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The Agent colored. Aunt Ri was a privileged character, but her logical
method of questioning was inconvenient.

"I only mean that they are under my charge," he said. "I don't mean that
they belong to me in any way."

"Wall, I allow not," retorted Aunt Ri, "enny more 'n I dew. They air
airnin' their livin', sech 's 'tis, ef yer kin call it a livin'. I've
been 'mongst 'em, naow, they hyar last tew weeks, 'n' I allow I've had
my eyes opened ter some things. What's thet docter er yourn, him thet
they call the Agency doctor, - what's he got ter do?"

"To attend to the Indians of this Agency when they are sick," replied
the Agent, promptly.

"Wall, thet's what I heern; thet's what yeow sed afore, 'n' thet's why
Alessandro, the Injun thet wuz murdered, - thet's why he put his name
down 'n yeour books, though 't went agin him orful ter do it. He wuz
high-spereted, 'n' 'd allers took keer er hisself; but he'd ben druv out
er fust one place 'n' then another, tell he'd got clar down, 'n' pore;
'n' he jest begged thet doctor er yourn to go to see his little gal, 'n'
the docter wouldn't; 'n' more'n thet, he laughed at him fur askin.' 'N'
they set the little thing on the hoss ter bring her here, 'n' she died
afore they'd come a mile with her; 'n' 't wuz thet, on top er all the
rest druv Alessandro crazy. He never hed none er them wandrin' spells
till arter thet. Naow I allow thet wa'n't right eh thet docter. I
wouldn't hev no sech docter's thet raound my Agency, ef I wuz yeow.
Pr'aps yer never heered uv thet. I told Ramony I didn't bleeve yer
knowed it, or ye'd hev made him go."

"No, Aunt Ri," said the Agent; "I could not have done that; he is only
required to doctor such Indians as come here."

"I allow, then, thar ain't any gret use en hevin' him at all," said Aunt
Ri; "'pears like thar ain't more'n a harndful uv Injuns raound here. I
expect he gits well paid?" and she paused for an answer. None came. The
Agent did not feel himself obliged to reveal to Aunt Ri what salary
the Government paid the San Bernardino doctor for sending haphazard
prescriptions to Indians he never saw.

After a pause Aunt Ri resumed: "Ef it ain't enny offence ter yeow, I
allow I'd like ter know jest what 'tis yeow air here ter dew fur these
Injuns. I've got my feelin's considdable stirred up, bein' among 'em
'n' knowing this hyar one, thet's ben murdered. Hev ye got enny power to
giv' 'em ennything, - food or sech? They air powerful pore, most on 'em."

"I have had a little fund for buying supplies for them in times
of special suffering;" replied the Agent, "a very little; and the
Department has appropriated some money for wagons and ploughs; not
enough, however, to supply every village; you see these Indians are in
the main self-supporting."

"Thet's jest it," persisted Aunt Ri. "Thet's what I've ben seein'; 'n'
thet's why I want so bad ter git at what 'tis the Guvvermunt means ter
hev yeow dew fur 'em. I allow ef yeow ain't ter feed 'em, an' ef yer
can't put folks inter jail fur robbin' 'n' cheatin' 'em, not ter say
killin' 'em, - ef yer can't dew ennythin' more 'n keep 'em from gettin'
whiskey, wall, I'm free ter say - " Aunt Ri paused; she did not wish to
seem to reflect on the Agent's usefulness, and so concluded her sentence
very differently from her first impulse, - "I'm free ter say I shouldn't
like ter stan' in yer shoes."

"You may very well say that, Aunt Ri," laughed the Agent, complacently.
"It is the most troublesome Agency in the whole list, and the least

"Wall, I allow it mought be the least satisfyin'," rejoined the
indefatigable Aunt Ri; "but I donno whar the trouble comes in, ef so
be's thar's no more kin be done than yer wuz er tellin'." And she looked
honestly puzzled.

"Look there, Aunt Ri!" said he, triumphantly, pointing to a pile of
books and papers. "All those to be gone through with, and a report to be
made out every month, and a voucher to be sent for every lead-pencil I
buy. I tell you I work harder than I ever did in my life before, and for
less pay."

"I allow yer hev hed easy times afore, then," retorted Aunt Ri,
good-naturedly satirical, "ef yeow air plum tired doin' thet!" And she
took her leave, not a whit clearer in her mind as to the real nature and
function of the Indian Agency than she was in the beginning.

