The train sped westwards through the Manitoba farms and villages. Anderson slept intermittently, haunted by various important affairs that were on his mind, and by recollections of the afternoon. Meanwhile, in the front of the train, the paragraph from the Winnipeg Chronicle lay carefully folded in an old tramp’s waistcoat pocket.
“I say, Elizabeth, you’re not going to sit out there all day, and get your death of cold? Why don’t you come in and read a novel like a sensible woman?”
“Because I can read a novel at home—and I can’t see Canada.”
“See Canada! What is there to see?” The youth with the scornful voice came to lean against the doorway beside her. “A patch of corn—miles and miles of some withered stuff that calls itself grass, all of it as flat as your hand—oh! and, by Jove! a little brown fellow—gopher, is that their silly name?—scootling along the line. Go it, young ’un!” Philip shied the round end of a biscuit tin after the disappearing brown thing. “A boggy lake with a kind of salt fringe—unhealthy and horrid and beastly—a wretched farm building—et cetera, et cetera!”
“Oh! look there, Philip—here is a school!”
Elizabeth bent forward eagerly. On the bare prairie stood a small white house, like the house that children draw on their slates: a chimney in the middle, a door, a window on either side. Outside, about twenty children playing and dancing. Inside, through the wide-open doorway a vision of desks and a few bending heads.
Philip’s patience was put to it. Had she supposed that children went without schools in Canada?
But she took no heed of him.
“Look how lovely the children are, and how happy! What’ll Canada be when they are old? And not another sign of habitation anywhere—nothing—but the little house—on the bare wide earth! And there they dance, as though the world belonged to them. So it does!”
“And my sister to a lunatic asylum!” said Philip, exasperated. “I say, why doesn’t that man Anderson come and see us?”
“He promised to come in and lunch.”
“He’s an awfully decent kind of fellow,” said the boy warmly.
Elizabeth opened her eyes.
“I didn’t know you had taken any notice of him, Philip.”
“No more I did,” was the candid reply. “But did you see what he brought me this morning?” He pointed to the seat behind him, littered with novels, which Elizabeth recognized as new additions to their travelling store. “He begged or borrowed them somewhere from his friends or people in the hotel; told me frankly he knew I should be bored to-day, and might want them. Rather ’cute of him, wasn’t it?”
Elizabeth was touched. Philip had certainly shown rather scant civility to Mr. Anderson, and this trait of thoughtfulness for a sickly and capricious traveller appealed to her.