List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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outcome of domestic treachery.

After some consideration he resolved to seek Jim Hooker, who might
be possessed of some information respecting Susy's relations, either
from the young girl's own confidences or from Jim's personal
knowledge of the old frontier families.  From a sense of loyalty to
Susy and Mrs. Peyton, he had never alluded to the subject before
him, but since the young girl's own indiscretion had made it a
matter of common report, however distasteful it was to his own
feelings, he felt he could not plead the sense of delicacy for her.
He had great hopes in what he had always believed was only her
exaggeration of fact as well as feeling.  And he had an instinctive
reliance on her fellow poseur's ability to detect it.  A few days
later, when he found he could safely leave the rancho alone, he rode
to Fair Plains.

The floods were out along the turnpike road, and even seemed to have
increased since his last journey.  The face of the landscape had
changed again.  One of the lower terraces had become a wild mere of
sedge and reeds.  The dry and dusty bed of a forgotten brook had
reappeared, a full-banked river, crossing the turnpike and
compelling a long detour before the traveler could ford it.  But as
he approached the Hopkins farm and the opposite clearing and cabin
of Jim Hooker, he was quite unprepared for a still more remarkable
transformation.  The cabin, a three-roomed structure, and its
cattle-shed had entirely disappeared!  There were no traces or signs
of inundation.  The land lay on a gentle acclivity above the farm
and secure from the effects of the flood, and a part of the ploughed
and cleared land around the site of the cabin showed no evidence of
overflow on its black, upturned soil.  But the house was gone!  Only
a few timbers too heavy to be removed, the blighting erasions of a
few months of occupation, and the dull, blackened area of the site
itself were to be seen.  The fence alone was intact.

Clarence halted before it, perplexed and astonished.  Scarcely two
weeks had elapsed since he had last visited it and sat beneath its
roof with Jim, and already its few ruins had taken upon themselves
the look of years of abandonment and decay.  The wild land seemed to
have thrown off its yoke of cultivation in a night, and nature
rioted again with all its primal forces over the freed soil.  Wild
oats and mustard were springing already in the broken furrows, and
lank vines were slimily spreading over a few scattered but still
unseasoned and sappy shingles.  Some battered tin cans and fragments
of old clothing looked as remote as if they had been relics of the
earliest immigration.

Clarence turned inquiringly towards the Hopkins farmhouse across the
road.  His arrival, however, had already been noticed, as the door
of the kitchen opened in an anticipatory fashion, and he could see
the slight figure of Phoebe Hopkins in the doorway, backed by the
overlooking heads and shoulders of her parents.  The face of the
young girl was pale and drawn with anxiety, at which Clarence's
simple astonishment took a shade of concern.

"I am looking for Mr. Hooker," he said uneasily.  "And I don't seem
to be able to find either him or his house."

"And you don't know what's gone of him?" said the girl quickly.

"No; I haven't seen him for two weeks."

"There, I told you so!" said the girl, turning nervously to her
parents.  "I knew it.  He hasn't seen him for two weeks."  Then,
looking almost tearfully at Clarence's face, she said, "No more have

"But," said Clarence impatiently, "something must have happened.
Where is his house?"

"Taken away by them jumpers," interrupted the old farmer; "a lot of
roughs that pulled it down and carted it off in a jiffy before our
very eyes without answerin' a civil question to me or her.  But he
wasn't there, nor before, nor since."

"No," added the old woman, with flashing eyes, "or he'd let 'em have
what ther' was in his six-shooters."

"No, he wouldn't, mother," said the girl impatiently, "he'd CHANGED,
and was agin all them ideas of force and riotin'.  He was for peace
and law all the time.  Why, the day before we missed him he was
tellin' me California never would be decent until people obeyed the
laws and the titles were settled.  And for that reason, because he
wouldn't fight agin the law, or without the consent of the law,
they've killed him, or kidnapped him away."

The girl's lips quivered, and her small brown hands twisted the
edges of her blue checked apron.  Although this new picture of Jim's
peacefulness was as astounding and unsatisfactory as his own
disappearance, there was no doubt of the sincerity of poor Phoebe's

In vain did Clarence point out to them there must be some mistake;
that the trespassers--the so-called jumpers--really belonged to the
same party as Hooker, and would have no reason to dispossess him;
that, in fact, they were all HIS, Clarence's, tenants.  In vain he
assured them of Hooker's perfect security in possession; that he
could have driven the intruders away by the simple exhibition of his
lease, or that he could have even called a constable from the town
of Fair Plains to protect him from mere lawlessness.  In vain did he
assure them of his intention to find his missing friend, and
reinstate him at any cost.  The conviction that the unfortunate
young man had been foully dealt with was fixed in the minds of the
two women.  For a moment Clarence himself was staggered by it.

