List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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"Good," he said, wringing his old companion's hand.  "Go back
quietly now; hang round the corral, and when you see the carriage
climbing the last terrace raise your alarm.  Don't mind how loud it
is, there'll be nobody but the servants in the carriages."

He rode quickly back to the first carriage, at whose window Mrs.
Peyton's calm face was already questioning him.  He told her briefly
and concisely of the attack, and what he proposed to do.

"You have shown yourself so strong in matters of worse moment than
this," he added quietly, "that I have no fears for your courage.  I
have only to ask you to trust yourself to me, to put you back at
once in your own home.  Your presence there, just now, is the one
important thing, whatever happens afterwards."

She recognized his maturer tone and determined manner, and nodded
assent.  More than that, a faint fire came into her handsome eyes;
the two girls kindled their own at that flaming beacon, and sat with
flushed checks and suspended, indignant breath.  They were Western
Americans, and not over much used to imposition.

"You must get down before we raise the hill, and follow me on foot
through the grain.  I was thinking," he added, turning to Mrs.
Peyton, "of your boudoir window."

She had been thinking of it, too, and nodded.

"The vine has loosened the bars," he said.

"If it hasn't, we must squeeze through them," she returned simply.

At the end of the terrace Clarence dismounted, and helped them from
the carriage.  He then gave directions to the coachmen to follow the
road slowly to the corral in front of the casa, and tied his horse
behind the second carriage.  Then, with Mrs. Peyton and the two
young girls, he plunged into the grain.

It was hot, it was dusty, their thin shoes slipped in the crumbling
adobe, and the great blades caught in their crape draperies, but
they uttered no complaint.  Whatever ulterior thought was in their
minds, they were bent only on one thing at that moment,--on entering
the house at any hazard.  Mrs. Peyton had lived long enough on the
frontier to know the magic power of POSSESSION.  Susy already was
old enough to feel the acute feminine horror of the profanation of
her own belongings by alien hands.  Clarence, more cognizant of the
whole truth than the others, was equally silent and determined; and
Mary Rogers was fired with the zeal of loyalty.

Suddenly a series of blood-curdling yells broke from the direction
of the corral, and they stopped.  But Clarence at once recognized
the well-known war-whoop imitation of Jim Hooker,--infinitely more
gruesome and appalling than the genuine aboriginal challenge.  A
half dozen shots fired in quick succession had evidently the same
friendly origin.

"Now is our time," said Clarence eagerly.  "We must run for the

They had fortunately reached by this time the angle of the adobe
wall of the casa, and the long afternoon shadows of the building
were in their favor.  They pressed forward eagerly with the sounds
of Jim Hooker's sham encounter still in their ears, mingled with
answering shouts of defiance from strange voices within the building
towards the front.

They rapidly skirted the wall, even passing boldly before the back
gateway, which seemed empty and deserted, and the next moment stood
beside the narrow window of the boudoir.  Clarence's surmises were
correct; the iron grating was not only loose, but yielded to a
vigorous wrench, the vine itself acting as a lever to pull out the
rusty bars.  The young man held out his hand, but Mrs. Peyton, with
the sudden agility of a young girl, leaped into the window, followed
by Mary and Susy.  The inner casement yielded to her touch; the next
moment they were within the room.  Then Mrs. Peyton's flushed and
triumphant face reappeared at the window.

"It's all right; the men are all in the courtyard, or in the front
of the house.  The boudoir door is strong, and we can bolt them

"It won't be necessary," said Clarence quietly; "you will not be

"But are you not coming in?" she asked timidly, holding the window

Clarence looked at her with his first faint smile since Peyton's

"Of course I am, but not in THAT way.  I am going in by THE FRONT

She would have detained him, but, with a quick wave of his hand, he
left her, and ran swiftly around the wall of the casa toward the
front.  The gate was half open; a dozen excited men were gathered
before it and in the archway, and among them, whitened with dust,
blackened with powder, and apparently glutted with rapine, and still
holding a revolver in his hand, was Jim Hooker!  As Clarence
approached, the men quickly retreated inside the gate and closed it,
but not before he had exchanged a meaning glance with Jim.  When he
reached the gate, a man from within roughly demanded his business.

"I wish to see the leader of this party," said Clarence quietly.

"I reckon you do," returned the man, with a short laugh.  "But I
kalkilate HE don't return the compliment."

