He felt, for the first time, a personal relation between himself and
"It is well," he said, in the brief phrase so frequent with his people.
"It is well." And with a reverent inclination of his head, he walked
away. Margarita, still dawdling surlily over her work in Father
Salvierderra's room, heard Alessandro's voice, and running to discover
to whom he was speaking, caught these last, words. Peering from behind
a curtain, she saw the look with which he said them; saw also the
expression on Ramona's face as she listened.
Margarita clenched her hands. The seed had blossomed. Ramona had an
"Oh, but I am glad Father Salvierderra has gone!" said the girl,
bitterly. "He'd have had this out of me, spite of everything. I haven't
got to confess for a year, maybe; and much can happen in that time."
FELIPE gained but slowly. The relapse was indeed, as Father Salvierderra
had said, worse than the original attack. Day after day he lay with
little apparent change; no pain, but a weakness so great that it was
almost harder to bear than sharp suffering would have been. Nearly every
day Alessandro was sent for to play or sing to him. It seemed to be the
only thing that roused him from his half lethargic state. Sometimes he
would talk with Alessandro on matters relative to the estate, and show
for a few moments something like his old animation; but he was soon
tired, and would close his eyes, saying: "I will speak with you again
about this, Alessandro; I am going to sleep now. Sing."
The Senora, seeing Felipe's enjoyment of Alessandro's presence, soon
came to have a warm feeling towards him herself; moreover, she greatly
liked his quiet reticence. There was hardly a surer road to the Senora's
favor, for man or woman, than to be chary of speech and reserved
in demeanor. She had an instinct of kinship to all that was silent,
self-contained, mysterious, in human nature. The more she observed
Alessandro, the more she trusted and approved him. Luckily for Juan Can,
he did not know how matters were working in his mistress's mind. If he
had, he would have been in a fever of apprehension, and would have got
at swords' points with Alessandro immediately. On the contrary, all
unaware of the real situation of affairs, and never quite sure that the
Mexican he dreaded might not any day hear of his misfortune, and appear,
asking for the place, he took every opportunity to praise Alessandro to
the Senora. She never visited his bedside that he had not something to
say in favor of the lad, as he called him.
"Truly, Senora," he said again and again, "I do marvel where the lad
got so much knowledge, at his age. He is like an old hand at the sheep
business. He knows more than any shepherd I have, - a deal more; and it
is not only of sheep. He has had experience, too, in the handling of
cattle. Juan Jose has been beholden to him more than once, already, for
a remedy of which he knew not. And such modesty, withal. I knew not that
there were such Indians; surely there cannot be many such."
"No, I fancy not," the Senora would reply, absently. "His father is a
man of intelligence, and has trained his son well."
"There is nothing he is not ready to do," continued Alessandro's
eulogist. "He is as handy with tools as if he had been 'prenticed to a
carpenter. He has made me a new splint for my leg, which was a relief
like salve to a wound, so much easier was it than before. He is a good
lad, - a good lad."
None of these sayings of Juan's were thrown away on the Senora. More and
more closely she watched Alessandro; and the very thing which Juan
had feared, and which he had thought to avert by having Alessandro his
temporary substitute, was slowly coming to pass. The idea was working
in the Senora's mind, that she might do a worse thing than engage this
young, strong, active, willing man to remain permanently in her employ.
The possibility of an Indian's being so born and placed that he would
hesitate about becoming permanently a servant even to the Senora Moreno,
did not occur to her. However, she would do nothing hastily. There would
be plenty of time before Juan Can's leg was well. She would study the
young man more. In the mean time, she would cause Felipe to think of the
idea, and propose it.
So one day she said to Felipe: "What a voice that Alessandro has,
Felipe. We shall miss his music sorely when he goes, shall we not?"
"He's not going!" exclaimed Felipe, startled.
"Oh, no, no; not at present. He agreed to stay till Juan Can was
about again; but that will be not more than six weeks now, or eight, I
suppose. You forget how time has flown while you have been lying here
ill, my son."
"True, true!" said Felipe. "Is it really a month already?" and he
"Juan Can tells me that the lad has a marvellous knowledge for one of
his years," continued the Senora. "He says he is as skilled with cattle
as with sheep; knows more than any shepherd we have on the place. He
seems wonderfully quiet and well-mannered. I never saw an Indian who had
"Old Pablo is just like him," said Felipe. "It was natural enough,
living so long with Father Peyri. And I've seen other Indians, too, with
a good deal the same manner as Alessandro. It's born in them."
