When he walked by her side, later in the evening, as she went across the valley to Fernando's house, he ventured to mention Father Salvierderra's name. Ramona laid her hand on his lips. "I cannot talk about him yet, dear," she said. "I never believed that he would die without giving us his blessing. Do not speak of him till to-morrow is over."
Ramona's saddened face smote on all the women's hearts as they met her the next morning. One by one they gazed, astonished, then turned away, and spoke softly among themselves. They all loved her, and half revered her too, for her great kindness, and readiness to teach and to help them. She had been like a sort of missionary in the valley ever since she came, and no one had ever seen her face without a smile. Now she smiled not. Yet there was the beautiful baby in its white dress, ready to be christened; and the sun shone, and the bell had been ringing for half an hour, and from every corner of the valley the people were gathering, and Father Gaspara, in his gold and green cassock, was praying before the altar; it was a joyous day in San Pasquale. Why did Alessandro and Ramona kneel apart in a corner, with such heart-stricken countenances, not even looking glad when their baby laughed, and reached up her hands? Gradually it was whispered about what had happened. Some one had got it from Antonio, of Temecula, Alessandro's friend. Then all the women's faces grew sad too. They all had heard of Father Salvierderra, and many of them had prayed to the ivory Christ in Ramona's room, and knew that he had given it to her.
As Ramona passed out of the chapel, some of them came up to her, and taking her hand in theirs, laid it on their hearts, speaking no word. The gesture was more than any speech could have been.
When Father Gaspara was taking leave, Ramona said, with quivering lips, "Father, if there is anything you know of Father Salvierderra's last hours, I would be grateful to you for telling me."
"I heard very little," replied the Father, "except that he had been feeble for some weeks; yet he would persist in spending most of the night kneeling on the stone floor in the church, praying."
"Yes," interrupted Ramona; "that he always did."
"And the last morning," continued the Father, "the Brothers found him there, still kneeling on the stone floor, but quite powerless to move; and they lifted him, and carried him to his room, and there they found, to their horror, that he had had no bed; he had lain on the stones; and then they took him to the Superior's own room, and laid him in the bed, and he did not speak any more, and at noon he died."
"Thank you very much, Father," said Ramona, without lifting her eyes from the ground; and in the same low, tremulous tone, "I am glad that I know that he is dead."
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