Chapter 1 of My Novel In Progress

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Last year I bought a typewriter at a garage sale for a mere $10, and then I did something very difficult. I wrote an entire novel on it. I finished the book in November and almost immediately began with the second draft. It’s of course the same story and characters, but now I am following a more standard linear format and I’m writing it on a computer so it won’t be filled with typos.

What I have here is chapter 1 of the second draft. It deals with the childhood of the protagonist and his ambition to become a successful businessman rather than continue with the family tradition of farming. It begins in 1888, and the the book will end in 1918, so I will be dealing with WW1 a lot when I get to Joseph’s children who, in the second half of the book, become the protagonists. WW1 was an important time in Canada’s history so I want to bring that out in this book. We are looked over far too much in world history and it pisses me off.

By the way, this first chapter is 6000 words, so get ready for a long read. I am predicting the book will be around 100k words when complete. The working title is “Sons and Daughters” but I intend to think of a much more original name than that since there are already many books with that title in existence.

Please read and tell me what you think.

Sons & Daughters

Joseph 1888

      The dawn rose bleak and grey. Joseph put on his ragged overalls, rubber boots, white shirt and went to the barn where his father and brother Harold released the ox from its pen. The early spring air was cool with the musk of hay and mud mingling into the familiar aroma of the homestead, a certain portent of the long day and unforgiving elements.

Grudgingly he assumed his work, fastened the bit into the beast’s mouth, threw the harness around its hulking shoulders, strapped the halter across its big muzzle, and cinched it tight around its enormous body with steel buckles. Its shoulder was above his head, but he knew not to fear the animal. It was docile and obedient, subject to their daily will without dispute.  Joseph patted its haunches and the firm muscles were like cast iron, its dark fur like gun metal imposing as mountainsides and equally strong. It’s bulbous black eye, rolling and blinking, communicating nothing except maybe boredom, or sorrow, he did not know which. Its empty mind betrayed nothing through the well of its iris.

His father held a coiled whip in his hand, and after close inspection of the harness assembly assured them it was good and commanded the two brothers to lead the ox into the yard where the plow was ready. Joseph and Harold linked the arms of the carriage to the animal’s great sides and locked the connections in place. His father took the reins with a grunt and with one flick of the whip goaded the animal forward to the edge of the corn field which spanned out for many acres before them in ruts and gashes of naked dirt.

Father said, “Harry, that’s good for now. You go inside and help your mother. She needs you to hang up the wash.” The 15 year old said it was no problem and went inside.

The elder turned his sights to Joseph. “It’s time you learned how to drive. Come on over here.”

And Joseph stood behind the plow with visible trepidation at this new charge. His father gave him the whip and said, “Go on. Give him a good whack. You know it won’t hurt him.”

Joseph looked at the broad back of the dutiful animal, raised the whip and snapped it forward. It flailed and cracked. The flesh of the ox’s back quivered and it gave a despondent snort as it lurched forward across the vast field. The steel wedge of the plow carved the earth into pieces, turning and breaking the hardened clumps, and the wheels creaked and yawned as it traversed the land rocking with the lay of the field as Joseph gripped the handles.

“Keep it straight ahead. There. Just like that,” his father said with satisfaction. “He knows where to go, but if he starts wander don’t hesitate to whack him again and pull him back in line.”

“I will, Dad,” Joseph said. He was tired and thinking of what else he would rather be doing such as riding his bicycle into town to meet his friends, or playing baseball near the school, or reading adventure stories at the library. Anything else would be preferable. He looked at his father; at the curls of grey chest hair peaking through the undone top buttons of his shirt, at the wrinkles extending from the corners of his eyes and mouth and upon his brow, at the salt and pepper whiskers on his cheeks and chin, at the wide brim of his straw hat lolling as they walked. This work was all he had ever known, and the years facing nature’s elements both vicious and kind had worn him. Joseph was respectful, but a sense of dread came over him when he thought of upholding this work.

