Faith And Unfaith
From: Riders Of The Purple Sage
At Jane Withersteen's home the promise made to Mrs. Larkin to
care for little Fay had begun to be fulfilled. Like a gleam of
sunlight through the cottonwoods was the coming of the child to
the gloomy house of Withersteen. The big, silent halls echoed
with childish laughter. In the shady court, where Jane spent many
of the hot July days, Fay's tiny feet pattered over the stone
flags and splashed in the amber stream. She prattled incessantly.
What difference, Jane thought, a child made in her home! It had
never been a real home, she discovered. Even the tidiness and
neatness she had so observed, and upon which she had insisted to
her women, became, in the light of Fay's smile, habits that now
lost their importance. Fay littered the court with Jane's books
and papers, and other toys her fancy improvised, and many a
strange craft went floating down the little brook.
And it was owing to Fay's presence that Jane Withersteen came to
see more of Lassiter. The rider had for the most part kept to the
sage. He rode for her, but he did not seek her except on
business; and Jane had to acknowledge in pique that her overtures
had been made in vain. Fay, however, captured Lassiter the moment
he first laid eyes on her.
Jane was present at the meeting, and there was something about it
which dimmed her sight and softened her toward this foe of her
people. The rider had clanked into the court, a tired yet wary
man, always looking for the attack upon him that was inevitable
and might come from any quarter; and he had walked right upon
little Fay. The child had been beautiful even in her rags and
amid the surroundings of the hovel in the sage, but now, in a
pretty white dress, with her shining curls brushed and her face
clean and rosy, she was lovely. She left her play and looked up
If there was not an instinct for all three of them in that
meeting, an unreasoning tendency toward a closer intimacy, then
Jane Withersteen believed she had been subject to a queer fancy.
She imagined any child would have feared Lassiter. And Fay Larkin
had been a lonely, a solitary elf of the sage, not at all an
ordinary child, and exquisitely shy with strangers. She watched
Lassiter with great, round, grave eyes, but showed no fear. The
rider gave Jane a favorable report of cattle and horses; and as
he took the seat to which she invited him, little Fay edged as
much as half an inch nearer. Jane replied to his look of inquiry
and told Fay's story. The rider's gray, earnest gaze troubled
her. Then he turned to Fay and smiled in a way that made Jane
doubt her sense of the true relation of things. How could
Lassiter smile so at a child when he had made so many children
fatherless? But he did smile, and to the gentleness she had seen
a few times he added something that was infinitely sad and sweet.
Jane's intuition told her that Lassiter had never been a father,
but if life ever so blessed him he would be a good one. Fay,
also, must have found that smile singularly winning. For she
edged closer and closer, and then, by way of feminine
capitulation, went to Jane, from whose side she bent a beautiful
glance upon the rider.
Lassiter only smiled at her.
Jane watched them, and realized that now was the moment she
should seize, if she was ever to win this man from his hatred.
But the step was not easy to take. The more she saw of Lassiter
the more she respected him, and the greater her respect the
harder it became to lend herself to mere coquetry. Yet as she
thought of her great motive, of Tull, and of that other whose
name she had schooled herself never to think of in connection
with Milly Erne's avenger, she suddenly found she had no choice.
And her creed gave her boldness far beyond the limit to which
vanity would have led her.
"Lassiter, I see so little of you now," she said, and was
conscious of heat in her cheeks.
"I've been riding hard," he replied.
"But you can't live in the saddle. You come in sometimes. Won't
you come here to see me--oftener?"
"Is that an order?"
"Nonsense! I simply ask you to come to see me when you find
The query once heard was not so embarrassing to Jane as she might
have imagined. Moreover, it established in her mind a fact that
there existed actually other than selfish reasons for her wanting
to see him. And as she had been bold, so she determined to be
both honest and brave.
"I've reasons--only one of which I need mention," she answered.
