“Disastrous to the objectionable ideas or customs?”
“No,” laughed the lad; “to me. Have you ever noticed how vindictive narrow-minded people get when you destroy their pet delusions?”
“I can’t remember ever having done so."’
“Then you’ll come to it. If you’re honest it’s unavoidable; only some people claim that they make the attack from duty, while I find a positive pleasure in the thing.”
“There’s one consolation—you won’t have much time for such proceedings if you come with me. You’ll have to work in Canada.”
“I anticipated something of the sort,” the lad rejoined. Then he grew serious. “Have you decided who’s to look after your affairs while you are away? If you haven’t, you might do worse than leave them to Stephen. He’s steady and safe as a rock, and, after all, the three per cent. you’re sure of is better than a handsome dividend you may never get.”
“I can’t give Herbert the go-by. He’s the obvious person to do whatever may be needful.”
“I suppose so,” Edgar assented, with some reluctance. “No doubt he’d feel hurt if you asked anybody else; but I wish you could have got Stephen.”
He changed the subject; and when some of the others came up and joined them, he resumed his humorous manner.
“I’m not asking for sympathy,” he said, in answer to one remark. “I’m going out to extend the bounds of the empire, strengthen the ties with the mother country, and that sort of thing. It’s one of the privileges that seem to be attached to the possession of a temperament like mine.”
“How will you set about the work?” somebody asked.
“With the plow and the land-packer,” George broke in. “He’ll have the satisfaction of driving them twelve hours a day. It happens to be the most effective way of doing the things he mentions.”
Edgar’s laughter followed him as he left the group.
After dinner that evening Herbert invited George into the library.
“Parker has come over about my lease, and his visit will save you a journey,” he explained. “We may as well get things settled now while he’s here.”
George went with him to the library, where the lawyer sat at a writing-table. He waited in silence while Herbert gave the lawyer a few instructions. A faint draught flowed in through an open window, and gently stirred the litter of papers; a shaded lamp stood on the table, and its light revealed the faces of the two men near it with sharp distinctness, though outside the circle of brightness the big room was almost dark.
It struck George that his cousin looked eager, as if he were impatient to get the work finished; but he reflected that this was most likely because Herbert wished to discuss the matter of the lease. Then he remembered with a little irritation what Ethel said during the afternoon. It was not very lucid, but he had an idea that she meant to warn him; and Edgar had gone some length in urging that he should leave the care of his property to another man. This was curious, but hardly to be taken into consideration, Herbert was capable and exact in his dealings; and yet for a moment or two George was troubled by a faint doubt. It appeared irrational, and he drove it out of his mind when Herbert spoke.