George, following his example, lay down with a deep sense of thankfulness. His cares had gone, the flood that roared against the board walls had banished them. Now that relief had come, he felt strangely weary, and in a few minutes he was sound asleep. He did not hear the thunder, which broke out again, nor feel the house shake in the rush of icy wind that suddenly followed; the ominous rattle on roof and walls, different from and sharper than the lashing of the rain, began and died away unnoticed by him. He was wrapped in the deep, healing slumber that follows the slackening of severe mental and bodily strain; he knew nothing of the banks of ragged ice-lumps that lay melting to lee of the building.
It was very cold the next morning, though the sun was rising above the edge of the scourged plain, when Edgar, partly dressed and wearing wet boots and leggings, came into the room and looked down at George compassionately.
The brown face struck him as looking worn; George had flung off part of the coverings, and there was something that suggested limp relaxation in his attitude; but Edgar knew that his comrade must bear his load again.
“George,” he said, touching him, “you had better get up.”
The man stirred, and looking at him became at once intent as he saw his face.
“Ah!” he exclaimed. “Something else gone wrong?”
“I’m sorry,” he answered simply. “Put on your things and come out. You had better get it over with.”
In three or four minutes George left the house. Holding himself steadily in hand, he walked through the drenched grass toward the wheat. On reaching it, he set his lips tight and stood very still. The great field of grain had gone; short, severed stalks, half-buried in a mass of rent and torn-up blades, covered the wide stretch of soil where the wheat had been. The crop had been utterly wiped out by the merciless hail. Edgar did not venture to speak; any sympathy he could express would have looked like mockery; and for a while there was strained silence. Then George showed of what tough fiber he was made.
“Well,” he said, “it has to be faced. After this, we’ll try another plan; more stock, for one thing.” He paused and then resumed: “Tell Grierson to hurry breakfast. I must drive in to the Butte; there’s a good deal to be done.”
Edgar moved away, feeling relieved. George, instead of despairing, was considering new measures. He was far from beaten yet.
SYLVIA SEEKS AMUSEMENT