Through all of Ramona's journey home she seemed to herself to be in a
dream. Her baby in her arms; the faithful creatures, Baba and Benito,
gayly trotting along at a pace so swift that the carriage seemed
gliding; Felipe by her side, - the dear Felipe, - his eyes wearing the
same bright and loving look as of old, - what strange thing was it which
had happened to her to make it all seem unreal? Even the little one
in her arms, - she too, seemed unreal! Ramona did not know it, but
her nerves were still partially paralyzed. Nature sends merciful
anaesthetics in the shocks which almost kill us. In the very sharpness
of the blow sometimes lies its own first healing. It would be long
before Ramona would fully realize that Alessandro was dead. Her worst
anguish was yet to come.

Felipe did not know and could not have understood this; and it was with
a marvelling gratitude that he saw Ramona, day after day, placid,
always ready with a smile when he spoke to her. Her gratitude for each
thoughtfulness of his smote him like a reproach; all the more that he
knew her gentle heart had never held a thought of reproach in it towards
him. "Grateful to me!" he thought. "To me, who might have spared her all
this woe if I had been strong!"

Never would Felipe forgive himself, - no, not to the day of his death.
His whole life should be devoted to her and her child; but what a
pitiful thing was that to render!

As they drew near home, he saw Ramona often try to conceal from him that
she had shed tears. At last he said to her: "Dearest Ramona, do not fear
to weep before me. I would not be any constraint on you. It is better
for you to let the tears come freely, my sister. They are healing to

"I do not think so, Felipe," replied Ramona. "Tears are only selfish and
weak. They are like a cry because we are hurt. It is not possible always
to keep them back; but I am ashamed when I have wept, and think also
that I have sinned, because I have given a sad sight to others. Father
Salvierderra always said that it was a duty to look happy, no matter how
much we might be suffering."

"That is more than human power can do!" said Felipe.

"I think not," replied Ramona. "If it were, Father Salvierderra would
not have commanded it. And do you not recollect, Felipe, what a smile
his face always wore? and his heart had been broken for many, many years
before he died. Alone, in the night, when he prayed, he used to weep,
from the great wrestling he had with God, he told me; but we never
saw him except with a smile. When one thinks in the wilderness, alone,
Felipe, many things become clear. I have been learning, all these years
in the wilderness, as if I had had a teacher. Sometimes I almost thought
that the spirit of Father Salvierderra was by my side putting thoughts
into my mind. I hope I can tell them to my child when she is old enough.
She will understand them quicker than I did, for she has Alessandro's
soul; you can see that by her eyes. And all these things of which I
speak were in his heart from his childhood. They belong to the air and
the sky and the sun, and all trees know them."

When Ramona spoke thus of Alessandro, Felipe marvelled in silence. He
himself had been afraid to mention Alessandro's name; but Ramona spoke
it as if he were yet by her side. Felipe could not fathom this. There
were to be many things yet which Felipe could not fathom in this lovely,
sorrowing, sunny sister of his.

When they reached the house, the servants, who had been on the watch
for days, were all gathered in the court-yard, old Marda and Juan Can
heading the group; only two absent, - Margarita and Luigo. They had been
married some months before, and were living at the Ortegas ranch, where
Luigo, to Juan Can's scornful amusement, had been made head shepherd.

On all sides were beaming faces, smiles, and glad cries of greeting.
Underneath these were affectionate hearts quaking with fear lest the
home-coming be but a sad one after all. Vaguely they knew a little of
what their dear Senorita had been through since she left them; it seemed
that she must be sadly altered by so much sorrow, and that it would
be terrible to her to come back to the place so full of painful
associations. "And the Senora gone, too," said one of the outdoor hands,
as they were talking it over; "it's not the same place at all that it
was when the Senora was here."

"Humph!" muttered Juan Can, more consequential and overbearing than
ever, for this year of absolute control of the estate. "Humph! that's
all you know. A good thing the Senora died when she did, I can tell you!
We'd never have seen the Senorita back here else; I can tell you that,
my man! And for my part, I'd much rather be under Senor Felipe and the
Senorita than under the Senora, peace to her ashes! She had her day.
They can have theirs now."

When these loving and excited retainers saw Ramona - pale, but with her
own old smile on her face - coming towards them with her babe in her
arms, they broke into wild cheering, and there was not a dry eye in the

Singling out old Marda by a glance, Ramona held out the baby towards
her, and said in her old gentle, affectionate voice, "I am sure you will
love my baby, Marda!"

