“If I were in your shoes,” said Hesketh, thoughtfully, “I can’t say I would.”
On grounds of sentiment, Octavius assured him, they were absolutely at one, but in practical matters a man had to proceed on business principles. He went about at this time expressing great esteem for Hesketh’s capacity to assimilate facts. His opportunity to assimilate them was not curtailed by any further demand for his services in the South Fox campaign. He was as willing as ever, he told Lorne Murchison, to enlist under the flag, and not for the first time; but Murchison and Farquharson, and that lot, while grateful for the offer, seemed never quite able to avail themselves of it: the fact was all the dates were pretty well taken up. No doubt, Hesketh acknowledged, the work could be done best by men familiar with the local conditions, but he could not avoid the conviction that this attitude toward proffered help was very like dangerous trifling. Possibly these circumstances gave him an added impartiality for Mr Milburn’s facts. As the winter advanced his enthusiasm for the country increased with his intelligent appreciation of the possibilities of the Elgin boiler. The Elgin boiler was his object-lesson in the development of the colonies; he paid, several visits to the works to study it, and several times he thanked Mr Milburn for the opportunity of familiarizing himself with such an important and promising branch of Canadian industry.
“It looks,” said Octavius one evening in early February, “as if the Grits were getting a little anxious about South Fox—high time, too. I see Cruickshank is down to speak at Clayfield on the seventh, and Tellier is to be here for the big meeting at the opera house on the eleventh.”
“Tellier is Minister of Public Works, isn’t he?” asked Hesketh.
“Yes—and Cruickshank is an ex-Minister,” replied Mr Milburn. “Looks pretty shaky when they’ve got to take men like that away from their work in the middle of the session.”
“I shall be glad,” remarked his daughter Dora, “when this horrid election is over. It spoils everything.”
She spoke a little fretfully. The election and the matters it involved did interfere a good deal with her interest in life. As an occupation it absorbed Lorne Murchison even more completely than she occasionally desired; and as a topic it took up a larger share of the attention of Mr Alfred Hesketh than she thought either reasonable or pleasing. Between politics and boilers Miss Milburn almost felt at times that the world held a second place for her.