Alessandro’s first answer to this cry of Ramona’s was a tightening of his arms around her; closer and closer he held her, till it was almost pain; she could hear the throbs of his heart, but he did not speak. Then, letting his arms fall, taking her hand in his, he laid it on his forehead reverently, and said, in a voice which was so husky and trembling she could barely understand his words: “My Señorita knows that my life is hers. She can ask me to go into the fire or into the sea, and neither the fire nor the sea would frighten me; they would but make me glad for her sake. But I cannot take my Señorita’s life to throw it away. She is tender; she would die; she cannot lie on the earth for a bed, and have no food to eat. My Señorita does not know what she says.”
His solemn tone; this third-person designation, as if he were speaking of her, not with her, almost as if he were thinking aloud to God rather than speaking to her, merely calmed and strengthened, did not deter Ramona. “I am strong; I can work too, Alessandro. You do not know. We can both work. I am not afraid to lie on the earth; and God will give us food,” she said.
“That was what I thought, my Señorita, until now. When I rode away that morning, I had it in my thoughts, as you say, that if you were not afraid, I would not be; and that there would at least always be food, and I could make it that you should never suffer; but, Señorita, the saints are displeased. They 247 do not pray for us any more. It is as my father said, they have forsaken us. These Americans will destroy us all. I do not know but they will presently begin to shoot us and poison us, to get us all out of the country, as they do the rabbits and the gophers; it would not be any worse than what they have done. Would not you rather be dead, Señorita, than be as I am to-day?”
Each word he spoke but intensified Ramona’s determination to share his lot. “Alessandro,” she interrupted, “there are many men among your people who have wives, are there not?”
“Yes, Señorita!” replied Alessandro, wonderingly.
“Have their wives left them and gone away, now that this trouble has come?”
“No, Señorita!” still more wonderingly; “how could they?”
“They are going to stay with them, help them to earn money, try to make them happier, are they not?”
“Yes, Señorita.” Alessandro began to see whither these questions tended. It was not unlike the Señora’s tactics, the way in which Ramona narrowed in her lines of interrogation.
“Do the women of your people love their husbands very much?”
“Very much, Señorita.” A pause. It was very dark now. Alessandro could not see the hot currents running swift and red over Ramona’s face; even her neck changed color as she asked her last question. “Do you think any one of them loves her husband more than I love you, Alessandro?”
Alessandro’s arms were again around her, before the words were done. Were not such words enough to make a dead man live? Almost; but not enough to make such a love as Alessandro’s selfish. Alessandro was silent.248
“You know there is not one!” said Ramona, impetuously.
“Oh, it is too much!” cried Alessandro, throwing his arms up wildly. Then, drawing her to him again, he said, the words pouring out breathless: “My Señorita, you take me to the door of heaven, but I dare not go in. I know it would kill you, Señorita, to live the life we must live. Let me go, dearest Señorita; let me go! It had been better if you had never seen me.”
“Do you know what I was going to do, Alessandro, if you had not come?” said Ramona. “I was going to run away from the Señora’s house, all alone, and walk all the way to Santa Barbara, to Father Salvierderra, and ask him to put me in the convent at San Juan Bautista; and that is what I will do now if you leave me!”
“Oh, no, no, Señorita, my Señorita, you will not do that! My beautiful Señorita in the convent! No, no!” cried Alessandro, greatly agitated.
“Yes, if you do not let me come with you, I shall do it. I shall set out to-morrow.”
Her words carried conviction to Alessandro’s soul. He knew she would do as he said. “Even that would not be so dreadful as to be hunted like a wild beast, Señorita; as you may be, if you come with me.”
“When I thought you were dead, Alessandro, I did not think the convent would be dreadful at all. I thought it would be peace; and I could do good, teaching the children. But if I knew you were alive, I could never have peace; not for one minute have peace, Alessandro! I would rather die, than not be where you are. Oh, Alessandro, take me with you!”
Alessandro was conquered. “I will take you, my most beloved Señorita,” he said gravely,—no lover’s gladness in his tone, and his voice was hollow; “I will take you. Perhaps the saints will have 249 mercy on you, even if they have forsaken me and my people!”