“One day you and your brothers are going to have to take it all over. I’m getting on in years, and the days are long and hard. But its honorable work that will reward you,” he said instructively.

Joseph thought about how to say what was on his mind. What words could he utter to fully express his desire without offense? He said, “What if I don’t want this?”

“Son, I understand that you might feel that way now. You might want to go to the city and learn, or break out on your own. But this is a proud tradition going back for three generations now. We’re farmers, Joe. That’s how it is, and that’s how it’s got to be for us, so don’t you ever forget where you come from.”

“I won’t.”

“One day you’ll come to know the pride that comes with working the soil with your own two hands. It’s hard work, but it’s good, and you’ll be thankful.”

Joseph wanted to say more. He wanted to say that his desire was to find his own path, that he wanted to be somebody, that he wanted to follow his own heart and create his own traditions and find his own pride. But his father was a stern man, and he knew that his misgivings would not be taken well. He was 14 years old, and had worked the farm every year as well he could while managing his school work, but he would soon be done school and the full mantle of duty would be placed on him soon after. This frightened him, but he wouldn’t dare express that. He would keep it hidden until such a time comes where the right words could be spoken, in the right setting, and the right light.

The ox reached the end of the field and Joseph pulled left, bringing the plow around and starting back across the desolation that would soon be filled with towering cornstalks. His father told him he was doing well, and Joseph just said that he’d seen him do it a million times so there was really nothing to it. It was a silent drive the whole way, Joseph in his own mind thinking of a way to escape this caste he was thrown into like shackles from the day he was born.

The gold lettering on the window said, “E.J. Barrington, Book Keeper” and Joseph stood in front of it, staring through the glass at the man sitting at the desk inside. He was a bald man with round spectacles and a suit of grey wool with a starched collar and navy blue tie with yellow stripes. He was writing in a ledger. With intense focus he punched numbers into an adding machine at his right hand which rattled and rumbled as it unravelled a scroll of calculations which he then transferred to the page with an austere fountain pen. With each entry he did not smile. He did not smirk, or glare, or make any kind of indication that he enjoyed his work, but his unbreakable focus, his regal posture, his spotless attire, commanded both respect and curiosity from the young Joseph spying on him.

He leaned into the glass and raised his hand above his eyes to get a better look at the contents of Mr. Barrington’s office, but he leaned in too hard and thumped against the window. This alerted the book keeper and when he looked up to see Joseph watching him returned a baleful glare that froze Joseph like a fawn. He stormed to the door and opened it with astonishing speed.

“This is now the third time I’ve caught you spying on me. Am I going to have to tell your father you’ve been playing hookey?”

“School let out an hour ago, sir. No hookey here.”

“I see,” he said. “Well at any rate, get away. I can’t have you loitering outside my office all day. If I catch you again I will tell your father. That’s a promise.”

Joseph beseeched him. “I don’t mean any trouble. I just wanted to know what it is you do.”

“It says right there on the window what I do. I trust they still teach young men how to read in school.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Don’t let me catch you again.” His words struck with such finality Joseph was left standing there like a fool when he slammed the door to return to his work. Before sitting down at his desk, he shot one more searing glare at Joseph to set him on his way.

He started down the sidewalk in the cool April afternoon with hands in his pockets. He walked down Main Street of North Chisholm County where horse drawn carriages passed with their brown mares trotting. He passed a newsstand where men perused the morning edition of the Chisholm Standard, passed a crowd of school boys blowing bubbles with chewing gum, passed the tailor’s shop with a bare mannequin in the window, passed the barber shop where a man was getting a hot towel shave, passed the Romanesque pillars of the post office with people walking up the steps, passed the fruit market with housewives picking apples and placing them in baskets that hung from their arms, passed the butchers shop with eviscerated pigs and beef shoulders hung on hooks in the window, passed St. Paul’s Cathedral with ornate stained glass windows and bell tower, passed the pharmacy where people sat at the counter drinking root beer or cream soda, and at last arrived at the town square and sat at the fountain where a stone angel was perched atop the cascading waters in an eternal clarion call with a flowing robe and outstretched wings. He looked down into the pool. Smooth ripples shimmered on the surface. Below there were coins glimmering like treasures, pennies and nickels; the wishes of mothers and fathers, sons and daughters.

