Except for the reassuring help of Carmena’s presence by her side, Ramona would never have had courage to remain during this long hour in the graveyard. As it was, she twice resolved to bear the suspense no longer, and made a movement to go. The chance of Alessandro’s encountering at Hartsel’s the men sent in pursuit of him and of Baba, loomed in her thoughts into a more and more frightful danger each moment she reflected upon it. It was a most unfortunate suggestion for Alessandro to have made. Her excited fancy went on and on, picturing the possible scenes which might be going on almost within stone’s-throw of where she was sitting, helpless, in the midnight darkness,—Alessandro seized, tied, treated as a thief, and she, Ramona, not there to vindicate him, to terrify the men into letting him go. She could not bear it; she would ride boldly to Hartsel’s door. But when she made a motion as if she would go, and said in the soft Spanish, of which Carmena knew no word, but which yet somehow conveyed Ramona’s meaning, “I must go! It is too long! I cannot wait here!” Carmena had clasped her hand tighter, and said in the San Luiseno tongue, of which Ramona knew no word, but which yet somehow conveyed Carmena’s meaning, “O beloved lady, you must not go! Waiting is the only safe thing. Alessandro said, to wait here. He will come.” The word “Alessandro” was plain. Yes, Alessandro had said, wait; Carmena was right. She would obey, but it was a fearful ordeal. It was strange how Ramona, who 301 felt herself preternaturally brave, afraid of nothing, so long as Alessandro was by her side, became timorous and wretched the instant he was lost to her sight. When she first heard his steps coming, she quivered with terror lest they might not be his. The next second she knew; and with a glad cry, “Alessandro! Alessandro!” she bounded to him, dropping Baba’s reins.
Sighing gently, Carmena picked up the reins, and stood still, holding the horse, while the lovers clasped each other with breathless words. “How she loves Alessandro!” thought the widowed Carmena. “Will they leave him alive to stay with her? It is better not to love!” But there was no bitter envy in her mind for the two who were thus blest while she went desolate. All of Pablo’s people had great affection for Alessandro. They had looked forward to his being over them in his father’s place. They knew his goodness, and were proud of his superiority to themselves.
“Majella, you tremble,” said Alessandro, as he threw his arms around her. “You have feared! Yet you were not alone.” He glanced at Carmena’s motionless figure, standing by Baba.
“No, not alone, dear Alessandro; but it was so long!” replied Ramona; “and I feared the men had taken you, as you feared. Was there any one there?”
“No! No one had heard anything. All was well. They thought I had just come from Pachanga,” he answered.
“Except for Carmena, I should have ridden after you half an hour ago,” continued Ramona. “But she told me to wait.”
“She told you!” repeated Alessandro. “How did you understand her speech?”
“I do not know. Was it not a strange thing?” replied Ramona. “She spoke in your tongue, but I thought I understood her. Ask her if she did not 302 say that I must not go; that it was safer to wait; that you had so said, and you would soon come.”
Alessandro repeated the words to Carmena. “Did you say that?” he asked.
“Yes,” answered Carmena.
“You see, then, she has understood the Luiseno words,” he said delightedly. “She is one of us.”
“Yes,” said Carmena, gravely, “she is one of us!” Then, taking Ramona’s hand in both of her own for farewell, she repeated, in a tone as of dire prophecy, “One of us, Alessandro! one of us!” And as she gazed after their retreating forms, almost immediately swallowed and lost in the darkness, she repeated the words again to herself,—“One of us! one of us! Sorrow came to me; she rides to meet it!” and she crept back to her husband’s grave, and threw herself down, to watch till the dawn.
The road which Alessandro would naturally have taken would carry them directly by Hartsel’s again. But, wishing to avoid all risk of meeting or being seen by any of the men on the place, he struck well out to the north, to make a wide circuit around it. This brought them past the place where Antonio’s house had stood. Here Alessandro halted, and putting his hand on Baba’s rein, walked the horses close to the pile of ruined walls. “This was Antonio’s house, Majella,” he whispered. “I wish every house in the valley had been pulled down like this. Old Juana was right. The Americans are living in my father’s house, Majella,” he went on, his whisper growing thick with rage. “That was what kept me so long. I was looking in at the window at them eating their supper. I thought I should go mad, Majella. If I had had my gun, I should have shot them all dead!”
