CHAPTER XVI: THE HOME OF RAMONA


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THE HOME OF RAMONA WILLIAM A. ALDERSON

It was Camulos ranch to which Helen Hunt Jackson was directed by Don Antonio de Coronel and his cultured wife.

To this ranch Mrs. Jackson journeyed. It was the estate of Don Ygnacio del Valle, and his widow, Doña Ysabel del Valle, was its owner and mistress.

Señora del Valle gave much of her life to humanitarian work, and being absent upon an errand of mercy upon the occasion of Mrs. Jackson's visit, did not see her; but her religious ardor and fidelity, so correctly portrayed in the character of Señora Moreno, was subsequently related to the author of Ramona by the Coronels.

That Camulos ranch was selected and intended as the home of Ramona is not to be questioned. Mrs. Jackson herself so declared, especially to the Coronels and to one of the authors of this volume, and the description in the story of the ranch and its appurtenances and surroundings positively identify it.


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Mrs. Jackson was not disappointed. Chapter II of Ramona opens with this general statement of the ranch: ‘‘The Señora Moreno's house was one of the best specimens to be found in California of the representative house of the half-barbaric, half-elegant, wholly-generous and free-handed life led there by Mexican men and women of degree in the early part of this century, under the rule of the Spanish and Mexican viceroys. . . . It was a picturesque life, with more of sentiment and gaiety in it; more also that was truly dramatic; more romance than will ever be seen again on those sunny shores. The aroma of it all lingers there still; industries and inventions have not yet slain it; it will last out its century.’’

A visit to Camulos ranch on July 2, 1913, enables me to revoice the declaration that ‘‘the aroma of it all lingers there still.’’ ‘‘The Señora Moreno's house’’ is there just as Mrs. Jackson saw and described it. There are the same white walls, the wide court verandas, ‘‘and a still broader one across the entire front, which looked to the south.’’ There is the dining-room, ‘‘on the opposite side of the courtyard from the kitchen,’’ and the same stairs leading from a higher to a lower part of the


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south veranda, where Alessandro sat and played his violin to the stricken Felipe. Father Salvierderra's room, at the southeast corner of the house, and the barred window through which Ramona ‘‘saw Alessandro pacing up and down the walk’’ in the moonlight and by which she sat, peering sadly and wistfully into the night, made a prisoner by the angered Señora Moreno when discovered by her in the arms of Alessandro in the willows--these are there, just as Mrs. Jackson saw and described them.

Inscription written by  in first copy of  she received, and which she gave to Señora .

INSCRIPTION IN FIRST COPY OF RAMONA

FIRST COPY OF RAMONA AND TABLE ON WHICH MOST OF THE MANUSCRIPT WAS WRITTEN

On the hills to the north and south are the identical crosses described in the story of Ramona, erected by Señora Moreno ‘‘that the heretics may know, when they go by, that they are on the estate of a good Catholic, and that the faithful may be reminded to pray.’’ There they still stand, ‘‘summer and winter, rain and shine, the silent, solemn, outstretched arms’’--the Blessed Cross, the sudden sight of which has wrought miracles of conversion on the most hardened. ‘‘Certain it is that many a good Catholic halted and crossed himself when he first beheld them in the lonely places, standing out in sudden relief against the blue sky.’’

The identical little chapel, ‘‘dearer to the Señora than her house,’’ with its white sides, in a setting of orange trees, is still there. Its


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altar is yet ‘‘surrounded by a really imposing row of holy and apostolic figures.’’ Its chests yet contain the most costly and elaborate vestments, some so heavily braided with gold as almost to be able to stand alone.

This chapel is a part of the history of the Catholic Church in California. Services are held within its historic and sacred portals as of old. Priests, many of them high dignitaries of the Church, visit it, that they may be able to say they officiated at its altar. Some bring their own vestments, not knowing what the chests of the chapel contain, and are astonished when shown the beautiful, gold-braided robes long kept and used in this miniature house of worship. Certain religious privileges have been granted to this little chapel which give to it a special character.

The chapel is only a frail frame building, the interior being twenty feet long and fourteen feet wide. Connected with the front is a roofed arcade, sides open and floored, thirty feet long and fourteen feet wide. In this arched addition are long benches running along the sides, for those who cannot find room within.

The torn altar cloth is still in existence and use, though not the only one that adorns the altar from time to time. This particular piece


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was made from Señora del Valle's wedding gown. It is the subject of one of the most interesting and eventful climaxes of the story. The fence on which Margarita hung this altar adornment to dry after washing it, preparatory to the coming of Father Salvierderra, is still intact. It divides the yard from the artichoke patch, into which the cloth was blown and then dragged and torn by Capitan, Juan Canito's favorite collie.

