“Oh, it keeps up pretty well,” said Alec, “but we sell more spoons. ‘N’ what do you think of this country, far as you’ve seen it?”
“Oh, come now, it’s a little soon to ask, isn’t it? Yes—I suppose bicycles go out of fashion, and spoons never do. I was thinking,” added Hesketh, casting his eyes over a serried rank, “of buying a bicycle.”
Alec had turned to put the spoons in their place on the shelves. “Better take your friend across to Cox’s,” he advised Lorne over his shoulder. “He’ll be able to get a motorbike there,” a suggestion which gave Mr Hesketh to reflect later that if that was the general idea of doing business it must be an easy country to make money in.
The customer was satisfied at last, and Mr Murchison walked sociably to the door with him; it was the secretary of the local Oddfellows’ Lodge, who had come in about a furnace.
“Now’s our chance,” said Lorne. “Father, this is Mr Hesketh, from London—my father, Hesketh. He can tell you all you want to know about Canada—this part of it, anyway. Over thirty years, isn’t it, Father, since you came out?”
“Glad to meet you,” said John Murchison, “glad to meet you, Mr Hesketh. We’ve heard much about you.”
“You must have been quite among the pioneers of Elgin, Mr Murchison,” said Hesketh as they shook hands. Alec hadn’t seemed to think of that; Hesketh put it down to the counter.
“Not quite,” said John. “We’ll say among the early arrivals.”
“Have you ever been back in your native Scotland?” asked Hesketh.
“But you prefer the land of your adoption?”
“I do. But I think by now it’ll be kin,” said Mr Murchison. “It was good to see the heather again, but a man lives best where he’s taken root.”
“Yes, yes. You seem to do a large business here, Mr Murchison.”
“Pretty well for the size of the place. You must get Lorne to take you over Elgin. It’s a fair sample of our rising manufacturing towns.”
“I hope he will. I understand you manufacture to some extent yourself?”
“We make our own stoves and a few odd things.”
“You don’t send any across the Atlantic yet?” queried Hesketh jocularly.
“Not yet. No, sir!”
Then did Mr Hesketh show himself in true sympathy with the novel and independent conditions of the commonwealth he found himself in.
“I beg you won’t use that form with me,” he said, “I know it isn’t the custom of the country, and I am a friend of your son’s, you see.”
The iron merchant looked at him, just an instant’s regard, in which astonishment struggled with the usual deliberation. Then his considering hand went to his chin.
“I see. I must remember,” he said.
The son, Lorne, glanced in the pause beyond John Murchison’s broad shoulders, through the store door and out into the moderate commerce of Main Street, which had carried the significance and the success of his father’s life. His eye came back and moved over the contents of the place, taking stock of it, one might say, and adjusting the balance with pride. He had said very little since they had been in the store. Now he turned to Hesketh quietly.