“Haven’t you plenty in England?”
“Acquaintances; only a few friends. I can’t help regretting those I must leave behind. In fact”—he spoke impulsively, expressing a thought that had haunted him—“it would be a relief if I knew I should come back again.”
“After all, this is a hard country and we’re a rather primitive people.”
“You’re reliable! Staunch friends, determined enemies; and even among the latter I found a kind of sporting feeling which made it a little easier for one to forget one’s injuries.” He glanced at the prairie which stretched away, white and silent, in the clear evening light. “It’s irrational in a way, but I’d be glad to feel I was going to work as usual to-morrow.”
“I suppose you could do so, if you really wanted to,” Flora suggested.
George turned and looked fixedly at her, while a mad idea crept into his mind. She was very alluring; he thought he knew her nature, which was altogether wholesome, and it flashed upon him that many of the excellent qualities she possessed were lacking in Sylvia. Then he loyally drove out the temptation, wondering that it had assailed him, though he was still clearly conscious of his companion’s attractiveness.
“No,” he said in a somewhat strained voice; “I hardly think that’s possible. I must go back.”
Flora smiled, though it was difficult. She half believed she could shake the man’s devotion to her rival, but she was too proud to try. If he came to her, he must come willingly, and not because she had exerted her utmost power to draw him.
“Well,” she responded, “one could consider the reluctant way you spoke the last few words as flattering. I suppose it’s a compliment to Canada?”
He failed to understand the light touch of mocking amusement in her tone; it had not dawned on him that this was her defense.
“It’s a compliment to the Canadians, though my appreciation can’t be worth very much. But I don’t feel in a mood to joke. In fact, there’s a feeling of depression abroad to-night; even your father seems affected. I’d expected a pleasant talk with him, but we were very dull.”
“What made you think he was less cheerful than usual?” Flora cast a quick and rather startled glance at him.
“I don’t know, but something seemed wrong. Edgar’s the only one who looks undisturbed, and if he talks much going home, he’ll get on my nerves.”
“It’s hardly fair to blame him for a depression that’s your fault,” said Flora. “You deserve to feel it, since you will go away.”
Then Edgar came up with the wagon and George took Flora’s hands.
“I shall think of you often,” he told her. “It will always be with pleasure. Now and then you might, perhaps, spare a thought for me.”
“I think I can promise that,” Flora replied quietly.
Then he shook hands with Grant and got into the wagon. Edgar cracked the whip and the team plunged forward. With a violent jolting and a rattle of wheels they left the farm behind and drove out on to the prairie. Flora stood watching them for a while; and then walked back to the house in the gathering dusk with her face set hard and a pain at her heart.