Aunt Ri was deeply grieved. She could not understand Ramona's feeling. It rankled deep. "I allow I'd never hev bleeved it uv her, never," she said. "I shan't never think she wuz quite right 'n her head, to do 't! I allow we shan't never set eyes on ter her, Jos. I've got jest thet feelin' abaout it. 'Pears like she'd gone klar out 'er this yer world inter anuther."
The majestic bulwark of San Jacinto Mountain looms in the southern horizon of the San Bernardino valley. It was in full sight from the door of the little shanty in which Aunt Ri's carpet-loom stood. As she sat there hour after hour, sometimes seven hours to the day, working the heavy treadle, and slipping the shuttle back and forth, she gazed with tender yearnings at the solemn, shining summit. When sunset colors smote it, it glowed like fire; on cloudy days, it was lost in the clouds.
"'Pears like 'twas next door to heaven, up there, Jos," Aunt Ri would say. "I can't tell yer the feelin' 't comes over me, to look up 't it, ever sence I knowed she wuz there. 'T shines enuf to put yer eyes aout, sometimes; I allow 'tain't so light's thet when you air into 't; 't can't be; ther couldn't nobody stan' it, ef 't wuz. I allow 't must be like bein' dead, Jos, don't yer think so, to be livin' thar? He sed ther couldn't nobody git to 'em. Nobody ever seed the place but hisself. He found it a huntin'. Thar's water thar, 'n' thet's abaout all thar is, fur's I cud make aout; I allow we shan't never see her agin."
The horses and the wagon were indeed a godsend to Jos. It was the very thing he had been longing for; the only sort of work he was as yet strong enough to do, and there was plenty of it to be had in San Bernardino. But the purchase of a wagon suitable for the purpose was at present out of their power; the utmost Aunt Ri had hoped to accomplish was to have, at the end of a year, a sufficient sum laid up to buy one. They had tried in vain to exchange their heavy emigrant-wagon for one suitable for light work. "'Pears like I'd die o' shame," said Aunt Ri, "sometimes when I ketch myself er thinkin' what luck et's ben to Jos, er gettin' thet Injun's hosses an' waggin. But ef Jos keeps on, airnin' ez much ez he hez so fur, he's goin' ter pay the Injun part on 't, when he cums. I allow ter Jos 'tain't no more'n fair. Why, them hosses, they'll dew good tew days' work'n one. I never see sech hosses; 'n' they're jest like kittens; they've ben drefful pets, I allow. I know she set all the world, 'n' more tew, by thet nigh one. He wuz hern, ever sence she wuz a child. Pore thing,-- 'pears like she hedn't hed no chance!"
Alessandro had put off, from day to day, the killing of the cow. It went hard with him to slaughter the faithful creature, who knew him, and came towards him at the first sound of his voice. He had pastured her, since the baby died, in a canon about three miles northeast of the village,-- a lovely green canon with oak-trees and a running brook. It was here that he had thought of building his house if they had stayed in Saboba. But Alessandro laughed bitterly to himself now, as he recalled that dream. Already the news had come to Saboba that a company had been formed for the settling up of the San Jacinto valley; the Ravallo brothers had sold to this company a large grant of land. The white ranchmen in the valley were all fencing in their lands; no more free running of stock. The Saboba people were too poor to build miles of fencing; they must soon give up keeping stock; and the next thing would be that they would be driven out, like the people of Temecula. It was none too soon that he had persuaded Majella to flee to the mountain. There, at least, they could live and die in peace,-- a poverty-stricken life, and the loneliest of deaths; but they would have each other. It was well the baby had died; she was saved all this misery. By the time she had grown to be a woman, if she had lived, there would be no place in all the country where an Indian could find refuge. Brooding over such thoughts as these, Alessandro went up into the canon one morning. It must be done. Everything was ready for their move; it would take many days to carry even their few possessions up the steep mountain trail to their new home; the pony which had replaced Benito and Baba could not carry a heavy load. While this was being done, Ramona would dry the beef which would be their supply of meat for many months. Then they would go,
At noon he came down with the first load of the meat, and Ramona began cutting it into long strips, as is the Mexican fashion of drying. Alessandro returned for the remainder. Early in the afternoon, as Ramona went to and fro about her work, she saw a group of horsemen riding from house to house, in the upper part of the village; women came running out excitedly from each house as the horsemen left it; finally one of them darted swiftly up the hill to Ramona. "Hide it! hide it!" she cried, breathless; "hide the meat! It is Merrill's men, from the end of the valley. They have lost a steer, and they say we stole it. They found the place, with blood on it, where it was killed; and they say we did it. Oh, hide the meat! They took all that Fernando had; and it was his own, that he bought; he did not know anything about their steer!"
"I shall not hide it!" cried Ramona, indignantly. "It is our own cow. Alessandro killed it to-day."
"They won't believe you!" said the woman, in distress. "They'll take it all away. Oh, hide some of it!" And she dragged a part of it across the floor, and threw it under the bed, Ramona standing by, stupefied.