"Senorita! Senorita! God bless you, Senorita!" they cried; and closed up their ranks around the baby, touching her, praising her, handing her from one to another.
Ramona stood for a few seconds watching them; then she said, "Give her to me, Marda. I will myself carry her into the house;" and she moved toward the inner door.
"This way, dear; this way," cried Felipe. "It is Father Salvierderra's room I ordered to be prepared for you, because it is so sunny for the baby!"
"Thanks, kind Felipe!" cried Ramona, and her eyes said more than her words. She knew he had divined the one thing she had most dreaded in returning,-- the crossing again the threshold of her own room. It would be long now before she would enter that room. Perhaps she would never enter it. How tender and wise of Felipe!
Yes; Felipe was both tender and wise, now. How long would the wisdom hold the tenderness in leash, as he day after day looked upon the face of this beautiful woman,-- so much more beautiful now than she had been before her marriage, that Felipe sometimes, as he gazed at her, thought her changed even in feature? But in this very change lay a spell which would for a long time surround her, and set her as apart from lover's thoughts as if she were guarded by a cordon of viewless spirits. There was a rapt look of holy communion on her face, which made itself felt by the dullest perception, and sometimes overawed even where it attracted. It was the same thing which Aunt Ri had felt, and formulated in her own humorous fashion. But old Marda put it better, when, one day, in reply to a half-terrified, low-whispered suggestion of Juan Can, to the effect that it was "a great pity that Senor Felipe hadn't married the Senorita years ago,-- what if he were to do it yet?" she said, also under her breath. "It is my opinion he'd as soon think of Saint Catharine herself! Not but that it would be a great thing if it could be!"
And now the thing that the Senora had imagined to herself so often had come about,-- the presence of a little child in her house, on the veranda, in the garden, everywhere; the sunny, joyous, blest presence. But how differently had it come! Not Felipe's child, as she proudly had pictured, but the child of Ramona: the friendless, banished Ramona returned now into full honor and peace as the daughter of the house,-- Ramona, widow of Alessandro. If the child had been Felipe's own, he could not have felt for it a greater love. From the first, the little thing had clung to him as only second to her mother. She slept hours in his arms, one little hand hid in his dark beard, close to his lips, and kissed again and again when no one saw. Next to Ramona herself in Felipe's heart came Ramona's child; and on the child he could lavish the fondness he felt that he could never dare to show to the mother, Month by month it grew clearer to Felipe that the mainsprings of Ramona's life were no longer of this earth; that she walked as one in constant fellowship with one unseen. Her frequent and calm mention of Alessandro did not deceive him. It did not mean a lessening grief: it meant an unchanged relation.
One thing weighed heavily on Felipe's mind,-- the concealed treasure. A sense of humiliation withheld him, day after day, from speaking of it. But he could have no peace until Ramona knew it. Each hour that he delayed the revelation he felt himself almost as guilty as he had held his mother to be. At last he spoke. He had not said many words, before Ramona interrupted him. "Oh, yes!" she said. "I knew about those things; your mother told me. When we were in such trouble, I used to wish sometimes we could have had a few of the jewels. But they were all given to the Church. That was what the Senora Ortegna said must be done with them if I married against your mother's wishes."
It was with a shame-stricken voice that Felipe replied: "Dear Ramona, they were not given to the Church. You know Father Salvierderra died; and I suppose my mother did not know what to do with them. She told me about them just as she was dying."