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The McGregors
The Fair

As the summer waned, the Saturday-night drives continued, and a warm relationship developed. John could hardly credit his good fortune and he hesitated to risk it by asking Katie to marry him. How could she think of marrying a man of his age?

In mid September they went to the Western Fair at London. They left early in a crisp fall morning to drive to the station in the village. John stabled the horse for the day and they caught the early train to Wingham. By the time they reached Wingham the London train was waiting, and they ran across the tracks to board a car already half filled with eager fair-goers. Western Fair was a big holiday for all this part of the country, for people could see just about everything that had been at the Canadian National Exhibition in Toronto with less fuss and less expense.

The train puttered along the seventy miles to London, never managing to reach top speed because it had to slow to pick up recruits at stations four to six miles apart all along the line. By the time they reached London the train was well stuffed. Younger passengers held on precariously out the windows, and older ones stood in the aisles. From the train the fairgrounds were a riot of colour, with flags flying, pennants hanging from ropes holding up tents, and the distant sound of noise and confusion everywhere.

Katie and John were quite overwhelmed by the noise of it all. Some barkers were extolling the wonders to be seen in tents, and others were holding forth on the virtues of gadgets never seen before in the world. Patent medicines were being sold everywhere.

They drifted about hand in hand. John felt uneasy about his wallet, touching it every now and then to see if it was still there, and shifting it from pocket to pocket as they moved along the midway. Fortunately there were no pickpockets around, or he would probably have lost it by continually pointing out its location. They went in tent after tent, only to come out disappointed - the show never came up to the expectations aroused by the glittering spiel of the barker. They were about to give up and find a place to have their lunch when they came to a small tent where people were going in sober-faced and coming out laughing.

"See one of the wonders of the world, ladies and gentlemen, newly arrived from a tour of the continent of Europe. A most astonishing animal, one which will interest all you farmers out there. A calf, ladies and gentlemen, a real live calf, with its head where its tail ought to be."

Curious, they edged in with the crowd, only to see an ordinary calf tied the wrong way in a stall. True enough, its head was over the gutter and its tail in the manger! They went out the back door laughing like everyone else.

It was hard to find a spot where they could be alone to eat the lunch that Katie had brought. People were scattered in small groups on the grass, eating lunches from picnic plates. The hot-dog tents were crowded, and the greasy frankfurter smell, with onion accompaniment, wafted over the grounds. Katie had brought a thermos of coffee, a new and astonishing convenience at that time, and they marvelled at the coffee staying hot for so long. There were horse races and a grandstand show and the wonder of it all left them a little dazed as they hurried to the train for home.

The train was crowded, of course, and the passengers not nearly as good-tempered as the morning crowd. Babies whimpered and youngsters cried and irritated parents snapped at each other. They had to stand in the aisle until the train reached Exeter; then they found a seat and Katie collapsed against John. He put an arm about her and found his hand curling over the warm firmness of her breast. She opened one eye, looked at him and grinned, then closed the eye again. He rode in a state of bliss all the way to Wingham, ignoring a spiteful cramp in the arm. As they changed to the western train, the cool air revived them and they chattered of all they had seen.

At the village the shift was made to horse and buggy and everything fell back into place. At the first quiet spot John stopped and took Katie in his arms.

"Katie, I want you with me always. Will you come and live with me?"

"My dear man, are you proposing marriage or just what?"

"Of course marriage, what did you think'?"

"Well, I'm all for it, John. Why do you think I have been making eyes at you these past six years, and you were so stupid you wouldn't look at me. I thought I would have to take one of the younger ones."

"I didn't dare believe you would want a man so much older."

"Well, I don't know why either, John, but that's the way it is."

He held her tight and kissed her with all the desperate fierceness of a man who had never held a woman in his arms before. "Now look, John," and Katie sat up very straight, "we've had a wonderful day, the most beautiful day in all my life. We can fool around here and spoil it all. Give that horse a lick and let's get home."

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