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Lady Merton, Colonist   By: (1851-1920)

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[Illustration: "ELIZABETH ... COULD YET FIND TIME TO WALK AND CLIMB, PLUNGING SPIRIT AND SENSE IN THE BEAUTY OF THE ROCKIES"]

LADY MERTON COLONIST

BY

MRS. HUMPHRY WARD

FRONTISPIECE BY ALBERT STERNER

1910

A FOREWORD

Towards the end of this story the readers of it will find an account of an "unknown lake" in the northern Rockies, together with a picture of its broad expanse, its glorious mountains, and of a white explorers' tent pitched beside it. Strictly speaking, "Lake Elizabeth" is a lake of dream. But it has an original on this real earth, which bears another and a real name, and was discovered two years ago by my friend Mrs. Schäffer, of Philadelphia, to whose enchanting narratives of travel and exploration in these untrodden regions I listened with delight at Field, British Columbia, in June, 1908. She has given me leave to use her own photograph of the "unknown lake," and some details from her record of it, for my own purposes; and I can only hope that in the summers to come she may unlock yet other secrets, unravel yet other mysteries, in that noble unvisited country which lies north and northeast of the Bow Valley and the Kicking Horse Pass.

MARY A. WARD.

LADY MERTON, COLONIST

CHAPTER I

"I call this part of the line beastly depressing."

The speaker tossed his cigarette end away as he spoke. It fell on the railway line, and the tiny smoke from it curled up for a moment against the heavy background of spruce as the train receded.

"All the same, this is going to be one of the most exciting parts of Canada before long," said Lady Merton, looking up from her guide book. "I can tell you all about it."

"For heaven's sake, don't!" said her companion hastily. "My dear Elizabeth, I really must warn you. You're losing your head."

"I lost it long ago. To day I am a bore to morrow I shall be a nuisance. Make up your mind to it."

"I thought you were a reasonable person! you used to be. Now look at that view, Elizabeth. We've seen the same thing for twelve hours, and if it wasn't soon going to be dark we should see the same thing for twelve hours more. What is there to go mad over in that?" Her brother waved his hand indignantly from right to left across the disappearing scene. "As for me, I am only sustained by the prospect of the good dinner that I know Yerkes means to give us in a quarter of an hour. I won't be a minute late for it! Go and get ready, Elizabeth "

"Another lake!" cried Lady Merton, with a jump. "Oh, what a darling! That's the twentieth since tea. Look at the reflections and that delicious island! And oh! what are those birds?"

She leant over the side of the observation platform, attached to the private car in which she and her brother were travelling, at the rear of the heavy Canadian Pacific train. To the left of the train a small blue lake had come into view, a lake much indented with small bays running up among the woods, and a couple of islands covered with scrub of beech and spruce, set sharply on the clear water. On one side of the lake, the forest was a hideous waste of burnt trunks, where the gaunt stems charred or singed, snapped or twisted, or flayed of the trees which remained standing rose dreadfully into the May sunshine, above a chaos of black ruin below. But except for this blemish the only sign of man the little lake was a gem of beauty. The spring green clothed its rocky sides; the white spring clouds floated above it, and within it; and small beaches of white pebbles seemed to invite the human feet which had scarcely yet come near them.

"What does it matter?" yawned her brother. "I don't want to shoot them. And why you make such a fuss about the lakes, when, as you say yourself, there are about two a mile, and none of them has got a name to its back, and they're all exactly alike, and all full of beastly mosquitoes in the summer it beats me! I wish Yerkes would hurry up." He leant back sleepily against the door of the car and closed his eyes.

"It's because they haven't got a name and they're so endless! and the place is so big! and the people so few! and the chances are so many and so queer!" said Elizabeth Merton laughing... Continue reading book >>




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