Ortega's by this time."
Ramona's eyes glistened. "I wish I could have thanked him," she said.
"You should have let me know. He ought to have been paid for going."
"I paid him, Senorita; he went for me," said Alessandro, with a shade of
wounded pride in the tone, which Ramona should have perceived, but did
not, and went on hurting the lover's heart still more.
"But it was for us that you sent for it, Alessandro; the Senora would
rather pay the messenger herself."
"It is paid, Senorita. It is nothing. If the Senor Felipe wishes to hear
the violin, I will play;" and Alessandro walked slowly away.
Ramona gazed after him. For the first time, she looked at him with no
thought of his being an Indian, - a thought there had surely been no need
of her having, since his skin was not a shade darker than Felipe's;
but so strong was the race feeling, that never till that moment had she
"What a superb head, and what a walk!" she thought. Then, looking more
observantly, she said: "He walks as if he were offended. He did not
like my offering to pay for the messenger. He wanted to do it for dear
Felipe. I will tell Felipe, and we will give him some present when he
"Isn't he splendid, Senorita?" came in a light laughing tone from
Margarita's lips close to her ear, in the fond freedom of their
relation. "Isn't he splendid? And oh, Senorita, you can't think how he
dances! Last year I danced with him every night; he has wings on his
feet, for all he is so tall and big."
There was a coquettish consciousness in the girl's tone, that was
suddenly, for some unexplained reason, exceedingly displeasing to
Ramona. Drawing herself away, she spoke to Margarita in a tone she had
never before in her life used. "It is not fitting to speak like that
about young men. The Senora would be displeased if she heard you," she
said, and walked swiftly away leaving poor Margarita as astounded as if
she had got a box on the ear.
She looked after Ramona's retreating figure, then after Alessandro's.
She had heard them talking together just before she came up. Thoroughly
bewildered and puzzled, she stood motionless for several seconds,
reflecting; then, shaking her head, she ran away, trying to dismiss the
harsh speech from her mind. "Alessandro must have vexed the Senorita,"
she thought, "to make her speak like that to me." But the incident was
not so easily dismissed from Margarita's thoughts. Many times in the
day it recurred to her, still a bewilderment and a puzzle, as far from
solution as ever. It was a tiny seed, whose name she did not dream of;
but it was dropped in soil where it would grow some day, - forcing-house
soil, and a bitter seed; and when it blossomed, Ramona would have an
All unconscious, equally of Margarita's heart and her own, Ramona
proceeded to Felipe's room. Felipe was sleeping, the Senora sitting by
his side, as she had sat for days and nights, - her dark face looking
thinner and more drawn each day; her hair looking even whiter, if that
could be; and her voice growing hollow from faintness and sorrow.
"Dear Senora," whispered Ramona, "do go out for a few moments while he
sleeps, and let me watch, - just on the walk in front of the veranda. The
sun is still lying there, bright and warm. You will be ill if you do not
The Senora shook her head. "My place is here," she answered, speaking in
a dry, hard tone. Sympathy was hateful to the Senora Moreno; she wished
neither to give it nor take it. "I shall not leave him. I do not need
Ramona had a cloth-of-gold rose in her hand. The veranda eaves were now
shaded with them, hanging down like a thick fringe of golden tassels. It
was the rose Felipe loved best. Stooping, she laid it on the bed, near
Felipe's head. "He will like to see it when he wakes," she said.
The Senora seized it, and flung it far out in the room. "Take it away!
Flowers are poison when one is ill," she said coldly. "Have I never told
"No, Senora," replied Ramona, meekly; and she glanced involuntarily at
the saucer of musk which the Senora kept on the table close to Felipe's
"The musk is different," said the Senora, seeing the glance. "Musk is a
medicine; it revives."
Ramona knew, but she would have never dared to say, that Felipe hated
musk. Many times he had said to her how he hated the odor; but his
mother was so fond of it, that it must always be that the veranda and
the house would be full of it. Ramona hated it too. At times it made her
faint, with a deadly faintness. But neither she nor Felipe would have
confessed as much to the Senora; and if they had, she would have thought
it all a fancy.
"Shall I stay?" asked Ramona, gently.
