List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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her confidence yesterday, "is there really anything troubles you?
Tell me, dear.  What is it?"

"Oh, nothing--EVERYTHING!  It's no use,--YOU can't understand!  YOU
like it, I know you do.  I can see it; it's your style.  But it's
stupid, it's awful, Clarence!  With mamma snooping over you and
around you all day, with her 'dear child,' 'mamma's pet,' and 'What
is it, dear?' and 'Tell it all to your own mamma,' as if I would!
And 'my own mamma,' indeed!  As if I didn't know, Clarence, that she
ISN'T.  And papa, caring for nothing but this hideous, dreary
rancho, and the huge, empty plains.  It's worse than school, for
there, at least, when you went out, you could see something besides
cattle and horses and yellow-faced half-breeds!  But here--Lord!
it's only a wonder I haven't run away before!"

Startled and shocked as Clarence was at this revelation, accompanied
as it was by a hardness of manner that was new to him, the influence
of the young girl was still so strong upon him that he tried to
evade it as only an extravagance, and said with a faint smile, "But
where would you run to?"

She looked at him cunningly, with her head on one side, and then

"I have friends, and"--

She hesitated, pursing up her pretty lips.

"And what?"



"Yes,--an aunt by marriage.  She lives in Sacramento.  She'd be
overjoyed to have me come to her.  Her second husband has a theatre

"But, Susy, what does Mrs. Peyton know of this?"

"Nothing.  Do you think I'd tell her, and have her buy them up as
she has my other relations?  Do you suppose I don't know that I've
been bought up like a nigger?"

She looked indignant, compressing her delicate little nostrils, and
yet, somehow, Clarence had the same singular impression that she was
only acting.

The calling of a far-off voice came faintly through the wood.

"That's Mary, looking for me," said Susy composedly.  "You must go,
now, Clarence.  Quick!  Remember what I said,--and don't breathe a
word of this.  Good-by."

But Clarence was standing still, breathless, hopelessly disturbed,
and irresolute.  Then he turned away mechanically towards the trail.

"Well, Clarence?"

She was looking at him half reproachfully, half coquettishly, with
smiling, parted lips.  He hastened to forget himself and his
troubles upon them twice and thrice.  Then she quickly disengaged
herself, whispered, "Go, now," and, as Mary's call was repeated,
Clarence heard her voice, high and clear, answering, "Here, dear,"
as he was plunging into the thicket.

He had scarcely reached the madrono tree again and remounted his
horse, before he heard the sound of hoofs approaching from the road.
In his present uneasiness he did not care to be discovered so near
the rendezvous, and drew back into the shadow until the horseman
should pass.  It was Peyton, with a somewhat disturbed face, riding
rapidly.  Still less was he inclined to join or immediately follow
him, but he was relieved when his host, instead of taking the direct
road to the rancho, through the wild oats, turned off in the
direction of the corral.

A moment later Clarence wheeled into the direct road, and presently
found himself in the long afternoon shadows through the thickest of
the grain.  He was riding slowly, immersed in thought, when he was
suddenly startled by a hissing noise at his ear, and what seemed to
be the uncoiling stroke of a leaping serpent at his side.
Instinctively he threw himself forward on his horse's neck, and as
the animal shied into the grain, felt the crawling scrape and jerk
of a horsehair lariat across his back and down his horse's flanks.
He reined in indignantly and stood up in his stirrups.  Nothing was
to be seen above the level of the grain.  Beneath him the trailing
riata had as noiselessly vanished as if it had been indeed a gliding
snake.  Had he been the victim of a practical joke, or of the
blunder of some stupid vacquero?  For he made no doubt that it was
the lasso of one of the performers he had watched that afternoon.
But his preoccupied mind did not dwell long upon it, and by the time
he had reached the wall of the old garden, the incident was


Relieved of Clarence Brant's embarrassing presence, Jim Hooker did
not, however, refuse to avail himself of that opportunity to expound
to the farmer and his family the immense wealth, influence, and
importance of the friend who had just left him.  Although Clarence's
plan had suggested reticence, Hooker could not forego the pleasure
of informing them that "Clar" Brant had just offered to let him into
an extensive land speculation.  He had previously declined a large
share or original location in a mine of Clarence's, now worth a
million, because it was not "his style."  But the land speculation
in a country of unsettled titles and lawless men, he need not remind
them, required some experience of border warfare.  He would not say
positively, although he left them to draw their own conclusions with
gloomy significance, that this was why Clarence had sought him.
With this dark suggestion, he took leave of Mr. and Mrs. Hopkins and
their daughter Phoebe the next day, not without some natural human
emotion, and peacefully drove his team and wagon into the settlement
of Fair Plains.

