The cross faded into the hillside; it got dark and the valley narrowed. Trees grew in sheltered spots; the faint, delicate tracery of birch branches breaking the solid, black ranks of the firs. The road wound along the river, which roared, half seen, in the gloom. Now and then they ran through water, and presently the glare of the headlamps bored through breast-high mist. There was a smell of wet soil and rotting leaves. It was very different from the tangled pine bush of Ontario and the stark bareness of the plains, but it was somehow familiar and Foster felt that he was at home.
By and by the moon came out, and the mist got thinner as they ran into an opening where the side of the glen fell back. Lights twinkled at the foot of a hill, and as they sped on the irregular outline of a house showed against a background of trees. It glimmered, long and low, in the moonlight, and then Foster lost it as they ran through a gate into the darkness of a belt of firs. A minute or two later, the car slowed and stopped after passing round a bend.
A wide door stood hospitably open, and a figure upon the steps cut against the light. There were two more figures inside the hall, and as he got down Foster heard voices that sounded strangely pleasant and refined. Then a man whom he could not see well shook hands with him and took him in, and he stopped, half dazzled by the brightness.
The hall was large and a fire burned on a deep hearth. There were oil lamps on tall pillars, and in the background a broad staircase ran up to a gallery in the gloom. Foster, however, had not much time to look about, for as soon as he had given up his hat and coat his host led him towards the fire and two ladies came up. He knew one was his partner’s mother and the other his sister, but although they were like Lawrence he remarked a difference that was puzzling until he understood its origin. Mrs. Featherstone had an unmistakable stamp of dignity, but her face was gentle and her look very friendly; her daughter was tall and Foster thought remarkably graceful, with an air of pride and reserve, although this vanished when she gave him a frank welcoming smile. Featherstone, who was older than his wife, had short, gray hair, and a lined, brown face, but looked strong and carried himself well.
Foster, who liked them at once, wondered rather anxiously whether he had pleased or disappointed them. But he imagined that they would reserve their opinion. They were, of course, not the people to show what they thought, and if he had felt any embarrassment, they would have known how to put him at his ease. Still his type was, no doubt, new to them and his views might jar. He did not remember what they said, but they somehow made him feel he was not a stranger but a friend who had a claim, and when he went to his room he knew he would enjoy his stay with Featherstone’s people.