the marriage of one Alessandro Assis and Ramona Ortegna.
It was not impossible that there might be, after all, another Alessandro
Assis, The old Fathers, in baptizing their tens of thousands of Indian
converts, were sore put to it to make out names enough. There might
have been another Assis besides old Pablo, and of Alessandros there were
This last faint hope also failed. No record anywhere of an Alessandro
Assis, except in Father Gaspara's book.
As Felipe was riding out of San Pasquale, he had seen an Indian man and
woman walking by the side of mules heavily laden. Two little children,
two young or too feeble to walk, were so packed in among the bundles
that their faces were the only part of them in sight. The woman was
crying bitterly. "More of these exiles. God help the poor creatures!"
thought Felipe; and he pulled out his purse, and gave the woman a piece
of gold. She looked up in as great astonishment as if the money had
fallen from the skies. "Thanks! Thanks, Senor!" she exclaimed; and the
man coming up to Felipe said also, "God reward you, Senor! That is more
money than I had in the world! Does the Senor know of any place where I
could get work?"
Felipe longed to say, "Yes, come to my estate; there you shall have
work!" In the olden time he would have done it without a second thought,
for both the man and the woman had good faces, - were young and strong.
But the pay-roll of the Moreno estate was even now too long for
its dwindled fortunes. "No, my man, I am sorry to say I do not," he
answered. "I live a long way from here. Where were you thinking of
"Somewhere in San Jacinto," said the man. "They say the Americans have
not come in there much yet. I have a brother living there. Thanks,
Senor; may the saints reward you!"
"San Jacinto!" After Felipe returned home, the name haunted his
thoughts. The grand mountain-top bearing that name he had known well
in many a distant horizon. "Juan Can," he said one day, "are there many
Indians in San Jacinto?"
"The mountain?" said Juan Can.
"Ay, I suppose, the mountain," said Felipe. "What else is there?"
"The valley, too," replied Juan. "The San Jacinto Valley is a fine,
broad valley, though the river is not much to be counted on. It is
mostly dry sand a good part of the year. But there is good grazing.
There is one village of Indians I know in the valley; some of the
San Luis Rey Indians came from there; and up on the mountain is a big
village; the wildest Indians in all the country live there. Oh, they are
The next morning Felipe set out for San Jacinto. Why had no one
mentioned, why had he not himself known, of these villages? Perhaps
there were yet others he had not heard of. Hope sprang in Felipe's
impressionable nature as easily as it died. An hour, a moment, might see
him both lifted up and cast down. When he rode into the sleepy little
village street of San Bernardino, and saw, in the near horizon, against
the southern sky, a superb mountain-peak, changing in the sunset lights
from turquoise to ruby, and from ruby to turquoise again, he said to
himself, "She is there! I have found her!"
The sight of the mountain affected him, as it had always affected Aunt
Ri, with an indefinable, solemn sense of something revealed, yet hidden.
"San Jacinto?" he said to a bystander, pointing to it with his whip.
"Yes, Senor," replied the man. As he spoke, a pair of black horses came
whirling round the corner, and he sprang to one side, narrowly escaping
being knocked down. "That Tennessee fellow'll run over somebody yet,
with those black devils of his, if he don't look out," he muttered, as
he recovered his balance.
Felipe glanced at the horses, then driving his spurs deep into his
horse's sides, galloped after them. "Baba! by God!" he cried aloud in
his excitement and forgetful of everything, he urged his horse faster,
shouting as he rode, "Stop that man! Stop that man with the black
Jos, hearing his name called on all sides, reined in Benito and Baba
as soon as he could, and looked around in bewilderment to see what had
happened. Before he had time to ask any questions, Felipe had overtaken
him, and riding straight to Baba's head, had flung himself from his own
horse and taken Baba by the rein, crying, "Baba! Baba!" Baba knew his
voice, and began to whinny and plunge. Felipe was nearly unmanned. For
the second, he forgot everything. A crowd was gathering around them. It
had never been quite clear to the San Bernardino mind that Jos's title
to Benito and Baba would bear looking into; and it was no surprise,
therefore, to some of the on-lookers, to hear Felipe cry in a loud
voice, looking suspiciously at Jos, "How did you get him?"