He was not prepared, however, for a sudden realization of his
imaginative prospects.  A few days after his arrival in Fair Plains,
he received a letter from Clarence, explaining that he had not time
to return to Hooker to consult him, but had, nevertheless, fulfilled
his promise, by taking advantage of an opportunity of purchasing the
Spanish "Sisters'" title to certain unoccupied lands near the
settlement.  As these lands in part joined the section already
preempted and occupied by Hopkins, Clarence thought that Jim Hooker
would choose that part for the sake of his neighbor's company.  He
inclosed a draft on San Francisco, for a sum sufficient to enable
Jim to put up a cabin and "stock" the property, which he begged he
would consider in the light of a loan, to be paid back in
installments, only when the property could afford it.  At the same
time, if Jim was in difficulty, he was to inform him.  The letter
closed with a characteristic Clarence-like mingling of enthusiasm
and older wisdom.  "I wish you luck, Jim, but I see no reason why
you should trust to it.  I don't know of anything that could keep
you from making yourself independent of any one, if you go to work
with a LONG AIM and don't fritter away your chances on short ones.
If I were you, old fellow, I'd drop the Plains and the Indians out
of my thoughts, or at least out of my TALK, for a while; they won't
help you in the long run.  The people who believe you will be
jealous of you; those who don't, will look down upon you, and if
they get to questioning your little Indian romances, Jim, they'll be
apt to question your civilized facts.  That won't help you in the
ranching business and that's your only real grip now."  For the
space of two or three hours after this, Jim was reasonably grateful
and even subdued,--so much so that his employer, to whom he confided
his good fortune, frankly confessed that he believed him from that
unusual fact alone.  Unfortunately, neither the practical lesson
conveyed in this grim admission, nor the sentiment of gratitude,
remained long with Jim.  Another idea had taken possession of his
fancy.  Although the land nominated in his bill of sale had been,
except on the occasion of his own temporary halt there, always
unoccupied, unsought, and unclaimed, and although he was amply
protected by legal certificates, he gravely collected a posse of
three or four idlers from Fair Plains, armed them at his own
expense, and in the dead of night took belligerent and forcible
possession of the peaceful domain which the weak generosity and
unheroic dollars of Clarence had purchased for him!  A martial camp-
fire tempered the chill night winds to the pulses of the invaders,
and enabled them to sleep on their arms in the field they had won.
The morning sun revealed to the astonished Hopkins family the
embattled plain beyond, with its armed sentries.  Only then did Jim
hooker condescend to explain the reason of his warlike occupation,
with dark hints of the outlying "squatters" and "jumpers," whose
incursions their boldness alone had repulsed.  The effect of this
romantic situation upon the two women, with the slight fascination
of danger imported into their quiet lives, may well be imagined.
Possibly owing to some incautious questioning by Mr. Hopkins, and
some doubts of the discipline and sincerity of his posse, Jim
discharged them the next day; but during the erection of his cabin
by some peaceful carpenters from the settlement, he returned to his
gloomy preoccupation and the ostentatious wearing of his revolvers.
As an opulent and powerful neighbor, he took his meals with the
family while his house was being built, and generally impressed them
with a sense of security they had never missed.

Meantime, Clarence, duly informed of the installation of Jim as his
tenant, underwent a severe trial.  It was necessary for his plans
that this should be kept a secret at present, and this was no easy
thing for his habitually frank and open nature.  He had once
mentioned that he had met Jim at the settlement, but the information
was received with such indifference by Susy, and such marked
disfavor by Mrs. Peyton, that he said no more.  He accompanied
Peyton in his rides around the rancho, fully possessed himself of
the details of its boundaries, the debatable lands held by the
enemy, and listened with beating pulses, but a hushed tongue, to his
host's ill-concealed misgivings.

