Good and evil began to seem incomprehensibly blended in her judgment. It was her belief that evil could not come forth from good; yet here was a murderer who dwarfed in gentleness, patience, and love any man she had ever known.
She had almost lost track of her more outside concerns when early one morning Judkins presented himself before her in the courtyard.
Thin, hard, burnt, bearded, with the dust and sage thick on him, with his leather wrist-bands shining from use, and his boots worn through on the stirrup side, he looked the rider of riders. He wore two guns and carried a Winchester.
Jane greeted him with surprise and warmth, set meat and bread and drink before him; and called Lassiter out to see him. The men exchanged glances, and the meaning of Lassiter's keen inquiry and Judkins's bold reply, both unspoken, was not lost upon Jane.
"Where's your hoss?" asked Lassiter, aloud.
"Left him down the slope," answered Judkins. "I footed it in a ways, an' slept last night in the sage. I went to the place you told me you 'moss always slept, but didn't strike you."
"I moved up some, near the spring, an' now I go there nights."
"Judkins--the white herd?" queried Jane, hurriedly.
"Miss Withersteen, I make proud to say I've not lost a steer. Fer a good while after thet stampede Lassiter milled we hed no trouble. Why, even the sage dogs left us. But it's begun agin--thet flashin' of lights over ridge tips, an' queer puffin' of smoke, en' then at night strange whistles en' noises. But the herd's acted magnificent. An' my boys, say, Miss Withersteen, they're only kids, but I ask no better riders. I got the laugh in the village fer takin' them out. They're a wild lot, an' you know boys hev more nerve than grown men, because they don't know what danger is. "I'm not denyin' there's danger. But they glory in it, an' mebbe I like it myself--anyway, we'll stick. We're goin' to drive the herd on the far side of the first break of Deception Pass.
There's a great round valley over there, an' no ridges or piles of rocks to aid these stampeders. The rains are due. We'll hev plenty of water fer a while. An' we can hold thet herd from anybody except Oldrin'. I come in fer supplies. I'll pack a couple of burros an' drive out after dark to-night."
"Judkins, take what you want from the store-room. Lassiter will help you. I--I can't thank you enough...but--wait."
Jane went to the room that had once been her father's, and from a secret chamber in the thick stone wall she took a bag of gold, and, carrying it back to the court, she gave it to the rider.