“Well,” he said, “nobody could call this a good country for the pampered loafer.”
Flora smiled, and pointed out across the prairie. In the foreground it was flecked with crimson flowers; farther back willow and poplar bluffs stretched in bluish smears across the sweep of grass that ran on beyond them toward the vivid glow of color on the skyline. It was almost beautiful in the soft evening light, but it conveyed most clearly a sense of vastness and solitude. The effect was somehow daunting. One thought of the Arctic winter and the savage storms that swept the wilds.
“I’ve heard it called hard,” she said. “It undoubtedly needs hard men; there is nothing here that can be easily won. That’s a fact that the people you’re sending over ought to recognize.”
“They soon discover it when they get out. When they’ve had a crop hailed or frozen, the thing becomes obvious.”
“Did you lose one?”
“I did,” George rejoined rather gloomily. “I’ve a suspicion that if we get much dry weather and the usual strong winds, I may lose another. The wheat’s getting badly cut by driving sand; that’s a trouble we don’t have to put up with in the old country.”
“I’m sorry,” said Flora; and he knew she meant it. “But you won’t be beaten by one bad season?”
“No,” George answered with quiet determination. “I must make a success of this venture, whatever it costs.”
She was a little puzzled by his manner, for she did not think he was addicted to being needlessly emphatic; but she asked no questions, and soon afterward the others joined them and they went back to the house. Early on the following morning, George started homeward with his cattle, and as they rode slowly through the barley-grass that fringed the trail, Edgar looked at him with a smile.
“You spent some time in Miss Grant’s company,” he remarked. “How did she strike you?”
“I like her. She’s interesting—I think that’s the right word for it. Seems to understand things; talks to you like a man.”
“Just so,” Edgar rejoined, with a laugh. “She’s a lady I’ve a high opinion of; in fact, I’m a little afraid of her. Though I’m nearly as old as she is, she makes me feel callow. It’s a sensation that’s new to me.”
“And you’re a man of experience, aren’t you?”
“I suppose I was rather a favorite at home,” Edgar owned with humorous modesty. “For all that, I don’t feel myself quite up to Miss Grant’s standard.”
“I didn’t notice any assumption of superiority on her part.”
“Oh, no,” said Edgar. “She doesn’t require to assume it; the superiority’s obvious; that’s the trouble. One hesitates about offering her the small change of compliments that generally went well at home. If you try to say something smart, she looks at you as if she were amused, not at what you said, but at you. There’s an embarrassing difference between the things.”