“A venturer,-you!” she said; “some kin we must surely be, M’sieu! ’Tis granted.”
She rested her hands on the kettle’s rim, and bent forward her head, wrapped round and round with its heavy braids, and with fingers deft as a woman’s Alfred de Courtenay placed the flower in a shining fold.
Somewhat lengthy was the process, for the braid was tight and the green stem very fragile, but at last it was accomplished, and Maren lifted her face flushed and laughing.
“Thank you, M’sieu,” she said demurely; “God speed your journey.”
De Courtenay took the kettle from her, filled it himself, and when he gave it back the smile was gone; from his face, but the light remained.
“Some day, Ma’amselle,” he said gravely, “I shall come back to Fort de Seviere.”
The tall girl turned away with her morning’s kettle of fresh water, and the man stood by the well watching her swinging easily to its weight, forgetful of the canoes, manned and waiting on the river’s breast for their leader, forgetful of the factor .of the post, waiting in the shadow of the wall, on whose face there sat a deeper shade.
Then he turned and ran lightly down the bank, leaped into the canoe held ready, once more bowed, and as the little craft swept out to midstream, he shook back his curls and lifted his face toward the country of the Saskatchewan.
CHAPTER VI SPRING TRADE
So passed out of Fort de Seviere one who was destined to be interwoven with its fortunes.
Anders McElroy watched him go until the shadow of the great trees on the eastern shore, long in the level sun, quenched the light on his silken head and the men of the five canoes had taken up a song of the boats, their voices lifting clear and fresh on the wings of the new day, until the first canoe turned with the curve of the river above and was lost, the second and the third, and even until the last had passed from view and only the song came back.
Then he turned back into the gate and the tender mouth that was all Irish above the square Scottish jaw was set tight together.
His foot touched the wickered jug and he called Jean Saville.
“Take this, Jean,” he said, “and give each of the men a cup. ’Tis a shame to waste it.”
But for himself he had no taste for the stranger’s gift of payment.
He was thinking of the red flower in Maren Le Moyne’s black hair and a vexation, past all reason held him.
But the spring was open and there was soon more to occupy his mind than a maid and a posy and a reckless blade from Montreal.
At dusk of a day within that week a trapper brought word of a hundred canoes on the river a day’s journey up-country, laden with packs of winter beaver, and bound for the post.
The Indians were coming down to trade.
Picturesque they were, in their fringed buckskin cunningly tanned and beaded, their feathers and their ornaments of elk teeth and claws of the huge, thick-coated bears. At day-dawn they came, having camped for the night a short distance above the fort, to the letter display of their arrival, and they swept down in a flotilla of graceful craft made of the birch bark and light as clouds upon the water.