"Not much more as steep as this, dear, nor so narrow; but it will be an hour yet before we stop."
But the worst was over for Ramona now, and long before they reached the bottom of the precipice she was ready to laugh at her fears; only, as she looked back at the zigzag lines of the path over which she had come,-- little more than a brown thread, they seemed, flung along the rock,-- she shuddered.
Down in the bottom of the canon it was still the dusky gloaming when they arrived. Day came late to this fairy spot. Only at high noon did the sun fairly shine in. As Ramona looked around her, she uttered an exclamation of delight, which satisfied Alessandro. "Yes," he said, "when I came here for the ferns, I wished to myself many times that you could see it. There is not in all this country so beautiful a place. This is our first home, my Majella," he added, in a tone almost solemn; and throwing his arms around her, he drew her to his breast, with the first feeling of joy he had experienced.
"I wish we could live here always," cried Ramona.
"Would Majella be content?" said Alessandro.
He sighed. "There would not be land enough, to live here," he said. "If there were, I too would like to stay here till I died, Majella, and never see the face of a white man again!" Already the instinct of the hunted and wounded animal to seek hiding, was striving in Alessandro's blood. "But there would be no food. We could not live here." Ramona's exclamation had set Alessandro to thinking, however. "Would Majella be content to stay here three days now?" he asked. "There is grass enough for the horses for that time. We should be very safe here; and I fear very much we should not be safe on any road. I think, Majella, the Senora will send men after Baba."
"Baba!" cried Ramona, aghast at the idea. "My own horse! She would not dare to call it stealing a horse, to take my own Baba!" But even as she spoke, her heart misgave her. The Senora would dare anything; would misrepresent anything; only too well Ramona knew what the very mention of the phrase "horse-stealing" meant all through the country. She looked piteously at Alessandro. He read her thoughts.
"Yes, that is it, Majella," he said. "If she sent men after Baba, there is no knowing what they might do. It would not do any good for you to say he was yours. They would not believe you; and they might take me too, if the Senora had told them to, and put me into Ventura jail."
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