List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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him to sup with them, which he declined and accepted in the same
embarrassed breath, returning the proffered hospitality by
confidentially showing them a couple of dried scalps, presumably of
Indian origin.  It was in the same moment of human weakness that he
answered their polite query as to "what they might call him," by
intimating that his name was "Red Jim,"--a title of achievement by
which he was generally known, which for the present must suffice
them.  But during the repast that followed this was shortened to
"Mister Jim," and even familiarly by the elders to plain "Jim."
Only the young girl habitually used the formal prefix in return for
the "Miss Phoebe" that he called her.

With three such sympathetic and unexperienced auditors the gloomy
embarrassment of Red Jim was soon dissipated, although it could
hardly be said that he was generally communicative.  Dark tales of
Indian warfare, of night attacks and wild stampedes, in which he had
always taken a prominent part, flowed freely from his lips, but
little else of his past history or present prospects.  And even his
narratives of adventure were more or less fragmentary and imperfect
in detail.

"You woz saying," said the farmer, with slow, matter of fact, New
England deliberation, "ez how you guessed you woz beguiled amongst
the Injins by your Mexican partner, a pow'ful influential man, and
yet you woz the only one escaped the gen'ral slarterin'.  How came
the Injins to kill HIM,--their friend?"

"They didn't," returned Jim, with ominously averted eyes.

"What became of him?" continued the farmer.

Red Jim shadowed his eyes with his hand, and cast a dark glance of
scrutiny out of the doors and windows.  The young girl perceived it
with timid, fascinated concern, and said hurriedly:--

"Don't ask him, father!  Don't you see he mustn't tell?"

"Not when spies may be hangin' round, and doggin' me at every step,"
said Red Jim, as if reflecting, with another furtive glance towards
the already fading prospect without.  "They've sworn to revenge
him," he added moodily.

A momentary silence followed.  The farmer coughed slightly, and
looked dubiously at his wife.  But the two women had already
exchanged feminine glances of sympathy for this evident slayer of
traitors, and were apparently inclined to stop any adverse

In the midst of which a shout was heard from the road.  The farmer
and his family instinctively started.  Red Jim alone remained
unmoved,--a fact which did not lessen the admiration of his feminine
audience.  The host rose quickly, and went out.  The figure of a
horseman had halted in the road, but after a few moments'
conversation with the farmer they both moved towards the house and
disappeared.  When the farmer returned, it was to say that "one of
them 'Frisco dandies, who didn't keer about stoppin' at the hotel
in the settlement," had halted to give his "critter" a feed and
drink that he might continue his journey.  He had asked him to come
in while the horse was feeding, but the stranger had "guessed he'd
stretch his legs outside and smoke his cigar;" he might have thought
the company "not fine enough for him," but he was "civil spoken
enough, and had an all-fired smart hoss, and seemed to know how to
run him."  To the anxious inquiries of his wife and daughter he
added that the stranger didn't seem like a spy or a Mexican; was "as
young as HIM," pointing to the moody Red Jim, "and a darned sight
more peaceful-like in style."

Perhaps owing to the criticism of the farmer, perhaps from some
still lurking suspicion of being overheard by eavesdroppers, or
possibly from a humane desire to relieve the strained apprehension
of the women, Red Jim, as the farmer disappeared to rejoin the
stranger, again dropped into a lighter and gentler vein of
reminiscence.  He told them how, when a mere boy, he had been lost
from an emigrant train in company with a little girl some years his
junior.  How, when they found themselves alone on the desolate
plain, with the vanished train beyond their reach, he endeavored to
keep the child from a knowledge of the real danger of their
position, and to soothe and comfort her.  How he carried her on his
back, until, exhausted, he sank in a heap of sage-brush.  How he was
surrounded by Indians, who, however, never suspected his hiding-
place; and how he remained motionless and breathless with the
sleeping child for three hours, until they departed.  How, at the
last moment, he had perceived a train in the distance, and had
staggered with her thither, although shot at and wounded by the
trainmen in the belief that he was an Indian.  How it was afterwards
discovered that the child was the long-lost daughter of a
millionaire; how he had resolutely refused any gratuity for saving
her, and she was now a peerless young heiress, famous in California.
Whether this lighter tone of narrative suited him better, or whether
the active feminine sympathy of his auditors helped him along,
certain it was that his story was more coherent and intelligible and
his voice less hoarse and constrained than in his previous
belligerent reminiscences; his expression changed, and even his
features worked into something like gentler emotion.  The bright
eyes of Phoebe, fastened upon him, turned dim with a faint moisture,
and her pale cheek took upon itself a little color.  The mother,
after interjecting "Du tell," and "I wanter know," remained open-
mouthed, staring at her visitor.  And in the silence that followed,
a pleasant, but somewhat melancholy voice came from the open door.