"I can't bear the idea of Alessandro's going away. But by that time you
will be well and strong," said the Senora; "you would not miss him then,
"Yes, I would, too!" said Felipe, pettishly. He was still weak enough to
be childish. "I like him about me. He's worth a dozen times as much as
any man we've got. But I don't suppose money could hire him to stay on
"Were you thinking of hiring him permanently?" asked the Senora, in a
surprised tone. "I don't doubt you could do so if you wished. They are
all poor, I suppose; he would not work with the shearers if he were not
"Oh, it isn't that," said Felipe, impatiently. "You can't understand,
because you've never been among them. But they are just as proud as we
are. Some of them, I mean; such men as old Pablo. They shear sheep for
money just as I sell wool for money. There isn't so much difference.
Alessandro's men in the band obey him, and all the men in the village
obey Pablo, just as implicitly as my men here obey me. Faith, much more
so!" added Felipe, laughing. "You can't understand it, mother, but it's
so. I am not at all sure I could offer Alessandro Assis money enough to
tempt him to stay here as my servant."
The Senora's nostrils dilated in scorn. "No, I do not understand it,"
she said. "Most certainly I do not understand it. Of what is it that
these noble lords of villages are so proud? their ancestors, - naked
savages less than a hundred years ago? Naked savages they themselves
too, to-day, if we had not come here to teach and civilize them. The
race was never meant for anything but servants. That was all the Fathers
ever expected to make of them, - good, faithful Catholics, and contented
laborers in the fields. Of course there are always exceptional
instances, and I think, myself, Alessandro is one. I don't believe,
however, he is so exceptional, but that if you were to offer him, for
instance, the same wages you pay Juan Can, he would jump at the chance
of staying on the place."
"Well, I shall think about it," said Felipe. "I'd like nothing better
than to have him here always. He's a fellow I heartily like. I'll think
Which was all the Senora wanted done at present.
Ramona had chanced to come in as this conversation was going on. Hearing
Alessandro's name she seated herself at the window, looking out, but
listening intently. The month had done much for Alessandro with
Ramona, though neither Alessandro nor Ramona knew it. It had done
this much, - that Ramona knew always when Alessandro was near, that she
trusted him, and that she had ceased to think of him as an Indian any
more than when she thought of Felipe, she thought of him as a Mexican.
Moreover, seeing the two men frequently together, she had admitted to
herself, as Margarita had done before her, that Alessandro was far the
handsomer man of the two. This Ramona did not like to admit, but she
could not help it.
"I wish Felipe were as tall and strong as Alessandro," she said to
herself many a time. "I do not see why he could not have been. I wonder
if the Senora sees how much handsomer Alessandro is."
When Felipe said that he did not believe he could offer Alessandro Assis
money enough to tempt him to stay on the place, Ramona opened her lips
suddenly, as if to speak, then changed her mind, and remained silent.
She had sometimes displeased the Senora by taking part in conversations
between her and her son.
Felipe saw the motion, but he also thought it wiser to wait till after
his mother had left the room, before he asked Ramona what she was on the
point of saying. As soon as the Senora went out, he said, "What was it,
Ramona, you were going to say just now?"
Ramona colored. She had decided not to say it.
"Tell me, Ramona," persisted Felipe. "You were going to say something
about Alessandro's staying; I know you were."
Ramona did not answer. For the first time in her life she found herself
embarrassed before Felipe.
"Don't you like Alessandro?" said Felipe.
"Oh, yes!" replied Ramona, with instant eagerness. "It was not that at
all. I like him very much;" But then she stopped.
"Well, what is it, then? Have you heard anything on the place about his
"Oh, no, no; not a word!" said Ramona. "Everybody understands that he is
here only till Juan Can gets well. But you said you did not believe you
could offer him money enough to tempt him to stay."
"Well," said Felipe, inquiringly, "I do not. Do you?"
"I think he would like to stay," said Ramona, hesitatingly. "That was
what I was going to say."
"What makes you think so?" asked Felipe.
