It was still daylight in the open, but under the spreading cottonwoods shadows were obscuring the lanes. Venters drew Jane off from one of these into a shrub-lined trail, just wide enough for the two to walk abreast, and in a roundabout way led her far from the house to a knoll on the edge of the grove. Here in a secluded nook was a bench from which, through an opening in the tree-tops, could be seen the sage-slope and the wall of rock and the dim lines of canyons. Jane had not spoken since Venters had shocked her with his first harsh speech; but all the way she had clung to his arm, and now, as he stopped and laid his rifle against the bench, she still clung to him.
"Jane, I'm afraid I must leave you."
"Bern!" she cried.
"Yes, it looks that way. My position is not a happy one--I can't feel right--I've lost all--"
"I'll give you anything you--"
"Listen, please. When I say loss I don't mean what you think. I mean loss of good-will, good name--that which would have enabled me to stand up in this village without bitterness. Well, it's too late....Now, as to the future, I think you'd do best to give me up. Tull is implacable. You ought to see from his intention to-day that--But you can't see. Your blindness--your damned religion!...Jane, forgive me--I'm sore within and something rankles. Well, I fear that invisible hand will turn its hidden work to your ruin."
"Invisible hand? Bern!"
"I mean your Bishop." Venters said it deliberately and would not release her as she started back. "He's the law. The edict went forth to ruin me. Well, look at me! It'll now go forth to compel you to the will of the Church."
"You wrong Bishop Dyer. Tull is hard, I know. But then he has been in love with me for years."
"Oh, your faith and your excuses! You can't see what I know--and if you did see it you'd not admit it to save your life. That's the Mormon of you. These elders and bishops will do absolutely any deed to go on building up the power and wealth of their church, their empire. Think of what they've done to the Gentiles here, to me--think of Milly Erne's fate!"
"What do you know of her story?"
"I know enough--all, perhaps, except the name of the Mormon who brought her here. But I must stop this kind of talk."
She pressed his hand in response. He helped her to a seat beside him on the bench. And he respected a silence that he divined was full of woman's deep emotion beyond his understanding.