"As you please," replied the Senora. The simple presence of Ramona irked
her now with a feeling she did not pretend to analyze, and would
have been terrified at if she had. She would not have dared to say
to herself, in plain words: "Why is that girl well and strong, and my
Felipe lying here like to die! If Felipe dies, I cannot bear the sight
of her. What is she, to be preserved of the saints!"
But that, or something like it, was what she felt whenever Ramona
entered the room; still more, whenever she assisted in ministering to
Felipe. If it had been possible, the Senora would have had no hands but
her own do aught for her boy. Even tears from Ramona sometimes irritated
her. "What does she know about loving Felipe! He is nothing to her!"
thought the Senora, strangely mistaken, strangely blind, strangely
forgetting how feeble is the tie of blood in the veins by the side of
love in the heart.
If into this fiery soul of the Senora's could have been dropped one
second's knowledge of the relative positions she and Ramona already
occupied in Felipe's heart, she would, on the spot, have either died
herself or have slain Ramona, one or the other. But no such knowledge
was possible; no such idea could have found entrance into the Senora's
mind. A revelation from Heaven of it could hardly have reached even her
ears. So impenetrable are the veils which, fortunately for us all, are
forever held by viewless hands between us and the nearest and closest of
our daily companions.
At twilight of this day Felipe was restless and feverish again. He had
dozed at intervals all day long, but had had no refreshing sleep.
"Send for Alessandro," he said. "Let him come and sing to me."
"He has his violin now; he can play, if you would like that better,"
said Ramona; and she related what Alessandro had told her of the
messenger's having ridden to Temecula and back in a night and half a
day, to bring it.
"I wanted to pay the man," she said; "I knew of course your mother would
wish to reward him. But I fancy Alessandro was offended. He answered me
shortly that it was paid, and it was nothing."
"You couldn't have offended him more," said Felipe. "What a pity! He is
as proud as Lucifer himself, that Alessandro. You know his father has
always been the head of their band; in fact, he has authority over
several bands; General, they call it now, since they got the title from
the Americans; they used to call it Chief., and until Father Peyri left
San Luis Rey, Pablo was in charge of all the sheep, and general steward
and paymaster. Father Peyri trusted him with everything; I've heard he
would leave boxes full of uncounted gold in Pablo's charge to pay off
the Indians. Pablo reads and writes, and is very well off; he has as
many sheep as we have, I fancy!"
"What!" exclaimed Ramona, astonished. "They all look as if they were
"Oh, well, so they are," replied Felipe, "compared with us; but one
reason is, they share everything with each other. Old Pablo feeds and
supports half his village, they say. So long as he has anything, he will
never see one of his Indians hungry."
"How generous!" warmly exclaimed Ramona; "I think they are better than
we are, Felipe!"
"I think so, too," said Felipe. "That's what I have always said. The
Indians are the most generous people in the world. Of course they have
learned it partly from us; but they were very much so when the Fathers
first came here. You ask Father Salvierderra some day. He has read
all Father Junipero's and Father Crespi's diaries, and he says it is
wonderful how the wild savages gave food to every one who came."
"Felipe, you are talking too much," said the Senora's voice, in the
doorway; and as she spoke she looked reproachfully at Ramona. If she
had said in words, "See how unfit you are to be trusted with Felipe. No
wonder I do not leave the room except when I must!" her meaning could
not have been plainer. Ramona felt it keenly, and not without some
misgiving that it was deserved.
"Oh, dear Felipe, has it hurt you?" she said timidly; and to the Senora,
"Indeed, Senora, he has been speaking but a very few moments, very low."
"Go call Alessandro, Ramona, will you?" said Felipe. "Tell him to bring
his violin. I think I will go to sleep if he plays."
A long search Ramona had for Alessandro. Everybody had seen him a few
minutes ago, but nobody knew where he was now. Kitchens, sheepfolds,
vineyards, orchards, Juan Can's bedchamber, - Ramona searched them all
in vain. At last, standing at the foot of the veranda steps, and looking
down the garden, she thought she saw figures moving under the willows by
"Can he be there?" she said. "What can he be doing there? Who is it with
him?" And she walked down the path, calling, "Alessandro! Alessandro!"
At the first sound, Alessandro sprang from the side of his companion,
and almost before the second syllables had been said, was standing face
to face with Ramona.
"Here I am, Senorita. Does Senor Felipe want me? I have my violin here.
