But sharper and closer anxieties than any connected with rights to lands and homes were pressing upon Alessandro and Ramona. All summer the baby had been slowly drooping; so slowly that it was each day possible for Ramona to deceive herself, thinking that there had been since yesterday no loss, perhaps a little gain; but looking back from the autumn to the spring, and now from the winter to the autumn, there was no doubt that she had been steadily going down. From the day of that terrible chill in the snow-storm, she had never been quite well, Ramona thought. Before that, she was strong, always strong, always beautiful and merry, Now her pinched little face was sad to see, and sometimes for hours she made a feeble wailing cry without any apparent cause. All the simple remedies that Aunt Ri had known, had failed to touch her disease; in fact, Aunt Ri from the first had been baffled in her own mind by the child's symptoms. Day after day Alessandro knelt by the cradle, his hands clasped, his face set. Hour after hour, night and day, indoors and out, he bore her in his arms, trying to give her relief. Prayer after prayer to the Virgin, to the saints, Ramona had said; and candles by the dozen, though money was now scant, she had burned before the Madonna; all in vain. At last she implored Alessandro to go to San Bernardino and see a doctor. "Find Aunt Ri," she said; "she will go with you, with Jos, and talk to him; she can make him understand. Tell Aunt Ri she seems just as she did when they were here, only weaker and thinner."
Alessandro found Aunt Ri in a sort of shanty on the outskirts of San Bernardino. "Not to rights yit," she said,-- as if she ever would be. Jeff had found work; and Jos, too, had been able to do a little on pleasant days. He had made a loom and put up a loom-house for his mother,-- a floor just large enough to hold the loom, rough walls, and a roof; one small square window,-- that was all; but if Aunt Ri had been presented with a palace, she would not have been so well pleased. Already she had woven a rag carpet for herself, was at work on one for a neighbor, and had promised as many more as she could do before spring; the news of the arrival of a rag-carpet weaver having gone with despatch all through the lower walks of San Bernardino life. "I wouldn't hev bleeved they hed so many rags besides what they're wearin'," said Aunt Ri, as sack after sack appeared at her door. Already, too, Aunt Ri had gathered up the threads of the village life; in her friendly, impressionable way she had come into relation with scores of people, and knew who was who, and what was what, and why, among them all, far better than many an old resident of the town.
When she saw Benito galloping up to her door, she sprang down from her high stool at the loom, and ran bareheaded to the gate, and before Alessandro had dismounted, cried: "Ye're jest the man I wanted; I've been tryin' to 'range it so's we could go down 'n' see yer, but Jeff couldn't leave the job he's got; an' I'm druv nigh abaout off my feet, 'n' I donno when we'd hev fetched it. How's all? Why didn't yer come in ther wagon 'n' fetch 'em 'long? I've got heaps ter tell yer. I allowed yer hadn't got the rights o' all them things. The Guvvermunt ain't on the side o' the thieves, as yer said. I knowed they couldn't be,' an' they've jest sent out a man a purpose to look after things fur yer,-- to take keer o' the Injuns 'n' nothin' else. That's what he's here fur. He come last month; he's a reel nice man. I seen him 'n' talked with him a spell, last week; I'm gwine to make his wife a rag carpet. 'N' there's a doctor, too, to 'tend ter yer when ye're sick, 'n' the Guvvermunt pays him; yer don't hev to pay nothin'; 'n' I tell yeow, thet's a heap o' savin', to git yer docterin' fur nuthin'!"
Aunt Ri was out of breath. Alessandro had not understood half she said. He looked about helplessly for Jos. Jos was away. In his broken English he tried to explain what Ramona had wished her to do.
"Doctor! Thet's jest what I'm tellin' yer! There is one here's paid by the Guvvermunt to 'tend to the Injuns thet's sick. I'll go 'n' show yer ter his house. I kin tell him jest how the baby is. P'r'aps he'll drive down 'n' see her!"
Ah! if he would! What would Majella say, should she see him enter the door bringing a doctor!
Luckily Jos returned in time to go with them to the doctor's house as interpreter. Alessandro was bewildered. He could not understand this new phase of affairs, Could it be true? As they walked along, he listened with trembling, half-incredulous hope to Jos's interpretation of Aunt Ri's voluble narrative.
The doctor was in his office. To Aunt Ri's statement of Alessandro's errand he listened indifferently, and then said, "Is he an Agency Indian?"