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"I say, you blessed Colonial, what's come over you?" Linklater was obviously disturbed. He had just returned from a summer's yachting through the Norway fjords, brown and bursting with life. The last half-hour he had been pouring forth his experiences to his friend Martin. These experiences were some of them exciting, some of them of doubtful ethical quality, but all of them to Linklater at least interesting. During the recital it was gradually borne in upon him that his friend Martin was changed. Linklater, as the consciousness of the change in his friend grew upon him, was prepared to resent it. "What the deuce is the matter with you?" he enquired. "Are you ill?"
"Never better. I could at this present moment sit upon your fat and florid carcass."
"Well, what then is wrong? I say, you haven't--it isn't a girl, is it?"
"Nothing so lucky for a bloomin' Colonial in this land of wealth and culture. If I only dared!"
"There's something," insisted Linklater; "but I've no doubt it will develop. Meantime let us go out, and, in your own picturesque vocabulary, let us 'hit the flowing bowl.'"
"No, Sir!" cried Martin emphatically. "No more! I am on the water wagon, and have been all summer."
"I knew it was something," replied Linklater gloomily, "but I didn't think it was quite so bad as that. No wonder you've had a hard summer!"
"Best summer ever!" cried Martin. "I only wish I had started two years ago when I came to this bibulous burgh."
"How came it? Religion?"
"No; just horse sense, and the old chief."
"Dunn!" exclaimed Linklater. "I always knew he was against that sort of thing in training, but I didn't think he would carry it to this length."
"Yes, Dunn! I say, old boy, I've no doubt you think you know him, I thought so, too, but I've learned some this summer. Here's a yarn, and it is impressive. Dunn had planned an extensive walking tour in the Highlands; you know he came out of his exams awfully fagged. Well, at this particular moment it happened that Balfour Murray--you know the chap that has been running that settlement joint in the Canongate for the last two years--proposes to Dunn that he should spend a few weeks in leading the young hopefuls in that interesting and uncleanly neighbourhood into paths of virtue and higher citizenship by way of soccer and kindred athletic stunts. Dunn in his innocence agrees, whereupon Balfour Murray promptly develops a sharp attack of pneumonia, necessitating rest and change of air, leaving the poor old chief in the deadly breach. Of course, everybody knows what the chief would do in any deadly breach affair. He gave up his Highland tour, shouldered the whole Canongate business, organised the thing as never before, inveigled all his friends into the same deadly breach, among the number your humble servant, who at the time was fiercely endeavouring in the last lap of the course to atone for a two years' loaf, organised a champion team which has licked the spots off everything in sight, and in short, has made the whole business a howling success; at the cost, however, of all worldly delights, including his Highland tour and the International."
"Oh, I say!" moaned Linklater. "It makes me quite ill to think of the old chief going off this way."
Martin nodded sympathetically. "Kind of 'Days that are no more,' 'Lost leader' feeling, eh?"
"Exactly, exactly! Oh, it's rotten! And you, too! He's got you on this same pious line."
"Look here," shouted Martin, with menace in his voice, "are you classifying me with the old chief? Don't be a derned fool."
Linklater brightened perceptibly. "Now you're getting a little natural," he said in a hopeful tone.
"Oh, I suppose you'd like to hear me string out a lot of damns."
"Well, it might help. I wouldn't feel quite so lonely. But don't violate--"
"I'd do it if I thought it would really increase your comfort, though I know I'd feel like an infernal ass. I've got new light upon this 'damning' business. I've come to regard it as the refuge of the mentally inert, not to say imbecile, who have lost the capacity for originality and force in speech. For me, I am cured."
"Ah!" said Linklater. "Dunn again, I suppose."
"Not a bit! Clear case of psychological reaction. After listening to the Canongate experts I was immediately conscious of an overwhelming and mortifying sense of inadequacy, of amateurishness; hence I quit. Besides, of course, the chief is making rather a point of uplifting the Canongate forms of speech."
