock to San Diego next week. I will sell
it for what it will bring, - both the cattle and the sheep. It is no use.
You will see."
When Ysidro began to recount his interview with the land-office
authorities, Alessandro broke in fiercely: "I wish to hear no more of
it. Their names and their speech are like smoke in my eyes and my nose.
I think I shall go mad, Ysidro. Go tell your story to the men who are
waiting to hear it, and who yet believe that an American may speak
Alessandro was as good as his word. The very next week he drove all
his cattle and sheep to San Diego, and sold them at great loss. "It
is better than nothing," he said. "They will not now be sold by the
sheriff, like my father's in Temecula." The money he got, he took to
Father Gaspara. "Father," he said huskily. "I have sold all my stock. I
would not wait for the Americans to sell it for me, and take the money.
I have not got much, but it is better than nothing. It will make that we
do not starve for one year. Will you keep it for me, Father? I dare not
have it in San Pasquale. San Pasquale will be like Temecula, - it may be
To the Father's suggestion that he should put the money in a bank in San
Diego, Alessandro cried: "Sooner would I throw it in the sea yonder! I
trust no man, henceforth; only the Church I will trust. Keep it for me,
Father, I pray you," and the Father could not refuse his imploring tone.
"What are your plans now?" he asked.
"Plans!" repeated Alessandro, - "plans, Father! Why should I make plans?
I will stay in my house so long as the Americans will let me. You saw
our little house, Father!" His voice broke as he said this. "I have
large wheat-fields; if I can get one more crop off them, it will be
something; but my land is of the richest in the valley, and as soon as
the Americans see it, they will want it. Farewell, Father. I thank you
for keeping my money, and for all you said to the thief Morong. Ysidro
told me. Farewell." And he was gone, and out of sight on the swift
galloping Benito, before Father Gaspara bethought himself.
"And I remembered not to ask who his wife was. I will look back at the
record," said the Father. Taking down the old volume, he ran his eye
back over the year. Marriages were not so many in Father Gaspara's
parish, that the list took long to read. The entry of Alessandro's
marriage was blotted. The Father had been in haste that night.
"Alessandro Assis. Majella Fa - " No more could be read. The name meant
nothing to Father Gaspara. "Clearly an Indian name," he said to himself;
"yet she seemed superior in every way. I wonder where she got it."
The winter wore along quietly in San Pasquale. The delicious soft rains
set in early, promising a good grain year. It seemed a pity not to get
in as much wheat as possible; and all the San Pasquale people went early
to ploughing new fields, - all but Alessandro.
"If I reap all I have, I will thank the saints," he said. "I will plough
no more land for the robbers." But after his fields were all planted,
and the beneficent rains still kept on, and the hills all along the
valley wall began to turn green earlier than ever before was known,
he said to Ramona one morning, "I think I will make one more field of
wheat. There will be a great yield this year. Maybe we will be left
unmolested till the harvest is over."
"Oh, yes, and for many more harvests, dear Alessandro!" said Ramona,
cheerily. "You are always looking on the black side."
"There is no other but the black side, Majella," he replied. "Strain my
eyes as I may, on all sides all is black. You will see. Never any more
harvests in San Pasquale for us, after this. If we get this, we are
lucky. I have seen the white men riding up and down in the valley, and
I found some of their cursed bits of wood with figures on them set up
on my land the other day; and I pulled them up and burned them to ashes.
But I will plough one more field this week; though, I know not why it
is, my thoughts go against it even now. But I will do it; and I will not
come home till night, Majella, for the field is too far to go and come
twice. I shall be the whole day ploughing." So saying, he stooped and
kissed the baby, and then kissing Ramona, went out.
Ramona stood at the door and watched him as he harnessed Benito and Baba
to the plough. He did not once look back at her; his face seemed full of
thought, his hands acting as it were mechanically. After he had gone
a few rods from the house, he stopped, stood still for some minutes
meditatingly, then went on irresolutely, halted again, but finally went
on, and disappeared from sight among the low foothills to the east.