"I beg your pardon, but I thought I couldn’t be mistaken.  It IS my
old friend, Jim Hooker!"

Everybody started.  Red Jim stumbled to his feet with an
inarticulate and hysteric exclamation.  Yet the apparition that now
stood in the doorway was far from being terrifying or discomposing.
It was evidently the stranger,--a slender, elegantly-knit figure,
whose upper lip was faintly shadowed by a soft, dark mustache
indicating early manhood, and whose unstudied ease in his well-
fitting garments bespoke the dweller of cities.  Good-looking and
well-dressed, without the consciousness of being either; self-
possessed through easy circumstances, yet without self-assertion;
courteous by nature and instinct as well as from an experience of
granting favors, he might have been a welcome addition to even a
more critical company.  But Red Jim, hurriedly seizing his
outstretched hand, instantly dragged him away from the doorway into
the road and out of hearing of his audience.

"Did you hear what I was saying?" he asked hoarsely.

"Well, yes,--I think so," returned the stranger, with a quiet smile.

"Ye ain't goin' back on me, Clarence, are ye,--ain't goin' to gimme
away afore them, old pard, are ye?" said Jim, with a sudden change
to almost pathetic pleading.

"No," returned the stranger, smiling.  "And certainly not before
that interested young lady, Jim.  But stop.  Let me look at you."

He held out both hands, took Jim's, spread them apart for a moment
with a boyish gesture, and, looking in his face, said half
mischievously, half sadly, "Yes, it's the same old Jim Hooker,--

"But YOU'RE changed,--reg'lar war paint, Big Injin style!" said
Hooker, looking up at him with an awkward mingling of admiration and
envy.  "Heard you struck it rich with the old man, and was Mister
Brant now!"

"Yes," said Clarence gently, yet with a smile that had not only a
tinge of weariness but even of sadness in it.

Unfortunately, the act, which was quite natural to Clarence's
sensitiveness, and indeed partly sprang from some concern in his old
companion's fortunes, translated itself by a very human process to
Hooker's consciousness as a piece of rank affectation.  HE would
have been exalted and exultant in Clarence's place, consequently any
other exhibition was only "airs."  Nevertheless, at the present
moment Clarence was to be placated.

"You didn't mind my telling that story about your savin' Susy as my
own, did ye?" he said, with a hasty glance over his shoulder.  "I
only did it to fool the old man and women-folks, and make talk.  You
won't blow on me?  Ye ain't mad about it?"

It had crossed Clarence's memory that when they were both younger
Jim Hooker had once not only borrowed his story, but his name and
personality as well.  Yet in his loyalty to old memories there was
mingled no resentment for past injury.  "Of course not," he said,
with a smile that was, however, still thoughtful.  "Why should I?
Only I ought to tell you that Susy Peyton is living with her adopted
parents not ten miles from here, and it might reach their ears.
She's quite a young lady now, and if I wouldn't tell her story to
strangers, I don't think YOU ought to, Jim."

He said this so pleasantly that even the skeptical Jim forgot what
he believed were the "airs and graces" of self-abnegation, and said,
"Let's go inside, and I'll introduce you," and turned to the house.
But Clarence Brant drew back.  "I'm going on as soon as my horse is
fed, for I'm on a visit to Peyton, and I intend to push as far as
Santa Inez still to-night.  I want to talk with you about yourself,
Jim," he added gently; "your prospects and your future.  I heard,"
he went on hesitatingly, "that you were--at work--in a restaurant in
San Francisco.  I'm glad to see that you are at least your own
master here,"--he glanced at the wagon.  "You are selling things, I
suppose?  For yourself, or another?  Is that team yours?  Come," he
added, still pleasantly, but in an older and graver voice, with
perhaps the least touch of experienced authority, "be frank, Jim.
Which is it?  Never mind what things you've told IN THERE, tell ME
the truth about yourself.  Can I help you in any way?  Believe me, I
should like to.  We have been old friends, whatever difference in
our luck, I am yours still."

