“England,” said Poulton, the Canadian-born, “is a dangerous country to live in; you run such risks of growing old.” They agreed, I fear, for more reasons than this that England was a good country to leave early; and you cannot blame them—there was not one of them who did not offer in his actual person proof of what he said. Their own dividing chance grew dramatic in their eyes.
“I was offered a clerkship with the Cunards the day before I sailed,” said McGill. “Great Scott, if I’d taken that clerkship!” He saw all his glorious past, I suppose, in a suburban aspect.
“I was kicked out,” said Cameron, “and it was the kindest attention my father ever paid me;” and Bates remarked that it was worth coming out second-class, as he did, to go back in the best cabin in the ship.
The appearance and opinions of those they had left behind them prompted them to this kind of congratulation, with just a thought of compunction at the back of it for their own better fortunes. In the further spectacle of England most of them saw the repository of singularly old-fashioned ideas the storehouse of a good deal of money; and the market for unlimited produce. They looked cautiously at imperial sentiment; they were full of the terms of their bargain and had, as they would have said, little use for schemes that did not commend themselves on a basis of common profit. Cruickshank was the biggest and the best of them; but even Cruickshank submitted the common formulas; submitted them and submitted to them.
Only Lorne Murchison among them looked higher and further; only he was alive to the inrush of the essential; he only lifted up his heart.
Lorne was thus an atom in the surge of London. The members of the deputation, as their business progressed, began to feel less like atoms and more like a body exerting an influence, however obscurely hid in a temperance hotel, upon the tide of international affairs; but their secretary had naturally no initiative that appeared, no importance that was taken account of. In these respects, no less than in the others, he justified Mr Cruickshank’s selection. He did his work as unobtrusively as he did it admirably well; and for the rest he was just washed about, carried, hither and thither, generally on the tops of omnibuses, receptive, absorbent, mostly silent. He did try