List Of Contents | Contents of Susy, A Story of the Plains
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herself should form the one discordant note in the Arcadian dream
that he had found so sweet; in his previous imaginings it was the
presence of Mrs. Peyton which he had dreaded; she whose propinquity
now seemed so full of gentleness, reassurance, and repose.  How
worthy she seemed of any sacrifice he could make for her!  He had
seen little of her for the last two or three days, although her
smile and greeting were always ready for him.  Poor Clarence did not
dream that she had found from certain incontestable signs and
tokens, both in the young ladies and himself, that he did not
require watching, and that becoming more resigned to Susy's
indifference, which seemed so general and passive in quality, she
was no longer tortured by the sting of jealousy.

Finding himself alone that afternoon, the young man had wandered
somewhat listlessly beyond the low adobe gateway.  The habits of the
siesta obtained in a modified form at the rancho.  After luncheon,
its masters and employees usually retired, not so much from the
torrid heat of the afternoon sun, but from the first harrying of the
afternoon trades, whose monotonous whistle swept round the walls.  A
straggling passion vine near the gate beat and struggled against the
wind.  Clarence had stopped near it, and was gazing with worried
abstraction across the tossing fields, when a soft voice called his

It was a pleasant voice,--Mrs. Peyton's.  He glanced back at the
gateway; it was empty.  He looked quickly to the right and left; no
one was there.

The voice spoke again with the musical addition of a laugh; it
seemed to come from the passion vine.  Ah, yes; behind it, and half
overgrown by its branches, was a long, narrow embrasured opening in
the wall, defended by the usual Spanish grating, and still further
back, as in the frame of a picture, the half length figure of Mrs.
Peyton, very handsome and striking, too, with a painted
picturesqueness from the effect of the checkered light and shade.

"You looked so tired and bored out there," she said.  "I am afraid
you are finding it very dull at the rancho.  The prospect is
certainly not very enlivening from where you stand."

Clarence protested with a visible pleasure in his eyes, as he held
back a spray before the opening.

"If you are not afraid of being worse bored, come in here and talk
with me.  You have never seen this part of the house, I think,--my
own sitting-room.  You reach it from the hall in the gallery.  But
Lola or Anita will show you the way."

He reentered the gateway, and quickly found the hall,--a narrow,
arched passage, whose black, tunnel-like shadows were absolutely
unaffected by the vivid, colorless glare of the courtyard without,
seen through an opening at the end.  The contrast was sharp,
blinding, and distinct; even the edges of the opening were black;
the outer light halted on the threshold and never penetrated within.
The warm odor of verbena and dried rose leaves stole from a half-
open door somewhere in the cloistered gloom.  Guided by it, Clarence
presently found himself on the threshold of a low-vaulted room.  Two
other narrow embrasured windows like the one he had just seen, and a
fourth, wider latticed casement, hung with gauze curtains, suffused
the apartment with a clear, yet mysterious twilight that seemed its
own.  The gloomy walls were warmed by bright-fringed bookshelves,
topped with trifles of light feminine coloring and adornment.  Low
easy-chairs and a lounge, small fanciful tables, a dainty desk,
gayly colored baskets of worsteds or mysterious kaleidoscopic
fragments, and vases of flowers pervaded the apartment with a
mingled sense of grace and comfort.  There was a womanly refinement
in its careless negligence, and even the delicate wrapper of
Japanese silk, gathered at the waist and falling in easy folds to
the feet of the graceful mistress of this charming disorder, looked
a part of its refined abandonment.

Clarence hesitated as on the threshold of some sacred shrine.  But
Mrs. Peyton, with her own hands, cleared a space for him on the

"You will easily suspect from all this disorder, Mr. Brant, that I
spend a greater part of my time here, and that I seldom see much
company.  Mr. Peyton occasionally comes in long enough to stumble
over a footstool or upset a vase, and I think Mary and Susy avoid it
from a firm conviction that there is work concealed in these
baskets.  But I have my books here, and in the afternoons, behind
these thick walls, one forgets the incessant stir and restlessness
of the dreadful winds outside.  Just now you were foolish enough to
tempt them while you were nervous, or worried, or listless.  Take my
word for it, it's a great mistake.  There is no more use fighting
them, as I tell Mr. Peyton, than of fighting the people born under
them.  I have my own opinion that these winds were sent only to stir
this lazy race of mongrels into activity, but they are enough to
drive us Anglo-Saxons into nervous frenzy.  Don't you think so?  But
you are young and energetic, and perhaps you are not affected by

She spoke pleasantly and playfully, yet with a certain nervous
tension of voice and manner that seemed to illustrate her theory.
At least, Clarence, in quick sympathy with her slightest emotion,
was touched by it.  There is no more insidious attraction in the
persons we admire, than the belief that we know and understand their
unhappiness, and that our admiration for them is lifted higher than
a mere mutual instinctive sympathy with beauty or strength.  This
adorable woman had suffered.  The very thought aroused his chivalry.
It loosened, also, I fear, his quick, impulsive tongue.

