Riders of the Purple Sage
At the home of Jane Withersteen Little Fay was climbing Lassiter's knee.
"Does oo love me?" she asked.
Lassiter, who was as serious with Fay as he was gentle and loving, assured her
in earnest and elaborate speech that he was her devoted subject. Fay looked
thoughtful and appeared to be debating the duplicity of men or searching for a
supreme test to prove this cavalier.
"Does oo love my new mower?" she asked, with bewildering suddenness.
Jane Withersteen laughed, and for the first time in many a day she felt a stir of
her pulse and warmth in her cheek.
It was a still drowsy summer of afternoon, and the three were sitting in the shade
of the wooded knoll that faced the sage-slope Little Fay's brief spell of unhappy
longing for her mother--the childish, mystic gloom--had passed, and now where
Fay was there were prattle and laughter and glee. She had emerged Iron sorrow
to be the incarnation of joy and loveliness. She had growl supernaturally sweet
and beautiful. For Jane Withersteen the child was an answer to prayer, a
blessing, a possession infinitely more precious than all she had lost. For Lassiter,
Jane divined that little Fay had become a religion.
"Does oo love my new mower?" repeated Fay.
Lassiter's answer to this was a modest and sincere affirmative.
"Why don't oo marry my new mower an' be my favver?"
Of the thousands of questions put by little Fay to Lassiter the was the first he had
been unable to answer.
"Fay--Fay, don't ask questions like that," said Jane.
"Because," replied Jane. And she found it strangely embarrassing to meet the
child's gaze. It seemed to her that Fay's violet eyes looked through her with
"Oo love him, don't oo?"
"Dear child--run and play," said Jane, "but don't go too far. Don't go from this little
Fay pranced off wildly, joyous over freedom that had not been granted her for
"Jane, why are children more sincere than grown-up persons?" asked Lassiter.
"I reckon so. Little Fay there--she sees things as they appear on the face. An
Indian does that. So does a dog. An' an Indian an' a dog are most of the time
right in what they see. Mebbe a child is always right."
"Well, what does Fay see?" asked Jane.
"I reckon you know. I wonder what goes on in Fay's mind when she sees part of
the truth with the wise eyes of a child, an' wantin' to know more, meets with
strange falseness from you? Wait! You are false in a way, though you're the best
woman I ever knew. What I want to say is this. Fay has taken you're pretendin'
to--to care for me for the thing it looks on the face. An' her little formin' mind asks