List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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propose, it is, nevertheless, one that I think you and I are more
competent to discuss together."

Then, with quiet but unrelenting directness, he pointed out to her
that Susy was a legally adopted daughter of Mrs. Peyton, and, as a
minor, utterly under her control; that Mrs. Peyton had no knowledge
of any opposing relatives; and that Susy had not only concealed the
fact from her, but that he was satisfied that Mrs. Peyton did not
even know of Susy's discontent and alienation; that she had tenderly
and carefully brought up the helpless orphan as her own child, and
even if she had not gained her affection was at least entitled to
her obedience and respect; that while Susy's girlish caprice and
inexperience excused HER conduct, Mrs. Peyton and her friends would
have a right to expect more consideration from a person of Mrs.
McClosky's maturer judgment.  That for these reasons, and as the
friend of Mrs. Peyton, whom he could alone recognize as Susy's
guardian and the arbiter of her affections, he must decline to
discuss the young girl with any reference to himself or his own

An unmistakable flush asserted itself under the lady's powder.

"Suit yourself, young man, suit yourself," she said, with equally
direct resentment and antagonism; "only mebbee you'll let me tell
you that Jim McClosky ain't no fool, and mebbee knows what lawyers
think of an arrangement with a sister-in-law that leaves a real
sister out!  Mebbee that's a 'Sister's title' you ain't thought of,
Mr. Brant!  And mebbee you'll find out that your chance o' gettin'
Mrs. Peyton's consent ain't as safe to gamble on as you reckon it
is.  And mebbee, what's more to the purpose, if you DID get it, it
might not be just the trump card to fetch Susy with!  And to wind
up, Mr. Brant, when you DO have to come down to the bed-rock and me
and Jim McClosky, you may find out that him and me have discovered a
better match for Susy than the son of old Ham Brant, who is trying
to play the Spanish grandee off his father's money on a couple of
women.  And we mayn't have to go far to do it--or to get THE REAL
THING, Mr. Brant!"

Too heartsick and disgusted to even notice the slur upon himself or
the import of her last words, Clarence only rose and bowed as she
jumped up from the table.  But as she reached the door he said, half

"Whatever are your other intentions, Mrs. McClosky, as we are both
Susy's guests, I beg you will say nothing of this to her while we
are here, and particularly that you will not allow her to think for
a moment that I have discussed MY relations to her with anybody."

She flung herself out of the door without a reply; but on entering
the dark low-ceilinged drawing-room she was surprised to find that
Susy was not there.  She was consequently obliged to return to the
veranda, where Clarence had withdrawn, and to somewhat
ostentatiously demand of the servants that Susy should be sent to
her room at once.  But the young girl was not in her own room, and
was apparently nowhere to be found.  Clarence, who had now fully
determined as a last resource to make a direct appeal to Susy
herself, listened to this fruitless search with some concern.  She
could not have gone out in the rain, which was again falling.  She
might be hiding somewhere to avoid a recurrence of the scene she had
perhaps partly overheard.  He turned into the corridor that led to
Mrs. Peyton's boudoir.  As he knew that it was locked, he was
surprised to see by the dim light of the hanging lamp that a
duplicate key to the one in his desk was in the lock.  It must be
Susy's, and the young girl had probably taken refuge there.  He
knocked gently.  There was a rustle in the room and the sound of a
chair being moved, but no reply.  Impelled by a sudden instinct he
opened the door, and was met by a cool current of air from some open
window.  At the same moment the figure of Susy approached him from
the semi-darkness of the interior.

"I did not know you were here," said Clarence, much relieved, he
knew not why, "but I am glad, for I wanted to speak with you alone
for a few moments."

She did not reply, but he drew a match from his pocket and lit the
two candles which he knew stood on the table.  The wick of one was
still warm, as if it had been recently extinguished.  As the light
slowly radiated, he could see that she was regarding him with an air
of affected unconcern, but a somewhat heightened color.  It was like
her, and not inconsistent with his idea that she had come there to
avoid an after scene with Mrs. McClosky or himself, or perhaps both.
The room was not disarranged in any way.  The window that was opened
was the casement of the deep embrasured one in the rear wall, and
the light curtain before it still swayed occasionally in the night

"I'm afraid I had a row with your aunt, Susy," he began lightly, in
his old familiar way; "but I had to tell her I didn't think her
conduct to Mrs. Peyton was exactly the square thing towards one who
had been as devoted to you as she has been."

