"If by some means I can keep him here a few days, a week--he will never kill another Mormon," she mused. "Lassiter!...I shudder when I think of that name, of him. But when I look at the man I forget who he is--I almost like him. I remember only that he saved Bern. He has suffered. I wonder what it was--did he love a Mormon woman once? How splendidly he championed us poor misunderstood souls! Somehow he knows--much."
Jane Withersteen joined her guests and bade them to her board.
Dismissing her woman, she waited upon them with her own hands. It was a bountiful supper and a strange company. On her right sat the ragged and half-starved Venters; and though blind eyes could have seen what he counted for in the sum of her happiness, yet he looked the gloomy outcast his allegiance had made him, and about him there was the shadow of the ruin presaged by Tull. On her left sat black-leather-garbed Lassiter looking like a man in a dream. Hunger was not with him, nor composure, nor speech, and when he twisted in frequent unquiet movements the heavy guns that he had not removed knocked against the table-legs. If it had been otherwise possible to forget the presence of Lassiter those telling little jars would have rendered it unlikely. And Jane Withersteen talked and smiled and laughed with all the dazzling play of lips and eyes that a beautiful, daring woman could summon to her purpose.
When the meal ended, and the men pushed back their chairs, she leaned closer to Lassiter and looked square into his eyes.
"Why did you come to Cottonwoods?"
Her question seemed to break a spell. The rider arose as if he had just remembered himself and had tarried longer than his wont.
"Ma'am, I have hunted all over the southern Utah and Nevada for-somethin'. An' through your name I learned where to find it--here in Cottonwoods."
"My name! Oh, I remember. You did know my name when you spoke first. Well, tell me where you heard it and from whom?"
"At the little village--Glaze, I think it's called--some fifty miles or more west of here. An' I heard it from a Gentile, a rider who said you'd know where to tell me to find--"
"What?" she demanded, imperiously, as Lassiter broke off.
"Milly Erne's grave," he answered low, and the words came with a wrench.
Venters wheeled in his chair to regard Lassiter in amazement, and Jane slowly raised herself in white, still wonder.
"Milly Erne's grave?" she echoed, in a whisper. "What do you know of Milly Erne, my best-beloved friend--who died in my arms? What were you to her?"