He was well aware indeed that in the case of many women sprung from the English governing class, the ties that bind them to their own world, its traditions, and its outlook, are so strong that to try and break them would be merely to invite disaster. But then from such women his own pride—his pride in his country—would have warned his passion. It was to Elizabeth’s lovely sympathy, her generous detachment, her free kindling mind—that his life had gone out. She would, surely, never be deterred from marrying a Canadian—if he pleased her—because it would cut her off from London and Paris, and all the ripe antiquities and traditions of English or European life? Even in the sparsely peopled Northwest, with which his own future was bound up, how many English women are there—fresh, some of them, from luxurious and fastidious homes—on ranches, on prairie farms, in the Okanagan valley! “This Northwest is no longer a wilderness!” he proudly thought; “it is no longer a leap in the dark to bring a woman of delicate nurture and cultivation to the prairies.”
So, only a few hours before, he might have flattered the tyranny of longing and desire which had taken hold upon him.
But now! All his life seemed besmirched. His passion had been no sooner born than, like a wounded bird, it fluttered to the ground. Bring upon such a woman as Elizabeth Merton the most distant responsibility for such a being as he had left behind him in the log-hut at Laggan? Link her life in however remote a fashion with that life? Treachery and sacrilege, indeed! No need for Delaine to tell him that! His father as a grim memory of the past—that Lady Merton knew. His own origins—his own story—as to that she had nothing to discover. But the man who might have dared to love her, up to that moment in the hut, was now a slave, bound to a corpse—
And then as the anguish of the thought swept through him, and by a natural transmission of ideas, there rose in Anderson the sore and sudden memory of old, unhappy things, of the tender voices and faces of his first youth. The ugly vision of his degraded father had brought back upon him, through a thousand channels of association, the recollection of his mother. He saw her now—the worn, roughened face, the sweet swimming eyes; he felt her arms around him, the tears of her long agony on his face. She had endured—he too must endure. Close, close—he pressed her to his heart. As the radiant image of Elizabeth vanished from him in the darkness, his mother—broken, despairing, murdered in her youth—came to him and strengthened him. Let him do his duty to this poor outcast, as she would have done it—and put high thoughts from him.
He tore himself resolutely from his trance of thought, and began to walk back along the line. All the same, he would go up to Lake Louise, as he had promised, on the following morning. As far as his own intention was concerned, he would not cease to look after Lady Merton and her brother; Philip Gaddesden would soon have to be moved, and he meant to escort them to Vancouver.