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The McGregors
The Man of Business


"So you want to get married, lad. Well, you're not the first. But where, may I ask, will you take a wife, and what will you feed her on?"

"I thought I would take up land, Angus. There's good Crown land left in the township."

"Aye, you could take up land, but that's a far cry from having a home and something to eat. And the lass ye have picked out, what will she think of it?"

"She would think but little of it, I fear, but she's a brave girl, Angus, and far above me. I cannot ask her until I have something about me. I must start at once."

"You could start this instant and it might take five years. You worked with me at the clearing; 'tis back-breaking work and I wonder if it is worth it. Those who come after will profit when we are worn out and forgotten. I would not go about it that way if it were me."

"How then?"

"Best see Andrew Murdoch. He is a clever man of business. He buys farms cheap from foolish men like you who wear themselves out by a year or two of chopping and give their places up just when they are ready to produce. Have ye any money saved, Jamie?"

"Almost two hundred dollars."

"I can add one hundred to that. And the girl, has she ought?"

"I would not ask her for any."

"And you might be right, but there are many things she would need for the house and for herself. Best to talk it over."

Andrew Murdoch spent the winters at his home in Kincardine. In this young country his house passed as a mansion. It sat well back from the street on a little rise of ground where trees had been planted that gave promise of a dignity to come. The brick house, of the style known as Georgian, was square and well proportioned. There was a small porch and a fanlight over the front door. Four sides of the roof met at a small platform surrounded by an iron grille, and the many chimneys showed that fireplaces were in use.

The front door opened on a dark hall from which stairs led to the upper floor. The wood of the floor, the banister, and the trim for doorways and walls was of the best, but darkly varnished. And while the workmanship was excellent, for old country carpenters had shaped it with unhurried hands, there was a chill air of gloomy dignity that was not particularly welcoming to the nervous young man. A maid met Jim at the door.

"Mr. Murdoch? Yes, he is in. If you will step inside I will inform him. May I ask who it is, sir?"

Jim answered in a hushed voice and stood cap in hand.

Mr. Murdoch himself came down the hall to greet his former employee.

"Ah, James McGregor. I have not seen you for a time. There was a wound on the head, I believe; better now, I trust?"

"Yes, Mr. Murdoch, I'm fine now, thanks. I'm thinking of a farm, sir. My brother Angus said I should see you."

"Well, well, it might be I could help you. Come back to my office, man. We will look into it."

Jim followed Murdoch's long, straight back to a small room, well lighted, bare of ornament, and completely foreign to the hushed elegance of the rest of the house.

"Sit down, James; we will have a drink to start." The frosty blue eyes lighted with a twinkle. "I was casting about for an excuse for a dram. I never drink before noon unless there is business at hand."

They sat over the brandy and Jim relaxed, the tenseness flowing out of his limbs. "I plan to marry, Mr. Murdoch, and I want a place of my own to take a wife. I have but little and I must make a start."

"If it is the English girl who nursed you, then you are a fortunate man, James; but frankly I wonder if the girl knows what life in this bush country is like."

"I wonder too, and the fact is I have not asked her yet. But I have a feeling sir, if you know what I mean, a feeling that she will say yes."

"Ah well then, I can help you. However, there is little that can be done until the spring. There is a good deal to choosing a farm, James, that is not widely known. There are farms being cleared now that will never be profitable. People will rush in and take up land, any kind of land, hills or swamp or whatever, just so they have land. But I think you know that you can trust me, James. See me in three months and we will work out something profitable for us both. Another dram just to keep out the chill?"

Jim wrote a letter to Toronto.

Dear Janet-i take pen and paper to tell you that i am well and hope you are the same. i have found employment and i am working for Frederick Bauman at his saw mill. There are a lot of logs come in and very good timber. Some is pine and some is maple which he will sell the lumber to the furniture factory in Wingham. We have had a lot of cold weather and much snow but we can look forward to spring because i saw a crow yesterday. i am not good at writing but i hope you will write soon.

Yours affectly,
James H. McGregor

Janet fumed when she got the letter. "How can a man with such a smooth tongue write a letter like that? Him and his crow. I wonder what the H stands for - probably hopeless. I didn't know he had a' middle name. And not a word of anything important. I could be his maiden aunt!"

Dear Jim, '

We have been very busy in the office or I would have replied to your letter sooner. My employer Mr. Winters is doing very well in his insurance business, though he is only a young man. I like working for him and he has already given me a raise in pay. I am glad to hear that you are well. I am in good health myself and also looking forward to spring. I have not seen any crows as we do not have many in Toronto.

Yours as ever,
Your friend Janet.

"That will make him think. I suppose I should have mentioned that Baldy Winters has a wife and two children. Anyway, it will take his mind off the logs, the pine, and the maple."

Dear Janet-i was very glad to get your letter because i thought you were never going to write. It seems i might have made a mistake and you do not feel as i thought you felt at Xmas time. i should have told you that i am buying a farm from Andrew Murdoch and when i have the farm there is a question i will ask you.

Yours affectly,
James H. McGregor.

Dear Jim,

I am very glad to hear that you are buying a farm because it is time you settled down and kept away from taverns and drunken sailors. I hope you will be able to find a helpmate because one is very necessary on a farm. As we are both very busy we can forget the letter writing for a time. I will be at home at Easter and it might be well to have a question and answer period and get certain things settled.

Your friend Janet.

On Good Friday evening she opened the door to see an uncertain giant standing, fur cap in hand. Before she could utter more than a word of greeting he came straight to the point.

"Janet, before we say any more I will ask you what I should have asked you long ago. Will you marry me?"

She flushed and looked at him silently, then took him by the hand and led him inside. "Grand father, this man wants to marry me. What do you say?"

Mr. Ellis rose from his chair, surprised. He took off his glasses and regarded them both for a moment. "I think, Jannie, it wouldn't much matter what I said, for you made up your mind about that long ago. But you have my blessing, the both of you. I can see she has been giving you a bad time. Jim. It's something we men have to endure from time to time. But there are compensations, you know. Come now, we'll all have a drink together to celebrate - and welcome to the family, Jim.


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