With the swiftness of the impulse he swept her into them until the eager face lay on his breast, the smooth black braids pressing his lips with their satiny folds.
For one intoxicating moment he held her, as the primal man takes and holds his woman, tightly against his beating heart as though he would defy the world, lost in a sea of strange new emotions that rolled in golden billows high above his head.
Then from the depths there came a cry that cleared his whirling brain, a very embodiment of startled amaze, of indefinable horror, of mixed intonations.
Maren Le Moyne wrenched herself free and lifted her face to look at him.
It was a warring field.
Upon it lay a great astonishment, a wonder, and a newness. Behind these there came, creeping swiftly with each moment of her startled gaze, an odd excitement that mounted with each panting breath that left his lips, for it was from him that it took its life. Her red mouth dropped apart, showing the gleam of the white teeth between. She looked like a child rudely shaken from its sleep, startled, perhaps vaguely frightened at the strange shapes of familiar things distorted by the vision not yet adjusted.
“M’sieu!” she stammered; “M’sieu!”
And with her voice McElroy felt the arrested blood rush back to his heart again, for it held no anger. Instead it was full of that startled wonder, and it was as gold to him.
“Maren,” he said, the emotion choking him; “Maren—” and with that new courage he put both hands on her shoulders and drew her near, looking down into the eyes so near on a level with his own.
Deliberately, slowly, that she might fully catch the meaning of what he was about to do, he drooped his lips until they rested square on the red mouth.
This was the thing he had left the factory for, this was what had drawn him, unconsciously perhaps, to the path along the river’s bank, that had made him follow deliberately the light trail of the girl into the woods.
“Maren,” he said, so thrilled that his words shook, “from this day forth you are mine. Mine only and against the whole world. I have taken you and you are mine.”
He was full of his glory, dominating the dark eyes that had never left his own, and his soul was big within him. He was still very much a boy, this young factor, and the crowning moment of life had him in his grip.
He knew no fear, no thought of her next word or action touched him until she, as deliberately as he had acted, reached up and took both his hands from her shoulders.
“Adieu, M’sieu,” said Maren Le Moyne quietly, the excitement of that breathed “M’sieu! M’sieu!” quite lost in the calmness that was her usual characteristic, and turning she walked away down the glen toward the river bank, the little spots of sun dancing on her black head like a leopard’s gold as she passed in the checkered shade, and not once did she turn her head to see the factor of De Seviere standing where she had left him beside the forest giant.