List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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condescendingly gracious to his present TENANT and retainer, did not
notice it, preoccupied with the annoyance and pain of Susy's
frequent references to the old days of their democratic equality.

"You don't remember, Jim, the time that you painted my face in the
wagon, and got me up as an Indian papoose?" she said mischievously.

But Jim, who had no desire to recall his previous humble position
before Mrs. Peyton or Clarence, was only vaguely responsive.
Clarence, although joyfully touched at this seeming evidence of
Susy's loyalty to the past, nevertheless found himself even more
acutely pained at the distress it caused Mrs. Peyton, and was as
relieved as she was by Hooker's reticence.  For he had seen little
of Susy since Peyton's death, and there had been no repetition of
their secret interviews.  Neither had he, nor she as far as he could
judge, noticed the omission.  He had been more than usually kind,
gentle, and protecting in his manner towards her, with little
reference, however, to any response from her, yet he was vaguely
conscious of some change in his feelings.  He attributed it, when he
thought of it at all, to the exciting experiences through which he
had passed; to some sentiment of responsibility to his dead friend;
and to another secret preoccupation that was always in his mind.  He
believed it would pass in time.  Yet he felt a certain satisfaction
that she was no longer able to trouble him, except, of course, when
she pained Mrs. Peyton, and then he was half conscious of taking the
old attitude of the dead husband in mediating between them.  Yet so
great was his inexperience that he believed, with pathetic
simplicity of perception, that all this was due to the slow maturing
of his love for her, and that he was still able to make her happy.
But this was something to be thought of later.  Just now Providence
seemed to have offered him a vocation and a purpose that his idle
adolescence had never known.  He did not dream that his capacity for
patience was only the slow wasting of his love.

Meantime that more wonderful change and recreation of the Californian
landscape, so familiar, yet always so young, had come to the rancho.
The league-long terrace that had yellowed, whitened, and wasted for
half a year beneath a staring, monotonous sky, now under sailing
clouds, flying and broken shafts of light, and sharply defined lines
of rain, had taken a faint hue of resurrection.  The dust that had
muffled the roads and byways, and choked the low oaks that fringed
the sunken canada, had long since been laid.  The warm, moist breath
of the southwest trades had softened the hard, dry lines of the
landscape, and restored its color as of a picture over which a damp
sponge had been passed.  The broad expanse of plateau before the
casa glistened and grew dark.  The hidden woods of the canada,
cleared and strengthened in their solitude, dripped along the trails
and hollows that were now transformed into running streams.  The
distinguishing madrono near the entrance to the rancho had changed
its crimson summer suit and masqueraded in buff and green.

Yet there were leaden days, when half the prospect seemed to be seen
through palisades of rain; when the slight incline between the
terraces became a tumultuous cascade, and the surest hoofs slipped
on trails of unctuous mud; when cattle were bogged a few yards from
the highway, and the crossing of the turnpike road was a dangerous
ford.  There were days of gale and tempest, when the shriveled
stalks of giant oats were stricken like trees, and lay across each
other in rigid angles, and a roar as of the sea came up from the
writhing treetops in the sunken valley.  There were long weary
nights of steady downpour, hammering on the red tiles of the casa,
and drumming on the shingles of the new veranda, which was more
terrible to be borne.  Alone, but for the servants, and an
occasional storm-stayed tenant from Fair Plains, Clarence might
have, at such times, questioned the effect of this seclusion upon
his impassioned nature.  But he had already been accustomed to
monastic seclusion in his boyish life at El Refugio, and he did not
reflect that, for that very reason, its indulgences might have been
dangerous.  From time to time letters reached him from the outer
world of San Francisco,--a few pleasant lines from Mrs. Peyton, in
answer to his own chronicle of his half stewardship, giving the news
of the family, and briefly recounting their movements.  She was
afraid that Susy's sensitive nature chafed under the restriction of
mourning in the gay city, but she trusted to bring her back for a
change to Robles when the rains were over.  This was a poor
substitute for those brief, happy glimpses of the home circle which
had so charmed him, but he accepted it stoically.  He wandered over
the old house, from which the perfume of domesticity seemed to have
evaporated, yet, notwithstanding Mrs. Peyton's playful permission,
he never intruded upon the sanctity of the boudoir, and kept it
jealously locked.