What would their wishes be? He wondered. Do they wish for love? Prosperity? Forgiveness? Wealth? What hand of fate could ever be swayed by a simple coin? These superstitions seemed foolish, but also comforting to think that wishes can come true if belief is strong enough. He wanted to make a wish. He wanted to find faith that destiny was not determined already. He reflected on his encounter with Mr. Barrington, how his suit was so fine and clean unlike his father’s clothing which was often frayed and stained, his hands so supple and precise unlike his father’s which were hard and blunt, and his skin so smooth and clear also unlike his father’s which was weathered and aged. There was a smell about him of aftershave. The smell of affluence. The cleanliness. The exactitude. If he had one coin to throw he would wish for a similar path but there was no money in his pockets.

He looked around cautiously hoping no one was watching him and what he was about to do.  He pulled up his sleeve, plunged his bare arm into the cold water and retrieved a nickel. He held it up in the sunlight and saw the profile of Queen Victoria on one side, the year 1883 on the other. He rubbed it between his thumb and index finger and thought a moment. He was thirsty. He was also certain that his oldest brother William would be looking for him because there was always much work to do on the farm. Empowered by this new found audacity he kept the coin for himself, went to the pharmacy, and bought a cream soda.

In summer he returned to the book keeper’s office and knocked on the door. He was nervous and ever since the encounter in April he had thought about what he might say to the man. After so many days contemplating his ambition he screwed up his courage and took his chances. Now waiting at the door for the man to answer he began to feel weak, began to have doubts about this entire foray, but before these feelings became too strong the door opened and there stood Mr. Barrington with the same piercing eyes and stiff lip. He wore a vest and shirtsleeves with a gold watch chain hooked into one of the button holes and leading into the small pocket on his right. His icicle eyes communicated something before he even spoke: it was ‘why are you bothering me again?’ and Joseph fought back the intimidation the emanated from his prescience by looking up and meeting his stare.

“I believe I told you not to come back here again. Every time you disturb me I lose track of what I am doing. There had better be a good reason behind this.” He crossed his arms and frowned.

“Forgive me, sir, I don’t mean to be any trouble.” His tongue caught on the next words.

“So what is it then? Out with it now. I am very busy as you can likely surmise.”

“Please, just listen,” Joseph said. “I want to work for you. To be your apprentice.”

Mr. Barrington blinked and his arms loosened slightly. Joseph went on. “I did some asking around, a little reading too, and I know all about what a book keeper does. I even studied extra hard in math and finished with top marks in my class this year. I want to be a businessman like you.”

Mr. Barrington became entrenched in thought, considering this new proposition. “I see. And what does your father think of all this?”

“I haven’t told him yet.”

“You’re a farmer’s boy. You should be out in the fields. What makes you so sure you’re cut out for business, hm? Just having good grades isn’t enough. It is a start, but there is more to it than that.”

“I thought you might say that. But that’s why I want to learn from you. If you could please just give me as chance.”

He planted his hands on his hips. “The McCallister farm has been a vital part of this community for decades. You should uphold the family line, not run off on these flights of fancy. It may not be glamorous, but it is necessary. They are honorable and hard working people.”

Joseph became more urgent, more comfortable in this negotiation. “They are. I know that. But it isn’t what I want to be. I’ve got my whole life, and I don’t want to spend it in those fields. My teachers say I’m one of the brightest, and that I could go to college if I wanted to. If you were me, what would you say? What would you do?”

The book keeper considered him. He stroked his bare chin ponderously. “I suppose you are nothing if not persistent, and I can see that you really believe you can do this.”

