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sure. Very well Juan Can knew that nobody but Alessandro had the wit and
the power over Baba to lure him out of that corral, "and never a rail
out of its place." And the saddle, too! Ay, the smart lad! He had done
the best he could for the Senorita; but, Holy Virgin! what had got into
the Senorita to run off like that, with an Indian, - even Alessandro!
The fiends had bewitched her. Tirelessly Juan Can questioned every
traveller, every wandering herder he saw. No one knew anything of
Alessandro, beyond the fact that all the Temecula Indians had been
driven out of their village, and that there was now not an Indian in the
valley. There was a rumor that Alessandro and his father had both
died; but no one knew anything certainly. The Temecula Indians had
disappeared, that was all there was of it, - disappeared, like any wild
creatures, foxes or coyotes, hunted down, driven out; the valley was rid
of them. But the Senorita! She was not with these fugitives. That could
not be! Heaven forbid!

"If I'd my legs, I'd go and see for myself." said Juan Can. "It would
be some comfort to know even the worst. Perdition take the Senora, who
drove her to it! Ay, drove her to it! That's what I say, Luigo." In some
of his most venturesome wrathy moments he would say: "There's none
of you know the truth about the Senorita but me! It's a hard hand the
Senora's reared her with, from the first. She's a wonderful woman, our
Senora! She gets power over one."

But the Senora's power was shaken now. More changed than all else in the
changed Moreno household, was the relation between the Senora Moreno and
her son Felipe. On the morning after Ramona's disappearance, words had
been spoken by each which neither would ever forget. In fact, the Senora
believed that it was of them she was dying, and perhaps that was not far
from the truth; the reason that forces could no longer rally in her to
repel disease, lying no doubt largely in the fact that to live seemed no
longer to her desirable.

Felipe had found the note Ramona had laid on his bed. Before it was yet
dawn he had waked, and tossing uneasily under the light covering had
heard the rustle of the paper, and knowing instinctively that it was
from Ramona, had risen instantly to make sure of it. Before his mother
opened her window, he had read it. He felt like one bereft of his senses
as he read. Gone! Gone with Alessandro! Stolen away like a thief in the
night, his dear, sweet little sister! Ah, what a cruel shame! Scales
seemed to drop from Felipe's eyes as he lay motionless, thinking of
it. A shame! a cruel shame! And he and his mother were the ones who had
brought it on Ramona's head, and on the house of Moreno. Felipe felt
as if he had been under a spell all along, not to have realized this.
"That's what I told my mother!" he groaned, - "that it drove her to
running away! Oh, my sweet Ramona! what will become of her? I will go
after them, and bring them back;" and Felipe rose, and hastily dressing
himself, ran down the veranda steps, to gain a little more time to
think. He returned shortly, to meet his mother standing in the doorway,
with pale, affrighted face.

"Felipe!" she cried, "Ramona is not here."

"I know it," he replied in an angry tone. "That is what I told you we
should do, - drive her to running away with Alessandro!"

"With Alessandro!" interrupted the Senora.

"Yes," continued Felipe, - "with Alessandro, the Indian! Perhaps you
think it is less disgrace to the names of Ortegna and Moreno to have her
run away with him, than to be married to him here under our roof! I
do not! Curse the day, I say, when I ever lent myself to breaking the
girl's heart! I am going after them, to fetch them back!"

If the skies had opened and rained fire, the Senora had hardly less
quailed and wondered than she did at these words; but even for fire from
the skies she would not surrender till she must.

"How know you that it is with Alessandro?" she said.

"Because she has written it here!" cried Felipe, defiantly holding
up his little note. "She left this, her good-by to me. Bless her! She
writes like a saint, to thank me for all my goodness to her, - I, who
drove her to steal out of my house like a thief!"

The phrase, "my house," smote the Senora's ear like a note from some
other sphere, which indeed it was, - from the new world into which Felipe
had been in an hour born. Her cheeks flushed, and she opened her lips to
reply; but before she had uttered a word, Luigo came running round
the corner, Juan Can hobbling after him at a miraculous pace on his
crutches. "Senor Felipe! Senor Felipe! Oh, Senora!" they cried. "Thieves
have been here in the night! Baba is gone, - Baba, and the Senorita's

A malicious smile broke over the Senora's countenance, and turning to
Felipe, she said in a tone - what a tone it was! Felipe felt as if
he must put his hands to his ears to shut it out; Felipe would never
forget, - "As you were saying, like a thief in the night!"

