"I don't know--perhaps a little."
"I hope so--I think so."
"Things crowd into my mind," she went on, and the wistful light in her eyes told Venters the truth of her thoughts. "I've ridden the border of Utah. I've seen people--know how they live--but they must be few of all who are living. I had my books and I studied them. But all that doesn't help me any more. I want to go out into the big world and see it. Yet I want to stay here more.
What's to become of us? Are we cliff-dwellers? We're alone here.
I'm happy when I don't think. These--these bones that fly into dust--they make me sick and a little afraid. Did the people who lived here once have the same feelings as we have? What was the good of their living at all? They're gone! What's the meaning of it all--of us?"
"Bess, you ask more than I can tell. It's beyond me. Only there was laughter here once--and now there's silence. There was life--and now there's death. Men cut these little steps, made these arrow-heads and mealing-stones, plaited the ropes we found, and left their bones to crumble in our fingers. As far as time is concerned it might all have been yesterday. We're here to-day.
Maybe we're higher in the scale of human beings--in intelligence.
But who knows? We can't be any higher in the things for which life is lived at all."
"What are they?"
"Why--I suppose relationship, friendship--love."
"Yes. Love of man for woman--love of woman for man. That's the nature, the meaning, the best of life itself."
She said no more. Wistfulness of glance deepened into sadness.
"Come, let us go," said Venters.
Action brightened her. Beside him, holding his hand she slipped down the shelf, ran down the long, steep slant of sliding stones, out of the cloud of dust, and likewise out of the pale gloom.
"We beat the slide," she cried.
The miniature avalanche cracked and roared, and rattled itself into an inert mass at the base of the incline. Yellow dust like the gloom of the cave, but not so changeless, drifted away on the wind; the roar clapped in echo from the cliff, returned, went back, and came again to die in the hollowness. Down on the sunny terrace there was a different atmosphere. Ring and Whitie leaped around Bess. Once more she was smiling, gay, and thoughtless, with the dream-mood in the shadow of her eyes.
"Bess, I haven't seen that since last summer. Look!" said Venters, pointing to the scalloped edge of rolling purple clouds that peeped over the western wall. "We're in for a storm."