"If it's possible I want to change you toward my people. And on
the moment I can conceive of little I wouldn't do to gain that
How much better and freer Jane felt after that confession! She
meant to show him that there was one Mormon who could play a game
or wage a fight in the open.
"I reckon," said Lassiter, and he laughed.
It was the best in her, if the most irritating, that Lassiter
"Will you come?" She looked into his eyes, and for the life of
her could not quite subdue an imperiousness that rose with her
spirit. "I never asked so much of any man--except Bern Venters."
"'Pears to me that you'd run no risk, or Venters, either. But
mebbe that doesn't hold good for me."
"You mean it wouldn't be safe for you to be often here? You look
for ambush in the cottonwoods?"
"Not that so much."
At this juncture little Fay sidled over to Lassiter.
"Has oo a little dirl?" she inquired.
"No, lassie," replied the rider.
Whatever Fay seemed to be searching for in Lassiter's
sun-reddened face and quiet eyes she evidently found. "Oo tan tom
to see me," she added, and with that, shyness gave place to
friendly curiosity. First his sombrero with its leather band and
silver ornaments commanded her attention; next his quirt, and
then the clinking, silver spurs. These held her for some time,
but presently, true to childish fickleness, she left off playing
with them to look for something else. She laughed in glee as she
ran her little hands down the slippery, shiny surface of
Lassiter's leather chaps. Soon she discovered one of the hanging
gun-- sheaths, and she dragged it up and began tugging at the
huge black handle of the gun. Jane Withersteen repressed an
exclamation. What significance there was to her in the little
girl's efforts to dislodge that heavy weapon! Jane Withersteen
saw Fay's play and her beauty and her love as most powerful
allies to her own woman's part in a game that suddenly had
acquired a strange zest and a hint of danger. And as for the
rider, he appeared to have forgotten Jane in the wonder of this
lovely child playing about him. At first he was much the shyer of
the two. Gradually her confidence overcame his backwardness, and
he had the temerity to stroke her golden curls with a great hand.
Fay rewarded his boldness with a smile, and when he had gone to
the extreme of closing that great hand over her little brown one,
she said, simply, "I like oo!"
Sight of his face then made Jane oblivious for the time to his
character as a hater of Mormons. Out of the mother longing that
swelled her breast she divined the child hunger in Lassiter.
He returned the next day, and the next; and upon the following he
came both at morning and at night. Upon the evening of this
fourth day Jane seemed to feel the breaking of a brooding
struggle in Lassiter. During all these visits he had scarcely a
word to say, though he watched her and played absent-mindedly
with Fay. Jane had contented herself with silence. Soon little
Fay substituted for the expression of regard, "I like oo," a
warmer and more generous one, "I love oo."
Thereafter Lassiter came oftener to see Jane and her little
protegee. Daily he grew more gentle and kind, and gradually
developed a quaintly merry mood. In the morning he lifted Fay
upon his horse and let her ride as he walked beside her to the
edge of the sage. In the evening he played with the child at an
infinite variety of games she invented, and then, oftener than
not, he accepted Jane's invitation to supper. No other visitor
came to Withersteen House during those days. So that in spite of
watchfulness he never forgot, Lassiter began to show he felt at
home there. After the meal they walked into the grove of
cottonwoods or up by the lakes, and little Fay held Lassiter's
hand as much as she held Jane's. Thus a strange relationship was
established, and Jane liked it. At twilight they always returned
to the house, where Fay kissed them and went in to her mother.
Lassiter and Jane were left alone.
Then, if there were anything that a good woman could do to win a
man and still preserve her self-respect, it was something which
escaped the natural subtlety of a woman determined to allure.