"I don't know," Ramona said, still more hesitatingly. Now that she had
said it, she was sorry. Felipe looked curiously at her. Hesitancy like
this, doubts, uncertainty as to her impressions, were not characteristic
of Ramona. A flitting something which was far from being suspicion
or jealousy, and yet was of kin to them both, went through Felipe's
mind, - went through so swiftly that he was scarce conscious of it; if
he had been, he would have scorned himself. Jealous of an Indian
sheep-shearers Impossible! Nevertheless, the flitting something left a
trace, and prevented Felipe from forgetting the trivial incident; and
after this, it was certain that Felipe would observe Ramona more closely
than he had done; would weigh her words and actions; and if she should
seem by a shade altered in either, would watch still more closely.
Meshes were closing around Ramona. Three watchers of her every look and
act, - Alessandro in pure love, Margarita in jealous hate, Felipe in love
and perplexity. Only the Senora observed her not. If she had,
matters might have turned out very differently, for the Senora was
clear-sighted, rarely mistaken in her reading of people's motives, never
long deceived; but her observing and discriminating powers were not in
focus, so far as Ramona was concerned. The girl was curiously outside of
the Senora's real life. Shelter, food, clothes, all external needs, in
so far as her means allowed, the Senora would, without fail, provide for
the child her sister had left in her hands as a trust; but a personal
relation with her, a mother's affection, or even interest and
acquaintance, no. The Senora had not that to give. And if she had it
not, was she to blame? What could she do? Years ago Father Salvierderra
had left off remonstrating with her on this point. "Is there more I
should do for the child? Do you see aught lacking, aught amiss?" the
Senora would ask, conscientiously, but with pride. And the Father, thus
inquired of, could not point out a duty which had been neglected.
"You do not love her, my daughter," he said.
"No." Senora Moreno's truthfulness was of the adamantine order. "No, I
do not. I cannot. One cannot love by act of will."
"That is true," the Father would say sadly; "but affection may be
"Yes, if it exists," was the Senora's constant answer. "But in this case
it does not exist. I shall never love Ramona. Only at your command, and
to save my sister a sorrow, I took her. I will never fail in my duty to
It was of no use. As well say to the mountain, "Be cast into the sea,"
as try to turn the Senora's heart in any direction whither it did not of
itself tend. All that Father Salvierderra could do, was to love Ramona
the more himself, which he did heartily, and more and more each year,
and small marvel at it; for a gentler, sweeter maiden never drew breath
than this same Ramona, who had been all these years, save for Felipe,
lonely in the Senora Moreno's house.
Three watchers of Ramona now. If there had been a fourth, and that
fourth herself, matters might have turned out differently. But how
should Ramona watch? How should Ramona know? Except for her two years at
school with the nuns, she had never been away from the Senora's house.
Felipe was the only young man she had known, - Felipe, her brother since
she was five years old.
There were no gayeties in the Senora Moreno's home. Felipe, when he
needed them, went one day's journey, or two, or three, to get them; went
as often as he liked. Ramona never went. How many times she had longed
to go to Santa Barbara, or to Monterey, or Los Angeles; but to have
asked the Senora's permission to accompany her on some of her now
infrequent journeys to these places would have required more courage
than Ramona possessed. It was now three years since she left the convent
school, but she was still as fresh from the hands of the nuns as on the
day when, with loving tears, they had kissed her in farewell. The few
romances and tales and bits of verse she had read were of the most
innocent and old-fashioned kind, and left her hardly less childlike than
before. This childlikeness, combined with her happy temperament, had
kept her singularly contented in her monotonous life. She had fed the
birds, taken care of the flowers, kept the chapel in order, helped in
light household work, embroidered, sung, and, as the Senora eight
years before had bade her do, said her prayers and pleased Father
By processes strangely unlike, she and Alessandro had both been kept
strangely free from thoughts of love and of marriage, - he by living in
the shadow, and she by living in the sun; his heart and thoughts filled
with perplexities and fears, hers filled by a placid routine of light
and easy tasks, and the outdoor pleasures of a child.
As the days went on, and Felipe still remained feeble, Alessandro
meditated a bold stroke. Each time that he went to Felipe's room to sing
or to play, he felt himself oppressed by the air. An hour of it made him
uncomfortable. The room was large, and had two windows, and the door was
never shut; yet the air seemed to Alessandro stifling.
