List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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The expression of suspicious inquiry on her face when he began
changed gradually to perplexity as he continued, and then relaxed
into a faint, peculiar smile.  But there was not the slightest trace
of that pain, wounded pride, indignation, or anger, that he had
expected to see upon it.

"That means, I suppose, Mr. Brant, that YOU no longer care for her?"

The smile had passed, yet she spoke now with a half-real, half-
affected archness that was also unlike her.

"It means," said Clarence with a white face, but a steady voice,
"that I care for her now as much as I ever cared for her, no matter
to what folly it once might have led me.  But it means, also, that
there was no time when I was not able to tell it to YOU as frankly
as I do now"--

"One moment, please," she interrupted, and turned quickly towards
the door.  She opened it and looked out.  "I thought they were
calling me,--and--I--I--MUST go now, Mr. Brant.  And without
finishing my business either, or saying half I had intended to say.
But wait"--she put her hand to her head in a pretty perplexity,
"it's a moonlight night, and I'll propose after dinner a stroll in
the gardens, and you can manage to walk a little with me."  She
stopped again, returned, said, "It was very kind of you to think of
me at Sacramento," held out her hand, allowed it to remain for an
instant, cool but acquiescent, in his warmer grasp, and with the
same odd youthfulness of movement and gesture slipped out of the

An hour later she was at the head of her dinner table, serene,
beautiful, and calm, in her elegant mourning, provokingly
inaccessible in the sweet deliberation of her widowed years; Padre
Esteban was at her side with a local magnate, who had known Peyton
and his wife, while Donna Rosita and a pair of liquid-tongued,
childlike senoritas were near Clarence and Sanderson.  To the priest
Mrs. Peyton spoke admiringly of the changes in the rancho and the
restoration of the Mission Chapel, and together they had commended
Clarence from the level of their superior passionless reserve and
years.  Clarence felt hopelessly young and hopelessly lonely; the
naive prattle of the young girls beside him appeared infantine.  In
his abstraction, he heard Mrs. Peyton allude to the beauty of the
night, and propose that after coffee and chocolate the ladies should
put on their wraps and go with her to the old garden.  Clarence
raised his eyes; she was not looking at him, but there was a slight
consciousness in her face that was not there before, and the
faintest color in her cheek, still lingering, no doubt, from the
excitement of conversation.

It was a cool, tranquil, dewless night when they at last straggled
out, mere black and white patches in the colorless moonlight.  The
brilliancy of the flower-hued landscape was subdued under its
passive, pale austerity; even the gray and gold of the second
terrace seemed dulled and confused.  At any other time Clarence
might have lingered over this strange effect, but his eyes followed
only a tall figure, in a long striped burnous, that moved gracefully
beside the soutaned priest.  As he approached, it turned towards

"Ah! here you are.  I just told Father Esteban that you talked of
leaving to-morrow, and that he would have to excuse me a few moments
while you showed me what you had done to the old garden."

She moved beside him, and, with a hesitation that was not unlike a
more youthful timidity, slipped her hand through his arm.  It was
for the first time, and, without thinking, he pressed it impulsively
to his side.  I have already intimated that Clarence's reserve was
at times qualified by singular directness.

A few steps carried them out of hearing; a few more, and they seemed
alone in the world.  The long adobe wall glanced away emptily beside
them, and was lost; the black shadows of the knotted pear-trees were
beneath their feet.  They began to walk with the slight affectation
of treading the shadows as if they were patterns on a carpet.
Clarence was voiceless, and yet he seemed to be moving beside a
spirit that must be first addressed.

But it was flesh and blood nevertheless.

"I interrupted you in something you were saying when I left the
office," she said quietly.

"I was speaking of Susy," returned Clarence eagerly; "and"--

"Then you needn't go on," interrupted Mrs. Peyton quickly.  "I
understand you, and believe you.  I would rather talk of something
else.  We have not yet arranged how I can make restitution to you
for the capital you sank in saving this place.  You will be
reasonable, Mr. Brant, and not leave me with the shame and pain of
knowing that you ruined yourself for the sake of your old friends.
For it is no more a sentimental idea of mine to feel in this way
than it is a fair and sensible one for you to imply that a mere
quibble of construction absolves me from responsibility.  Mr.
Sanderson himself admits that the repossession you gave us is a fair
and legal basis for any arrangement of sharing or division of the
property with you, that might enable you to remain here and continue
the work you have so well begun.  Have you no suggestion, or must it
come from ME, Mr. Brant?"

"Neither.  Let us not talk of that now."

She did not seem to notice the boyish doggedness of his speech,
except so far as it might have increased her inconsequent and
nervously pitched levity.

"Then suppose we speak of the Misses Hernandez, with whom you
scarcely exchanged a word at dinner, and whom I invited for you and
your fluent Spanish.  They are charming girls, even if they are a
little stupid.  But what can I do?  If I am to live here, I must
have a few young people around me, if only to make the place
cheerful for others.  Do you know I have taken a great fancy to Miss
Rogers, and have asked her to visit me.  I think she is a good
friend of yours, although perhaps she is a little shy.  What's the
matter?  You have nothing against her, have you?"

