“No; you look more amused than upset.”
“There was something humorous in the situation; that’s often the case when you see greedy people wasting effort and ingenuity. Perhaps you heard my visitors expressing their anxiety about my health, though I’ve a suspicion that they felt more like wishing the car had made an end of me.”
The nurse laughed and told him that he had better rest; and Herbert lay back upon the cushions she arranged, with calm content.
During the evening, Sylvia entered the room, dressed a little more carefully than usual, and Herbert glanced at her with appreciation.
“You look charming, though that’s your normal state,” he said. “Where are you going?”
“With Muriel, to dine with the Wests; have you forgotten? But I came in because Muriel told me you had a letter from George by the last post.”
“So you’re still interested in his doings,” Herbert rejoined.
“Of course. Does that surprise you?”
“I was beginning to think there was some risk of your forgetting him, which, perhaps, wouldn’t be altogether unnatural. He’s a long way off, which has often its effect, and there’s no denying the fact that in many respects you and he are different.”
“Doesn’t the same thing apply to you and Muriel? Everybody knows you get on excellently in spite of it.”
Herbert laughed. He was aware that his friends had wondered why he had married Muriel, and suspected that some of them believed her money had tempted him. Nevertheless, he made her an affectionate as well as a considerate husband. In business matters he practised the easy morality of a hungry beast of prey, but he had his virtues.
“Yes,” he said, “that’s true. Do you find it encouraging?”
Sylvia had felt a little angry, though she had known that it was seldom wise to provoke her host.
Without waiting for her answer he continued, half seriously: “There’s often one person who thinks better of us than we deserve, and I dare say I’m fortunate in that respect. In such a case, one feels it an obligation not to abuse that person’s confidence.”
A slight flush crept into Sylvia’s face. George believed in her and she was very shabbily rewarding his trust.
“I’m surprised to hear you moralizing. It’s not a habit of yours,” she remarked.
“No,” said Herbert, pointedly; “though it may now and then make one feel a little uncomfortable, it seldom does much good. But we were talking about George. He tells me that winter’s beginning unusually soon; they’ve had what he calls a severe cold snap and the prairie’s deep with snow. He bought some more stock and young horses as an offset to the bad harvest, and he’s doubtful whether he has put up hay enough. West and he are busy hauling stove-wood home from a bluff; and he has had a little trouble with some shady characters as a result of his taking part in a temperance campaign. I think that’s all he has to say.”