Jane's vanity, that after all was not great, was soon satisfied
with Lassiter's silent admiration. And her honest desire to lead
him from his dark, blood-stained path would never have blinded
her to what she owed herself. But the driving passion of her
religion, and its call to save Mormons' lives, one life in
particular, bore Jane Withersteen close to an infringement of her
womanhood. In the beginning she had reasoned that her appeal to
Lassiter must be through the senses. With whatever means she
possessed in the way of adornment she enhanced her beauty. And
she stooped to artifices that she knew were unworthy of her, but
which she deliberately chose to employ. She made of herself a
girl in every variable mood wherein a girl might be desirable. In
those moods she was not above the methods of an inexperienced
though natural flirt. She kept close to him whenever opportunity
afforded; and she was forever playfully, yet passionately
underneath the surface, fighting him for possession of the great
black guns. These he would never yield to her. And so in that
manner their hands were often and long in contact. The more of
simplicity that she sensed in him the greater the advantage she
She had a trick of changing--and it was not altogether
voluntary--from this gay, thoughtless, girlish coquettishness to
the silence and the brooding, burning mystery of a woman's mood.
The strength and passion and fire of her were in her eyes, and
she so used them that Lassiter had to see this depth in her, this
haunting promise more fitted to her years than to the flaunting
guise of a wilful girl.
The July days flew by. Jane reasoned that if it were possible for
her to be happy during such a time, then she was happy. Little
Fay completely filled a long aching void in her heart. In
fettering the hands of this Lassiter she was accomplishing the
greatest good of her life, and to do good even in a small way
rendered happiness to Jane Withersteen. She had attended the
regular Sunday services of her church; otherwise she had not gone
to the village for weeks. It was unusual that none of her
churchmen or friends had called upon her of late; but it was
neglect for which she was glad. Judkins and his boy riders had
experienced no difficulty in driving the white herd. So these
warm July days were free of worry, and soon Jane hoped she had
passed the crisis; and for her to hope was presently to trust,
and then to believe. She thought often of Venters, but in a
dreamy, abstract way. She spent hours teaching and playing with
little Fay. And the activity of her mind centered around
Lassiter. The direction she had given her will seemed to blunt
any branching off of thought from that straight line. The mood
came to obsess her.
In the end, when her awakening came, she learned that she had
builded better than she knew. Lassiter, though kinder and gentler
than ever, had parted with his quaint humor and his coldness and
his tranquillity to become a restless and unhappy man. Whatever
the power of his deadly intent toward Mormons, that passion now
had a rival, the one equally burning and consuming. Jane
Withersteen had one moment of exultation before the dawn of a
strange uneasiness. What if she had made of herself a lure, at
tremendous cost to him and to her, and all in vain!
That night in the moonlit grove she summoned all her courage and,
turning suddenly in the path, she faced Lassiter and leaned close
to him, so that she touched him and her eyes looked up to his.
"Lassiter!...Will you do anything for me?"
In the moonlight she saw his dark, worn face change, and by that
change she seemed to feel him immovable as a wall of stone.
Jane slipped her hands down to the swinging gun-sheaths, and when
she had locked her fingers around the huge, cold handles of the
guns, she trembled as with a chilling ripple over all her body.
"May I take your guns?"
"Why?" he asked, and for the first time to her his voice carried
a harsh note. Jane felt his hard, strong hands close round her
wrists. It was not wholly with intent that she leaned toward him,
for the look of his eyes and the feel of his hands made her weak.
"It's no trifle--no woman's whim--it's deep--as my heart. Let me
"I want to keep you from killing more men--Mormons. You must let
me save you from more wickedness--more wanton bloodshed--" Then
the truth forced itself falteringly from her lips. "You
must--let--help me to keep my vow to Milly Erne. I swore to
her--as she lay dying--that if ever any one came here to avenge
her--I swore I would stay his hand. Perhaps I--I alone can save
the--the man who--who--Oh, Lassiter!...I feel that I can't change
you--then soon you'll be out to kill--and you'll kill by
instinct--and among the Mormons you kill will be the
one--who...Lassiter, if you care a little for me--let me--for my
sake--let me take your guns!"
