“I thought you were a reasonable person!—you used to be. Now look at that view, Elizabeth. We’ve seen the same thing for twelve hours, and if it wasn’t soon going to be dark we should see the same thing for twelve hours more. What is there to go mad over in that?” Her brother waved his hand indignantly from right to left across the disappearing scene. “As for me, I am only sustained by the prospect of the good dinner that I know Yerkes means to give us in a quarter of an hour. I won’t be a minute late for it! Go and get ready, Elizabeth—”
“Another lake!” cried Lady Merton, with a jump. “Oh, what a darling! That’s the twentieth since tea. Look at the reflections—and that delicious island! And oh! what are those birds?”
She leant over the side of the observation platform, attached to the private car in which she and her brother were travelling, at the rear of the heavy Canadian Pacific train. To the left of the train a small blue lake had come into view, a lake much indented with small bays running up among the woods, and a couple of islands covered with scrub of beech and spruce, set sharply on the clear water. On one side of the lake, the forest was a hideous waste of burnt trunks, where the gaunt stems—charred or singed, snapped or twisted, or flayed—of the trees which remained standing rose dreadfully into the May sunshine, above a chaos of black ruin below. But except for this blemish—the only sign of man—the little lake was a gem of beauty. The spring green clothed its rocky sides; the white spring clouds floated above it, and within it; and small beaches of white pebbles seemed to invite the human feet which had scarcely yet come near them.
“What does it matter?” yawned her brother. “I don’t want to shoot them. And why you make such a fuss about the lakes, when, as you say yourself, there are about two a mile, and none of them has got a name to its back, and they’re all exactly alike, and all full of beastly mosquitoes in the summer—it beats me! I wish Yerkes would hurry up.” He leant back sleepily against the door of the car and closed his eyes.
“It’s because they haven’t got a name—and they’re so endless!—and the place is so big!—and the people so few!—and the chances are so many—and so queer!” said Elizabeth Merton laughing.
“What sort of chances?”
“Chances of the future.”
“Hasn’t got any chances!” said Philip Gaddesden, keeping his hands in his pockets.
“Hasn’t it? Owl!” Lady Merton neatly pinched the arm nearest to her. “As I’ve explained to you many times before, this is the Hinterland of Ontario—and it’s only been surveyed, except just along the railway, a few years ago—and it’s as rich as rich—”
“I say, I wish you wouldn’t reel out the guide-book like that!” grumbled the somnolent person beside her. “As if I didn’t know all about the Cobalt mines, and that kind of stuff.”