List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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"But where was Pedro all the time?  What was he doing?" demanded
Peyton, with a darkened face and gathering anger.

The vacquero looked at his master, and shrugged his shoulders
significantly.  At any other time Peyton would have remembered that
Pedro, as the reputed scion of a decayed Spanish family, and
claiming superiority, was not a favorite with his fellow-retainers.
But the gesture, half of suggestion, half of depreciation, irritated
Peyton still more.

"Well, where is this American who DID something when there wasn't a
man among you all able to stop a child's runaway ponies?" he said
sarcastically.  "Let me see him."

The vacquero became still more deprecatory.

"Ah!  He had driven on with his team towards San Antonio.  He would
not stop to be thanked.  But that was the whole truth.  He,
Incarnacion, could swear to it as to the Creed.  There was nothing

"Take those beasts around the back way to the corral," said Peyton,
thoroughly enraged, "and not a word of this to any one at the casa,
do you hear?  Not a word to Mrs. Peyton or the servants, or, by
Heaven, I'll clear the rancho of the whole lazy crew of you at once.
Out of the way there, and be off!"

He spurred his horse past the frightened menial, and dashed down the
narrow lane that led to the gate.  But, as Incarnacion had truly
said, "It was an evil day," for at the bottom of the lane, ambling
slowly along as he lazily puffed a yellow cigarette, appeared the
figure of the erring Pedro.  Utterly unconscious of the accident,
attributing the disappearance of his charges to the inequalities of
the plain, and, in truth, little interested in what he firmly
believed was his purely artificial function, he had even made a
larger circuit to stop at a wayside fonda for refreshments.

Unfortunately, there is no more illogical sequence of human emotion
than the exasperation produced by the bland manner of the
unfortunate object who has excited it, although that very unconcern
may be the convincing proof of innocence of intention.  Judge
Peyton, already influenced, was furious at the comfortable
obliviousness of his careless henchman, and rode angrily towards
him.  Only a quick turn of Pedro's wrist kept the two men from
coming into collision.

"Is this the way you attend to your duty?" demanded Peyton, in a
thick, suppressed voice, "Where is the buggy?  Where is my

There was no mistaking Judge Peyton's manner, even if the reason of
it was not so clear to Pedro's mind, and his hot Latin blood flew
instinctively to his face.  But for that, he might have shown some
concern or asked an explanation.  As it was, he at once retorted
with the national shrug and the national half-scornful, half-lazy
"Quien sabe?"

"Who knows?" repeated Peyton, hotly.  "I do!  She was thrown out of
her buggy through your negligence and infernal laziness!  The ponies
ran away, and were stopped by a stranger who wasn't afraid of
risking his bones, while you were limping around somewhere like a
slouching, cowardly coyote."

The vacquero struggled a moment between blank astonishment and
inarticulate rage.  At last he burst out:--

"I am no coyote!  I was there!  I saw no runaway!"

"Don't lie to me, sir!" roared Peyton.  "I tell you the buggy was
smashed, the girls were thrown out and nearly killed"--  He stopped
suddenly.  The sound of youthful laughter had come from the bottom
of the lane, where Susy Peyton and Mary Rogers, just alighted from
the coach, in the reaction of their previous constrained attitude,
were flying hilariously into view.  A slight embarrassment crossed
Peyton's face; a still deeper flush of anger overspread Pedro's
sullen cheek.

Then Pedro found tongue again, his native one, rapidly, violently,
half incoherently.  "Ah, yes!  It had come to this.  It seems he was
not a vacquero, a companion of the padrone on lands that had been
his own before the Americanos robbed him of it, but a servant, a
lackey of muchachas, an attendant on children to amuse them, or--why
not?--an appendage to his daughter's state!  Ah, Jesus Maria! such a
state! such a muchacha!  A picked-up foundling--a swineherd's
daughter--to be ennobled by his, Pedro's, attendance, and for whose
vulgar, clownish tricks,--tricks of a swineherd's daughter,--he,
Pedro, was to be brought to book and insulted as if she were of
Hidalgo blood!  Ah, Caramba!  Don Juan Peyton would find he could no
more make a servant of him than he could make a lady of her!"

The two young girls were rapidly approaching.  Judge Peyton spurred
his horse beside the vacquero's, and, swinging the long thong of his
bridle ominously in his clenched fingers, said, with a white face:--


Pedro's hand slid towards his sash.  Peyton only looked at him with
a rigid smile of scorn.

"Or I'll lash you here before them both," he added in a lower voice.