"You see, Clarence, that lower terrace?" he said, pointing to a far-
reaching longitudinal plain beyond the corral; "it extends from my
corral to Fair Plains.  That is claimed by the sisters' title, and,
as things appear to be going, if a division of the land is made it
will be theirs.  It's bad enough to have this best grazing land
lying just on the flanks of the corral held by these rascals at an
absurd prohibitory price, but I am afraid that it may be made to
mean something even worse.  According to the old surveys, these
terraces on different levels were the natural divisions of the
property,--one heir or his tenant taking one, and another taking
another,--an easy distinction that saved the necessity of boundary
fencing or monuments, and gave no trouble to people who were either
kinsmen or lived in lazy patriarchal concord.  That is the form of
division they are trying to reestablish now.  Well," he continued,
suddenly lifting his eyes to the young man's flushed face, in some
unconscious, sympathetic response to his earnest breathlessness,
"although my boundary line extends half a mile into that field, my
house and garden and corral ARE ACTUALLY UPON THAT TERRACE OR
LEVEL."  They certainly appeared to Clarence to be on the same line
as the long field beyond.  "If," went on Peyton, "such a decision is
made, these men will push on and claim the house and everything on
the terrace."

"But," said Clarence quickly, "you said their title was only
valuable where they have got or can give POSSESSION.  You already
have yours.  They can't take it from you except by force."

"No," said Peyton grimly, "nor will they dare to do it as long as I
live to fight them."

"But," persisted Clarence, with the same singular hesitancy of
manner, "why didn't you purchase possession of at least that part of
the land which lies so dangerously near your own house?"

"Because it was held by squatters, who naturally preferred buying
what might prove a legal title to their land from these impostors
than to sell out their possession to ME at a fair price."

"But couldn't you have bought from them both?" continued Clarence.

"My dear Clarence, I am not a Croesus nor a fool.  Only a man who
was both would attempt to treat with these rascals, who would now,
of course, insist that THEIR WHOLE claim should be bought up at
their own price, by the man who was most concerned in defeating

He turned away a little impatiently.  Fortunately he did not observe
that Clarence's averted face was crimson with embarrassment, and
that a faint smile hovered nervously about his mouth.

Since his late rendezvous with Susy, Clarence had had no chance to
interrogate her further regarding her mysterious relative.  That
that shadowy presence was more or less exaggerated, if not an
absolute myth, he more than half suspected, but of the discontent
that had produced it, or the recklessness it might provoke, there
was no doubt.  She might be tempted to some act of folly.  He
wondered if Mary Rogers knew it.  Yet, with his sensitive ideas of
loyalty, he would have shrunk from any confidence with Mary
regarding her friend's secrets, although he fancied that Mary's dark
eyes sometimes dwelt upon him with mournful consciousness and
premonition.  He did not imagine the truth, that this romantic
contemplation was only the result of Mary's conviction that Susy was
utterly unworthy of his love.  It so chanced one morning that the
vacquero who brought the post from Santa Inez arrived earlier than
usual, and so anticipated the two girls, who usually made a youthful
point of meeting him first as he passed the garden wall.  The letter
bag was consequently delivered to Mrs. Peyton in the presence of the
others, and a look of consternation passed between the young girls.
But Mary quickly seized upon the bag as if with girlish and
mischievous impatience, opened it, and glanced within it.

"There are only three letters for you," she said, handing them to
Clarence, with a quick look of significance, which he failed to
comprehend, "and nothing for me or Susy."

"But," began the innocent Clarence, as his first glance at the
letters showed him that one was directed to Susy, "here is"--

A wicked pinch on his arm that was nearest Mary stopped his speech,
and he quickly put the letters in his pocket.

"Didn't you understand that Susy don't want her mother to see that
letter?" asked Mary impatiently, when they were alone a moment

"No," said Clarence simply, handing her the missive.

Mary took it and turned it over in her hands.

"It's in a man's handwriting," she said innocently.

"I hadn't noticed it," returned Clarence with invincible naivete,
"but perhaps it is."

"And you hand it over for me to give to Susy, and ain't a bit
curious to know who it's from?"

"No," returned Clarence, opening his big eyes in smiling and
apologetic wonder.

"Well," responded the young lady, with a long breath of melancholy
astonishment, "certainly, of all things you are--you really ARE!"
With which incoherency--apparently perfectly intelligible to
herself--she left him.  She had not herself the slightest idea who
the letter was from; she only knew that Susy wanted it concealed.

The incident made little impression on Clarence, except as part of
the general uneasiness he felt in regard to his old playmate.  It
seemed so odd to him that this worry should come from HER,--that she

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