"Next time!" In what calendar are kept the records of those next times which never come? Long before Father Gaspara visited San Pasquale again, Alessandro and Ramona were far away, and strangers were living in their home.
It seemed to Ramona in after years, as she looked back over this life, that the news of Father Salvierderra's death was the first note of the knell of their happiness. It was but a few days afterward, when Alessandro came in one noon with an expression on his face that terrified her; seating himself in a chair, he buried his face in his hands, and would neither look up nor speak; not until Ramona was near crying from his silence, did he utter a word. Then, looking at her with a ghastly face, he said in a hollow voice, "It has begun!" and buried his face again. Finally Ramona's tears wrung from him the following story:
Ysidro, it seemed, had the previous year rented a canon, at the head of the valley, to one Doctor Morong. It was simply as bee-pasture that the Doctor wanted it, he said. He put his hives there, and built a sort of hut for the man whom he sent up to look after the honey. Ysidro did not need the land, and thought it a good chance to make a little money. He had taken every precaution to make the transaction a safe one; had gone to San Diego, and got Father Gaspara to act as interpreter for him, in the interview with Morong; it had been a written agreement, and the rent agreed upon had been punctually paid. Now, the time of the lease having expired, Ysidro had been to San Diego to ask the Doctor if he wished to renew it for another year; and the Doctor had said that the land was his, and he was coming out there to build a house, and live.
Ysidro had gone to Father Gaspara for help, and Father Gaspara had had an angry interview with Doctor Morong; but it had done no good. The Doctor said the land did not belong to Ysidro at all, but to the United States Government; and that he had paid the money for it to the agents in Los Angeles, and there would very soon come papers from Washington, to show that it was his. Father Gaspara had gone with Ysidro to a lawyer in San Diego, and had shown to his lawyer Ysidro's paper,-- the old one from the Mexican Governor of California, establishing the pueblo of San Pasquale, and saying how many leagues of land the Indians were to have; but the lawyer had only laughed at Father Gaspara for believing that such a paper as that was good for anything. He said that was all very well when the country belonged to Mexico, but it was no good now; that the Americans owned it now; and everything was done by the American law now, not by the Mexican law any more.
"Then we do not own any land in San Pasquale at all," said Ysidro. "Is that what it means?"
And the lawyer had said, he did not know how it would be with the cultivated land, and the village where the houses were,-- he could not tell about that; but he thought it all belonged to the men at Washington.
Father Gaspara was in such rage, Ysidro said, that he tore open his gown on his breast, and he smote himself, and he said he wished he were a soldier, and no priest, that he might fight this accursed United States Government; and the lawyer laughed at him, and told him to look after souls, -- that was his business,-- and let the Indian beggars alone! "Yes, that was what he said,-- 'the Indian beggars!' and so they would be all beggars, presently."
Alessandro told this by gasps, as it were; at long intervals. His voice was choked; his whole frame shook. He was nearly beside himself with rage and despair.
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