“We must have a talk,” he began, indicating the documents in George’s hand. “I suppose you have grasped the position, even if Sylvia hasn’t explained it. She shows an excellent knowledge of details.”
There was a hint of dryness in his tone that escaped George’s notice.
“So far as I can make out,” he answered, “Dick owned a section of a second-class wheat-land, with a mortgage on the last quarter, some way back from a railroad. The part under cultivation gives a poor crop.”
“What would you value the property at?”
George made a rough calculation.
“I expected something of the kind,” Herbert told him. “It’s all Sylvia has to live upon, and the interest would hardly cover her dressmaker’s bills.” He looked directly at his cousin. “Of course, it’s possible that she will marry again.”
“She must never be forced to contemplate it by any dread of poverty,” George said shortly.
“How is it to be prevented?”
George merely looked thoughtful and a little stern. Getting no answer, Herbert went on:
“So far as I can see, we have only two courses to choose between. The first is to sell out as soon as we can find a buyer, with unfortunate results if your valuation’s right; but the second looks more promising. With immigrants pouring into the country, land’s bound to go up, and we ought to get a largely increased price by holding on a while. To do that, I understand, the land should be worked.”
“Yes. It could, no doubt, be improved; which would materially add to its value.”
“I see one difficulty: the cost of superintendence might eat up most of the profit. Wages are high on the prairie, are they not?”
George assented, and Herbert continued:
“Then a good deal would depend on the man in charge. Apart from the question of his honesty, he would have to take a thorough interest in the farm.”
“He would have to think of nothing else, and be willing to work from sunrise until dark,” said George. “Successful farming means determined effort in western Canada.”
“Could you put your hands upon a suitable person?”
“I’m very doubtful. You don’t often meet with a man of the kind we need in search of an engagement at a strictly moderate salary.”
“Then it looks as if we must sell out now for enough to provide Sylvia with a pittance.”
“That,” George said firmly, “is not to be thought of!”
There was a short silence while he pondered, for his legacy had not proved an unmixed blessing. At first he had found idleness irksome, but by degrees he had grown accustomed to it. Though he was still troubled now and then by an idea that he was wasting his time and making a poor use of such abilities as he possessed, it was pleasant to feel that, within certain limits, he could do exactly as he wished. Life in western Canada was strenuous and somewhat primitive; he was conscious of a strong reluctance to resume it; but he could not bear to have Sylvia, who had luxurious tastes, left almost penniless. There was a way in which he could serve her, and he determined to take it. George was steadfast in his devotion, and did not shrink from a sacrifice.