He was sitting in Peyton's business room one morning, when
Incarnacion entered.  Clarence had taken a fancy to this Indian,
half steward, half vacquero, who had reciprocated it with a certain
dog-like fidelity, but also a feline indirectness that was part of
his nature.  He had been early prepossessed with Clarence through a
kinsman at El Refugio, where the young American's generosity had
left a romantic record among the common people.  He had been pleased
to approve of his follies before the knowledge of his profitless and
lordly land purchase had commended itself to him as corroborative
testimony.  "Of true hidalgo blood, mark you," he had said
oracularly.  "Wherefore was his father sacrificed by mongrels!  As
to the others, believe me,--bah!"

He stood there, sombrero in hand, murky and confidential, steaming
through his soaked serape and exhaling a blended odor of equine
perspiration and cigarette smoke.

"It was, perhaps, as the master had noticed, a brigand's own day!
Bullying, treacherous, and wicked!  It blew you off your horse if
you so much as lifted your arms and let the wind get inside your
serape; and as for the mud,--caramba! in fifty varas your forelegs
were like bears, and your hoofs were earthen plasters!"

Clarence knew that Incarnacion had not sought him with mere
meteorological information, and patiently awaited further
developments.  The vacquero went on:--

"But one of the things this beast of a weather did was to wash down
the stalks of the grain, and to clear out the trough and hollows
between, and to make level the fields, and--look you! to uncover the
stones and rubbish and whatever the summer dust had buried.  Indeed,
it was even as a miracle that Jose Mendez one day, after the first
showers, came upon a silver button from his calzas, which he had
lost in the early summer.  And it was only that morning that,
remembering how much and with what fire Don Clarencio had sought the
missing boot from the foot of the Senor Peyton when his body was
found, he, Incarnacion, had thought he would look for it on the
falda of the second terrace.  And behold, Mother of God it was
there!  Soaked with mud and rain, but the same as when the senor was
alive.  To the very spur!"

He drew the boot from beneath his serape and laid it before
Clarence.  The young man instantly recognized it, in spite of its
weather-beaten condition and its air of grotesque and drunken
inconsistency to the usually trim and correct appearance of Peyton
when alive.  "It is the same," he said, in a low voice.

"Good!" said Incarnacion.  "Now, if Don Clarencio will examine the
American spur, he will see--what?  A few horse-hairs twisted and
caught in the sharp points of the rowel.  Good!  Is it the hair of
the horse that Senor rode?  Clearly not; and in truth not.  It is
too long for the flanks and belly of the horse; it is not the same
color as the tail and the mane.  How comes it there?  It comes from
the twisted horsehair rope of a riata, and not from the braided
cowhide thongs of the regular lasso of a vacquero.  The lasso slips
not much, but holds; the riata slips much and strangles."

"But Mr. Peyton was not strangled," said Clarence quickly.

"No, for the noose of the riata was perhaps large,--who knows?  It
might have slipped down his arms, pinioned him, and pulled him off.
Truly!--such has been known before.  Then on the ground it slipped
again, or he perhaps worked it off to his feet where it caught on
his spur, and then he was dragged until the boot came off, and
behold! he was dead."

This had been Clarence's own theory of the murder, but he had only
half confided it to Incarnacion.  He silently examined the spur with
the accusing horse-hair, and placed it in his desk.  Incarnacion

"There is not a vacquero in the whole rancho who has a horse-hair
riata.  We use the braided cowhide; it is heavier and stronger; it
is for the bull and not the man.  The horse-hair riata comes from
over the range--south."

There was a dead silence, broken only by the drumming of the rain
upon the roof of the veranda.  Incarnacion slightly shrugged his

"Don Clarencio does not know the southern county?  Francisco Robles,
cousin of the 'Sisters,'--he they call 'Pancho,'--comes from the
south.  Surely when Don Clarencio bought the title he saw Francisco,
for he was the steward?"

"I dealt only with the actual owners and through my bankers in San
Francisco," returned Clarence abstractedly.

Incarnacion looked through the yellow corners of his murky eyes at
his master.

"Pedro Valdez, who was sent away by Senor Peyton, is the foster-
brother of Francisco.  They were much together.  Now that Francisco
is rich from the gold Don Clarencio paid for the title, they come
not much together.  But Pedro is rich, too.  Mother of God!  He
gambles and is a fine gentleman.  He holds his head high,--even over
the Americanos he gambles with.  Truly, they say he can shoot with
the best of them.  He boasts and swells himself, this Pedro!  He
says if all the old families were like him, they would drive those
western swine back over the mountains again."

Clarence raised his eyes, caught a subtle yellow flash from
Incarnacion's, gazed at him suddenly, and rose.