Thus adjured, the redoubtable Jim, in a hoarse whisper, with a
furtive eye on the house, admitted that he was traveling for an
itinerant peddler, whom he expected to join later in the settlement;
that he had his own methods of disposing of his wares, and (darkly)
that his proprietor and the world generally had better not interfere
with him; that (with a return to more confidential lightness) he had
already "worked the Wild West Injin" business so successfully as to
dispose of his wares, particularly in yonder house, and might do
even more if not prematurely and wantonly "blown upon," "gone back
on," or "given away."

"But wouldn't you like to settle down on some bit of land like this,
and improve it for yourself?" said Clarence.  "All these valley
terraces are bound to rise in value, and meantime you would be
independent.  It could be managed, Jim.  I think I could arrange it
for you," he went on, with a slight glow of youthful enthusiasm.
"Write to me at Peyton's ranch, and I'll see you when I come back,
and we'll hunt up something for you together."  As Jim received the
proposition with a kind of gloomy embarrassment, he added lightly,
with a glance at the farmhouse, "It might be near HERE, you know;
and you'd have pleasant neighbors, and even eager listeners to your
old adventures."

"You'd better come in a minit before you go," said Jim, clumsily
evading a direct reply.  Clarence hesitated a moment, and then
yielded.  For an equal moment Jim Hooker was torn between secret
jealousy of his old comrade's graces and a desire to present them as
familiar associations of his own.  But his vanity was quickly

Need it be said that the two women received this fleck and foam of a
super-civilization they knew little of as almost an impertinence
compared to the rugged, gloomy, pathetic, and equally youthful hero
of an adventurous wilderness of which they knew still less?  What
availed the courtesy and gentle melancholy of Clarence Brant beside
the mysterious gloom and dark savagery of Red Jim?  Yet they
received him patronizingly, as one who was, like themselves, an
admirer of manly grace and power, and the recipient of Jim's
friendship.  The farmer alone seemed to prefer Clarence, and yet the
latter's tacit indorsement of Red Jim, through his evident previous
intimacy with him, impressed the man in Jim's favor.  All of which
Clarence saw with that sensitive perception which had given him an
early insight into human weakness, yet still had never shaken his
youthful optimism.  He smiled a little thoughtfully, but was openly
fraternal to Jim, courteous to his host and family, and, as he rode
away in the faint moonlight, magnificently opulent in his largess to
the farmer,--his first and only assertion of his position.

The farmhouse, straggling barn, and fringe of dusty willows, the
white dome of the motionless wagon, with the hanging frying pans and
kettles showing in the moonlight like black silhouettes against the
staring canvas, all presently sank behind Clarence like the details
of a dream, and he was alone with the moon, the hazy mystery of the
level, grassy plain, and the monotony of the unending road.  As he
rode slowly along he thought of that other dreary plain, white with
alkali patches and brown with rings of deserted camp-fires, known to
his boyhood of deprivation, dependency, danger, and adventure, oddly
enough, with a strange delight; and his later years of study,
monastic seclusion, and final ease and independence, with an easy
sense of wasted existence and useless waiting.  He remembered his
homeless childhood in the South, where servants and slaves took the
place of the father he had never known, and the mother that he
rarely saw; he remembered his abandonment to a mysterious female
relation, where his natural guardians seemed to have overlooked and
forgotten him, until he was sent, an all too young adventurer, to
work his passage on an overland emigrant train across the plains; he
remembered, as yesterday, the fears, the hopes, the dreams and
dangers of that momentous journey.  He recalled his little playmate,
Susy, and their strange adventures--the whole incident that the
imaginative Jim Hooker had translated and rehearsed as his own--rose
vividly before him.  He thought of the cruel end of that pilgrimage,
which again left him homeless and forgotten by even the relative he
was seeking in a strange land.  He remembered his solitary journey
to the gold mines, taken with a boy's trust and a boy's fearlessness,
and the strange protector he had found there, who had news of his
missing kinsman; he remembered how this protector--whom he had at
once instinctively loved--transferred him to the house of this
new-found relation, who treated him kindly and sent him to the
Jesuit school, but who never awakened in him a feeling of kinship.
He dreamed again of his life at school, his accidental meeting with
Susy at Santa Clara, the keen revival of his boyish love for his old
playmate, now a pretty schoolgirl, the petted adopted child of
wealthy parents.  He recalled the terrible shock that interrupted
this boyish episode: the news of the death of his protector, and the
revelation that this hard, silent, and mysterious man was his own
father, whose reckless life and desperate reputation had impelled

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