In silence and bitter humiliation the Senora nursed her husband back to health again, and resolved to meddle no more in the affairs of her unhappy country and still more unhappy Church. As year by year she saw the ruin of the Missions steadily going on, their vast properties melting away, like dew before the sun, in the hands of dishonest administrators and politicians, the Church powerless to contend with the unprincipled greed in high places, her beloved Franciscan Fathers driven from the country or dying of starvation at their posts, she submitted herself to what, she was forced to admit, seemed to be the inscrutable will of God for the discipline and humiliation of the Church. In a sort of bewildered resignation she waited to see what further sufferings were to come, to fill up the measure of the punishment which, for some mysterious purpose, the faithful must endure. But when close upon all this discomfiture and humiliation of her Church followed the discomfiture and humiliation of her country in war, and the near and evident danger of an English-speaking people's possessing the land, all the smothered fire of the Senora's nature broke out afresh. With unfaltering hands she buckled on her husband's sword, and with dry eyes saw him go forth to fight. She had but one regret, that she was not the mother of sons to fight also.
"Would thou wert a man, Felipe," she exclaimed again and again in tones the child never forgot. "Would thou wert a man, that thou might go also to fight these foreigners!"
Any race under the sun would have been to the Senora less hateful than the American. She had scorned them in her girlhood, when they came trading to post after post. She scorned them still. The idea of being forced to wage a war with pedlers was to her too monstrous to be believed. In the outset she had no doubt that the Mexicans would win in the contest.
"What!" she cried, "shall we who won independence from Spain, be beaten by these traders? It is impossible!"
When her husband was brought home to her dead, killed in the last fight the Mexican forces made, she said icily, "He would have chosen to die rather than to have been forced to see his country in the hands of the enemy." And she was almost frightened at herself to see how this thought, as it dwelt in her mind, slew the grief in her heart. She had believed she could not live if her husband were to be taken away from her; but she found herself often glad that he was dead,-- glad that he was spared the sight and the knowledge of the things which happened; and even the yearning tenderness with which her imagination pictured him among the saints, was often turned into a fierce wondering whether indignation did not fill his soul, even in heaven, at the way things were going in the land for whose sake he had died.
Out of such throes as these had been born the second nature which made Senora Moreno the silent, reserved, stern, implacable woman they knew, who knew her first when she was sixty. Of the gay, tender, sentimental girl, who danced and laughed with the officers, and prayed and confessed with the Fathers, forty years before, there was small trace left now, in the low-voiced, white-haired, aged woman, silent, unsmiling, placid-faced, who manoeuvred with her son and her head shepherd alike, to bring it about that a handful of Indians might once more confess their sins to a Franciscan monk in the Moreno chapel.
JUAN CANITO and Senor Felipe were not the only members of the Senora's family who were impatient for the sheep-shearing. There was also Ramona. Ramona was, to the world at large, a far more important person than the Senora herself. The Senora was of the past; Ramona was of the present. For one eye that could see the significant, at times solemn, beauty of the Senora's pale and shadowed countenance, there were a hundred that flashed with eager pleasure at the barest glimpse of Ramona's face; the shepherds, the herdsmen, the maids, the babies, the dogs, the poultry, all loved the sight of Ramona; all loved her, except the Senora. The Senora loved her not; never had loved her, never could love her; and yet she had stood in the place of mother to the girl ever since her childhood, and never once during the whole sixteen years of her life had shown her any unkindness in act. She had promised to be a mother to her; and with all the inalienable stanchness of her nature she fulfilled the letter of her promise. More than the bond lay in the bond; but that was not the Senora's fault.
The story of Ramona the Senora never told. To most of the Senora's acquaintances now, Ramona was a mystery. They did not know -- and no one ever asked a prying question of the Senora Moreno -- who Ramona's parents were, whether they were living or dead, or why Ramona, her name not being Moreno, lived always in the Senora's house as a daughter, tended and attended equally with the adored Felipe. A few gray-haired men and women here and there in the country could have told the strange story of Ramona; but its beginning was more than a half-century back, and much had happened since then. They seldom thought of the child. They knew she was in the Senora Moreno's keeping, and that was enough. The affairs of the generation just going out were not the business of the young people coming in. They would have tragedies enough of their own presently; what was the use of passing down the old ones? Yet the story was not one to be forgotten; and now and then it was told in the twilight of a summer evening, or in the shadows of vines on a lingering afternoon, and all young men and maidens thrilled who heard it.
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