It was a sad day in the village when Ramona and her friends departed. Heartily as the kindly people rejoiced in her having found such a protector for herself and her child, and deeply as they felt Felipe's and Aunt Ri's good-will and gratitude towards them, they were yet conscious of a loss,-- of a void. The gulf between them and the rest of the world seemed defined anew, their sense of isolation deepened, their hopeless poverty emphasized. Ramona, wife of Alessandro, had been as their sister,-- one of them; as such, she would have had share in all their life had to offer. But its utmost was nothing, was but hardship and deprivation; and she was being borne away from it, like one rescued, not so much from death, as from a life worse than death.
The tears streamed down Ramona's face as she bade them farewell. She embraced again and again the young mother who had for so many days suckled her child, even, it was said, depriving her own hardier babe that Ramona's should not suffer. "Sister, you have given me my child," she cried; "I can never thank you; I will pray for you all my life."
She made no inquiries as to Felipe's plans. Unquestioningly, like a little child, she resigned herself into his hands. A power greater than hers was ordering her way; Felipe was its instrument. No other voice spoke to guide her. The same old simplicity of acceptance which had characterized her daily life in her girlhood, and kept her serene and sunny then,-- serene under trials, sunny in her routine of little duties,-- had kept her serene through all the afflictions, and calm, if not sunny, under all the burdens of her later life; and it did not desert her even now,
Aunt Ri gazed at her with a sentiment as near to veneration as her dry, humorous, practical nature was capable of feeling. "I allow I donno but I sh'd cum ter believin' in saints tew," she said, "ef I wuz ter live 'long side er thet gal. 'Pears like she wuz suthin' more 'n human. 'T beats me plum out, ther way she takes her troubles. Thar's sum would say she hedn't no feelin'; but I allow she hez more 'n most folks. I kin see, 'tain't thet. I allow I didn't never expect ter think 's well uv prayin' to picters, 'n' strings er beads, 'n' sech; but ef 't 's thet keeps her up ther way she's kept up, I allow thar's more in it 'n it's hed credit fur. I ain't gwine ter say enny more agin it' nor agin Injuns. 'Pears like I'm gittin' heaps er new idears inter my head, these days. I'll turn Injun, mebbe, afore I git through!"
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.