There is the same wide, straight walk, shaded by a trellis, that leads down to the brook and the willow trees, where were ‘‘the broad flat stone washboards, on which was done all the family washing.’’ But the brook is now to the north, nearer the house. The trellis is not now ‘‘so knotted and twisted with grapevines that little’’ of the woodwork is to be seen, but grapevines are vigorously climbing over it.

The big gnarled willow tree, under which were the flat stone washboards, and in the evening shadows of which Alessandro first beheld Ramona, is still at the foot of the arbor. The pomegranate trees yet mark the border of the orange grove in front of the house.

‘‘The little graveyard on the hillside,’’ where the Señora Moreno was ‘‘laid by the side of her husband and her children,’’ with its picket


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fence and wooden crosses, still bears its awful silence in the shadow of a single pepper tree.

The gray stone bowls, ‘‘hollowed and polished, shining inside and out,’’ ‘‘made by the Indians, nobody knew how many ages ago, . . . with only stones for tools,’’ which were used as flower pots, now adorn the rim of the cement fountain which is in the orange trees near the chapel.

Four shepherd dogs, the common ranch breed, answered the call for dinner, and suggested their illustrious forefather Capitan, Juan Canito's favorite collie, which went away in the stillness of that tragic night with Ramona and Alessandro, when they eloped from Camulos ranch and fled to Temecula. ‘‘The dogs, the poultry, all loved the sight of Ramona.’’

And there is yet to be seen the same public road which the commissioners located in the rear of the house, concerning which Señora Moreno exclaimed: ‘‘It is well. Let their travel be where it belongs, behind our kitchen, and no one have sight of the front doors of our houses, except friends who have come to visit us. . . . Whenever she saw passing the place wagons or carriages belonging to the hated Americans, it gave her a distinct thrill


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of pleasure to think that the house turned its back on them.’’ This road is now the main county thoroughfare through the Santa Clara Valley, in which is located Camulos ranch.

GRAPE ARBOR AND OLIVE MILL

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INNER COURT AND OLD WINERY, CAMULOS

The winery, where the finest of vintages were pressed and the juice aged to a perfect nectar, still stands, though now but a storehouse for abandoned casks and ranch implements. And there, under a cottonwood tree, is the same mortero used in making olive oil in the days long gone by.

Less than a hundred feet from the chapel, and in line with the picket fence in its rear, is an oak frame from which, at the time of Mrs. Jackson's visit, hung three Mission bells. They were brought from Spain, and had done long service in one of the old Franciscan Missions in California. These bells were swung in the shape of a triangle. The top one was used to call to meals, the largest to summon those on the ranch to chapel, and the third to call the children to school. The belfry frame, with two of the bells, remains undisturbed, evidencing the old days on this splendid hacienda. The missing bell was taken away some time ago by one of the daughters of Señora del Valle, Mrs. Josefa Forster, and placed in the chapel erected


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at her residence in Los Angeles, where it does appropriate service to this day.

There is also still standing the large white cross just within the picket fence near the chapel.

Although not of sufficient size at the time of Mrs. Jackson's visit to attract attention, there is now, to the west of the house about one hundred feet, the largest English walnut tree known. Its trunk measures six feet in diameter, and its branches extend fifty-two feet from the body of the tree in every direction. Beneath its ample shade are a number of chairs cut from the trunks of big orange trees, in which one may comfortably recline on the hottest day.

Only a few minor changes have taken place since Mrs. Jackson's visit. The chief industry is no longer the rearing of sheep. The sweeping acres are in a high state of cultivation. Fruit-pickers have superseded sheep-shearers. Semi-tropical fruits and grain constitute the principal crops.

The almond orchard has given way to oranges. The sheep-shearing sheds and corrals are no more. Large barns, stables and pens have supplanted the old corrals and tule-covered sheds.


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‘‘The second willow copse, which lay perhaps a quarter of a mile west of the first,’’ where Ramona met Alessandro on his return from Temecula the night they stole away from the Señora Moreno's, is gone, washed away by a flood in the Santa Clara River; and the garden of flowers in front of the house is now a part of the orange grove ‘‘between the veranda and the river meadows.’’

Camulos ranch is still owned by the del Valle family. On the day of my visit there, July 2, 1913, I was cordially received by Don Ulpiano del Valle, one of the sons, who is in active charge of the ranch and resides there. Mr. Charles H. Cram and his wife, who was Miss Ysabel del Valle, a daughter of Doña Ysabel del Valle, were visiting the ranch on that day.