“Your people are my people, dearest; and the saints never forsake any one who does not forsake them. You will be glad all our lives long, Alessandro,” cried Ramona; and she laid her head on his breast in solemn silence for a moment, as if registering a vow.
Well might Felipe have said that he would hold himself fortunate if any woman ever loved him as Ramona loved Alessandro.
When she lifted her head, she said timidly, now that she was sure, “Then you will take your Ramona with you, Alessandro?”
“I will take you with me till I die; and may the Madonna guard you, my Ramona,” replied Alessandro, clasping her to his breast, and bowing his head upon hers. But there were tears in his eyes, and they were not tears of joy; and in his heart he said, as in his rapturous delight when he first saw Ramona bending over the brook under the willows he had said aloud, “My God! what shall I do!”
It was not easy to decide on the best plan of procedure now. Alessandro wished to go boldly to the house, see Señor Felipe, and if need be the Señora. Ramona quivered with terror at the bare mention of it. “You do not know the Señora, Alessandro,” she cried, “or you would never think of it. She has been terrible all this time. She hates me so that she would kill me if she dared. She pretends that she will do nothing to prevent my going away; but I believe at the last minute she would throw me in the well in the court-yard, rather than have me go with you.”
“I would never let her harm you,” said Alessandro. “Neither would Señor Felipe.”
“She turns Felipe round her finger as if he were soft wax,” answered Ramona. “She makes him of a hundred minds in a minute, and he can’t help himself. 250 Oh, I think she is in league with the fiends, Alessandro! Don’t dare to come near the house; I will come here as soon as every one is asleep. We must go at once.”
Ramona’s terrors overruled Alessandro’s judgment, and he consented to wait for her at the spot where they now stood. She turned back twice to embrace him again. “Oh, my Alessandro, promise me that you will not stir from this place till I come,” she said.
“I will be here when you come,” he said.
“It will not be more than two hours,” she said, “or three, at the utmost. It must be nine o’clock now.”
She did not observe that Alessandro had evaded the promise not to leave the spot. That promise Alessandro would not have given. He had something to do in preparation for this unexpected flight of Ramona. In her innocence, her absorption in her thoughts of Alessandro and of love, she had never seemed to consider how she would make this long journey. As Alessandro had ridden towards Temecula, eighteen days ago, he had pictured himself riding back on his fleet, strong Benito, and bringing Antonio’s matchless little dun mare for Ramona to ride. Only eighteen short days ago; and as he was dreaming that very dream, he had looked up and seen Antonio on the little dun mare, galloping towards him like the wind, the overridden creature’s breath coming from her like pants of a steam-engine, and her sides dripping blood, where Antonio, who loved her, had not spared the cruel spurs; and Antonio, seeing him, had uttered a cry, and flinging himself off, came with a bound to his side, and with gasps between his words told him. Alessandro could not remember the words, only that after them he set his teeth, and dropping the bridle, laid his head down between Benito’s ears, and whispered to him; and Benito never stopped, but galloped on all that day, till he came into Temecula; and there Alessandro saw the 251 roofless houses, and the wagons being loaded, and the people running about, the women and children wailing; and then they showed him the place where his father lay on the ground, under the tule, and jumping off Benito he let him go, and that was the last he ever saw of him. Only eighteen days ago! And now here he was, under the willows,—the same copse where he first halted, at his first sight of Ramona; and it was night, dark night, and Ramona had been there, in his arms; she was his; and she was coming back presently to go away with him,—where! He had no home in the wide world to which to take her,—and this poor beast he had ridden from Temecula, had it strength enough left to carry her? Alessandro doubted. He had himself walked more than half the distance, to spare the creature, and yet there had been good pasture all the way; but the animal had been too long starved to recover quickly. In the Pachanga cañon, where they had found refuge, the grass was burned up by the sun, and the few horses taken over there had suffered wretchedly; some had died. But Alessandro, even while his arms were around Ramona, had revolved in his mind a project he would not have dared to confide to her. If Baba, Ramona’s own horse, was still in the corral, Alessandro could without difficulty lure him out. He thought it would be no sin. At any