Clarence had stopped short.  They had reached the end of the pear-
tree shadows.  A few steps more would bring them to the fallen south
wall of the garden and the open moonlight beyond, but to the right
an olive alley of deeper shadow diverged.

"No," he said, with slow deliberation; "I have to thank Mary Rogers
for having discovered something in me that I have been blindly,
foolishly, and hopelessly struggling with."

"And, pray, what was that?" said Mrs. Peyton sharply.

"That I love you!"

Mrs. Peyton was fairly startled.  The embarrassment of any truth is
apt to be in its eternal abruptness, which no deviousness of tact or
circumlocution of diplomacy has ever yet surmounted.  Whatever had
been in her heart, or mind, she was unprepared for this directness.
The bolt had dropped from the sky; they were alone; there was
nothing between the stars and the earth but herself and this man and
this truth; it could not be overlooked, surmounted, or escaped from.
A step or two more would take her out of the garden into the
moonlight, but always into this awful frankness of blunt and
outspoken nature.  She hesitated, and turned the corner into the
olive shadows.  It was, perhaps, more dangerous; but less shameless,
and less like truckling.  And the appallingly direct Clarence
instantly followed.

"I know you will despise me, hate me; and, perhaps, worst of all,
disbelieve me; but I swear to you, now, that I have always loved
you,--yes, ALWAYS!  When first I came here, it was not to see my old
playmate, but YOU, for I had kept the memory of you as I first saw
you when a boy, and you have always been my ideal.  I have thought
of, dreamed of, worshiped, and lived for no other woman.  Even when
I found Susy again, grown up here at your side; even when I thought
that I might, with your consent, marry her, it was that I might be
with YOU always; that I might be a part of YOUR home, your family,
and have a place with her in YOUR heart; for it was you I loved, and
YOU only.  Don't laugh at me, Mrs. Peyton, it is the truth, the
whole truth, I am telling you.  God help me!"

If she only COULD have laughed,--harshly, ironically, or even
mercifully and kindly!  But it would not come.  And she burst out:--

"I am not laughing.  Good heavens, don't you see?  It is ME you are
making ridiculous."

"YOU ridiculous?" he said in a momentarily choked, half-stupefied
voice.  "You--a beautiful woman, my superior in everything, the
mistress of these lands where I am only steward--made ridiculous,
not by my presumption, but by my confession?  Was the saint you just
now admired in Father Esteban's chapel ridiculous because of the
peon clowns who were kneeling before it?"

"Hush!  This is wicked!  Stop!"

She felt she was now on firm ground, and made the most of it in
voice and manner.  She must draw the line somewhere, and she would
draw it between passion and impiety.

"Not until I have told you all, and I MUST before I leave you.  I
loved you when I came here,--even when your husband was alive.
Don't be angry, Mrs. Peyton; HE would not, and need not, have been
angry; he would have pitied the foolish boy, who, in the very
innocence and ignorance of his passion, might have revealed it to
him as he did to everybody but ONE.  And yet, I sometimes think you
might have guessed it, had you thought of me at all.  It must have
been on my lips that day I sat with you in the boudoir.  I know that
I was filled with it; with it and with you; with your presence, with
your beauty, your grace of heart and mind,--yes, Mrs. Peyton, even
with your own unrequited love for Susy.  Only, then, I knew not what
it was."

"But I think I can tell you what it was then, and now," said Mrs.
Peyton, recovering her nervous little laugh, though it died a moment
after on her lips.  "I remember it very well.  You told me then that
I REMINDED YOU OF YOUR MOTHER.  Well, I am not old enough to be your
mother, Mr. Brant, but I am old enough to have been, and might have
been, the mother of your wife.  That was what you meant then; that
is what you mean now.  I was wrong to accuse you of trying to make
me ridiculous.  I ask your pardon.  Let us leave it as it was that
day in the boudoir, as it is NOW.  Let me still remind you of your
mother,--I know she must have been a good woman to have had so good
a son,--and when you have found some sweet young girl to make you
happy, come to me for a mother's blessing, and we will laugh at the
recollection and misunderstanding of this evening."

Her voice did not, however, exhibit that exquisite maternal
tenderness which the beatific vision ought to have called up, and
the persistent voice of Clarence could not be evaded in the shadow.

"I said you reminded me of my mother," he went on at her side,
"because I knew her and lost her only as a child.  She never was
anything to me but a memory, and yet an ideal of all that was sweet
and lovable in woman.  Perhaps it was a dream of what she might have
been when she was as young in years as you.  If it pleases you still
to misunderstand me, it may please you also to know that there is a
reminder of her even in this.  I have no remembrance of a word of
affection from her, nor a caress; I have been as hopeless in my love
for her who was my mother, as of the woman I would make my wife."