I thought perhaps he would like to have me play to him in the twilight."
"Yes," replied Ramona, "he wishes to hear you. I have been looking
everywhere for you." As she spoke, she was half unconsciously peering
beyond into the dusk, to see whose figure it was, slowly moving by the
Nothing escaped Alessandro's notice where Ramona was concerned. "It is
Margarita," he said instantly. "Does the Senorita want her? Shall I run
and call her?"
"No," said Ramona, again displeased, she knew not why, nor in fact knew
she was displeased; "no, I was not looking for her. What is she doing
"She is washing," replied Alessandro, innocently.
"Washing at this time of day!" thought Ramona, severely. "A mere
pretext. I shall watch Margarita. The Senora would never allow this sort
of thing." And as she walked back to the house by Alessandro's side,
she meditated whether or no she would herself speak to Margarita on the
subject in the morning.
Margarita, in the mean time, was also having her season of reflections
not the pleasantest. As she soused her aprons up and down in the water,
she said to herself, "I may as well finish them now I am here. How
provoking! I've no more than got a word with him, than she must come,
calling him away. And he flies as if he was shot on an arrow, at
the first word. I'd like to know what's come over the man, to be so
different. If I could ever get a good half-hour with him alone, I'd soon
find out. Oh, but his eyes go through me, through and through me! I
know he's an Indian, but what do I care for that. He's a million times
handsomer than Senor Felipe. And Juan Jose said the other day he'd make
enough better head shepherd than old Juan Can, if Senor Felipe'd only
see it; and why shouldn't he get to see it, if Alessandro's here
all summer?" And before the aprons were done, Margarita had a fine
air-castle up: herself and Alessandro married, a nice little house,
children playing in the sunshine below the artichoke-patch, she herself
still working for the Senora. "And the Senorita will perhaps marry Senor
Felipe," she added, her thoughts moving more hesitatingly. "He worships
the ground she walks on. Anybody with quarter of a blind eye can see
that; but maybe the Senora would not let him. Anyhow, Senor Felipe is
sure to have a wife, and so and so." It was an innocent, girlish castle,
built of sweet and natural longings, for which no maiden, high or
low, need blush; but its foundations were laid in sand, on which would
presently beat such winds and floods as poor little Margarita never
The next day Margarita and Ramona both went about their day's business
with a secret purpose in their hearts. Margarita had made up her mind
that before night she would, by fair means or foul, have a good long
talk with Alessandro. "He was fond enough of me last year, I know,"
she said to herself, recalling some of the dances and the good-night
leave-takings at that time. "It's because he is so put upon by everybody
now. What with Juan Can in one bed sending for him to prate to him about
the sheep, and Senor Felipe in another sending for him to fiddle him to
sleep, and all the care of the sheep, it's a wonder he's not out of his
mind altogether. But I'll find a chance, or make one, before this day's
sun sets. If I can once get a half-hour with him, I'm not afraid after
that; I know the way it is with men!" said the confident Margarita,
who, truth being told, it must be admitted, did indeed know a great
deal about the way it is with men, and could be safely backed, in a fair
field, with a fair start, against any girl of her age and station in
the country. So much for Margarita's purpose, at the outset of a day
destined to be an eventful one in her life.
Ramona's purpose was no less clear. She had decided, after some
reflection, that she would not speak to the Senora about Margarita's
having been under the willows with Alessandro in the previous evening,
but would watch her carefully and see whether there were any farther
signs of her attempting to have clandestine interviews with him.
This course she adopted, she thought, chiefly because of her affection
for Margarita, and her unwillingness to expose her to the Senora's
displeasure, which would be great, and terrible to bear. She was also
aware of an unwillingness to bring anything to light which would reflect
ever so lightly upon Alessandro in the Senora's estimation. "And he is
not really to blame," thought Ramona, "if a girl follows him about and
makes free with him. She must have seen him at the willows, and gone
down there on purpose to meet him, making a pretext of the washing. For
she never in this world would have gone to wash in the dark, as he must
have known, if he were not a fool. He is not the sort of person, it
seems to me, to be fooling with maids. He seems as full of grave thought
as Father Salvierderra. If I see anything amiss in Margarita to-day, I
shall speak to her myself, kindly but firmly, and tell her to conduct
herself more discreetly."