"I should be as ill as the Senor Felipe, if I had to stay in that room,
and a bed is a weakening thing, enough to pull the strongest man down,"
said Alessandro to Juan Can one day. "Do you think I should anger them
if I asked them to let me bring Senor Felipe out to the veranda and put
him on a bed of my making? I'd wager my head I'd put him on his feet in
"And if you did that, you might ask the Senora for the half of the
estate, and get it, lad," replied Juan, Seeing the hot blood darkening
in Alessandro's face at his words, he hastened to add, "Do not be so
hot-blooded. I meant not that you would ask any reward for doing it; I
was only thinking what joy it would be to the Senora to see Senor Felipe
on his feet again. It has often crossed my thoughts that if he did not
get up from this sickness the Senora would not be long behind him. It is
but for him that she lives. And who would have the estate in that case,
I have never been able to find out."
"Would it not be the Senorita?" asked Alessandro.
Juan Can laughed an ugly laugh. "Ha, ha! Let the Senora hear you say
that!" he said. "Faith, it will be little the Senorita gets more
than enough for her bread, may be, out of the Moreno estate. Hark ye,
Alessandro; if you will not tell, I will tell you the story of the
Senorita. You know she is not of the Moreno blood; is no relation of
"Yes," said Alessandro; "Margarita has said to me that the Senorita
Ramona was only the foster-child of the Senora Moreno."
"Foster-child!" repeated Juan Can, contemptuously, "there is something
to the tale I know not, nor ever could find out; for when I was in
Monterey the Ortegna house was shut, and I could not get speech of any
of their people. But this much I know, that it was the Senora Ortegna
that had the girl first in keeping; and there was a scandalous tale
about her birth."
If Juan Can's eyes had not been purblind with old age, he would have
seen that in Alessandro's face which would have made him choose his
words more carefully. But he went on: "It was after the Senora Ortegna
was buried, that our Senora returned, bringing this child with her; and
I do assure you, lad, I have seen the Senora look at her many a time as
if she wished her dead. And it is a shame, for she was always as fair
and good a child as the saints ever saw. But a stain on the blood, a
stain on the blood, lad, is a bitter thing in a house. This much I know,
her mother was an Indian. Once when I was in the chapel, behind the big
Saint Joseph there, I overheard the Senora say as much. She was talking
to Father Salvierderra, and she said, 'If the child had only the one
blood in her veins, it would be different. I like not these crosses with
If Alessandro had been civilized, he would at this word "Indian" have
bounded to his feet. Being Alessandro, he stood if possible stiller than
before, and said in a low voice, "How know you it was the mother that
was the Indian?"
Juan laughed again, maliciously: "Ha, it is the Ortegna face she has;
and that Ortegna, why, he was the scandal byword of the whole coast.
There was not a decent woman would have spoken to him, except for his
"But did you not say that it was in the Senora Ortegna's keeping that
the child was?" asked Alessandro, breathing harder and faster each
moment now; stupid old Juan Can so absorbed in relish of his gossip,
that he noticed nothing.
"Ay, ay. So I said," he went on; "and so it was. There be such saints,
you know; though the Lord knows if she had been minded to give shelter
to all her husband's bastards, she might have taken lease of a church to
hold them. But there was a story about a man's coming with this infant
and leaving it in the Senora's room; and she, poor lady, never having
had a child of her own, did warm to it at first sight, and kept it with
her to the last; and I wager me, a hard time she had to get our Senora
to take the child when she died; except that it was to spite Ortegna, I
think our Senora would as soon the child had been dead."
"Has she not treated her kindly?" asked Alessandro, in a husky voice.
Juan Can's pride resented this question. "Do you suppose the Senora
Moreno would do an unkindness to one under her roof?" he asked loftily.
"The Senorita has been always, in all things, like Senor Felipe himself.
It was so that she promised the Senora Ortegna, I have heard."
"Does the Senorita know all this?" asked Alessandro.
