“I’m not sure I can smoke, but I intend to try,” he said. “If you mean to rush the next hill right off, you will go without me.” He turned to the hired man. “What do you think of these roads, Grierson?”
“I’ve seen better, sir,” the other answered cautiously. “Perhaps the hills don’t go on very far.”
Edgar ruefully glanced ahead at scattered pines, clumps of brush, and ridges of gleaming sand.
“It’s my opinion there’s no end to them! Hauling a load of wheat through this kind of country must be a bit of an undertaking.”
After a short rest, they toiled for an hour through the sand; and then rode slowly over a road thickly strewn with straw, which bore the wheels. It led them across lower ground to a strong wire fence, where it forked: one branch skirting the barrier along the edge of a muskeg, the other running through the enclosed land. Deciding to take the latter, George got down at the entrance, which was barred by several strands of wire, firmly fastened.
“Half an hour’s work here,” Edgar commented. “Driving’s rather an arduous pastime in western Canada.”
They crossed a long field of barley, a breadth of wheat, and passed an empty house; then wound through a poplar wood until they reached the grass again. It was long and rank, hiding the ruts and hollows in the trail; but after stopping a while for dinner in the shadow of a bluff, they jolted on, and in the afternoon they reached a smoother track. Crossing a low rise, they saw a wide stretch of wheat beneath them, with a house and other buildings near its margin.
“That,” said George, “is Sylvia’s farm.”
Half an hour later, they drove through the wheat, at which George glanced dubiously; and then, traversing a belt of light sandy clods partly grown with weeds, they drew up before the house. It was double-storied, roomy, and neatly built of wood; but it was in very bad repair, and the barn and stables had a neglected and half-ruinous look. Implements and wagons which had suffered from exposure to the weather, stood about outside. Edgar noticed that George’s face was grave.
“I am afraid we have our work cut out,” he said. “We’ll put up the team, and then look round the place and see what needs doing first.”
GEORGE GETS TO WORK
It was an oppressive evening, after a day of unusual heat. Edgar sat smoking outside the homestead. He had been busy since six o’clock that morning, and he felt tired and downcast. Massed thunder-clouds brooded over the silent prairie, wheat and grass had faded to dingy green and lifeless gray, and Edgar tried to persuade himself that his moodiness was the effect of the weather. This was partly the case, but he was also suffering from homesickness and a shrinking from what was new and strange.