At last the sudden subsidence of the waters; the splendid eager blossoming of the land into new leaves, lush grasses, an abandon of sweetbrier and hepatica. The air blew soft, a thousand singing birds sprang from the soil, the wild goose cried in triumph. Overhead shone the hot sun of the Northern summer.
From the wilderness came the brigades bearing their pelts, the hardy traders of the winter posts, striking hot the imagination through the mysterious and lonely allurement of their callings. For a brief season, transient as the flash of a loon’s wing on the shadow of a lake, the post was bright with the thronging of many people. The Indians pitched their wigwams on the broad meadows below the bend; the half-breeds sauntered about, flashing bright teeth and wicked dark eyes at whom it might concern; the traders gazed stolidily over their little black pipes, and uttered brief sentences through their thick black beards. Everywhere was gay sound—the fiddle, the laugh, the song; everywhere was gay color—the red sashes of the voyageurs, the beaded moccasins and leggings of the metis, the capotes of the brigade, the variegated costumes of the Crees and Ojibways. Like the wild roses around the edge of the muskegs, this brief flowering of the year passed. Again the nights were long, again the frost crept down from the eternal snow, again the wolves howled across barren wastes.
Just now the girl stood ankle-deep in green grasses, a bath of sunlight falling about her, a tingle of salt wind humming up the river from the bay’s offing. She was clad in gray wool, and wore no hat. Her soft hair, the color of ripe wheat, blew about her temples, shadowing eyes of fathomless black. The wind had brought to the light and delicate brown of her complexion a trace of color to match her lips whose scarlet did not fade after the ordinary and imperceptible manner into the tinge of her skin, but continued vivid to the very edge; her eyes were wide and unseeing. One hand rested idly on the breech of an ornamented bronze field-gun.
McDonald, the chief trader, passed from the house to the store where his bartering with the Indians was daily carried on; the other Scotchman in the Post, Galen Albret, her father, and the head Factor of all this region, paced back and forth across the veranda of the factory, caressing his white beard; up by the stockade, young Achille Picard tuned his whistle to the note of the curlew; across the meadow from the church wandered Crane, the little Church of England missionary, peering from short-sighted pale blue eyes; beyond the coulee, Sarnier and his Indians chock-chock-chocked away at the seams of the long coast-trading bateau. The girl saw nothing, heard nothing. She was dreaming, she was trying to remember.