An almost inarticulate gasp was Ramona’s first reply to this. “Living in your house!” she said. “You saw them?”303
“Yes,” he said; “the man, and his wife, and two little children; and the man came out, with his gun, on the doorstep, and fired it. They thought they heard something moving, and it might be an Indian; so he fired. That was what kept me so long.”
Just at this moment Baba tripped over some small object on the ground. A few steps farther, and he tripped again. “There is something caught round his foot, Alessandro,” said Ramona. “It keeps moving.”
Alessandro jumped off his horse, and kneeling down, exclaimed, “It’s a stake,—and the lariat to it. Holy Virgin! what—” The rest of his ejaculation was inaudible. The next Ramona knew, he had run swiftly on, a rod or two. Baba had followed, and Capitan and the pony; and there stood a splendid black horse, as big as Baba, and Alessandro talking under his breath to him, and clapping both his hands over the horse’s nose, to stop him, as often as he began whinnying; and it seemed hardly a second more before he had his saddle off the poor little Indian pony, and striking it sharply on its sides had turned it free, had saddled the black horse, and leaping on his back, said, with almost a sob in his voice: “My Majella, it is Benito, my own Benito. Now the saints indeed have helped us! Oh, the ass, the idiot, to stake out Benito with such a stake as that! A jack rabbit had pulled it up. Now, my Majella, we will gallop! Faster! faster! I will not breathe easy till we are out of this cursed valley. When we are once in the Santa Margarita Cañon, I know a trail they will never find!”
Like the wind galloped Benito,—Alessandro half lying on his back, stroking his forehead, whispering to him, the horse snorting with joy: which were gladder of the two, horse or man, could not be said. And neck by neck with Benito came Baba. How the ground flew away under their feet! This was companionship, 304 indeed, worthy of Baba’s best powers. Not in all the California herds could be found two superber horses than Benito and Baba. A wild, almost reckless joy took possession of Alessandro. Ramona was half terrified as she heard him still talking, talking to Benito. For an hour they did not draw rein. Both Benito and Alessandro knew every inch of the ground. Then, just as they had descended into the deepest part of the cañon, Alessandro suddenly reined sharply to the left, and began climbing the precipitous wall. “Can you follow, dearest Majella?” he cried.
“Do you suppose Benito can do anything that Baba cannot?” she retorted, pressing on closely.
But Baba did not like it. Except for the stimulus of Benito ahead, he would have given Ramona trouble.
“There is only a little, rough like this, dear,” called Alessandro, as he leaped a fallen tree, and halted to see how Baba took it. “Good!” he cried, as Baba jumped it like a deer. “Good! Majella! We have got the two best horses in the country. You’ll see they are alike, when daylight comes. I have often wondered they were so much alike. They would go together splendidly.”
After a few rods of this steep climbing they came out on the top of the cañon’s south wall, in a dense oak forest comparatively free from underbrush. “Now,” said Alessandro, “I can go from here to San Diego by paths that no white man knows. We will be near there before daylight.”
Already the keen salt air of the ocean smote their faces. Ramona drank it in with delight. “I taste salt in the air, Alessandro,” she cried.
“Yes, it is the sea,” he said. “This cañon leads straight to the sea. I wish we could go by the shore, Majella. It is beautiful there. When it is still, the 305 waves come as gently to the land as if they were in play; and you can ride along with your horse’s feet in the water, and the green cliffs almost over your head; and the air off the water is like wine in one’s head.”
“Cannot we go there?” she said longingly. “Would it not be safe?”
“I dare not,” he answered regretfully. “Not now, Majella; for on the shore-way, at all times, there are people going and coming.”
“Some other time, Alessandro, we can come, after we are married, and there is no danger?” she asked.
“Yes, Majella,” he replied; but as he spoke the words, he thought, “Will a time ever come when there will be no danger?”