As if her hands had been those of a child, he unclasped their
clinging grip from the handles of his guns, and, pushing her
away, he turned his gray face to her in one look of terrible
realization and then strode off into the shadows of the
When the first shock of her futile appeal to Lassiter had passed,
Jane took his cold, silent condemnation and abrupt departure not
so much as a refusal to her entreaty as a hurt and stunned
bitterness for her attempt at his betrayal. Upon further thought
and slow consideration of Lassiter's past actions, she believed
he would return and forgive her. The man could not be hard to a
woman, and she doubted that he could stay away from her. But at
the point where she had hoped to find him vulnerable she now
began to fear he was proof against all persuasion. The iron and
stone quality that she had early suspected in him had actually
cropped out as an impregnable barrier. Nevertheless, if Lassiter
remained in Cottonwoods she would never give up her hope and
desire to change him. She would change him if she had to
sacrifice everything dear to her except hope of heaven.
Passionately devoted as she was to her religion, she had yet
refused to marry a Mormon. But a situation had developed wherein
self paled in the great white light of religious duty of the
highest order. That was the leading motive, the divinely
spiritual one; but there were other motives, which, like
tentacles, aided in drawing her will to the acceptance of a
possible abnegation. And through the watches of that sleepless
night Jane Withersteen, in fear and sorrow and doubt, came
finally to believe that if she must throw herself into Lassiter's
arms to make him abide by "Thou shalt not kill!" she would yet do
In the morning she expected Lassiter at the usual hour, but she
was not able to go at once to the court, so she sent little Fay.
Mrs. Larkin was ill and required attention. It appeared that the
mother, from the time of her arrival at Withersteen House, had
relaxed and was slowly losing her hold on life. Jane had believed
that absence of worry and responsibility coupled with good
nursing and comfort would mend Mrs. Larkin's broken health. Such,
however, was not the case.
When Jane did get out to the court, Fay was there alone, and at
the moment embarking on a dubious voyage down the stone-lined
amber stream upon a craft of two brooms and a pillow. Fay was as
delightfully wet as she could possibly wish to get.
Clatter of hoofs distracted Fay and interrupted the scolding she
was gleefully receiving from Jane. The sound was not the
light-spirited trot that Bells made when Lassiter rode him into
the outer court. This was slower and heavier, and Jane did not
recognize in it any of her other horses. The appearance of Bishop
Dyer startled Jane. He dismounted with his rapid, jerky motion
flung the bridle, and, as he turned toward the inner court and
stalked up on the stone flags, his boots rang. In his
authoritative front, and in the red anger unmistakably flaming in
his face, he reminded Jane of her father.
"Is that the Larkin pauper?" he asked, bruskly, without any
greeting to Jane.
"It's Mrs. Larkin's little girl," replied Jane, slowly.
"I hear you intend to raise the child?"
"Of course you mean to give her Mormon bringing-up?"
His questions had been swift. She was amazed at a feeling that
some one else was replying for her.
"I've come to say a few things to you." He stopped to measure her
with stern, speculative eye.
Jane Withersteen loved this man. From earliest childhood she had
been taught to revere and love bishops of her church. And for ten
years Bishop Dyer had been the closest friend and counselor of
her father, and for the greater part of that period her own
friend and Scriptural teacher. Her interpretation of her creed
and her religious activity in fidelity to it, her acceptance of
mysterious and holy Mormon truths, were all invested in this
Bishop. Bishop Dyer as an entity was next to God. He was God's
mouthpiece to the little Mormon community at Cottonwoods. God
revealed himself in secret to this mortal.
And Jane Withersteen suddenly suffered a paralyzing affront to
her consciousness of reverence by some strange, irresistible
twist of thought wherein she saw this Bishop as a man. And the
train of thought hurdled the rising, crying protests of that
other self whose poise she had lost. It was not her Bishop who
eyed her in curious measurement. It was a man who tramped into
her presence without removing his hat, who had no greeting for
her, who had no semblance of courtesy. In looks, as in action, he
made her think of a bull stamping cross-grained into a corral.
