It was a fine September afternoon and Sylvia reclined pensively in a canvas hammock on Herbert Lansing’s lawn with one or two opened letters in her hand. Bright sunshine lay upon the grass, but it was pleasantly cool in the shadow of the big copper beech. A neighboring border glowed with autumn flowers: ribands of asters, spikes of crimson gladiolus, ranks of dahlias. Across the lawn a Virginia creeper draped the house with vivid tints. The scene had nothing of the grim bareness of the western prairie of which Sylvia was languidly thinking; her surroundings shone with strong color, and beyond them a peaceful English landscape stretched away. She could look out upon heavily-massed trees, yellow fields with sheaves in them, and the winding streak of a flashing river.
Yet Sylvia was far from satisfied. The valley was getting dull; she needed distraction, and her letters suggested both the means of getting it and a difficulty. She wore black, but it had an artistic, almost coquettish, effect, and the big hat became her well, in spite of its simple trimming. Sylvia bestowed a good deal of thought upon her appearance.
After a while Mrs. Lansing came out and joined her.
“Is there any news in your letters?” she asked.
“Yes,” answered Sylvia; “there’s one from George—it’s a little disappointing, but you can read it. As usual, he’s laconic.”
George’s curtness was accounted for by the fact that he had been afraid of saying too much, but Sylvia carelessly handed the letter to her companion.
“After all, he shows a nice feeling,” Mrs. Lansing remarked. “He seems to regret very much his inability to send you a larger check.”
“So do I,” said Sylvia with a petulant air.
“He points out that it has been a bad season and he has lost his crop.”
“Bad seasons are common in western Canada; I’ve met farmers who seemed to thrive on them.”
“No doubt they didn’t do so all at once.”
“I dare say that’s true,” Sylvia agreed. “It’s very likely that if I give him plenty of time, George will get everything right—he’s one of the plodding, persistent people who generally succeed in the end—but what use will there be in that? I’m not growing younger—I want some enjoyment now!” She spread out her hands with a gesture that appealed for sympathy. “One gets so tired of petty economy and self-denial.”
“But George and Herbert arranged that you should have a sufficient allowance.”
“Sufficient,” said Sylvia, “is a purely relative term. So much depends upon one’s temperament, doesn’t it? Perhaps I am a little extravagant, and that’s why I’m disappointed.”
“After all, you have very few necessary expenses.”
“It’s having only the necessary ones that makes it so dull. Now, I’ve thought of going to stay a while with Susan Kettering; there’s a letter from her, asking when I’ll come.”