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Riders of the Purple Sage

2. Cottonwoods
Venters appeared too deeply moved to speak the gratitude his face expressed.
And Jane turned upon the rescuer and gripped his hands. Her smiles and tears
seemingly dazed him. Presently as something like calmness returned, she went
to Lassiter's weary horse.
"I will water him myself," she said, and she led the horse to a trough under a
huge old cottonwood. With nimble fingers she loosened the bridle and removed
the bit. The horse snorted and bent his head. The trough was of solid stone,
hollowed out, moss-covered and green and wet and cool, and the clear brown
water that fed it spouted and splashed from a wooden pipe.
"He has brought you far to-day?"
"Yes, ma'am, a matter of over sixty miles, mebbe seventy."
"A long ride--a ride that--Ah, he is blind!"
"Yes, ma'am," replied Lassiter.
"What blinded him?"
"Some men once roped an' tied him, an' then held white-iron close to his eyes."
"Oh! Men? You mean devils....Were they your enemies--Mormons?"
"Yes, ma'am."
"To take revenge on a horse! Lassiter, the men of my creed are unnaturally cruel.
To my everlasting sorrow I confess it. They have been driven, hated, scourged till
their hearts have hardened. But we women hope and pray for the time when our
men will soften."
"Beggin' your pardon, ma'am--that time will never come."
"Oh, it will!...Lassiter, do you think Mormon women wicked? Has your hand been
against them, too?"
"No. I believe Mormon women are the best and noblest, the most long-sufferin',
and the blindest, unhappiest women on earth."
"Ah!" She gave him a grave, thoughtful look. "Then you will break bread with
me?"
Lassiter had no ready response, and he uneasily shifted his weight from one leg
to another, and turned his sombrero round and round in his hands. "Ma'am," he
began, presently, "I reckon your kindness of heart makes you overlook things.
Perhaps I ain't well known hereabouts, but back up North there's Mormons who'd
rest uneasy in their graves at the idea of me sittin' to table with you."
"I dare say. But--will you do it, anyway?" she asked. "Mebbe you have a brother
or relative who might drop in an' be offended, an' I wouldn't want to--"
"I've not a relative in Utah that I know of. There's no one with a right to question
my actions." She turned smilingly to Venters.
"You will come in, Bern, and Lassiter will come in. We'll eat and be merry while
we may."
"I'm only wonderin' if Tull an' his men'll raise a storm down in the village," said
Lassiter, in his last weakening stand.
"Yes, he'll raise the storm--after he has prayed," replied Jane.
"Come."
 
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