Joseph nodded emphatically. “I do sir. And if you take me on I promise not to let you down.”

“All right,” he said as he sank deeper into thought, his defenses giving way to the surprising temerity of this young man before him. Joseph waited for the next words that would come out of his mouth as though waiting for his number to be chosen in a lottery.

“How about this,” he said at last. “If you can get your father’s permission to come work for me, I will take you on as my assistant. You will work part time for the remainder of the summer. After that, we’ll see how things work out. I don’t want to interfere with your duties at the farm as I am certain your family will not appreciate that. You will have to manage double duty. Understand?”

Joseph was filled with flourishing excitement. He wanted to jump and shout, but managed to contain his exuberance tenuously. “Thank you, sir. Thank you so much.”

“And I will expect a written note signed by your father declaring his permission. When you have that, return to me and we’ll get started.”

“I will do that right away,” he gushed.

“Very well then.” He extended his hand and Joseph took it with a firm shake, perhaps too enthusiastic.

“You won’t regret this. You’ll see! I’ll be back tomorrow.”

With that Joseph bounded down the street filled with a rapturous glee, his imagination exploding with images of an affluent future where he wore fine suits, sat behind a large oaken desk, and presided over hundreds of workers as a titan of industry. For the first time in months he found himself smiling and laughing, walking with a spring in his step through the town, across the languid summer fields, and down the county road beneath a hot sun to tell his father.

In the evening dark his father reclined in his arm chair before the fireplace with his feet resting on an ottoman and taking slow pulls from his pipe. The burning tobacco illuminated his weathered face with a light sizzle, and pungent smoke hung about the room. His mother sat on the chesterfield by the window concentrating on a piece of embroidery, deft needles pushing and pulling thread through fabric. Joseph approached them slowly, cautiously, gathering what words to say and summoning the courage to deliver them.

“Father, I need to speak with you for a minute.”

“I’m listening. Go ahead.”

In a brief moment he swallowed his courage. “I want to take a job. In town. I was speaking with Mr. Barrington and he says he’ll take me on, but only with your permission. I need you to sign this.” He held out the typewritten note already prepared.

The old man put the pipe down on his knee and looked at his son. “The book keeper? What do you want with him?”

“It’s different. I just want to see how business works, and what it’s like to own one. It would only be for a couple days a week.”

“I need you here. You know that well enough. I won’t have you running off around town all day doing god knows what. There’s a lot to be done every day and I can’t handle it all by myself.”

“I understand, of course. But that’s why it would only be part time. I’ll still be here in the morning, and then I could go to the office in the afternoon for a few hours to help out there. He is going to pay me.” Joseph tried not to beg or show vulnerability but it was difficult when so much of his hope was placed in this one pivotal moment.

“I don’t like it,” his father said like an iron rod slamming onto his back. “Your place is here and that is final.” The look on his face brooked no negotiations, would consider no exceptions. Joseph began to fret and sigh and plead but this only raked the old man’s nerves. His mother who had been silent up until now ceased her needlework and implored her husband. Taking her son’s side, she offered what support she could.

“Daniel,” she said, “Maybe you shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss him. Remember when you were young and ambitious.”

“I do remember,” he said obstinately. “And my father did the right thing by making me stay put.”

“You didn’t think so at the time. As I recall, you were angry with him for years because he wouldn’t let you join the navy.”

He stopped for a moment and closed his mouth, perhaps taking back the retort he was about to deliver with acerbic wit. Memory swept over the greying man and he sunk into the after image of his father who died when Joseph was too young to remember. Daniel inherited his strict disciplinarian nature and hard reticence, but long ago vowed to be more open and gentle to his own children. What became of that wish? Had it evaporated like morning dew? It seemed in his advanced years he transformed into the same man who sired him.

His mother went on. “He is still so young. What harm is there in letting him explore his interests at this age? You still have three more sons to help in the fields.”