Jos was a wag, and Jos was never hurried. The man did not live, nor
could the occasion arrive, which would quicken his constitutional drawl.
Before even beginning his answer he crossed one leg over the other and
took a long, observant look at Felipe; then in a pleasant voice he said:
"Wall, Senor, - I allow yer air a Senor by yer color, - it would take
right smart uv time tew tell yeow haow I cum by thet hoss, 'n' by the
other one tew. They ain't mine, neither one on 'em."
Jos's speech was as unintelligible to Felipe as it had been to Ramona,
Jos saw it, and chuckled.
"Mebbe 't would holp yer tew understand me ef I wuz tew talk Mexican,"
he said, and proceeded to repeat in tolerably good Spanish the sum and
substance of what he had just said, adding: "They belong to an Indian
over on San Jacinto; at least, the off one does; the nigh one's his
wife's; he wouldn't ever call thet one anything but hers. It had been
hers ever sence she was a girl, they said, I never saw people think so
much of hosses as they did."
Before Jos had finished speaking, Felipe had bounded into the wagon,
throwing his horse's reins to a boy in the crowd, and crying, "Follow
along with my horse, will you? I must speak to this man."
Found! Found, - the saints be praised, - at last! How should he tell this
man fast enough? How should he thank him enough?
Laying his hand on Jos's knee, he cried: "I can't explain to you; I
can't tell you. Bless you forever, - forever! It must be the saints led
"Oh, Lawd!" thought Jos; "another o' them 'saint' fellers! I allow not,
Senor," he said, relapsing into Tennesseean. "It wur Tom Wurmsee led me;
I wuz gwine ter move his truck fur him this arternoon."
"Take me home with you to your house," said Felipe, still trembling with
excitement; "we cannot talk here in the street. I want to hear all
you can tell me about them. I have been searching for them all over
Jos's face lighted up. This meant good fortune for that gentle, sweet
Ramona, he was sure. "I'll take you straight there," he said; "but first
I must stop at Tom's. He will be waiting for me."
The crowd dispersed, disappointed; cheated out of their anticipated
scene of an arrest for horse-stealing. "Good for you, Tennessee!" and,
"Fork over that black horse, Jos!" echoed from the departing groups.
Sensations were not so common in San Bernardino that they could afford
to slight so notable an occasion as this.
As Jos turned the corner into the street where he lived, he saw his
mother coming at a rapid run towards them, her sun-bonnet half off her
head, her spectacles pushed up in her hair.
"Why, thar's mammy!" he exclaimed. "What ever hez gone wrong naow?"
Before he finished speaking, she saw the black horses, and snatching
her bonnet from her head waved it wildly, crying, "Yeow Jos! Jos, hyar!
Stop! I wuz er comin' ter hunt yer!"
Breathlessly she continued talking, her words half lost in the sound
of the wheels. Apparently she did not see the stranger sitting by Jos's
side. "Oh, Jos, thar's the terriblest news come! Thet Injun Alessandro's
got killed; murdered; jest murdered, I say; 'tain't no less. Thar wuz an
Injun come down from ther mounting with a letter to the Agent."
"Good God! Alessandro killed!" burst from Felipe's lips in a
Jos looked bewilderedly from his mother to Felipe; the complication was
almost beyond him. "Oh, Lawd!" he gasped. Turning to Felipe, "Thet's
mammy," he said. "She wuz real fond o' both on 'em." Turning to his
mother, "This hyar's her brother," he said. "He jest knowed me by Baba,
hyar on ther street. He's been huntin' 'em everywhar."