Oh, yes; he knew it.  He had lived under this whip of air and sky
for three years, alone in a Spanish rancho, with only the native
peons around him, and scarcely speaking his own tongue even to his
guardian.  He spent his mornings on horseback in fields like these,
until the vientos generales, as they called them, sprang up and
drove him nearly frantic; and his only relief was to bury himself
among the books in his guardian's library, and shut out the world,--
just as she did.  The smile which hovered around the lady's mouth at
that moment arrested Clarence, with a quick remembrance of their
former relative positions, and a sudden conviction of his
familiarity in suggesting an equality of experience, and he blushed.
But Mrs. Peyton diverted his embarrassment with an air of interested
absorption in his story, and said:--

"Then you know these people thoroughly, Mr. Brant?  I am afraid that
WE do not."

Clarence had already gathered that fact within the last few days,
and, with his usual impulsive directness, said so.  A slight
knitting of Mrs. Peyton's brows passed off, however, as he quickly
and earnestly went on to say that it was impossible for the Peytons
in their present relations to the natives to judge them, or to be
judged by them fairly.  How they were a childlike race, credulous
and trustful, but, like all credulous and trustful people, given to
retaliate when imposed upon with a larger insincerity, exaggeration,
and treachery.  How they had seen their houses and lands occupied by
strangers, their religion scorned, their customs derided, their
patriarchal society invaded by hollow civilization or frontier
brutality--all this fortified by incident and illustration, the
outcome of some youthful experience, and given with the glowing
enthusiasm of conviction.  Mrs. Peyton listened with the usual
divided feminine interest between subject and speaker.

Where did this rough, sullen boy--as she had known him--pick up this
delicate and swift perception, this reflective judgment, and this
odd felicity of expression?  It was not possible that it was in him
while he was the companion of her husband's servants or the
recognized "chum" of the scamp Hooker.  No.  But if HE could have
changed like this, why not Susy?  Mrs. Peyton, in the conservatism
of her sex, had never been quite free from fears of her adopted
daughter's hereditary instincts; but, with this example before her,
she now took heart.  Perhaps the change was coming slowly; perhaps
even now what she thought was indifference and coldness was only
some abnormal preparation or condition.  But she only smiled and

"Then, if you think those people have been wronged, you are not on
our side, Mr. Brant?"

What to an older and more worldly man would have seemed, and
probably was, only a playful reproach, struck Clarence deeply, and
brought his pent-up feelings to his lips.

"YOU have never wronged them.  You couldn't do it; it isn't in your
nature.  I am on YOUR side, and for you and yours always, Mrs.
Peyton.  From the first time I saw you on the plains, when I was
brought, a ragged boy, before you by your husband, I think I would
gladly have laid down my life for you.  I don't mind telling you now
that I was even jealous of poor Susy, so anxious was I for the
smallest share in your thoughts, if only for a moment.  You could
have done anything with me you wished, and I should have been
happy,--far happier than I have been ever since.  I tell you this,
Mrs. Peyton, now, because you have just doubted if I might be 'on
your side,' but I have been longing to tell it all to you before,
and it is that I am ready to do anything you want,--all you want,--
to be on YOUR SIDE and at YOUR SIDE, now and forever."

He was so earnest and hearty, and above all so appallingly and
blissfully happy, in this relief of his feelings, smiling as if it
were the most natural thing in the world, and so absurdly
unconscious of his twenty-two years, his little brown curling
mustache, the fire in his wistful, yearning eyes, and, above all, of
his clasped hands and lover-like attitude, that Mrs. Peyton--at
first rigid as stone, then suffused to the eyes--cast a hasty glance
round the apartment, put her handkerchief to her face, and laughed
like a girl.

