Faith And Unfaith





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



at Lassiter.







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



time."







"Why?"







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



end."







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



always aroused.







"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



took.







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



take them?"







"Why?"







"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



cottonwoods.







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



well.







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?"







"Yes."







"Of course you mean to give her Mormon bringing-up?"







"No."







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



him?"







"Yes."







"You would not give up your friendship with that tramp Venters?"







"No."







"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



perdition."







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



ascendance.







"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?"







"Yes."







"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



revelation.







"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



blackness.







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



of blood.







"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



him."







"Oh!...Lassiter!"







"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



went."







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?"







"Yes."







"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?"







"Yes."







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



Withersteen."







"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."







"Lassiter!"







"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



fire!"







"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



Christians."







"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



ever!"







"Well, I didn't say nothin' about goin' back on you, did I?"





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