With a swifter and more energetic movement than any had ever before seen
Senor Felipe make, he stepped forward, saying in an undertone to his
mother, "For God's sake, mother, not a word before the men! - What is
that you say, Luigo? Baba gone? We must see to our corral. I will come
down, after breakfast, and look at it;" and turning his back on them, he
drew his mother by a firm grasp, she could not resist, into the house.

She gazed at him in sheer, dumb wonder.

"Ay, mother," he said, "you may well look thus in wonder; I have been no
man, to let my foster-sister, I care not what blood were in her veins,
be driven to this pass! I will set out this day, and bring her back."

"The day you do that, then, I lie in this house dead!" retorted the
Senora, at white heat. "You may rear as many Indian families as you
please under the Moreno roof, I will at least have my grave!" In spite
of her anger, grief convulsed her; and in another second she had
burst into tears, and sunk helpless and trembling into a chair. No
counterfeiting now. No pretences. The Senora Moreno's heart broke within
her, when those words passed her lips to her adored Felipe. At the
sight, Felipe flung himself on his knees before her; he kissed the aged
hands as they lay trembling in her lap. "Mother mia," he cried, "you
will break my heart if you speak like that! Oh, why, why do you command
me to do what a man may not? I would die for you, my mother; but how can
I see my sister a homeless wanderer in the wilderness?"

"I suppose the man Alessandro has something he calls a home," said the
Senora, regaining herself a little. "Had they no plans? Spoke she not in
her letter of what they would do?"

"Only that they would go to Father Salvierderra first," he replied.

"Ah!" The Senora reflected. At first startled, her second thought was
that this would be the best possible thing which could happen. "Father
Salvierderra will counsel them what to do," she said. "He could no doubt
establish them in Santa Barbara in some way. My son, when you reflect,
you will see the impossibility of bringing them here. Help them in any
way you like, but do not bring them here." She paused. "Not until I am
dead, Felipe! It will not be long."

Felipe bowed his head in his mother's lap. She laid her hands on his
hair, and stroked it with passionate tenderness. "My Felipe!" she said.
"It was a cruel fate to rob me of you at the last!"

"Mother! mother!" he cried in anguish. "I am yours, - wholly, devotedly
yours! Why do you torture me thus?"

"I will not torture you more," she said wearily, in a feeble tone. "I
ask only one thing of you; let me never hear again the name of that
wretched girl, who has brought all this woe on our house; let her name
never be spoken on this place by man, woman, or child. Like a thief in
the night! Ay, a horse-thief!"

Felipe sprang to his feet.

"Mother." he said, "Baba was Ramona's own; I myself gave him to her as
soon as he was born!"

The Senora made no reply. She had fainted. Calling the maids, in terror
and sorrow Felipe bore her to her bed, and she did not leave it for many
days. She seemed hovering between life and death. Felipe watched over
her as a lover might; her great mournful eyes followed his every motion.
She spoke little, partly because of physical weakness, partly from
despair. The Senora had got her death-blow. She would die hard. It would
take long. Yet she was dying, and she knew it.

Felipe did not know it. When he saw her going about again, with a step
only a little slower than before, and with a countenance not so much
changed as he had feared, he thought she would be well again, after a
time. And now he would go in search of Ramona. How he hoped he should
find them in Santa Barbara! He must leave them there, or wherever he
should find them; never again would he for a moment contemplate the
possibility of bringing them home with him. But he would see them; help
them, if need be. Ramona should not feel herself an outcast, so long as
he lived.

When he said, agitatedly, to his mother, one night, "You are so
strong now, mother, I think I will take a journey; I will not be away
long, - not over a week," she understood, and with a deep sigh replied:
"I am not strong; but I am as strong as I shall ever be. If the journey
must be taken, it is as well done now."

How was the Senora changed!

"It must be, mother," said Felipe, "or I would not leave you. I will set
off before sunrise, so I will say farewell tonight."

But in the morning, at his first step, his mother's window opened, and
there she stood, wan, speechless, looking at him. "You must go, my son?"
she asked at last.

"I must, mother!" and Felipe threw his arms around her, and kissed her
again and again. "Dearest mother! Do smile! Can you not?"

