When Ramona came out from the door she bore in her hands a high silver urn filled with ferns. She had been for many days gathering and hoarding these. They were hard to find, growing only in one place in a rocky canon, several miles away.
As she stepped from the veranda to the ground, Alessandro walked slowly up the garden-walk, facing her. She met his eyes, and, without knowing why, thought, "That must be the Indian who sang." As she turned to the right and entered the chapel, Alessandro followed her hurriedly, and knelt on the stones close to the chapel door. He would be near when she came out. As he looked in at the door, he saw her glide up the aisle, place the ferns on the reading-desk, and then kneel down by Felipe in front of the altar. Felipe turned towards her, smiling slightly, with a look as of secret intelligence.
"Ah, Senor Felipe has married. She is his wife," thought Alessandro, and a strange pain seized him. He did not analyze it; hardly knew what it meant. He was only twenty-one. He had not thought much about women. He was a distant, cold boy, his own people of the Temecula village said. It had come, they believed, of learning to read, which was always bad. Chief Pablo had not done his son any good by trying to make him like white men. If the Fathers could have stayed, and the life at the Mission have gone on, why, Alessandro could have had work to do for the Fathers, as his father had before him. Pablo had been Father Peyri's right-hand man at the Mission; had kept all the accounts about the cattle; paid the wages; handled thousands of dollars of gold every month. But that was "in the time of the king;" it was very different now. The Americans would not let an Indian do anything but plough and sow and herd cattle. A man need not read and write, to do that.
Even Pablo sometimes doubted whether he had done wisely in teaching Alessandro all he knew himself. Pablo was, for one of his race, wise and far-seeing. He perceived the danger threatening his people on all sides. Father Peyri, before he left the country, had said to him: "Pablo, your people will be driven like sheep to the slaughter, unless you keep them together. Knit firm bonds between them; band them into pueblos; make them work; and above all, keep peace with the whites. It is your only chance."
Most strenuously Pablo had striven to obey Father Peyri's directions. He had set his people the example of constant industry, working steadily in his fields and caring well for his herds. He had built a chapel in his little village, and kept up forms of religious service there. Whenever there were troubles with the whites, or rumors of them, he went from house to house, urging, persuading, commanding his people to keep the peace. At one time when there was an insurrection of some of the Indian tribes farther south, and for a few days it looked as if there would be a general Indian war, he removed the greater part of his band, men, women, and children driving their flocks and herds with them, to Los Angeles, and camped there for several days, that they might be identified with the whites in case hostilities became serious.
But his labors did not receive the reward that they deserved. With every day that the intercourse between his people and the whites increased, he saw the whites gaining, his people surely losing ground, and his anxieties deepened. The Mexican owner of the. Temecula valley, a friend of Father Peyri's, and a good friend also of Pablo's, had returned to Mexico in disgust with the state of affairs in California, and was reported to be lying at the point of death. This man's promise to Pablo, that he and his people should always live in the valley undisturbed, was all the title Pablo had to the village lands. In the days when the promise was given, it was all that was necessary. The lines marking off the Indians' lands were surveyed, and put on the map of the estate. No Mexican proprietor ever broke faith with an Indian family or village. thus placed on his lands.
But Pablo had heard rumors, which greatly disquieted him, that such pledges and surveyed lines as these were corning to be held as of no value, not binding on purchasers of grants. He was intelligent enough to see that if this were so, he and his people were ruined. All these perplexities and fears he confided to Alessandro; long anxious hours the father and son spent together, walking back and forth in the village, or sitting in front of their little adobe house, discussing what could be done. There was always the same ending to the discussion,-- a long sigh, and, "We must wait, we can do nothing."
No wonder Alessandro seemed, to the more ignorant and thoughtless young men and women of his village, a cold and distant lad. He was made old before his time. He was carrying in his heart burdens of which they knew nothing. So long as the wheat fields came up well, and there was no drought, and the horses and sheep had good pasture, in plenty, on the hills, the Temecula people could be merry, go day by day to their easy work, play games at sunset, and sleep sound all night. But Alessandro and his father looked beyond. And this was the one great reason why Alessandro had not yet thought about women, in way of love; this, and .also the fact that even the little education he had received was sufficient to raise a slight barrier, of which he was unconsciously aware, between him and the maidens of the village. If a quick, warm fancy for any one of them ever stirred in his veins, he found himself soon, he knew not how, cured of it. For a dance, or a game, or a friendly chat, for the trips into the mountains after acorns, or to the marshes for grasses and reeds, he was their good comrade, and they were his; but never had the desire to take one of them for his wife, entered into Alessandro's mind. The vista of the future, for him, was filled full by thoughts which left no room for love's dreaming; one purpose and one fear filled it,-- the purpose to be his father's worthy successor, for Pablo was old now, and very feeble; the fear, that exile and ruin were in store for them all.
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