"He probably will when he reads this note to his employer,"
continued Clarence still coolly, selecting a paper from his
pocketbook.  It was addressed to Francisco Robles, Superintendent of
the Sisters' Title, and directed him to give Mr. Clarence Brant free
access to the property and the fullest information concerning it.
The man took it, glanced at it, looked again at Clarence, and then
passed the paper to a third man among the group in the courtyard.
The latter read it, and approached the gate carelessly.

"Well, what do you want?"

"I am afraid you have the advantage of me in being able to transact
business through bars," said Clarence, with slow but malevolent
distinctness, "and as mine is important, I think you had better open
the gate to me."

The slight laugh that his speech had evoked from the bystanders was
checked as the leader retorted angrily:--

"That's all very well; but how do I know that you're the man
represented in that letter?  Pancho Robles may know you, but I

"That you can find out very easily," said Clarence.  "There is a man
among your party who knows me,--Mr. Hooker.  Ask him."

The man turned, with a quick mingling of surprise and suspicion, to
the gloomy, imperturbable Hooker.  Clarence could not hear the reply
of that young gentleman, but it was evidently not wanting in his
usual dark, enigmatical exaggeration.  The man surlily opened the

"All the same," he said, still glancing suspiciously at Hooker, "I
don't see what HE'S got to do with you."

"A great deal," said Clarence, entering the courtyard, and stepping
into the veranda; "HE'S ONE OF MY TENANTS."

"Your WHAT?" said the man, with a coarse laugh of incredulity.

"My tenants," repeated Clarence, glancing around the courtyard
carelessly.  Nevertheless, he was relieved to notice that the three
or four Mexicans of the party did not seem to be old retainers of
the rancho.  There was no evidence of the internal treachery he had

"Your TENANTS!" echoed the man, with an uneasy glance at the faces
of the others.

"Yes," said Clarence, with business brevity; "and, for the matter of
that, although I have no reason to be particularly proud of it, SO
ARE YOU ALL.  You ask my business here.  It seems to be the same as
yours,--to hold possession of this house!  With this difference,
however," he continued, taking a document from his pocket.  "Here is
the certificate, signed by the County Clerk, of the bill of sale of
the entire Sisters' title to ME.  It includes the whole two leagues
from Fair Plains to the old boundary line of this rancho, which you
forcibly entered this morning.  There is the document; examine it if
you like.  The only shadow of a claim you could have to this
property you would have to derive from ME.  The only excuse you
could have for this act of lawlessness would be orders from ME.  And
all that you have done this morning is only the assertion of MY
legal right to this house.  If I disavow your act, as I might, I
leave you as helpless as any tramp that was ever kicked from a
doorstep,--as any burglar that was ever collared on the fence by a

It was the truth.  There was no denying the authority of the
document, the facts of the situation, or its ultimate power and
significance.  There was consternation, stupefaction, and even a
half-humorous recognition of the absurdity of their position on most
of the faces around him.  Incongruous as the scene was, it was made
still more grotesque by the attitude of Jim Hooker.  Ruthlessly
abandoning the party of convicted trespassers, he stalked gloomily
over to the side of Clarence, with the air of having been all the
time scornfully in the secret and a mien of wearied victoriousness,
and thus halting, he disdainfully expectorated tobacco juice on the
ground between him and his late companions, as if to form a line of
demarcation.  The few Mexicans began to edge towards the gateway.
This defection of his followers recalled the leader, who was no
coward, to himself again.

"Shut the gate, there!" he shouted.

As its two sides clashed together again, he turned deliberately to

"That's all very well, young man, as regards the TITLE.  You may
have BOUGHT up the land, and legally own every square inch of
howling wilderness between this and San Francisco, and I wish you
joy of your d--d fool's bargain; you may have got a whole circus
like that," pointing to the gloomy Jim, "at your back.  But with all
your money and all your friends you've forgotten one thing.  You
haven't got possession, and we have."

"That's just where we differ," said Clarence coolly, "for if you
take the trouble to examine the house, you will see that it is
already in possession of Mrs. Peyton,--MY TENANT."

