Not to be outdone

"In the wild October night-time, when the wind raved round

time:2023-11-30 12:59:56Classification:powersource:ios

Judge Wells was a frontiersman, and by no means sentimentally inclined; but the tears stood in his eyes as he looked at the unconscious Ramona.

Farrar had pleaded that the preliminary hearing might take place immediately; but after this visit to the village, the judge refused his request, and appointed the trial a week from that day, to give time for Ramona to recover, and appear as a witness. He impressed upon the Indians as strongly as he could the importance of having her appear. It was evident that Farrar's account of the affair was false from first to last. Alessandro had no knife. He had not had time to go many steps from the door; the volley of oaths, and the two shots almost simultaneously, were what Ramona heard as she ran to the door. Alessandro could not have spoken many words.

The day for the hearing came. Farrar had been, during the interval, in a merely nominal custody; having been allowed to go about his business, on his own personal guarantee of appearing in time for the trial. It was with a strange mixture of regret and relief that Judge Wells saw the hour of the trial arrive, and not a witness on the ground except Farrar himself. That Farrar was a brutal ruffian, the whole country knew. This last outrage was only one of a long series; the judge would have been glad to have committed him for trial, and have seen him get his deserts. But San Jacinto Valley, wild, sparsely settled as it was, had yet as fixed standards and criterions of popularity as the most civilized of communities could show; and to betray sympathy with Indians was more than any man's political head was worth. The word "justice" had lost its meaning, if indeed it ever had any, so far as they were concerned. The valley was a unit on that question, however divided it might be upon others. On the whole, the judge was relieved, though it was not without a bitter twinge, as of one accessory after the deed, and unfaithful to a friend; for he had known Alessandro well. Yet, on the whole, he was relieved when he was forced to accede to the motion made by Farrar's counsel, that "the prisoner be discharged on ground of justifiable homicide, no witnesses having appeared against him."

He comforted himself by thinking -- what was no doubt true -- that even if the case had been brought to a jury trial, the result would have been the same; for there would never have been found a San Diego County jury that would convict a white man of murder for killing an Indian, if there were no witnesses to the occurrence except the Indian wife. But he derived small comfort from this. Alessandro's face haunted him, and also the memory of Ramona's, as she lay tossing and moaning in the wretched Cahuilla hovel. He knew that only her continued illness, or her death, could explain her not having come to the trial. The Indians would have brought her in their arms all the way, if she had been alive and in possession of her senses.

During the summer that she and Alessandro had lived in Saboba he had seen her many times, and had been impressed by her rare quality. His children knew her and loved her; had often been in her house; his wife had bought her embroidery. Alessandro also had worked for him; and no one knew better than Judge Wells that Alessandro in his senses was as incapable of stealing a horse as any white man in the valley. Farrar knew it; everybody knew it. Everybody knew, also, about his strange fits of wandering mind; and that when these half-crazed fits came on him, he was wholly irresponsible. Farrar knew this. The only explanation of Farrar's deed was, that on seeing his horse spent and exhausted from having been forced up that terrible trail, he was seized by ungovernable rage, and fired on the second, without knowing what he did. "But he wouldn't have done it, if it hadn't been an Indian!" mused the judge. "He'd ha' thought twice before he shot any white man down, that way."

Day after day such thoughts as these pursued the judge, and he could not shake them off. An uneasy sense that he owed something to Ramona, or, if Ramona were dead, to the little child she had left, haunted him. There might in some such way be a sort of atonement made to the murdered, unavenged Alessandro. He might even take the child, and bring it up in his own house. That was by no means an uncommon thing in the valley. The longer he thought, the more he felt himself eased in his mind by this purpose; and he decided that as soon as he could find leisure he would go to the Cahuilla village and see what could be done.

But it was not destined that stranger hands should bring succor to Ramona. Felipe had at last found trace of her. Felipe was on the way.

EFFECTUALLY misled by the faithful Carmena, Felipe had begun his search for Alessandro by going direct to Monterey. He found few Indians in the place, and not one had ever heard Alessandro's name. Six miles from the town was a little settlement of them, in hiding, in the bottoms of the San Carlos River, near the old Mission. The Catholic priest advised him to search there; sometimes, he said, fugitives of one sort and another took refuge in this settlement, lived there for a few months, then disappeared as noiselessly as they had come. Felipe searched there also; equally in vain.



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