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
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
"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
"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."