"Did I claim to be anythin'?" he inquired. "I know people--relatives-- who have long wanted to know where she's buried, that's all."
"Relatives? She never spoke of relatives, except a brother who was shot in Texas. Lassiter, Milly Erne's grave is in a secret burying-ground on my property."
"Will you take me there?...You'll be offendin' Mormons worse than by breakin' bread with me."
"Indeed yes, but I'll do it. Only we must go unseen. To-morrow, perhaps."
"Thank you, Jane Withersteen," replied the rider, and he bowed to her and stepped backward out of the court.
"Will you not stay--sleep under my roof?" she asked.
"No, ma'am, an' thanks again. I never sleep indoors. An' even if I did there's that gatherin' storm in the village below. No, no.
I'll go to the sage. I hope you won't suffer none for your kindness to me."
"Lassiter," said Venters, with a half-bitter laugh, "my bed too, is the sage. Perhaps we may meet out there."
"Mebbe so. But the sage is wide an' I won't be near. Good night."
At Lassiter's low whistle the black horse whinnied, and carefully picked his blind way out of the grove. The rider did not bridle him, but walked beside him, leading him by touch of hand and together they passed slowly into the shade of the cottonwoods.
"Jane, I must be off soon," said Venters. "Give me my guns. If I'd had my guns--"
"Either my friend or the Elder of my church would be lying dead," she interposed "Tull would be--surely."
"Oh, you fierce-blooded, savage youth! Can't I teach you forebearance, mercy? Bern, it's divine to forgive your enemies.
'Let not the sun go down upon thy wrath.'"
"Hush! Talk to me no more of mercy or religion--after to-day.
To-day this strange coming of Lassiter left me still a man, and now I'll die a man!...Give me my guns."
Silently she went into the house, to return with a heavy cartridge-belt and gun-filled sheath and a long rifle; these she handed to him, and as he buckled on the belt she stood before him in silent eloquence.
"Jane," he said, in gentler voice, "don't look so. I'm not going out to murder your churchman. I'll try to avoid him and all his men. But can't you see I've reached the end of my rope? Jane, you're a wonderful woman. Never was there a woman so unselfish and good. Only you're blind in one way....Listen!"
From behind the grove came the clicking sound of horses in a rapid trot.
"Some of your riders," he continued. "It's getting time for the night shift. Let us go out to the bench in the grove and talk there."