"Oh, for goodness' sake, don't go over all that again," said Susy
impatiently.  "I've had enough of it."

Clarence flashed, but recovered himself.

"Then you overheard what I said, and know what I think," he said

"I knew it BEFORE," said the young girl, with a slight supercilious
toss of the head, and yet a certain abstraction of manner as she
went to the window and closed it.  "Anybody could see it!  I know
you always wanted me to stay here with Mrs. Peyton, and be coddled
and monitored and catechised and shut up away from any one, until
YOU had been coddled and monitored and catechised by somebody else
sufficiently to suit her ideas of your being a fit husband for me.
I told aunty it was no use our coming here to--to"--

"To do what?" asked Clarence.

"To put some spirit into you," said the young girl, turning upon him
sharply; "to keep you from being tied to that woman's apron-strings.
To keep her from making a slave of you as she would of me.  But it
is of no use.  Mary Rogers was right when she said you had no wish
to please anybody but Mrs. Peyton, and no eyes for anybody but her.
And if it hadn't been too ridiculous, considering her age and yours,
she'd say you were dead in love with her."

For an instant Clarence felt the blood rush to his face and then
sink away, leaving him pale and cold.  The room, which had seemed to
whirl around him, and then fade away, returned with appalling
distinctness,--the distinctness of memory,--and a vision of the
first day that he had seen Mrs. Peyton sitting there, as he seemed
to see her now.  For the first time there flashed upon him the
conviction that the young girl had spoken the truth, and had
brusquely brushed the veil from his foolish eyes.  He WAS in love
with Mrs. Peyton!  That was what his doubts and hesitation regarding
Susy meant.  That alone was the source, secret, and limit of his
vague ambition.

But with the conviction came a singular calm.  In the last few
moments he seemed to have grown older, to have loosed the bonds of
old companionship with Susy, and the later impression she had given
him of her mature knowledge, and moved on far beyond her years and
experience.  And it was with an authority that was half paternal,
and in a voice he himself scarcely recognized, that he said:--

"If I did not know you were prejudiced by a foolish and indiscreet
woman, I should believe that you were trying to insult me as you
have your adopted mother, and would save you the pain of doing both
in HER house by leaving it now and forever.  But because I believe
you are controlled against your best instinct by that woman, I shall
remain here with you to frustrate her as best I can, or until I am
able to lay everything before Mrs. Peyton except the foolish speech
you have just made."

The young girl laughed.  "Why not THAT one too, while you're about
it?  See what she'll say."

"I shall tell her," continued Clarence calmly, "only what YOU
yourself have made it necessary for me to tell her to save you from
folly and disgrace, and only enough to spare her the mortification
of hearing it first from her own servants."

"Hearing WHAT from her own servants?  What do you mean?  How dare
you?" demanded the young girl sharply.

She was quite real in her anxiety now, although her attitude of
virtuous indignation struck him as being like all her emotional
expression, namely, acting.

"I mean that the servants know of your correspondence with Mrs.
McClosky, and that she claims to be your aunt," returned Clarence.
"They know that you confided to Pepita.  They believe that either
Mrs. McClosky or you have seen"--

He had stopped suddenly.  He was about to say that the servants
(particularly Incarnacion) knew that Pedro had boasted of having met
Susy, when, for the first time, the tremendous significance of what
he had hitherto considered as merely an idle falsehood flashed upon

"Seen whom?" repeated Susy in a higher voice, impatiently stamping
her foot.

Clarence looked at her, and in her excited, questioning face saw a
confirmation of his still half-formed suspicions.  In his own abrupt
pause and knitted eyebrows she must have read his thoughts also.
Their eyes met.  Her violet pupils dilated, trembled, and then
quickly shifted as she suddenly stiffened into an attitude of
scornful indifference, almost grotesque in its unreality.  His eyes
slowly turned to the window, the door, the candles on the table and
the chair before it, and then came back to her face again.  Then he
drew a deep breath.

