How sure the kindly woman was that she was telling the exact truth. After long ransacking of her memory and comparing of events, she fixed the time so nearly to the true date, that it was to Felipe's mind a terrible corroboration of his fears. It was, he thought, about a week after Ramona's flight from home that Alessandro had appeared thus, alone, on foot, at Mrs. Hartsel's. In great destitution, she said; and she had lent him money on the expectation of selling his violin; but they had never sold it; there it was yet. And that Alessandro was dead, she had no more doubt than that she herself was alive; for else, he would have come back to pay her what he owed. The honestest fellow that ever lived, was Alessandro. Did not the Senor Moreno think so? Had he not found him so always? There were not many such Indians as Alessandro and his father. If there had been, it would have been better for their people. "If they'd all been like Alessandro, I tell you," she said, "it would have taken more than any San Diego sheriff to have put them out of their homes here."
"But what could they do to help themselves, Mrs. Hartsel?" asked Felipe. "The law was against them. We can't any of us go against that. I myself have lost half my estate in the same way."
"Well, at any rate they wouldn't have gone without fighting!" she said. "'If Alessandro had been here!' they all said."
Felipe asked to see the violin. "But that is not Alessandro's," he exclaimed. "I have seen his."
"No!" she said. "Did I say it was his? It was his father's. One of the Indians brought it in here to hide it with us at the time they were driven out. It is very old, they say, and worth a great deal of money, if you could find the right man to buy it. But he has not come along yet. He will, though. I am not a bit afraid but that we'll get our money back on it. If Alessandro was alive, he'd have been here long before this."
Finding Mrs. Hartsel thus friendly, Felipe suddenly decided to tell her the whole story. Surprise and incredulity almost overpowered her at first. She sat buried in thought for some minutes; then she sprang to her feet, and cried: "If he's got that girl with him, he's hiding somewhere. There's nothing like an Indian to hide; and if he is hiding, every other Indian knows it, and you just waste your breath asking any questions of any of them. They will die before they will tell you one thing. They are as secret as the grave. And they, every one of them, worshipped Alessandro. You see they thought he would be over them, after Pablo, and they were all proud of him because he could read and write, and knew more than most of them. If I were in your place," she continued, "I would not give it up yet. I should go to San Pasquale. Now it might just be that she was along with him that night he stopped here, hid somewhere, while he came in to get the money. I know I urged him to stay all night, and he said he could not do it. I don't know, though, where he could possibly have left her while he came here."
Never in all her life had Mrs. Hartsel been so puzzled and so astonished as now. But her sympathy, and her confident belief that Alessandro might yet be found, gave unspeakable cheer to Felipe.
"If I find them, I shall take them home with me, Mrs. Hartsel," he said as he rode away; "and we will come by this road and stop to see you." And the very speaking of the words cheered him all the way to San Pasquale,