Ranching for Sylvia - Harold Bindloss - ebook

Ranching for Sylvia ebook

Harold Bindloss

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Opis

George is a brave guy. The one for whom everyone experiences in this story. He does not think twice about doing the right thing. George takes and does. He did his best to cope with the difficulties in the open prairie. This is a story about a brave fight on a ranch and farm in the Canadian prairie.

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Liczba stron: 487

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Contents

CHAPTER I. A STRONG APPEAL

CHAPTER II. HIS FRIENDS’ OPINION

CHAPTER III. A MATTER OF DUTY

CHAPTER IV. GEORGE MAKES FRIENDS

CHAPTER V. THE PRAIRIE

CHAPTER VI. GEORGE GETS TO WORK

CHAPTER VII. A CATTLE DRIVE

CHAPTER VIII. CONSTABLE FLETT’S SUSPICIONS

CHAPTER IX. GEORGE TURNS REFORMER

CHAPTER X. THE LIQUOR-RUNNERS

CHAPTER XI. DIPLOMACY

CHAPTER XII. GEORGE FACES DISASTER

CHAPTER XIII. SYLVIA SEEKS AMUSEMENT

CHAPTER XIV. BLAND GETS ENTANGLED

CHAPTER XV. HERBERT MAKES A CLAIM

CHAPTER XVI. A FORCED RETIREMENT

CHAPTER XVII. HERBERT IS PATIENT

CHAPTER XVIII. BLAND MAKES A SACRIFICE

CHAPTER XIX. AN OPPOSITION MOVE

CHAPTER XX. A BLIZZARD

CHAPTER XXI. GRANT COMES TO THE RESCUE

CHAPTER XXII. THE SPREAD OF DISORDER

CHAPTER XXIII. A HARMLESS CONSPIRACY

CHAPTER XXIV. GEORGE FEELS GRATEFUL

CHAPTER XXV. A COUNTERSTROKE

CHAPTER XXVI. THE CLIMAX

CHAPTER XXVII. A SIGN FROM FLETT

CHAPTER XXVIII. THE LEADING WITNESS

CHAPTER XXIX. FLORA’S ENLIGHTENMENT

CHAPTER XXX. THE ESCAPE

CHAPTER XXXI. THE REACTION

CHAPTER XXXII. A REVELATION

CHAPTER XXXIII. GEORGE MAKES UP HIS MIND

CHAPTER I. A STRONG APPEAL

It was evening of early summer. George Lansing sat by a window of the library at Brantholme. The house belonged to his cousin; and George, having lately reached it after traveling in haste from Norway, awaited the coming of Mrs. Sylvia Marston in an eagerly expectant mood. It was characteristic of him that his expression conveyed little hint of his feelings, for George was a quiet, self-contained man; but he had not been so troubled by confused emotions since Sylvia married Marston three years earlier. Marston had taken her to Canada; but now he was dead, and Sylvia, returning to England, had summoned George, who had been appointed executor of her husband’s will.

Outside, beyond the broad sweep of lawn, the quiet English countryside lay bathed in the evening light: a river gleaming in the foreground, woods clothed in freshest verdure, and rugged hills running back through gradations of softening color into the distance. Inside, a ray of sunlight stretched across the polished floor, and gleams of brightness rested on the rows of books and somber paneling. Brantholme was old, but modern art had added comfort and toned down its austerity; and George, fresh from the northern snow peaks, was conscious of its restful atmosphere.

In the meanwhile, he was listening for a footstep. Sylvia, he had been told, would be with him in two or three minutes; he had already been expecting her for a quarter of an hour. This, however, did not surprise him: Sylvia was rarely punctual, and until she married Marston, he had been accustomed to await her pleasure.

She came at length, clad in a thin black dress that fitted her perfectly; and he rose and stood looking at her while his heart beat fast. Sylvia was slight of figure, but curiously graceful, and her normal expression was one of innocent candor. The somber garments emphasized the colorless purity of her complexion; her hair was fair, and she had large, pathetic blue eyes. Her beauty was somehow heightened by a hint of fragility: in her widow’s dress she looked very forlorn and helpless; and the man yearned to comfort and protect her. It did not strike him that she had stood for some moments enduring his compassionate scrutiny with exemplary patience.

“It’s so nice to see you, George,” she said. “I knew you would come.”

He thrilled at the assurance; but he was not an effusive person. He brought a chair for her.

“I started as soon as I got your note,” he answered simply. “I’m glad you’re back again.”

He did not think it worth while to mention that he had with difficulty crossed a snow-barred pass in order to save time, and had left a companion, who resented his desertion, in the wilds; but Sylvia guessed that he had spared no effort, and she answered him with a smile.

“Your welcome’s worth having, because it’s sincere.”

Those who understood Sylvia best occasionally said that when she was unusually gracious it was a sign that she wanted something; but George would have denied this with indignation.