The shore of the Pacific Ocean for many miles north of San Diego is a succession of rounding promontories, walling the mouths of cañons, down many of which small streams make to the sea. These cañons are green and rich at bottom, and filled with trees, chiefly oak. Beginning as little more than rifts in the ground, they deepen and widen, till at their mouths they have a beautiful crescent of shining beach from an eighth to a quarter of a mile long. The one which Alessandro hoped to reach before morning was not a dozen miles from the old town of San Diego, and commanded a fine view of the outer harbor. When he was last in it, he had found it a nearly impenetrable thicket of young oak-trees. Here, he believed, they could hide safely all day, and after nightfall ride into San Diego, be married at the priest’s house, and push on to San Pasquale that same night. “All day, in that cañon, Majella can look at the sea,” he thought; “but I will not tell her now, for it may be the trees have been cut down, and we cannot be so close to the shore.”
It was near sunrise when they reached the place. 306 The trees had not been cut down. Their tops, seen from above, looked like a solid bed of moss filling in the cañon bottom. The sky and the sea were both red. As Ramona looked down into this soft green pathway, it seemed, leading out to the wide and sparkling sea, she thought Alessandro had brought her into a fairy-laud.
“What a beautiful world!” she cried; and riding up so close to Benito that she could lay her hand on Alessandro’s, she said solemnly: “Do you not think we ought to be very happy, Alessandro, in such a beautiful world as this? Do you think we might sing our sunrise hymn here?”
Alessandro glanced around. They were alone on the breezy open; it was not yet full dawn; great masses of crimson vapor were floating upward from the hills behind San Diego. The light was still burning in the light-house on the promontory walling the inner harbor, but in a few moments more it would be day. “No, Majella, not here!” he said. “We must not stay. As soon as the sun rises, a man or a horse may be seen on this upper coast-line as far as eye can reach. We must be among the trees with all the speed we can make.”
It was like a house with a high, thick roof of oak tree-tops, the shelter they found. No sun penetrated it; a tiny trickle of water still remained, and some grass along its rims was still green, spite of the long drought,—a scanty meal for Baba and Benito, but they ate it with relish in each other’s company.
“They like each other, those two,” said Ramona, laughing, as she watched them. “They will be friends.”
“Ay,” said Alessandro, also smiling. “Horses are friends, like men, and can hate each other, like men, too. Benito would never see Antonio’s mare, the little yellow one, that he did not let fly his heels at 307 her; and she was as afraid, at sight of him, as a cat is at a dog. Many a time I have laughed to see it.”
“Know you the priest at San Diego?” asked Ramona.
“Not well,” replied Alessandro. “He came seldom to Temecula when I was there; but he is a friend of Indians. I know he came with the men from San Diego at the time when there was fighting, and the whites were in great terror; and they said, except for Father Gaspara’s words, there would not have been a white man left alive in Pala. My father had sent all his people away before that fight began. He knew it was coming, but he would have nothing to do with it. He said the Indians were all crazy. It was no use. They would only be killed themselves. That is the worst thing, my Majella. The stupid Indians fight and kill, and then what can we do? The white men think we are all the same. Father Gaspara has never been to Pala, I heard, since that time. There goes there now the San Juan Capistrano priest. He is a bad man. He takes money from the starving poor.”
“A priest!” ejaculated Ramona, horror-stricken.
“Ay! a priest!” replied Alessandro. “They are not all good,—not like Father Salvierderra.”
“Oh, if we could but have gone to Father Salvierderra!” exclaimed Ramona, involuntarily.
Alessandro looked distressed. “It would have been much more danger, Majella,” he said, “and I had no knowledge of work I could do there.”
His look made Ramona remorseful at once. How cruel to lay one feather-weight of additional burden on this loving man! “Oh, this is much better, really,” she said. “I did not mean what I said. It is only because I have always loved Father Salvierderra so. And the Señora will tell him what is not true. Could we not send him a letter, Alessandro?”308
“There is a Santa Inez Indian I know,” replied Alessandro, “who comes down with nets to sell, sometimes, to Temecula. I know not if he goes to San Diego. If I could get speech with him, he would go up from Santa Inez to Santa Barbara for me, I am sure; for once he lay in my father’s house, sick for many weeks, and I nursed him, and since then he is always begging me to take a net from him, whenever he comes. It is not two days from Santa Inez to Santa Barbara.”
