Before she reached the spot, Margarita had dropped on the ground and buried her face in her hands. A mass of crumpled and stained linen lay at her feet.
"What is it? What has happened, Margarita mia?" cried Ramona, in the affectionate Spanish phrase. For answer, Margarita removed one wet hand from her eyes, and pointed with a gesture of despair to the crumpled linen. Sobs choked her voice, and she buried her face again in her hands.
Ramona stooped, and lifted one corner of the linen. An involuntary cry of dismay broke from her, at which Margarita's sobs redoubled, and she gasped out, "Yes, Senorita, it is totally ruined! It can never be mended, and it will be needed for the mass to-morrow morning. When I saw the Father coming by your side, I prayed to the Virgin to let me die. The Senora will never forgive me."
It was indeed a sorry sight. The white linen altar-cloth, the cloth which the Senora Moreno had with her own hands made into one solid front of beautiful lace of the Mexican fashion, by drawing out part of the threads and sewing the remainder into intricate patterns, the cloth which had always been on the altar, when mass was said, since Margarita's and Ramona's earliest recollections,-- there it lay, torn, stained, as if it had been dragged through muddy brambles. In silence, aghast, Ramona opened it out and held it up. "How did it happen, Margarita?" she whispered, glancing in terror up towards the house.
"Oh, that is the worst of it, Senorita!" sobbed the girl. "That is the worst of it! If it were not for that, I would not be so afraid. If it had happened any other way, the Senora might have forgiven me; but she never will. I would rather die than tell her;" and she shook from head to foot.
"Stop crying, Margarita!" said Ramona, firmly, "and tell me all about it. It isn't so bad as it looks. I think I can mend it."
"Oh, the saints bless you!" cried Margarita, looking up for the first time. "Do you really think you can mend it, Senorita? If you will mend that lace, I'll go on my knees for you all the rest of my life!"
Ramona laughed in spite of herself. "You'll serve me better by keeping on your feet," she said merrily; at which Margarita laughed too, through her tears. They were both young.
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