“If it wouldn’t be too painful, you might tell me a little about your stay in Canada,” he said by and by. “You never wrote, and”–he hesitated–“I heard only once from Dick.”

Dick was her dead husband’s name, and she sat silent a few moments musing, and glancing unobtrusively at George. He had not changed much since she last saw him, on her wedding-day, though he looked a little older, and rather more serious. There were faint signs of weariness which she did not remember in his sunburned face. On the whole, however, it was a reposeful face, with something in it that suggested a steadfast disposition. His gray eyes met one calmly and directly; his brown hair was short and stiff; the set of his lips and the contour of his jaw were firm. George had entered on his thirtieth year. Though he was strongly made, his appearance was in no way striking, and it was seldom that his conversation was characterized by brilliancy. But his friends trusted him.

“It’s difficult to speak of,” Sylvia began. “When, soon after our wedding, Dick lost most of his money, and said that we must go to Canada, I felt almost crushed; but I thought he was right.” She paused and glanced at George. “He told me what you wished to do, and I’m glad that, generous as you are, he wouldn’t hear of it.”

George looked embarrassed.

“I felt his refusal a little,” he said. “I could have spared the money, and I was a friend of his.”

He had proved a staunch friend, though he had been hardly tried. For several years he had been Sylvia’s devoted servant, and an admirer of the more accomplished Marston. When the girl chose the latter it was a cruel blow to George, for he had never regarded his comrade as a possible rival; but after a few weeks of passionate bitterness, he had quietly acquiesced. He had endeavored to blame neither; though there were some who did not hold Sylvia guiltless. George was, as she well knew, her faithful servant still; and this was largely why she meant to tell him her tragic story.

“Well,” she said, “when I first went out to the prairie, I was almost appalled. Everything was so crude and barbarous–but you know the country.”

George merely nodded. He had spent a few years in a wheat-growing settlement, inhabited by well-bred young Englishmen. The colony, however, was not conducted on economic lines; and when it came to grief, George, having come into some property on the death of a relative, returned to England.

“Still,” continued Sylvia, “I tried to be content, and blamed myself when I found it difficult. There was always so much to do–cooking, washing, baking–one could seldom get any help. I often felt worn out and longed to lie down and sleep.”

“I can understand that,” said George, with grave sympathy. “It’s a very hard country for a woman.”

He was troubled by the thought of what she must have borne for it was difficult to imagine Sylvia engaged in laborious domestic toil. It had never occurred to him that her delicate appearance was deceptive.

“Dick,” she went on, “was out at work all day; there was nobody to talk to–our nearest neighbor lived some miles off. I think now that Dick was hardly strong enough for his task. He got restless and moody after he lost his first crop by frost. During that long, cruel winter we were both unhappy: I never think without a shudder of the bitter nights we spent sitting beside the stove, silent and anxious about the future. But we persevered; the next harvest was good, and we were brighter when winter set in. I shall always be glad of that in view of what came after.” She paused, and added in a lower voice:

“You heard, of course?”

“Very little; I was away. It was a heavy blow.”

“I couldn’t write much,” explained Sylvia. “Even now, I can hardly talk of it–but you were a dear friend of Dick’s. We had to burn wood; the nearest bluff where it could be cut was several miles away; and Dick didn’t keep a hired man through the winter. It was often very cold, and I got frightened when he drove off if there was any wind. It was trying to wait in the quiet house, wondering if he could stand the exposure. Then one day something kept him so that he couldn’t start for the bluff until noon; and near dusk the wind got up and the snow began to fall. It got thicker, and I could not sit still. I went out now and then and called, and was driven back, almost frozen, by the storm. I could scarcely see the lights a few yards away; the house shook. The memory of that awful night will haunt me all my life!”

She broke off with a shiver, and George looked very compassionate.

“I think,” he said gently, “you had better not go on.” “Ah!” replied Sylvia, “I must grapple with the horror and not yield to it; with the future to be faced, I can’t be a coward. At last I heard the team and opened the door. The snow was blinding, but I could dimly see the horses standing in it. I called, but Dick didn’t answer, and I ran out and found him lying upon the load of logs. He was very still, and made no sign, but I reached up and shook him–I couldn’t believe the dreadful thing. I think I screamed; the team started suddenly, and Dick fell at my feet. Then the truth was clear to me.”

A half-choked sob broke from her, but she went on.

“I couldn’t move him; I must have gone nearly mad, for I tried to run to Peterson’s, three miles away. The snow blinded me, and I came back again; and by and by another team arrived. Peterson had got lost driving home from the settlement. After that, I can’t remember anything; I’m thankful it is so–I couldn’t bear it!”

Then there was silence for a few moments until George rose and gently laid his hand on her shoulder.

“My sympathy’s not worth much, Sylvia, but it’s yours,” he said. “Can I help in any practical way?”

Growing calmer, she glanced up at him with tearful eyes.

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