The vacquero met Peyton's relentless eyes with a yellow flash of
hate, drew his reins sharply, until his mustang, galled by the cruel
bit, reared suddenly as if to strike at the immovable American,
then, apparently with the same action, he swung it around on its
hind legs, as on a pivot, and dashed towards the corral at a furious


Meantime the heroic proprietor of the peaceful ox-team, whose valor
Incarnacion had so infelicitously celebrated, was walking listlessly
in the dust beside his wagon.  At a first glance his slouching
figure, taken in connection with his bucolic conveyance, did not
immediately suggest a hero.  As he emerged from the dusty cloud it
could be seen that he was wearing a belt from which a large dragoon
revolver and hunting knife were slung, and placed somewhat
ostentatiously across the wagon seat was a rifle.  Yet the other
contents of the wagon were of a singularly inoffensive character,
and even suggested articles of homely barter.  Culinary utensils of
all sizes, tubs, scullery brushes, and clocks, with several rolls of
cheap carpeting and calico, might have been the wares of some
traveling vender.  Yet, as they were only visible through a flap of
the drawn curtains of the canvas hood, they did not mitigate the
general aggressive effect of their owner's appearance.  A red
bandanna handkerchief knotted and thrown loosely over his shoulders,
a slouched hat pulled darkly over a head of long tangled hair,
which, however, shadowed a round, comfortable face, scantily and
youthfully bearded, were part of these confusing inconsistencies.

The shadows of the team wagon were already lengthening grotesquely
over the flat, cultivated fields, which for some time had taken the
place of the plains of wild oats in the branch road into which they
had turned.  The gigantic shadow of the proprietor, occasionally
projected before it, was in characteristic exaggeration, and was
often obliterated by a puff of dust, stirred by the plodding hoofs
of the peaceful oxen, and swept across the field by the strong
afternoon trades.  The sun sank lower, although a still potent
presence above the horizon line; the creaking wagon lumbered still
heavily along.  Yet at intervals its belligerent proprietor would
start up from his slouching, silent march, break out into violent,
disproportionate, but utterly ineffective objurgation of his cattle,
jump into the air and kick his heels together in some paroxysm of
indignation against them,--an act, however, which was received
always with heavy bovine indifference, the dogged scorn of swaying,
repudiating heads, or the dull contempt of lazily flicking tails.

Towards sunset one or two straggling barns and cottages indicated
their approach to the outskirts of a country town or settlement.
Here the team halted, as if the belligerent-looking teamster had
felt his appearance was inconsistent with an effeminate
civilization, and the oxen were turned into an open waste opposite a
nondescript wooden tenement, half farmhouse and half cabin,
evidently of the rudest Western origin.  He may have recognized the
fact that these "shanties" were not, as the ordinary traveler might
infer, the first rude shelter of the original pioneers or settlers,
but the later makeshifts of some recent Western immigrants who, like
himself, probably found themselves unequal to the settled habits of
the village, and who still retained their nomadic instincts.  It
chanced, however, that the cabin at present was occupied by a New
England mechanic and his family, who had emigrated by ship around
Cape Horn, and who had no experience of the West, the plains, or its
people.  It was therefore with some curiosity and a certain amount
of fascinated awe that the mechanic's only daughter regarded from
the open door of her dwelling the arrival of this wild and lawless-
looking stranger.

Meantime he had opened the curtains of the wagon and taken from its
interior a number of pots, pans, and culinary utensils, which he
proceeded to hang upon certain hooks that were placed on the outer
ribs of the board and the sides of the vehicle.  To this he added a
roll of rag carpet, the end of which hung from the tailboard, and a
roll of pink calico temptingly displayed on the seat.  The
mystification and curiosity of the young girl grew more intense at
these proceedings.  It looked like the ordinary exhibition of a
traveling peddler, but the gloomy and embattled appearance of the
man himself scouted so peaceful and commonplace a suggestion.  Under
the pretense of chasing away a marauding hen, she sallied out upon
the waste near the wagon.  It then became evident that the traveler
had seen her, and was not averse to her interest in his movements,
although he had not changed his attitude of savage retrospection.
An occasional ejaculation of suppressed passion, as if the memory of
some past conflict was too much for him, escaped him even in this
peaceful occupation.  As this possibly caused the young girl to
still hover timidly in the distance, he suddenly entered the wagon
and reappeared carrying a tin bucket, with which he somewhat
ostentatiously crossed her path, his eyes darkly wandering as if
seeking something.

