"Hush! hush! Baba," whispered Alessandro, as if he were speaking to a human being. "Hush!" and he proceeded cautiously to lift off the upper rails and bushes of the fence. The horse understood instantly; and as soon as the fence was a little lowered, leaped over it and stood still by Alessandro's side, while he replaced the rails, smiling to himself, spite of his grave anxiety, to think of Juan Can's wonder in the morning as to how Baba had managed to get out of the corral.
This had taken only a few moments. It was better luck than Alessandro had hoped for; emboldened by it, he began to wonder if he could not get the saddle too. The saddles, harnesses, bridles, and all such things hung on pegs in an open barn, such as is constantly to be seen in Southern California; as significant a testimony, in matter of climate, as any Signal Service Report could be,-- a floor and a roof; no walls, only corner posts to hold the roof. Nothing but summerhouses on a large scale are the South California barns. Alessandro stood musing. The longer he thought, the greater grew his desire for that saddle.
"Baba, if only you knew what I wanted of you, you'd lie down on the ground here and wait while I got the saddle. But I dare not risk leaving you. Come, Baba!" and he struck down the hill again, the horse following him softly. When he got down below the terrace, he broke into a run, with his hand in Baba's mane, as if it were a frolic; and in a few moments they were safe in the willow copse, where Alessandro's poor pony was tethered. Fastening Baba with the same lariat, Alessandro patted him on the neck, pressed his face to his nose, and said aloud, "Good Baba, stay here till the Senorita comes." Baba whinnied.
"Why shouldn't he know the Senorita's name! I believe he does!" thought Alessandro, as he turned and again ran swiftly back to the corral. He felt strong now,-- felt like a new man. Spite of all the terror, joy thrilled him. When he reached the corral, all was yet still. The horses had not moved from their former position. Throwing himself flat on the ground, Alessandro crept on his breast from the corral to the barn, several rods' distance. This was the most hazardous part of his adventure; every other moment he paused, lay motionless for some seconds, then crept a few paces more. As he neared the corner where Ramona's saddle always hung, his heart beat. Sometimes, of a warm night, Luigo slept on the barn floor. If he were there to-night, all was lost. Groping in the darkness, Alessandro pulled himself up on the post, felt for the saddle, found it, lifted it, and in a trice was flat on the ground again, drawing the saddle along after him. Not a sound had he made, that the most watchful of sheep-dogs could hear.
"Ha, old Capitan, caught you napping this time!" said Alessandro to himself, as at last he got safe to the bottom of the terrace, and, springing to his feet, bounded away with the saddle on his shoulders. It was a weight for a starving man to carry, but he felt it not, for the rejoicing he had in its possession. Now his Senorita would go in comfort. To ride Baba was to be rocked in a cradle. If need be, Baba would carry them both, and never know it; and it might come to that, Alessandro thought, as he knelt by the side of his poor beast, which was stretched out on the ground exhausted; Baba standing by, looking down in scornful wonder at this strange new associate.
"The saints be praised!" thought Alessandro, as he seated himself to wait. "This looks as if they would not desert my Senorita."
Thoughts whirled in his brain. Where should they go first? What would be best? Would they be pursued? Where could they hide? Where should he seek a new home?
It was bootless thinking, until Ramona was by his side. He must lay each plan before her. She must decide. The first thing was to get to San Diego, to the priest, to be married. That would be three days' hard ride; five for the exhausted Indian pony. What should they eat on the ways Ah! Alessandro bethought him of the violin at Hartsel's. Mr. Hartsel would give him money on that; perhaps buy it. Then Alessandro remembered his own violin. He had not once thought of it before. It lay in its case on a table in Senor Felipe's room when he came away, Was it possible? No, of course it could not be possible that the Senorita would think to bring it. What would she bring? She would be wise, Alessandro was sure.
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