Sylvia broke into half-incredulous merriment.
“It’s hard to imagine George as a temperance reformer. Think of him, making speeches!”
“Speeches aren’t much in George’s line,” Herbert admitted. “Still, in one way, I wasn’t greatly astonished at the news. He’s just the man to be drawn into difficulties he might avoid, provided that somebody could convince him the thing needed doing.”
“Then you think he has been convinced?”
“I can hardly imagine George’s setting out on a work of the kind he mentioned without some persuasion,” said Herbert with a smile. “The subject’s not one he ever took much interest in, and he’s by no means original.”
Sylvia agreed with him, but she was silent a few moments, reclining in an easy chair before the cheerful fire, while she glanced round the room. It was comfortably furnished, warm, and brightly lighted; a strong contrast to the lonely Canadian homestead to which her thoughts wandered. She could recall the unpolished stove, filling the place with its curious, unpleasant smell, and the icy draughts that eddied about it. She could imagine the swish of driving snow about the quivering wooden building when the dreaded blizzards raged; the strange, oppressive silence when the prairie lay still in the grip of the Arctic frost; and George coming in with half-frozen limbs and snow-dust on his furs, to spend the dreary evening in trying to keep warm. The picture her memory painted was vivid and it had a disturbing effect. It was in her service that the man was toiling in western Canada.
“Well,” she said, rising with some abruptness, “it’s time we got off. I’d better see if Muriel is ready.”
BLAND MAKES A SACRIFICE
Sylvia was sitting by the hearth in Ethel West’s drawing-room, her neatly shod feet on the fender, her low chair on the fleecy rug, and she made a very dainty and attractive picture. She felt the cold and hated discomfort of any kind, though it was characteristic of her that she generally succeeded in avoiding it. Ethel sat near by, watching her with calmly curious eyes, for Sylvia was looking pensive. Mrs. Lansing was talking to Stephen West on the opposite side of the large room.
“How is Edgar getting on?” Sylvia asked. “I suppose you hear from him now and then.”
Ethel guessed where the question led and responded with blunt directness.
“Doesn’t George write to you?”
“Not often. Herbert has just got a letter, but there was very little information in it; George is not a brilliant correspondent. I thought Edgar might have written by the same mail.”
“As it happens, he did,” said Ethel. “He describes the cold as fierce, and gives some interesting details of his sensations when the warmth first comes back to his half-frozen hands or limbs; then he adds a vivid account of a blizzard that George and he nearly got lost in.”