"Senorita! Senorita! God bless you, Senorita!" they cried; and closed
up their ranks around the baby, touching her, praising her, handing her
from one to another.

Ramona stood for a few seconds watching them; then she said, "Give her
to me, Marda. I will myself carry her into the house;" and she moved
toward the inner door.

"This way, dear; this way," cried Felipe. "It is Father Salvierderra's
room I ordered to be prepared for you, because it is so sunny for the

"Thanks, kind Felipe!" cried Ramona, and her eyes said more than her
words. She knew he had divined the one thing she had most dreaded in
returning, - the crossing again the threshold of her own room. It would
be long now before she would enter that room. Perhaps she would never
enter it. How tender and wise of Felipe!

Yes; Felipe was both tender and wise, now. How long would the wisdom
hold the tenderness in leash, as he day after day looked upon the face
of this beautiful woman, - so much more beautiful now than she had been
before her marriage, that Felipe sometimes, as he gazed at her, thought
her changed even in feature? But in this very change lay a spell which
would for a long time surround her, and set her as apart from lover's
thoughts as if she were guarded by a cordon of viewless spirits. There
was a rapt look of holy communion on her face, which made itself felt by
the dullest perception, and sometimes overawed even where it attracted.
It was the same thing which Aunt Ri had felt, and formulated in her own
humorous fashion. But old Marda put it better, when, one day, in reply
to a half-terrified, low-whispered suggestion of Juan Can, to the effect
that it was "a great pity that Senor Felipe hadn't married the Senorita
years ago, - what if he were to do it yet?" she said, also under her
breath. "It is my opinion he'd as soon think of Saint Catharine herself!
Not but that it would be a great thing if it could be!"

And now the thing that the Senora had imagined to herself so often
had come about, - the presence of a little child in her house, on the
veranda, in the garden, everywhere; the sunny, joyous, blest presence.
But how differently had it come! Not Felipe's child, as she proudly
had pictured, but the child of Ramona: the friendless, banished
Ramona returned now into full honor and peace as the daughter of the
house, - Ramona, widow of Alessandro. If the child had been Felipe's own,
he could not have felt for it a greater love. From the first, the little
thing had clung to him as only second to her mother. She slept hours in
his arms, one little hand hid in his dark beard, close to his lips,
and kissed again and again when no one saw. Next to Ramona herself in
Felipe's heart came Ramona's child; and on the child he could lavish the
fondness he felt that he could never dare to show to the mother, Month
by month it grew clearer to Felipe that the mainsprings of Ramona's
life were no longer of this earth; that she walked as one in constant
fellowship with one unseen. Her frequent and calm mention of Alessandro
did not deceive him. It did not mean a lessening grief: it meant an
unchanged relation.

One thing weighed heavily on Felipe's mind, - the concealed treasure. A
sense of humiliation withheld him, day after day, from speaking of
it. But he could have no peace until Ramona knew it. Each hour that he
delayed the revelation he felt himself almost as guilty as he had held
his mother to be. At last he spoke. He had not said many words, before
Ramona interrupted him. "Oh, yes!" she said. "I knew about those things;
your mother told me. When we were in such trouble, I used to wish
sometimes we could have had a few of the jewels. But they were all given
to the Church. That was what the Senora Ortegna said must be done with
them if I married against your mother's wishes."

It was with a shame-stricken voice that Felipe replied: "Dear Ramona,
they were not given to the Church. You know Father Salvierderra died;
and I suppose my mother did not know what to do with them. She told me
about them just as she was dying."

"But why did you not give them to the Church, dear?" asked Ramona,

"Why?" cried Felipe. "Because I hold them to be yours, and yours only.
I would never have given them to the Church, until I had sure proof that
you were dead and had left no children."

Ramona's eyes were fixed earnestly on Felipe's face. "You have not read
the Senora Ortegna's letter?" she said.

"Yes, I have," he replied, "every word of it."

"But that said I was not to have any of the things if I married against
the Senora Moreno's will."

Felipe groaned. Had his mother lied? "No, dear," he said, "that was not
the word. It was, if you married unworthily."

Ramona reflected. "I never recollected the words," she said. "I was
too frightened; but I thought that was what it meant. I did not marry
unworthily. Do you feel sure, Felipe, that it would be honest for me to
take them for my child?"