Sighing deeply, Ramona turned back to her work. But her heart was too
disquieted. She could not keep back the tears.
"How changed is Alessandro!" she thought. "It terrifies me to see him
thus. I will tell the Blessed Virgin about it;" and kneeling before the
shrine, she prayed fervently and long. She rose comforted, and
drawing the baby's cradle out into the veranda, seated herself at her
embroidery. Her skill with her needle had proved a not inconsiderable
source of income, her fine lace-work being always taken by San Diego
merchants, and at fairly good prices.
It seemed to her only a short time that she had been sitting thus, when,
glancing up at the sun, she saw it was near noon; at the same moment
she saw Alessandro approaching, with the horses. In dismay, she thought,
"There is no dinner! He said he would not come!" and springing up, was
about to run to meet him, when she observed that he was not alone.
A short, thick-set man was walking by his side; they were talking
earnestly. It was a white man. What did it bode? Presently they stopped.
She saw Alessandro lift his hand and point to the house, then to the
tule sheds in the rear. He seemed to be talking excitedly; the white
man also; they were both speaking at once. Ramona shivered with fear.
Motionless she stood, straining eye and ear; she could hear nothing,
but the gestures told much. Had it come, - the thing Alessandro had said
would come? Were they to be driven out, - driven out this very day, when
the Virgin had only just now seemed to promise her help and protection?
The baby stirred, waked, began to cry. Catching the child up to her
breast, she stilled her by convulsive caresses. Clasping her tight in
her arms, she walked a few steps towards Alessandro, who, seeing her,
made an imperative gesture to her to return. Sick at heart, she went
back to the veranda and sat down to wait.
In a few moments she saw the white man counting out money into
Alessandro's hand; then he turned and walked away, Alessandro still
standing as if rooted to the spot, gazing into the palm of his hand,
Benito and Baba slowly walking away from him unnoticed; at last he
seemed to rouse himself as from a trance, and picking up the horses'
reins, came slowly toward her. Again she started to meet him; again
he made the same authoritative gesture to her to return; and again she
seated herself, trembling in every nerve of her body. Ramona was now
sometimes afraid of Alessandro. When these fierce glooms seized him,
she dreaded, she knew not what. He seemed no more the Alessandro she had
Deliberately, lingeringly, he unharnessed the horses and put them in
the corral. Then still more deliberately, lingeringly, he walked to the
house; walked, without speaking, past Ramona, into the door. A lurid
spot on each cheek showed burning red through the bronze of his skin.
His eyes glittered. In silence Ramona followed him, and saw him draw
from his pocket a handful of gold-pieces, fling them on the table, and
burst into a laugh more terrible than any weeping, - a laugh which wrung
from her instantly, involuntarily, the cry, "Oh, my Alessandro! my
Alessandro! What is it? Are you mad?"
"No, my sweet Majel," he exclaimed, turning to her, and flinging his
arms round her and the child together, drawing them so close to his
breast that the embrace hurt, - "no, I am not mad; but I think I shall
soon be! What is that gold? The price of this house, Majel, and of the
fields, - of all that was ours in San Pasquale! To-morrow we will go out
into the world again. I will see if I can find a place the Americans do
It did not take many words to tell the story. Alessandro had not been
ploughing more than an hour, when, hearing a strange sound, he looked
up and saw a man unloading lumber a few rods off'. Alessandro stopped
midway in the furrow and watched him. The man also watched Alessandro.
Presently he came toward him, and said roughly, "Look here! Be off, will
you? This is my land. I'm going to build a house here."
Alessandro had replied, "This was my land yesterday. How comes it yours
Something in the wording of this answer, or something in Alessandro's
tone and bearing, smote the man's conscience, or heart, or what stood
to him in the place of conscience and heart, and he said: "Come, now, my
good fellow, you look like a reasonable kind of a fellow; you just clear
out, will you, and not make me any trouble. You see the land's mine.
