"Because if she is not dead I would ask her why she did not want me to stay with her."
The gentle piteousness of this reply smote the Senora's conscience. Taking the child in her arms, she said, "Who has been talking to you of these things, Ramona?"
"What did he say?" asked the Senora, with a look in her eye which boded no good to Juan Canito.
"It was not to me he said it, it was to Luigo; but I heard him," answered Ramona, speaking slowly, as if collecting her various reminiscences on the subject. "Twice I heard him. He said that my mother was no good, and that my father was bad too." And the tears rolled down the child's cheeks.
The Senora's sense of justice stood her well in place of tenderness, now. Caressing the little orphan as she had never before done, she said, with an earnestness which sank deep into the child's mind, "Ramona must not believe any such thing as that. Juan Can is a bad man to say it. He never saw either your father or your mother, and so he could know nothing about them. I knew your father very well. He was not a bad man. He was my friend, and the friend of the Senora Ortegna; and that was the reason he gave you to the Senora Ortegna, because she had no child of her own. And I think your mother had a good many."
"Oh!" said Ramona, relieved, for the moment, at this new view of the situation,-- that the gift had been not as a charity to her, but to the Senora Ortegna. "Did the Senora Ortegna want a little daughter very much?"
"Yes, very much indeed," said the Senora, heartily and with fervor. "She had grieved many years because she had no child."
Silence again for a brief space, during which the little lonely heart, grappling with its vague instinct of loss and wrong, made wide thrusts into the perplexities hedging it about, and presently electrified the Senora by saying in a half-whisper, "Why did not my father bring me to you first? Did he know you did not want any daughter?"
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