"Perfectly," said Felipe.

"Do you think Father Salvierderra would say I ought to keep them?"

"I am sure of it, dear."

"I will think about it, Felipe. I cannot decide hastily. Your mother did
not think I had any right to them, if I married Alessandro. That was
why she showed them to me. I never knew of them till then. I took one
thing, - a handkerchief of my father's. I was very glad to have it;
but it got lost when we went from San Pasquale. Alessandro rode back a
half-day's journey to find it for me; but it had blown away. I grieved
sorely for it."

The next day Ramona said to Felipe: "Dear Felipe, I have thought it all
over about those jewels. I believe it will be right for my daughter to
have them. Can there be some kind of a paper written for me to sign, to
say that if she dies they are all to be given to the Church, - to Father
Salvierderra's College, in Santa Barbara? That is where I would rather
have them go."

"Yes, dear," said Felipe; "and then we will put them in some safer
place. I will take them to Los Angeles when I go. It is wonderful no one
has stolen them all these years!"

And so a second time the Ortegna jewels were passed on, by a written
bequest, into the keeping of that mysterious, certain, uncertain thing
we call the future, and delude our selves with the fancy that we
can have much to do with its shaping.


Life ran smoothly in the Moreno household, - smoothly to the eye. Nothing
could be more peaceful, fairer to see, than the routine of its days,
with the simple pleasures, light tasks, and easy diligence of all.
Summer and winter were alike sunny, and had each its own joys. There was
not an antagonistic or jarring element; and, flitting back and forth,
from veranda to veranda, garden to garden, room to room, equally at
home and equally welcome everywhere, there went perpetually, running,
frisking, laughing, rejoicing, the little child that had so strangely
drifted into this happy shelter, - the little Ramona. As unconscious of
aught sad or fateful in her destiny as the blossoms with which it was
her delight to play, she sometimes seemed to her mother to have been
from the first in some mysterious way disconnected from it, removed, set
free from all that could ever by any possibility link her to sorrow.

Ramona herself bore no impress of sorrow; rather her face had now an
added radiance. There had been a period, soon after her return, when
she felt that she for the first time waked to the realization of her
bereavement; when every sight, sound, and place seemed to cry out,
mocking her with the name and the memory of Alessandro. But she wrestled
with this absorbing grief as with a sin; setting her will steadfastly
to the purposes of each day's duty, and, most of all, to the duty of
joyfulness. She repeated to herself Father Salvierderra's sayings, till
she more than knew them by heart; and she spent long hours of the night
in prayer, as it had been his wont to do.

No one but Felipe dreamed of these vigils and wrestlings. He knew them;
and he knew, too, when they ceased, and the new light of a new
victory diffused itself over Ramona's face: but neither did the first
dishearten, nor the latter encourage him. Felipe was a clearer-sighted
lover now than he had been in his earlier youth. He knew that into the
world where Ramona really lived he did not so much as enter; yet her
every act, word, look, was full of loving thoughtfulness of and for
him, loving happiness in his companionship. And while this was so, all
Felipe's unrest could not make him unhappy.

There were other causes entering into this unrest besides his yearning
desire to win Ramona for his wife. Year by year the conditions of life
in California were growing more distasteful to him. The methods, aims,
standards of the fast incoming Americans were to him odious. Their
boasted successes, the crowding of colonies, schemes of settlement and
development, - all were disagreeable and irritating. The passion for
money and reckless spending of it, the great fortunes made in one hour,
thrown away in another, savored to Felipe's mind more of brigandage and
gambling than of the occupations of gentlemen. He loathed them. Life
under the new government grew more and more intolerable to him; both his
hereditary instincts and prejudices, and his temperament, revolted.
He found himself more and more alone in the country. Even the Spanish
tongue was less and less spoken. He was beginning to yearn for
Mexico, - for Mexico, which he had never seen, yet yearned for like an
exile. There he might yet live among men of his own race and degree,
and of congenial beliefs and occupations. Whenever he thought of this
change, always came the quick memory of Ramona. Would she be willing
to go? Could it be that she felt a bond to this land, in which she had
known nothing but sufferings.

At last he asked her. To his unutterable surprise, Ramona cried:
"Felipe! The saints be praised! I should never have told you. I did not
think that you could wish to leave this estate. But my most beautiful
dream for Ramona would be, that she should grow up in Mexico."