Then, as the other maiden's had done, Ramona's thoughts, being
concentrated on Alessandro, altered a little from their first key, and
grew softer and more imaginative; strangely enough, taking some of the
phrases, as it were, out of the other maiden's mouth.
"I never saw such eyes as Alessandro has," she said. "I wonder any girl
should make free with him. Even I myself, when he fixes his eyes on me,
feel a constraint. There is something in them like the eyes of a saint,
so solemn, yet so mild. I am sure he is very good."
And so the day opened; and if there were abroad in the valley that day
a demon of mischief, let loose to tangle the skeins of human affairs,
things could not have fallen out better for his purpose than they did;
for it was not yet ten o'clock of the morning, when Ramona, sitting at
her embroidery in the veranda, half hid behind the vines, saw Alessandro
going with his pruning-knife in his hand towards the artichoke-patch at
the east of the garden, and joining the almond orchard. "I wonder
what he is going to do there," she thought. "He can't be going to cut
willows;" and her eyes followed him till he disappeared among the trees.
Ramona was not the only one who saw this. Margarita, looking from the
east window of Father Salvierderra's room, saw the same thing. "Now's
my chance!" she said; and throwing a white reboso coquettishly over her
head, she slipped around the corner of the house. She ran swiftly in the
direction in which Alessandro had gone. The sound of her steps reached
Ramona, who, lifting her eyes, took in the whole situation at a glance.
There was no possible duty, no possible message, which would take
Margarita there. Ramona's cheeks blazed with a disproportionate
indignation. But she bethought herself, "Ah, the Senora may have sent
her to call Alessandro!" She rose, went to the door of Felipe's room,
and looked in. The Senora was sitting in the chair by Felipe's bed,
with her eyes closed. Felipe was dozing. The Senora opened her eyes, and
looked inquiringly at Ramona.
"Do you know where Margarita is?" said Ramona.
"In Father Salvierderra's room, or else in the kitchen helping Marda,"
replied the Senora, in a whisper. "I told her to help Marda with the
peppers this morning."
Ramona nodded, returned to the veranda, and sat down to decide on
her course of action. Then she rose again, and going to Father
Salvierderra's room, looked in. The room was still in disorder.
Margarita had left her work there unfinished. The color deepened on
Ramona's cheeks. It was strange how accurately she divined each process
of the incident. "She saw him from this window," said Ramona, "and has
run after him. It is shameful. I will go and call her back, and let her
see that I saw it all. It is high time that this was stopped."
But once back in the veranda, Ramona halted, and seated herself in her
chair again. The idea of seeming to spy was revolting to her.
"I will wait here till she comes back," she said, and took up her
embroidery. But she could not work. As the minutes went slowly by, she
sat with her eyes fixed on the almond orchard, where first Alessandro
and then Margarita had disappeared. At last she could bear it no longer.
It seemed to her already a very long time. It was not in reality very
long, - a half hour or so, perhaps; but it was long enough for Margarita
to have made great headway, as she thought, in her talk with Alessandro,
and for things to have reached just the worst possible crisis at which
they could have been surprised, when Ramona suddenly appeared at the
orchard gate, saying in a stern tone, "Margarita, you are wanted in the
house!" At a bad crisis, indeed, for everybody concerned. The picture
which Ramona had seen, as she reached the gate, was this: Alessandro,
standing with his back against the fence, his right hand hanging
listlessly down, with the pruning-knife in it, his left hand in the hand
of Margarita, who stood close to him, looking up in his face, with a
half-saucy, half-loving expression. What made bad matters worse, was,
that at the first sight of Ramona, Alessandro snatched his hand from
Margarita's, and tried to draw farther off from her, looking at her with
an expression which, even in her anger, Ramona could not help seeing was
one of disgust and repulsion. And if Ramona saw it, how much more did
Margarita! Saw it, as only a woman repulsed in presence of another woman
can see and feel. The whole thing was over in the twinkling of an eye;
the telling it takes double, treble the time of the happening. Before
Alessandro was fairly aware what had befallen, Ramona and Margarita
were disappearing from view under the garden trellis, - Ramona walking in
advance, stately, silent, and Margarita following, sulky, abject in her
gait, but with a raging whirlwind in her heart.
