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It was Alessandro, too, who had picked up in the artichoke-patch all of the last year's seed-vessels which had not been trampled down by the cattle, and bringing one to her, had asked shyly if she did not think it prettier than flowers made out of paper. His people, he said, made wreaths of them. And so they were, more beautiful than any paper flowers which ever were made,-- great soft round disks of fine straight threads like silk, with a kind of saint's halo around them of sharp, stiff points, glossy as satin, and of a lovely creamy color. It was the strangest thing in the world nobody had ever noticed them as they lay there on the ground. She had put a great wreath of them around Saint Joseph's head, and a bunch in the Madonna's hand; and when the Senora saw them, she exclaimed in admiration, and thought they must have been made of silk and satin.

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And Alessandro had brought her beautiful baskets, made by the Indian women at Pala, and one which had come from the North, from the Tulare country; it had gay feathers woven in with the reeds,-- red and yellow, in alternate rows, round and round. It was like a basket made out of a bright-colored bird.

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And a beautiful stone bowl Alessandro had brought her, glossy black, that came all the way from Catalina Island; a friend of Alessandro's got it. For the first few weeks it had seemed as if hardly a day passed that there was not some new token to be chronicled of Alessandro's thoughtfulness and good-will. Often, too, Ramona had much to tell that Alessandro had said,-- tales of the old Mission days that he had heard from his father; stories of saints, and of the early Fathers, who were more like saints than like men, Alessandro said,-- Father Junipero, who founded the first Missions, and Father Crespi, his friend. Alessandro's grandfather had journeyed with Father Crespi as his servant, and many a miracle he had with his own eyes seen Father Crespi perform. There was a cup out of which the Father always took his chocolate for breakfast,-- a beautiful cup, which was carried in a box, the only luxury the Father had; and one morning it was broken, and everybody was in terror and despair. "Never mind, never mind," said the Father; "I will make it whole;" and taking the two pieces in his hands, he held them tight together, and prayed over them, and they became one solid piece again, and it was used all through the journey, just as before.

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But now, Ramona never spoke voluntarily of Alessandro. To Felipe's sometimes artfully put questions or allusions to him, she made brief replies, and never continued the topic; and Felipe had observed another thing: she now rarely looked at Alessandro. When he was speaking to others she kept her eyes on the ground. If he addressed her, she looked quickly up at him, but lowered her eyes after the first glance. Alessandro also observed this, and was glad of it. He understood it. He knew how differently she could look in his face in the rare moments when they were alone together. He fondly thought he alone knew this; but he was mistaken. Margarita knew. She had more than once seen it.

It had happened more than once that he had found Ramona at the willows by the brook, and had talked with her there. The first time it happened, it was a chance; after that never a chance again, for Alessandro went often seeking the spot, hoping to find her. In Ramona's mind too, not avowed, but half consciously, there was, if not the hope of seeing him there, at least the memory that it was there they had met. It was a pleasant spot,-- cool and shady even at noon, and the running water always full of music. Ramona often knelt there of a morning, washing out a bit of lace or a handkerchief; and when Alessandro saw her, it went hard with him to stay away. At such moments the vision returned to him vividly of that first night when, for the first second, seeing her face in the sunset glow, he had thought her scarce mortal. It was not that he even now thought her less a saint; but ah, how well he knew her to be human! He had gone alone in the dark to this spot many a time, and, lying on the grass, put his hands into the running water, and played with it dreamily, thinking, in his poetic Indian fashion, thoughts like these: "Whither have gone the drops that passed beneath her hands, just here? These drops will never find those in the sea; but I love this water!"

Margarita had seen him thus lying, and without dreaming of the refined sentiment which prompted his action, had yet groped blindly towards it, thinking to herself: "He hopes his Senorita will come down to him there. A nice place it is for a lady to meet her lover, at the washing-stones! It will take swifter water than any in that brook, Senorita Ramona, to wash you white in the Senora's eyes, if ever she come upon you there with the head shepherd, making free with him, may be! Oh, but if that could only happen, I'd die content!" And the more Margarita watched, the more she thought it not unlikely that it might turn out so. It was oftener at the willows than anywhere else that Ramona and Alessandro met; and, as Margarita noticed with malicious satisfaction, they talked each time longer, each time parted more lingeringly. Several times it had happened to be near supper-time; and Margarita, with one eye on the garden-walk, had hovered restlessly near the Senora, hoping to be ordered to call the Senorita to supper.

"If but I could come on them of a sudden, and say to her as she did to me, 'You are wanted in the house'! Oh, but it would do my soul good! I'd say it so it would sting like a lash laid on both their faces! It will come! It will come! It will be there that she'll be caught one of these fine times she's having! I'll wait! It will come!"

IT came. And when it came, it fell out worse for Ramona than Margarita's most malicious hopes had pictured; but Margarita had no hand in it. It was the Senora herself.

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