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adherent of the Church. Through wars, insurrections, revolutions,
downfalls, Spanish, Mexican, civil, ecclesiastical, her standpoint,
her poise, remained the same. She simply grew more and more proudly,
passionately, a Spaniard and a Moreno; more and more stanchly and
fierily a Catholic, and a lover of the Franciscans.

During the height of the despoiling and plundering of the Missions,
under the Secularization Act, she was for a few years almost beside
herself. More than once she journeyed alone, when the journey was by
no means without danger, to Monterey, to stir up the Prefect of
the Missions to more energetic action, to implore the governmental
authorities to interfere, and protect the Church's property. It
was largely in consequence of her eloquent entreaties that Governor
Micheltorena issued his bootless order, restoring to the Church all the
Missions south of San Luis Obispo. But this order cost Micheltorena his
political head, and General Moreno was severely wounded in one of the
skirmishes of the insurrection which drove Micheltorena out of the

In silence and bitter humiliation the Senora nursed her husband back
to health again, and resolved to meddle no more in the affairs of her
unhappy country and still more unhappy Church. As year by year she
saw the ruin of the Missions steadily going on, their vast properties
melting away, like dew before the sun, in the hands of dishonest
administrators and politicians, the Church powerless to contend with the
unprincipled greed in high places, her beloved Franciscan Fathers driven
from the country or dying of starvation at their posts, she submitted
herself to what, she was forced to admit, seemed to be the inscrutable
will of God for the discipline and humiliation of the Church. In a sort
of bewildered resignation she waited to see what further sufferings
were to come, to fill up the measure of the punishment which, for some
mysterious purpose, the faithful must endure. But when close upon
all this discomfiture and humiliation of her Church followed the
discomfiture and humiliation of her country in war, and the near and
evident danger of an English-speaking people's possessing the land,
all the smothered fire of the Senora's nature broke out afresh. With
unfaltering hands she buckled on her husband's sword, and with dry eyes
saw him go forth to fight. She had but one regret, that she was not the
mother of sons to fight also.

"Would thou wert a man, Felipe," she exclaimed again and again in tones
the child never forgot. "Would thou wert a man, that thou might go also
to fight these foreigners!"

Any race under the sun would have been to the Senora less hateful than
the American. She had scorned them in her girlhood, when they came
trading to post after post. She scorned them still. The idea of being
forced to wage a war with pedlers was to her too monstrous to be
believed. In the outset she had no doubt that the Mexicans would win in
the contest.

"What!" she cried, "shall we who won independence from Spain, be beaten
by these traders? It is impossible!"

When her husband was brought home to her dead, killed in the last fight
the Mexican forces made, she said icily, "He would have chosen to die
rather than to have been forced to see his country in the hands of
the enemy." And she was almost frightened at herself to see how this
thought, as it dwelt in her mind, slew the grief in her heart. She had
believed she could not live if her husband were to be taken away from
her; but she found herself often glad that he was dead, - glad that he
was spared the sight and the knowledge of the things which happened;
and even the yearning tenderness with which her imagination pictured
him among the saints, was often turned into a fierce wondering whether
indignation did not fill his soul, even in heaven, at the way things
were going in the land for whose sake he had died.

Out of such throes as these had been born the second nature which made
Senora Moreno the silent, reserved, stern, implacable woman they knew,
who knew her first when she was sixty. Of the gay, tender, sentimental
girl, who danced and laughed with the officers, and prayed and confessed
with the Fathers, forty years before, there was small trace left now,
in the low-voiced, white-haired, aged woman, silent, unsmiling,
placid-faced, who manoeuvred with her son and her head shepherd alike,
to bring it about that a handful of Indians might once more confess
their sins to a Franciscan monk in the Moreno chapel.


JUAN CANITO and Senor Felipe were not the only members of the Senora's
family who were impatient for the sheep-shearing. There was also Ramona.
Ramona was, to the world at large, a far more important person than the
Senora herself. The Senora was of the past; Ramona was of the present.
For one eye that could see the significant, at times solemn, beauty of
the Senora's pale and shadowed countenance, there were a hundred that
flashed with eager pleasure at the barest glimpse of Ramona's face; the
shepherds, the herdsmen, the maids, the babies, the dogs, the poultry,
all loved the sight of Ramona; all loved her, except the Senora. The
Senora loved her not; never had loved her, never could love her; and
yet she had stood in the place of mother to the girl ever since her
childhood, and never once during the whole sixteen years of her life had
shown her any unkindness in act. She had promised to be a mother to her;
and with all the inalienable stanchness of her nature she fulfilled the
letter of her promise. More than the bond lay in the bond; but that was
not the Senora's fault.