I've got all this land round here;" and he waved his arm, describing a
circle; "three hundred and twenty acres, me and my brother together, and
we're coming in here to settle. We got our papers from Washington last
week. It's all right, and you may just as well go peaceably, as make a
fuss about it. Don't you see?"
Yes, Alessandro saw. He had been seeing this precise thing for months.
Many times, in his dreams and in his waking thoughts, he had lived over
scenes similar to this. An almost preternatural calm and wisdom seemed
to be given him now.
"Yes, I see, Senor," he said. "I am not surprised. I knew it would come;
but I hoped it would not be till after harvest. I will not give you any
trouble, Senor, because I cannot. If I could, I would. But I have
heard all about the new law which gives all the Indians' lands to the
Americans. We cannot help ourselves. But it is very hard, Senor." He
The man, confused and embarrassed, astonished beyond expression at
being met in this way by an Indian, did not find words come ready to his
tongue. "Of course, I know it does seem a little rough on fellows like
you, that are industrious, and have done some work on the land. But you
see the land's in the market; I've paid my money for it."
"The Senor is going to build a house?" asked Alessandro.
"Yes," the man answered. "I've got my family in San Diego, and I want to
get them settled as soon as I can. My wife won't feel comfortable till
she's in her own house. We're from the States, and she's been used to
having everything comfortable."
"I have a wife and child, Senor," said Alessandro, still in the same
calm, deliberate tone; "and we have a very good house of two rooms. It
would save the Senor's building, if he would buy mine."
"How far is it?" said the man. "I can't tell exactly where the
boundaries of my land are, for the stakes we set have been pulled up."
"Yes, Senor, I pulled them up and burned them. They were on my land,"
replied Alessandro. "My house is farther west than your stakes; and I
have large wheat-fields there, too, - many acres, Senor, all planted."
Here was a chance, indeed. The man's eyes gleamed. He would do the
handsome thing. He would give this fellow something for his house and
wheat-crops. First he would see the house, however; and it was for
that purpose he had walked back with Alessandro, When he saw the neat
whitewashed adobe, with its broad veranda, the sheds and corrals all
in good order, he instantly resolved to get possession of them by fair
means or foul.
"There will be three hundred dollars' worth of wheat in July, Senor, you
can see for yourself; and a house so good as that, you cannot build for
less than one hundred dollars. What will you give me for them?"
"I suppose I can have them without paying you for them, if I choose,"
said the man, insolently.
"No, Senor," replied Alessandro.
"What's to hinder, then, I'd like to know!" in a brutal sneer. "You
haven't got any rights here, whatever, according to law."
"I shall hinder, Senor," replied Alessandro. "I shall burn down the
sheds and corrals, tear down the house; and before a blade of the wheat
is reaped, I will burn that." Still in the same calm tone.
"What'll you take?" said the man, sullenly.
"Two hundred dollars," replied Alessandro.
"Well, leave your plough and wagon, and I'll give it to you," said the
man; "and a big fool I am, too. Well laughed at, I'll be, do you know
it, for buying out an Indian!"
"The wagon, Senor, cost me one hundred and thirty dollars in San Diego.
You cannot buy one so good for less. I will not sell it. I need it to
take away my things in. The plough you may have. That is worth twenty."
"I'll do it," said the man; and pulling out a heavy buckskin pouch, he
counted out into Alessandro's hand two hundred dollars in gold.
"Is that all right?" he said, as he put down the last piece.
"That is the sum I said, Senor," replied Alessandro. "Tomorrow, at noon,
you can come into the house."
"Where will you go?" asked the man, again slightly touched by
Alessandro's manner. "Why don't you stay round here? I expect you could
get work enough; there are a lot of farmers coming in here; they'll want
A fierce torrent of words sprang to Alessandro's lips, but he choked
them back. "I do not know where I shall go, but I will not stay here,"
he said; and that ended the interview.
