Hoping against hope, the baffled Felipe rode on to San Diego; and here, as ill-luck would have it, he found, not Father Gaspara, who would at his first word have understood all, but a young Irish priest, who had only just come to be Father Gaspara's assistant. Father Gaspara was away in the mountains, at Santa Ysabel. But the young assistant would do equally well, to examine the records. He was courteous and kind; brought out the tattered old book, and, looking over his shoulder, his breath coming fast with excitement and fear, there Felipe read, in Father Gaspara's hasty and blotted characters, the fatal entry of the names, "Alessandro Assis and Majella Fa --"
Heart-sick, Felipe went away. Most certainly Ramona would never have been married under any but her own name. Who, then, was this woman whom Alessandro Assis had married in less than ten days from the night on which Ramona had left her home? Some Indian woman for whom he felt compassion, or to whom he was bound by previous ties? And where, in what lonely, forever hidden spot, was the grave of Ramona?
Now at last Felipe felt sure that she was dead. It was useless searching farther. Yet, after he reached home, his restless conjectures took one more turn, and he sat down and wrote a letter to every priest between San Diego and Monterey, asking if there were on his books a record of the marriage of one Alessandro Assis and Ramona Ortegna.
It was not impossible that there might be, after all, another Alessandro Assis, The old Fathers, in baptizing their tens of thousands of Indian converts, were sore put to it to make out names enough. There might have been another Assis besides old Pablo, and of Alessandros there were dozens everywhere.
This last faint hope also failed. No record anywhere of an Alessandro Assis, except in Father Gaspara's book.
As Felipe was riding out of San Pasquale, he had seen an Indian man and woman walking by the side of mules heavily laden. Two little children, two young or too feeble to walk, were so packed in among the bundles that their faces were the only part of them in sight. The woman was crying bitterly. "More of these exiles. God help the poor creatures!" thought Felipe; and he pulled out his purse, and gave the woman a piece of gold. She looked up in as great astonishment as if the money had fallen from the skies. "Thanks! Thanks, Senor!" she exclaimed; and the man coming up to Felipe said also, "God reward you, Senor! That is more money than I had in the world! Does the Senor know of any place where I could get work?"
Felipe longed to say, "Yes, come to my estate; there you shall have work!" In the olden time he would have done it without a second thought, for both the man and the woman had good faces,-- were young and strong. But the pay-roll of the Moreno estate was even now too long for its dwindled fortunes. "No, my man, I am sorry to say I do not," he answered. "I live a long way from here. Where were you thinking of going?"
"Somewhere in San Jacinto," said the man. "They say the Americans have not come in there much yet. I have a brother living there. Thanks, Senor; may the saints reward you!"