List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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The young girl raised her head quickly; her deep violet eyes seemed
also to leap with a sudden suspicion, and with a half-mechanical,
secretive movement, that might have been only a schoolgirl's
instinct, her right hand had slipped a paper on which she was
scribbling between the leaves of her book.  Yet the next moment,
even while looking interrogatively at her mother, she withdrew the
paper quietly, tore it up into small pieces, and threw them on the

But Mrs. Peyton was too preoccupied with her news to notice the
circumstance, and too nervous in her haste to be tactful.  "Susy,
your father has invited that boy, Clarence Brant,--you know that
creature we picked up and assisted on the plains, when you were a
mere baby,--to come down here and make us a visit."

Her heart seemed to stop beating as she gazed breathlessly at the
girl.  But Susy's face, unchanged except for the alert, questioning
eyes, remained fixed for a moment; then a childish smile of wonder
opened her small red mouth, expanded it slightly as she said

"Lor, mar!  He hasn't, really!"

Inexpressibly, yet unreasonably reassured, Mrs. Peyton hurriedly
recounted her husband's story of Clarence's fortune, and was even
joyfully surprised into some fairness of statement.

"But you don't remember him much, do you, dear?  It was so long ago,
and--you are quite a young lady now," she added eagerly.

The open mouth was still fixed; the wondering smile would have been
idiotic in any face less dimpled, rosy, and piquant than Susy's.
After a slight gasp, as if in still incredulous and partly
reminiscent preoccupation, she said without replying:--

"How funny!  When is he coming?"

"Day after to-morrow," returned Mrs. Peyton, with a contented smile.

"And Mary Rogers will be here, too.  It will be real fun for her."

Mrs. Peyton was more than reassured.  Half ashamed of her jealous
fears, she drew Susy's golden head towards her and kissed it.  And
the young girl, still reminiscent, with smilingly abstracted
toleration, returned the caress.


It was not thought inconsistent with Susy's capriciousness that she
should declare her intention the next morning of driving her pony
buggy to Santa Inez to anticipate the stage-coach and fetch Mary
Rogers from the station.  Mrs. Peyton, as usual, supported the young
lady's whim and opposed her husband's objections.

"Because the stage-coach happens to pass our gate, John, it is no
reason why Susy shouldn't drive her friend from Santa Inez if she
prefers it.  It's only seven miles, and you can send Pedro to follow
her on horseback to see that she comes to no harm."

"But that isn't Pedro's business," said Peyton.

"He ought to be proud of the privilege," returned the lady, with a
toss of her head.

Peyton smiled grimly, but yielded; and when the stage-coach drew up
the next afternoon at the Santa Inez Hotel, Susy was already waiting
in her pony carriage before it.  Although the susceptible driver,
expressman, and passengers generally, charmed with this golden-
haired vision, would have gladly protracted the meeting of the two
young friends, the transfer of Mary Rogers from the coach to the
carriage was effected with considerable hauteur and youthful dignity
by Susy.  Even Mary Rogers, two years Susy's senior, a serious
brunette, whose good-humor did not, however, impair her capacity for
sentiment, was impressed and even embarrassed by her demeanor; but
only for a moment.  When they had driven from the hotel and were
fairly hidden again in the dust of the outlying plain, with the
discreet Pedro hovering in the distance, Susy dropped the reins,
and, grasping her companion's arm, gasped, in tones of dramatic

"He's been heard from, and is coming HERE!"


A sickening sense that her old confidante had already lost touch
with her--they had been separated for nearly two weeks--might have
passed through Susy's mind.

"Who?" she repeated, with a vicious shake of Mary's arm, "why,
Clarence Brant, of course."

"No!" said Mary, vaguely.

Nevertheless, Susy went on rapidly, as if to neutralize the effect
of her comrade's vacuity.

"You never could have imagined it!  Never!  Even I, when mother told
me, I thought I should have fainted, and ALL would have been

"But," hesitated the still wondering confidante, "I thought that was
all over long ago.  You haven't seen him nor heard from him since
that day you met accidentally at Santa Clara, two years ago, have

Susy's eyes shot a blue ray of dark but unutterable significance
into Mary's, and then were carefully averted.  Mary Rogers, although
perfectly satisfied that Susy had never seen Clarence since,
nevertheless instantly accepted and was even thrilled with this
artful suggestion of a clandestine correspondence.  Such was the
simple faith of youthful friendship.