“I wish it were the olden time now, Alessandro,” sighed Ramona, “when the men like Father Salvierderra had all the country. Then there would be work for all, at the Missions. The Señora says the Missions were like palaces, and that there were thousands of Indians in every one of them; thousands and thousands, all working so happy and peaceful.”
“The Señora does not know all that happened at the Missions,” replied Alessandro. “My father says that at some of them were dreadful things, when bad men had power. Never any such things at San Luis Rey. Father Peyri was like a father to all his Indians. My father says that they would all of them lie down in a fire for him, if he had commanded it. And when he went away, to leave the country, when his heart was broken, and the Mission all ruined, he had to fly by night, Majella, just as you and I have done; for if the Indians had known, it, they would have risen up to keep him. There was a ship here in San Diego harbor, to sail for Mexico, and the Father made up his mind to go in it; and it was over this same road we have come, my Majella, that he rode, and by night; and my father was the only one he trusted to know it. My father came with him; they took the swiftest horses, and they rode all night, and my father carried in front of him, on the horse, a box of the sacred things of the altar, very heavy. And 309 many a time my father has told me the story, how they got to San Diego at daybreak, and the Father was rowed out to the ship in a little boat; and not much more than on board was he, my father standing like one dead on the shore, watching, he loved him so, when, lo! he heard a great crying, and shouting, and trampling of horses’ feet, and there came galloping down to the water’s edge three hundred of the Indians from San Luis Rey, who had found out that the Father had gone to San Diego to take ship, and they had ridden all night on his track, to fetch him back. And when my father pointed to the ship, and told them he was already on board, they set up a cry fit to bring the very sky down; and some of them flung themselves into the sea, and swam out to the ship, and cried and begged to be taken on board and go with him. And Father Peyri stood on the deck, blessing them, and saying farewell, with the tears running on his face; and one of the Indians—how they never knew—made shift to climb up on the chains and ropes, and got into the ship itself; and they let him stay, and he sailed away with the Father. And my father said he was all his life sorry that he himself had not thought to do the same thing; but he was like one dumb and deaf and with no head, he was so unhappy at the Father’s going.”
“Was it here, in this very harbor?” asked Ramona, in breathless interest, pointing out towards the blue water of which they could see a broad belt framed by their leafy foreground arch of oak tops.
“Ay, just there he sailed,—as that ship goes now,” he exclaimed, as a white-sailed schooner sailed swiftly by, going out to sea. “But the ship lay at first inside the bar; you cannot see the inside harbor from here. It is the most beautiful water I have ever seen, Majella. The two high lands come out 310 like two arms to hold it and keep it safe, as if they loved it.”
“But, Alessandro,” continued Ramona, “were there really bad men at the other Missions? Surely not the Franciscan Fathers?”
“Perhaps not the Fathers themselves, but the men under them. It was too much power, Majella. When my father has told me how it was, it has seemed to me I should not have liked to be as he was. It is not right that one man should have so much power. There was one at the San Gabriel Mission; he was an Indian. He had been set over the rest; and when a whole band of them ran away one time, and went back into the mountains, he went after them; and he brought back a piece of each man’s ear; the pieces were strung on a string; and he laughed, and said that was to know them by again,—by their clipped ears. An old woman, a Gabrieleno, who came over to Temecula, told me she saw that. She lived at the Mission herself. The Indians did not all want to come to the Missions; some of them preferred to stay in the woods, and live as they always had lived; and I think they had a right to do that if they preferred, Majella. It was stupid of them to stay and be like beasts, and not know anything; but do you not think they had the right?”
“It is the command to preach the gospel to every creature,” replied the pious Ramona. “That is what Father Salvierderra said was the reason the Franciscans came here. I think they ought to have made the Indians listen. But that was dreadful about the ears, Alessandro. Do you believe it?”
“The old woman laughed when she told it,” he answered. “She said it was a joke; so I think it was true. I know I would have killed the man who tried to crop my ears that way.”
“Did you ever tell that to Father Salvierderra?” asked Ramona.311
“No, Majella. It would not be polite,” said Alessandro.
“Well, I don’t believe it,” replied Ramona, in a relieved tone. “I don’t believe any Franciscan ever could have permitted such things.”
