And yet, though the travelled intelligence made comparisons of this kind, it was not with the mountains that Elizabeth’s deepest mind was busy. She took really keener note of the railway itself, and its appurtenances. For here man had expressed himself; had pitched his battle with a fierce nature and won it; as no doubt he will win other similar battles in the coming years. Through Anderson this battle had become real to her. She looked eagerly at the construction camps in the pass; at the new line that is soon to supersede the old; at the bridges and tunnels and snow-sheds, by which contriving man had made his purpose prevail over the physical forces of this wild world. The great railway spoke to her in terms of human life; and because she had known Anderson she understood its message.
Secretly and sorely her thoughts clung to him. Just as, insensibly, her vision of Canada had changed, so had her vision of Anderson. Canada was no longer mere fairy tale and romance; Anderson was no longer merely its picturesque exponent or representative. She had come to realise him as a man, with a man’s cares and passions; and her feelings about him had begun to change her life.
Arthur Delaine, she supposed, had meant to warn her that Mr. Anderson was falling in love with her and that she had no right to encourage it. Her thoughts went back intently over the last fortnight—Anderson’s absences—his partial withdrawal from the intimacy which had grown up between himself and her—their last walk at Lake Louise. The delight of that walk was still in her veins, and at last she was frank with herself about it! In his attitude towards her, now that she forced herself to face the truth, she must needs recognise a passionate eagerness, restrained no less passionately; a profound impulse, strongly felt, and strongly held back. By mere despair of attainment?—or by the scruple of an honourable self-control?
Could she—could she marry a Canadian? There was the central question, out at last!—irrevocable!—writ large on the mountains and the forests, as she sped through them. Could she, possessed by inheritance of all that is most desirable and delightful in English society, linked with its great interests and its dominant class, and through them with the rich cosmopolitan life of cultivated Europe—could she tear herself from that old soil, and that dear familiar environment? Had the plant vitality enough to bear transplanting? She did not put her question in these terms; but that was what her sudden tumult and distress of mind really meant.
Looking up, she saw Delaine beside her. Well, there was Europe, and at her feet! For the last month she had been occupied in scorning it. English country-house life, artistic society and pursuits, London in the season, Paris and Rome in the spring, English social and political influence—there they were beside her. She had only to stretch out her hand.