But it was not destined that stranger hands should bring succor to Ramona. Felipe had at last found trace of her. Felipe was on the way.
EFFECTUALLY misled by the faithful Carmena, Felipe had begun his search for Alessandro by going direct to Monterey. He found few Indians in the place, and not one had ever heard Alessandro's name. Six miles from the town was a little settlement of them, in hiding, in the bottoms of the San Carlos River, near the old Mission. The Catholic priest advised him to search there; sometimes, he said, fugitives of one sort and another took refuge in this settlement, lived there for a few months, then disappeared as noiselessly as they had come. Felipe searched there also; equally in vain.
He questioned all the sailors in port; all the shippers. No one had heard of an Indian shipping on board any vessel; in fact, a captain would have to be in straits before he would take an Indian in his crew.
"But this was an exceptionally good worker, this Indian; he could turn his hand to anything; he might have gone as ship's carpenter."
"That might be," they said; "nobody had ever heard of any such thing, however;" and very much they all wondered what it was that made the handsome, sad Mexican gentleman so anxious to find this Indian.
Felipe wasted weeks in Monterey. Long after he had ceased to hope, he lingered. He felt as if he would like to stay till every ship that had sailed out of Monterey in the last three years had returned. Whenever he heard of one coming into harbor, he hastened to the shore, and closely watched the disembarking. His melancholy countenance, with its eager, searching look, became a familiar sight to every one; even the children knew that the pale gentleman was looking for some one he could not find. Women pitied him, and gazed at him tenderly, wondering if a man could look like that for anything save the loss of a sweetheart. Felipe made no confidences. He simply asked, day after day, of every one he met, for an Indian named Alessandro Assis.
Finally he shook himself free from the dreamy spell of the place, and turned his face southward again. He went by the route which the Franciscan Fathers used to take, when the only road on the California coast was the one leading from Mission to Mission. Felipe had heard Father Salvierderra say that there were in the neighborhood of each of the old Missions Indian villages, or families still living. He thought it not improbable that, from Alessandro's father's long connection with the San Luis Rey Mission, Alessandro might be known to some of these Indians. He would leave no stone unturned; no Indian village unsearched; no Indian unquestioned.
San Juan Bautista came first; then Soledad, San Antonio, San Miguel, San Luis Obispo, Santa Inez; and that brought him to Santa Barbara. He had spent two months on the journey. At each of these places he found Indians; miserable, half-starved creatures, most of them. Felipe's heart ached, and he was hot with shame, at their condition. The ruins of the old Mission buildings were sad to see, but the human ruins were sadder. Now Felipe understood why Father Salvierderra's heart had broken, and why his mother had been full of such fierce indignation against the heretic usurpers and despoilers of the estates which the Franciscans once held. He could not understand why the Church had submitted, without fighting, to such indignities and robberies. At every one of the Missions he heard harrowing tales of the sufferings of those Fathers who had clung to their congregations to the last, and died at their posts. At Soledad an old Indian, weeping, showed him the grave of Father Sarria, who had died there of starvation. "He gave us all he had, to the last," said the old man. "He lay on a raw-hide on the ground, as we did; and one morning, before he had finished the mass, he fell forward at the altar and was dead. And when we put him in the grave, his body was only bones, and no flesh; he had gone so long without food, to give it to us."