List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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Peyton and Susy, and even included his previous scheme of relief for
the improvident and incorrigible Hooker.  But it gave a wonderful
sincerity and happiness to his slumbers that night, which the wiser
and elder Peyton might have envied, and I wot not was in the long
run as correct and sagacious as Peyton's sleepless cogitations.  And
in the early morning Mr. Clarence Brant, the young capitalist, sat
down to his traveling-desk and wrote two clear-headed, logical, and
practical business letters,--one to his banker, and the other to his
former guardian, Don Juan Robinson, as his first step in a resolve
that was, nevertheless, perhaps as wildly quixotic and enthusiastic
as any dream his boyish and unselfish heart had ever indulged.

At breakfast, in the charmed freedom of the domestic circle,
Clarence forgot Susy's capricious commands of yesterday, and began
to address himself to her in his old earnest fashion, until he was
warned by a significant knitting of the young lady's brows and
monosyllabic responses.  But in his youthful loyalty to Mrs. Peyton,
he was more pained to notice Susy's occasional unconscious
indifference to her adopted mother's affectionate expression, and a
more conscious disregard of her wishes.  So uneasy did he become, in
his sensitive concern for Mrs. Peyton's half-concealed
mortification, that he gladly accepted Peyton's offer to go with him
to visit the farm and corral.  As the afternoon approached, with
another twinge of self-reproach, he was obliged to invent some
excuse to decline certain hospitable plans of Mrs. Peyton's for his
entertainment, and at half past three stole somewhat guiltily, with
his horse, from the stables.  But he had to pass before the outer
wall of the garden and grille, through which he had seen Mary the
day before.  Raising his eyes mechanically, he was startled to see
Mrs. Peyton standing behind the grating, with her abstracted gaze
fixed upon the wind-tossed, level grain beyond her.  She smiled as
she saw him, but there were traces of tears in her proud, handsome

"You are going to ride?" she said pleasantly.

"Y-e-es," stammered the shamefaced Clarence.

She glanced at him wistfully.

"You are right.  The girls have gone away by themselves.  Mr. Peyton
has ridden over to Santa Inez on this dreadful land business, and I
suppose you'd have found him a dull riding companion.  It is rather
stupid here.  I quite envy you, Mr. Brant, your horse and your

"But, Mrs. Peyton," broke in Clarence, impulsively, "you have a
horse--I saw it, a lovely lady's horse--eating its head off in the
stable.  Won't you let me run back and order it; and won't you,
please, come out with me for a good, long gallop?"

He meant what he said.  He had spoken quickly, impulsively, but with
the perfect understanding in his own mind that his proposition meant
the complete abandonment of his rendezvous with Susy.  Mrs. Peyton
was astounded and slightly stirred with his earnestness, albeit
unaware of all it implied.

"It's a great temptation, Mr. Brant," she said, with a playful
smile, which dazzled Clarence with its first faint suggestion of a
refined woman's coquetry; "but I'm afraid that Mr. Peyton would
think me going mad in my old age.  No.  Go on and enjoy your gallop,
and if you should see those giddy girls anywhere, send them home
early for chocolate, before the cold wind gets up."

She turned, waved her slim white hand playfully in acknowledgment of
Clarence's bared head, and moved away.

For the first few moments the young man tried to find relief in
furious riding, and in bullying his spirited horse.  Then he pulled
quickly up.  What was he doing?  What was he going to do?  What
foolish, vapid deceit was this that he was going to practice upon
that noble, queenly, confiding, generous woman?  (He had already
forgotten that she had always distrusted him.)  What a fool he was
not to tell her half-jokingly that he expected to meet Susy!  But
would he have dared to talk half-jokingly to such a woman on such a
topic?  And would it have been honorable without disclosing the
WHOLE truth,--that they had met secretly before?  And was it fair to
Susy?--dear, innocent, childish Susy!  Yet something must be done!
It was such trivial, purposeless deceit, after all; for this noble
woman, Mrs. Peyton, so kind, so gentle, would never object to his
loving Susy and marrying her.  And they would all live happily
together; and Mrs. Peyton would never be separated from them, but
always beaming tenderly upon them as she did just now in the garden.
Yes, he would have a serious understanding with Susy, and that would
excuse the clandestine meeting to-day.

