For all that, he was incapable of seriously blaming Sylvia. Her letter had hurt him, but he began to make excuses for her, and several that seemed satisfactory presented themselves; then, feeling a little comforted, he opened the letter from Herbert with some anxiety. When he read it, he let it drop upon the table and set his lips tight. His cousin informed him that it would be most injudicious to raise any money just then by selling shares, as he had been requested to do. Those he had bought on George’s account had depreciated in an unexpected manner and the markets were stagnant. George, he said, must carry on his farming operations as economically as possible, until the turn came.
“Bad news?” said Edgar sympathetically.
“Yes. I’ll have to cut out several plans I’d made for spring; in fact, I don’t quite see how I’m to go on working on a profitable scale. We’ll have to do without the extra bunch of stock I was calculating on; and I’m not sure I can experiment with that quick-ripening wheat. There are a number of other things we’ll have to dispense with.”
“We’ll pull through by some means,” Edgar rejoined encouragingly, and George got up.
“I feel rather worn out,” he said. “I think I’ll go to sleep.”
He walked wearily from the room, crumpling up the letters he had risked his life to secure.
GRANT COMES TO THE RESCUE
The storm had raged for twenty-four hours, but it had now passed, and it was a calm night when a little party sat in George’s living-room. Outside, the white prairie lay still and silent under the Arctic frost, but there was no breath of wind stirring and the room was comfortably warm. A big stove glowed in the middle of it, and the atmosphere was permeated with the smell of hot iron, stale tobacco, and the exudations from resinous boards.
Grant and his daughter had called when driving back from a distant farm, and Trooper Flett had returned to the homestead after a futile search for the liquor smugglers. He was not characterized by mental brilliancy, but his persevering patience atoned for that, and his superior officers considered him a sound and useful man. Sitting lazily in an easy chair after a long day’s ride in the nipping frost, he discoursed upon the situation.
“Things aren’t looking good,” he said. “We’ve had two cases of cattle-killing in the last month, besides some horses missing, and a railroad contractor knocked senseless with an empty bottle; and nobody’s locked up yet.”
“I don’t think you have any reason to be proud of it,” Edgar broke in.
Flett spread out his hands in expostulation.
“It’s not our fault. I could put my hands on half a dozen men who’re at the bottom of the trouble; but what would be the use of that, when the blamed jury would certainly let them off? In a case of this kind, our system of justice is mighty apt to break down. It’s a pet idea of mine.”