“He needn’t bother to bring any bias,” Lorne remarked when he had read this, “but he’ll have to pay a lot of extra luggage on the one he takes back with him.”
He felt a little irritation at being offered the testimony of the Cunard ticket. Back on his native soil, its independence ran again like sap in him: nobody wanted a present of good will; the matter stood on its merits.
He was glad, nevertheless, that Hesketh was coming, gratified that it would now be his turn to show prospects, and turn figures into facts, and make plain the imperial profit from the further side. Hesketh was such an intelligent fellow, there would be the keenest sort of pleasure in demonstrating things, big things, to him, little things, too, ways of living, differences of habit. Already in the happy exercise of his hospitable instinct he saw how Hesketh would get on with his mother, with Stella, with Dr Drummond. He saw Hesketh interested, domiciled, remaining—the ranch life this side of the Rockies, Lorne thought, would tempt him, or something new and sound in Winnipeg. He kept his eye open for chances, and noted one or two likely things. “We want labour mostly,” he said to Advena, “but nobody is refused leave to land because he has a little money.”
“I should think not, indeed,” remarked Mrs Murchison, who was present. “I often wish your father and I had had a little more when we began. That whole Gregory block was going for three thousand dollars then. I wonder what it’s worth now?”
“Yes, but you and Father are worth more, too,” remarked Stella acutely.
“In fact, all the elder members of the family have approximated in value, Stella,” said her brother, “and you may too, in time.”
“I’ll take my chance with the country,” she retorted. They were all permeated with the question of the day; even Stella, after holding haughtily aloof for some time, had been obliged. to get into step, as she described it, with the silly old Empire. Whatever it was in England, here it was a family affair; I mean in the town of Elgin, in the shops and the offices, up and down the tree-bordered streets as men went to and from their business, atomic creatures building the reef of the future, but conscious, and wanting to know what they were about. Political parties had long declared themselves, the Hampden Debating Society had had several grand field nights. Prospective lifelong friendships, male and female in every form of “the Collegiate,” had been put to this touchstone, sometimes with shattering effect. If you would not serve with Wallingham the greatness of Britain you were held to favour going over to the United States; there was no middle course. It became a personal matter in the ward schools and small boys pursued small boys with hateful cries of “Annexationist!” The subject even trickled about the apple-barrels and potato-bags of the market square. Here it should have raged, pregnant as it was with bucolic blessing; but our agricultural friends expect nothing readily except adverse weather, least of all a measure of economic benefit to themselves. Those of Fox County thought it looked very well, but it was pretty sure to work out some other way. Elmore Crow failed heavily to catch a light even from Lorne Murchison.