And as she spoke, Felipe understood by a lightning intuition, and
wondered that he had not foreknown it, that she would spare her daughter
the burden she had gladly, heroically borne herself, in the bond of

The question was settled. With gladness of heart almost more than he
could have believed possible, Felipe at once communicated with some rich
American proprietors who had desired to buy the Moreno estate. Land in
the valley had so greatly advanced in value, that the sum he received
for it was larger than he had dared to hope; was ample for the
realization of all his plans for the new life in Mexico. From the hour
that this was determined, and the time for their sailing fixed, a new
expression came into Ramona's face. Her imagination was kindled. An
untried future beckoned, - a future which she would embrace and conquer
for her daughter. Felipe saw the look, felt the change, and for the
first time hoped. It would be a new world, a new life; why not a new
love? She could not always be blind to his devotion; and when she saw
it, could she refuse to reward it? He would be very patient, and wait
long, he thought. Surely, since he had been patient so long without
hope, he could be still more patient now that hope had dawned! But
patience is not hope's province in breasts of lovers. From the day when
Felipe first thought to himself, "She will yet be mine," it grew harder,
and not easier, for him to refrain from pouring out his love in words.
Her tender sisterliness, which had been such balm and comfort to him,
grew at times intolerable; and again and again her gentle spirit
was deeply disquieted with the fear that she had displeased him, so
strangely did he conduct himself.

He had resolved that nothing should tempt him to disclose to her his
passion and its dreams, until they had reached their new home. But there
came a moment which mastered him, and he spoke.

It was in Monterey. They were to sail on the morrow; and had been on
board the ship to complete the last arrangements. They were rowed back
to shore in a little boat. A full moon shone. Ramona sat bareheaded in
the end of the boat, and the silver radiance from the water seemed to
float up around her, and invest her as with a myriad halos. Felipe gazed
at her till his senses swam; and when, on stepping from the boat, she
put her hand in his, and said, as she had said hundreds of times before,
"Dear Felipe, how good you are!" he clasped her hands wildly, and cried,
"Ramona, my love! Oh, can you not love me?"

The moonlight was bright as day. They were alone on the shore. Ramona
gazed at him for one second, in surprise. Only for a second; then she
knew all. "Felipe! My brother!" she cried, and stretched out her hands
as if in warning.

"No! I am not your brother!" he cried. "I will not be your brother! I
would rather die!"

"Felipe!" cried Ramona again. This time her voice recalled him to
himself. It was a voice of terror and of pain.

"Forgive me, my sweet one!" he exclaimed. "I will never say it again.
But I have loved you so long - so long!"

Ramona's head had fallen forward on her breast, her eyes fixed on the
shining sands; the waves rose and fell, rose and fell, at her feet
gently as sighs. A great revelation had come to Ramona. In this supreme
moment of Felipe's abandonment of all disguises, she saw his whole
past life in a new light. Remorse smote her. "Dear Felipe," she said,
clasping her hands, "I have been very selfish. I did not know - "

"Of course you did not, love," said Felipe. "How could you? But I have
never loved any one else. I have always loved you. Can you not learn to
love me? I did not mean to tell you for a long time yet. But now I have
spoken; I cannot hide it any more."

Ramona drew nearer to him, still with her hands clasped. "I have always
loved you," she said. "I love no other living man; but, Felipe," - her
voice sank to a solemn whisper, - "do you not know, Felipe, that part of
me is dead, - dead? can never live again? You could not want me for your
wife, Felipe, when part of me is dead!"

Felipe threw his arms around her. He was beside himself with joy. "You
would not say that if you did not think you could be my wife," he cried.
"Only give yourself to me, my love, I care not whether you call yourself
dead or alive!"

Ramona stood quietly in his arms. Ah, well for Felipe that he did not
know, never could know, the Ramona that Alessandro had known. This
gentle, faithful, grateful Ramona, asking herself fervently now if she
would do her brother a wrong, yielding up to him what seemed to her only
the broken fragment of a life; weighing his words, not in the light of
passion, but of calmest, most unselfish action, - ah, how unlike was she
to that Ramona who flung herself on Alessandro's breast, crying, "Take
me with you! I would rather die than have you leave me!"

Ramona had spoken truth. Part of her was dead. But Ramona saw now, with
infallible intuition, that even as she had loved Alessandro, so Felipe
loved her. Could she refuse to give Felipe happiness, when he had saved

Online LibraryHelen Hunt JacksonRamona → online text (page 34 of 35)