Lighting his pipe, George leaned contentedly on the rail. Then remembering what the Canadian had said, he thought of his old friend Marston, a man of charm and varied talents, whom he had long admired and often rather humbly referred to. It was hard to understand how Dick had failed in Canada, and harder still to see why he had made his plodding comrade his executor; for George, having seldom had occasion to exert his abilities, had no great belief in them. He had suffered keenly when Sylvia married Dick, but the homage he had offered her had always been characterized by diffidence, springing from a doubt that she could be content with him; and after a sharp struggle he succeeded in convincing himself that his wound did not matter if she were happier with the more brilliant man. He had entertained no hard thoughts of her: Sylvia could do no wrong. His love for her sprang rather from respect than passion; in his eyes she was all that a woman ought to be.
In the meanwhile his new friends were discussing him in a car farther back along the train.
“I’m glad I had that Englishman by me in the crowd,” the man remarked. “He’s cool and kept his head, did what was needed and nothing else. I allow you owe him something for bringing you through.”
“Yes,” said the girl; “he was quick and resolute.” Then reserving the rest of her thoughts, she added: “His friend’s amusing.”
“Percy? Oh, yes,” agreed her father. “Nothing to notice about him—he’s just one of the boys. The other’s different. What that fellow takes in hand he’ll go through with.”
“You haven’t much to form an opinion on.”
“That doesn’t count. I can tell if a man’s to be trusted when I see him.”
“You’re generally right,” the girl admitted. “You were about Marston. I was rather impressed by him when he first came out.”
Her father smiled.
“Just so. Marston had only one trouble—he was all on top. You saw all his good points in the first few minutes. It was rough on him that they weren’t the ones that are needed in this country.”
“It’s a country that demands a great deal,” the girl said thoughtfully.
“Sure,” was the dry reply. “The prairie breaks the weak and shiftless pretty quick; we only have room for hard men who’ll stand up against whatever comes along.”
“And do you think that description fits the Englishman we met?”
“Well,” said her father, “I guess he wouldn’t back down if things went against him.”
He went out for a smoke, and the girl considered what he had said. It was not a matter of much consequence, but she knew he seldom made mistakes, and in this instance she agreed with him. As it happened, George’s English relatives included one or two clever people, but none of them held his talents in much esteem. They thought him honest, rather painstaking, and good-natured, but that was all. It was left for two strangers to form a juster opinion; which was, perhaps, a not altogether unusual thing. Besides, the standards are different in western Canada. There, a man is judged by what he can do.