Aunt Ri grasped the situation instantly. Wiping her streaming eyes, she
sobbed out: "Wall, I'll allow, arter this, thar is sech a thing ez a
Providence, ez they call it. 'Pears like ther couldn't ennythin' less
brung yer hyar jest naow. I know who yer be; ye're her brother Feeleepy,
ain't yer? Menny's ther time she's tolt me about yer! Oh, Lawd! How air
we ever goin' to git ter her? I allow she's dead! I allow she'd never
live arter seein' him shot down dead! He tolt me thar couldn't nobody
git up thar whar they'd gone; no white folks, I mean. Oh, Lawd, Lawd!"
Felipe stood paralyzed, horror-stricken. He turned in despair to Jos.
"Tell me in Spanish," he said. "I cannot understand."
As Jos gradually drew out the whole story from his mother's excited and
incoherent speech, and translated it, Felipe groaned aloud, "Too late!
Too late!" He too felt, as Aunt Ri had, that Ramona never could have
survived the shock of seeing her husband murdered. "Too late! Too late!"
he cried, as he staggered into the house. "She has surely died of the
"I allow she didn't die, nuther," said Jos; "not ser long ez she hed
thet young un to look arter!"
"Yer air right, Jos!" said Aunt Ri. "I allow yer air right. Thar
couldn't nothin' kill her, short er wild beasts, ef she hed ther baby
'n her arms! She ain't dead, not ef the baby ez erlive, I allow. Thet's
Felipe sat with his face buried in his hands. Suddenly looking up, he
said, "How far is it?"
"Thirty miles 'n' more inter the valley, where we wuz," said Jos; "'n'
the Lawd knows how fur 'tis up on ter the mounting, where they wuz
livin'. It's like goin' up the wall uv a house, goin' up San Jacinto
Mounting, daddy sez. He wuz thar huntin' all summer with Alessandro."
How strange, how incredible it seemed, to hear Alessandro's name thus
familiarly spoken, - spoken by persons who had known him so recently, and
who were grieving, grieving as friends, to hear of his terrible death!
Felipe felt as if he were in a trance. Rousing himself, he said, "We
must go. We must start at once. You will let me have the horses?"
"Wall, I allow yer've got more right ter 'em 'n - " began Jos,
energetically, forgetting himself; then, dropping Tennesseean, he
completed in Spanish his cordial assurances that the horses were at
"Jos! He's got ter take me!" cried Aunt Ri. "I allow I ain't never gwine
ter set still hyar, 'n' thet girl inter sech trouble; 'n' if so be
ez she is reely dead, thar's the baby. He hadn't orter go alone by
Felipe was thankful, indeed, for Aunt Ri's companionship, and expressed
himself in phrases so warm, that she was embarrassed.
"Yeow tell him, Jos," she said, "I can't never git used ter bein' called
Senory. Yeow tell him his' sister allers called me Aunt Ri, 'n' I jest
wish he would. I allow me 'n' him'll git along all right. 'Pears like
I'd known him all my days, jest ez 't did with her, arter the fust.
I'm free to confess I take more ter these Mexicans than I do ter these
low-down, driven Yankees, ennyhow, - a heap more; but I can't stand
bein' Senory'd! Yeow tell him, Jos. I s'pose thar's a word for 'aunt' in
Mexican, ain't there? 'Pears like thar couldn't be no langwedge 'thout
sech a word! He'll know what it means! I'd go off with him a heap easier
ef he'd call me jest plain Aunt Ri, ez I'm used ter, or Mis Hyer, either
un on 'em; but Aunt Ri's the nateralest."
Jos had some anxiety about his mother's memory of the way to San
Jacinto. She laughed.
