《余秋雨文学十卷》修订出版

The horse stopped, and she reeled blindly in her seat into a pair of strong arms that caught her and drew her down. A voice was saying words she could not hear, but she knew the voice so well. And she smiled and dropped her head down upon her husband's shoulder. "Just—just in time," she whispered very low.

[Pg 141]

Cairness clasped his hands about one knee and bent back, looking up at the stars,—and far beyond them into the infinity of that Cause of which they and he and all the perplexing problems were but the mere effects. "You mustn't think I haven't thought it over, time and again," he said, after a while. "It's more vital to me than to you; but my way isn't clear. I loved Mrs. Cairness for more than ten years before I could marry her. I should lose her in less than that, I am absolutely certain, if I did as you suggest. She is not so strong a woman as you might suppose. This dry air, this climate, are necessary to her." He hesitated a[Pg 321] little, rather loath to speak of his sentiments, and yet glad of the chance to put his arguments in words, for his own greater satisfaction. "You call it picturesque and poetical and all that," he said, "but you only half mean it after all. It is picturesque. It has been absolutely satisfactory. I'm not given to talking about this kind of thing, you know; but most men who have been married two years couldn't say truthfully that they have nothing to regret; that if they had had to buy that time with eternity of damnation and the lake of fire, it would not have come too dear. And I have had no price to pay—" he stopped short, the ring of conviction cut off, as the sound of a bell is when a hand is laid upon it. The hand was that of a fact, of the fact that had confronted him in the Ca?on de los Embudos, and that very day by the cottonwoods of the spring-house. "Well, not in the immediate vicinity," he admitted. "No; but they passed along the foot-hills, and stole some stock, an' killed three men no later than this evening."

They tore on, away from the noise of the flames, of the falling timber and the shouted commands, around the haystacks so close to the barbed-wire fence that the barbs cut his boot, off by the back of the quarters, and then upon the road that led from the reservation. If the pony could be kept on that road, there was small danger from dog holes. He would run himself out in time. The length of time was what was uncertain, however. A cow-pony can go a good many hours at a stretch. "I've thought of bringing her on here. But how can I? In a bachelor establishment? My sister won't have her at any terms. She suggested an orphan asylum from the first, and she hasn't changed her mind."