"That won't do. I want to--I've got to tell him myself. Where is he?"
"Lassiter is with Mrs. Larkin. She is ill. I'll call him," answered Jane, and going to the door she softly called for the rider. A faint, musical jingle preceded his step--then his tall form crossed the threshold.
"Lassiter, here's Blake, an old rider of mine. He has come back to me and he wishes to speak to you."
Blake's brown face turned exceedingly pale.
"Yes, I had to speak to you," he said, swiftly. "My name's Blake.
I'm a Mormon and a rider. Lately I quit Miss Withersteen. I've come to beg her to take me back. Now I don't know you; but I know--what you are. So I've this to say to your face. It would never occur to this woman to imagine--let alone suspect me to be a spy. She couldn't think it might just be a low plot to come here and shoot you in the back. Jane Withersteen hasn't that kind of a mind....Well, I've not come for that. I want to help her--to pull a bridle along with Judkins and--and you. The thing is--do you believe me?"
"I reckon I do," replied Lassiter. How this slow, cool speech contrasted with Blake's hot, impulsive words! "You might have saved some of your breath. See here, Blake, cinch this in your mind. Lassiter has met some square Mormons! An' mebbe--"
"Blake," interrupted Jane, nervously anxious to terminate a colloquy that she perceived was an ordeal for him. "Go at once and fetch me a report of my horses."
"Miss Withersteen!...You mean the big drove--down in the sage-cleared fields?"
"Of course," replied Jane. "My horses are all there, except the blooded stock I keep here."
"Haven't you heard--then?"
"Heard? No! What's happened to them?"
"They're gone, Miss Withersteen, gone these ten days past. Dorn told me, and I rode down to see for myself."
"Lassiter--did you know?" asked Jane, whirling to him.
"I reckon so....But what was the use to tell you?"
It was Lassiter turning away his face and Blake studying the stone flags at his feet that brought Jane to the understanding of what she betrayed. She strove desperately, but she could not rise immediately from such a blow.
"My horses! My horses! What's become of them?"
"Dorn said the riders report another drive by Oldring....And I trailed the horses miles down the slope toward Deception Pass."
"My red herd's gone! My horses gone! The white herd will go next.
I can stand that. But if I lost Black Star and Night, it would be like parting with my own flesh and blood. Lassiter--Blake--am I in danger of losing my racers?"