The story of Ramona the Senora never told. To most of the Senora's
acquaintances now, Ramona was a mystery. They did not know - and no one
ever asked a prying question of the Senora Moreno - who Ramona's parents
were, whether they were living or dead, or why Ramona, her name not
being Moreno, lived always in the Senora's house as a daughter, tended
and attended equally with the adored Felipe. A few gray-haired men and
women here and there in the country could have told the strange story
of Ramona; but its beginning was more than a half-century back, and much
had happened since then. They seldom thought of the child. They knew she
was in the Senora Moreno's keeping, and that was enough. The affairs of
the generation just going out were not the business of the young people
coming in. They would have tragedies enough of their own presently; what
was the use of passing down the old ones? Yet the story was not one to
be forgotten; and now and then it was told in the twilight of a summer
evening, or in the shadows of vines on a lingering afternoon, and all
young men and maidens thrilled who heard it.

It was an elder sister of the Senora's, - a sister old enough to be wooed
and won while the Senora was yet at play, - who had been promised in
marriage to a young Scotchman named Angus Phail. She was a beautiful
woman; and Angus Phail, from the day that he first saw her standing in
the Presidio gate, became so madly her lover, that he was like a man
bereft of his senses. This was the only excuse ever to be made for
Ramona Gonzaga's deed. It could never be denied, by her bitterest
accusers, that, at the first, and indeed for many months, she told Angus
she did not love him, and could not marry him; and that it was only
after his stormy and ceaseless entreaties, that she did finally promise
to become his wife. Then, almost immediately, she went away to Monterey,
and Angus set sail for San Blas. He was the owner of the richest line
of ships which traded along the coast at that time; the richest stuffs,
carvings, woods, pearls, and jewels, which came into the country, came
in his ships. The arrival of one of them was always an event; and
Angus himself, having been well-born in Scotland, and being wonderfully
well-mannered for a seafaring man, was made welcome in all the best
houses, wherever his ships went into harbor, from Monterey to San Diego.

The Senorita Ramona Gonzaga sailed for Monterey the same day and hour
her lover sailed for San Blas. They stood on the decks waving signals to
each other as one sailed away to the south, the other to the north.
It was remembered afterward by those who were in the ship with the
Senorita, that she ceased to wave her signals, and had turned her face
away, long before her lover's ship was out of sight. But the men of the
"San Jose" said that Angus Phail stood immovable, gazing northward,
till nightfall shut from his sight even the horizon line at which the
Monterey ship had long before disappeared from view.

This was to be his last voyage. He went on this only because his honor
was pledged to do so. Also, he comforted himself by thinking that he
would bring back for his bride, and for the home he meant to give her,
treasures of all sorts, which none could select so well as he. Through
the long weeks of the voyage he sat on deck, gazing dreamily at the
waves, and letting his imagination feed on pictures of jewels, satins,
velvets, laces, which would best deck his wife's form and face. When
he could not longer bear the vivid fancies' heat in his blood, he would
pace the deck, swifter and swifter, till his steps were like those
of one flying in fear; at such times the men heard him muttering and
whispering to himself, "Ramona! Ramona!" Mad with love from the first
to the last was Angus Phail; and there were many who believed that if he
had ever seen the hour when he called Ramona Gonzaga his own, his reason
would have fled forever at that moment, and he would have killed either
her or himself, as men thus mad have been known to do. But that hour
never came. When, eight months later, the "San Jose" sailed into the
Santa Barbara harbor, and Angus Phail leaped breathless on shore, the
second man he met, no friend of his, looking him maliciously in
the face, said. "So, ho! You're just too late for the wedding! Your
sweetheart, the handsome Gonzaga girl, was married here, yesterday, to a
fine young officer of the Monterey Presidio!"

