"Muvver sended for oo," cried Fay, as Jane kissed her, "an' oo never tome."
"I didn't know, Fay; but I've come now."
Fay was a child of outdoors, of the garden and ditch and field, and she was dirty and ragged. But rags and dirt did not hide her beauty. The one thin little bedraggled garment she wore half covered her fine, slim body. Red as cherries were her cheeks and lips; her eyes were violet blue, and the crown of her childish loveliness was the curling golden hair. All the children of Cottonwoods were Jane Withersteen's friends, she loved them all.
But Fay was dearest to her. Fay had few playmates, for among the Gentile children there were none near her age, and the Mormon children were forbidden to play with her. So she was a shy, wild, lonely child.
"Muvver's sick," said Fay, leading Jane toward the door of the hut.
Jane went in. There was only one room, rather dark and bare, but it was clean and neat. A woman lay upon a bed.
"Mrs. Larkin, how are you?" asked Jane, anxiously.
"I've been pretty bad for a week, but I'm better now."
"You haven't been here all alone--with no one to wait on you?"
"Oh no! My women neighbors are kind. They take turns coming in."
"Did you send for me?"
"Yes, several times."
"But I had no word--no messages ever got to me."
"I sent the boys, and they left word with your women that I was ill and would you please come."
A sudden deadly sickness seized Jane. She fought the weakness, as she fought to be above suspicious thoughts, and it passed, leaving her conscious of her utter impotence. That, too, passed as her spirit rebounded. But she had again caught a glimpse of dark underhand domination, running its secret lines this time into her own household. Like a spider in the blackness of night an unseen hand had begun to run these dark lines, to turn and twist them about her life, to plait and weave a web. Jane Withersteen knew it now, and in the realization further coolness and sureness came to her, and the fighting courage of her ancestors.
"Mrs. Larkin, you're better, and I'm so glad," said Jane. "But may I not do something for you--a turn at nursing, or send you things, or take care of Fay?"
"You're so good. Since my husband's been gone what would have become of Fay and me but for you? It was about Fay that I wanted to speak to you. This time I thought surely I'd die, and I was worried about Fay. Well, I'll be around all right shortly, but my strength's gone and I won't live long. So I may as well speak now. You remember you've been asking me to let you take Fay and bring her up as your daughter?"