“I believe you’ve got at the truth,” he replied. “Still, it must be largely a matter of suspicion.”
Grant leaned forward on the table and his face grew stern.
“You’ll remember what Flett said about our system of justice sometimes breaking down. In this matter, I’m the jury, and I’ve thought the thing over for the last six months, weighing up all that could be said for Langside, though it isn’t much. What’s more, I’ve talked to the man and watched him; giving him every chance. He has had his trial and he has to go; there’s no appeal.”
George could imagine the thoroughness with which his host had undertaken his task. Grant would be just, deciding nothing without the closest test. George felt that the man he meant to punish must be guilty. For all that, he looked at Flora.
“Have you been consulted?” he asked.
“I understood,” said Flora. “And I agreed.”
Her face was as hard as her father’s and George was puzzled.
“I should have thought you would have been inclined to mercy.”
Flora colored a little, but she looked at him steadily.
“Langside deserves the punishment he has so far escaped. He’s guilty of what my father thinks, but there’s another offense that I’m afraid will never be brought home to him.”
George admired her courage as he remembered a very unpleasant story he had heard about a pretty waitress at the settlement. As a matter of fact, he had doubted it.
“Flora went to see the girl at Regina. They found her there pretty near dying,” Grant explained quietly.
Recollecting a scene outside the Sachem, when Flora had accompanied Mrs. Nelson, George realized that he had rather overlooked one side of her character. She could face unpleasant things and strive to put them right, and she could be sternly just without shrinking when occasion demanded it. This, however, was not an aspect of hers that struck one forcibly; he had generally seen her compassionate, cheerful, and considerate. Then he told himself that there was no reason why he should take any interest in Flora Grant’s qualities.
“I suppose Langside will be sold up,” he said.
“Open auction, though I guess there won’t be much bidding. Folks round here don’t know the man as I do, but they’ve good reason to believe the money will go to his creditors, and there’ll be nothing left for him.”
“The foreclosure won’t meet with general favor,” George said pointedly.
“That doesn’t count. It strikes one as curious that people should be ready to sympathize with the slouch who lets his place go to ruin out of laziness, and never think of the storekeepers’ just claim on the money he’s wasted. Anyway, there’s nothing to stop people from bidding; but, in case they hold off, we have fixed up how we’ll divide the property.”
It was obvious to George that the position of Grant’s associates was unassailable. If any friends of Langside’s attempted to run prices up, they would only put the money into his creditor’s pockets; if, as seemed more probable, they discouraged the bidding, the creditors would secure his possessions at a low figure and recoup themselves by selling later at the proper value. George realized that Grant had carefully thought out his plans.