“Throw! Throw, Ma’amselle,—for M’sieu!”
“Hush!” said Maren; “where is Prix Laroux?”
The big fellow was pushing through the gathering crowd, to stand before the weary girl with burning eyes.
“Maren!” he said simply, and could say no more.
“Take him, Prix,” she said quietly; “take him to the factory. Get Rette de Lancy’s hand above him for care, and Jack for all things else. Take these my men, and give them all the post affords, but chiefly rest at present. They have—”
Here there came a tumult among the listening populace, and Marie rushed through and flung herself upon Maren and there was time for nothing else, save that, as Maren turned with her hanging like a vice about her throat and Henri’s arm across her shoulders, there was a streak of crimson, a flash of ornaments in the sun, but now risen above the forest’s rim, and some one threw herself upon the unconscious form of McElroy, kissing his face and his helpless hands and weeping terribly.
It was the little Francette. At her heels the great dog, Loup, halted and glowered at the strangers.
They led her through the new day, between the staring, whispering people, this comer from beyond the grave, to the little new cabin beside the northern wall, across its step and into its sweet, fresh cleanliness of home; and when Henri had shut the door they stood together in a group, their arms inwound, and Marie wept helplessly while Maren looked down with moist and weary eyes.
“There! There! Hush, ma cherie! Hush!” she was saying, but Henri was reading with amaze the change in her glorious face.
“It has been a long trail, Prix, but a longer one beckons with ceaseless insistence. No longer can I sit in idleness. Can we, think you, raise the debt to carry us on at once? My heart is sick for the Athabasca.”
Maren stood by the factory door conversing earnestly with Laroux.
From every point of the post curious eyes looked upon her. Here and there groups of women whispered in the doorways, and once and again a laugh, quick hushed, broke on the evening air.
Somehow they struck upon the girl’s ears with an ugly sound, reminding her vaguely of the fair woman who travelled eastward with Sheila O’Halloran, and her voice grew more earnest.
Laroux, who had not spoken with her since that one word of the morning at the gate, was dumb of tongue, aching with the old feeling in his heart which had told him faithfully so long ago that all was not well with her.
“At once, Maren,” he said huskily, “I will raise the debt. When would you be gone?”
“Soon, my friend,—soon, soon.”
“The word shall go round to-night. All shall be ready in forty-eight hours.”
He paused a moment and presently, “Maren, maid,” he said.