Page:O Henry Prize Stories of 1924.djvu/280

This page has been validated.



Mrs. Flynn’s eyes were suspiciously bright. ‘If ev’ry one felt that way life’d be—not so hard,” was her only comment.

And so, immediately after the ceremony, they departed toward the mountains. Besides the bride’s slight weight the burro carried supplies, Jenny’s small bundle of clothing, and her one treasure, a book.

“A dude prospector left it at the eatin’-house—said he didn’t want it no more—so Mis’ Flynn gave it to me.” Jenny spelled out the title: ‘Seven Lamps of Ar-chi-tec-ture.’ Ain’t that a queer name?”

He nodded. “Real queer. I ain’t never owned a book. Couldn’t make sense out of it if I had.”

“T’ll read it to you,” she promised. ‘ Now tell me more ’bout the mountains.”

This was familiar ground. All day, while the trail mounted steadily upward, he told her of the beasts and birds and trees, of the mother bear and her lame cub in Hell Roaring Canyon, the bluejays at Cypress Falls. “You can count on their bein’ there sure’s you can count on its bein’ spring!”

“The reason you ain’t never felt lonely’s because you’ve got such lots of friends!” said Jenny, wistfully.

“You’ll like ’em, too. Animals ain’t same’s folks, they don’t disappoint you.”

He was right. During the few months that remained to her she knew. the happiest days in all of her short and pinched existence. The little cabin was a marvel of spacious comfort to her, the plentiful food an epicurean indulgence. It was already too late, when Jem Brown found her, to do more than make the remainder of her life easier; and though each day she achieved less and less, her hold on living slipped gently from her slight grasp.

She kept her word about reading aloud. Winter evenings when, outside the cabin, the snow blurred and drifted and the trail disappeared in a white smudge, she conscientiously took up their one book. True, much of it was unintelligible to both reader and listener, but, like some appealing theme in a classic overture, they came upon intervals which captured their attention.

“Ain’t it a nice book, Jem? It says that if you can’t afford much-money things, you should buy the best of stuff that you can afford—an’ that’s real comfort’ble ’cause it works right