He showed no trace of this feeling, however, as he sat before the fire. Jean was standing by his side, the bright, flickering flames illuminating her happy face. Suddenly she realised something of what this revelation meant to him who was so dear to her. She had never thought of it before, and it swept upon her now with a startling intensity. What would her father do without her? She was all that he had, and should she leave him, what would become of him? She recalled his words uttered at the falls. “If anything happens to you,” he had said, “I do not believe I could endure life any longer.” She had smiled at him then, but she did not do so now. Stooping, she impulsively threw her arms around her father’s neck, and kissed him.
“You are not going to lose me, daddy,” she said. “You will always have me with you. And you will have another to help you,” she added in a lower voice.
“I know it, dear, I know it,” was the somewhat faltering reply. “I want you to be happy, Jean, and I believe the young man is worthy of your love.”
“’Deed he is,” Old Mammy declared, as just then she waddled toward the fire. Early that evening Jean had whispered the news into her ear, and had received the old nurse’s blessing, accompanied by a great motherly hug. “Mistah Dane is a puffect gen’l’man,” she continued. “He’s not one bit stuck up, an’ he’s got manners, too. Why, he touches his cap to dis ol’ woman, an’ if dat ain’t a sign of a gen’leman, den I’d like to know what is. I ain’t afraid to trust Missie Jean wif a man like dat.”
“But suppose he should take Jean away?” the Colonel queried.
“Doan yo’ worry ’bout dat, Cun’l. Missie Jean’ll nebber leave us. But if she should, dis ol’ woman’ll go wif her.”
“You are right, Mammy,” Jean replied. “I shall not leave you and daddy. We must always remain together.”
For some time father and daughter sat before the fire and talked after Old Mammy had gone to bed. To Jean the future looked bright and rosy. The Colonel, on the other hand, viewed it with considerable apprehension. In a land as yet a great wilderness, he could not help seeing mountains of difficulties rising sternly before them. He knew how many hardships must beset their path for years to come. At present they were living in a most precarious manner, exiles, with the pioneering work all ahead. But with Jean it was different. To her the trail of life looked very pleasant, gleaming golden beneath the mystic halo of romance.
The Colonel spent the next day with Dane in the hills. He wished to be alone with the courier who had won his daughter’s heart. There were many things he desired to say to him, and he hoped to learn a little, at least, about his past life. He had something on his mind this day of far greater importance to him than moose, deer, or caribou.