Linklater gazed steadily at this friend, then said with mournful deliberation, "You don't drink, you don't swear, you don't smoke--"
"Oh, that's your grouch, is it?" cried Martin. "Forgive me; here's my pouch, old chap; or wait, here's something altogether finer than anything you've been accustomed to. I was at old Kingston's last night, and the old boy would have me load up with his finest. You know I've been working with him this summer. Awfully fine for me! Dunn got me on; or rather, his governor. There you are now! Smoke that with reverence."
"Ah," sighed Linklater, as he drew in his first whiff, "there is still something left to live for. Now tell me, what about Cameron?"
"Oh, Cameron! Cameron's all up a tree. The last time I saw him, by Jove, I was glad it was in the open daylight and on a frequented street. His face and manner suggested Roderick Dhu, The Black Douglas, and all the rest of that interesting gang of cutthroats. I can't bring myself to talk of Cameron. He's been the old chief's relaxation during dog-days. It makes me hot to see Dunn with that chap."
"Why, what's the trouble?"
"He tried him out in half a dozen positions, in every one of which he proved a dead failure. The last was in Mr. Rae's office, a lawyer, you know, Writer, to use your lucid and luminous speech. That experiment proved the climax." At the memory of that experience Martin laughed loud and long. "It was funny! Mr. Rae, the cool, dignified, methodical, exact man of the law, struggling to lick into shape this haughty Highland chieftain, who in his heart scorned the whole silly business. The result, the complete disorganisation of Mr. Rae's business, and total demoralisation of Mr. Rae's office staff, who one and all swore allegiance to the young chief. Finally, when Mr. Rae had reached the depths of desperation, Cameron graciously deigned to inform his boss that he found the office and its claims quite insupportable."
"Oh, it must have been funny. What happened?"
"What happened? You bet old Rae fell on his neck with tears of joy, and sent him off with a handsome honorarium, as your gentle speech has it. That was a fortnight ago. Then Dunn, in despair, took Cameron off to his native haunts, and there he is to this day. By the same token, this is the very afternoon that Dunn returns. Let us go to meet him with cornets and cymbals! The unexpected pleasure of your return made me quite forget. But won't he revel in you, old boy!"
"I don't know about that," said Linklater gloomily. "I've a kind of feeling that I've dropped out of this combination."
"What?" Then Martin fell upon him.
But if Martin's attempts to relieve his friend of melancholy forebodings were not wholly successful, Dunn's shout of joy and his double-handed shake as he grappled Linklater to him, drove from that young man's heart the last lingering shade of doubt as to his standing with his friends.
On his way home Dunn dropped into Martin's diggings for a "crack," and for an hour the three friends reviewed the summer's happenings, each finding in the experience of the others as keen a joy as in his own.
Linklater's holiday had been the most fruitful in exciting incident. For two months he and his crew had dodged about among quaint Norwegian harbours and in and out of fjords of wonderful beauty. Storms they had weathered and calms they had endured; lazy days they had spent, swimming, fishing, loafing; and wild days in fighting gales and high-running seas that threatened to bury them and their crew beneath their white-topped mountainous peaks.
"I say, that must have been great," cried Dunn with enthusiastic delight in his friend's experiences.
"It sounds good, even in the telling," cried Martin, who had been listening with envious ears. "Now my experiences are quite other. One word describes them, grind, grind, grind, day in and day out, in a gallant but futile attempt to justify the wisdom of my late examiners in granting me my Triple."
"Don't listen to him, Linklater," said Dunn. "I happen to know that he came through with banners flying and drums beating; and he has turned into no end of a surgeon. I've heard old Kingston on him."
"But what about you, Dunn?" asked Linklater, with a kind of curious uncertainty in his voice, as if dreading a tale of calamity.
"Oh, I've loafed about town a little, golfing a bit and slumming a bit for a chap that got ill, and in spare moments looking after Martin here."
"And the International?"
"Come on, old chap," said Martin, "take your medicine."
