Grant was sitting on the stoop, filling his pipe, but when she joined him he paused in his occupation and pointed toward the plain. The wagon was scarcely discernible, but a rhythmic beat of hoofs still came back through the stillness.
“I like that man, but he’s a blamed fool,” he remarked.
Strong bitterness was mingled with the regret in his voice, and Flora started. She was glad that the light was too dim for him to see her clearly.
“I wonder what makes you say that?”
“For one thing, he might have done well here.” Flora suspected that her father was not expressing all he had meant. “He’s the kind of man we want; and now he’s going back to fool his life away, slouching round playing games and talking to idle people, in the old country. Guess some girl over there has got a hold on him.” Then his indignation flamed out unchecked. “I never could stand those Percy women, anyway; saw a bunch of them, all dress and airs, when I was last in Winnipeg. One was standing outside a ticket-office at Portage, studying the people through an eyeglass on an ivory stick, as if they were some strange savages, and making remarks about them to her friends, though I guess there isn’t a young woman in the city with nerve enough to wear the clothes she had on. It makes a sensible man mighty tired to hear those creatures talk.”
Flora laughed, rather drearily, though she guessed with some uneasiness the cause of her father’s outbreak. It appeared injudicious to offer him any encouragement.
“After all, one must be fair,” she said. “I met some very nice people in the old country.”
He turned to her abruptly.
“Do you know who has taken Lansing back?” he asked.
“I believe, from something West said, it is Mrs. Marston.”
“That trash!” Grant’s sharp cry expressed incredulity. “The man can’t have any sense! He’s going to be sorry all the time if he gets her.”
Then he knocked out his pipe, as if he were too indignant to smoke, and went into the house.
It was a winter evening and Sylvia was standing near the hearth in Mrs. Kettering’s hall, where the lamps were burning, though a little pale daylight still filtered through the drizzle outside. Sylvia was fond of warmth and brightness, but she was alone except for Ethel West, who sat writing at a table in a recess, although her hostess had other guests, including a few men who were out shooting. After a while Ethel looked up.
“Have you or Herbert heard anything from George during the last few weeks?” she asked.
Sylvia turned languidly. Her thoughts had been fixed on Captain Bland, whom she was expecting every moment. Indeed, she was anxious to get rid of Ethel before he came in.
“No,” she said with indifference. “I think his last letter came a month ago. It was optimistic.”