Only a few rods off stood the little chapel; in front of it swung on a cross-bar from two slanting posts an old bronze bell which had once belonged to the San Diego Mission. When Ramona read the date, "1790," on its side, and heard that it was from the San Diego Mission church it had come, she felt a sense of protection in its presence.
"Think, Alessandro," she said; "this bell, no doubt, has rung many times for the mass for the holy Father Junipero himself. It is a blessing to the village. I want to live where I can see it all the time. It will be like a saint's statue in the house."
With every allusion that Ramona made to the saints' statues, Alessandro's desire to procure one for her deepened. He said nothing; but he revolved it in his mind continually. He had once gone with his shearers to San Fernando, and there he had seen in a room of the old Mission buildings a dozen statues of saints huddled in dusty confusion. The San Fernando church was in crumbled ruins, and such of the church properties as were left there were in the keeping of a Mexican not over-careful, and not in the least devout. It would not trouble him to part with a saint or two, Alessandro thought, and no irreverence to the saint either; on the contrary, the greatest of reverence, since the statue was to be taken from a place where no one cared for it, and brought into one where it would be tenderly cherished, and worshipped every day. If only San Fernando were not so far away, and the wooden saints so heavy! However, it should come about yet. Majella should have a saint; nor distance nor difficulty should keep Alessandro from procuring for his Majel the few things that lay within his power. But he held his peace about it. It would be a sweeter gift, if she did not know it beforehand. He pleased himself as subtly and secretly as if he had come of civilized generations, thinking how her eyes would dilate, if she waked up some morning and saw the saint by her bedside; and how sure she would be to think, at first, it was a miracle,-- his dear, devout Majella, who, with all her superior knowledge, was yet more credulous than he. All her education had not taught her to think, as he, untaught, had learned, in his solitude with nature.
Before Alessandro had been two days in San Pasquale, he had heard of a piece of good-fortune which almost passed his belief, and which startled him for once out of his usual impassive demeanor.
"You know I have a herd of cattle of your father's, and near a hundred sheep?" said Ysidro.
"Holy Virgin!" cried Alessandro, "you do not mean that! How is that? They told me all our stock was taken by the Americans."
"Yes, so it was, all that was in Temecula," replied Ysidro; "but in the spring your father sent down to know if I would take a herd for him up into the mountains, with ours, as he feared the Temecula pasture would fall short, and the people there, who could not leave, must have their cattle near home; so he sent a herd over,-- I think, near fifty head; and many of the cows have calved; and he sent, also, a little flock of sheep,-- a hundred, Ramon said; he herded them with ours all summer, and he left a man up there with them. They will be down next week. It is time they were sheared."
Before he had finished speaking, Alessandro had vanished, bounding like a deer. Ysidro stared after him; but seeing him enter the doorway of the little tule hut, he understood, and a sad smile passed over his face. He was not yet persuaded that this marriage of Alessandro's would turn out a blessing. "What are a handful of sheep to her!" he thought.
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