The long Transcontinental puffed steadily up toward the white-capped peaks of a continent. They were a day out from Vancouver—a day during which Desire had sat upon the observation platform, drugged with wonder and beauty. She had known mountains all her life. They were dear and familiar, and the sound of rushing water was in her blood. But these heights and depths, these incredible valleys, these ever-climbing, piling hills pushing brown shoulders through their million pines, the dizzy, twisting track and the constant marvel of the man-made train which braved it, held her spellbound and almost speechless.
Fortunately, Aunt Caroline was indisposed and had remained all day in the privacy of their reserved compartment. Only one such reservation had been available and the men of the party had been compelled to content themselves with upper berths in the next car.
To Desire, who presented that happy combination, a good traveller still uncloyed by travel, every deft arrangement of the comfortable train provided matter for curiosity and interest—the little ladders for the upstair berths, the tiny reading-lamps, the paper bags for one’s new hat, the queer little soaps and drinking cups in sealed oil paper—all these brought their separate thrill. And then there was the inexhaustible interest of the travellers themselves. When night had fallen and the great Outside withdrew itself, she turned with eager eyes to the shifting world around her, a human world even more absorbing than the panorama of the hills.
What was there, for instance, about that handsome old lady, from Golden (fascinating name!) which permitted her to act as if the whole train were her private suite and all the porters servants of her person? She was the most autocratic old lady Desire had ever seen and far younger and more alert than the tired-looking daughter who accompanied her. They were going to New York. They went to New York every year. desire wondered why.
She wondered, too, about the rancher’s wife going home to Scotland for the first time since her marriage. What did it feel like to be going home—to a real home with a mother and brothers and sisters? What did it feel like to be taking two dark-haired, bright-eyed babies, as like as twins and with only a year between them, for the fond approval of grand-parents across the seas? . . . The rancher’s wife looked as if she enjoyed it. But women will pretend anything.
Desire’s eyes shifted to the inevitable honeymoon couple who were going to Winnipeg to visit “his” people. The bride was almost painfully smart, but she was pretty and “he” adored her. Her mouth was small and red. It fascinated Desire. She could not keep her eyes off it. It was like—well, it was the kind of mouth men seemed to admire. She tried honestly to admire it her-self, but the more she tried the less admirable she found it. She wondered if Benis—