She had heard of Bishop Dyer forgetting the minister in the fury
of a common man, and now she was to feel it. The glance by which
she measured him in turn momentarily veiled the divine in the
ordinary. He looked a rancher; he was booted, spurred, and
covered with dust; he carried a gun at his hip, and she
remembered that he had been known to use it. But during the long
moment while he watched her there was nothing commonplace in the
slow-gathering might of his wrath.
"Brother Tull has talked to me," he began. "It was your father's
wish that you marry Tull, and my order. You refused
"You would not give up your friendship with that tramp Venters?"
"But you'll do as I order!" he thundered. "Why, Jane Withersteen,
you are in danger of becoming a heretic! You can thank your
Gentile friends for that. You face the damning of your soul to
In the flux and reflux of the whirling torture of Jane's mind,
that new, daring spirit of hers vanished in the old habitual
order of her life. She was a Mormon, and the Bishop regained
"It's well I got you in time, Jane Withersteen. What would your
father have said to these goings-on of yours? He would have put
you in a stone cage on bread and water. He would have taught you
something about Mormonism. Remember, you're a born Mormon. There
have been Mormons who turned heretic--damn their souls!--but no
born Mormon ever left us yet. Ah, I see your shame. Your faith is
not shaken. You are only a wild girl." The Bishop's tone
softened. "Well, it's enough that I got to you in time....Now
tell me about this Lassiter. I hear strange things."
"What do you wish to know?" queried Jane.
"About this man. You hired him?"
"Yes, he's riding for me. When my riders left me I had to have
any one I could get."
"Is it true what I hear--that he's a gun-man, a Mormon-hater,
steeped in blood?"
"True--terribly true, I fear."
"But what's he doing here in Cottonwoods? This place isn't
notorious enough for such a man. Sterling and the villages north,
where there's universal gun-packing and fights every day--where
there are more men like him, it seems to me they would attract
him most. We're only a wild, lonely border settlement. It's only
recently that the rustlers have made killings here. Nor have
there been saloons till lately, nor the drifting in of outcasts.
Has not this gun-man some special mission here?"
Jane maintained silence.
"Tell me," ordered Bishop Dyer, sharply.
"Yes," she replied.
"Do you know what it is?"
"Tell me that."
"Bishop Dyer, I don't want to tell."
He waved his hand in an imperative gesture of command. The red
once more leaped to his face, and in his steel-blue eyes glinted
a pin-point of curiosity.
"That first day," whispered Jane, "Lassiter said he came here to
find-- Milly Erne's grave!"
With downcast eyes Jane watched the swift flow of the amber
water. She saw it and tried to think of it, of the stones, of the
ferns; but, like her body, her mind was in a leaden vise. Only
the Bishop's voice could release her. Seemingly there was silence
of longer duration than all her former life.
"For what--else?" When Bishop Dyer's voice did cleave the silence
it was high, curiously shrill, and on the point of breaking. It
released Jane's tongue, but she could not lift her eyes.
"To kill the man who persuaded Milly Erne to abandon her home and
her husband--and her God!"
With wonderful distinctness Jane Withersteen heard her own clear
voice. She heard the water murmur at her feet and flow on to the
sea; she heard the rushing of all the waters in the world. They
filled her ears with low, unreal murmurings--these sounds that
deadened her brain and yet could not break the long and terrible
silence. Then, from somewhere-- from an immeasurable
distance--came a slow, guarded, clinking, clanking step. Into her
it shot electrifying life. It released the weight upon her numbed
eyelids. Lifting her eyes she saw--ashen, shaken, stricken-- not
the Bishop but the man! And beyond him, from round the corner
came that soft, silvery step. A long black boot with a gleaming
spur swept into sight--and then Lassiter! Bishop Dyer did not
see, did not hear: he stared at Jane in the throes of sudden
"Ah, I understand!" he cried, in hoarse accents. "That's why you
made love to this Lassiter--to bind his hands!"
