It was a long speech for John Murchison, but they were all excited to a pitch beyond the usual. Henry Cruickshank had brought with him an event of extraordinary importance. It seemed to sit there with him, significant and propitious, in the middle of the sofa; they all looked at it in the pauses. Dr Drummond, lost in an armchair, alternately contemplated it and remembered to assert himself part of it. As head of a deputation from the United Chambers of Commerce of Canada shortly to wait on the British Government to press for the encouragement of improved communications within the Empire, Cruickshank had been asked to select a secretary. The appointment, in view of the desirability, for political reasons, of giving the widest publicity to the hopes and motives of the deputation, was an important one. The action of the Canadian Government, in extending conditional promises of support, had to be justified to the Canadian taxpayer; and that shy and weary person whose shoulders uphold the greatness of Britain, had also to receive such conciliation and reassurance as it was possible to administer to him, by way of nerving the administrative arm over there to an act of enterprise. Mr Cruickshank had had two or three young fellows, mostly newspaper men, in his mind’s eye; but when Lorne came into his literal range of vision, the others had promptly been retired in our friend’s favour. Young Mr Murchison, he had concluded, was the man they wanted; and if his office could spare him, it would probably do young Mr Murchison no harm in any sort of way to accompany the deputation to London and throw himself into the matter the deputation had at heart.
“But it’s the Empire!” said Lorne, with a sort of shy fire, when Mr Cruickshank enunciated this.
We need not, perhaps, dwell upon the significance of his agreement. It was then not long since the maple leaf had been stained brighter than ever, not without honour, to maintain the word that fell from him. The three older men looked at him kindly; John Murchison, rubbing his chin as he considered the situation, slightly shook his head. One took it that in his view the Empire was not so readily envisaged.
“That has a strong bearing,” Mr Cruickshank assented.
“It’s the whole case—it seems to me,” repeated young Murchison.
“It should help to knit us up,” said Dr Drummond. “I’ll put my name down on the first passenger list, if Knox Church will let me off. See that you have special rates,” he added, with a twinkle, “for ministers and missionaries.”