rate, if it were, it could not be avoided. The Señorita must have a horse, and Baba had always been her own; had followed her about like a dog ever since he could run; in fact, the only taming he had ever had, had been done by Ramona, with bread and honey. He was intractable to others; but Ramona could guide him by a wisp of his silky mane. Alessandro also had nearly as complete control over him; for it had been one of his greatest pleasures, during the summer, when he could not see Ramona, to caress and fondle her horse, till Baba knew and loved him 252 next to his young mistress. If only Baba were in the corral, all would be well. As soon as the sound of Ramona’s footsteps had died away, Alessandro followed with quick but stealthy steps; keeping well down in the bottom, below the willows, he skirted the terrace where the artichoke-patch and the sheepfolds lay, and then turned up to approach the corral from the farther side. There was no light in any of the herdsmen’s huts. They were all asleep. That was good. Well Alessandro knew how sound they slept; many a night while he slept there with them he had walked twice over their bodies as they lay stretched on skins on the floor,—out and in without rousing them. If only Baba would not give a loud whinny. Leaning on the corral-fence, Alessandro gave a low, hardly audible whistle. The horses were all in a group together at the farther end of the corral. At the sound there was a slight movement in the group; and one of them turned and came a pace or two toward Alessandro.
“I believe that is Baba himself,” thought Alessandro; and he made another low sound. The horse quickened his steps; then halted, as if he suspected some mischief.
“Baba,” whispered Alessandro. The horse knew his name as well as any dog; knew Alessandro’s voice too; but the sagacious creature seemed instinctively to know that here was an occasion for secrecy and caution. If Alessandro whispered, he, Baba, would whisper back; and it was little more than a whispered whinny which he gave, as he trotted quickly to the fence, and put his nose to Alessandro’s face, rubbing and kissing and giving soft whinnying sighs.
“Hush! hush! Baba,” whispered Alessandro, as if he were speaking to a human being. “Hush!” and he proceeded cautiously to lift off the upper rails and bushes of the fence. The horse understood instantly; and as soon as the fence was a little lowered, leaped 253 over it and stood still by Alessandro’s side, while he replaced the rails, smiling to himself, spite of his grave anxiety, to think of Juan Can’s wonder in the morning as to how Baba had managed to get out of the corral.
This had taken only a few moments. It was better luck than Alessandro had hoped for; emboldened by it, he began to wonder if he could not get the saddle too. The saddles, harnesses, bridles, and all such things hung on pegs in an open barn, such as is constantly to be seen in Southern California; as significant a testimony, in matter of climate, as any Signal Service Report could be,—a floor and a roof; no walls, only corner posts to hold the roof. Nothing but summer-houses on a large scale are the South California barns. Alessandro stood musing. The longer he thought, the greater grew his desire for that saddle.
“Baba, if only you knew what I wanted of you, you’d lie down on the ground here and wait while I got the saddle. But I dare not risk leaving you. Come, Baba!” and he struck down the hill again, the horse following him softly. When he got down below the terrace, he broke into a run, with his hand in Baba’s mane, as if it were a frolic; and in a few moments they were safe in the willow copse, where Alessandro’s poor pony was tethered. Fastening Baba with the same lariat, Alessandro patted him on the neck, pressed his face to his nose, and said aloud, “Good Baba, stay here till the Señorita comes.” Baba whinnied.
“Why shouldn’t he know the Señorita’s name! I believe he does!” thought Alessandro, as he turned and again ran swiftly back to the corral. He felt strong now,—felt like a new man. Spite of all the terror, joy thrilled him. When he reached the corral, all was yet still. The horses had not moved from their former position. Throwing himself flat on the ground, 254 Alessandro crept on his breast from the corral to the barn, several rods’ distance. This was the most hazardous part of his adventure; every other moment he paused, lay motionless for some seconds, then crept a few paces more. As he neared the corner where Ramona’s saddle always hung, his heart beat. Sometimes, of a warm night, Luigo slept on the barn floor. If he were there to-night, all was lost. Groping in the darkness, Alessandro pulled himself up on the post, felt for the saddle, found it, lifted it, and in a trice was flat on the ground again, drawing the saddle along after him. Not a sound had he made, that the most watchful of sheep-dogs could hear.