"Don't yeow be a mite oneasy," she said. "I bet yeow I'd go clean back
ter the States ther way we cum. I allow I've got every mile on 't 'n
my hed plain's a turnpike. Yeow nor yer dad, neiry one on yer, couldn't
begin to do 't. But what we air gwine ter do, fur gettin' up the
mounting, thet's another thing. Thet's more 'n I dew know. But thar'll
be a way pervided, Jos, sure's yeow're bawn. The Lawd ain't gwine to get
hisself hindered er holpin' Ramony this time; I ain't a mite afeerd."
Felipe could not have found a better ally. The comparative silence
enforced between them by reason of lack of a common vehicle for their
thoughts was on the whole less of a disadvantage than would have at
first appeared. They understood each other well enough for practical
purposes, and their unity in aim, and in affection for Ramona, made a
bond so strong, it could not have been enhanced by words.
It was past sundown when they left San Bernardino, but a full moon made
the night as good as day for their journey. When it first shone out,
Aunt Ri, pointing to it, said curtly, "Thet's lucky."
"Yes," replied Felipe, who did not know either of the words she had
spoken, "it is good. It shows to us the way."
"Thar, naow, say he can't understand English!" thought Aunt Ri.
Benito and Baba travelled as if they knew the errand on which they were
hurrying. Good forty miles they had gone without flagging once, when
Aunt Ri, pointing to a house on the right hand of the road, the only one
they had seen for many miles, said: "We'll hev to sleep hyar. I donno
the road beyant this. I allow they're gone ter bed; but they'll hev to
git up 'n' take us in. They're used ter doin' it. They dew consid'able
business keepin' movers. I know 'em. They're reel friendly fur the kind
o' people they air. They're druv to death. It can't be far frum their
time to git up, ennyhow. They're up every mornin' uv thar lives long
afore daylight, a feedin' their stock, an' gittin' ready fur the day's
work. I used ter hear 'em 'n' see 'em, when we wuz campin' here. The
fust I saw uv it, I thought somebody wuz sick in the house, to git 'em
up thet time o' night; but arterwards we found out 't wan't nothin' but
thar reggerlar way. When I told dad, sez I, 'Dad, did ever yer hear
sech a thing uz gittin' up afore light to feed stock?' 'n' ter feed
theirselves tew. They'd their own breakfast all clared away, 'n' dishes
washed, too, afore light; 'n' prayers said beside; they're Methodys,
terrible pious. I used ter tell dad they talked a heap about believin'
in God; I don't allow but what they dew believe in God, tew, but
they don't worship Him so much's they worship work; not nigh so much.
Believin' 'n' worshippin' 's tew things. Yeow wouldn't see no sech
doin's in Tennessee. I allow the Lawd meant some time fur sleepin'; 'n'
I'm satisfied with his times o' lightin' up. But these Merrills air reel
nice folks, fur all this I've ben tellin' yer! - Lawd! I don't believe
he's understood a word I've said, naow!" thought Aunt Ri to herself,
suddenly becoming aware of the hopeless bewilderment on Felipe's face.
"'Tain't much use sayin' anything more'n plain yes 'n' no, between folks
thet can't understand each other's langwedge; 'n' s' fur's thet goes, I
allow thar ain't any gret use'n the biggest part o' what's sed between
folks thet doos!"
When the Merrill family learned Felipe's purpose of going up the
mountain to the Cahuilla village, they attempted to dissuade him from
taking his own horses. He would kill them both, high-spirited horses
like those, they said, if he took them over that road. It was a cruel
road. They pointed out to him the line where it wound, doubling and
tacking on the sides of precipices, like a path for a goat or chamois.
Aunt Ri shuddered at the sight, but said nothing.
"I'm gwine whar he goes," she said grimly to herself. "I ain't a gwine
ter back daown naow; but I dew jest wish Jeff Hyer wuz along."
Felipe himself disliked what he saw and heard of the grade. The road
had been built for bringing down lumber, and for six miles it was at
perilous angles. After this it wound along on ridges and in ravines till
it reached the heart of a great pine forest, where stood a saw-mill.