Daniel sniffed and looked back into the fire, considering the flames. His oldest son William was 21 and lived with his wife and two children in the next town over where he took up a trade in construction. His other two sons, Robert and Harold, where 18 and 15 respectively, and Robert would soon be off in his own. The young man’s eye was fixed on the buxom Ms. Clara Williams and they would surely be starting off together. Harold was still young and seldom complained, but the old man somehow knew that his youngest son Joseph wasn’t alone in the sentiments he was sharing with him now. His daughters Alexandra and Gloria, 17 and 13 years old, were fair, smart, and gentle but they could not be entrusted with the hard labour that was always a man’s job. Would there be no one to carry on the farm when his bones became too sore and brittle to carry on?

He tapped his pipe on his knee despondently considering all of these things and a harrowing silence stretched out for eons between Joseph and his father, the boy afraid to say too much for he didn’t want to push things too far because he knew that if he did there would be no salvaging lost opportunity. At last his father looked to him again and said, “Let me see this note,” and Joseph handed it to him. He snatched it with a brusque swipe of his brawny arm, clenched the pipe in his teeth, and read it by firelight.

“All I need is you to sign the bottom,” Joseph said, rising up on his toes to peer over his father’s shoulder.

His father grunted and frowned. “Impressive. But I won’t sign this. I need you here and that is all there is to it. The last two years we haven’t seen a very good harvest because the weather didn’t cooperate. We have to make up for it now, so it’s more important than ever that you help out. Maybe next year, or during the winter, you can do this.”

“Daniel…” Judith implored.

“No,” he raised his voice to her. “That’s enough. Joseph, take this away. I don’t want to hear about this anymore.”

Joseph, his every hope crushed and defeated, said, “Dammit. I should have known. All you care about is your stinking harvest! Why do I even bother?”

“Joseph McCallister, watch your mouth,” his mother admonished.

“You’ve got some nerve talking to me like that,” his father rose up out of his chair and loomed over is son. Joseph edged away in fear. “You’re lucky I don’t clout you in the mouth for going off like that. Now go up to your room and never speak to me about this again.”

“Mother?” he cast his hopes in search of a lifeline, struggling and splashing against the wicked undertow swallowing his dreams.

She shrugged helplessly with the needles in her hand and seemed to mouth the beginning of a sentence, but nothing audible came out. Her look was remorseful, regretful, and Joseph in his frustration moaned furiously as he fled upstairs to his bedroom where he slammed the door and collapsed alone in the silent darkness of his chamber.

He turned on the paraffin lamp and a pale orange light illuminated the room as he sat down at his writing desk with the note laid out before him. He could not accept it. He would not abandon his campaign. So he took a pen from the drawer, dipped it in the inkpot, and signed his father’s name.

Joseph returned to Mr. Barrington the following afternoon after completing his duties at the farm. It was a sweltering summer day and the fields were populated by the swaying stalks of hundreds of rows of corn blooming in the fertile season, their leaves rustled and the ears of corn growing prodigiously throughout the field. Daniel was certain this year would make up for the previous two, and expressed gratitude towards his sons for all their hard work for he knew it was demanding, and that youth was short. After sitting down to lunch, Joseph asked if he could take his bike into town to meet his friends because they were going fishing at the river, and his father permitted him to enjoy the rest of the day because he saw fishing as something wholesome and a useful skill that all men should master.

Joseph kept the note hidden as he left the house and rode his bike to the book keepers office, and even though he knew what he did was wrong he felt it necessary to go through with it anyway because so determined was he to break the McCallister family cycle. No one in his family line had ever been educated and in this age the middle class was rising up as more and more people were taking advantage of the boon of industry that swept through Canada and America beyond.  When he knocked on the door Mr. Barrington answered promptly and a sudden dread came over Joseph that he would recognized the signature as a fake and tell his father.