Juan Can crossed himself. "Saints save us, no!" he exclaimed. "I'll not
forget, to my longest day, what it cost me, once I spoke in her hearing,
when she was yet small. I did not know she heard; but she went to the
Senora, asking who was her mother. And she said I had said her mother
was no good, which in faith I did, and no wonder. And the Senora came to
me, and said she, 'Juan Canito, you have been a long time in our house;
but if ever I hear of your mentioning aught concerning the Senorita
Ramona, on this estate or anywhere else in the country, that day you
leave my service!' - And you'd not do me the ill-turn to speak of it,
Alessandro, now?" said the old man, anxiously. "My tongue runs away with
me, lying here on this cursed bed, with nothing to do, - an active man
"No, I'll not speak of it, you may be assured," said Alessandro, walking
"Here! Here!" called Juan. "What about that plan you had for making a
bed for Senor Felipe on the verandah Was it of raw-hide you meant?"
"Ah, I had forgotten," said Alessandro, returning. "Yes, that was it.
There is great virtue in a raw-hide, tight stretched; my father says
that it is the only bed the Fathers would ever sleep on, in the Mission
days. I myself like the ground even better; but my father sleeps always
on the rawhide. He says it keeps him well. Do you think I might speak of
it to the Senora?"
"Speak of it to Senor Felipe himself," said Juan. "It will be as he
says. He rules this place now, from beginning to end; and it is but
yesterday I held him on my knee. It is soon that the old are pushed to
the wall, Alessandro."
"Nay, Juan Canito," replied Alessandro, kindly. "It is not so. My father
is many years older than you are, and he rules our people to-day as
firmly as ever. I myself obey him, as if I were a lad still."
"What else, then, but a lad do you call yourself, I wonder?" thought
Juan; but he answered, "It is not so with us. The old are not held in
"That is not well," replied Alessandro. "We have been taught
differently. There is an old man in our village who is many, many years
older than my father. He helped to carry the mortar at the building of
the San Diego Mission, I do not know how many years ago. He is long past
a hundred years of age. He is blind and childish, and cannot walk; but
he is cared for by every one. And we bring him in our arms to every
council, and set him by my father's side. He talks very foolishly
sometimes, but my father will not let him be interrupted. He says
it brings bad luck to affront the aged. We will presently be aged
"Ay, ay!" said Juan, sadly. "We must all come to it. It is beginning to
look not so far off to me!"
Alessandro stared, no less astonished at Juan Can's unconscious
revelation of his standard of measurement of years than Juan had been
at his. "Faith, old man, what name dost give to yourself to-day!" he
thought; but went on with the topic of the raw-hide bed. "I may not so
soon get speech with Senor Felipe," he said. "It is usually when he is
sleepy that I go to play for him or to sing. But it makes my heart heavy
to see him thus languishing day by day, and all for lack of the air and
the sun, I do believe, indeed, Juan."
"Ask the Senorita, then," said Juan. "She has his ear at all times."
Alessandro made no answer. Why was it that it did not please him, - this
suggestion of speaking to Ramona of his plan for Felipe's welfare? He
could not have told; but he did not wish to speak of it to her.
"I will speak to the Senora," he said; and as luck would have it, at
that moment the Senora stood in the doorway, come to ask after Juan
The suggestion of the raw-hide bed struck her favorably. She herself
had, in her youth, heard much of their virtues, and slept on them.
"Yes," she said, "they are good. We will try it. It was only yesterday
that Senor Felipe was complaining of the bed he lies on; and when he
was well, he thought nothing could be so good; he brought it here, at a
great price, for me, but I could not lie on it. It seemed as if it would
throw me off as soon as I lay down; it is a cheating device, like all
these innovations the Americans have brought into the country. But Senor
Felipe till now thought it a luxury; now he tosses on it, and says it is
throwing him all the time."
Alessandro smiled, in spite of his reverence for the Senora. "I once lay
down on one myself, Senora," he said, "and that was what I said to my
father. It was like a wild horse under me, making himself ready to buck.
I thought perhaps the invention was of the saints, that men should not
sleep too long."
"There is a pile of raw-hides," said Juan, "well cured, but not too
stiff; Juan Jose was to have sent them off to-day to be sold; one of
those will be just right. It must not be too dry."
"The fresher the better," said Alessandro, "so it have no dampness.
Shall I make the bed, Senora?" he asked, "and will the Senora permit
that I make it on the veranda? I was just asking Juan Can if he thought
I might be so bold as to ask you to let me bring Senor Felipe into the