Indeed, Jos had noticed. No man was likely to see Ramona with Alessandro without perceiving the rare quality of her devotion to him. And now there was added to this devotion an element of indefinable anxiety which made its vigilance unceasing. Ramona feared for Alessandro's reason. She had hardly put it into words to herself, but the terrible fear dwelt with her. She felt that another blow would be more than he could bear.
The storm lasted only a few hours. When it cleared, the valley was a solid expanse of white, and the stars shone out as if in an Arctic sky.
"It will be all gone by noon to-morrow," said Alessandro to Jos, who was dreading the next day.
"You will see," said Alessandro. "I have often known it thus. It is like death while it lasts; but it is never long."
The Hyers were on their way to some hot springs on the north side of the valley. Here they proposed to camp for three months, to try the waters for Jos. They had a tent, and all that was necessary for living in their primitive fashion. Aunt Ri was looking forward to the rest with great anticipation; she was heartily tired of being on the move. Her husband's anticipations were of a more stirring nature. He had heard that there was good hunting on San Jacinto Mountain. When he found that Alessandro knew the region thoroughly, and had been thinking of settling there, he was rejoiced, and proposed to him to become his companion and guide in hunting expeditions. Ramona grasped eagerly at the suggestion; companionship, she was sure, would do Alessandro good,-- companionship, the outdoor life, and the excitement of hunting, of which he was fond. This hot-spring canon was only a short distance from the Saboba village, of which they had spoken as a possible home; which she had from the first desired to try. She no longer had repugnance to the thought of an Indian village; she already felt a sense of kinship and shelter with any Indian people. She had become, as Carmena had said, "one of them."
A few days saw the two families settled,-- the Hyers in their tent and wagon, at the hot springs, and Alessandro and Ramona, with the baby, in a little adobe house in the Saboba village. The house belonged to an old Indian woman who, her husband having died, had gone to live with a daughter, and was very glad to get a few dollars by renting her own house. It was a wretched place; one small room, walled with poorly made adobe bricks, thatched with tule, no floor, and only one window. When Alessandro heard Ramona say cheerily, "Oh, this will do very well, when it is repaired a little," his face was convulsed, and he turned away; but he said nothing. It was the only house to be had in the village, and there were few better. Two months later, no one would have known it. Alessandro had had good luck in hunting. Two fine deerskins covered the earth floor; a third was spread over the bedstead; and the horns, hung on the walls, served for hooks to hang clothes upon. The scarlet calico canopy was again set up over the bed, and the woven cradle, on its red manzanita frame, stood near. A small window in the door, and one more cut in the walls, let in light and air. On a shelf near one of these windows stood the little Madonna, again wreathed with vines as in San Pasquale.
When Aunt Ri first saw the room, after it was thus arranged, she put both arms akimbo, and stood in the doorway, her mouth wide open, her eyes full of wonder. Finally her wonder framed itself in an ejaculation: "Wall, I allow yer air fixed up!"
Aunt Ri, at her best estate, had never possessed a room which had the expression of this poor little mud hut of Ramona's. She could not understand it. The more she studied the place, the less she understood it. On returning to the tent, she said to Jos: "It beats all ever I see, the way thet Injun woman's got fixed up out er nothin'. It ain't no more'n a hovel, a mud hovel, Jos, not much bigger'n this yer tent, fur all three on 'em, an' the bed an' the stove an' everythin'; an' I vow, Jos, she's fixed it so't looks jest like a parlor! It beats me, it does. I'd jest like you to see it."