With a swifter and more energetic movement than any had ever before seen Senor Felipe make, he stepped forward, saying in an undertone to his mother, "For God's sake, mother, not a word before the men! -- What is that you say, Luigo? Baba gone? We must see to our corral. I will come down, after breakfast, and look at it;" and turning his back on them, he drew his mother by a firm grasp, she could not resist, into the house.
She gazed at him in sheer, dumb wonder.
"Ay, mother," he said, "you may well look thus in wonder; I have been no man, to let my foster-sister, I care not what blood were in her veins, be driven to this pass! I will set out this day, and bring her back."
"The day you do that, then, I lie in this house dead!" retorted the Senora, at white heat. "You may rear as many Indian families as you please under the Moreno roof, I will at least have my grave!" In spite of her anger, grief convulsed her; and in another second she had burst into tears, and sunk helpless and trembling into a chair. No counterfeiting now. No pretences. The Senora Moreno's heart broke within her, when those words passed her lips to her adored Felipe. At the sight, Felipe flung himself on his knees before her; he kissed the aged hands as they lay trembling in her lap. "Mother mia," he cried, "you will break my heart if you speak like that! Oh, why, why do you command me to do what a man may not? I would die for you, my mother; but how can I see my sister a homeless wanderer in the wilderness?"
"I suppose the man Alessandro has something he calls a home," said the Senora, regaining herself a little. "Had they no plans? Spoke she not in her letter of what they would do?"
"Only that they would go to Father Salvierderra first," he replied.
"Ah!" The Senora reflected. At first startled, her second thought was that this would be the best possible thing which could happen. "Father Salvierderra will counsel them what to do," she said. "He could no doubt establish them in Santa Barbara in some way. My son, when you reflect, you will see the impossibility of bringing them here. Help them in any way you like, but do not bring them here." She paused. "Not until I am dead, Felipe! It will not be long."
Felipe bowed his head in his mother's lap. She laid her hands on his hair, and stroked it with passionate tenderness. "My Felipe!" she said. "It was a cruel fate to rob me of you at the last!"
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