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A Waif of the Plains Bret Harte

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The young girl shot a violet blue ray from under her broad hat. "Why--when we're grown up now?" Then with a certain precision, "Why, they're VERY particular about young gentlemen! Why, Clarence, if they suspected that you and I were--" Another violet ray from under the hat completed this unfinished sentence.

Pleased and yet confused, Clarence looked straight ahead with deepening color. "Why," continued Susy, "Mary Rogers, that was walking with me, thought you were ever so old--and a distinguished Spaniard! And I," she said abruptly--"haven't I grown? Tell me, Clarence," with her old appealing impatience, "haven't I grown? Do tell me!"

"Very much," said Clarence.

"And isn't this frock pretty--it's only my second best--but I've a prettier one with lace all down in front; but isn't this one pretty, Clarence, tell me?"

Clarence thought the frock and its fair owner perfection, and said so. Whereat Susy, as if suddenly aware of the presence of passers-by, assumed an air of severe propriety, dropped her hands by her side, and with an affected conscientiousness walked on, a little further from Clarence's side, until they reached the ice-cream saloon.

"Get a table near the back, Clarence," she said, in a confidential whisper, "where they can't see us--and strawberry, you know, for the lemon and vanilla here are just horrid!"

They took their seats in a kind of rustic arbor in the rear of the shop, which gave them the appearance of two youthful but somewhat over-dressed and over-conscious shepherds. There was an interval of slight awkwardness, which Susy endeavored to displace. "There has been," she remarked, with easy conversational lightness, "quite an excitement about our French teacher being changed. The girls in our class think it most disgraceful."

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And this was all she could say after a separation of four years! Clarence was desperate, but as yet idealess and voiceless. At last, with an effort over his spoon, he gasped a floating recollection: "Do you still like flapjacks, Susy?"

"Oh, yes," with a laugh, "but we don't have them now."

"And Mose" (a black pointer, who used to yelp when Susy sang), "does he still sing with you?"

"Oh, HE'S been lost ever so long," said Susy composedly; "but I've got a Newfoundland and a spaniel and a black pony;" and here, with a rapid inventory of her other personal effects, she drifted into some desultory details of the devotion of her adopted parents, whom she now readily spoke of as "papa" and "mamma," with evidently no disturbing recollection of the dead. From which it appeared that the Peytons were very rich, and, in addition to their possessions in the lower country, owned a rancho in Santa Clara and a house in San Francisco. Like all children, her strongest impressions were the most recent. In the vain hope to lead her back to this material yesterday, he said--

"You remember Jim Hooker?"

"Oh, HE ran away, when you left. But just think of it! The other day, when papa and I went into a big restaurant in San Francisco, who should be there WAITING on the table--yes, Clarence, a real waiter--but Jim Hooker! Papa spoke to him; but of course," with a slight elevation of her pretty chin, "I couldn't, you know; fancy-- a waiter!"

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A Waif of the Plains
Bret Harte

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