“And what on earth is a sink-hole?” asked Elizabeth.
Elizabeth had ample time during the ensuing sixteen hours for inquiry as to the nature of sink-holes.
When she emerged, dressed, into the saloon—she found Yerkes looking out of the window in a brown study. He was armed with a dusting brush and a white apron, but it did not seem to her that he had been making much use of them.
“Whatever is the matter, Yerkes? What is a sink-hole?”
Yerkes looked round.
“A sink-hole, my lady?” he said slowly—“A sink-hole, well, it’s as you may say—a muskeg.”
“A place where you can’t find no bottom, my lady. This one’s a vixen, she is! What she’s cost the C.P.R.!”—he threw up his hands. “And there’s no contenting her—the more you give her the more she wants. They give her ten trainloads of stuff a couple of months ago. No good! A bit of moist weather and there she is at it again. Let an engine and two carriages through last night—ten o’clock!”
“Gracious! Was anybody hurt? What—a kind of bog?—a quicksand?”
“Well,” said Yerkes, resuming his dusting, and speaking with polite obstinacy, “muskegs is what they call ’em in these parts. They’ll have to divert the line. I tell ’em so, scores of times. She was at this game last year. Held me up twenty-one hours last fall.”
When Yerkes was travelling he spoke in a representative capacity. He was the line.
“How many trains ahead of us are there? Yerkes?”
“Two as I know on—may be more.”
“Three or four, my lady.”
“And how long are we likely to be kept?”
“Can’t say. They’ve been at her ten hours. She don’t generally let anyone over her under a good twenty—or twenty-four.”
“Yerkes!—what will Mr. Gaddesden say? And it’s so damp and horrid.”
Elizabeth looked at the outside prospect in dismay. The rain was drizzling down. The passengers walking up and down the line were in heavy overcoats with their collars turned up. To the left of the line there was a misty glimpse of water over a foreground of charred stumps. On the other side rose a bank of scrubby wood, broken by a patch of clearing, which held a rude log-cabin. What was she to do with Philip all day?
Suddenly a cow appeared on the patch of grass round the log hut. With a sound of jubilation, Yerkes threw down his dusting brush and rushed out of the car. Elizabeth watched him pursue the cow, and disappear round a corner. What on earth was he about?
Philip had apparently not yet been called. He was asleep, and Yerkes had let well alone. But he must soon awake to the situation, and the problem of his entertainment would begin. Elizabeth took up the guide-book and with difficulty made out that they were about a hundred miles from Winnipeg. Somewhere near Rainy Lake apparently. What a foolishly appropriate name!