He paused to give effect to his revelations.  But he was,
nevertheless, unprepared for an unrehearsed dramatic situation.
Mrs. Peyton, who had been tired of waiting, and was listening in the
passage, at the mention of her name, entered the gallery, followed
by the young ladies.  The slight look of surprise upon her face at
the revelation she had just heard of Clarence's ownership, only gave
the suggestion of her having been unexpectedly disturbed in her
peaceful seclusion.  One of the Mexicans turned pale, with a
frightened glance at the passage, as if he expected the figure of
the dead man to follow.

The group fell back.  The game was over,--and lost.  No one
recognized it more quickly than the gamblers themselves.  More than
that, desperate and lawless as they were, they still retained the
chivalry of Western men, and every hat was slowly doffed to the
three black figures that stood silently in the gallery.  And even
apologetic speech began to loosen the clenched teeth of the
discomfited leader.

"We--were--told there was no one in the house," he stammered.

"And it was the truth," said a pert, youthful, yet slightly affected
voice.  "For we climbed into the window just as you came in at the

It was Susy's words that stung their ears again; but it was Susy's
pretty figure, suddenly advanced and in a slightly theatrical
attitude, that checked their anger.  There had been a sudden ominous
silence, as the whole plot of rescue seemed to be revealed to them
in those audacious words.  But a sense of the ludicrous, which too
often was the only perception that ever mitigated the passions of
such assemblies, here suddenly asserted itself.  The leader burst
into a loud laugh, which was echoed by the others, and, with waving
hats, the whole party swept peacefully out through the gate.

"But what does all this mean about YOUR purchasing the land, Mr.
Brant?" said Mrs. Peyton quickly, fixing her eyes intently on

A faint color--the useless protest of his truthful blood--came to
his cheek.

"The house is YOURS, and yours alone, Mrs. Peyton.  The purchase of
the sisters' title was a private arrangement between Mr. Peyton and
myself, in view of an emergency like this."

She did not, however, take her proud, searching eyes from his face,
and he was forced to turn away.

"It was SO like dear, good, thoughtful papa," said Susy.  "Why,
bless me," in a lower voice, "if that isn't that lying old Jim
Hooker standing there by the gate!"


Judge Peyton had bequeathed his entire property unconditionally to
his wife.  But his affairs were found to be greatly in disorder, and
his papers in confusion, and although Mrs. Peyton could discover no
actual record of the late transaction with Mr. Brant, which had
saved her the possession of the homestead, it was evident that he
had spent large sums in speculative attempts to maintain the
integrity of his estate.  That enormous domain, although perfectly
unencumbered, had been nevertheless unremunerative, partly through
the costs of litigation and partly through the systematic
depredations to which its great size and long line of unprotected
boundary had subjected it.  It had been invaded by squatters and
"jumpers," who had sown and reaped crops without discovery; its
cattle and wild horses had strayed or been driven beyond its ill-
defined and hopeless limits.  Against these difficulties the widow
felt herself unable and unwilling to contend, and with the advice of
her friends and her lawyer, she concluded to sell the estate, except
that portion covered by the Sisters' title, which, with the
homestead, had been reconveyed to her by Clarence.  She retired with
Susy to the house in San Francisco, leaving Clarence to occupy and
hold the casa, with her servants, for her until order was restored.
The Robles Rancho thus became the headquarters of the new owner of
the Sisters' title, from which he administered its affairs, visited
its incumbencies, overlooked and surveyed its lands, and--
occasionally--collected its rents.  There were not wanting critics
who averred that these were scarcely remunerative, and that the
young San Francisco fine gentleman, who was only Hamilton Brant's
son, after all, yet who wished to ape the dignity and degree of a
large landholder, had made a very foolish bargain.  I grieve to say
that one of his own tenants, namely, Jim Hooker, in his secret heart
inclined to that belief, and looked upon Clarence's speculation as
an act of far-seeing and inordinate vanity.

Indeed, the belligerent Jim had partly--and of course darkly--
intimated something of this to Susy in their brief reunion at the
casa during the few days that followed its successful reoccupation.
And Clarence, remembering her older caprices, and her remark on her
first recognition of him, was quite surprised at the easy
familiarity of her reception of this forgotten companion of their
childhood.  But he was still more concerned in noticing, for the
first time, a singular sympathetic understanding of each other, and
an odd similarity of occasional action and expression between them.
It was a part of this monstrous peculiarity that neither the
sympathy nor the likeness suggested any particular friendship or
amity in the pair, but rather a mutual antagonism and suspicion.
Mrs. Peyton, coldly polite to Clarence's former COMPANION, but

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