"Well," admitted Dunn, "I had to chuck it. But," he hastened to add, "Nesbitt has got the thing in fine shape, though of course lacking the two brilliant quarters of last year and the half--for Cameron's out of it--it's rather rough on Nesbitt."
"Oh, I say! It's rotten, it's really ghastly! How could you do it, Dunn?" said Linklater. "I could weep tears of blood."
To this Dunn made no reply. His disappointment was even yet too keen for him to treat it lightly. "Anything else seemed quite impossible," at length he said; "I had to chuck it."
"By the way," said Martin, "how's Cameron?"
Again Dunn paused. "I wish I could tell you. He's had hard luck this summer. He somehow can't get hold of himself. In fact, I'm quite worried about Cameron. I can't tell you chaps the whole story, but last spring he had a really bad jolt."
"Well, what's he going to do?" Martin asked, somewhat impatiently.
"I wish I knew," replied Dunn gloomily. "There seems nothing he can get here that's suitable. I'm afraid he will have to try the Colonies; Canada for preference."
"Oh, I say, Dunn," exclaimed Martin, "it can't really be as bad as all that?"
Dunn laughed. "I apologise, old chap. That was rather a bad break, wasn't it? But all the same, to a Scotchman, and especially to a Highlander, to leave home and friends and all that sort of thing, you know--"
"No, he doesn't know," cried Linklater. "The barbarian! How could he?"
"No, thank God," replied Martin fervently, "I don't know! To my mind any man that has a chance to go to Canada on a good job ought to call in his friends and neighbours to rejoice with him."
"But I say, that reminds me," said Dunn. "Mr. Rae is coming to have a talk with my governor and me about this very thing to-morrow night. I'd like awfully if you could drop in, Martin; and you, too, Linklater."
Linklater declined. "My folks have something on, I fear."
Martin hesitated, protesting that there was "altogether too much of this coddling business" in the matter of Cameron's future. "Besides, my work is rather crowding me."
"Oh, my pious ancestors! Work!" exclaimed Linklater in disgust. "At this season of the year! Come, Martin, this pose is unworthy of you."
"If you could, old man," said Dunn earnestly, "we won't keep you long. It would be a great help to us all."
"All right, I'll come," said Martin.
"There'll be no one there but Mr. Rae. We'll just have a smoke and a chat."
But in this expectation Dunn was reckoning without his young brother, Rob, who, ever since a certain momentous evening, had entered into a covenant of comradeship with the young lady who had figured so prominently in the deliverance of his beloved Cameron from pending evil, and who during the summer had allowed no week to pass without spending at least a part of a day with her. On this particular evening, having obtained leave from his mother, the young gentle man had succeeded in persuading his friend to accept an invitation to dinner, assuring her that no one would be there except Jack, who was to arrive home the day before.
The conclave of Cameron's friends found themselves, therefore, unexpectedly reinforced by the presence of Miss Brodie, to the unmingled joy of all of them, although in Martin's case his joy was tinged with a certain fear, for he stood in awe of the young lady, both because of her reputation for cleverness, and because of the grand air which, when it pleased her, she could assume. Martin, too, stood in wholesome awe of Doctor Dunn, whose quiet dignity and old-time courtesy exercised a chastening influence upon the young man's somewhat picturesque style of language and exuberance of metaphor. But with Mrs. Dunn he felt quite at ease, for with that gentle, kindly soul, her boys' friends were her friends and without question she took them to her motherly heart.
Immediately upon Mr. Rae's arrival Cameron's future became the subject of conversation, and it required only the briefest discussion to arrive at the melancholy, inevitable conclusion that, as Mr. Rae put it, "for a young man of his peculiar temperament, training, and habits, Scotland was clearly impossible."
"But I have no doubt," continued that excellent adviser, "that in Canada, where the demand for a high standard of efficiency is less exacting, and where openings are more plentiful, the young man will do very well indeed."
Martin took the lawyer up somewhat sharply. "In other words, I understand you to mean that the man who is a failure in Scotland may become a success in Canada."
