Helen Hunt Jackson.

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first-rate about a house, and jest's faithful's dogs. You can trust 'em
with every dollar you've got."

From this day, Ramona never knew an instant's peace or rest till she
stood on the rim of the refuge valley, high on San Jacinto. Then, gazing
around, looking up at the lofty pinnacles above, which seemed to pierce
the sky, looking down upon the world, - it seemed the whole world,
so limitless it stretched away at her feet, - feeling that infinite
unspeakable sense of nearness to Heaven, remoteness from earth which
comes only on mountain heights, she drew in a long breath of delight,
and cried: "At last! at last, Alessandro! Here we are safe! This is
freedom! This is joy!"

"Can Majella be content?" he asked.

"I can almost be glad, Alessandro!" she cried, inspired by the glorious
scene. "I dreamed not it was like this!"

It was a wondrous valley. The mountain seemed to have been cleft to
make it. It lay near midway to the top, and ran transversely on the
mountain's side, its western or southwestern end being many feet lower
than the eastern. Both the upper and lower ends were closed by piles of
rocks and tangled fallen trees; the rocky summit of the mountain itself
made the southern wall; the northern was a spur, or ridge, nearly
vertical, and covered thick with pine-trees. A man might roam years
on the mountain and not find this cleft. At the upper end gushed out
a crystal spring, which trickled rather than ran, in a bed of marshy
green, the entire length of the valley, disappeared in the rocks at the
lower end, and came out no more; many times Alessandro had searched for
it lower down, but could find no trace of it. During the summer, when
he was hunting with Jeff, he had several times climbed the wall and
descended it on the inner side, to see if the rivulet still ran; and, to
his joy, had found it the same in July as in January. Drought could not
harm it, then. What salvation in such a spring! And the water was pure
and sweet as if it came from the skies.

A short distance off was another ridge or spur of the mountain, widening
out into almost a plateau. This was covered with acorn-bearing oaks; and
under them were flat stones worn into hollows, where bygone generations
of Indians had ground the nuts into meal. Generations long bygone
indeed, for it was not in the memory of the oldest now living, that
Indians had ventured so high up as this on San Jacinto. It was held to
be certain death to climb to its summit, and foolhardy in the extreme to
go far up its sides.

There was exhilaration in the place. It brought healing to both
Alessandro and Ramona. Even the bitter grief for the baby's death was
soothed. She did not seem so far off, since they had come so much nearer
to the sky. They lived at first in a tent; no time to build a house,
till the wheat and vegetables were planted. Alessandro was surprised,
when he came to the ploughing, to see how much good land he had. The
valley thrust itself, in inlets and coves, into the very rocks of its
southern wall; lovely sheltered nooks these were, where he hated to
wound the soft, flower-filled sward with his plough. As soon as the
planting was done, he began to fell trees for the house. No mournful
gray adobe this time, but walls of hewn pine, with half the bark left
on; alternate yellow and brown, as gay as if glad hearts had devised it.
The roof, of thatch, tule, and yucca-stalks, double laid and thick,
was carried out several feet in front of the house, making a sort of
bower-like veranda, supported by young fir-tree stems, left rough. Once
more Ramona would sit under a thatch with birds'-nests in it. A little
corral for the sheep, and a rough shed for the pony, and the home was
complete: far the prettiest home they had ever had. And here, in the
sunny veranda, when autumn came, sat Ramona, plaiting out of fragrant
willow twigs a cradle. The one over which she had wept such bitter tears
in the valley, they had burned the night before they left their Saboba
home. It was in early autumn she sat plaiting this cradle. The ground
around was strewn with wild grapes drying; the bees were feasting on
them in such clouds that Ramona rose frequently from her work to drive
them away, saying, as she did so, "Good bees, make our honey from
something else; we gain nothing if you drain our grapes for it; we want
these grapes for the winter;" and as she spoke, her imagination sped
fleetly forward to the winter, The Virgin must have forgiven her, to
give her again the joy of a child in her arms. Ay, a joy! Spite of
poverty, spite of danger, spite of all that cruelty and oppression could
do, it would still be a joy to hold her child in her arms.

