The life of the forest went on as though she were not there. A big owl far off said hurriedly his whoo-whoo-whoo, as though he had the message to deliver and wanted to finish the task. A smaller owl near at hand cried ko-ko-ko-oh with the intonation of a tin horn. Across the river a lynx screamed, and was answered at once by the ululations of wolves. On the island the giddes howled defiance. Then from above, clear, spiritual, floated the whistle of shore birds arriving from the south. Close by sounded a rustle of leaves, a sharp squeak; a tragedy had been consummated, and the fierce little mink stared malevolently across the body of his victim at the motionless figure on the beach.
Virginia, drowned in grief, knew of none of these things. She was seeing again the clear brown face of the stranger, his curly brown hair, his steel eyes, and the swing of his graceful figure. Now he fronted the wondering voyageurs, one foot raised against the bow of the brigade canoe; now he stood straight and tall against the light of the sitting-room door; now he emptied the vials of his wrath and contempt on Archibald Crane’s reverend head; now he passed in the darkness, singing gayly the chanson de canot. But more fondly she saw him as he swept his hat to the ground on discovering her by the guns, as he bent his impassioned eyes on her in the dim lamplight of their first interview, as he tossed his hat aloft in the air when he had understood that she would be in Quebec. She hugged the visions to her, and wept over them softly, for she was now sure she would never see him again.
And she heard his voice, now laughing, now scornful, now mocking, now indignant, now rich and solemn with feeling. He flouted the people, he turned the shafts of his irony on her father, he scathed the minister, he laughed at Louis Placide awakened from his sleep, he sang, he told her of the land of desolation, he pleaded. She could hear him calling her name—although he had never spoken it—in low, tender tones, “Virginia! Virginia!” over and over again softly, as though his soul were crying through his lips.
Then somehow, in a manner not to be comprehended, it was borne in on her consciousness that he was indeed near her, and that he was indeed calling her name. And at once she made him out, standing dripping on the beach. A moment later she was in his arms.
“Ah!” he cried, in gladness; “you are here!”
He crushed her hungrily to him, unmindful of his wet clothes, kissing her eyes, her cheeks, her lips, her chin, even the fragrant corner of her throat exposed by the collar of her gown. She did not struggle.
“Oh!” she murmured, “my dear, my dear! Why did you come back? Why did you come?”