FOSTER MAKES A PROMISE
There was been frost next evening and Foster drove to the Crossing without his comrade, who thought it wiser to stay at home. The reunion he was going to attend was held annually by one or two mutual-improvement societies that combined to open their winter sessions. It had originally begun with a lecture on art or philosophy, but had degenerated into a supper and dance. Supper came early, because in Canada the meal is generally served about six o’clock.
The wooden hall was decorated with flags and cedar boughs, and well filled with young men and women, besides a number of older citizens. The floor and music were good, and Foster enjoyed two dances before he met Carmen Austin. He had not sought her out, because she was surrounded by others, and he knew that if she wanted to dance with him she would let him know. It was generally wise to wait Carmen’s pleasure.
When he left his last partner he stood in a quiet nook, looking about the hall. The girls were pretty and tastefully dressed, though generally paler than the young Englishwomen he remembered. The men were athletic, and their well-cut clothes, which fitted somewhat tightly, showed their finely developed but rather lean figures. They had a virile, decided look, and an ease of manner that indicated perfect self-confidence. Indeed, some were marked by an air of smartness that was half aggressive. A large number were employed at the Hulton factory, but there were brown-faced farmers and miners from the bush, as well as storekeepers from the town.
On the whole, their dress, manners and conversation were American, and Foster was sometimes puzzled by their inconsistency. He liked these people and got on well with them, but had soon discovered that in order to do so he must abandon his English habits and idiosyncrasies. His neighbors often showed a certain half-hostile contempt for the customs of the Old Country, and he admitted that had he been less acquainted with their character, it would have been easy to imagine that Gardner’s Crossing was situated in Michigan instead of Ontario. Yet they had rejected the Reciprocity Treaty on patriotic grounds, and in a recent crisis had demonstrated their passionate approval of Britain’s policy. He had no doubt that if the need came they would offer the mother country the best they had with generous enthusiasm, and nobody knew better that their best was very good.
By and by Carmen dismissed the young men around her and summoned him with a graceful motion of her fan. He crossed the floor, and when he stopped close by with a bow that was humorously respectful she gave him a cool, approving glance. Foster was twenty-eight, but looked younger. Though he had known hardship, his face was smooth, and when unoccupied he had a good-humored and somewhat languid air. He was tall and rather thin, but athletic toil had toughened and strengthened him, and he had frank gray eyes that generally smiled. A glove that looked significantly slack covered his left hand, which had been maimed by a circular saw when he worked in his mill.