“Ha, old Capitan, caught you napping this time!” said Alessandro to himself, as at last he got safe to the bottom of the terrace, and, springing to his feet, bounded away with the saddle on his shoulders. It was a weight for a starving man to carry, but he felt it not, for the rejoicing he had in its possession. Now his Señorita would go in comfort. To ride Baba was to be rocked in a cradle. If need be, Baba would carry them both, and never know it; and it might come to that, Alessandro thought, as he knelt by the side of his poor beast, which was stretched out on the ground exhausted; Baba standing by, looking down in scornful wonder at this strange new associate.
“The saints be praised!” thought Alessandro, as he seated himself to wait. “This looks as if they would not desert my Señorita.”
Thoughts whirled in his brain. Where should they go first? What would be best? Would they be pursued? Where could they hide? Where should he seek a new home?
It was bootless thinking, until Ramona was by his side. He must lay each plan before her. She must decide. The first thing was to get to San Diego, to the priest, to be married. That would be three days’ 255 hard ride; five for the exhausted Indian pony. What should they eat on the way? Ah! Alessandro bethought him of the violin at Hartsel’s. Mr. Hartsel would give him money on that; perhaps buy it. Then Alessandro remembered his own violin. He had not once thought of it before. It lay in its case on a table in Señor Felipe’s room when he came away. Was it possible? No, of course it could not be possible that the Señorita would think to bring it. What would she bring? She would be wise, Alessandro was sure.
How long the hours seemed as he sat thus plotting and conjecturing; more and more thankful, as each hour went by, to see the sky still clouded, the darkness dense. “It must have been the saints, too, that brought me on a night when there was no moon,” he thought; and then he said again, devout and simple-minded man that he was, “They mean to protect my Señorita; they will let me take care of her.”
Ramona was threading a perilous way, through great difficulties. She had reached her room unobserved, so far as she could judge. Luckily for her, Margarita was in bed with a terrible toothache, for which her mother had given her a strong sleeping-draught. Margarita was disposed of. If she had not been, Ramona would never have got away, for Margarita would have known that she had been out of the house for two hours, and would have watched to see what it meant.
Ramona came in through the court-yard; she dared not go by the veranda, sure that Felipe and his mother were sitting there still, for it was not late.
As she entered her room, she heard them talking. She closed one of her windows, to let them know she was there. Then she knelt at the Madonna’s feet, and in an inaudible whisper told her all she was 256 going to do, and prayed that she would watch over her and Alessandro, and show them where to go.
“I know she will! I am sure she will!” whispered Ramona to herself as she rose from her knees.
Then she threw herself on her bed, to wait till the Señora and Felipe should be asleep. Her brain was alert, clear. She knew exactly what she wished to do. She had thought that all out, more than two weeks ago, when she was looking for Alessandro hour by hour.
Early in the summer Alessandro had given to her, as curiosities, two of the large nets which the Indian women use for carrying all sorts of burdens. They are woven out of the fibres of a flax-like plant, and are strong as iron. The meshes being large, they are very light; are gathered at each end, and fastened to a band which goes around the forehead. In these can be carried on the back, with comparative ease, heavier loads than could be lifted in any other way. Until Ramona recollected these, she had been perplexed to know how she should carry the things which she had made up her mind it would be right for her to take,—only a few; simply necessaries; one stuff gown and her shawls; the new altar-cloth, and two changes of clothes; that would not be a great deal; she had a right to so much, she thought, now that she had seen the jewels in the Señora’s keeping. “I will tell Father Salvierderra exactly what I took,” she thought, “and ask him if it was too much.” She did not like to think that all these clothes she must take had been paid for with the Señora Moreno’s money.