Though I have many times passed through Camulos on the train, I had never before stopped there. Mr. Cram spent the day with me, and was especially courteous and obviously pleased in pointing out many features described or named in Ramona, explaining in detail the changes wrought.

Upon the occasion of his first visit to Camulos, Christmas time, twenty-five years previous, Mr. Cram said there were seventy-two


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guests present. Of the hospitality of the ranch Mrs. Jackson wrote: ‘‘Nobody ever knew exactly how many women were in the kitchen, or how many men in the fields. There were always women cousins, or brothers' wives or widows or daughters, who had come to stay, or men cousins, or sisters' husbands or sons, who were stopping on their way up or down the valley. When it came to the pay-roll, Señor Felipe knew to whom he paid wages; but who were fed and lodged under his roof, that was quite another thing. It could not enter into the head of a Mexican gentleman to make either count or account of that. It would be a disgraceful, niggardly thought. . . . In the General's day it had been a free-handed boast of his that never less than fifty persons, men, women and children, were fed within his gates each day; how many more, he did not care nor know. . . . Hardly a day passed that the Señora had not visitors. She was still a person of note; her house the natural resting place for all who journeyed through the valley.’’

I sat on the court veranda during the preparation of the noon meal, to which I was invited with cultured and gracious insistence. The feelings which obsessed me were indescribably intense. I knew the name and life of every


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character mentioned in the Ramona story, and they lived again in the dreamy fancy that possessed me. There were little ones, some the grandchildren of Señora del Valle, playing about the kitchen, replica of the scene witnessed by Mrs. Jackson and which inspired the sentence: ‘‘The troop of youngsters which still swarmed around the kitchen quarters of Señora Moreno's house, almost as numerous and inexplicable as in the grand old days of the General's time.’’ I saw the servants carrying from the kitchen to the dining-room, ‘‘on the opposite side of the court-yard,’’ dishes of steaming food; and on entering the dining-room the generous table recalled Mrs. Jackson's description of a meal at Camulos ranch: ‘‘A great dish of spiced beef and cabbage in the center of the table; a tureen of thick soup, with forcemeat balls and red peppers in it; two red earthen platters heaped, one with boiled rice and onions, the other with the delicious frijoles (beans) so dear to all Mexican hearts; cut-glass dishes filled with hot stewed pears, or preserved quinces, or grape jelly.’’

I stood on every spot of Camulos ranch mentioned in Ramona. I climbed the hill to the north and reverently bowed before one of the Señora's crosses, and, though a ‘‘heretic,’’ realized


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that I ‘‘was on the estate of a good Catholic.’’ In fancy I saw Juan Canito, the head shepherd, again in life, on ‘‘the sunny veranda of the south side of the kitchen wing of the house,’’ sitting ‘‘on the low bench, his head leaning back against the whitewashed wall, his long legs stretched out nearly across the whole width of the veranda, his pipe firmly wedged in the extreme left corner of his mouth, his hands in his pockets--the picture of placid content.’’ Again there were the Indian sheep-shearers, ‘‘forms, dusky black against the fiery western sky, coming down the valley.’’ Under the identical willow tree described in the story I could see Ramona, ‘‘her hair in disorder, her sleeves pinned loosely on her shoulders, her whole face aglow with the earnestness of her task,’’ bending ‘‘low over the stones, rinsing the altar cloth up and down in the water, anxiously scanning it, then plunging it in again.’’

And how thrilling it was to complete the picture! ‘‘It was the band of Indian sheep-shearers. They turned to the left, and went toward the sheep sheds and booths. But there was one of them that Ramona did not see. He had been standing for some minutes concealed behind a large willow tree a few rods from the


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place where Ramona was kneeling. It was Alessandro, son of Pablo Assis, captain of the sheep-shearing band. Walking slowly along in advance of his men, he had felt a light, as from a mirror held in the sun, smite his eyes. It was the red sunbeam on the glittering water where Ramona knelt. In the same second he saw Ramona. He halted, as wild creatures of the forest halt at a sound, gazed, walked abruptly away from his men, who kept on, not noticing his disappearance. Cautiously he moved a few steps nearer, into the shelter of the gnarled old willow, from behind which he could gaze unperceived on the beautiful vision --for so it seemed to him.’’

West veranda, inner court, , as it appeared . Two of the three Mission bells at , .

WEST VERANDA AND BELLS, CAMULOS

NORTH SIDE OF KITCHEN AND PUBLIC ROAD

I could see Alessandro and Ramona in the darkness of the night in which they went out into a homeless world, with love as their only hope and courage, ‘‘under the willows--the same copse where he first halted at his first sight of Ramona’’; could hear his soft Indian voice telling her he thought of her as ‘‘Majel,’’ and saying to her, ‘‘it is the name of the bird you are like--the wood-dove--in the Luiseno tongue. . . . It is by that name I have often thought of you since the night I watched all night for you, after you kissed me, and two wood-doves were calling and answering each


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other in the dark; . . . and the wood-dove is true to its mate always.’’