But no such thing happened. He read it carefully as Joseph watched his studious eyes scan the text back and forth, then folded the sheet and handed it back to him. “Very well then. I must admit, I am a bit surprised that you returned with permission so quickly as you said.  It would appear good fortune has shown you its graces.”

“It has,” Joseph smiled. “When can I start?”

“Come inside. You can begin with organizing last month’s files alphabetically, and by date. I seldom have time to do this myself and you will see it is a bit of a mess. Don’t be intimidated.”

“Not at all sir. I will do my best,” and he entered the office to officially begin his work.

And so began his tutelage. He would repeat this process every afternoon if he could. Always would he dutifully obey his father all morning and into the afternoon, and then would invent some reason to enjoy the remainder of the day with his friends. This didn’t always work, but for two or three days of the week he would still manage to attend his secret duties at the book keepers shop learning the machinations of commerce and industry, how taxes are allocated, how ownership is determined, how resources are bought and sold, how expansions are planned and grown, how workers are hired and paid for, and many other things that have to do with monetary management in various industries ranging from simple services to enormous factories.

Joseph met several business owners during this deceptive summer. Occasionally clients would visit the office and Mr. Barrington would introduce him as the assistant, sharp and eager, and a rapid learner of all things with business. When once he felt shy about presenting himself, he began to find confidence and courage to speak to these sharp suited capitalists whom would have made him feel smaller than a worm and equally weak. These industrialists would enter the office for an exchange of papers, or to catch up on things, and Joseph would be quick to rise from his seat and shake their hand. Always fastidious and conscientious, he took detailed notes of everything he learned and was careful to keep it hidden from everyone at home for he knew that if anyone found out about his secret life all these things would collapse around him.

In late August Mr. Barrington made him move his work station to the window because he was rearranging something in his office and needed to make more space at the back where Joseph was originally sitting. His new vantage point by the window gave him full view of all passers by, and the quiet township in its all its graces went about its usual business as he toiled at his work and scribbled his notes, but his nerves began to rankle every day because everyone who walked by could just as easily see him and he dreaded that someday the wrong person would see him there. Sure enough, on a Wednesday he saw his mother across the street at the fruit market. She wore a wide brimmed sun hat and a dress that fully covered nearly every inch of her body so she must have been sweating but she showed no sign of discomfort except for a few wayward strokes of her sleeve across her brow. Joseph watched her from his desk, slinking down and willing himself invisible.

“What are you doing over there? You are acting very strangely all of a sudden,” Mr Barrington said.

“Oh, it’s nothing,” he quickly drummed up lie. Perhaps it was all this being acquainted with businessmen that had given him such a glib tongue. “I’m just feeling a little antsy since it’s such a nice day outside.”

“Well put a stop to it this instant. This is distracting behavior and I won’t have it.”

“Yes sir,” he said and went back to work, but remained ever watchful of his mother. She had disappeared somehow, he assumed into the store to make her purchase, and for a time felt that he was in the clear, and began to devise a way of having his desk moved to the back again so as to avoid being spotted. Minutes later he spotted his mother again on the street. She was walking this way, crossing over to the other side. What is she doing here? She never comes around this way. He began to feel hot and struggled to look away, but when his mother passed by the window she chanced to look inside and saw her son sitting at a desk with heaps of files in front of him and a pen in his hand. The look on her face was immediately perplexed, and then obstinate, and then angry as she strode to the door and opened it up without even knocking. Joseph could have sunken into a bottomless pit in the floor for how badly he wanted to escape this moment.

“Joseph,” she inquired. “What on earth are you doing here? You know what your father said about this and now I find you here. This is what you’ve been running off to every afternoon when you get a chance?”

“I just-“

“You will just explain yourself fully and completely when I bring you home. I will not hear any of your tall tales now.”

Mr. Barrington rose up from his desk as soon as she burst in through the door, but her fury was so passionate that he was taken aback and did not intervene at first. “Pardon me, you must be Mrs. McCallister. Joseph has been my assistant for the summer, and quite able as well I might add. He presented me with a note two months ago signed by his good father.”

