Isabella is still in Estes Park. She was going to start her ride for the Canyon today but the weather is disagreeable. Instead, she and the boy are heading up to Jim’s cabin. Her pretext is that she wants to read him her account of their climb of Long’s Peak. But. It feels like more than that, somehow.*
The boy intends to interview this well-known desperado and sell the result to a newspaper. Which is a thing people did then, I guess.
Jim’s cabin in more like an animal den, Isabella writes. It was “dense with smoke, and very dark, littered with hay, old blankets, skins, bones, tins, logs, powder flasks, magazines, old books, old moccasins, horseshoes, and relics of all kinds.
“I could not help looking at Jim as he stood talking to me. He goes made with drink at times, swears fearfully, has an ungovernable temper…. There is hardly a fireside in Colorado where fearful stories of him as an Indian fighter are not told; mothers frighten their naughty children by telling them that Mountain Jim will get them….but he is undoubtedly fascinating.”
On the ride back from Jim’s, she took a chill and started to feel unwell. However, the men gave her a trapper’s remedy, which is a tumbler of hot water with a pinch of cayenne in it. That “proved a rapid cure” and she hopes to set off tomorrow.
* maybe I’m just reading too much into it.
You can likely guess where Isabella is.
This next bit from her letter about “the boy” really captures the time and the place of her lived experience. It’s long but worth it.*
“This life is in some respects like being on board ship — there are no mails, and one knows nothing beyond one’s own little world, a very little one in this case. We find each other true, and have learnt to esteem and trust each other. I should, for instance, go out of this room leaving this book open on the table, knowing that the men** would not read my letter. They are discreet, reticent, observant, and on my subjects well informed, but they are a type that has no antitype at home. All women work in this region, so there is no fuss about my working, or saying, ‘Oh, you mustn’t do that,’ or ‘Oh, let me do that.’”
For Isabella, the ability to do things without censure seems to be what she most craves when back in the “civilized” world.
* imho and ymmv
** she is not speaking of “the boy,” who she has made clear is without honor
Isabella is still in the cabin in Estes Park. They have decided that today is Thanksgiving. The day is not starting well, thanks to a cold front and snow storm.
The snow itself stopped about midnight, but not before covering Isabella’s bed. Her hair, which got wet with snowmelt earlier in the evening before bed, has frozen to her head.
“The milk and treacle are like rock, the eggs have to be kept in the coolest part of the stove to keep them fluid. Two calves in the shed were frozen to death. Half our floor is deep in snow, and it is so cold that we cannot open the door to shovel it out.”
The snow started up again while she wrote this letter to her sister. “Mr Kavan keeps my ink bottle close to the fire and hands it to me every time that I need to dip my pen.”
They do have a fire going, btw, but can’t get the interior temp higher than 20.
They are in decent spirits, all things considered, and are only worried about supplies.
“We have tea and coffee enough to last over to-morrow, the sugar is just done, and the flour is getting low. It is really serious that we have ‘another mouth to feed,’ and the newcomer is a ravenous creature, eating more than the three of us.”*
Still, they made a feast. Isabella made a pudding from saved eggs, cream, and dried cherries. “… and we had venison steak and potatoes, but for tea we were obliged to use the tea leaves of the morning again. I should think that few people in America have enjoyed their Thanksgiving dinner more.”
* remember him? He’s going to be much more a hindrance than a help. And very, very hungry.
Isabella, as you might have guessed, is still in the cabin in Estes Park. As the three were preparing their supper, the dogs made it clear that someone was approaching. They assumed it was Evans.* It was not.
Instead, it was a young man sent by Evans. Mr Kavan was less than thrilled and pointed out it was another mouth to feed, then went out to see the younger man in.
The lad is a “slangy, assured fellow of 20, who, having fallen into delicate health at a theological college, had been sent up here by Evans to work for his board…We were very much amazed, in truth, at his coming here. He is evidently a shallow, arrogant youth.”
But they put him up in a bed-closet near the kitchen.
They decide that the next day will be Thanksgiving — apparently Thanksgiving was a thing even on the frontier — and they are planning a feast. Or as much of one as they can muster.
The youth has decided to help by writing poetry, reading it aloud to Isabella, and asking for her criticism. Would that I were a fly on the wall.
* remember Evans?