On all sides were beaming faces, smiles, and glad cries of greeting. Underneath these were affectionate hearts quaking with fear lest the home-coming be but a sad one after all. Vaguely they knew a little of what their dear Senorita had been through since she left them; it seemed that she must be sadly altered by so much sorrow, and that it would be terrible to her to come back to the place so full of painful associations. "And the Senora gone, too," said one of the outdoor hands, as they were talking it over; "it's not the same place at all that it was when the Senora was here."
"Humph!" muttered Juan Can, more consequential and overbearing than ever, for this year of absolute control of the estate. "Humph! that's all you know. A good thing the Senora died when she did, I can tell you! We'd never have seen the Senorita back here else; I can tell you that, my man! And for my part, I'd much rather be under Senor Felipe and the Senorita than under the Senora, peace to her ashes! She had her day. They can have theirs now."
When these loving and excited retainers saw Ramona -- pale, but with her own old smile on her face -- coming towards them with her babe in her arms, they broke into wild cheering, and there was not a dry eye in the group.
Singling out old Marda by a glance, Ramona held out the baby towards her, and said in her old gentle, affectionate voice, "I am sure you will love my baby, Marda!"
"Senorita! Senorita! God bless you, Senorita!" they cried; and closed up their ranks around the baby, touching her, praising her, handing her from one to another.
Ramona stood for a few seconds watching them; then she said, "Give her to me, Marda. I will myself carry her into the house;" and she moved toward the inner door.
"This way, dear; this way," cried Felipe. "It is Father Salvierderra's room I ordered to be prepared for you, because it is so sunny for the baby!"
"Thanks, kind Felipe!" cried Ramona, and her eyes said more than her words. She knew he had divined the one thing she had most dreaded in returning,-- the crossing again the threshold of her own room. It would be long now before she would enter that room. Perhaps she would never enter it. How tender and wise of Felipe!