She could marry, of course, if she wished. There was a possibility in front of her, of which she sometimes thought. She thought of it now, wistfully and kindly; but it scarcely availed against the sudden melancholy, the passion of indefinite yearning which had assailed her.
The night began to cloud rapidly. The moonlight died from the lake and the coast. Soon a wind sprang up, lashing the young spruce and birch growing among the charred wreck of the older forest, through which the railway had been driven. Elizabeth went within, and she was no sooner in bed than the rain came pelting on her window.
She lay sleepless for a long time, thinking now, not of the world outside, or of herself, but of the long train in front of her, and its freight of lives; especially of the two emigrant cars, full, as she had seen at North Bay, of Galicians and Russian Poles. She remembered the women’s faces, and the babies at their breasts. Were they all asleep, tired out perhaps by long journeying, and soothed by the noise of the train? Or were there hearts among them aching for some poor hovel left behind, for a dead child in a Carpathian graveyard?—for a lover?—a father?—some bowed and wrinkled Galician peasant whom the next winter would kill? And were the strong, swarthy men dreaming of wealth, of the broad land waiting, the free country, and the equal laws?
* * * * *
Elizabeth awoke. It was light in her little room. The train was at a standstill. Winnipeg?
A subtle sense of something wrong stole upon her. Why this murmur of voices round the train? She pushed aside a corner of the blind beside her. Outside a railway cutting, filled with misty rain—many persons walking up and down, and a babel of talk—
Bewildered, she rang for her maid, an elderly and precise person who had accompanied her on many wanderings.
“Simpson, what’s the matter? Are we near Winnipeg?”
“We’ve been standing here for the last two hours, my lady. I’ve been expecting to hear you ring long ago.”
Simpson’s tone implied that her mistress had been somewhat crassly sleeping while more sensitive persons had been awake and suffering.
Elizabeth rubbed her eyes. “But what’s wrong, Simpson, and where are we?”
“Goodness knows, my lady. We’re hours away from Winnipeg—that’s all I know—and we’re likely to stay here, by what Yerkes says.”
“Has there been an accident?”
Simpson replied—sombrely—that something had happened, she didn’t know what—that Yerkes put it down to “the sink-hole,” which according to him was “always doing it”—that there were two trains in front of them at a standstill, and trains coming up every minute behind them.
“My dear Simpson!—that must be an exaggeration. There aren’t trains every minute on the C.P.R. Is Mr. Philip awake?”
“Not yet, my lady.”