"Mother knows nothing of it, of course, and a word from you or him
would ruin everything," continued the breathless Susy.  "That's why
I came to fetch you and warn you.  You must see him first, and warn
him at any cost.  If I hadn't run every risk to come here to-day,
Heaven knows what might have happened!  What do you think of the
ponies, dear?  They're my own, and the sweetest!  This one's Susy,
that one Clarence,--but privately, you know.  Before the world and
in the stables he's only Birdie."

"But I thought you wrote to me that you called them 'Paul and
Virginie,'" said Mary doubtfully.

"I do, sometimes," said Susy calmly.  "But one has to learn to
suppress one's feelings, dear!"  Then quickly, "I do so hate deceit,
don't you?  Tell me, don't you think deceit perfectly hateful?"

Without waiting for her friend's loyal assent, she continued
rapidly: "And he's just rolling in wealth! and educated, papa says,
to the highest degree!"

"Then," began Mary, "if he's coming with your mother's consent, and
if you haven't quarreled, and it is not broken off, I should think
you'd be just delighted."

But another quick flash from Susy's eyes dispersed these beatific
visions of the future.  "Hush!" she said, with suppressed dramatic
intensity.  "You know not what you say!  There's an awful mystery
hangs over him.  Mary Rogers," continued the young girl, approaching
her small mouth to her confidante's ear in an appalling whisper.
"His father was--a PIRATE! Yes--lived a pirate and was killed a

The statement, however, seemed to be partly ineffective.  Mary
Rogers was startled but not alarmed, and even protested feebly.
"But," she said, "if the father's dead, what's that to do with
Clarence?  He was always with your papa--so you told me, dear--or
other people, and couldn't catch anything from his own father.  And
I'm sure, dearest, he always seemed nice and quiet."

"Yes, SEEMED," returned Susy darkly, "but that's all you know!  It
was in his BLOOD.  You know it always is,--you read it in the
books,--you could see it in his eye.  There were times, my dear,
when he was thwarted,--when the slightest attention from another
person to me revealed it!  I have kept it to myself,--but think,
dearest, of the effects of jealousy on that passionate nature!
Sometimes I tremble to look back upon it."

Nevertheless, she raised her hands and threw back her lovely golden
mane from her childish shoulders with an easy, untroubled gesture.
It was singular that Mary Rogers, leaning back comfortably in the
buggy, also accepted these heart-rending revelations with
comfortably knitted brows and luxuriously contented concern.  If she
found it difficult to recognize in the picture just drawn by Susy
the quiet, gentle, and sadly reserved youth she had known, she said
nothing.  After a silence, lazily watching the distant wheeling
vacquero, she said:--

"And your father always sends an outrider like that with you?  How
nice!  So picturesque--and like the old Spanish days."

"Hush!" said Susy, with another unutterable glance.

But this time Mary was in full sympathetic communion with her
friend, and equal to any incoherent hiatus of revelation.

"No!" she said promptly, "you don't mean it!"

"Don't ask me, I daren't say anything to papa, for he'd be simply
furious.  But there are times when we're alone, and Pedro wheels
down so near with SUCH a look in his black eyes, that I'm all in a
tremble.  It's dreadful!  They say he's a real Briones,--and he
sometimes says something in Spanish, ending with 'senorita,' but I
pretend I don't understand."

"And I suppose that if anything should happen to the ponies, he'd
just risk his life to save you."

"Yes,--and it would be so awful,--for I just hate him!"

"But if I was with you, dear, he couldn't expect you to be as
grateful as if you were alone.  Susy!" she continued after a pause,
"if you just stirred up the ponies a little so as to make 'em go
fast, perhaps he might think they'd got away from you, and come
dashing down here.  It would be so funny to see him,--wouldn't it?"

The two girls looked at each other; their eyes sparkled already with
a fearful joy,--they drew a long breath of guilty anticipation.  For
a moment Susy even believed in her imaginary sketch of Pedro's

"Papa said I wasn't to use the whip except in a case of necessity,"
she said, reaching for the slender silver-handled toy, and setting
her pretty lips together with the added determination of
disobedience.  "G'long!"--and she laid the lash smartly on the
shining backs of the animals.

They were wiry, slender brutes of Mojave Indian blood, only lately
broken to harness, and still undisciplined in temper.  The lash sent
them rearing into the air, where, forgetting themselves in the
slackened traces and loose reins, they came down with a succession
of bounds that brought the light buggy leaping after them with its
wheels scarcely touching the ground.  That unlucky lash had knocked
away the bonds of a few months' servitude and sent the half-broken
brutes instinctively careering with arched backs and kicking heels
into the field towards the nearest cover.