"If you're lookin' for the spring, it's a spell furder on--by the

It was a pleasant voice, the teamster thought, albeit with a dry,
crisp, New England accent unfamiliar to his ears.  He looked into
the depths of an unlovely blue-check sunbonnet, and saw certain
small, irregular features and a sallow check, lit up by a pair of
perfectly innocent, trustful, and wondering brown eyes.  Their timid
possessor seemed to be a girl of seventeen, whose figure, although
apparently clad in one of her mother's gowns, was still undeveloped
and repressed by rustic hardship and innutrition.  As her eyes met
his she saw that the face of this gloomy stranger was still
youthful, by no means implacable, and, even at that moment, was
actually suffused by a brick-colored blush!  In matters of mere
intuition, the sex, even in its most rustic phase, is still our
superior; and this unsophisticated girl, as the trespasser
stammered, "Thank ye, miss," was instinctively emboldened to greater

"Dad ain't tu hum, but ye kin have a drink o' milk if ye keer for

She motioned shyly towards the cabin, and then led the way.  The
stranger, with an inarticulate murmur, afterwards disguised as a
cough, followed her meekly.  Nevertheless, by the time they had
reached the cabin he had shaken his long hair over his eyes again,
and a dark abstraction gathered chiefly in his eyebrows.  But it did
not efface from the girl's mind the previous concession of a blush,
and, although it added to her curiosity, did not alarm her.  He
drank the milk awkwardly.  But by the laws of courtesy, even among
the most savage tribes, she felt he was, at that moment at least,
harmless.  A timid smile fluttered around her mouth as she said:--

"When ye hung up them things I thought ye might be havin' suthing to
swap or sell.  That is,"--with tactful politeness,--"mother was
wantin' a new skillet, and it would have been handy if you'd had
one.  But"--with an apologetic glance at his equipments--"if it
ain't your business, it's all right, and no offense."

"I've got a lot o' skillets," said the strange teamster, with marked
condescension, "and she can have one.  They're all that's left outer
a heap o' trader's stuff captured by Injuns t'other side of Laramie.
We had a big fight to get 'em back.  Lost two of our best men,--
scalped at Bloody Creek,--and had to drop a dozen redskins in their
tracks,--me and another man,--lyin' flat in er wagon and firin'
under the flaps o' the canvas.  I don't know ez they waz wuth it,"
he added in gloomy retrospect; "but I've got to get rid of 'em, I
reckon, somehow, afore I work over to Deadman's Gulch again."

The young girl's eyes brightened timidly with a feminine mingling of
imaginative awe and personal, pitying interest.  He was, after all,
so young and amiable looking for such hardships and adventures.  And
with all this, he--this Indian fighter--was a little afraid of HER!

"Then that's why you carry that knife and six-shooter?" she said.
"But you won't want 'em now, here in the settlement."

"That's ez mebbe," said the stranger darkly.  He paused, and then
suddenly, as if recklessly accepting a dangerous risk, unbuckled his
revolver and handed it abstractedly to the young girl.  But the
sheath of the bowie-knife was a fixture in his body-belt, and he was
obliged to withdraw the glittering blade by itself, and to hand it
to her in all its naked terrors.  The young girl received the
weapons with a smiling complacency.  Upon such altars as these the
skeptical reader will remember that Mars had once hung his "battered
shield," his lance, and "uncontrolled crest."

Nevertheless, the warlike teamster was not without embarrassment.
Muttering something about the necessity of "looking after his
stock," he achieved a hesitating bow, backed awkwardly out of the
door, and receiving from the conquering hands of the young girl his
weapons again, was obliged to carry them somewhat ingloriously in
his hands across the road, and put them on the wagon seat, where, in
company with the culinary articles, they seemed to lose their
distinctively aggressive character.  Here, although his cheek was
still flushed from his peaceful encounter, his voice regained some
of its hoarse severity as he drove the oxen from the muddy pool into
which they had luxuriantly wandered, and brought their fodder from
the wagon.  Later, as the sun was setting, he lit a corn-cob pipe,
and somewhat ostentatiously strolled down the road, with a furtive
eye lingering upon the still open door of the farmhouse.  Presently
two angular figures appeared from it, the farmer and his wife,
intent on barter.

These he received with his previous gloomy preoccupation, and a
slight variation of the story he had told their daughter.  It is
possible that his suggestive indifference piqued and heightened the
bargaining instincts of the woman, for she not only bought the
skillet, but purchased a clock and a roll of carpeting.  Still more,
in some effusion of rustic courtesy, she extended an invitation to

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