Passing this, it plunged into still darker, denser woods, some fifteen
miles farther on, and then came out among vast opens, meadows, and
grassy foot-hills, still on the majestic mountain's northern or eastern
slopes. From these, another steep road, little more than a trail, led
south, and up to the Cahuilla village. A day and a half's hard journey,
at the shortest, it was from Merrill's; and no one unfamiliar with the
country could find the last part of the way without a guide. Finally
it was arranged that one of the younger Merrills should go in this
capacity, and should also take two of his strongest horses, accustomed
to the road. By the help of these the terrible ascent was made without
difficulty, though Baba at first snorted, plunged, and resented the
humiliation of being harnessed with his head at another horse's tail.
Except for their sad errand, both Felipe and Aunt Ri would have
experienced a keen delight in this ascent. With each fresh lift on the
precipitous terraces, the view off to the south and west broadened,
until the whole San Jacinto Valley lay unrolled at their feet. The pines
were grand; standing, they seemed shapely columns; fallen, the upper
curve of their huge yellow disks came above a man's head, so massive was
their size. On many of them the bark had been riddled from root to top,
as by myriads of bullet-holes. In each hole had been cunningly stored
away an acorn, - the woodpeckers' granaries.
"Look at thet, naow!" exclaimed the observant Aunt Ri; "an' thar's
folk's thet sez dumb critters ain't got brains. They ain't noways dumb
to each other, I notice; an' we air dumb aourselves when we air ketched
with furriners. I allow I'm next door to dumb myself with this hyar
Mexican I'm er travellin' with."
"That's so!" replied Sam Merrill. "When we fust got here, I thought I'd
ha' gone clean out o' my head tryin' to make these Mexicans sense my
meanin'; my tongue was plaguy little use to me. But now I can talk their
lingo fust-rate; but pa, he can't talk to 'em nohow; he hain't learned
the fust word; 'n' he's ben here goin' on two years longer'n we have."
The miles seemed leagues to Felipe. Aunt Ri's drawling tones, as she
chatted volubly with young Merrill, chafed him. How could she chatter!
But when he thought this, it would chance that in a few moments more he
would see her clandestinely wiping away tears, and his heart would warm
to her again.
They slept at a miserable cabin in one of the clearings, and at early
dawn pushed on, reaching the Cahuilla village before noon. As their
carriage came in sight, a great running to and fro of people was to be
seen. Such an event as the arrival of a comfortable carriage drawn by
four horses had never before taken place in the village. The agitation
into which the people had been thrown by the murder of Alessandro had
by no means subsided; they were all on the alert, suspicious of each new
occurrence. The news had only just reached the village that Farrar had
been set at liberty, and would not be punished for his crime, and the
flames of indignation and desire for vengeance, which the aged Capitan
had so much difficulty in allaying in the outset, were bursting forth
again this morning. It was therefore a crowd of hostile and lowering
faces which gathered around the carriage as it stopped in front of the
Aunt Ri's face was a ludicrous study of mingled terror, defiance, and
contempt. "Uv all ther low-down, no-'count, beggarly trash ever I laid
eyes on," she said in a low tone to Merrill, "I allow these yere air the
wust! But I allow they'd flatten us all aout in jest abaout a minnit,
if they wuz to set aout tew! Ef she ain't hyar, we air in a scrape, I
"Oh, they're friendly enough," laughed Merrill. "They're all stirred
up, now, about the killin' o' that Injun; that's what makes 'em look
so fierce. I don't wonder! 'Twas a derned mean thing Jim Farrar did, a
firin' into the man after he was dead. I don't blame him for killin'
the cuss, not a bit; I'd have shot any man livin' that 'ad taken a good
horse o' mine up that trail. That's the only law we stock men've got
out in this country. We've got to protect ourselves. But it was a mean,
low-lived trick to blow the feller's face to pieces after he was dead;
but Jim's a rough feller, 'n' I expect he was so mad, when he see his
horse, that he didn't know what he did."