Angus reeled, struck the man a blow full in the face, and fell on the
ground, foaming at the mouth. He was lifted and carried into a house,
and, speedily recovering, burst with the strength of a giant from the
hands of those who were holding him, sprang out of the door, and ran
bareheaded up the road toward the Presidio. At the gate he was stopped
by the guard, who knew him.

"Is it true?" gasped Angus.

"Yes, Senor," replied the man, who said afterward that his knees shook
under him with terror at the look on the Scotchman's face. He feared he
would strike him dead for his reply. But, instead, Angus burst into
a maudlin laugh, and, turning away, went staggering down the street,
singing and laughing.

The next that was known of him was in a low drinking-place, where he was
seen lying on the floor, dead drunk; and from that day he sank lower and
lower, till one of the commonest sights to be seen in Santa Barbara was
Angus Phail reeling about, tipsy, coarse, loud, profane, dangerous.

"See what the Senorita escaped!" said the thoughtless. "She was quite
right not to have married such a drunken wretch."

In the rare intervals when he was partially sober, he sold all he
possessed, - ship after ship sold for a song, and the proceeds squandered
in drinking or worse. He never had a sight of his lost bride. He did not
seek it; and she, terrified, took every precaution to avoid it, and soon
returned with her husband to Monterey.

Finally Angus disappeared, and after a time the news came up from Los
Angeles that he was there, had gone out to the San Gabriel Mission,
and was living with the Indians. Some years later came the still more
surprising news that he had married a squaw, - a squaw with several
Indian children, - had been legally married by the priest in the San
Gabriel Mission Church. And that was the last that the faithless Ramona
Gonzaga ever heard of her lover, until twenty-five years after her
marriage, when one day he suddenly appeared in her presence. How he
had gained admittance to the house was never known; but there he stood
before her, bearing in his arms a beautiful babe, asleep. Drawing
himself up to the utmost of his six feet of height, and looking at her
sternly, with eyes blue like steel, he said: "Senora Ortegna, you once
did me a great wrong. You sinned, and the Lord has punished you. He has
denied you children. I also have done a wrong; I have sinned, and the
Lord has punished me. He has given me a child. I ask once more at your
hands a boon. Will you take this child of mine, and bring it up as a
child of yours, or of mine, ought to be brought up?"

The tears were rolling down the Senora Ortegna's cheeks. The Lord
had indeed punished her in more ways than Angus Phail knew. Her
childlessness, bitter as that had been, was the least of them.
Speechless, she rose, and stretched out her arms for the child. He
placed it in them. Still the child slept on, undisturbed.

"I do not know if I will be permitted," she said falteringly; "my
husband - "

"Father Salvierderra will command it. I have seen him," replied Angus.

The Senora's face brightened. "If that be so, I hope it can be as you
wish," she said. Then a strange embarrassment came upon her, and looking
down upon the infant, she said inquiringly, "But the child's mother?"

Angus's face turned swarthy red. Perhaps, face to face with this gentle
and still lovely woman he had once so loved, he first realized to the
full how wickedly he had thrown away his life. With a quick wave of
his hand, which spoke volumes, he said: "That is nothing. She has other
children, of her own blood. This is mine, my only one, my daughter. I
wish her to be yours; otherwise, she will be taken by the Church."

With each second that she felt the little warm body's tender weight in
her arms, Ramona Ortegna's heart had more and more yearned towards the
infant. At these words she bent her face down and kissed its cheek. "Oh,
no! not to the Church! I will love it as my own," she said.

Angus Phail's face quivered. Feelings long dead within him stirred in
their graves. He gazed at the sad and altered face, once so beautiful,
so dear. "I should hardly have known you, Senora!" burst from him

She smiled piteously, with no resentment. "That is not strange. I hardly
know myself," she whispered. "Life has dealt very hardly with me.
I should not have known you either - Angus." She pronounced his name
hesitatingly, half appealingly. At the sound of the familiar syllables,
so long unheard, the man's heart broke down. He buried his face in his
hands, and sobbed out: "O Ramona, forgive me! I brought the child here,
not wholly in love; partly in vengeance. But I am melted now. Are you
sure you wish to keep her? I will take her away if you are not."