"You see," said the young girl, with a kindling face, "the day
before he came back from Robles, ther' were some queer men hangin'
round his cabin, but as they were the same kind that went off with
him the day the Sisters' title was confirmed, we thought nothing of
it.  But when he came back from you he seemed worried and anxious,
and wasn't a bit like himself.  We thought perhaps he'd got into
some trouble there, or been disappointed.  He hadn't, had he, Mr.
Brant?" continued Phoebe, with an appealing look.

"By no means," said Clarence warmly.  "On the contrary, he was able
to do his friends good service there, and was successful in what he
attempted.  Mrs. Peyton was very grateful.  Of course he told you
what had happened, and what he did for us," continued Clarence, with
a smile.

He had already amused himself on the way with a fanciful conception
of the exaggerated account Jim had given of his exploits.  But the
bewildered girl shook her head.

"No, he didn't tell us ANYTHING."

Clarence was really alarmed.  This unprecedented abstention of
Hooker's was portentous.

"He didn't say anything but what I told you about law and order,"
she went on; "but that same night we heard a good deal of talking
and shouting in the cabin and around it.  And the next day he was
talking with father, and wanting to know how HE kept his land
without trouble from outsiders."

"And I said," broke in Hopkins, "that I guessed folks didn't bother
a man with women folks around, and that I kalkilated that I wasn't
quite as notorious for fightin' as he was."

"And he said," also interrupted Mrs. Hopkins, "and quite in his
nat'ral way, too,--gloomy like, you remember, Cyrus," appealingly to
her husband,--"that that was his curse."

The smile that flickered around Clarence's mouth faded, however, as
he caught sight of Phoebe's pleading, interrogating eyes.  It was
really too bad.  Whatever change had come over the rascal it was too
evident that his previous belligerent personality had had its full
effect upon the simple girl, and that, hereafter, one pair of honest
eyes would be wistfully following him.

Perplexed and indignant, Clarence again closely questioned her as to
the personnel of the trespassing party who had been seen once or
twice since passing over the field.  He had at last elicited enough
information to identify one of them as Gilroy, the leader of the
party that had invaded Robles rancho.  His cheek flushed.  Even if
they had wished to take a theatrical and momentary revenge on Hooker
for the passing treachery to them which they had just discovered,
although such retaliation was only transitory, and they could not
hold the land, it was an insult to Clarence himself, whose tenant
Jim was, and subversive of all their legally acquired rights.  He
would confront this Gilroy at once; his half-wild encampment was
only a few miles away, just over the boundaries of the Robles
estate.  Without stating his intention, he took leave of the Hopkins
family with the cheerful assurance that he would probably return
with some news of Hooker, and rode away.

The trail became more indistinct and unfrequented as it diverged
from the main road, and presently lost itself in the slope towards
the east.  The horizon grew larger: there were faint bluish lines
upon it which he knew were distant mountains; beyond this a still
fainter white line--the Sierran snows.  Presently he intersected a
trail running south, and remarked that it crossed the highway behind
him, where he had once met the two mysterious horsemen.  They had
evidently reached the terrace through the wild oats by that trail.
A little farther on were a few groups of sheds and canvas tents in a
bare and open space, with scattered cattle and horsemen, exactly
like an encampment, or the gathering of a country fair.  As Clarence
rode down towards them he could see that his approach was instantly
observed, and that a simultaneous movement was made as if to
anticipate him.  For the first time he realized the possible
consequences of his visit, single-handed, but it was too late to
retrace his steps.  With a glance at his holster, he rode boldly
forward to the nearest shed.  A dozen men hovered near him, but
something in his quiet, determined manner held them aloof.  Gilroy
was on the threshold in his shirtsleeves.  A single look showed him
that Clarence was alone, and with a careless gesture of his hand he
warned away his own followers.

"You've got a sort of easy way of droppin' in whar you ain't
invited, Brant," he said with a grim smile, which was not, however,
without a certain air of approval.  "Got it from your father, didn't

"I don't know, but I don't believe HE ever thought it necessary to
warn twenty men of the approach of ONE," replied Clarence, in the
same tone.  "I had no time to stand on ceremony, for I have just
come from Hooker's quarter section at Fair Plains."