Mary Rogers cast a hurried glance over her shoulder.  Alas, they had
not calculated on the insidious levels of the terraced plain, and
the faithful Pedro had suddenly disappeared; the intervention of six
inches of rising wild oats had wiped him out of the prospect and
their possible salvation as completely as if he had been miles away.
Nevertheless, the girls were not frightened; perhaps they had not
time.  There was, however, the briefest interval for the most
dominant of feminine emotions, and it was taken advantage of by

"It was all YOUR fault, dear!" she gasped, as the forewheels of the
buggy, dropping into a gopher rut, suddenly tilted up the back of
the vehicle and shot its fair occupants into the yielding palisades
of dusty grain.  The shock detached the whiffletree from the
splinter-bar, snapped the light pole, and, turning the now
thoroughly frightened animals again from their course, sent them,
goaded by the clattering fragments, flying down the turnpike.  Half
a mile farther on they overtook the gleaming white canvas hood of a
slowly moving wagon drawn by two oxen, and, swerving again, the
nearer pony stepped upon a trailing trace and ingloriously ended
their career by rolling himself and his companion in the dust at the
very feet of the peacefully plodding team.

Equally harmless and inglorious was the catastrophe of Susy and her
friend.  The strong, elastic stalks of the tall grain broke their
fall and enabled them to scramble to their feet, dusty, disheveled,
but unhurt, and even unstunned by the shock.  Their first
instinctive cries over a damaged hat or ripped skirt were followed
by the quick reaction of childish laughter.  They were alone; the
very defection of Pedro consoled them, in its absence of any witness
to their disaster; even their previous slight attitude to each other
was forgotten.  They groped their way, pushing and panting, to the
road again, where, beholding the overset buggy with its wheels
ludicrously in the air, they suddenly seized and shook each other,
and in an outburst of hilarious ecstasy, fairly laughed until the
tears came into their eyes.

Then there was a breathless silence.

"The stage will be coming by in a moment," composedly said Susy.
"Fix me, dear."

Mary Rogers calmly walked around her friend, bestowing a practical
shake there, a pluck here, completely retying one bow and restoring
an engaging fullness to another, yet critically examining, with her
head on one side, the fascinating result.  Then Susy performed the
same function for Mary with equal deliberation and deftness.
Suddenly Mary started and looked up.

"It's coming," she said quickly, "and they've SEEN US."

The expression of the faces of the two girls instantly changed.  A
pained dignity and resignation, apparently born of the most
harrowing experiences and controlled only by perfect good breeding,
was distinctly suggested in their features and attitude as they
stood patiently by the wreck of their overturned buggy awaiting the
oncoming coach.  In sharp contrast was the evident excitement among
the passengers.  A few rose from their seats in their eagerness; as
the stage pulled up in the road beside the buggy four or five of the
younger men leaped to the ground.

"Are you hurt, miss?" they gasped sympathetically.

Susy did not immediately reply, but ominously knitted her pretty
eyebrows as if repressing a spasm of pain.  Then she said, "Not at
all," coldly, with the suggestion of stoically concealing some
lasting or perhaps fatal injury, and took the arm of Mary Rogers,
who had, in the mean time, established a touching yet graceful limp.

Declining the proffered assistance of the passengers, they helped
each other into the coach, and freezingly requesting the driver to
stop at Mr. Peyton's gate, maintained a statuesque and impressive
silence.  At the gates they got down, followed by the sympathetic
glances of the others.

To all appearance their escapade, albeit fraught with dangerous
possibilities, had happily ended.  But in the economy of human
affairs, as in nature, forces are not suddenly let loose without
more or less sympathetic disturbance which is apt to linger after
the impelling cause is harmlessly spent.  The fright which the girls
had unsuccessfully attempted to produce in the heart of their escort
had passed him to become a panic elsewhere.  Judge Peyton, riding
near the gateway of his rancho, was suddenly confronted by the
spectacle of one of his vacqueros driving on before him the two
lassoed and dusty ponies, with a face that broke into violent
gesticulating at his master's quick interrogation.

"Ah!  Mother of God!  It was an evil day!  For the bronchos had run
away, upset the buggy, and had only been stopped by a brave
Americano of an ox-team, whose lasso was even now around their
necks, to prove it, and who had been dragged a matter of a hundred
varas, like a calf, at their heels.  The senoritas,--ah! had he not
already said they were safe, by the mercy of Jesus!--picked up by
the coach, and would be here at this moment."

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