"Never, so long as I live, Angus," replied Senora Ortegna. "Already I
feel that she is a mercy from the Lord. If my husband sees no offence in
her presence, she will be a joy in my life. Has she been christened?"

Angus cast his eyes down. A sudden fear smote him. "Before I had thought
of bringing her to you," he stammered, "at first I had only the thought
of giving her to the Church. I had had her christened by" - the words
refused to leave his lips - "the name - Can you not guess, Senora, what
name she bears?"

The Senora knew. "My own?" she said.

Angus bowed his head. "The only woman's name that my lips ever spoke
with love," he said, reassured, "was the name my daughter should bear."

"It is well," replied the Senora. Then a great silence fell between
them. Each studied the other's face, tenderly, bewilderedly. Then by a
simultaneous impulse they drew nearer. Angus stretched out both his arms
with a gesture of infinite love and despair, bent down and kissed the
hands which lovingly held his sleeping child.

"God bless you, Ramona! Farewell! You will never see me more," he cried,
and was gone.

In a moment more he reappeared on the threshold of the door, but only to
say in a low tone, "There is no need to be alarmed if the child does not
wake for some hours yet. She has had a safe sleeping-potion given her.
It will not harm her."

One more long lingering look into each other's faces, and the two
lovers, so strangely parted, still more strangely met, had parted again,
forever. The quarter of a century which had lain between them had been
bridged in both their hearts as if it were but a day. In the heart
of the man it was the old passionate adoring love reawakening;
a resurrection of the buried dead, to full life, with lineaments
unchanged. In the woman it was not that; there was no buried love to
come to such resurrection in her heart, for she had never loved Angus
Phail. But, long unloved, ill-treated, heartbroken, she woke at that
moment to the realization of what manner of love it had been which she
had thrown away in her youth; her whole being yearned for it now, and
Angus was avenged.

When Francis Ortegna, late that night, reeled, half-tipsy, into
his wife's room, he was suddenly sobered by the sight which met his
eyes, - his wife kneeling by the side of the cradle, in which lay,
smiling in its sleep, a beautiful infant.

"What in the devil's name," he began; then recollecting, he muttered:
"Oh, the Indian brat! I see! I wish you joy, Senora Ortegna, of your
first child!" and with a mock bow, and cruel sneer, he staggered by,
giving the cradle an angry thrust with his foot as he passed.

The brutal taunt did not much wound the Senora. The time had long since
passed when unkind words from her husband could give her keen pain. But
it was a warning not lost upon her new-born mother instinct, and from
that day the little Ramona was carefully kept and tended in apartments
where there was no danger of her being seen by the man to whom the sight
of her baby face was only a signal for anger and indecency.

Hitherto Ramona Ortegna had, so far as was possible, carefully concealed
from her family the unhappiness of her married life. Ortegna's
character was indeed well known; his neglect of his wife, his shameful
dissipations of all sorts, were notorious in every port in the country.
But from the wife herself no one had even heard so much as a syllable of
complaint. She was a Gonzaga, and she knew how to suffer in silence, But
now she saw a reason for taking her sister into her confidence. It was
plain to her that she had not many years to live; and what then would
become of the child? Left to the tender mercies of Ortegna, it was only
too certain what would become of her. Long sad hours of perplexity the
lonely woman passed, with the little laughing babe in her arms, vainly
endeavoring to forecast her future. The near chance of her own death had
not occurred to her mind when she accepted the trust.

Before the little Ramona was a year old, Angus Phail died. An Indian
messenger from San Gabriel brought the news to Senora Ortegna. He
brought her also a box and a letter, given to him by Angus the day
before his death. The box contained jewels of value, of fashions a
quarter of a century old. They were the jewels which Angus had bought
for his bride. These alone remained of all his fortune. Even in the
lowest depths of his degradation, a certain sentiment had restrained him
from parting with them. The letter contained only these words: "I send
you all I have to leave my daughter. I meant to bring them myself this
year. I wished to kiss your hands and hers once more. But I am dying.

After these jewels were in her possession, Senora Ortegna rested not
till she had persuaded Senora Moreno to journey to Monterey, and had
put the box into her keeping as a sacred trust. She also won from her a
solemn promise that at her own death she would adopt the little
Ramona. This promise came hard from Senora Moreno. Except for Father
Salvierderra's influence, she had not given it. She did not wish any
dealings with such alien and mongrel blood, "If the child were pure
Indian, I would like it better," she said. "I like not these crosses. It
is the worst, and not the best of each, that remains."

