“The deed’s ready; you have only to sign,” he said, indicating a paper. Then he added, with a smile: “You quite realize the importance of what you are doing?”
The lawyer turned to George.
“This document gives Mr. Lansing full authority to dispose of your possessions as he thinks fit. In accordance with it, his signature will be honored as if it were yours.”
Parker’s expression was severely formal, and his tone businesslike; but he had known George for a long while, and had served his father. Again, for a moment, George had an uneasy feeling that he was being warned; but he had confidence in his friends, and his cousin was eminently reliable.
“I know that,” he answered. “I’ve left matters in Herbert’s hands on other occasions, with fortunate results. Will you give me a pen?”
The lawyer watched him sign with an inscrutable face, but when he laid down the pen, Herbert drew back out of the strong light. He was folding the paper with a sense of satisfaction and relief.
A MATTER OF DUTY
On the evening before George’s departure, Sylvia stood with him at the entrance to the Brantholme drive. He leaned upon the gate, a broad-shouldered, motionless figure; his eyes fixed moodily upon the prospect, because he was afraid to let them dwell upon his companion. In front, across the dim white road, a cornfield ran down to the river, and on one side of it a wood towered in a shadowy mass against a soft green streak of light. Near its foot the water gleamed palely among overhanging alders, and in the distance the hills faded into the grayness of the eastern sky. Except for the low murmur of the stream, it was very still; and the air was heavy with the smell of dew-damped soil.
All this had its effect on George. He loved the quiet English country; and now, when he must leave it, it strongly called to him. He had congenial friends, and occupations in which he took pleasure—sport, experiments in farming, and stock-raising. It would be hard to drop them; but that, after all, was a minor trouble. He would be separated from Sylvia until his work should be done.
“What a beautiful night!” she said at length. Summoning his resolution, he turned and looked at her. She stood with one hand resting on the gate, slender, graceful, and wonderfully attractive, the black dress emphasizing the pure whiteness of her face and hands. Sylvia was an artist where dress was concerned, and she had made the most of her somber garb. As he looked at her a strong temptation shook the man. He might still discover some excuse for remaining to watch over Sylvia, and seize each opportunity for gaining her esteem. Then he remembered that this would entail the sacrifice of her property; and a faint distrust of her, which he had hitherto refused to admit, seized him. Sylvia, threatened by poverty, might yield without affection to the opportunities of a suitor who would bid high enough for her hand; and he would not have such a course forced upon her, even if he were the one to profit.