The baby was born before winter came. An old Indian woman, the same
whose house they had hired in Saboba, had come up to live with Ramona.
She was friendless now, her daughter having died, and she thankfully
came to be as a mother to Ramona. She was ignorant and feeble but Ramona
saw in her always the picture of what her own mother might perchance
be, wandering, suffering, she knew not what or where; and her yearning,
filial instinct found sad pleasure in caring for this lonely, childless,
aged one.

Ramona was alone with her on the mountain at the time of the baby's
birth. Alessandro had gone to the valley, to be gone two days; but
Ramona felt no fear. When Alessandro returned, and she laid the child in
his arms, she said with a smile, radiant once more, like the old smiles,
"See, beloved! The Virgin has forgiven me; she has given us a daughter

But Alessandro did not smile. Looking scrutinizingly into the baby's
face, he sighed, and said, "Alas, Majella, her eyes are like mine, not

"I am glad of it," cried Ramona. "I was glad the first minute I saw it."

He shook his head. "It is an ill fate to have the eyes of Alessandro,"
he said. "They look ever on woe;" and he laid the baby back on Ramona's
breast, and stood gazing sadly at her.

"Dear Alessandro," said Ramona, "it is a sin to always mourn. Father
Salvierderra said if we repined under our crosses, then a heavier cross
would be laid on us. Worse things would come."

"Yes," he said. "That is true. Worse things will come." And he walked
away, with his head sunk deep on his breast.


THERE was no real healing for Alessandro. His hurts had gone too deep.
His passionate heart, ever secretly brooding on the wrongs he had borne,
the hopeless outlook for his people in the future, and most of all on
the probable destitution and suffering in store for Ramona, consumed
itself as by hidden fires. Speech, complaint, active antagonism, might
have saved him; but all these were foreign to his self-contained,
reticent, repressed nature. Slowly, so slowly that Ramona could not tell
on what hour or what day her terrible fears first changed to an even
more terrible certainty, his brain gave way, and the thing, in dread
of which he had cried out the morning they left San Pasquale, came upon
him. Strangely enough, and mercifully, now that it had really come,
he did not know it. He knew that he suddenly came to his consciousness
sometimes, and discovered himself in strange and unexplained situations;
had no recollection of what had happened for an interval of time, longer
or shorter. But he thought it was only a sort of sickness; he did not
know that during those intervals his acts were the acts of a madman;
never violent, aggressive, or harmful to any one; never destructive.
It was piteous to see how in these intervals his delusions were always
shaped by the bitterest experiences of his life. Sometimes he fancied
that the Americans were pursuing him, or that they were carrying off
Ramona, and he was pursuing them. At such times he would run with maniac
swiftness for hours, till he fell exhausted on the ground, and slowly
regained true consciousness by exhaustion. At other times he believed
he owned vast flocks and herds; would enter any enclosure he saw, where
there were sheep or cattle, go about among them, speaking of them to
passers-by as his own. Sometimes he would try to drive them away; but on
being remonstrated with, would bewilderedly give up the attempt. Once he
suddenly found himself in the road driving a small flock of goats, whose
he knew not, nor whence he got them. Sitting down by the roadside, he
buried his head in his hands. "What has happened to my memory?" he said.
"I must be ill of a fever!" As he sat there, the goats, of their own
accord, turned and trotted back into a corral near by, the owner of
which stood, laughing, on his doorsill; and when Alessandro came up,
said goodnaturedly, "All right, Alessandro! I saw you driving off my
goats, but I thought you'd bring 'em back."

Everybody in the valley knew him, and knew his condition. It did not
interfere with his capacity as a worker, for the greater part of
the time. He was one of the best shearers in the region, the best
horse-breaker; and his services were always in demand, spite of the risk
there was of his having at any time one of these attacks of wandering.
His absences were a great grief to Ramona, not only from the loneliness
in which it left her, but from the anxiety she felt lest his mental
disorder might at any time take a more violent and dangerous shape. This
anxiety was all the more harrowing because she must keep it locked in
her own breast, her wise and loving instinct telling her that nothing
could be more fatal to him than the knowledge of his real condition.
More than once he reached home, breathless, panting, the sweat rolling
off his face, crying aloud, "The Americans have found us out, Majella!
They were on the trail! I baffled them. I came up another way." At such
times she would soothe him like a child; persuade him to lie down and
rest; and when he waked and wondered why he was so tired, she would say,
"You were all out of breath when you came in, dear. You must not climb
so fast; it is foolish to tire one's self so."

