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Riders of the Purple Sage

20.
Lassiter's Way
Footprints told the story of little Fay's abduction. In anguish Jane Withersteen
turned speechlessly to Lassiter, and, confirming her fears, she saw him gray-
faced, aged all in a moment, stricken as if by a mortal blow.
Then all her life seemed to fall about her in wreck and ruin.
"It's all over," she heard her voice whisper. "It's ended. I'm going--I'm going--"
"Where?" demanded Lassiter, suddenly looming darkly over her.
"To--to those cruel men--"
"Speak names!" thundered Lassiter.
"To Bishop Dyer--to Tull," went on Jane, shocked into obedience.
"Well--what for?"
"I want little Fay. I can't live without her. They've stolen her as they stole Milly
Erne's child. I must have little Fay. I want only her. I give up. I'll go and tell Bishop
Dyer--I'm broken. I'll tell him I'm ready for the yoke--only give me back Fay--and--
and I'll marry Tull!"
"Never!" hissed Lassiter.
His long arm leaped at her. Almost running, he dragged her under the
cottonwoods, across the court, into the huge hall of Withersteen House, and he
shut the door with a force that jarred the heavy walls. Black Star and Night and
Bells, since their return, had been locked in this hall, and now they stamped on
the stone floor.
Lassiter released Jane and like a dizzy man swayed from her with a hoarse cry
and leaned shaking against a table where he kept his rider's accoutrements. He
began to fumble in his saddlebags. His action brought a clinking, metallic sound--
the rattling of gun-cartridges. His fingers trembled as he slipped cartridges into
an extra belt. But as he buckled it over the one he habitually wore his hands
became steady. This second belt contained two guns, smaller than the black
ones swinging low, and he slipped them round so that his coat hid them. Then he
fell to swift action. Jane Withersteen watched him, fascinated but
uncomprehending and she saw him rapidly saddle Black Star and Night. Then he
drew her into the light of the huge windows, standing over her, gripping her arm
with fingers like cold steel.
"Yes, Jane, it's ended--but you're not goin' to Dyer!...I'm goin' instead!"
Looking at him--he was so terrible of aspect--she could not comprehend his
words. Who was this man with the face gray as death, with eyes that would have
made her shriek had she the strength, with the strange, ruthlessly bitter lips?
Where was the gentle Lassiter? What was this presence in the hall, about him,
about her--this cold, invisible presence?
"Yes, it's ended, Jane," he was saying, so awfully quiet and cool and implacable,
"an' I'm goin' to make a little call. I'll lock you in here, an' when I get back have
the saddle-bags full of meat an bread. An' be ready to ride!"
"Lassiter!" cried Jane.
 
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