So tenderly had the two maids grown in the love of the family that Marie had, but at the start of the great journey, married young Henri Baptiste.
Marie was all for a home and some black-eyed babies, but she clung to Maren as she had ever done,—and now, in her twenty-sixth year, Maren had risen to the call as her father had done before her, and lifted her face, rapt as some pagan Priestess’, toward that mystic West,—bound for the Land of the Whispering Hills, whence had come that old, vague rumour, lured alike by love of the unknown and shy, unspoken longing for the father whose heart must be the pattern of her own.
And in her train, swept together by that fire within her, touched into flame by her ever-mounting hope, her courage, and her magnetism, went that small band of men and women, all young, all of adventurous blood, all daring the odds that let reluctantly a woman into the wilderness.
Yet it has been ever women who have conquered the wilderness, for until they trod the trace the men had cut it still remained a wilderness.
So she leaned in the door of Marie’s new home, this taut-strung Maren Le Moyne, and gazed away above the rim of the budding forest, and her spirit was as a chaffing steed held into quiet by a hand it knows its master.
For a year she must endure the strain,—then, as the good God willed, the leap forward, the wild breath in her nostrils, the forging into the unknown.
“Ah, yes!” she said again, “it is the spring.”
“Bon jour,” she nodded, unsmiling, as a slim youth swung jauntily up the hard-beaten way between the cabins.
“Eh!” said Marie, alert, “and who is that lord-high-mighty, with his red cheeks and his airs, Maren? You know, as it is always, every man in the post already. It is not so with the women, I’ll wager. For instance, who lives in the tiny house there by the south bastion?”
“I know not,” answered Maren, as though she humoured a child, and taking the last question first; “as for the youth, ’tis young Marc Dupre, and one of a sturdy nature. I like his spirit, though all I know of it is what sparkles from his roguish eyes. A fighter,—one to dare for love of chance.”
Marie looked quickly up, ever ready to pounce on the first gleam of aught that might ripen into a love interest, but she saw Maren’s eyes, cool and shining, watching the swaggering figure with a look that measured its slim strength, its suggestion of reserve, its gay joy of life, and naught else.
“A pretty fellow,” she said, with a touch of disappointment.
Each and every man went by Maren just so,—eliciting only that interest which had to do apart from the personal.
But the black eyes of Marc Dupre had softened a bit under their daring as he approached the factory.
“Holy Mother!” he whispered to himself; “what a woman! No maid, but a woman—for whose word one would fillip the face of Satan. She is fire—and, if I am sure, all men are tow.”