"I bleeve so." said Jos. "They make some, at any rate. I donno's they make 'em all."
"It is all done by the American law," said Ramona, "all these things; nobody can help himself; for if anybody goes against the law he has to be killed or put in prison; that was what the sheriff told Alessandro, at Temecula. He felt very sorry for the Temecula people, the sheriff did; but he had to obey the law himself. Alessandro says there isn't any help."
Aunt Ri shook her head. She was not convinced. "I sh'll make a business o' findin' out abaout this thing yit," she said. "I think yer hain't got the rights on't yit. There's cheatin' somewhere!"
"It's all cheating." said Ramona; "but there isn't any help for it, Aunt Ri. The Americans think it is no shame to cheat for money."
"I'm an Ummeriken!" cried Aunt Ri; "an' Jeff Hyer, and Jos! We're Ummerikens! 'n' we wouldn't cheat nobody, not ef we knowed it, not out er a doller. We're pore, an' I allus expect to be, but we're above cheatin'; an' I tell you, naow, the Ummeriken people don't want any o' this cheatin' done, naow! I'm going to ask Jeff haow 'tis. Why, it's a burnin' shame to any country! So 'tis! I think something oughter be done abaout it! I wouldn't mind goin' myself, ef thar wan't anybody else!"
A seed had been sown in Aunt Ri's mind which was not destined to die for want of soil. She was hot with shame and anger, and full of impulse to do something. "I ain't nobody," she said; "I know thet well enough,-- I ain't nobody nor nothin'; but I allow I've got suthin' to say abaout the country I live in, 'n' the way things hed oughter be; or 't least Jeff hez; 'n' thet's the same thing. I tell yer, Jos, I ain't goin' to rest, nor ter give yeou 'n' yer father no rest nuther, till yeou find aout what all this yere means she's been tellin' us."
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.