"Exactly so. Would you not say so, Mr. Martin?"
"It depends entirely upon the cause of failure. If failure arises from unfitness, his chances in Canada are infinitely less than in Scotland."
"And why?" inquired Miss Brodie somewhat impatiently.
Martin hesitated. It was extremely difficult in the atmosphere of that home to criticise one whom he knew to be considered as a friend of the family.
"Why, pray?" repeated Miss Brodie.
"Well, of course," began Martin hesitatingly, "comparisons are always odious."
"Oh, we can bear them." Miss Brodie's smile was slightly sarcastic.
"Well, then, speaking generally," said Martin, somewhat nettled by her smile, "in this country there are heaps of chaps that simply can't fall down because of the supports that surround them, supports of custom, tradition, not to speak of their countless friends, sisters, cousins, and aunts; if they're anyways half decent they're kept a going; whereas if they are in a new country and with few friends, they must stand alone or fall. Here the crowd support them; there the crowd, eager to get on, shove them aside or trample them down."
"Rather a ghastly picture that," said Miss Brodie.
"But true; that is, of the unfit. People haven't time to bother with them; the game is too keen."
"Surely the picture is overdrawn," said Doctor Dunn.
"It may be, Sir," replied Martin, "but I have seen so many young fellows who had been shipped out to Canada because they were failures at home. I have seen them in very hard luck."
"And what about the fit?" inquired Miss Brodie.
"They get credit for every ounce that's in them."
"But that is so in Scotland as well."
"Pardon me, Miss Brodie, hardly. Here even strong men and fit men have to wait half a lifetime for the chance that calls for all that's in them. They must march in the procession and the pace is leisurely. In Canada the chances come every day, and the man that's ready jumps in and wins."
"Ah, I see!" exclaimed Miss Brodie. "There are more ladders by which to climb."
"Yes," cried Martin, "and fewer men on them."
"But," argued Dunn, "there are other causes of failure in this country. Many a young fellow, for instance, cannot get a congenial position."
"Yes," replied Martin quickly, "because you won't let him; your caste law forbids. With us a man can do anything decent and no one thinks the less of him."
"Ah, I see!" again cried Miss Brodie, more eagerly than before. "Not only more ladders, but more kinds of ladders."
"Exactly," said Martin with an approving glance. "And he must not be too long in the choosing."
"Then, Mr. Martin," said Mr. Rae, "what would you suggest for our young friend?"
But this Martin refused to answer.
"Surely there are openings for a young fellow in Canada," said Dunn. "Take a fellow like myself. What could I do?"
"You?" cried Martin, his eyes shining with loving enthusiasm. "There are doors open on every business street in every town and city in Canada for you, or for any fellow who has brain or brawn to sell and who will take any kind of a job and stay with it."
"Well, what job, for instance?"
"What job?" cried Martin. "Heaps of them."
At this point a diversion was created by the entrance of "Lily" Laughton. Both Martin and Dunn envied the easy grace of his manner, his perfect self-possession, as he greeted each member of the company. For each he had exactly the right word. Miss Brodie he greeted with an exaggerated devotion, but when he shook hands with Dunn there was no mistaking the genuine warmth of his affection.
"Heard you were home, old chap, so I couldn't help dropping in. Of course I knew that Mrs. Dunn would be sure to be here, and I more than suspected that my dear Miss Brodie," here he swept her an elaborate bow, "whom I discovered to be away from her own home, might be found in this pleasant company."
"Yes, I fear that my devotion to her youngest boy is leading me to overstep the bounds of even Mrs. Dunn's vast and generous hospitality."
"Not a bit, my dear," replied Mrs. Dunn kindly. "You bring sunshine with you, and you do us all good."
"Exactly my sentiments!" exclaimed "Lily" with enthusiasm. "But what are you all doing? Just having a 'collyshog'?"
For a moment no one replied; then Dunn said, "We were just talking about Cameron, who is thinking of going to Canada."
