This hour was the beginning of another change in Kent. It seemed to him that a message had come to him from Marette herself, that the spirit of her had returned to him and was with him now, stirring strange things in his soul and warming his blood with a new heat. She was gone forever, and yet she had come back to him, and the truth grew upon him that this spirit of her would never leave him again as long as he lived. He felt her nearness. Unconsciously he reached out his arms, and a strange happiness entered Into him to battle with grief and loneliness. His eyes shone with a new glow as they looked at her little belongings on the sunlit rock. It was as if they were flesh and blood of her, a part of her heart and soul. They were the voice of her faith in him, her promise that she would be with him always. For the first time in many days Kent felt a new force within him, and he knew that she was not quite gone, that he had something of her left to fight for.
That night he made his bed for a last time in the crevice between the rocks, and his treasure was gathered within the protecting circle of his arms as he slept.
The next day he struck out north and east. On the fifth day after he left the country of Andre Boileau he traded his watch to a half-breed for a cheap gun, ammunition, a blanket, flour, and a cooking outfit. After that he had no hesitation in burying himself still deeper into the forests.
A month later no one would have recognized Kent as the one-time crack man of N Division. Bearded, ragged, long-haired, he wandered with no other purpose than to be alone and to get still farther away from the river. Occasionally he talked with an Indian or a half-breed. Each night, though the weather was very warm, he made himself a small camp-fire, for it was always in these hours, with the fire-light about him, that he felt Marette was very near. It was then that he took out one by one the precious things that were in Marette’s little pack. He worshipped these things. The dress and each of the little shoes he had wrapped in the velvety inner bark of the birch tree. He protected them from wet and storm. Had emergency called for it, he would have fought for them. They became, after a time, more precious than his own life, and in a vague sort of way at first he began to thank God that the river had not robbed him of everything.
Kent’s inclination was not to fight himself into forgetfulness. He wanted to remember every act, every word, every treasured caress that chained him for all time to the love he had lost. Marette became more a part of him every day. Dead in the flesh, she was always at his side, nestling close in the shelter of his arms at night, walking with her hand in his during the day. And in this belief his grief was softened by the sweet and merciful comfort of a possession of which neither man nor fate could rob him—a beloved Presence always with him.
It was this Presence that rebuilt Kent. It urged him to throw up his head again, to square his shoulders, to look life once more straight in the face. It was both inspiration and courage to him and grew nearer and dearer to him as time passed. Early Autumn found him in the Fond du Lac country, two hundred miles east of Fort Chippewyan. That Winter he joined a Frenchman, and until February they trapped along the edges of the lower fingers of the Barrens.