With this held at full length under his arm he crashed forward. The wood splintered. He charged again, incited by a second call for succor. This time his attack dashed the bolt and socket from their place. Morse stumbled into the room like a drunken man.
A BOARD CREAKS
After Morse had closed the door, Jessie listened until the crisp crunch of his footsteps had died away. She subdued an impulse to call him back and put into words her quarrel against him.
From the table she picked up a gun-cover of moose leather she was making and moved to the fireplace. Automatically her fingers fitted into place a fringe of red cloth. (This had been cut from an old petticoat, but the source of the decoration would remain a secret, not on any account to be made known to him who was to receive the gift.) Usually her hands were busy ones, but now they fell away from the work listlessly.
The pine logs crackled, lighting one end of the room and filling the air with aromatic pungency. As she gazed into the red coals her mind was active.
She knew that her scorn of the fur-trader was a fraud. Into her hatred of him she threw an energy always primitive and sometimes savage. But he held her entire respect. It was not pleasant to admit this. Her mind clung to the shadowy excuse that he had been a wolfer, although the Indians looked on him now as a good friend and a trader who would not take advantage of them. Angus McRae himself had said there was no better citizen in the Northland.
No, she could not hold Tom Morse in contempt as she would have liked. But she could cherish her animosity and feed it on memories that scorched her as the whiplash had her smooth and tender flesh. She would never forgive him—never. Not if he humbled himself in the dust.
Toward Angus McRae she held no grudge whatever. He had done only his duty as he saw it. The circumstances had forced his hand, for her word had pledged him to punishment. But this man who had walked into her life so roughly, mastered her by physical force, dragged her to the ignominy of the whip, and afterward had dared to do her a service—when she woke at night and thought of him she still burned with shame and anger. He had been both author and witness of her humiliation.
The girl’s reverie stirred reflection of other men, for already she had suitors in plenty. Upon one of them her musing lingered. He had brought to her gifts of the friendly smile, of comradeship, of youth’s debonair give-and-take. She did not try to analyze her feeling for Winthrop Beresford. It was enough to know that he had brought into her existence the sparkle of joy.
For life had stalked before her with an altogether too tragic mien. In this somber land men did not laugh much. Their smiles held a background of gravity. Icy winter reigned two thirds of the year and summer was a brief hot blaze following no spring. Nature demanded of those who lived here that they struggle to find subsistence. In that conflict human beings forgot that they had been brought into the world to enjoy it with careless rapture.