Elizabeth found a little path by the lake shore, and pursued it a short way; but presently the splendour and the beauty overpowered her; her feet paused of themselves. She sat down on a jutting promontory of rock, and lost herself in the forms and hues of the morning. In front of her rose a wall of glacier sheer out of the water and thousands of feet above the lake, into the clear brilliance of the sky. On either side of its dazzling whiteness, mountains of rose-coloured rock, fledged with pine, fell steeply to the water’s edge, enclosing and holding up the glacier; and vast rock pinnacles of a paler rose, melting into gold, broke, here and there, the gleaming splendour of the ice. The sun, just topping the great basin, kindled the ice surfaces, and all the glistening pinks and yellows, the pale purples and blood-crimsons of the rocks, to flame and splendour; while the shadows of the coolest azure still held the hollows and caves of the glacier. Deep in the motionless lake, the shining snows repeated themselves, so also the rose-red rocks, the blue shadows, the dark buttressing crags with their pines. Height beyond height, glory beyond glory—from the reality above, the eye descended to its lovelier image below, which lay there, enchanted and insubstantial, Nature’s dream of itself.
The sky was pure light; the air pure fragrance. Heavy dews dripped from the pines and the moss, and sparkled in the sun. Beside Elizabeth, under a group of pines, lay a bed of snow-lilies, their golden heads dew-drenched, waiting for the touch of the morning, waiting, too—so she thought—for that Canadian poet who will yet place them in English verse beside the daffodils of Westmoreland.
She could hardly breathe for delight. The Alps, whether in their Swiss or Italian aspects, were dear and familiar to her. She climbed nimbly and well; and her senses knew the magic of high places. But never surely had even travelled eyes beheld a nobler fantasy of Nature than that composed by these snows and forests of Lake Louise; such rocks of opal and pearl; such dark gradations of splendour in calm water; such balanced intricacy and harmony in the building of this ice-palace that reared its majesty above the lake; such a beauty of subordinate and converging outline in the supporting mountains on either hand; as though the Earth Spirit had lingered on his work, finishing and caressing it in conscious joy.
And in Elizabeth’s heart, too, there was a freshness of spring; an overflow of something elemental and irresistible.