"I don't think I have ever seen him," he said quietly.  "Thank you
for bringing me the spur.  But keep the knowledge of it to yourself,
good Nascio, for the present."

Nascio nevertheless still lingered.  Perceiving which, Clarence
handed him a cigarette and proceeded to light one himself.  He knew
that the vacquero would reroll his, and that that always deliberate
occupation would cover and be an excuse for further confidence.

"The Senora Peyton does not perhaps meet this Pedro in the society
of San Francisco?"

"Surely not.  The senora is in mourning and goes not out in society,
nor would she probably go anywhere where she would meet a dismissed
servant of her husband."

Incarnacion slowly lit his cigarette, and said between the puffs,
"And the senorita--she would not meet him?"

"Assuredly not."

"And," continued Incarnacion, throwing down the match and putting
his foot on it, "if this boaster, this turkey-cock, says she did,
you could put him out like that?"

"Certainly," said Clarence, with an easy confidence he was, however,
far from feeling, "if he really SAID it--which I doubt."

"Ah, truly," said Incarnacion; "who knows?  It may be another
Senorita Silsbee."

"The senora's adopted daughter is called MISS PEYTON, friend Nascio.
You forget yourself," said Clarence quietly.

"Ah, pardon!" said Incarnacion with effusive apology; "but she was
born Silsbee.  Everybody knows it; she herself has told it to
Pepita.  The Senor Peyton bequeathed his estate to the Senora
Peyton.  He named not the senorita!  Eh, what would you?  It is the
common cackle of the barnyard.  But I say 'Mees Silsbee.'  For look
you.  There is a Silsbee of Sacramento, the daughter of her aunt,
who writes letters to her.  Pepita has seen them!  And possibly it
is only that Mees of whom the brigand Pedro boasts."

"Possibly," said Clarence, "but as far as this rancho is concerned,
friend Nascio, thou wilt understand--and I look to thee to make the
others understand--that there is no Senorita SILSBEE here, only the
Senorita PEYTON, the respected daughter of the senora thy mistress!"
He spoke with the quaint mingling of familiarity and paternal
gravity of the Spanish master--a faculty he had acquired at El
Refugio in a like vicarious position, and which never failed as a
sign of authority.  "And now," he added gravely, "get out of this,
friend, with God's blessing, and see that thou rememberest what I
told thee."

The retainer, with equal gravity, stepped backwards, saluted with
his sombrero until the stiff brim scraped the floor, and then
solemnly withdrew.

Left to himself, Clarence remained for an instant silent and
thoughtful before the oven-like hearth.  So! everybody knew Susy's
real relations to the Peytons, and everybody but Mrs. Peyton,
perhaps, knew that she was secretly corresponding with some one of
her own family.  In other circumstances he might have found some
excuse for this assertion of her independence and love of her
kindred, but in her attitude towards Mrs. Peyton it seemed
monstrous.  It appeared impossible that Mrs. Peyton should not have
heard of it, or suspected the young girl's disaffection.  Perhaps
she had,--it was another burden laid upon her shoulders,--but the
proud woman had kept it to herself.  A film of moisture came across
his eyes.  I fear he thought less of the suggestion of Susy's secret
meeting with Pedro, or Incarnacion's implied suspicions that Pedro
was concerned in Peyton's death, than of this sentimental
possibility.  He knew that Pedro had been hated by the others on
account of his position; he knew the instinctive jealousies of the
race and their predisposition to extravagant misconstruction.  From
what he had gathered, and particularly from the voices he had
overheard on the Fair Plains Road, it seemed to him that Pedro was
more capable of mercenary intrigue than physical revenge.  He was
not aware of the irrevocable affront put upon Pedro by Peyton, and
he had consequently attached no importance to Peyton's own half-
scornful intimation of the only kind of retaliation that Pedro would
be likely to take.  The unsuccessful attempt upon himself he had
always thought might have been an accident, or if it was really a
premeditated assault, it might have been intended actually for
HIMSELF and not Peyton, as he had first thought, and his old friend
had suffered for HIM, through some mistake of the assailant.  The
purpose, which alone seemed wanting, might have been to remove
Clarence as a possible witness who had overheard their conspiracy--
how much of it they did not know--on the Fair Plains Road that
night.  The only clue he held to the murderer in the spur locked in
his desk, merely led him beyond the confines of the rancho, but
definitely nowhere else.  It was, however, some relief to know that
the crime was not committed by one of Peyton's retainers, nor the

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