The farewell to Aunt Ri was hardest of all. Ramona clung to her as to a mother. At times she felt that she would rather stay by her side than go home with Felipe; then she reproached herself for the thought, as for a treason and ingratitude. Felipe saw the feeling, and did not wonder at it. "Dear girl," he thought; "it is the nearest she has ever come to knowing what a mother's love is like!" And he lingered in San Bernardino week after week, on the pretence that Ramona was not yet strong enough to bear the journey home, when in reality his sole motive for staying was his reluctance to deprive her of Aunt Ri's wholesome and cheering companionship.
Aunt Ri was busily at work on a rag carpet for the Indian Agent's wife. She had just begun it, had woven only a few inches, on that dreadful morning when the news of Alessandro's death reached her. It was of her favorite pattern, the "hit-er-miss" pattern, as she called it; no set stripes or regular alternation of colors, but ball after ball of the indiscriminately mixed tints, woven back and forth, on a warp of a single color. The constant variety in it, the unexpectedly harmonious blending of the colors, gave her delight, and afforded her a subject, too, of not unphilosophical reflection.
"Wall," she said, "it's called ther 'hit-er-miss' pattren; but it's 'hit' oftener'n 'tis 'miss.' Thar ain't enny accountin' fur ther way ther breadths'll come, sometimes; 'pears like 't wuz kind er magic, when they air sewed tergether; 'n' I allow thet's ther way it's gwine ter be with heaps er things in this life. It's jest a kind er 'hit-er-miss' pattren we air all on us livin' on; 'tain't much use tryin' ter reckon how 't 'll come aout; but the breadths doos fit heaps better 'n yer'd think; come ter sew 'em, 'tain't never no sech colors ez yer thought 't wuz gwine ter be; but it's allers pooty, allers; never see a 'hit-er-miss' pattren 'n my life yit, thet wa'n't pooty. 'N' ther wa'n't never nobody fetched me rags, 'n' hed 'em all planned aout, 'n' jest ther way they wanted ther warp, 'n' jest haow ther stripes wuz ter come, 'n' all, thet they wa'n't orful diserpynted when they cum ter see 't done. It don't never look's they thought 't would, never! I larned thet lesson airly; 'n' I allers make 'em write aout on a paper, jest ther wedth er every stripe, 'n' each er ther colors, so's they kin see it's what they ordered; 'r else they'd allers say I hedn't wove 't's I wuz told ter. I got ketched thet way oncet! I allow ennybody's a bawn fool gits ketched twice runnin' ther same way. But fur me, I'll take ther 'hit-er-miss' pattren, every time, sir, straight along."
When the carpet was done, Aunt Ri took the roll in her own independent arms, and strode with it to the Agent's house. She had been biding the time when she should have this excuse for going there. Her mind was burdened with questions she wished to ask, information she wished to give, and she chose an hour when she knew she would find the Agent himself at home.
"I allow yer heered why I wuz behind time with this yere carpet," she said; "I wuz up ter San Jacinto Mounting, where thet Injun wuz murdered. We brung his widder 'n' ther baby daown with us, me 'n' her brother. He's tuk her home ter his house ter live. He's reel well off."
Yes, the Agent had heard this; he had wondered why the widow did not come to see him; he had expected to hear from her.
"Wall, I did hent ter her thet p'raps yer could dew something, ef she wuz ter tell yer all abaout it; but she allowed thar wa'n't enny use in talkin'. Ther jedge, he sed her witnessin' wouldn't be wuth nuthin' to no jury; 'n' thet wuz what I wuz a wantin' to ask yeow, ef thet wuz so."
"Yes, that is what the lawyers here told me," said the Agent. "I was going to have the man arrested, but they said it would be folly to bring the case to trial. The woman's testimony would not be believed."