Aunt Ri was half paralyzed with astonishment at this speech. Felipe had
leaped out of the carriage, and after a few words with the old Capitan,
had hurried with him into his house. Felipe had evidently forgotten that
she was still in the carriage. His going into the house looked as if
Ramona was there. Aunt Ri, in all her indignation and astonishment, was
conscious of this train of thought running through her mind; but not
even the near prospect of seeing Ramona could bridle her tongue now,
or make her defer replying to the extraordinary statements she had just
heard. The words seemed to choke her as she began. "Young man," she
said, "I donno much abaout yeour raisin'. I've heered yeour folks wuz
great on religion. Naow, we ain't, Jeff 'n' me; we warn't raised thet
way; but I allow ef I wuz ter hear my boy, Jos, - he's jest abaout yeour
age, 'n' make tew, though he's narrerer chested, - ef I should hear him
say what yeou've jest said, I allow I sh'd expect to see him struck by
lightnin'; 'n' I sh'dn't think he hed got more 'n his deserts, I allow I
What more Aunt Ri would have said to the astounded Merrill was never
known, for at that instant the old Capitan, returning to the door,
beckoned to her; and springing from her seat to the ground, sternly
rejecting Sam's offered hand, she hastily entered the house. As she
crossed the threshold, Felipe turned an anguished face toward her, and
said, "Come, speak to her." He was on his knees by a wretched pallet on
the floor. Was that Ramona, - that prostrate form; hair dishevelled, eyes
glittering, cheeks scarlet, hands playing meaninglessly, like the hands
of one crazed, with a rosary of gold beads? Yes, it was Ramona; and
it was like this she had lain there now ten days; and the people had
exhausted all their simple skill for her in vain.
Aunt Ri burst into tears. "Oh, Lawd!" she said. "Ef I had some 'old man'
hyar, I'd bring her aout er thet fever! I dew bleeve I seed some on 't
growin' not more'n er mile back." And without a second look, or another
word, she ran out of the door, and springing into the carriage, said,
speaking faster than she had been heard to speak for thirty years: "Yeow
jest turn raound 'n' drive me back a piece, the way we come. I allow
I'll git a weed thet'll break thet fever. Faster, faster! Run yer
hosses. 'Tain't above er mile back, whar I seed it," she cried, leaning
out, eagerly scrutinizing each inch of the barren ground. "Stop! Here
'tis!" she cried. "I knowed I smelt the bitter on 't somewhars along
hyar;" and in a few minutes more she had a mass of the soft, shining,
gray, feathery leaves in her hands, and was urging the horses fiercely
on their way back. "This'll cure her, ef ennything will," she said, as
she entered the room again; but her heart sank as she saw Ramona's eyes
roving restlessly over Felipe's face, no sign of recognition in them.
"She's bad," she said, her lips trembling; "but, 'never say die!' ez
allers our motto; 'tain't never tew late fur ennything but oncet, 'n'
yer can't tell when thet time's come till it's past 'n' gone."
Steaming bowls of the bitterly odorous infusion she held at Ramona's
nostrils; with infinite patience she forced drop after drop of it
between the unconscious lips; she bathed the hands and head, her own
hands blistered by the heat. It was a fight with death; but love and
life won. Before night Ramona was asleep.
Felipe and Aunt Ri sat by her, strange but not uncongenial watchers,
each taking heart from the other's devotion. All night long Ramona
slept. As Felipe watched her, he remembered his own fever, and how she
had knelt by his bed and prayed there. He glanced around the room. In a
niche in the mud wall was a cheap print of the Madonna, one candle just
smouldering out before it. The village people had drawn heavily on their
poverty-stricken stores, keeping candles burning for Alessandro and
Ramona during the past ten days. The rosary had slipped from Ramona's
hold; taking it cautiously in his hand, Felipe went to the Madonna's
picture, and falling on his knees, began to pray as simply as if he were