“Oh, did he indeed?” she said. Then she turned her gaze onto her son again with renewed fire. “Then I should think he will have a good story to tell all of us at home. Come now, Joseph.”

He looked at Mr. Barrington as though he was being given over to slave traders, but his mentor returned no sympathy, only disappointment. He looked at his mother with her hands on her hips, lips sealed tight, furrowed brow, and he knew there was no escape.

When she brought him before his father and told him everything, the old man demanded an explanation to which Joseph sputtered his excuses, decrying his father’s strict and unyielding adherence to the farm when Joseph was dedicated to other pursuits. “You can make me work here for now, but I will be a man in a few years time and then you can’t keep me here. You’ll see, father. I’ll go to the city and become a powerful businessman, and I’ll make this family proud. I swear it.”

“Bold words from such a young mind,” his father observed. “But you directly disobeyed me and snuck off behind my back. To make it all the more worse you forged my signature! I can hardly believe my own son does not respect my own wishes.”

“I can hardly believe my own father doesn’t respect my desires.”

Daniel had never heard his son speak so brashly and it instigated a beating that left Joseph sore for days. With a leather belt he whipped and struck and slashed at his son while he cowed and screamed and writhed as the vicious blows fell across his back, shoulders, and arms. All the while his father shouted, calling him ungrateful and disobedient and other foul damnations that should not be spoken. Only when his mother pulled him away and begged him to stop did the blows cease leaving Joseph shaking like the dead leaves of autumn on his bedroom floor, and when his father shut the door, locking him in his solitary chamber, he commanded him to think about what he had done. There Joseph remained for the night, nursing his wounded body and ailing pride.

In the morning Joseph sat down at the breakfast table with the whole family trying to act as though nothing was the matter, and that the trauma of the day before was in the distant past. Between two of his brothers he ate his porridge joylessly while his two sisters chattered about their schoolwork. But his father wiped his mouth and rose from the table to begin his day shortly after he sat down, casting a baleful glare at his son letting him now that he had not forgotten a thing. After the meal was done, his mother pulled Joseph aside.

“It is awful what your father did to you last night. We had a long talk about it. He knows he shouldn’t go off like that, and he is very sorry for it. Just don’t bring it up right now.”

“What should I do? What about my apprenticeship?”

“We talked about that too. You can go on with it. I helped him understand,” she said.

“Mother, thank you so much.” And he hugged her in the thrall of such gratitude that small tears welled up in his eye, but he didn’t let them fall. Even still, there was no way of hiding anything from his mother.

“Good. Now try to focus on doing your work. Just put it all behind you and carry on. Be strong. It’s what a man does.”

“It’s what a man does,” he repeated, but the welts on his back and the tender flesh on his arms made strength difficult to come by. He went outside to meet his father in the yard, and they went about everything as they normally would.

Three afternoons a week he would work at the book keeper’s office furthering his studies in business, and helping out at home with the meager wages he earned. He worked there for the summer, and into the fall, and then for the winter as well. By then Mr. Barrington took him on full time because there was nothing to do at the farm and Joseph had nothing better but to educate himself and hone the image of himself at a large desk, in a proud office, commanding hundreds of men, overseeing grand operations, producing raw materials and goods, selling and profiting, and rising up to a higher echelon of society.

For years this went on, and when he was 18 he decided it was time to leave home. With many tears and hard farewells he left North Chisholm County on a train bound for Toronto where he would study at the University, the finest business school in the country. As the locomotive pulled away he hung out the window waving at his mother and father, his brothers and sisters all seeing him go either with wistful looks as though they missed him already or stoic pride as though they lacked the courage to do what he dared, and they wished him the best luck that could be found in that faraway city and the train took him there. It took him to Union Station where he breathed the city air of Front Street, to his first apartment on College Avenue where he lived alone and had few possessions, and to the Bowmore Dinner, the place where he first met her.


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