At which Clarence, by no means discomposed, but rather accepting her
emotion as perfectly natural, joined her heartily, and added:--

"It's so, Mrs. Peyton; I'm glad I told you.  You don't mind it, do

But Mrs. Peyton had resumed her gravity, and perhaps a touch of her
previous misgivings.

"I should certainly be very sorry," she said, looking at him
critically, "to object to your sharing your old friendship for your
little playmate with her parents and guardians, or to your
expressing it to THEM as frankly as to her."

She saw the quick change in his mobile face and the momentary arrest
of its happy expression.  She was frightened and yet puzzled.  It
was not the sensitiveness of a lover at the mention of the loved
one's name, and yet it suggested an uneasy consciousness.  If his
previous impulsive outburst had been prompted honestly, or even
artfully, by his passion for Susy, why had he looked so shocked when
she spoke of her?

But Clarence, whose emotion had been caused by the sudden recall of
his knowledge of Susy's own disloyalty to the woman whose searching
eyes were upon him, in his revulsion against the deceit was, for an
instant, upon the point of divulging all.  Perhaps, if Mrs. Peyton
had shown more confidence, he would have done so, and materially
altered the evolution of this story.  But, happily, it is upon these
slight human weaknesses that your romancer depends, and Clarence,
with no other reason than the instinctive sympathy of youth with
youth in its opposition to wisdom and experience, let the
opportunity pass, and took the responsibility of it out of the hands
of this chronicler.

Howbeit, to cover his confusion, he seized upon the second idea that
was in his mind, and stammered, "Susy!  Yes, I wanted to speak to
you about her."  Mrs. Peyton held her breath, but the young man went
on, although hesitatingly, with evident sincerity.  "Have you heard
from any of her relations since--since--you adopted her?"

It seemed a natural enough question, although not the sequitur she
had expected.  "No," she said carelessly.  "It was well understood,
after the nearest relation--an aunt by marriage--had signed her
consent to Susy's adoption, that there should be no further
intercourse with the family.  There seemed to us no necessity for
reopening the past, and Susy herself expressed no desire."  She
stopped, and again fixing her handsome eyes on Clarence, said, "Do
you know any of them?"

But Clarence by this time had recovered himself, and was able to
answer carelessly and truthfully that he did not.  Mrs. Peyton,
still regarding him closely, added somewhat deliberately, "It
matters little now what relations she has; Mr. Peyton and I have
complete legal control over her until she is of age, and we can
easily protect her from any folly of her own or others, or from any
of the foolish fancies that sometimes overtake girls of her age and

To her utter surprise, however, Clarence uttered a faint sigh of
relief, and his face again recovered its expression of boyish
happiness.  "I'm glad of it, Mrs. Peyton," he said heartily.  "No
one could understand better what is for her interest in all things
than yourself.  Not," he said, with hasty and equally hearty loyalty
to his old playmate, "that I think she would ever go against your
wishes, or do anything that she knows to be wrong, but she is very
young and innocent,--as much of a child as ever, don't you think so,
Mrs. Peyton?"

It was amusing, yet nevertheless puzzling, to hear this boyish young
man comment upon Susy's girlishness.  And Clarence was serious, for
he had quite forgotten in Mrs. Peyton's presence the impression of
superiority which Susy had lately made upon him.  But Mrs. Peyton
returned to the charge, or, rather, to an attack upon what she
conceived to be Clarence's old position.

"I suppose she does seem girlish compared to Mary Rogers, who is a
much more reserved and quiet nature.  But Mary is very charming, Mr.
Brant, and I am really delighted to have her here with Susy.  She
has such lovely dark eyes and such good manners.  She has been well
brought up, and it is easy to see that her friends are superior
people.  I must write to them to thank them for her visit, and beg
them to let her stay longer.  I think you said you didn't know

But Clarence, whose eyes had been thoughtfully and admiringly
wandering over every characteristic detail of the charming
apartment, here raised them to its handsome mistress, with an
apologetic air and a "No" of such unaffected and complete
abstraction, that she was again dumbfounded.  Certainly, it could
not be Mary in whom he was interested.

Abandoning any further inquisition for the present, she let the talk
naturally fall upon the books scattered about the tables.  The young
man knew them all far better than she did, with a cognate knowledge
of others of which she had never heard.  She found herself in the
attitude of receiving information from this boy, whose boyishness,
however, seemed to have evaporated, whose tone had changed with the
subject, and who now spoke with the conscious reserve of knowledge.
Decidedly, she must have grown rusty in her seclusion.  This came,

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