Deliberately, lingeringly, he unharnessed the horses and put them in the corral. Then still more deliberately, lingeringly, he walked to the house; walked, without speaking, past Ramona, into the door. A lurid spot on each cheek showed burning red through the bronze of his skin. His eyes glittered. In silence Ramona followed him, and saw him draw from his pocket a handful of gold-pieces, fling them on the table, and burst into a laugh more terrible than any weeping,-- a laugh which wrung from her instantly, involuntarily, the cry, "Oh, my Alessandro! my Alessandro! What is it? Are you mad?"
"No, my sweet Majel," he exclaimed, turning to her, and flinging his arms round her and the child together, drawing them so close to his breast that the embrace hurt,-- "no, I am not mad; but I think I shall soon be! What is that gold? The price of this house, Majel, and of the fields,-- of all that was ours in San Pasquale! To-morrow we will go out into the world again. I will see if I can find a place the Americans do not want!"
It did not take many words to tell the story. Alessandro had not been ploughing more than an hour, when, hearing a strange sound, he looked up and saw a man unloading lumber a few rods off'. Alessandro stopped midway in the furrow and watched him. The man also watched Alessandro. Presently he came toward him, and said roughly, "Look here! Be off, will you? This is my land. I'm going to build a house here."
Alessandro had replied, "This was my land yesterday. How comes it yours to-day?"
Something in the wording of this answer, or something in Alessandro's tone and bearing, smote the man's conscience, or heart, or what stood to him in the place of conscience and heart, and he said: "Come, now, my good fellow, you look like a reasonable kind of a fellow; you just clear out, will you, and not make me any trouble. You see the land's mine. I've got all this land round here;" and he waved his arm, describing a circle; "three hundred and twenty acres, me and my brother together, and we're coming in here to settle. We got our papers from Washington last week. It's all right, and you may just as well go peaceably, as make a fuss about it. Don't you see?"
Yes, Alessandro saw. He had been seeing this precise thing for months. Many times, in his dreams and in his waking thoughts, he had lived over scenes similar to this. An almost preternatural calm and wisdom seemed to be given him now.
"Yes, I see, Senor," he said. "I am not surprised. I knew it would come; but I hoped it would not be till after harvest. I will not give you any trouble, Senor, because I cannot. If I could, I would. But I have heard all about the new law which gives all the Indians' lands to the Americans. We cannot help ourselves. But it is very hard, Senor." He paused.
The man, confused and embarrassed, astonished beyond expression at being met in this way by an Indian, did not find words come ready to his tongue. "Of course, I know it does seem a little rough on fellows like you, that are industrious, and have done some work on the land. But you see the land's in the market; I've paid my money for it."
Reminder: Arrow keys left and right (← →) to turn pages forward and backward, up and down (↑ ↓) to scroll up and down, Enter key: return to the list