"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 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.