In the wide stretches of a new country there is nothing to bound a local excitement, or to impede its transmission at full value. Elgin was a manufacturing town in southern Ontario, but they would have known every development of the Federal Bank case at the North Pole if there had been anybody there to learn. In Halifax they did know it, and in Vancouver, B.C., while every hundred miles nearer it warmed as a topic in proportion. In Montreal the papers gave it headlines; from Toronto they sent special reporters. Of course, it was most of all the opportunity of Mr Horace Williams, of the Elgin Express, and of Rawlins, who held all the cards in their hands, and played them, it must be said, admirably, reducing the Mercury to all sorts of futile expedients to score, which the Express would invariably explode with a guffaw of contradiction the following day. It was to the Express that the Toronto reporters came for details and local colour; and Mr Williams gave them just as much as he thought they ought to have and no more. It was the Express that managed, while elaborately abstaining from improper comment upon a matter sub judice, to feed and support the general conviction of young Ormiston’s innocence, and thereby win for itself, though a “Grit” paper, wide reading in that hotbed of Toryism, Moneida Reservation, while the Conservative Mercury, with its reckless sympathy for an old party name, made itself criminally liable by reviewing cases of hard dealing by the bank among the farmers, and only escaped prosecution by the amplest retraction and the most contrite apology. As Mr Williams remarked, there was no use in dwelling on the unpopularity of the bank, that didn’t need pointing out; folks down Moneida way could put any newspaper wise on the number of mortgages foreclosed and the rate for secondary loans exacted by the bank in those parts. That consideration, no doubt, human nature being what it is, contributed the active principle to the feeling so widely aroused by the case. We are not very readily the prey to emotions of faith in our fellows, especially, perhaps, if we live under conditions somewhat hard and narrow; the greater animosity behind is, at all events, valuable to give force and relief and staying power to a sentiment of generous conviction. But however we may depreciate its origin, the conviction was there, widespread in the townships: young Ormiston would “get clear”; the case for the defence might be heard over every bushel of oats in Elgin market-place.
In Elgin itself opinion was more reserved. There was a general view that these bank clerks were fast fellows, and a tendency to contrast the habits and the pay of such dashing young men, an exercise which ended in a not unnatural query. As to the irritating caste feeling maintained among them, young Ormiston perhaps gave himself as few airs as any. He was generally conceded indeed by the judging sex to be “nice to everybody”; but was not that exactly the nature for which temptations were most