But the promise once given, Senora Ortegna was content. Well she knew
that her sister would not lie, nor evade a trust. The little Ramona's
future was assured. During the last years of the unhappy woman's life
the child was her only comfort. Ortegna's conduct had become so openly
and defiantly infamous, that he even flaunted his illegitimate relations
in his wife's presence; subjecting her to gross insults, spite of her
helpless invalidism. This last outrage was too much for the Gonzaga
blood to endure; the Senora never afterward left her apartment, or spoke
to her husband. Once more she sent for her sister to come; this time, to
see her die. Every valuable she possessed, jewels, laces, brocades, and
damasks, she gave into her sister's charge, to save them from falling
into the hands of the base creature that she knew only too well would
stand in her place as soon as the funeral services had been said over
her dead body.

Stealthily, as if she had been a thief, the sorrowing Senora Moreno
conveyed her sister's wardrobe, article by article, out of the house, to
be sent to her own home. It was the wardrobe of a princess. The Ortegnas
lavished money always on the women whose hearts they broke; and never
ceased to demand of them that they should sit superbly arrayed in their
lonely wretchedness.

One hour after the funeral, with a scant and icy ceremony of farewell
to her dead sister's husband, Senora Moreno, leading the little
four-year-old Ramona by the hand, left the house, and early the next
morning set sail for home.

When Ortegna discovered that his wife's jewels and valuables of all
kinds were gone, he fell into a great rage, and sent a messenger off,
post-haste, with an insulting letter to the Senora Moreno, demanding
their return. For answer, he got a copy of his wife's memoranda of
instructions to her sister, giving all the said valuables to her in
trust for Ramona; also a letter from Father Salvierderra, upon reading
which he sank into a fit of despondency that lasted a day or two, and
gave his infamous associates considerable alarm, lest they had lost
their comrade. But he soon shook off the influence, whatever it was, and
settled back into his old gait on the same old high-road to the devil.
Father Salvierderra could alarm him, but not save him.

And this was the mystery of Ramona. No wonder the Senora Moreno never
told the story. No wonder, perhaps, that she never loved the child. It
was a sad legacy, indissolubly linked with memories which had in them
nothing but bitterness, shame, and sorrow from first to last.

How much of all this the young Ramona knew or suspected, was locked in
her own breast. Her Indian blood had as much proud reserve in it as was
ever infused into the haughtiest Gonzaga's veins. While she was yet a
little child, she had one day said to the Senora Moreno, "Senora, why
did my mother give me to the Senora Ortegna?"

Taken unawares, the Senora replied hastily: "Your mother had nothing
whatever to do with it. It was your father."

"Was my mother dead?" continued the child.

Too late the Senora saw her mistake. "I do not know," she replied; which
was literally true, but had the spirit of a lie in it. "I never saw your

"Did the Senora Ortegna ever see her?" persisted Ramona.

"No, never," answered the Senora, coldly, the old wounds burning at the
innocent child's unconscious touch.

Ramona felt the chill, and was silent for a time, her face sad, and her
eyes tearful. At last she said, "I wish I knew if my mother was dead."

"Why?" asked the Senora.

"Because if she is not dead I would ask her why she did not want me to
stay with her."

The gentle piteousness of this reply smote the Senora's conscience.
Taking the child in her arms, she said, "Who has been talking to you of
these things, Ramona?"

"Juan Can," she replied.

"What did he say?" asked the Senora, with a look in her eye which boded
no good to Juan Canito.

"It was not to me he said it, it was to Luigo; but I heard him,"
answered Ramona, speaking slowly, as if collecting her various
reminiscences on the subject. "Twice I heard him. He said that my mother
was no good, and that my father was bad too." And the tears rolled down
the child's cheeks.

The Senora's sense of justice stood her well in place of tenderness,
now. Caressing the little orphan as she had never before done, she said,
with an earnestness which sank deep into the child's mind, "Ramona must
not believe any such thing as that. Juan Can is a bad man to say it.

Online LibraryHelen Hunt JacksonRamona → online text (page 3 of 35)