In these days Ramona began to think earnestly of Felipe. She believed
Alessandro might be cured. A wise doctor could surely do something for
him. If Felipe knew what sore straits she was in, Felipe would help her.
But how could she reach Felipe without the Senora's knowing it? And,
still more, how could she send a letter to Felipe without Alessandro's
knowing what she had written? Ramona was as helpless in her freedom on
this mountain eyrie as if she had been chained hand and foot.

And so the winter wore away, and the spring. What wheat grew in their
fields in this upper air! Wild oats, too, in every nook and corner.
The goats frisked and fattened, and their hair grew long and silky; the
sheep were already heavy again with wool, and it was not yet midsummer.
The spring rains had been good; the stream was full, and flowers grew
along its edges thick as in beds.

The baby had thrived; as placid, laughing a little thing as if its
mother had never known sorrow. "One would think she had suckled pain,"
thought Ramona, "so constantly have I grieved this year; but the Virgin
has kept her well."

If prayers could compass it, that would surely have been so; for night
and day the devout, trusting, and contrite Ramona had knelt before the
Madonna and told her golden beads, till they were wellnigh worn smooth
of all their delicate chasing.

At midsummer was to be a fete in the Saboba village, and the San
Bernardino priest would come there. This would be the time to take the
baby down to be christened; this also would be the time to send the
letter to Felipe, enclosed in one to Aunt Ri, who would send it for her
from San Bernardino. Ramona felt half guilty as she sat plotting what
she should say and how she should send it, - she, who had never had in
her loyal, transparent breast one thought secret from Alessandro since
they were wedded. But it was all for his sake. When he was well, he
would thank her.

She wrote the letter with much study and deliberation; her dread of its
being read by the Senora was so great, that it almost paralyzed her pen
as she wrote. More than once she destroyed pages, as being too sacred a
confidence for unloving eyes to read. At last, the day before the fete,
it was done, and safely hidden away. The baby's white robe, finely
wrought in open-work, was also done, and freshly washed and ironed.
No baby would there be at the fete so daintily wrapped as hers; and
Alessandro had at last given his consent that the name should be
Majella. It was a reluctant consent, yielded finally only to please
Ramona; and, contrary to her wont, she had been willing in this instance
to have her own wish fulfilled rather than his. Her heart was set upon
having the seal of baptism added to the name she so loved; and, "If I
were to die," she thought, "how glad Alessandro would be, to have still
a Majella!"

All her preparations were completed, and it was yet not noon. She seated
herself on the veranda to watch for Alessandro, who had been two days
away, and was to have returned the previous evening, to make ready for
the trip to Saboba. She was disquieted at his failure to return at the
appointed time. As the hours crept on and he did not come, her anxiety
increased. The sun had gone more than an hour past the midheavens before
he came. He had ridden fast; she had heard the quick strokes of the
horse's hoofs on the ground before she saw him. "Why comes he riding
like that?" she thought, and ran to meet him. As he drew near, she saw
to her surprise that he was riding a new horse. "Why, Alessandro!" she
cried. "What horse is this?"

He looked at her bewilderedly, then at the horse. True; it was not his
own horse! He struck his hand on his forehead, endeavoring to collect
his thoughts. "Where is my horse, then?" he said.

"My God! Alessandro," cried Ramona. "Take the horse back instantly. They
will say you stole it."

"But I left my pony there in the corral," he said. "They will know I
did not mean to steal it. How could I ever have made the mistake? I
recollect nothing, Majella. I must have had one of the sicknesses."

Ramona's heart was cold with fear. Only too well she knew what summary
punishment was dealt in that region to horse-thieves. "Oh, let me take
it back, dear!" she cried, "Let me go down with it. They will believe

"Majella!" he exclaimed, "think you I would send you into the fold of
the wolf? My wood-dove! It is in Jim Farrar's corral I left my pony. I
was there last night, to see about his sheep-shearing in the autumn. And
that is the last I know. I will ride back as soon as I have rested. I am
heavy with sleep."

Thinking it safer to let him sleep for an hour, as his brain was
evidently still confused, Ramona assented to this, though a sense of
danger oppressed her. Getting fresh hay from the corral, she with her
own hands rubbed the horse down. It was a fine, powerful black horse;
Alessandro had evidently urged him cruelly up the steep trail, for
his sides were steaming, his nostrils white with foam. Tears stood
in Ramona's eyes as she did what she could for him. He recognized her
good-will, and put his nose to her face. "It must be because he was
black like Benito, that Alessandro took him," she thought. "Oh, Mary
Mother, help us to get the creature safe back!" she said.