"No, my son, I cannot. Farewell. The saints keep you. Farewell." And she
turned, that she might not see him go.

Felipe rode away with a sad heart, but his purpose did not falter.
Following straight down the river road to the sea, he then kept up along
the coast, asking here and there, cautiously, if persons answering to
the description of Alessandro and Ramona had been seen. No one had seen
any such persons.

When, on the night of the second day, he rode up to the Santa Barbara
Mission, the first figure he saw was the venerable Father Salvierderra
sitting in the corridor. As Felipe approached, the old man's face beamed
with pleasure, and he came forward totteringly, leaning on a staff in
each hand. "Welcome, my son!" he said. "Are all well? You find me very
feeble just now; my legs are failing me sorely this autumn."

Dismay seized on Felipe at the Father's first words. He would not have
spoken thus, had he seen Ramona. Barely replying to the greeting, Felipe
exclaimed: "Father, I come seeking Ramona. Has she not been with you?"

Father Salvierderra's face was reply to the question. "Ramona!" he
cried. "Seeking Ramona! What has befallen the blessed child?"

It was a bitter story for Felipe to tell; but he told it, sparing
himself no shame. He would have suffered less in the telling, had he
known how well Father Salvierderra understood his mother's character,
and her almost unlimited power over all persons around her. Father
Salvierderra was not shocked at the news of Ramona's attachment for
Alessandro. He regretted it, but he did not think it shame, as the
Senora had done. As Felipe talked with him, he perceived even more
clearly how bitter and unjust his mother had been to Alessandro.

"He is a noble young man," said Father Salvierderra. "His father was one
of the most trusted of Father Peyri's assistants. You must find them,
Felipe. I wonder much they did not come to me. Perhaps they may yet
come. When you find them, bear them my blessing, and say that I wish
they would come hither. I would like to give them my blessing before
I die. Felipe, I shall never leave Santa Barbara again. My time draws

Felipe was so full of impatience to continue his search, that he hardly
listened to the Father's words. "I will not tarry," he said. "I cannot
rest till I find her. I will ride back as far as Ventura to-night."

"You will send me word by a messenger, when you find them," said the
Father. "God grant no harm has befallen them. I will pray for them,
Felipe;" and he tottered into the church.

Felipe's thoughts, as he retraced his road, were full of bewilderment
and pain. He was wholly at loss to conjecture what course Alessandro and
Ramona had taken, or what could have led them to abandon their intention
of going to Father Salvierderra. Temecula seemed the only place, now, to
look for them; and yet from Temecula Felipe had heard, only a few days
before leaving home, that there was not an Indian left in the valley.
But he could at least learn there where the Indians had gone. Poor as
the clew seemed, it was all he had. Cruelly Felipe urged his horse
on his return journey. He grudged an hour's rest to himself or to the
beast; and before he reached the head of the Temecula canon the creature
was near spent. At the steepest part he jumped off and walked, to save
her strength. As he was toiling slowly up a narrow, rocky pass, he
suddenly saw an Indian's head peering over the ledge. He made signs
to him to come down. The Indian turned his head, and spoke to some one
behind; one after another a score of figures rose. They made signs to
Felipe to come up. "Poor things!" he thought; "they are afraid." He
shouted to them that his horse was too tired to climb that wall; but if
they would come down, he would give them money, holding up a gold-piece.
They consulted among themselves; presently they began slowly descending,
still halting at intervals, and looking suspiciously at him. He held
up the gold again, and beckoned. As soon as they could see his face
distinctly, they broke into a run. That was no enemy's face.

Only one of the number could speak Spanish. On hearing this man's reply
to Felipe's first question, a woman, who had listened sharply and caught
the word Alessandro, came forward, and spoke rapidly in the Indian

"This woman has seen Alessandro," said the man.

"Where?" said Felipe, breathlessly.

"In Temecula, two weeks ago," he said.

"Ask her if he had any one with him," said Felipe.

"No," said the woman. "He was alone."

A convulsion passed over Felipe's face. "Alone!" What did this mean! He
reflected. The woman watched him. "Is she sure he was alone; there was
no one with him?"


"Was he riding a big black horse?"

"No, a white horse," answered the woman, promptly. "A small white

It was Carmena, every nerve of her loyal nature on the alert to baffle
this pursuer of Alessandro and Ramona. Again Felipe reflected. "Ask her
if she saw him for any length of time; how long she saw him."

