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A Waif of the Plains Bret Harte

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The story of how Jim Hooker had personated him stopped short upon Clarence's lips. He could not bring himself now to add that revelation to the contempt of his small companion, which, in spite of its naivete, somewhat grated on his sensibilities.

"Clarence," she said, suddenly turning towards him mysteriously, and indicating the shopman and his assistants, "I really believe these people suspect us."

"Of what?" said the practical Clarence.

"Don't be silly! Don't you see how they are staring?"

Clarence was really unable to detect the least curiosity on the part of the shopman, or that any one exhibited the slightest concern in him or his companion. But he felt a return of the embarrassed pleasure he was conscious of a moment before.

"Then you're living with your father?" said Susy, changing the subject.

"You mean my COUSIN," said Clarence, smiling. "You know my father died long before I ever knew you."

"Yes; that's what YOU used to say, Clarence, but papa says it isn't so." But seeing the boy's wondering eyes fixed on her with a troubled expression, she added quickly, "Oh, then, he IS your cousin!"

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"Well, I think I ought to know," said Clarence, with a smile, that was, however, far from comfortable, and a quick return of his old unpleasant recollections of the Peytons. "Why, I was brought to him by one of his friends." And Clarence gave a rapid boyish summary of his journey from Sacramento, and Flynn's discovery of the letter addressed to Silsbee. But before he had concluded he was conscious that Susy was by no means interested in these details, nor in the least affected by the passing allusion to her dead father and his relation to Clarence's misadventures. With her rounded chin in her hand, she was slowly examining his face, with a certain mischievous yet demure abstraction. "I tell you what, Clarence," she said, when he had finished, "you ought to make your cousin get you one of those sombreros, and a nice gold-braided serape. They'd just suit you. And then--then you could ride up and down the Alameda when we are going by."

"But I'm coming to see you at--at your house, and at the convent," he said eagerly. "Father Sobriente and my cousin will fix it all right."

But Susy shook her head, with superior wisdom. "No; they must never know our secret!--neither papa nor mamma, especially mamma. And they mustn't know that we've met again--AFTER THESE YEARS!" It is impossible to describe the deep significance which Susy's blue eyes gave to this expression. After a pause she went on--

"No! We must never meet again, Clarence, unless Mary Rogers helps. She is my best, my ONLIEST friend, and older than I; having had trouble herself, and being expressly forbidden to see him again. You can speak to her about Suzette--that's my name now; I was rechristened Suzette Alexandra Peyton by mamma. And now, Clarence," dropping her voice and glancing shyly around the saloon, "you may kiss me just once under my hat, for good-by." She adroitly slanted her broad-brimmed hat towards the front of the shop, and in its shadow advanced her fresh young cheek to Clarence.

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A Waif of the Plains
Bret Harte

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