And Alessandro’s violin. Whatever else she left, that must go. What would life be to Alessandro without a violin! And if they went to Los Angeles, he might earn money by playing at dances. Already Ramona had devised several ways by which they could both earn money.257
There must be also food for the journey. And it must be good food, too; wine for Alessandro. Anguish filled her heart as she recalled how gaunt he looked. “Starving,” he said they had been. Good God! Starving! And she had sat down each day at loaded tables, and seen, each day, good food thrown to the dogs to eat.
It was long before the Señora went to her room; and long after that before Felipe’s breathing had become so deep and regular that Ramona dared feel sure that he was asleep. At last she ventured out. All was dark; it was past midnight.
“The violin first!” she said; and creeping into the dining-room, and through the inner door to Felipe’s room, she brought it out, rolled it in shawl after shawl, and put it in the net with her clothes. Then she stole out, with this net on her back, “like a true Indian woman as I am,” she said, almost gayly, to herself,—through the court-yard, around the southeast corner of the house, past the garden, down to the willows, where she laid down her load, and went back for the second.
This was harder. Wine she was resolved to have, and bread and cold meat. She did not know so well where to put her hand on old Marda’s possessions as on her own, and she dared not strike a light. She made several journeys to the kitchen and pantry before she had completed her store. Wine, luckily, she found in the dining-room,—two full bottles; also milk, which she poured into a leathern flask which hung on the wall in the veranda.
Now all was ready. She leaned from her window, and listened to Felipe’s breathing. “How can I go without bidding him good-by?” she said. “How can I?” and she stood irresolute.
“Dear Felipe! Dear Felipe! He has always been so good to me! He has done all he could for me! 258 I wish I dared kiss him. I will leave a note for him.”
Taking a pencil and paper, and a tiny wax taper, whose light would hardly be seen across a room, she slipped once more into the dining-room, knelt on the floor behind the door, lighted her taper, and wrote:
“Dear Felipe,—Alessandro has come, and I am going away with him to-night. Don’t let anything be done to us, if you can help it. I don’t know where we are going. I hope, to Father Salvierderra. I shall love you always. Thank you, dear Felipe, for all your kindness.
It had not taken a moment. She blew out her taper, and crept back into her room. Felipe’s bed was now moved close to the wall of the house. From her window she could reach its foot. Slowly, cautiously, she stretched out her arm and dropped the little paper on the coverlet, just over Felipe’s feet. There was a risk that the Señora would come out in the morning, before Felipe awaked, and see the note first; but that risk she would take.
“Farewell, dear Felipe!” she whispered, under her breath, as she turned from the window.
The delay had cost her dear. The watchful Capitan, from his bed at the upper end of the court, had half heard, half scented something strange going on. As Ramona stepped out, he gave one short, quick bark, and came bounding down.
“Holy Virgin, I am lost!” thought Ramona; but, crouching on the ground, she quickly opened her net, and as Capitan came towards her, gave him a piece of meat, fondling and caressing him. While he ate it, wagging his tail, and making great demonstrations of joy, she picked up her load again, and still fondling him, said, “Come on, Capitan!” It was her last 259 chance. If he barked again, somebody would be waked; if he went by her side quietly, she might escape. A cold sweat of terror burst on her forehead as she took her first step cautiously. The dog followed. She quickened her pace; he trotted along, still smelling the meat in the net. When she reached the willows, she halted, debating whether she should give him a large piece of meat, and try to run away while he was eating it, or whether she should let him go quietly along. She decided on the latter course; and, picking up her other net, walked on. She was safe now. She turned, and looked back towards the house; all was dark and still. She could hardly see its outline. A great wave of emotion swept over her. It was the only home she had ever known. All she had experienced of happiness, as well as of bitter pain, had been there,—Felipe, Father Salvierderra, the servants, the birds, the garden, the dear chapel! Ah, if she could have once more prayed in the chapel! Who would put fresh flowers and ferns in the chapel now? How Felipe would miss her, when he knelt before the altar! For fourteen years she had knelt by his side. And the Señora,—the hard, cold Señora! She would alone be glad. Everybody else would be sorry. “They will all be sorry I have gone,—all but the Señora! I wish it had been so that I could have bidden them all good-by, and had them all bid me good-by, and wish us good fortune!” thought the gentle, loving girl, as she drew a long sigh, and, turning her back on her home, went forward in the path she had chosen.
