Isabella is still in the cabin in Estes Park. A passing trapper brought the news to her that Jim is unwell.
“… after washing up the things after our late breakfast, I rode to his cabin, but I met him in the gulch coming down to see us. He said he had caught cold on the Range, and was suffering from and old arrow wound in the lung.* We had a long conversation without adverting to the former one, and he told me some of the present circumstances of his ruined life.”
The short version is that she feels empathy for this ruined man who lives with a dog that many people like better than him. And she knows what is to blame: liquor.
“I urged him to give up whisky which at present is his ruin, and his answer had the ring of a sad truth in it: ‘I cannot, it binds me hand and foot — I cannot give up the only pleasure I have.’”
The view as she rides down back down the gulch is spectacular and more grand than she has ever before seen. It inspires her to question how she will ever leave such an amazing place. “We are going on the principle, ‘Let us eat and drink, fo tomorrow we die,’ and the stores are melting away. The two meals are not an economical plan, for we are so much more hungry that we eat more than when we had three. The ‘faint melancholy’ of this winter loneliness is very fascinating.”
* like one does