"To Canada of all places!" exclaimed "Lily" in tones of horrified surprise. "How truly dreadful! But why should Cameron of all beings exile himself in those remote and barbarous regions?"
"And why should he not?" cried Miss Brodie. "What is there for a young man of spirit in Mr. Cameron's position in this country?"
"Why, my dear Miss Brodie, how can you ask? Just think of the heaps of things, of perfectly delicious things, Cameron can do,-- the Highlands in summer, Edinburgh, London, in the season, a run to the Continent! Just think of the wild possibility of a life of unalloyed bliss!"
"Don't be silly!" said Miss Brodie. "We are talking seriously."
"Seriously! Why, my dear Miss Brodie, do you imagine--?"
"But what could he do for a life-work?" said Dunn. "A fellow must have something to do."
"Oh, dear, I suppose so," said "Lily" with a sigh. "But surely he could have some position in an office or something!"
"Exactly!" replied Miss Brodie. "How beautifully you put it! Now Mr. Martin was just about to tell us of the things a man could do in Canada when you interrupted."
"Awfully sorry, Martin. I apologise. Please go on. What do the natives do in Canada?"
"Please don't pay any attention to him, Mr. Martin. I am extremely interested. Now tell me, what are the openings for a young fellow in Canada? You said the professions are all wide open."
It took a little persuasion to get Martin started again, so disgusted was he with Laughton's references to his native country. "Yes, Miss Brodie, the professions are all wide open, but of course men must enter as they do here, but with a difference. Take law, for instance: Knew a chap--went into an office at ten dollars a month--didn't know a thing about it. In three months he was raised to twenty dollars, and within a year to forty dollars. In three or four years he had passed his exams, got a junior partnership worth easily two thousand dollars a year. They wanted that chap, and wanted him badly. But take business: That chap goes into a store and--"
"A store?" inquired "Lily."
"Yes, a shop you call it here; say a drygoods--"
"Drygoods? What extraordinary terms these Colonials use!"
"Oh, draper's shop," said Dunn impatiently. "Go on, Martin; don't mind him."
"A draper's clerk!" echoed "Lily." "To sell tapes and things?"
"Yes," replied Martin stoutly; "or groceries."
"Do you by any chance mean that a University man, a gentleman, takes a position in a grocer's shop to sell butter and cheese?"
"I mean just that," said Martin firmly.
"Oh, please!" said "Lily" with a violent shudder. "It is too awful!"
"There you are! You wouldn't demean yourself."
"Not I!" said "Lily" fervently.
"Or disgrace your friends. You want a gentleman's job. There are not enough to go round in Canada."
"Oh, go on," said Miss Brodie impatiently. "'Lily,' we must ask you to not interrupt. What happens? Does he stay there?"
"Not he!" said Martin. "From the small business he goes to bigger business. First thing you know a man wants him for a big job and off he goes. Meantime he saves his money, invests wisely. Soon he is his own boss."
"That's fine!" cried Miss Brodie. "Go on, Mr. Martin. Start him lower down."
"All right," said Martin, directing his attention solely to the young lady. "Here's an actual case. A young fellow from Scotland found himself strapped--"
"Strapped? What does he mean?" said "Lily" in an appealing voice.
"On the rocks."
"Dear me!" cried Miss Brodie impatiently. "You are terribly lacking in imagination. Broke, he means."
"Well, finds himself broke," said Martin; "gets a shovel, jumps into a cellar--"
"And why a cellar, pray?" inquires "Lily" mildly. "To hide himself from the public?"
"Not at all; they were digging a cellar preparatory to building a house."
"He jumps in, blisters his hands, breaks his back--but he stays with the job. In a week the boss makes him timekeeper; in three months he himself is boss of a small gang; the next year he is made foreman at a hundred a month or so."
"A hundred a month?" cries "Lily" in astonishment. "Oh, Martin, please! We are green, but a hundred pounds a month--!"
"Dollars," said Martin shortly. "Don't be an ass! I beg pardon," he added, turning to Mrs. Dunn, who was meantime greatly amused.