She stooped and patted Capitan on the head. “Will you come with me, Capitan?” she said; and Capitan leaped up joyfully, giving two or three short, sharp notes of delight. “Good Capitan, come! They will not miss him out of so many,” she thought, “and it will always seem like something from home, as long as I have Capitan.”260
When Alessandro first saw Ramona’s figure dimly in the gloom, drawing slowly nearer, he did not recognize it, and he was full of apprehension at the sight. What stranger could it be, abroad in these lonely meadows at this hour of the night? Hastily he led the horses farther back into the copse, and hid himself behind a tree, to watch. In a few moments more he thought he recognized Capitan, bounding by the side of this bent and slow-moving figure. Yet this was surely an Indian woman toiling along under a heavy load. But what Indian woman would have so superb a colley as Capitan? Alessandro strained his eyes through the darkness. Presently he saw the figure halt,—drop part of its burden.
“Alessandro!” came in a sweet, low call.
He bounded like a deer, crying, “My Señorita! my Señorita! Can that be you? To think that you have brought these heavy loads!”
Ramona laughed. “Do you remember the day you showed me how the Indian women carried so much on their backs, in these nets? I did not think then I would use it so soon. But it hurts my forehead, Alessandro. It isn’t the weight, but the strings cut. I couldn’t have carried them much farther!”
“Ah, you had no basket to cover the head,” replied Alessandro, as he threw up the two nets on his shoulders as if they had been feathers. In doing so, he felt the violin-case.
“Is it the violin?” he cried. “My blessed one, where did you get it?”
“Off the table in Felipe’s room,” she answered. “I knew you would rather have it than anything else. I brought very little, Alessandro; it seemed nothing while I was getting it; but it is very heavy to carry. Will it be too much for the poor tired horse? You and I can walk. And see, Alessandro, 261 here is Capitan. He waked up, and I had to bring him, to keep him still. Can’t he go with us?”
Capitan was leaping up, putting his paws on Alessandro’s breast, licking his face, yelping, doing all a dog could do, to show welcome and affection.
Alessandro laughed aloud. Ramona had not more than two or three times heard him do this. It frightened her. “Why do you laugh, Alessandro?” she said.
“To think what I have to show you, my Señorita,” he said. “Look here;” and turning towards the willows, he gave two or three low whistles, at the first note of which Baba came trotting out of the copse to the end of his lariat, and began to snort and whinny with delight as soon as he perceived Ramona.
Ramona burst into tears. The surprise was too great.
“Are you not glad, Señorita?” cried Alessandro, aghast. “Is it not your own horse? If you do not wish to take him, I will lead him back. My pony can carry you, if we journey very slowly. But I thought it would be joy to you to have Baba.”
“Oh, it is! it is!” sobbed Ramona, with her head on Baba’s neck. “It is a miracle,—a miracle. How did he come here? And the saddle too!” she cried, for the first time observing that. “Alessandro,” in an awe-struck whisper, “did the saints send him? Did you find him here?” It would have seemed to Ramona’s faith no strange thing, had this been so.
“I think the saints helped me to bring him,” answered Alessandro, seriously, “or else I had not done it so easily. I did but call, near the corral-fence, and he came to my hand, and leaped over the rails at my word, as quickly as Capitan might have done. He is yours, Señorita. It is no harm to take him?”
“Oh, no!” answered Ramona. “He is more mine than anything else I had; for it was Felipe gave him 262 to me when he could but just stand on his legs; he was only two days old; and I have fed him out of my hand every day till now; and now he is five. Dear Baba, we will never be parted, never!” and she took his paw in both her hands, and laid her cheek against it lovingly.
Alessandro was busy, fastening the two nets on either side the saddle. “Baba will never know he has a load at all; they are not so heavy as my Señorita thought,” he said. “It was the weight on the forehead, with nothing to keep the strings from the skin, which gave her pain.”
