But Alessandro did not speak. It seemed impossible. At last, straining her closer to his breast, he cried: "Dearest Senorita! I feel as if I should die when I tell you,-- I have no home; my father is dead; my people are driven out of their village. I am only a beggar now, Senorita; like those you used to feed and pity in Los Angeles convent!" As he spoke the last words, he reeled, and, supporting himself against the tree, added: "I am not strong, Senorita; we have been starving."
Ramona's face did not reassure him. Even in the dusk he could see its look of incredulous horror. He misread it.
"I only came to look at you once more," he continued. "I will go now. May the saints bless you, my Senorita, always. I think the Virgin sent you to me to-night. I should never have seen your face if you had not come."
While he was speaking, Ramona had buried her face in his bosom. Lifting it now, she said, "Did you mean to leave me to think you were dead, Alessandro?"
"I thought that the news about our village must have reached you," he said, "and that you would know I had no home, and could not come, to seem to remind you of what you had said. Oh, Senorita, it was little enough I had before to give you! I don't know how I dared to believe that you could come to be with me; but I loved you so much, I had thought of many things I could do; and --" lowering his voice and speaking almost sullenly -- "it is the saints, I believe, who have punished me thus for having resolved to leave my people, and take all I had for myself and you. Now they have left me nothing;" and he groaned.
"Who?" cried Ramona. "Was there a battle? Was your father killed?" She was trembling with horror.
"No," answered Alessandro. "There was no battle. There would have been, if I had had my way; but my father implored me not to resist. He said it would only make it worse for us in the end. The sheriff, too, he begged me to let it all go on peaceably, and help him keep the people quiet. He felt terribly to have to do it. It was Mr. Rothsaker, from San Diego. We had often worked for him on his ranch. He knew all about us. Don't you recollect, Senorita, I told you about him,-- how fair he always was, and kind too? He has the biggest wheat-ranch in Cajon; we've harvested miles and miles of wheat for him. He said he would have rather died, almost, than have had it to do; but if we resisted, he would have to order his men to shoot. He had twenty men with him. They thought there would be trouble; and well they might, -- turning a whole village full of men and women and children out of their houses, and driving them off like foxes. If it had been any man but Mr. Rothsaker, I would have shot him dead, if I had hung for it; but I knew if he thought we must go, there was no help for us."
"But, Alessandro," interrupted Ramona, "I can't understand. Who was it made Mr. Rothsaker do it? Who has the land now?"
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