He drew the canoe up on the shelving beach, helped Virginia out, took his rifle, and so stood ready to depart.
“Leave the canoe just where we got in,” he advised; “it is around the point, you see, and that may fool them a. little.”
“You are going.” she said, dully. Then she came close to him and looked up at him with her wonderful eyes. “Good-by.”
“Good-by,” said he.
Was this to be all? Had he nothing more to tell her? Was the word to lack, the word she needed so much? She had given herself unreservedly into this man’s hands, and at parting he had no more to say to her than “Good-by.” Virginia’s eyes were tearful, but she would not let him know that. She felt that her heart would break.
“Well, good-by,” he said again after a moment, which he had spent inspecting the heavens. “Ah, you don’t know what it is to be free! By to-morrow morning I shall be half-way to the Mattagami. I can hardly wait to see it, for then I am safe! And then nex; day—why, next day they won’t know which of a dozen ways I’ve gone!” He was full of the future, man fashion.
He took her hands, leaned over, and lightly kissed her on the mouth. Instantly Virginia became wildly and unreasonably angry. She could not have told herself why, but it was the lack of the word she had wanted so much, the pain of feeling that he could go like that, the thwarted bitterness of a longing that had grown stronger than she had even yet realized.
Instinctively she leaped into the canoe, sending it spinning from the bank.
“Ah, you had no right to do that!” she cried. “I gave you no right!”
Then, heedless of what he was saying, she began to paddle straight from the shore, weeping bitterly, her face upraised, her hair in her eyes, and the tears coursing unheeded down her cheeks.
Slower and slower her paddle dipped, lower and lower hung her head, faster and faster flowed her tears. The instinctive recoil, the passionate resentment had gone. In the bitterness of her spirit she knew not what she thought except that she would give her soul to see him again, to feel the touch of his lips once more. For she could not make herself believe that this would ever come to pass. He had gone like a phantom, like a dream, and the mists of life had closed about him, showing no sign. He had vanished, and at once she seemed to know that the episode was finished.
The canoe whispered against the soft clay bottom. She had arrived, though how the crossing had been made she could not have told. Slowly and sorrowfully she disembarked. Languidly she drew the light craft beyond the stream’s eager fingers. Then, her forces at an end, she huddled down on the ground and gave herself up to sorrow.