"But you have seen no one, you know no one, you are young, you
scarcely know your own self!  You will forget this, you will forget
ME!  And if--if--I should--listen to you, what would the world say,
what would YOU yourself say a few years hence?  Oh, be reasonable.
Think of it,--it would be so wild,--so mad! so--so--utterly

In proof of its ludicrous quality, two tears escaped her eyes in the
darkness.  But Clarence caught the white flash of her withdrawn
handkerchief in the shadow, and captured her returning hand.  It was
trembling, but did not struggle, and presently hushed itself to rest
in his.

"I'm not only a fool but a brute," he said in a lower voice.
"Forgive me.  I have given you pain,--you, for whom I would have

They had both stopped.  He was still holding her sleeping hand.  His
arm had stolen around the burnous so softly that it followed the
curves of her figure as lightly as a fold of the garment, and was
presumably unfelt.  Grief has its privileges, and suffering
exonerates a questionable situation.  In another moment her fair
head MIGHT have dropped upon his shoulder.  But an approaching voice
uprose in the adjoining broad allee.  It might have been the world
speaking through the voice of the lawyer Sanderson.

"Yes, he is a good fellow, and an intelligent fellow, too, but a
perfect child in his experience of mankind."

They both started, but Mrs. Peyton's hand suddenly woke up and
grasped his firmly.  Then she said in a higher, but perfectly level

"Yes, I think with you we had better look at it again in the
sunlight to-morrow.  But here come our friends; they have probably
been waiting for us to join them and go in."

        .        .        .        .        .        .        .

The wholesome freshness of early morning was in the room when
Clarence awoke, cleared and strengthened.  His resolution had been
made.  He would leave the rancho that morning, to enter the world
again and seek his fortune elsewhere.  This was only right to HER,
whose future it should never be said he had imperiled by his folly
and inexperience; and if, in a year or two of struggle he could
prove his right to address her again, he would return.  He had not
spoken to her since they had parted in the garden, with the grim
truths of the lawyer ringing in his ears, but he had written a few
lines of farewell, to be given to her after he had left.  He was
calm in his resolution, albeit a little pale and hollow-eyed for it.

He crept downstairs in the gray twilight of the scarce-awakened
house, and made his way to the stables.  Saddling his horse, and
mounting, he paced forth into the crisp morning air.  The sun, just
risen, was everywhere bringing out the fresh color of the flower-
strewn terraces, as the last night's shadows, which had hidden them,
were slowly beaten back.  He cast a last look at the brown adobe
quadrangle of the quiet house, just touched with the bronzing of the
sun, and then turned his face towards the highway.  As he passed the
angle of the old garden he hesitated, but, strong in his resolution,
he put the recollection of last night behind him, and rode by
without raising his eyes.


It was HER voice.  He wheeled his horse.  She was standing behind
the grille in the old wall as he had seen her standing on the day he
had ridden to his rendezvous with Susy.  A Spanish manta was thrown
over her head and shoulders, as if she had dressed hastily, and had
run out to intercept him while he was still in the stable.  Her
beautiful face was pale in its black-hooded recess, and there were
faint circles around her lovely eyes.

"You were going without saying 'goodby'!" she said softly.

She passed her slim white hand between the grating.  Clarence leaped
to the ground, caught it, and pressed it to his lips.  But he did
not let it go.

"No! no!" she said, struggling to withdraw it.  "It is better as it
is--as--as you have decided it to be.  Only I could not let you go
thus,--without a word.  There now,--go, Clarence, go.  Please!
Don't you see I am behind these bars?  Think of them as the years
that separate us, my poor, dear, foolish boy.  Think of them as
standing between us, growing closer, heavier, and more cruel and
hopeless as the years go on."

Ah, well! they had been good bars a hundred and fifty years ago,
when it was thought as necessary to repress the innocence that was
behind them as the wickedness that was without.  They had done duty
in the convent at Santa Inez, and the monastery of Santa Barbara,
and had been brought hither in Governor Micheltorrenas' time to keep
the daughters of Robles from the insidious contact of the outer
world, when they took the air in their cloistered pleasance.
Guitars had tinkled against them in vain, and they had withstood the
stress and storm of love tokens.  But, like many other things which
have had their day and time, they had retained their semblance of
power, even while rattling loosely in their sockets, only because no
one had ever thought of putting them to the test, and, in the strong
hand of Clarence, assisted, perhaps, by the leaning figure of Mrs.
Peyton, I grieve to say that the whole grille suddenly collapsed,
became a frame of tinkling iron, and then clanked, bar by bar, into
the road.  Mrs. Peyton uttered a little cry and drew back, and
Clarence, leaping the ruins, caught her in his arms.

For a moment only, for she quickly withdrew from them, and although
the morning sunlight was quite rosy on her cheeks, she said gravely,
pointing to the dismantled opening:--

"I suppose you MUST stay now, for you never could leave me here
alone and defenseless."

He stayed.  And with this fulfillment of his youthful dreams the
romance of his young manhood seemed to be completed, and so closed
the second volume of this trilogy.  But what effect that fulfillment
of youth had upon his maturer years, or the fortunes of those who
were nearly concerned in it, may be told in a later and final

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