It had not taken a moment. She blew out her taper, and crept back into her room. Felipe's bed was now moved close to the wall of the house. From her window she could reach its foot. Slowly, cautiously, she stretched out her arm and dropped the little paper on the coverlet, just over Felipe's feet. There was a risk that the Senora would come out in the morning, before Felipe awaked, and see the note first; but that risk she would take.
"Farewell, dear Felipe!" she whispered, under her breath, as she turned from the window.
The delay had cost her dear. The watchful Capitan, from his bed at the upper end of the court, had half heard, half scented, something strange going on. As Ramona stepped out, he gave one short, quick bark, and came bounding down.
"Holy Virgin, I am lost!" thought Ramona; but, crouching on the ground, she quickly opened her net, and as Capitan came towards her, gave him a piece of meat, fondling and caressing him. While he ate it, wagging his tail, and making great demonstrations of joy, she picked up her load again, and still fondling him, said, "Come on, Capitan!" It was her last chance. If he barked again, somebody would be waked; if he went by her side quietly, she might escape. A cold sweat of terror burst on her forehead as she took her first step cautiously. The dog followed. She quickened her pace; he trotted along, still smelling the meat in the net. When she reached the willows, she halted, debating whether she should give him a large piece of meat, and try to run away while he was eating it, or whether she should let him go quietly along. She decided on the latter course; and, picking up her other net, walked on. She was safe now. She turned, and looked back towards the house; all was dark and still. She could hardly see its outline. A great wave of emotion swept over her. It was the only home she had ever known. All she had experienced of happiness, as well as of bitter pain, had been there,-- Felipe, Father Salvierderra, the servants, the birds, the garden, the dear chapel! Ah, if she could have once more prayed in the chapel! Who would put fresh flowers and ferns in the chapel now? How Felipe would miss her, when he knelt before the altar! For fourteen years she had knelt by his side. And the Senora,-- the hard, cold Senora! She would alone be glad. Everybody else would be sorry. "They will all be sorry I have gone,-- all but the Senora! I wish it had been so that I could have bidden them all good-by, and had them all bid me good-by, and wish us good fortune!" thought the gentle, loving girl, as she drew a long sigh, and, turning her back on her home, went forward in the path she had chosen.
She stooped and patted Capitan on the head. "Will you come with me, Capitan?" she said; and Capitan leaped up joyfully, giving two or three short, sharp notes of delight. "Good Capitan, come! They will not miss him out of so many," she thought, "and it will always seem like something from home, as long as I have Capitan."
When Alessandro first saw Ramona's figure dimly in the gloom, drawing slowly nearer, he did not recognize it, and he was full of apprehension at the sight. What stranger could it be, abroad in these lonely meadows at this hour of the night? Hastily he led the horses farther back into the copse, and hid himself behind a tree, to watch. In a few moments more he thought he recognized Capitan, bounding by the side of this bent and slow-moving figure. Yet this was surely an Indian woman toiling along under a heavy load. But what Indian woman would have so superb a collie as Capitan? Alessandro strained his eyes through the darkness. Presently he saw the figure halt,-- drop part of its .burden.
"Alessandro!" came in a sweet, low call.
He bounded like a deer, crying, "My Senorita! my Senorita! Can that be you? To think that you have brought these heavy loads!"
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