One more long lingering look into each other's faces, and the two lovers, so strangely parted, still more strangely met, had parted again, forever. The quarter of a century which had lain between them had been bridged in both their hearts as if it were but a day. In the heart of the man it was the old passionate adoring love reawakening; a resurrection of the buried dead, to full life, with lineaments unchanged. In the woman it was not that; there was no buried love to come to such resurrection in her heart, for she had never loved Angus Phail. But, long unloved, ill-treated, heartbroken, she woke at that moment to the realization of what manner of love it had been which she had thrown away in her youth; her whole being yearned for it now, and Angus was avenged.
When Francis Ortegna, late that night, reeled, half-tipsy, into his wife's room, he was suddenly sobered by the sight which met his eyes,-- his wife kneeling by the side of the cradle, in which lay, smiling in its sleep, a beautiful infant.
"What in the devil's name," he began; then recollecting, he muttered: "Oh, the Indian brat! I see! I wish you joy, Senora Ortegna, of your first child!" and with a mock bow, and cruel sneer, he staggered by, giving the cradle an angry thrust with his foot as he passed.
The brutal taunt did not much wound the Senora. The time had long since passed when unkind words from her husband could give her keen pain. But it was a warning not lost upon her new-born mother instinct, and from that day the little Ramona was carefully kept and tended in apartments where there was no danger of her being seen by the man to whom the sight of her baby face was only a signal for anger and indecency.
Hitherto Ramona Ortegna had, so far as was possible, carefully concealed from her family the unhappiness of her married life. Ortegna's character was indeed well known; his neglect of his wife, his shameful dissipations of all sorts, were notorious in every port in the country. But from the wife herself no one had even heard so much as a syllable of complaint. She was a Gonzaga, and she knew how to suffer in silence, But now she saw a reason for taking her sister into her confidence. It was plain to her that she had not many years to live; and what then would become of the child? Left to the tender mercies of Ortegna, it was only too certain what would become of her. Long sad hours of perplexity the lonely woman passed, with the little laughing babe in her arms, vainly endeavoring to forecast her future. The near chance of her own death had not occurred to her mind when she accepted the trust.
Before the little Ramona was a year old, Angus Phail died. An Indian messenger from San Gabriel brought the news to Senora Ortegna. He brought her also a box and a letter, given to him by Angus the day before his death. The box contained jewels of value, of fashions a quarter of a century old. They were the jewels which Angus had bought for his bride. These alone remained of all his fortune. Even in the lowest depths of his degradation, a certain sentiment had restrained him from parting with them. The letter contained only these words: "I send you all I have to leave my daughter. I meant to bring them myself this year. I wished to kiss your hands and hers once more. But I am dying. Farewell."
After these jewels were in her possession, Senora Ortegna rested not till she had persuaded Senora Moreno to journey to Monterey, and had put the box into her keeping as a sacred trust. She also won from her a solemn promise that at her own death she would adopt the little Ramona. This promise came hard from Senora Moreno. Except for Father Salvierderra's influence, she had not given it. She did not wish any dealings with such alien and mongrel blood, "If the child were pure Indian, I would like it better," she said. "I like not these crosses. It is the worst, and not the best of each, that remains."
But the promise once given, Senora Ortegna was content. Well she knew that her sister would not lie, nor evade a trust. The little Ramona's future was assured. During the last years of the unhappy woman's life the child was her only comfort. Ortegna's conduct had become so openly and defiantly infamous, that he even flaunted his illegitimate relations in his wife's presence; subjecting her to gross insults, spite of her helpless invalidism. This last outrage was too much for the Gonzaga blood to endure; the Senora never afterward left her apartment, or spoke to her husband. Once more she sent for her sister to come; this time, to see her die. Every valuable she possessed, jewels, laces, brocades, and damasks, she gave into her sister's charge, to save them from falling into the hands of the base creature that she knew only too well would stand in her place as soon as the funeral services had been said over her dead body.
Original article, if reprinted, please indicate the source