It was Jane's gaze riveted upon the rider that made Bishop Dyer
turn. Then clear sight failed her. Dizzily, in a blur, she saw
the Bishop's hand jerk to his hip. She saw gleam of blue and
spout of red. In her ears burst a thundering report. The court
floated in darkening circles around her, and she fell into utter
The darkness lightened, turned to slow-drifting haze, and lifted.
Through a thin film of blue smoke she saw the rough-hewn timbers
of the court roof. A cool, damp touch moved across her brow. She
smelled powder, and it was that which galvanized her suspended
thought. She moved, to see that she lay prone upon the stone
flags with her head on Lassiter's knee, and he was bathing her
brow with water from the stream. The same swift glance, shifting
low, brought into range of her sight a smoking gun and splashes
"Ah-h!" she moaned, and was drifting, sinking again into
darkness, when Lassiter's voice arrested her.
"It's all right, Jane. It's all right."
"Did--you--kill--him?" she whispered.
"Who? That fat party who was here? No. I didn't kill
"Say! It was queer for you to faint. I thought you were such a
strong woman, not faintish like that. You're all right now--only
some pale. I thought you'd never come to. But I'm awkward round
women folks. I couldn't think of anythin'."
"Lassiter!...the gun there!...the blood!"
"So that's troublin' you. I reckon it needn't. You see it was
this way. I come round the house an' seen that fat party an'
heard him talkin' loud. Then he seen me, an' very impolite goes
straight for his gun. He oughtn't have tried to throw a gun on
me--whatever his reason was. For that's meetin' me on my own
grounds. I've seen runnin' molasses that was quicker 'n him. Now
I didn't know who he was, visitor or friend or relation of yours,
though I seen he was a Mormon all over, an' I couldn't get
serious about shootin'. So I winged him--put a bullet through his
arm as he was pullin' at his gun. An' he dropped the gun there,
an' a little blood. I told him he'd introduced himself
sufficient, an' to please move out of my vicinity. An' he
Lassiter spoke with slow, cool, soothing voice, in which there
was a hint of levity, and his touch, as he continued to bathe her
brow, was gentle and steady. His impassive face, and the kind
gray eyes, further stilled her agitation.
"He drew on you first, and you deliberately shot to cripple
him--you wouldn't kill him--you--Lassiter?"
"That's about the size of it."
Jane kissed his hand.
All that was calm and cool about Lassiter instantly vanished.
"Don't do that! I won't stand it! An' I don't care a damn who
that fat party was."
He helped Jane to her feet and to a chair. Then with the wet
scarf he had used to bathe her face he wiped the blood from the
stone flags and, picking up the gun, he threw it upon a couch.
With that he began to pace the court, and his silver spurs
jangled musically, and the great gun-sheaths softly brushed
against his leather chaps.
"So--it's true--what I heard him say?" Lassiter asked, presently
halting before her. "You made love to me--to bind my hands?"
"Yes," confessed Jane. It took all her woman's courage to meet
the gray storm of his glance.
"All these days that you've been so friendly an' like a
pardner--all these evenin's that have been so bewilderin' to
me--your beauty--an'--an' the way you looked an' came close to
me--they were woman's tricks to bind my hands?"
"An' your sweetness that seemed so natural, an' your throwin'
little Fay an' me so much together--to make me love the
child--all that was for the same reason?"
Lassiter flung his arms--a strange gesture for him.
"Mebbe it wasn't much in your Mormon thinkin', for you to play
that game. But to ring the child in--that was hellish!"
Jane's passionate, unheeding zeal began to loom darkly.
"Lassiter, whatever my intention in the beginning, Fay loves you
dearly-- and I--I've grown to--to like you."
"That's powerful kind of you, now," he said. Sarcasm and scorn
made his voice that of a stranger. "An' you sit there an' look me
straight in the eyes! You're a wonderful strange woman, Jane
"I'm not ashamed, Lassiter. I told you I'd try to change you."
"Would you mind tellin' me just what you tried?"
