He felt himself baffled and tricked, with certain deep instincts and yearnings wounded to the death. The brutal manner of his father’s escape—the robbery—the letter—had struck him hard.
When Friday night came, and still no news, Anderson found himself at the C.P.R. Hotel at Field. He was stupid with fatigue and depression. But he had been in telephonic communication all the afternoon with Delaine and Lady Merton at Lake Louise, as to their departure for the Pacific. They knew nothing and should know nothing of his own catastrophe; their plans should not suffer.
He went out into the summer night to take breath, and commune with himself. The night was balmy; the stars glorious. On a siding near the hotel stood the private car which had arrived that evening from Vancouver, and was to go to Laggan the following morning to fetch the English party. They were to pick him up, on the return, at Field.
He had failed to save his father, and his honest effort had been made in vain. Humiliation and disappointment overshadowed him. Passionately, his whole soul turned to Elizabeth. He did not yet grasp all the bearings of what had happened. But he began to count the hours to the time when he should see her.
A day of showers and breaking clouds—of sudden sunlight, and broad clefts of blue; a day when shreds of mist are lightly looped and meshed about the higher peaks of the Rockies and the Selkirks, dividing the forest world from the ice world above....
The car was slowly descending the Kicking Horse Pass, at the rear of a heavy train. Elizabeth, on her platform, was feasting her eyes once more on the great savage landscape, on these peaks and valleys that have never till now known man, save as the hunter, treading them once or twice perhaps in a century. Dreamily her mind contrasted them with the Alps, where from all time man has laboured and sheltered, blending his life, his births and deaths, his loves and hates with the glaciers and the forests, wresting his food from the valleys, creeping height over height to the snow line, writing his will on the country, so that in our thought of it he stands first, and Nature second. The Swiss mountains and streams breathe a “mighty voice,” lent to them by the free passion and aspiration of man; they are interfused and interwoven forever with human fate. But in the Rockies and the Selkirks man counts for nothing in their past; and, except as wayfarer and playfellow, it is probable that he will count for nothing in their future. They will never be the familiar companions of his work and prayer and love; a couple of railways, indeed, will soon be driving through them, linking the life of the prairies to the life of the Pacific; but, except for this conquest of them as barriers in his path, when his summer camps in them are struck, they, sheeted in a winter inaccessible and superb, know him and his puny deeds no more, till again the lakes melt and the trees bud. This it is that gives them their strange majesty, and clothes their brief summer, their laughing fields of flowers, their thickets of red raspberry and slopes of strawberry, their infinity of gleaming lakes and foaming rivers—rivers that turn no mill and light no town—with a charm, half magical, half mocking.