"Better so," was the Senora's sole reply; and she fell again into still deeper, more perplexed thought about the hidden treasure. Each day she resolved, "To-morrow I will tell Felipe;" and when to-morrow came, she put it off again. Finally she decided not to do it till she found herself dying. Father Salvierderra might yet come once more, and then all would be well. With trembling hands she wrote him a letter, imploring him to be brought to her, and sent it by messenger, who was empowered to hire a litter and four men to bring the Father gently and carefully all the way. But when the messenger reached Santa Barbara, Father Salvierderra was too feeble to be moved; too feeble even to write. He could write only by amanuensis, and wrote, therefore, guardedly, sending her his blessing, and saying that he hoped her foster-child might yet be restored to the keeping of her friends. The Father had been in sore straits of mind, as month after month had passed without tidings of his "blessed child."
Soon after this came the news that the Father was dead. This dealt the Senora a terrible blow. She never left her bed after it. And so the year had worn on; and Felipe, mourning over his sinking and failing mother, and haunted by terrible fears about the lost Ramona, had been tortured indeed.
But the end drew near, now. The Senora was plainly dying. The Ventura doctor had left off coming, saying that he could do no more; nothing remained but to give her what ease was possible; in a day or two more all would be over. Felipe hardly left her bedside. Rarely was mother so loved and nursed by son. No daughter could have shown more tenderness and devotion. In the close relation and affection of these last days, the sense of alienation and antagonism faded from both their hearts.
"My adorable Felipe!" she would murmur. "What a son hast thou been!" And, "My beloved mother! How shall I give you up?" Felipe would reply, bowing his head on her hands,-- so wasted now, so white, so weak; those hands which had been cruel and strong little more than one short year ago. Ah, no one could refuse to forgive the Senora now! The gentle Ramona, had she seen her, had wept tears of pity. Her eyes wore at times a look almost of terror. It was the secret. How should she speak it? What would Felipe say? At last the moment came. She had been with difficulty roused from a long fainting; one more such would be the last, she knew,-- knew even better than those around her. As she regained consciousness, she gasped, "Felipe! Alone!"
He understood, and waved the rest away.
"Alone!" she said again, turning her eyes to the door.
"Leave the room," said Felipe; "all -- wait outside;" and he closed the door on them. Even then the Senora hesitated. Almost was she ready to go out of life leaving the hidden treasure to its chance of discovery, rather than with her own lips reveal to Felipe what she saw now, saw with the terrible, relentless clear-sightedness of death, would make him, even after she was in her grave, reproach her in his thoughts.
But she dared not withhold it. It must be said. Pointing to the statue of Saint Catharine, whose face seemed, she thought, to frown unforgiving upon her, she said, "Felipe -- behind that statue -- look!"