"There, Judkins, and understand that I regard it as little for your loyalty. Give what is fair to your boys, and keep the rest.
Hide it. Perhaps that would be wisest."
"Oh...Miss Withersteen!" ejaculated the rider. "I couldn't earn so much in--in ten years. It's not right--I oughtn't take it."
"Judkins, you know I'm a rich woman. I tell you I've few faithful friends. I've fallen upon evil days. God only knows what will become of me and mine! So take the gold."
She smiled in understanding of his speechless gratitude, and left him with Lassiter. Presently she heard him speaking low at first, then in louder accents emphasized by the thumping of his rifle on the stones. "As infernal a job as even you, Lassiter, ever heerd of."
"Why, son," was Lassiter's reply, "this breakin' of Miss Withersteen may seem bad to you, but it ain't bad--yet. Some of these wall-eyed fellers who look jest as if they was walkin' in the shadow of Christ himself, right down the sunny road, now they can think of things en' do things that are really hell-bent."
Jane covered her ears and ran to her own room, and there like caged lioness she paced to and fro till the coming of little Fay reversed her dark thoughts.
The following day, a warm and muggy one threatening rain awhile Jane was resting in the court, a horseman clattered through he grove and up to the hitching-rack. He leaped off and approached Jane with the manner of a man determined to execute difficult mission, yet fearful of its reception. In the gaunt, wiry figure and the lean, brown face Jane recognized one of her Mormon riders, Blake. It was he of whom Judkins had long since spoken.
Of all the riders ever in her employ Blake owed her the most, and as he stepped before her, removing his hat and making manly efforts to subdue his emotion, he showed that he remembered.
"Miss Withersteen, mother's dead," he said.
"Oh--Blake!" exclaimed Jane, and she could say no more.
"She died free from pain in the end, and she's buried--resting at last, thank God!...I've come to ride for you again, if you'll have me. Don't think I mentioned mother to get your sympathy.
When she was living and your riders quit, I had to also. I was afraid of what might be done--said to her....Miss Withersteen, we can't talk of--of what's going on now--"
"Blake, do you know?"
"I know a great deal. You understand, my lips are shut. But without explanation or excuse I offer my services. I'm a Mormon--I hope a good one. But--there are some things!...It's no use, Miss Withersteen, I can't say any more--what I'd like to.