The great red light in the light-house tower had again blazed out, and had been some time burning, before Alessandro thought it prudent to resume their journey. The road on which they must go into old San Diego, where Father Gaspara lived, was the public road from San Diego to San Luis Rey, and they were almost sure to meet travellers on it.
But their fleet horses bore them so well, that it was not late when they reached the town. Father Gaspara’s house was at the end of a long, low adobe building, which had served no mean purpose in the old Presidio days, but was now fallen into decay; and all its rooms, except those occupied by the Father, had been long uninhabited. On the opposite side of the way, in a neglected, weedy open, stood his chapel,—a poverty-stricken little place, its walls imperfectly whitewashed, decorated by a few coarse pictures and by broken sconces of looking-glass, rescued in their dilapidated condition from the Mission buildings now gone utterly to ruin. In these had been put candle-holders of common tin, in which a few cheap candles dimly lighted the room. Everything about it was in unison with the atmosphere of the place,—the most profoundly melancholy in all Southern California. Here was the spot where that grand old Franciscan, Padre Junipero Serra, began his work, full of the devout and ardent purpose to reclaim the wilderness and its peoples to his country and his Church; on this very beach he went up and down for those first terrible weeks, nursing the sick, praying with the dying, and burying the dead, from the pestilence-stricken Mexican ships lying in the harbor. Here he 312 baptized his first Indian converts, and founded his first Mission. And the only traces now remaining of his heroic labors and hard-won successes were a pile of crumbling ruins, a few old olive-trees and palms; in less than another century even these would be gone; returned into the keeping of that mother, the earth, who puts no headstones at the sacredest of her graves.
Father Gaspara had been for many years at San Diego. Although not a Franciscan, having, indeed, no especial love for the order, he had been from the first deeply impressed by the holy associations of the place. He had a nature at once fiery and poetic; there were but three things he could have been,—a soldier, a poet, or a priest. Circumstances had made him a priest; and the fire and the poetry which would have wielded the sword or kindled the verse, had he found himself set either to fight or to sing, had all gathered into added force in his priestly vocation. The look of a soldier he had never quite lost,—neither the look nor the tread; and his flashing dark eyes, heavy black hair and beard, and quick elastic step, seemed sometimes strangely out of harmony with his priest’s gown. And it was the sensitive soul of the poet in him which had made him withdraw within himself more and more, year after year, as he found himself comparatively powerless to do anything for the hundreds of Indians that he would fain have seen gathered once more, as of old, into the keeping of the Church. He had made frequent visits to them in their shifting refuges, following up family after family, band after band, that he knew; he had written bootless letter after letter to the Government officials of one sort and another, at Washington. He had made equally bootless efforts to win some justice, some protection for them, from officials nearer home; he had endeavored to stir the Church itself to greater efficiency in their 313 behalf. Finally, weary, disheartened, and indignant with that intense, suppressed indignation which the poetic temperament alone can feel, he had ceased,—had said, “It is of no use; I will speak no word; I am done; I can bear no more!” and settling down into the routine of his parochial duties to the little Mexican and Irish congregation of his charge in San Diego, he had abandoned all effort to do more for the Indians than visit their chief settlements once or twice a year, to administer the sacraments. When fresh outrages were brought to his notice, he paced his room, plucked fiercely at his black beard, with ejaculations, it is to be feared, savoring more of the camp than the altar; but he made no effort to do anything. Lighting his pipe, he would sit down on the old bench in his tile-paved veranda, and smoke by the hour, gazing out on the placid water of the deserted harbor, brooding, ever brooding, over the wrongs he could not redress.
A few paces off from his door stood the just begun walls of a fine brick church, which it had been the dream and pride of his heart to see builded, and full of worshippers. This, too, had failed. With San Diego’s repeatedly vanishing hopes and dreams of prosperity had gone this hope and dream of Father Gaspara’s. It looked, now, as if it would be indeed a waste of money to build a costly church on this site. Sentiment, however sacred and loving towards the dead, must yield to the demands of the living. To build a church on the ground where Father Junipero first trod and labored, would be a work to which no Catholic could be indifferent; but there were other and more pressing claims to be met first. This was right. Yet the sight of these silent walls, only a few feet high, was a sore one to Father Gaspara,—a daily cross, which he did not find grow lighter as he paced up and down his veranda, year in and year out, in the balmy winter and cool summer of that magic climate.314
“Majella, the chapel is lighted; but that is good!” exclaimed Alessandro, as they rode into the silent plaza. “Father Gaspara must be there;” and jumping off his horse, he peered in at the uncurtained window. “A marriage, Majella,—a marriage!” he cried, hastily returning. “This, too, is good fortune. We need not to wait long.”
