He showed her an ordinary little silver match-safe such as men use in the North country.
“They brought that to me at the last—the Indians who came to tell my priest the news, and the priest, who was a good man, gave it to me. I have carried it ever since.”
Virginia took it reverently. To her it had all the largeness that envelops the symbol of a great passion. After a moment she looked up in surprise.
“Why!” she exclaimed, “this has a name carved on it!”
“Yes,” he replied.
“But the name is Graehme Stewart.”
“Of course I could not bear my father’s name in a country where it was well known,” he explained.
“Of course,” she agreed. Impulsively she raised her face to his, her eyes shining. “To me all this is very fine,” said she.
He smiled a little sadly. “At least you know why I came.”
“Yes.” she repeated, “I know why you came. But you are in trouble.”
“The chances of war.”
“And they have defeated you after all.”
“I shall start on la Longue Traverse singing ‘Rouli roulant.’ It’s a small defeat, that.’
“Listen,” said she, rapidly. “When I was quite a small girl Mr. McTavish, of Rupert’s House, gave me a little rifle. I have never used it, because I do not care to shoot. That rifle has never been counted, and my father has long since forgotten all about it. You must take that, and escape to-night. I will let you have it on one condition—that you give me your solemn promise never to venture into this country again.”
“Yes,” he agreed, without enthusiasm nor surprise.
She smiled happily at his gloomy face and listless attitude.
“But I do not want to give up the little rifle entirely,” she went on, with dainty preciosity, watching him closely. “As I said, it was a present, given to me when I was quite a small girl. You must return it to me at Quebec, in August. Will you promise to do that?”
He wheeled on her swift as light, the eagerness flashing back into his face.
“You are going to Quebec?” he cried. “My father wishes me to. I have decided to do so. I shall start with the Abitibi brigade in July.”
He leaped to his feet.
“I promise!” he exulted, “I promise! To-night, then! Bring the rifle and the cartridges, and some matches, and a little salt. You must take me across the river in a canoe, for I want them to guess at where I strike the woods. I shall cover my trail. And with ten hours’ start, let them catch Ned Trent who can!”
She laughed happily.
“To-night, then. At the south of the island there is a trail, and at the end of the trail a beach——”
“I know!” he cried.
“Meet me there as soon after dark as you can do so without danger.”
He threw his hat into the air and caught it, his face boyishly upturned. Again that something, so vaguely familiar, plucked at her with its ghostly, appealing fingers. She turned swiftly, and seized them, and so found herself in possession of a memory out of her far-off childhood.