It had taken only the twinkling of an eye, but it had told Margarita the
truth. Alessandro too.
"My God." he said, "the Senorita thought me making love to that girl.
May the fiends get her! The Senorita looked at me as if I were a dog. How
could she think a man would look at a woman after he had once seen her!
And I can never, never speak to her to tell her! Oh, this cannot be
borne!" And in his rage Alessandro threw his pruning-knife whirling
through the air so fiercely, it sank to the hilt in one of the old
olive-trees. He wished he were dead. He was minded to flee the place.
How could he ever look the Senorita in the face again!
"Perdition take that girl!" he said over and over in his helpless
despair. An ill outlook for Margarita after this; and the girl had not
In Margarita's heart the pain was more clearly defined. She had seen
Ramona a half-second before Alessandro had; and dreaming no special
harm, except a little confusion at being seen thus standing with
him, - for she would tell the Senorita all about it when matters had gone
a little farther, - had not let go of Alessandro's hand. But the next
second she had seen in his face a look; oh, she would never forget it,
never! That she should live to have had any man look at her like that!
At the first glimpse of the Senorita, all the blood in his body seemed
rushing into his face, and he had snatched his hand away, - for it was
Margarita herself that had taken his hand, not he hers, - had snatched
his hand away, and pushed her from him, till she had nearly fallen. All
this might have been borne, if it had been only a fear of the Senorita's
seeing them, which had made him do it. But Margarita knew a great deal
better than that. That one swift, anguished, shame-smitten, appealing,
worshipping look on Alessandro's face, as his eyes rested on Ramona, was
like a flash of light into Margarita's consciousness. Far better than
Alessandro himself, she now knew his secret. In her first rage she did
not realize either the gulf between herself and Ramona, or that between
Ramona and Alessandro. Her jealous rage was as entire as if they had
all been equals together. She lost her head altogether, and there was
embodied insolence in the tone in which she said presently, "Did the
Senorita want me?"
Turning swiftly on her, and looking her full in the eye, Ramona said:
"I saw you go to the orchard, Margarita, and I knew what you went for. I
knew that you were at the brook last night with Alessandro. All I wanted
of you was, to tell you that if I see anything more of this sort, I
shall speak to the Senora."
"There is no harm," muttered Margarita, sullenly. "I don't know what the
"You know very well, Margarita," retorted Ramona. "You know that the
Senora permits nothing of the kind. Be careful, now, what you do." And
with that the two separated, Ramona returning to the veranda and her
embroidery, and Margarita to her neglected duty of making the good
Father's bed. But each girl's heart was hot and unhappy; and Margarita's
would have been still hotter and unhappier, had she heard the words
which were being spoken on the veranda a little later.
After a few minutes of his blind rage at Margarita, himself, and fate
generally, Alessandro, recovering his senses, had ingeniously persuaded
himself that, as the Senora's; and also the Senorita's servant, for the
time being, he owed it to them to explain the situation in which he had
just been found. Just what he was to say he did not know; but no sooner
had the thought struck him, than he set off at full speed for the house,
hoping to find Ramona on the veranda, where he knew she spent all her
time when not with Senor Felipe.
When Ramona saw him coming, she lowered her eyes, and was absorbed in
her embroidery. She did not wish to look at him.
The footsteps stopped. She knew he was standing at the steps. She would
not look up. She thought if she did not, he would go away. She did not
know either the Indian or the lover nature. After a time, finding the
consciousness of the soundless presence intolerable, she looked up, and
surprised on Alessandro's face a gaze which had, in its long interval
of freedom from observation, been slowly gathering up into it all the
passion of the man's soul, as a burning-glass draws the fire of the
sun's rays. Involuntarily a low cry burst from Ramona's lips, and she
sprang to her feet.
"Ah! did I frighten the Senorita? Forgive. I have been waiting here a
long time to speak to her. I wished to say - "
Suddenly Alessandro discovered that he did not know what he wished to
As suddenly, Ramona discovered that she knew all he wished to say. But
she spoke not, only looked at him searchingly.
"Senorita," he began again, "I would never be unfaithful to my duty to
the Senora, and to you."
"I believe you, Alessandro," said Ramona. "It is not necessary to say
At these words a radiant joy spread over Alessandro's face. He had not
hoped for this. He felt, rather than heard, that Ramona understood him.