"A hundred dollars a month; that is--I am so weak in arithmetic-- twenty pounds, I understand. Go on, Martin; I'm waiting for the carriage and pair."
"That's where you get left," said Martin. "No carriage and pair for this chap yet awhile; overalls and slouch hat for the next five years for him. Then he begins contracting on his own."
"I beg your pardon," says "Lily."
"I mean he begins taking jobs on his own."
"Great!" cried Miss Brodie.
"Or," continued Martin, now fairly started on a favourite theme, "there are the railroads all shouting for men of experience, whether in the construction department or in the operating department."
"Does anyone here happen to understand him?" inquires "Lily" faintly.
"Certainly," cried Miss Brodie; "all the intelligent people do. At least, I've a kind of notion there are big things doing. I only wish I were a man!"
"Oh, Miss Brodie, how can you?" cried "Lily." "Think of us in such a contingency!"
"But," said Mr. Rae, "all of this is most interesting, extremely interesting, Mr. Martin. Still, they cannot all arrive at these exalted positions."
"No, Mr. Rae. I may have given that impression. I confess to a little madness when I begin talking Canada."
"Ah!" exclaimed "Lily."
"But I said men of brawn and brains, you remember."
"And bounce, to perfect the alliteration," murmured "Lily."
"Yes, bounce, too," said Martin; "at least, he must never take back-water; he must be ready to attempt anything, even the impossible."
"That's the splendid thing about it!" cried Miss Brodie. "You're entirely on your own and you never say die!"
"Oh, my dear Miss Brodie," moaned "Lily" in piteous accents, "you are so fearfully energetic! And then, it's all very splendid, but just think of a--of a gentleman having to potter around among butter and cheese, or mess about in muddy cellars! Ugh! Positively ghawstly! I would simply die."
"Oh, no, you wouldn't, 'Lily,'" said Martin kindly. "We have afternoon teas and Browning Clubs, too, you must remember, and some 'cultchaw' and that sort of thing."
There was a joyous shout from Dunn.
"But, Mr. Martin," persisted Mr. Rae, whose mind was set in arriving at a solution of the problem in hand, "I have understood that agriculture was the chief pursuit in Canada."
"Farming! Yes, it is, but of course that means capital. Good land in Ontario means seventy-five to a hundred dollars per acre, and a man can't do with less than a hundred acres; besides, farming is getting to be a science now-a-days, Sir."
"Ah, quite true! But to a young man bred on a farm in this country--"
"Excuse me, Mr. Rae," replied Martin quickly, "there is no such thing in Canada as a gentleman farmer. The farmer works with his men."
"Do you mean that he actually works?" inquired "Lily." "With the plough and hoe, and that sort of thing?"
"Works all day long, as long as any of his men, and indeed longer."
"And does he actually live--? of course he doesn't eat with his servants?" said "Lily" in a tone that deprecated the preposterous proposition.
"They all eat together in the big kitchen," replied Martin.
"How awful!" gasped "Lily."
"My father does," replied Martin, a little colour rising in his cheek, "and my mother, and my brothers. They all eat with the men; my sister, too, except when she waits on table."
"Fine!" exclaimed Miss Brodie. "And why not? 'Lily,' I'm afraid you're horribly snobbish."
"Thank the Lord," said "Lily" devoutly, "I live in this beloved Scotland!"
"But, Mr. Martin, forgive my persistence, I understand there is cheaper land in certain parts of Canada; in, say, Manitobaw."
"Ah, yes, Sir, of course, lots of it; square miles of it!" cried Martin with enthusiasm. "The very best out of doors, and cheap, but I fancy there are some hardships in Manitoba."
"But I see by the public newspapers," continued Mr. Rae, "that there is a very large movement in the way of emigration toward that country."
"Yes, there's a great boom on in Manitoba just now."
"Boom?" said "Lily." "And what exactly may that be in the vernacular?"
"I take it," said Mr. Rae, evidently determined not to allow the conversation to get out of his hands, "you mean a great excitement consequent upon the emigration and the natural rise in land values?"