When she went into the house, Alessandro was asleep. Ramona glanced
at the sun. It was already in the western sky. By no possibility could
Alessandro go to Farrar's and back before dark. She was on the point
of waking him, when a furious barking from Capitan and the other dogs
roused him instantly from his sleep, and springing to his feet, he ran
out to see what it meant. In a moment more Ramona followed, - only a
moment, hardly a moment; but when she reached the threshold, it was to
hear a gun-shot, to see Alessandro fall to the ground, to see, in the
same second, a ruffianly man leap from his horse, and standing over
Alessandro's body, fire his pistol again, once, twice, into the
forehead, cheek. Then with a volley of oaths, each word of which seemed
to Ramona's reeling senses to fill the air with a sound like thunder, he
untied the black horse from the post where Ramona had fastened him, and
leaping into his saddle again, galloped away, leading the horse. As he
rode away, he shook his fist at Ramona, who was kneeling on the ground,
striving to lift Alessandro's head, and to stanch the blood flowing
from the ghastly wounds. "That'll teach you damned Indians to leave
off stealing our horses!" he cried, and with another volley of terrible
oaths was out of sight.

With a calmness which was more dreadful than any wild outcry of grief,
Ramona sat on the ground by Alessandro's body, and held his hands in
hers. There was nothing to be done for him. The first shot had been
fatal, close to his heart, - the murderer aimed well; the after-shots,
with the pistol, were from mere wanton brutality. After a few seconds
Ramona rose, went into the house, brought out the white altar-cloth, and
laid it over the mutilated face. As she did this, she recalled words
she had heard Father Salvierderra quote as having been said by Father
Junipero, when one of the Franciscan Fathers had been massacred by the
Indians, at San Diego. "Thank God." he said, "the ground is now watered
by the blood of a martyr!"

"The blood of a martyr!" The words seemed to float in the air; to
cleanse it from the foul blasphemies the murderer had spoken. "My
Alessandro!" she said. "Gone to be with the saints; one of the blessed
martyrs; they will listen to what a martyr says." His hands were warm.
She laid them in her bosom, kissed them again and again. Stretching
herself on the ground by his side, she threw one arm over him, and
whispered in his ear, "My love, my Alessandro! Oh, speak once to
Majella! Why do I not grieve more? My Alessandro! Is he not blest
already? And soon we will be with him! The burdens were too great. He
could not bear them!" Then waves of grief broke over her, and she sobbed
convulsively; but still she shed no tears. Suddenly she sprang to her
feet, and looked wildly around. The sun was not many hours high. Whither
should she go for help? The old Indian woman had gone away with the
sheep, and would not be back till dark. Alessandro must not lie there
on the ground. To whom should she go? To walk to Saboba was out of the
question. There was another Indian village nearer, - the village of the
Cahuillas, on one of the high plateaus of San Jacinto. She had once been
there. Could she find that trail now? She must try. There was no human
help nearer.

Taking the baby in her arms, she knelt by Alessandro, and kissing him,
whispered, "Farewell, my beloved. I will not be long gone. I go to bring
friends." As she set off, swiftly running, Capitan, who had been lying
by Alessandro's side, uttering heart-rending howls, bounded to his feet
to follow her. "No, Capitan," she said; and leading him back to the
body, she took his head in her hands, looked into his eyes, and said,
"Capitan, watch here." With a whimpering cry, he licked her hands, and
stretched himself on the ground. He understood, and would obey; but his
eyes followed her wistfully till she disappeared from sight.

The trail was rough, and hard to find. More than once Ramona stopped,
baffled, among the rocky ridges and precipices. Her clothes were torn,
her face bleeding, from the thorny shrubs; her feet seemed leaden, she
made her way so slowly. It was dark in the ravines; as she climbed spur
after spur, and still saw nothing but pine forests or bleak opens, her
heart sank within her. The way had not seemed so long before. Alessandro
had been with her; it was a joyous, bright day, and they had lingered
wherever they liked, and yet the way had seemed short. Fear seized her
that she was lost. If that were so, before morning she would be with
Alessandro; for fierce beasts roamed San Jacinto by night. But for the
baby's sake, she must not die. Feverishly she pressed on. At last, just
as it had grown so dark she could see only a few hand-breadths before
her, and was panting more from terror than from running, lights suddenly
gleamed out, only a few rods ahead. It was the Cahuilla village. In a
few moments she was there.