His rapid pace, meantime, had brought him to the imperceptible
incline of the terrace, and he was astonished, in turning in the
saddle, to find that the casa, corral, and outbuildings had
completely vanished, and that behind him rolled only the long sea of
grain, which seemed to have swallowed them in its yellowing depths.
Before him lay the wooded ravine through which the stagecoach
passed, which was also the entrance to the rancho, and there, too,
probably, was the turning of which Susy had spoken.  But it was
still early for the rendezvous; indeed, he was in no hurry to meet
her in his present discontented state, and he made a listless
circuit of the field, in the hope of discovering the phenomena that
had caused the rancho's mysterious disappearance.  When he had found
that it was the effect of the different levels, his attention was
arrested by a multitude of moving objects in a still more distant
field, which proved to be a band of wild horses.  In and out among
them, circling aimlessly, as it seemed to him, appeared two horsemen
apparently performing some mystic evolution.  To add to their
singular performance, from time to time one of the flying herd,
driven by the horsemen far beyond the circle of its companions,
dropped suddenly and unaccountably in full career.  The field closed
over it as if it had been swallowed up.  In a few moments it
appeared again, trotting peacefully behind its former pursuer.  It
was some time before Clarence grasped the meaning of this strange
spectacle.  Although the clear, dry atmosphere sharply accented the
silhouette-like outlines of the men and horses, so great was the
distance that the slender forty-foot lasso, which in the skillful
hands of the horsemen had effected these captures, was COMPLETELY
INVISIBLE!  The horsemen were Peyton's vacqueros, making a selection
from the young horses for the market.  He remembered now that Peyton
had told him that he might be obliged to raise money by sacrificing
some of his stock, and the thought brought back Clarence's
uneasiness as he turned again to the trail.  Indeed, he was hardly
in the vein for a gentle tryst, as he entered the wooded ravine to
seek the madrono tree which was to serve as a guide to his lady's

A few rods further, under the cool vault filled with woodland
spicing, he came upon it.  In its summer harlequin dress of scarlet
and green, with hanging bells of poly-tinted berries, like some
personified sylvan Folly, it seemed a fitting symbol of Susy's
childish masquerade of passion.  Its bizarre beauty, so opposed to
the sober gravity of the sedate pines and hemlocks, made it an
unmistakable landmark.  Here he dismounted and picketed his horse.
And here, beside it, to the right, ran the little trail crawling
over mossy boulders; a narrow yellow track through the carpet of
pine needles between the closest file of trees; an almost
imperceptible streak across pools of chickweed at their roots, and a
brown and ragged swath through the ferns.  As he went on, the
anxiety and uneasiness that had possessed him gave way to a languid
intoxication of the senses; the mysterious seclusion of these
woodland depths recovered the old influence they had exerted over
his boyhood.  He was not returning to Susy, as much as to the older
love of his youth, of which she was, perhaps, only an incident.  It
was therefore with an odd boyish thrill again that, coming suddenly
upon a little hollow, like a deserted nest, where the lost trail
made him hesitate, he heard the crackle of a starched skirt behind
him, was conscious of the subtle odor of freshly ironed and scented
muslin, and felt the gentle pressure of delicate fingers upon his


"You silly boy!  Where were you blundering to?  Why didn't you look
around you?"

"I thought I would hear your voices."

"Whose voices, idiot?"

"Yours and Mary's," returned Clarence innocently, looking round for
the confidante.

"Oh, indeed!  Then you wanted to see MARY?  Well, she's looking for
me somewhere.  Perhaps you'll go and find her, or shall I?"

She was offering to pass him when he laid his hand on hers to detain
her.  She instantly evaded it, and drew herself up to her full
height, incontestably displaying the dignity of the added inches to
her skirt.  All this was charmingly like the old Susy, but it did
not bid fair to help him to a serious interview.  And, looking at
the pretty, pink, mocking face before him, with the witchery of the
woodland still upon him, he began to think that he had better put it

"Never mind about Mary," he said laughingly.  "But you said you
wanted to see me, Susy; and here I am."

"Said I wanted to see you?" repeated Susy, with her blue eyes lifted
in celestial scorn and wonderment.  "Said I wanted to see you?  Are
you not mistaken, Mr. Brant?  Really, I imagined that you came here
to see ME."

With her fair head upturned, and the leaf of her scarlet lip
temptingly curled over, Clarence began to think this latest phase of
her extravagance the most fascinating.  He drew nearer to her as he
said gently, "You know what I mean, Susy.  You said yesterday you
were troubled.  I thought you might have something to tell me."