There was Marda, the old cook, again officiating in the kitchen; Margarita, ‘‘the youngest and prettiest of the housemaids,’’ agitated and sobbing because, through her negligence, the altar cloth had blown into the artichoke patch and been torn by Capitan, the shepherd dog; Juanita, the eldest of the house servants, silly, ‘‘good for nothing except to shell beans.’’

And there again was the Señora Moreno, ‘‘so quiet, so reserved, so gentle an exterior never was known to veil such an imperious and passionate nature, brimful of storm, always passing through stress; never thwarted, except at peril of those who did it; adored and hated by turn, and each at the hottest. A tremendous force wherever she appeared.’’

It was not difficult to picture the Señora bending over Felipe as he lay ill with fever in the raw-hide bed made by Alessandro, on the raised part of the south veranda, from which stairs lead to the lower portion. I sat on these steps, and fancied I could see Alessandro as he played his violin to soothe the suffering Felipe, his music at all times sad and plaintive because of his love for Ramona.


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In the valley in which Camulos ranch is located I have seen the wild mustard growing just as described in Ramona--‘‘in the branches of which the birds of the air may rest. . . . With a clear blue sky behind it . . . it looks like a golden snow storm.’’ It is a beautiful picture drawn by Mrs. Jackson of the meeting of Father Salvierderra and Ramona in the mustard.

Father Salvierderra! His is the strong, towering, grand character of Ramona! I stood in the room in the southeast corner of the ranch dwelling always reserved for this saintly man. I felt I was on a hallowed spot. ‘‘It had a window to the south and one to the east. When the first glow of dawn came in the sky, this eastern window was lit up as by a fire. The Father was always on watch for it, having usually been at prayer for hours. As the first ray reached the window he would throw the casement wide open, and standing there with bared head, strike up the melody of the sunrise hymn sung in all devout Mexican families.’’

From this room I went to the little chapel, with its white walls, set in the orange grove. The night of the angered scene between Señora Moreno and Ramona, when the Señora discovered


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Ramona in Alessandro's arms at the willows which shade the washing stones at the brook, Alessandro ‘‘hid behind the geranium clump at the chapel door . . . watching Ramona's window, . . . racked by his emotions; . . . Ramona loved him; she had told him so.’’

Passing through the arched approach, the door of the chapel was opened. Silently I entered. A taper was burning. There was the altar, still ‘‘surrounded by a really imposing row of holy and apostolic figures.’’ There was the same torn altar cloth, so deftly repaired by Ramona that the rent in it might not be noticed; but it did not escape the keen and observing eyes of Helen Hunt Jackson.

What thoughts seized me! How vividly real seemed all that is in the Ramona story concerning this sacred place! I could see ‘‘the chapel full of kneeling men and women; those who could not find room inside kneeling on the garden walks; Father Salvierderra, in gorgeous vestments, coming, at close of the services, slowly down the aisle, the close-packed rows of worshipers parting to right and left to let him through, all looking up eagerly for his blessing, women giving him offerings of fruit


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or flowers, and holding up their babies, that he might lay his hands on their heads.’’

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INTERIOR OF CAMULOS CHAPEL

VERANDA OF INNER COURT AND WALNUT TREE

Father Salvierderra! Consecrated to the tenets and purposes of the Catholic Church; trudging over mountain and through valley from his home, the Santa Barbara Mission, to cheer and bless the humble and the high alike. ‘‘To wear a shoe in place of a sandal, to take money in a purse for a journey, above all to lay aside the gray gown and cowl for any sort of secular garment, seemed to him wicked. To own comfortable clothes while there were others suffering for want of them--and there were always such--seemed to him a sin for which one might not undeservedly be smitten with sudden and terrible punishment. In vain the Brothers again and again supplied him with a warm cloak; he gave it away to the first beggar he met.’’ ‘‘What can I do to help you?’’ was the ever-ready question that revealed his unselfish and sympathetic nature.

And there in this chapel, a holy spot in the wilderness, I stood with bowed head and solemn thought, touched by the memory and spirit of this grand, this noble Franciscan; ‘‘so revered and loved by all who had come under his influence, that they would wait long months without the offices of the church, rather than confess


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their sins or confide their perplexities to anyone else.’’ I was impelled to cry out, as though in his living presence, as did Agrippa to Paul, ‘‘Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.’’

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