"Yes, Sir," cried Martin, "you've hit it exactly."
"Then would there not be opportunity to secure a considerable amount of land at a low figure in that country?"
"Most certainly! But it's fair to say that success there means work and hardship and privation. Of course it is always so in a new country; it was so in Ontario. Why, the new settlers in Manitoba don't know what hardships mean in comparison with those that faced the early settlers in Ontario. My father, when a little boy of ten years, went with his father into the solid forest; you don't know what that means in this country, and no one can who has not seen a solid mass of green reaching from the ground a hundred feet high without a break in it except where the trail enters. Into that solid forest in single file went my grandfather, his two little boys, and one ox carrying a bag of flour, some pork and stuff. By a mark on a tree they found the corner of their farm." Martin paused.
"Do go on," said Miss Brodie. "Tell me the very first thing he did."
But Martin seemed to hesitate. "Well," he began slowly, "I've often heard my father tell it. When they came to that tree with the mark on it, grandfather said, 'Boys, we have reached our home. Let us thank God.' He went up to a big spruce tree, drove his ax in to the butt, then kneeled down with the two little boys beside him, and I have heard my father say that when he looked away up between the big trees and saw the bit of blue sky there, he thought God was listening at that blue hole between the tree-tops." Martin paused abruptly, and for a few moments silence held the group. Then Doctor Dunn, clearing his throat, said with quiet emphasis:
"And he was right, my boy; make no doubt of that."
"Then?" inquired Miss Brodie softly. "If you don't mind."
Martin laughed. "Then they had grub, and that afternoon grandfather cut the trees and the boys limbed them off, clearing the ground where the first house stood. That night they slept in a little brush hut that did them for a house until grandmother came two weeks later."
"What?" said Doctor Dunn. "Your grandmother went into the forest?"
"Yes, Sir," said Martin; "and two miles of solid black bush stretched between her and the next woman."
"Why, of course, my dear," said Mrs. Dunn, taking part for the first time in the conversation. "What else?"
They all laughed.
"Of course, Mother," said her eldest son, "that's what you would do."
"So would I, Mamma, wouldn't I?" whispered Rob, leaning towards her.
"Certainly, my dear," replied his mother; "I haven't the slightest doubt."
"And so would any woman worth her salt if she loved her husband," cried Miss Brodie with great emphasis.
"Why, why," cried Doctor Dunn, "it's the same old breed, Mother."
"But in Manitoba--?" began Mr. Rae, still clinging to the subject.
"Oh, in Manitoba there is no forest to cut. However, there are other difficulties. Still, hundreds are crowding in, and any man who has the courage and the nerve to stay with it can get on."
"And what did they do for schools?" said Mrs. Dunn, returning to the theme that had so greatly interested her.
"There were no schools until father was too big to be spared to go except for a few weeks in the winter."
"How big do you mean?"
"Fifteen!" exclaimed Miss Brodie. "A mere infant!"
"Infant!" said Martin. "Not much! At fifteen my father was doing a man's full work in the bush and on the farm, and when he grew to be a man he cleared most of his own land, too. Why, when I was eleven I drove my team all day on the farm."
"And how did you get your education, Mr. Martin?"
"Oh, they kept me at school pretty steadily, except in harvest and hay time, until I was fourteen, and after that in the winter months. When I was sixteen I got a teacher's certificate, and then it was easy enough."
"And did you put yourself through college?" inquired Mr. Rae, both interest and admiration in his voice, for now they were on ground familiar in his own experience.
"Why, yes, mostly. Father helped, I suspect more than he ought to, but he was anxious for me to get through."
"Rob," cried Miss Brodie suddenly, "let's go! What do you say? We'll get a big bit of that land in the West, and won't it be splendid to build up our own estate and all that?"
Rob glanced from her into his mother's face. "I'd like it fine, Mamma," he said in a low voice, slipping his hand into hers.
