“You mean you’ll let Beamish make you responsible?”
“Of course,” said Hardie. “I can’t deny I’m leader. The move was a mistake, considered prudentially; but it was morally justifiable. I’ll defend it as strongly as I’m able.”
Grant nodded, and Flora and Mrs. Nelson came in.
“Are you satisfied with what you’ve done?” Grant said to the girl. “You might have given me a hint of it.”
“I’m afraid Beamish was too clever for us. From an outsider’s point of view, he behaved exceptionally well, and in doing so he put us in the wrong. I didn’t know what had been planned when I left home, but, as one of the league, I couldn’t draw back when I heard of it.”
“You think he was too clever?” Mrs. Nelson broke in. “How absurd to say that! We have won a brilliant victory!”
Grant made a little gesture.
“If you’re convinced of that, ma’am, we’ll leave you to talk it over.”
He led George toward the door.
“I like that man Hardie,” he resumed when they reached the street. “Beamish has him beaten for the present, but I’m thankful there’ll be no women about when we come to grips with his crowd. It may take a while, but those fellows have got to be downed.”
GEORGE FACES DISASTER
A fortnight had passed since the affair at the settlement when Hardie arrived at the Marston homestead toward supper-time. After the meal was over, he accompanied his host and Edgar to the little room used for an office.
“As I’ve been busy since four this morning, I don’t mean to do anything more,” said George, “I suppose you don’t smoke?”
“No,” Hardie answered. “It’s a concession I can make without much effort to our stricter brethren. I’m inclined to believe they consider smoking almost as bad as drink. You agree with them about the latter?”
“We try to be consistent,” Edgar told him. “You see, I couldn’t very well indulge in an occasional drink when I’ve undertaken to make those Sage Butte fellows abstainers. Anyhow, though you’re by no means liberal in your view, you’re practical people. As soon as I landed at Montreal, a pleasant young man, wearing a silver monogram came up to me, and offered me introductions to people who might find me a job. Though I didn’t want one, I was grateful; and when I told him I wasn’t one of his flock, he said it didn’t matter. That kind of thing makes a good impression.”
“How are you getting on at the settlement?”
Hardie sat silent for a few moments, and George saw that his eyes were anxious and his face looked worn.
“Badly,” he said. “I feel I can talk to you freely, and that’s really why I came, though I had another call to make.”
“You’re having trouble?”
“Plenty of it. I’ve had another visit from the police, though that’s not a very important matter; and Mrs. Nelson’s action has raised a storm of indignation. It would be useless to move any further against the Sachem. Even this is not the worst. Our people are split up by disagreements; I’ve been taken to task; my staunchest supporters are falling away.”