"I should think it was YOU who might have something to tell me after
all these years," she said poutingly, yet self-possessed.  "But I
suppose you came here only to see Mary and mother.  I'm sure you let
them know that plainly enough last evening."

"But you said"--began the stupefied Clarence.

"Never mind what I said.  It's always what I say, never what YOU
say; and you don't say anything."

The woodland influence must have been still very strong upon
Clarence that he did not discover in all this that, while Susy's
general capriciousness was unchanged, there was a new and singular
insincerity in her manifest acting.  She was either concealing the
existence of some other real emotion, or assuming one that was
absent.  But he did not notice it, and only replied tenderly:--

"But I want to say a great deal to you, Susy.  I want to say that if
you still feel as I do, and as I have always felt, and you think you
could be happy as I would be if--if--we could be always together, we
need not conceal it from your mother and father any longer.  I am
old enough to speak for myself, and I am my own master.  Your mother
has been very kind to me,--so kind that it doesn't seem quite right
to deceive her,--and when I tell her that I love you, and that I
want you to be my wife, I believe she will give us her blessing."

Susy uttered a strange little laugh, and with an assumption of
coyness, that was, however, still affected, stooped to pick a few
berries from a manzanita bush.

"I'll tell you what she'll say, Clarence.  She'll say you're
frightfully young, and so you are!"

The young fellow tried to echo the laugh, but felt as if he had
received a blow.  For the first time he was conscious of the truth:
this girl, whom he had fondly regarded as a child, had already
passed him in the race; she had become a woman before he was yet a
man, and now stood before him, maturer in her knowledge, and older
in her understanding, of herself and of him.  This was the change
that had perplexed him; this was the presence that had come between
them,--a Susy he had never known before.

She laughed at his changed expression, and then swung herself easily
to a sitting posture on the low projecting branch of a hemlock.  The
act was still girlish, but, nevertheless, she looked down upon him
in a superior, patronizing way.  "Now, Clarence," she said, with a
half-abstracted manner, "don't you be a big fool!  If you talk that
way to mother, she'll only tell you to wait two or three years until
you know your own mind, and she'll pack me off to that horrid school
again, besides watching me like a cat every moment you are here.  If
you want to stay here, and see me sometimes like this, you'll just
behave as you have done, and say nothing.  Do you see?  Perhaps you
don't care to come, or are satisfied with Mary and mother.  Say so,
then.  Goodness knows, I don't want to force you to come here."

Modest and reserved as Clarence was generally, I fear that
bashfulness of approach to the other sex was not one of these
indications.  He walked up to Susy with appalling directness, and
passed his arm around her waist.  She did not move, but remained
looking at him and his intruding arm with a certain critical
curiosity, as if awaiting some novel sensation.  At which he kissed
her.  She then slowly disengaged his arm, and said:--

"Really, upon my word, Clarence," in perfectly level tones, and
slipped quietly to the ground.

He again caught her in his arms, encircling her disarranged hair and
part of the beribboned hat hanging over her shoulder, and remained
for an instant holding her thus silently and tenderly.  Then she
freed herself with an abstracted air, a half smile, and an unchanged
color except where her soft cheek had been abraded by his coat

"You're a bold, rude boy, Clarence," she said, putting back her hair
quietly, and straightening the brim of her hat.  "Heaven knows where
you learned manners!" and then, from a safer distance, with the same
critical look in her violet eyes, "I suppose you think mother would
allow THAT if she knew it?"

But Clarence, now completely subjugated, with the memory of the kiss
upon him and a heightened color, protested that he only wanted to
make their intercourse less constrained, and to have their
relations, even their engagement, recognized by her parents; still
he would take her advice.  Only there was always the danger that if
they were discovered she would be sent back to the convent all the
same, and his banishment, instead of being the probation of a few
years, would be a perpetual separation.

"We could always run away, Clarence," responded the young girl
calmly.  "There's nothing the matter with THAT."

Clarence was startled.  The idea of desolating the sad, proud,
handsome Mrs. Peyton, whom he worshiped, and her kind husband, whom
he was just about to serve, was so grotesque and confusing, that he
said hopelessly, "Yes."

"Of course," she continued, with the same odd affectation of
coyness, which was, however, distinctly uncalled for, as she eyed
him from under her broad hat, "you needn't come with me unless you
like.  I can run away by myself,--if I want to!  I've thought of it
before.  One can't stand everything!"

"But, Susy," said Clarence, with a swift remorseful recollection of

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