"I tried to make you see beauty in me and be softened by it. I
wanted you to care for me so that I could influence you. It
wasn't easy. At first you were stone-blind. Then I hoped you'd
love little Fay, and through that come to feel the horror of
making children fatherless."
"Jane Withersteen, either you're a fool or noble beyond my
understandin'. Mebbe you're both. I know you're blind. What you
meant is one thing--what you did was to make me love you."
"I reckon I'm a human bein', though I never loved any one but my
sister, Milly Erne. That was long--"
"Oh, are you Milly's brother?"
"Yes, I was, an' I loved her. There never was any one but her in
my life till now. Didn't I tell you that long ago I back-trailed
myself from women? I was a Texas ranger till--till Milly left
home, an' then I became somethin' else--Lassiter! For years I've
been a lonely man set on one thing. I came here an' met you. An'
now I'm not the man I was. The change was gradual, an' I took no
notice of it. I understand now that never-satisfied longin' to
see you, listen to you, watch you, feel you near me. It's plain
now why you were never out of my thoughts. I've had no thoughts
but of you. I've lived an' breathed for you. An' now when I know
what it means--what you've done--I'm burnin' up with hell's
"Oh, Lassiter--no--no--you don't love me that way!" Jane cased.
"If that's what love is, then I do."
"Forgive me! I didn't mean to make you love me like that. Oh,
what a tangle of our lives! You--Milly Erne's brother! And
I--heedless, mad to melt your heart toward Mormons. Lassiter, I
may be wicked but not wicked enough to hate. If I couldn't hate
Tull, could I hate you?"
"After all, Jane, mebbe you're only blind--Mormon blind. That
only can explain what's close to selfishness--"
"I'm not selfish. I despise the very word. If I were free--"
"But you're not free. Not free of Mormonism. An' in playin' this
game with me you've been unfaithful."
"Un-faithful!" faltered Jane.
"Yes, I said unfaithful. You're faithful to your Bishop an'
unfaithful to yourself. You're false to your womanhood an' true
to your religion. But for a savin' innocence you'd have made
yourself low an' vile-- betrayin' yourself, betrayin' me--all to
bind my hands an' keep me from snuffin' out Mormon life. It's
your damned Mormon blindness."
"Is it vile--is it blind--is it only Mormonism to save human
life? No, Lassiter, that's God's law, divine, universal for all
"The blindness I mean is blindness that keeps you from seein' the
truth. I've known many good Mormons. But some are blacker than
hell. You won't see that even when you know it. Else, why all
this blind passion to save the life of that--that...."
Jane shut out the light, and the hands she held over her eyes
trembled and quivered against her face.
"Blind--yes, en' let me make it clear en' simple to you,"
Lassiter went on, his voice losing its tone of anger. "Take, for
instance, that idea of yours last night when you wanted my guns.
It was good an' beautiful, an' showed your heart--but--why, Jane,
it was crazy. Mind I'm assumin' that life to me is as sweet as to
any other man. An' to preserve that life is each man's first an'
closest thought. Where would any man be on this border without
guns? Where, especially, would Lassiter be? Well, I'd be under
the sage with thousands of other men now livin' an' sure better
men than me. Gun-packin' in the West since the Civil War has
growed into a kind of moral law. An' out here on this border it's
the difference between a man an' somethin' not a man. Look what
your takin' Venters's guns from him all but made him! Why, your
churchmen carry guns. Tull has killed a man an' drawed on others.
Your Bishop has shot a half dozen men, an' it wasn't through
prayers of his that they recovered. An' to-day he'd have shot me
if he'd been quick enough on the draw. Could I walk or ride down
into Cottonwoods without my guns? This is a wild time, Jane
Withersteen, this year of our Lord eighteen seventy- one."
"No time--for a woman!" exclaimed Jane, brokenly. "Oh, Lassiter,
I feel helpless--lost--and don't know where to turn. If I am
blind--then--I need some one--a friend--you, Lassiter--more than
"Well, I didn't say nothin' about goin' back on you, did I?"
Next: The Invisible Hand