"I don't know as I blame him a mite for feeling that way," thought the
man from the States, as he walked slowly back to his pile of lumber. "I
expect I should feel just so myself."
Almost before Alessandro had finished this tale, he began to move
about the room, taking down, folding up, opening and shutting lids; his
restlessness was terrible to see. "By sunrise, I would like to be off,"
he said. "It is like death, to be in the house which is no longer ours."
Ramona had spoken no words since her first cry on hearing that terrible
laugh. She was like one stricken dumb. The shock was greater to her than
to Alessandro. He had lived with it ever present in his thoughts for a
year. She had always hoped. But far more dreadful than the loss of her
home, was the anguish of seeing, hearing, the changed face, changed
voice, of Alessandro. Almost this swallowed up the other. She obeyed
him mechanically, working faster and faster as he grew more and more
feverish in his haste. Before sundown the little house was dismantled;
everything, except the bed and the stove, packed in the big wagon.
"Now, we must cook food for the journey," said Alessandro.
"Where are we going?" said the weeping Ramona.
"Where?" ejaculated Alessandro, so scornfully that it sounded like
impatience with Ramona, and made her tears flow afresh. "Where? I know
not, Majella! Into the mountains, where the white men come not! At
sunrise we will start."
Ramona wished to say good-by to their friends. There were women in the
village that she tenderly loved. But Alessandro was unwilling. "There
will be weeping and crying, Majella; I pray you do not speak to one. Why
should we have more tears? Let us disappear. I will say all to Ysidro.
He will tell them."
This was a sore grief to Ramona. In her heart she rebelled against it,
as she had never yet rebelled against an act of Alessandro's; but she
could not distress him. Was not his burden heavy enough now?
Without a word of farewell to any one, they set off in the gray dawn,
before a creature was stirring in the village, - the wagon piled high;
Ramona, her baby in her arms, in front; Alessandro walking. The load was
heavy. Benito and Baba walked slowly. Capitan, unhappy, looking first at
Ramona's face, then at Alessandro's, walked dispiritedly by their side.
He knew all was wrong.
As Alessandro turned the horses into a faintly marked road leading in a
northeasterly direction, Ramona said with a sob, "Where does this road
"To San Jacinto," he said. "San Jacinto Mountain. Do not look back,
Majella! Do not look back!" he cried, as he saw Ramona, with streaming
eyes, gazing back towards San Pasquale. "Do not look back! It is gone!
Pray to the saints now, Majella! Pray! Pray!"
THE Senora Moreno was dying. It had been a sad two years in the Moreno
house. After the first excitement following Ramona's departure had
died away, things had settled down in a surface similitude of their old
routine. But nothing was really the same. No one was so happy as before.
Juan Canito was heart-broken. There had been set over him the very
Mexican whose coming to the place he had dreaded. The sheep had not done
well; there had been a drought; many had died of hunger, - a thing for
which the new Mexican overseer was not to blame, though it pleased Juan
to hold him so, and to say from morning till night that if his leg had
not been broken, or if the lad Alessandro had been there, the wool-crop
would have been as big as ever. Not one of the servants liked this
Mexican; he had a sorry time of it, poor fellow; each man and woman on
the place had or fancied some reason for being set against him; some
from sympathy with Juan Can, some from idleness and general impatience;
Margarita, most of all, because he was not Alessandro. Margarita,
between remorse about her young mistress and pique and disappointment
about Alessandro, had become a very unhappy girl; and her mother,
instead of comforting or soothing her, added to her misery by
continually bemoaning Ramona's fate. The void that Ramona had left in
the whole household seemed an irreparable one; nothing came to fill it;
there was no forgetting; every day her name was mentioned by some one;
mentioned with bated breath, fearful conjecture, compassion, and regret.
Where had she vanished? Had she indeed gone to the convent, as she said,
or had she fled with Alessandro?
Margarita would have given her right hand to know. Only Juan Can felt