Various Points

Love had been snowbound for many weeks. Before this imprisonment its course had run neither smooth nor rough, so far as eye could see; it had run either not at all, or, as an undercurrent, deep out of sight. In their rides, in their talks, love had been dumb, as to spoken words at least; for the Virginian had set himself a heavy task of silence and of patience. Then, where winter barred his visits to Bear Creek, and there was for the while no ranch work or responsibility to fill his thoughts and blood with action, he set himself a task much lighter. Often, instead of Shakespeare and fiction, school books lay open on his cabin table; and penmanship and spelling helped the hours to pass. Many sheets of paper did he fill with various exercises, and Mrs. Henry gave him her assistance in advice and corrections.

“I shall presently be in love with him myself,” she told the Judge. “And it’s time for you to become anxious.

“I am perfectly safe,” he retorted. “There’s only one woman for him any more.” “She is not good enough for him,” declared Mrs. Henry. “But he’ll never see that.” So the snow fell, the world froze, and the spelling- books and exercises went on. But this was not the only case of education which was progressing at the Sunk Creek Ranch while love was snowbound.

One morning Scipio le Moyne entered the Virginian’s sitting room--that apartment where Dr. MacBride had wrestled with sin so courageously all night.

The Virginian sat at his desk. Open books lay around him; a half-finished piece of writing was beneath his fist; his fingers were coated with ink. Education enveloped him, it may be said. But there was none in his eye. That was upon the window, looking far across the cold plain.

The foreman did not move when Scipio came in, and this humorous spirit smiled to himself. “It’s Bear Creek he’s havin’ a vision of,” he concluded. But he knew instantly that this was not so. The Virginian was looking at something real, and Scipio went to the window to see for himself.

“Well,” he said, having seen, “when is he going to leave us?

The foreman continued looking at two horsemen riding together. Their shapes, small in the distance, showed black against the universal whiteness.

“When d’ yu’ figure he’ll leave us?” repeated Scipio.

“He,” murmured the Virginian, always watching the distant horsemen; and again, “he.” Scipio sprawled down, familiarly, across a chair. He and the Virginian had come to know each other very well since that first meeting at Medora. They were birds many of whose feathers were the same, and the Virginian often talked to Scipio without reserve. Consequently, Scipio now understood those two syllables that the Virginian had pronounced precisely as though the sentences which lay between them had been fully expressed.

“Hm,” he remarked. “Well, one will be a gain, and the other won’t be no loss.” “Poor Shorty!” said the Virginian. “Poor fool!” Scipio was less compassionate. “No,” he persisted, “I ain’t sorry for him. Any man old enough to have hair on his face ought to see through Trampas.” The Virginian looked out of the window again, and watched Shorty and Trampas as they rode in the distance. “Shorty is kind to animals,” he said. “He has gentled that hawss Pedro he bought with his first money. Gentled him wonderful. When a man is kind to dumb animals, I always say he had got some good in him.” “Yes,” Scipio reluctantly admitted. “Yes. But I always did hate a fool.” “This hyeh is a mighty cruel country,” pursued the Virginian. “To animals that is. Think of it! Think what we do to hundreds an’ thousands of little calves! Throw ’em down, brand ’em, cut ’em, ear mark ’em, turn ’em loose, and on to the next. It has got to be, of course. But I say this. If a man can go jammin’ hot irons on to little calves and slicin’ pieces off ’em with his knife, and live along, keepin’ a kindness for animals in his heart, he has got some good in him. And that’s what Shorty has got. But he is lettin’ Trampas get a hold of him, and both of them will leave us.” And the Virginian looked out across the huge winter whiteness again. But the riders had now vanished behind some foothills

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