"I give no heed to the idle gossip of servants, Susy," he said
slowly.  "I have no belief that you have ever contemplated anything
worse than an act of girlish folly, or the gratification of a
passing caprice.  Neither do I want to appeal to you or frighten
you, but I must tell you now, that I know certain facts that might
make such a simple act of folly monstrous, inconceivable in YOU, and
almost accessory to a crime!  I can tell you no more.  But so
satisfied am I of such a possibility, that I shall not scruple to
take any means--the strongest--to prevent even the remotest chance
of it.  Your aunt has been looking for you; you had better go to her
now.  I will close the room and lock the door.  Meantime, I should
advise you not to sit so near an open window with a candle at night
in this locality.  Even if it might not be dangerous for you, it
might be fatal to the foolish creatures it might attract."

He took the key from the door as he held it open for her to pass
out.  She uttered a shrill little laugh, like a nervous, mischievous
child, and, slipping out of her previous artificial attitude as if
it had been a mantle, ran out of the room.


As Susy's footsteps died away, Clarence closed the door, walked to
the window, and examined it closely.  The bars had been restored
since he had wrenched them off to give ingress to the family on the
day of recapture.  He glanced around the room; nothing seemed to
have been disturbed.  Nevertheless he was uneasy.  The suspicions of
a frank, trustful nature when once aroused are apt to be more
general and far-reaching than the specific distrusts of the
disingenuous, for they imply the overthrow of a whole principle and
not a mere detail.  Clarence's conviction that Susy had seen Pedro
recently since his dismissal led him into the wildest surmises of
her motives.  It was possible that without her having reason to
suspect Pedro's greater crime, he might have confided to her his
intention of reclaiming the property and installing her as the
mistress and chatelaine of the rancho.  The idea was one that might
have appealed to Susy's theatrical imagination.  He recalled Mrs.
McClosky's sneer at his own pretensions and her vague threats of a
rival of more lineal descent.  The possible infidelity of Susy to
himself touched him lightly when the first surprise was over;
indeed, it scarcely could be called infidelity, if she knew and
believed Mary Rogers's discovery; and the conviction that he and she
had really never loved each other now enabled him, as he believed,
to look at her conduct dispassionately.  Yet it was her treachery to
Mrs. Peyton and not to himself that impressed him most, and perhaps
made him equally unjust, through his affections.

He extinguished the candles, partly from some vague precautions he
could not explain, and partly to think over his fears in the
abstraction and obscurity of the semi-darkness.  The higher windows
suffused a faint light on the ceiling, and, assisted by the dark
lantern-like glow cast on the opposite wall by the tunnel of the
embrasured window, the familiar outlines of the room and its
furniture came back to him.  Somewhat in this fashion also, in the
obscurity and quiet, came back to him the events he had overlooked
and forgotten.  He recalled now some gossip of the servants, and
hints dropped by Susy of a violent quarrel between Peyton and Pedro,
which resulted in Pedro's dismissal, but which now seemed clearly
attributable to some graver cause than inattention and insolence.
He recalled Mary Rogers's playful pleasantries with Susy about
Pedro, and Susy's mysterious air, which he had hitherto regarded
only as part of her exaggeration.  He remembered Mrs. Peyton's
unwarrantable uneasiness about Susy, which he had either overlooked
or referred entirely to himself; she must have suspected something.
To his quickened imagination, in this ruin of his faith and trust,
he believed that Hooker's defection was either part of the
conspiracy, or that he had run away to avoid being implicated with
Susy in its discovery.  This, too, was the significance of Gilroy's
parting warning.  He and Mrs. Peyton alone had been blind and
confiding in the midst of this treachery, and even HE had been blind
to his own real affections.

The wind had risen again, and the faint light on the opposite wall
grew tremulous and shifting with the movement of the foliage
without.  But presently the glow became quite obliterated, as if by
the intervention of some opaque body outside the window.  He rose
hurriedly and went to the casement.  But at the same moment he
fancied he heard the jamming of a door or window in quite another
direction, and his examination of the casement before him showed him
only the silver light of the thinly clouded sky falling
uninterruptedly through the bars and foliage on the interior of the
whitewashed embrasure.  Then a conception of his mistake flashed
across him.  The line of the casa was long, straggling, and exposed
elsewhere; why should the attempt to enter or communicate with any
one within be confined only to this single point?  And why not
satisfy himself at once if any trespassers were lounging around the
walls, and then confront them boldly in the open?  Their discovery
and identification was as important as the defeat of their intentions.

He relit the candle, and, placing it on a small table by the wall
beyond the visual range of the window, rearranged the curtain so
that, while it permitted the light to pass out, it left the room in

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