“The remedy’s simple. Don’t try to be smart.”
“You would find that easy,” Edgar retorted. “Now, in my opinion, Miss Grant is intellectual, which is more than anybody ever accused you of being, but I suspect you would make more progress with her than I could do. Extremes have a way of meeting, and perhaps it isn’t really curious that your direct and simple views should now and then recommend you to a more complex person.”
“I notice a couple of beasts straying yonder,” George said dryly.
Edgar rode off to drive the animals up to the herd. George, he thought, was painfully practical; only such a man could break off the discussion of a girl like Miss Grant to interest himself in the movements of a wandering steer. For all that, the beasts must be turned, and they gave Edgar a hard gallop through willow scrub and tall grass before he could head them off and afterward overtake the drove.
GEORGE TURNS REFORMER
George was working in the summer fallow a few days after his return from Grant’s homestead, when a man rode across the plowing and pulled up his horse beside him. He was on the whole a handsome fellow, well mounted and smartly dressed, but there was a hint of hardness in his expression. George recognized him as the landlord of a hotel at the settlement.
“Your crop’s not looking too good,” the stranger greeted him.
“No,” returned George. “It was badly put in, and we’ve had unusually dry weather.”
“I forgot,” the other rejoined. “You’re the fellow Jake Gillet had the trouble with. Beat him down on the price, didn’t you? He’s a bad man to bluff.”
“The point that concerned me was that he asked a good deal more than his work was worth.”
The man looked at George curiously.
“That’s quite possible, but you might have let him down more gently than you did. As a newcomer, you don’t want to kick too much or run up against things other folks put up with.”
George wondered where the hint he had been given led.
“I rode over to bring this paper for you to sign,” the man went on.
Glancing through it, George saw that it was a petition against any curtailment of the licenses at Sage Butte, and a testimonial to the excellent manner in which the Sachem Hotel was conducted by its owner, Oliver Beamish. George had only once entered the place, but it had struck him as being badly kept and frequented by rather undesirable customers.
“Some fool temperance folks are starting a campaign—want to shut the hotels,” his visitor explained. “You’ll put your name to this.”
“I’m afraid you’ll have to excuse me, Mr. Beamish. I can’t form an opinion; I haven’t heard the other side yet.”
“Do you want to hear them? Do you like that kind of talk?”
George smiled, though he was not favorably impressed by the man. His tone was too dictatorial; George expected civility when asked a favor.