His very soul was in his eyes. Virginia gasped at the change in him since last she had seen him. The gay, mocking demeanor which had seemed an essential part of his very flesh and blood had fallen away from him, leaving a sad and lofty dignity that ennobled his countenance. The lines of his face were stern, of his mouth pathetic; his eyes yearned. He stared toward the south with an almost mesmeric intensity, as though he hoped by sheer longing to materialize a vision. Tears sprang to the girl’s eyes at the subtle pathos of his attitude.
He stretched his arms wearily over his head, and sighed deeply and looked up. His eyes rested on the girl without surprise; the expression of his features did not change.
“Pardon me,” he said, simply. “To-day is my last of plenty. I am up enjoying it.”
Virginia had anticipated the usual instantaneous transformation of his manner when he should catch sight of her. Her resentment was dispelled. In face of the vaster tragedies little considerations gave way.
“Do you leave—to-day?” she asked, in a low voice.
“To-morrow morning, early,” he corrected. “To-day I found my provisions packed and laid at my door. It is a hint I know how to take.”
“You have everything you need?” asked the girl, with an assumption of indifference.
He looked her in the eyes for a moment.
“Everything,” he lied, calmly.
Virginia perceived that he lied, and her heart stood still with a sudden hope that perhaps, at this eleventh hour, he might have repented of his unworthy intentions toward herself. She leaned to him over the edge of the little rise.
“Have you a rifle—for la Longue Traverse?” she inquired, with meaning.
He stared at her a little the harder.
“Why—why, surely,” he replied, in a tone less confident. “Nobody travels without a rifle in the North.”
She dropped swiftly down the slope and stood face to face with him.
“Listen,” she began, in her superb manner. “I know all there is to know. You are a Free Trader, and you are to be sent to your death. It is murder, and it is done by my father.” She held her head proudly, but the notes of her voice were straining. “I knew nothing of this yesterday. I was a foolish girl who thought all men were good and just, and that all those whom I knew were noble. My eyes are open now. I see injustice being done by my own household, and “—tears were trembling near her lashes, but she blinked them back—“and I am no longer a foolish girl! You need not try to deceive me. You must tell me what I can do, for I cannot permit so great a wrong to be done by my father without attempting to set it right.” This was not what she had intended to say, but suddenly the course was clear to her. The influence of the man had again swept over her, drowning her will, filling her with the old fear, which was now for the moment turned to pride by the character of the situation.