"But what about me, Rob?" said his mother, smiling tenderly down into the eager face.
"Oh, I'd come back for you, Mamma."
"Hold on there, youngster," said his elder brother, "there are others that might have something to say about that. But I say, Martin," continued Dunn, "we hear a lot about the big ranches further West."
"Yes, in Alberta, but I confess I don't know much about them. The railways are just building and people are beginning to go in. But ranching needs capital, too. It must be a great life! They practically live in the saddle. It's a glorious country!"
"On the whole, then," said Mr. Rae, as if summing up the discussion, "a young man has better opportunities of making his fortune, so to speak, in the far West rather than in, say, Ontario."
"I didn't speak of fortune, Mr. Rae,--fortune is a chance thing, more or less,--but what I say is this, that any young man not afraid of work, of any kind of work, and willing to stay with his job, can make a living and get a home in any part of Canada, with a bigger chance of fortune in the West."
"All I say, Mr. Rae, is this," said Miss Brodie emphatically, "that I only wish I were a man with just such a chance as young Cameron!"
"Ah, my dear young lady, if all the young men were possessed of your spirit, it would matter little where they went, for they would achieve distinct success." As he spoke Mr. Rae's smile burst forth in all its effulgent glory.
"Dear Mr. Rae, how very clever of you to discover that!" replied Miss Brodie, smiling sweetly into Mr. Rae's radiant face. "And how very sweet of you--ah, I beg your pardon; that is--" The disconcerting rapidity with which Mr. Rae's smile gave place to an appearance of grave, of even severe solemnity, threw Miss Brodie quite "out of her stride," as Martin said afterward, and left her floundering in a hopeless attempt to complete her compliment.
Her confusion was the occasion of unlimited joy to "Lily," who was not unfamiliar with this facial phenomenon on the part of Mr. Rae. "Oh, I say!" he cried to Dunn in a gale of smothered laughter, "how does the dear man do it? It is really too lovely! I must learn the trick of that. I have never seen anything quite so appallingly flabbergasting."
Meantime Mr. Rae was blandly assisting Miss Brodie out of her dilemma. "Not at all, Miss Brodie, not at all! But," he continued, throwing his smile about the room, "I think, Doctor Dunn, we have reason to congratulate ourselves upon not only a pleasant but an extremely profitable evening--ah--as far as the matter in hand is concerned. I hope to have further speech with our young friend," bowing to Mr. Martin and bringing his smile to bear upon that young gentleman.
"Oh, certainly," began Martin with ready geniality, "whenever you-- eh? What did you say, Sir? I didn't quite--"
But Mr. Rae was already bidding Mrs. Dunn goodnight, with a face of preternatural gravity.
"What the deuce!" said Martin, turning to his friend Dunn. "Does the old boy often go off at half-cock that way? He'll hurt himself some time, sure."
"Isn't it awful?" said Dunn. "He's got me a few times that way, too. But I say, old boy, we're awfully grateful to you for coming."
"I feel like a fool," said Martin; "as if I'd been delivering a lecture."
"Don't think it," cried Miss Brodie, who had drawn near. "You've been perfectly lovely, and I am so glad to have got to know you better. For me, I am quite resolved to go to Canada."
"But do you think they can really spare us all, Miss Brodie?" exclaimed "Lily" in an anxious voice. "For, of course, if you go we must."
"No, 'Lily,' I'm quite sure they can't spare you. Just think, what could the Browning-Wagner circle do? Besides, what could we do with you when we were all working, for I can quite see that there is no use going to Canada unless you mean to work?"
"You've got it, Miss Brodie," said Martin. "My lecture is not in vain. There is no use going to Canada unless you mean to work and to stay with the job till the cows come home."
"Till the cows come--?" gasped "Lily."
"Oh, never mind him, Mr. Martin! Come, 'Lily' dear, I'll explain it to you on the way home. Good-night, Mr. Dunn; we've had a jolly evening. And as for our friend Cameron, I've ceased to pity him; on the contrary, I envy him his luck."
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