"Ysidro has that paper still," Alessandro said, "and he thinks it will keep them their village. Perhaps it will; but the Americans are beginning to come in at the head of the valley, and I do not believe, Majella, there is any safety anywhere. Still, for a few years we can perhaps stay there. There are nearly two hundred Indians in the valley; it is much better than Temecula, and Ysidro's people are much better off than ours were. They have splendid herds of cattle and horses, and large wheat-fields. Ysidro's house stands under a great fig-tree; they say it is the largest fig-tree in the country."
"But, Alessandro," cried Ramona, "why do you think it is not safe there, if Ysidro has the paper? I thought a paper made it all right."
"I don't know," replied Alessandro. "Perhaps it may be; but I have got the feeling now that nothing will be of any use against the Americans. I don't believe they will mind the paper."
"They didn't mind the papers the Senora had for all that land of hers they took away," said Ramona, thoughtfully. "But Felipe said that was because Pio Pico was a bad man, and gave away lands he had no right to give away."
"That's just it," said Alessandro. "Can't they say that same thing about any governor, especially if he has given lands to us? If the Senora couldn't keep hers, with Senor Felipe to help her, and he knows all about the law, and can speak the American language, what chance is there for us? We can't take care of ourselves any better than the wild beasts can, my Majella. Oh, why, why did you come with me? Why did I let you?"
After such words as these, Alessandro would throw himself on the ground, and for a few moments not even Ramona's voice would make him look up. It was strange that the gentle girl, unused to hardship, or to the thought of danger, did net find herself terrified by these fierce glooms and apprehensions of her lover. But she was appalled by nothing. Saved from the only thing in life she had dreaded, sure that Alessandro lived, and that he would not leave her, she had no fears. This was partly from her inexperience, from her utter inability to conceive of the things Alessandro's imagination painted in colors only too true; but it was also largely due to the inalienable loyalty and quenchless courage of her soul,-- qualities in her nature never yet tested; qualities of which she hardly knew so much as the name, but which were to bear her steadfast and buoyant through many sorrowful years.
Before nightfall of this their first day in the wilderness, Alessandro had prepared for Ramona a bed of finely broken twigs of the manzanita and ceanothus, both of which grew in abundance all through the canon. Above these he spread layers of glossy ferns, five and six feet long; when it was done, it was a couch no queen need have scorned. As Ramona seated herself on it, she exclaimed: "Now I shall see how it feels to lie and look up at the stars at night! Do you recollect, Alessandro, the night you put Felipe's bed on the veranda, when you told me how beautiful it was to lie at night out of doors and look up at the stars?"
Indeed did Alessandro remember that night,-- the first moment he had ever dared to dream of the Senorita Ramona as his own. "Yes, I remember it, my Majella," he answered slowly; and in a moment more added, "That was the day Juan Can had told me that your mother was of my people; and that was the night I first dared in my thoughts to say that perhaps you might some day love me."
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