Alessandro was making all haste. His hands trembled. “We must make all the speed we can, dearest Señorita,” he said, “for a few hours. Then we will rest. Before light, we will be in a spot where we can hide safely all day. We will journey only by night, lest they pursue us.”
“They will not,” said Ramona. “There is no danger. The Señora said she should do nothing. ‘Nothing!’” she repeated, in a bitter tone. “That is what she made Felipe say, too. Felipe wanted to help us. He would have liked to have you stay with us; but all he could get was, that she would do ‘nothing!’ But they will not follow us. They will wish never to hear of me again. I mean, the Señora will wish never to hear of me. Felipe will be sorry. Felipe is very good, Alessandro.”
They were all ready now,—Ramona on Baba, the two packed nets swinging from her saddle, one on either side. Alessandro, walking, led his tired pony. It was a sad sort of procession for one going to be wed, but Ramona’s heart was full of joy.
“I don’t know why it is, Alessandro,” she said; “I should think I would be afraid, but I have not the least fear,—not the least; not of anything that 263 can come, Alessandro,” she reiterated with emphasis. “Is it not strange?”
“Yes, Señorita,” he replied solemnly, laying his hand on hers as he walked close at her side. “It is strange. I am afraid,—afraid for you, my Señorita! But it is done, and we will not go back; and perhaps the saints will help you, and will let me take care of you. They must love you, Señorita; but they do not love me, nor my people.”
“Are you never going to call me by my name?” asked Ramona. “I hate your calling me Señorita. That was what the Señora always called me when she was displeased.”
“I will never speak the word again!” cried Alessandro. “The saints forbid I should speak to you in the words of that woman!”
“Can’t you say Ramona?” she asked.
Alessandro hesitated. He could not have told why it seemed to him difficult to say Ramona.
“What was that other name, you said you always thought of me by?” she continued. “The Indian name,—the name of the dove?”
“Majel,” he said. “It is by that name I have oftenest thought of you since the night I watched all night for you, after you had kissed me, and two wood-doves were calling and answering each other in the dark; and I said to myself, that is what my love is like, the wood-dove: the wood-dove’s voice is low like hers, and sweeter than any other sound in the earth; and the wood-dove is true to one mate always—” He stopped.
“As I to, you, Alessandro,” said Ramona, leaning from her horse, and resting her hand on Alessandro’s shoulder.
Baba stopped. He was used to knowing by the most trivial signs what his mistress wanted; he did not understand this new situation; no one had ever 264 before, when Ramona was riding him, walked by his side so close that he touched his shoulders, and rested his hand in his mane. If it had been anybody else than Alessandro, Baba would not have permitted it even now. But it must be all right, since Ramona was quiet; and now she had stretched out her hand and rested it on Alessandro’s shoulder. Did that mean halt for a moment? Baba thought it might, and acted accordingly; turning his head round to the right, and looking back to see what came of it.
Alessandro’s arms around Ramona, her head bent down to his, their lips together,—what could Baba think? As mischievously as if he had been a human being or an elf, Baba bounded to one side and tore the lovers apart. They both laughed, and cantered on,—Alessandro running; the poor Indian pony feeling the contagion, and loping as it had not done for many a day.
“Majel is my name, then,” said Ramona, “is it? It is a sweet sound, but I would like it better Majella. Call me Majella.”
“That will be good,” replied Alessandro, “for the reason that never before had any one the same name. It will not be hard for me to say Majella. I know not why your name of Ramona has always been hard to my tongue.”
“Because it was to be that you should call me Majella,” said Ramona. “Remember, I am Ramona no longer. That also was the name the Señora called me by—and dear Felipe too,” she added thoughtfully. “He would not know me by my new name. I would like to have him always call me Ramona. But for all the rest of the world I am Majella, now,—Alessandro’s Majel!”
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XV
“a night when there was no moon,”
[Well done, Helen! Alessandro was gone for 18 days instead of the originally planned 4; the night he was supposed to return was the full moon, so it is now new moon.]
she took his paw
[Text unchanged. Maybe the author forgot she is now talking about the horse Baba, not the dog Capitan who appears elsewhere in the chapter.]