In the end, when her awakening came, she learned that she had builded better than she knew. Lassiter, though kinder and gentler than ever, had parted with his quaint humor and his coldness and his tranquillity to become a restless and unhappy man. Whatever the power of his deadly intent toward Mormons, that passion now had a rival, the one equally burning and consuming. Jane Withersteen had one moment of exultation before the dawn of a strange uneasiness. What if she had made of herself a lure, at tremendous cost to him and to her, and all in vain!
That night in the moonlit grove she summoned all her courage and, turning suddenly in the path, she faced Lassiter and leaned close to him, so that she touched him and her eyes looked up to his.
"Lassiter!...Will you do anything for me?"
In the moonlight she saw his dark, worn face change, and by that change she seemed to feel him immovable as a wall of stone.
Jane slipped her hands down to the swinging gun-sheaths, and when she had locked her fingers around the huge, cold handles of the guns, she trembled as with a chilling ripple over all her body.
"May I take your guns?"
"Why?" he asked, and for the first time to her his voice carried a harsh note. Jane felt his hard, strong hands close round her wrists. It was not wholly with intent that she leaned toward him, for the look of his eyes and the feel of his hands made her weak.
"It's no trifle--no woman's whim--it's deep--as my heart. Let me take them?"
"I want to keep you from killing more men--Mormons. You must let me save you from more wickedness--more wanton bloodshed--" Then the truth forced itself falteringly from her lips. "You must--let--help me to keep my vow to Milly Erne. I swore to her--as she lay dying--that if ever any one came here to avenge her--I swore I would stay his hand. Perhaps I--I alone can save the--the man who--who--Oh, Lassiter!...I feel that I can't change you--then soon you'll be out to kill--and you'll kill by instinct--and among the Mormons you kill will be the one--who...Lassiter, if you care a little for me--let me--for my sake--let me take your guns!"
As if her hands had been those of a child, he unclasped their clinging grip from the handles of his guns, and, pushing her away, he turned his gray face to her in one look of terrible realization and then strode off into the shadows of the cottonwoods.
When the first shock of her futile appeal to Lassiter had passed, Jane took his cold, silent condemnation and abrupt departure not so much as a refusal to her entreaty as a hurt and stunned bitterness for her attempt at his betrayal. Upon further thought and slow consideration of Lassiter's past actions, she believed he would return and forgive her. The man could not be hard to a woman, and she doubted that he could stay away from her. But at the point where she had hoped to find him vulnerable she now began to fear he was proof against all persuasion. The iron and stone quality that she had early suspected in him had actually cropped out as an impregnable barrier. Nevertheless, if Lassiter remained in Cottonwoods she would never give up her hope and desire to change him. She would change him if she had to sacrifice everything dear to her except hope of heaven.