When the sacristan whispered to Father Gaspara that an Indian couple had just come in, wishing to be married, the Father frowned. His supper was waiting; he had been out all day, over at the old Mission olive-orchard, where he had not found things to his mind; the Indian man and wife whom he hired to take care of the few acres the Church yet owned there had been neglecting the Church lands and trees, to look after their own. The father was vexed, tired, and hungry, and the expression with which he regarded Alessandro and Ramona, as they came towards him, was one of the least prepossessing of which his dark face was capable. Ramona, who had never knelt to any priest save the gentle Father Salvierderra, and who had supposed that all priests must look, at least, friendly, was shocked at the sight of the impatient visage confronting her. But, as his first glance fell on Ramona, Father Gaspara’s expression changed.
“What is all this!” he thought; and as quick as he thought it, he exclaimed, in a severe tone, looking at Ramona, “Woman, are you an Indian?”
“Yes, Father,” answered Ramona, gently. “My mother was an Indian.”
“Ah! half-breed!” thought Father Gaspara, “It is strange how sometimes one of the types will conquer, and sometimes another! But this is no common creature;” and it was with a look of new interest and sympathy on his face that he proceeded with the ceremony,—the other couple, a middle-aged Irishman, with his more than middle-aged bride, standing 315 quietly by, and looking on with a vague sort of wonder in their ugly, impassive faces, as if it struck them oddly that Indians should marry.
The book of the marriage-records was kept in Father Gaspara’s own rooms, locked up and hidden even from his old housekeeper. He had had bitter reason to take this precaution. It had been for more than one man’s interest to cut leaves out of this old record, which dated back to 1769, and had many pages written full in the hand of Father Junipero himself.
As they came out of the chapel, Father Gaspara leading the way, the Irish couple shambling along shamefacedly apart from each other, Alessandro, still holding Ramona’s hand in his, said, “Will you ride, dear? It is but a step.”
“No, thanks, dear Alessandro, I would rather walk,” she replied; and Alessandro slipping the bridles of the two horses over his left arm, they walked on. Father Gaspara heard the question and answer, and was still more puzzled.
“He speaks as a gentleman speaks to a lady,” he mused. “What does it mean? Who are they?”
Father Gaspara was a well-born man, and in his home in Spain had been used to associations far superior to any which he had known in his Californian life. A gentle courtesy of tone and speech, such as that with which Alessandro had addressed Ramona, was not often heard in his parish. When they entered his house, he again regarded them both attentively. Ramona wore on her head the usual black shawl of the Mexican women. There was nothing distinctive, to the Father’s eye, in her figure or face. In the dim light of the one candle,—Father Gaspara allowed himself no luxuries,—the exquisite coloring of her skin and the deep blue of her eyes were not to be seen. Alessandro’s tall figure and dignified bearing 316 were not uncommon. The Father had seen many as fine-looking Indian men. But his voice was remarkable, and he spoke better Spanish than was wont to be heard from Indians.
“Where are you from?” said the Father, as he held his pen poised in hand, ready to write their names in the old raw-hide-bound book.
“Temecula, Father,” replied Alessandro.
Father Gaspara dropped his pen. “The village the Americans drove out the other day?” he cried.
Father Gaspara sprang from his chair, took refuge from his excitement, as usual, in pacing the floor. “Go! go! I’m done with you! It’s all over,” he said fiercely to the Irish bride and groom, who had given him their names and their fee, but were still hanging about irresolute, not knowing if all were ended or not. “A burning shame! The most dastardly thing I have seen yet in this land forsaken of God!” cried the Father. “I saw the particulars of it in the San Diego paper yesterday.” Then, coming to a halt in front of Alessandro, he exclaimed: “The paper said that the Indians were compelled to pay all the costs of the suit; that the sheriff took their cattle to do it. Was that true?”