"All night," he answered. "He spent the night where she did."

Felipe despaired. "Does she know where he is now?" he asked.

"He was going to San Luis Obispo, to go in a ship to Monterey."

"What to do?"

"She does not know."

"Did he say when he would come back?"



"Never! He said he would never set foot in Temecula again."

"Does she know him well?"

"As well as her own brother."

What more could Felipe ask? With a groan, wrung from the very depths of
his heart, he tossed the man a gold-piece; another to the woman. "I am
sorry," he said. "Alessandro was my friend. I wanted to see him;" and he
rode away, Carmena's eyes following him with a covert gleam of triumph.

When these last words of his were interpreted to her, she started, made
as if she would run after him, but checked herself. "No," she thought.
"It may be a lie. He may be an enemy, for all that. I will not tell.
Alessandro wished not to be found. I will not tell."

And thus vanished the last chance of succor for Ramona; vanished in a
moment; blown like a thistledown on a chance breath, - the breath of a
loyal, loving friend, speaking a lie to save her.

Distraught with grief, Felipe returned home. Ramona had been very
ill when she left home. Had she died, and been buried by the lonely,
sorrowing Alessandro? And was that the reason Alessandro was going away
to the North, never to return? Fool that he was, to have shrunk from
speaking Ramona's name to the Indians! He would return, and ask again.
As soon as he had seen his mother, he would set off again, and never
cease searching till he had found either Ramona or her grave. But when
Felipe entered his mother's presence, his first look in her face told
him that he would not leave her side again until he had laid her at rest
in the tomb.

"Thank God! you have come, Felipe," she said in a feeble voice. "I had
begun to fear you would not come in time to say farewell to me. I am
going to leave you, my son;" and the tears rolled down her cheeks.

Though she no longer wished to live, neither did she wish to die, - this
poor, proud, passionate, defeated, bereft Senora. All the consolations
of her religion seemed to fail her. She had prayed incessantly, but got
no peace. She fixed her imploring eyes on the Virgin's face and on the
saints; but all seemed to her to wear a forbidding look. "If Father
Salvierderra would only come!" she groaned. "He could give me peace. If
only I can live till he comes again!"

When Felipe told her of the old man's feeble state, and that he would
never again make the journey, she turned her face to the wall and wept.
Not only for her own soul's help did she wish to see him: she wished
to put into his hands the Ortegna jewels. What would become of them? To
whom should she transfer the charge? Was there a secular priest
within reach that she could trust? When her sister had said, in her
instructions, "the Church," she meant, as the Senora Moreno well knew,
the Franciscans. The Senora dared not consult Felipe; yet she must. Day
by day these fretting anxieties and perplexities wasted her strength,
and her fever grew higher and higher. She asked no questions as to the
result of Felipe's journey, and he dared not mention Ramona's name. At
last he could bear it no longer, and one day said, "Mother, I found no
trace of Ramona. I have not the least idea where she is. The Father had
not seen her or heard of her. I fear she is dead."

"Better so," was the Senora's sole reply; and she fell again into still
deeper, more perplexed thought about the hidden treasure. Each day she
resolved, "To-morrow I will tell Felipe;" and when to-morrow came,
she put it off again. Finally she decided not to do it till she found
herself dying. Father Salvierderra might yet come once more, and
then all would be well. With trembling hands she wrote him a letter,
imploring him to be brought to her, and sent it by messenger, who was
empowered to hire a litter and four men to bring the Father gently and
carefully all the way. But when the messenger reached Santa Barbara,
Father Salvierderra was too feeble to be moved; too feeble even
to write. He could write only by amanuensis, and wrote, therefore,
guardedly, sending her his blessing, and saying that he hoped her
foster-child might yet be restored to the keeping of her friends. The
Father had been in sore straits of mind, as month after month had passed
without tidings of his "blessed child."

Soon after this came the news that the Father was dead. This dealt the
Senora a terrible blow. She never left her bed after it. And so the year
had worn on; and Felipe, mourning over his sinking and failing mother,
and haunted by terrible fears about the lost Ramona, had been tortured

But the end drew near, now. The Senora was plainly dying. The Ventura
doctor had left off coming, saying that he could do no more; nothing
remained but to give her what ease was possible; in a day or two more
all would be over. Felipe hardly left her bedside. Rarely was mother so
loved and nursed by son. No daughter could have shown more tenderness
and devotion. In the close relation and affection of these last days,
the sense of alienation and antagonism faded from both their hearts.

