Ramona was wan and haggard. She had scarcely slept. The idea had taken possession of her that Alessandro was dead. On the sixth and seventh days she had walked each afternoon far down the river road, by which he would be sure to come; down the meadows, and by the cross-cut, out to the highway; at each step straining her tearful eyes into the distance,-- the cruel, blank, silent distance. She had come back after dark, whiter and more wan than she went out. As she sat at the supper-table, silent, making no feint of eating, only drinking glass after glass of milk, in thirsty haste, even Margarita pitied her. But the Senora did not. She thought the best thing which could happen, would be that the Indian should never come back. Ramona would recover from it in a little while; the mortification would be the worst thing, but even that, time would heal. She wondered that the girl had not more pride than to let her wretchedness be so plainly seen. She herself would have died before she would go about with such a woe-begone face, for a whole household to see and gossip about.
On the morning of the eighth day, Ramona, desperate, waylaid Felipe, as he was going down the veranda steps. The Senora was in the garden, and saw them; but Ramona did not care. "Felipe!" she cried, "I must, I must speak to you! Do you think Alessandro is dead? What else could keep him from coming?" Her lips were dry, her cheeks scarlet, her voice husky. A few more days of this, and she would be in a brain fever, Felipe thought, as he looked compassionately at her.
"Oh, no, no, dear! Do not think that!" he replied. "A thousand things might have kept him."
"Ten thousand things would not! Nothing could!" said Ramona. "I know he is dead. Can't you send a messenger, Felipe, and see?"
The Senora was walking toward them. She overheard the last words. Looking toward Felipe, no more regarding Ramona than if she had not been within sight or hearing, the Senora said, "It seems to me that would not be quite consistent with dignity. How does it strike you, Felipe' If you thought best, we might spare a man as soon as the vintage is done, I suppose."
Ramona walked away. The vintage would not be over for a week. There were several vineyards yet which had not been touched; every hand on the place was hard at work, picking the grapes, treading them out in tubs, emptying the juice into stretched raw-hides swung from cross-beams in a long shed. In the willow copse the brandy-still was in full blast; it took one man to watch it; this was Juan Can's favorite work; for reasons of his own he liked best to do it alone; and now that he could no longer tread grapes in the tubs, he had a better chance for uninterrupted work at the still. "No ill but has its good," he thought sometimes, as he lay comfortably stretched out in the shade, smoking his pipe day after day, and breathing the fumes of the fiery brandy.
As Ramona disappeared in the doorway, the Senora, coming close to Felipe, and laying her hand on his arm, said in a confidential tone, nodding her head in the direction in which Ramona had vanished: "She looks badly, Felipe. I don't know what we can do. We surely cannot send to summon back a lover we do not wish her to marry, can we? It is very perplexing. Most unfortunate, every way. What do you think, my son?" There was almost a diabolical art in the manner in which the Senora could, by a single phrase or question, plant in a person's mind the precise idea she wished him to think he had originated himself.
"No; of course we can't send for him," replied Felipe, angrily; "unless it is to send him to marry her; I wish he had never set foot on the place. I am sure I don't know what to do. Ramona's looks frighten me. I believe she will die."
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