Gilroy smiled again, and gazed abstractedly at the sky.

"You know as well as I do," said Clarence, controlling his voice
with an effort, "that what you have done there will have to be
undone, if you wish to hold even those lawless men of yours
together, or keep yourself and them from being run into the brush
like highwaymen.  I've no fear for that.  Neither do I care to know
what was your motive in doing it; but I can only tell you that if it
was retaliation, I alone was and still am responsible for Hooker's
action at the rancho.  I came here to know just what you have done
with him, and, if necessary, to take his place."

"You're just a little too previous in your talk, I reckon, Brant,"
returned Gilroy lazily, "and as to legality, I reckon we stand on
the same level with yourself, just here.  Beginnin' with what you
came for: as we don't know where your Jim Hooker is, and as we ain't
done anythin' to HIM, we don't exackly see what we could do with YOU
in his place.  Ez to our motives,--well, we've got a good deal to
say about THAT.  We reckoned that he wasn't exackly the kind of man
we wanted for a neighbor.  His pow'ful fightin' style didn't suit us
peaceful folks, and we thought it rather worked agin this new 'law
and order' racket to have such a man about, to say nuthin' of it
prejudicin' quiet settlers.  He had too many revolvers for one man
to keep his eye on, and was altogether too much steeped in blood, so
to speak, for ordinary washin' and domestic purposes!  His hull get
up was too deathlike and clammy; so we persuaded him to leave.  We
just went there, all of us, and exhorted him.  We stayed round there
two days and nights, takin' turns, talkin' with him, nuthin' more,
only selecting subjects in his own style to please him, until he
left!  And then, as we didn't see any use for his house there, we
took it away.  Them's the cold facts, Brant," he added, with a
certain convincing indifference that left no room for doubt, "and
you can stand by 'em.  Now, workin' back to the first principle you
laid down,--that we'll have to UNDO what we've DONE,--we don't agree
with you, for we've taken a leaf outer your own book.  We've got it
here in black and white.  We've got a bill o' sale of Hooker's house
and possession, and we're on the land in place of him,--AS YOUR
TENANTS."  He reentered the shanty, took a piece of paper from a
soap-box on the shell, and held it out to Clarence.  "Here it is.
It's a fair and square deal, Brant.  We gave him, as it says here, a
hundred dollars for it!  No humbuggin', but the hard cash, by

The ring of truth in the man's voice was as unmistakable as the
signature in Jim's own hand.  Hooker had sold out!  Clarence turned
hastily away.

"We don't know where he went," continued Gilroy grimly, "but I
reckon you ain't over anxious to see him NOW.  And I kin tell ye
something to ease your mind,--he didn't require much persuadin'.
And I kin tell ye another, if ye ain't above takin' advice from
folks that don't pertend to give it," he added, with the same
curious look of interest in his face.  "You've done well to get shut
of him, and if you got shut of a few more of his kind that you trust
to, you'd do better."

As if to avoid noticing any angry reply from the young man, he
reentered the cabin and shut the door behind him.  Clarence felt the
uselessness of further parley, and rode away.

But Gilroy's Parthian arrow rankled as he rode.  He was not greatly
shocked at Jim's defection, for he was always fully conscious of his
vanity and weakness; but he was by no means certain that Jim's
extravagance and braggadocio, which he had found only amusing and,
perhaps, even pathetic, might not be as provocative and prejudicial
to others as Gilroy had said.  But, like all sympathetic and
unselfish natures, he sought to find some excuse for his old
companion's weakness in his own mistaken judgment.  He had no
business to bring poor Jim on the land, to subject his singular
temperament to the temptations of such a life and such surroundings;
he should never have made use of his services at the rancho.  He had
done him harm rather than good in his ill-advised, and, perhaps,
SELFISH attempts to help him.  I have said that Gilroy's parting
warning rankled in his breast, but not ignobly.  It wounded the
surface of his sensitive nature, but could not taint or corrupt the
pure, wholesome blood of the gentleman beneath it.  For in Gilroy's
warning he saw only his own shortcomings.  A strange fatality had
marked his friendships.  He had been no help to Jim; he had brought
no happiness to Susy or Mrs. Peyton, whose disagreement his visit
seemed to have accented.  Thinking over the mysterious attack upon

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