"My adorable Felipe!" she would murmur. "What a son hast thou been!"
And, "My beloved mother! How shall I give you up?" Felipe would reply,
bowing his head on her hands, - so wasted now, so white, so weak; those
hands which had been cruel and strong little more than one short year
ago. Ah, no one could refuse to forgive the Senora now! The gentle
Ramona, had she seen her, had wept tears of pity. Her eyes wore at times
a look almost of terror. It was the secret. How should she speak it?
What would Felipe say? At last the moment came. She had been with
difficulty roused from a long fainting; one more such would be the
last, she knew, - knew even better than those around her. As she regained
consciousness, she gasped, "Felipe! Alone!"

He understood, and waved the rest away.

"Alone!" she said again, turning her eyes to the door.

"Leave the room," said Felipe; "all - wait outside;" and he closed the
door on them. Even then the Senora hesitated. Almost was she ready to
go out of life leaving the hidden treasure to its chance of discovery,
rather than with her own lips reveal to Felipe what she saw now, saw
with the terrible, relentless clear-sightedness of death, would make
him, even after she was in her grave, reproach her in his thoughts.

But she dared not withhold it. It must be said. Pointing to the statue
of Saint Catharine, whose face seemed, she thought, to frown unforgiving
upon her, she said, "Felipe - behind that statue - look!"

Felipe thought her delirious, and said tenderly, "Nothing is there,
dearest mother. Be calm. I am here."

New terror seized the dying woman. Was she to be forced to carry
the secret to the grave? to be denied this late avowal? "No! no!
Felipe - there is a door there - secret door. Look! Open! I must tell

Hastily Felipe moved the statue. There was indeed the door, as she had

"Do not tell me now, mother dear. Wait till you are stronger," he said.
As he spoke, he turned, and saw, with alarm, his mother sitting upright
in the bed, her right arm outstretched, her hand pointing to the door,
her eyes in a glassy stare, her face convulsed. Before a cry could pass
his lips, she had fallen back. The Senora Moreno was dead.

At Felipe's cry, the women waiting in the hall hurried in, wailing
aloud as their first glance showed them all was over. In the confusion,
Felipe, with a pale, set face, pushed the statue back into its place.
Even then a premonition of horror swept over him. What was he, the son,
to find behind that secret door, at sight of which his mother had died
with that look of anguished terror in her eyes? All through the sad
duties of the next four days Felipe was conscious of the undercurrent
of this premonition. The funeral ceremonies were impressive. The little
chapel could not hold the quarter part of those who came, from far and
near. Everybody wished to do honor to the Senora Moreno. A priest from
Ventura and one from San Luis Obispo were there. When all was done, they
bore the Senora to the little graveyard on the hillside, and laid her by
the side of her husband and her children; silent and still at last,
the restless, passionate, proud, sad heart! When, the night after the
funeral, the servants saw Senor Felipe going into his mother's room,
they shuddered, and whispered, "Oh, he must not! He will break his
heart, Senor Felipe! How he loved her!"

Old Marda ventured to follow him, and at the threshold said: "Dear Senor
Felipe, do not! It is not good to go there! Come away!"

But he put her gently by, saying, "I would rather be here, good Marda;"
and went in and locked the door.

It was past midnight when he came out. His face was stern. He had buried
his mother again. Well might the Senora have dreaded to tell to Felipe
the tale of the Ortegna treasure. Until he reached the bottom of the
jewel-box, and found the Senora Ortegna's letter to his mother, he was
in entire bewilderment at all he saw. After he had read this letter, he
sat motionless for a long time, his head buried in his hands. His soul
was wrung.

"And she thought that shame, and not this!" he said bitterly.

But one thing remained for Felipe now, If Ramona lived, he would find
her, and restore to her this her rightful property. If she were dead, it
must go to the Santa Barbara College.

"Surely my mother must have intended to give it to the Church," he said.
"But why keep it all this time? It is this that has killed her. Oh,
shame! oh, disgrace!" From the grave in which Felipe had buried his
mother now, was no resurrection.

Replacing everything as before in the safe hiding-place, he sat down and

Online LibraryHelen Hunt JacksonRamona → online text (page 26 of 35)