She came at length, clad in a thin black dress that fitted her perfectly; and he rose and stood looking at her while his heart beat fast. Sylvia was slight of figure, but curiously graceful, and her normal expression was one of innocent candor. The somber garments emphasized the colorless purity of her complexion; her hair was fair, and she had large, pathetic blue eyes. Her beauty was somehow heightened by a hint of fragility: in her widow’s dress she looked very forlorn and helpless; and the man yearned to comfort and protect her. It did not strike him that she had stood for some moments enduring his compassionate scrutiny with exemplary patience.
“It’s so nice to see you, George,” she said. “I knew you would come.”
He thrilled at the assurance; but he was not an effusive person. He brought a chair for her.
“I started as soon as I got your note,” he answered simply. “I’m glad you’re back again.”
He did not think it worth while to mention that he had with difficulty crossed a snow-barred pass in order to save time, and had left a companion, who resented his desertion, in the wilds; but Sylvia guessed that he had spared no effort, and she answered him with a smile.
“Your welcome’s worth having, because it’s sincere.”
Those who understood Sylvia best occasionally said that when she was unusually gracious it was a sign that she wanted something; but George would have denied this with indignation.
“If it wouldn’t be too painful, you might tell me a little about your stay in Canada,” he said by and by. “You never wrote, and”—he hesitated—“I heard only once from Dick.”
Dick was her dead husband’s name, and she sat silent a few moments musing, and glancing unobtrusively at George. He had not changed much since she last saw him, on her wedding-day, though he looked a little older, and rather more serious. There were faint signs of weariness which she did not remember in his sunburned face. On the whole, however, it was a reposeful face, with something in it that suggested a steadfast disposition. His gray eyes met one calmly and directly; his brown hair was short and stiff; the set of his lips and the contour of his jaw were firm. George had entered on his thirtieth year. Though he was strongly made, his appearance was in no way striking, and it was seldom that his conversation was characterized by brilliancy. But his friends trusted him.
“It’s difficult to speak of,” Sylvia began. “When, soon after our wedding, Dick lost most of his money, and said that we must go to Canada, I felt almost crushed; but I thought he was right.” She paused and glanced at George. “He told me what you wished to do, and I’m glad that, generous as you are, he wouldn’t hear of it.”
George looked embarrassed.
“I felt his refusal a little,” he said. “I could have spared the money, and I was a friend of his.”