“Yes, Father,” replied Alessandro.
The Father strode up and down again, plucking at his beard. “What are you going to do?” he said. “Where have you all gone? There were two hundred in your village the last time I was there.”
“Some have gone over into Pachanga,” replied Alessandro, “some to San Pasquale, and the rest to San Bernardino.”
“Body of Jesus! man! But you take it with philosophy!” stormed Father Gaspara.
Alessandro did not understand the word “philosophy,” but he knew what the Father meant. “Yes, 317 Father,” he said doggedly. “It is now twenty-one days ago. I was not so at first. There is nothing to be done.”
Ramona held tight to Alessandro’s hand. She was afraid of this fierce, black-bearded priest, who dashed back and forth, pouring out angry invectives.
“The United States Government will suffer for it!” he continued. “It is a Government of thieves and robbers! God will punish them. You will see; they will be visited with a curse,—a curse in their borders; their sons and their daughters shall be desolate! But why do I prate in these vain words? My son, tell me your names again;” and he seated himself once more at the table where the ancient marriage-record lay open.
After writing Alessandro’s name, he turned to Ramona. “And the woman’s?” he said.
Alessandro looked at Ramona. In the chapel he had said simply, “Majella.” What name should he give more?
Without a second’s hesitation, Ramona answered, “Majella. Majella Phail is my name.”
She pronounced the word “Phail,” slowly. It was new to her. She had never seen it written; as it lingered on her lips, the Father, to whom also it was a new word, misunderstood it, took it to be in two syllables, and so wrote it.
The last step was taken in the disappearance of Ramona. How should any one, searching in after years, find any trace of Ramona Ortegna, in the woman married under the name of “Majella Fayeel”?
“No, no! Put up your money, son,” said Father Gaspara, as Alessandro began to undo the knots of the handkerchief in which his gold was tied. “Put up your money. I’ll take no money from a Temecula Indian. I would the Church had money to give you. Where are you going now?”318
“To San Pasquale, Father.”
“Ah! San Pasquale! The head man there has the old pueblo paper,” said Father Gaspara. “He was showing it to me the other day. That will, it may be, save you there. But do not trust to it, son. Buy yourself a piece of land as the white man buys his. Trust to nothing.”
Alessandro looked anxiously in the Father’s face. “How is that, Father?” he said. “I do not know.”
“Well, their rules be thick as the crabs here on the beach,” replied Father Gaspara; “and, faith, they appear to me to be backwards of motion also, like the crabs: but the lawyers understand. When you have picked out your land, and have the money, come to me, and I will go with you and see that you are not cheated in the buying, so far as I can tell; but I myself am at my wit’s ends with their devices. Farewell, son! Farewell, daughter!” he said, rising from his chair. Hunger was again getting the better of sympathy in Father Gaspara, and as he sat down to his long-deferred supper, the Indian couple faded from his mind; but after supper was over, as he sat smoking his pipe on the veranda, they returned again, and lingered in his thoughts,—lingered strangely, it seemed to him; he could not shake off the impression that there was something unusual about the woman. “I shall hear of them again, some day,” he thought. And he thought rightly.
Notes and Corrections: Chapter XVIII
It’s a stake,—and the lariat fastened to it
text has fas-/ened at line break
“The Señora says the Missions were like palaces, and that there were thousands of Indians in every one of them; thousands and thousands, all working so happy and peaceful.”
“The Señora does not know all that happened at the Missions. . . . My father says that at some of them were dreadful things, when bad men had power”
[A heroic admission, but someone had to say it.]
when he went away, to leave the country
[Back in Chapter II, the Señora said: “As for these Catalan priests who are coming in here, I cannot abide them. No Catalan but has bad blood in his veins!” She must have made an exception for Father Peyri.]
one of the Indians . . . made shift to climb up on the chains and ropes, and got into the ship itself; and they let him stay
[In fact two Indians went with him, planning to study for the priesthood. The story may or may not be true, but our author didn’t make it up herself; it’s part of the Father Peyri Mythos.]
to reclaim the wilderness and its peoples to his country and his Church
[Odd choice of words, since it implies that at some time in the past, the native people used to be Catholic agriculturalists subject to Spain.]