It is a poverty-stricken little place, the Cahuilla village, - a cluster
of tule and adobe huts, on a narrow bit of bleak and broken ground,
on San Jacinto Mountain; the people are very poor, but are proud
and high-spirited, - veritable mountaineers in nature, fierce and

Alessandro had warm friends among them, and the news that he had been
murdered, and that his wife had run all the way down the mountain, with
her baby in her arms, for help, went like wild-fire through the place.
The people gathered in an excited group around the house where Ramona
had taken refuge. She was lying, half unconscious, on a bed. As soon
as she had gasped out her terrible story, she had fallen forward on the
floor, fainting, and the baby had been snatched from her arms just in
time to save it. She did not seem to miss the child; had not asked for
it, or noticed it when it was brought to the bed. A merciful oblivion
seemed to be fast stealing over her senses. But she had spoken words
enough to set the village in a blaze of excitement. It ran higher and
higher. Men were everywhere mounting their horses, - some to go up and
bring Alessandro's body down; some organizing a party to go at once to
Jim Farrar's house and shoot him: these were the younger men, friends of
Alessandro. Earnestly the aged Capitan of the village implored them to
refrain from such violence.

"Why should ten be dead instead of one, my sons?" he said. "Will you
leave your wives and your children like his? The whites will kill us all
if you lay hands on the man. Perhaps they themselves will punish him."

A derisive laugh rose from the group. Never yet within their experience
had a white man been punished for shooting an Indian. The Capitan knew
that as well as they did. Why did he command them to sit still like
women, and do nothing, when a friend was murdered?

"Because I am old, and you are young. I have seen that we fight in
vain," said the wise old man. "It is not sweet to me, any more than to
you. It is a fire in my veins; but I am old. I have seen. I forbid you
to go."

The women added their entreaties to his, and the young men abandoned
their project. But it was with sullen reluctance; and mutterings were
to be heard, on all sides, that the time would come yet. There was more
than one way of killing a man. Farrar would not be long seen in the
valley. Alessandro should be avenged.

As Farrar rode slowly down the mountain, leading his recovered horse, he
revolved in his thoughts what course to pursue. A few years before, he
would have gone home, no more disquieted at having killed an Indian than
if he had killed a fox or a wolf. But things were different now. This
Agent, that the Government had taken it into its head to send out to
look after the Indians, had made it hot, the other day, for some fellows
in San Bernardino who had maltreated an Indian; he had even gone so
far as to arrest several liquor-dealers for simply selling whiskey to
Indians. If he were to take this case of Alessandro's in hand, it might
be troublesome. Farrar concluded that his wisest course would be to make
a show of good conscience and fair-dealing by delivering himself up
at once to the nearest justice of the peace, as having killed a man
in self-defence, Accordingly he rode straight to the house of a Judge
Wells, a few miles below Saboba, and said that he wished to surrender
himself as having committed "justifiable homicide" on an Indian, or
Mexican, he did net know which, who had stolen his horse. He told a
plausible story. He professed not to know the man, or the place; but did
not explain how it was, that, knowing neither, he had gone so direct to
the spot.

He said: "I followed the trail for some time, but when I reached a turn,
I came into a sort of blind trail, where I lost the track. I think the
horse had been led up on hard sod, to mislead any one on the track. I
pushed on, crossed the creek, and soon found the tracks again in soft
ground. This part of the mountain was perfectly unknown to me, and very
wild. Finally I came to a ridge, from which I looked down on a little
ranch. As I came near the house, the dogs began to bark, just as I
discovered my horse tied to a tree. Hearing the dogs, an Indian, or
Mexican, I could not tell which, came out of the house, flourishing a
large knife. I called out to him, 'Whose horse is that?' He answered
in Spanish, 'It is mine.' 'Where did you get it?' I asked. 'In San
Jacinto,' was his reply. As he still came towards me, brandishing the

Online LibraryHelen Hunt JacksonRamona → online text (page 30 of 35)