If that time in the tuneful spring was crowded full to the brim of emotions scarce bearable to McElroy, how much more wonderful was it to Maren Le Moyne, for the first time in her life trembling in all her being from the touch of a man’s lips?
To the outward world there was no sign of the tumult within her as she came and went about the business of the new cabin by the stockade wall, but in her virgin heart there stirred strange new things that filled her calm eyes with wonder.
In the seclusion of the little room to the east she spread out on the patchwork quilt the Indian garment and looked at it with a new meaning.
Never before in her life had she thought of a man’s eyes as she thought of McElroy’s, thrilling to the very tips of her fingers at memory of the blue fire in them, and never before had she been conscious of anything as she was conscious of the flesh on her shoulders where his hands had rested, her lips sealed under the warm caress of his. Verily, there was nowhere another such man as this one who knew the longing of the wild as did she, whose heart responded to the same call of the great wilderness.
Night and day she thought of him, and the memory of that day in the forest glade haunted her like a golden melody newly heard.
Yet something within her held her back from his sight, kept her eyes from that part of the small settlement where stood the factory with its wide doorway. She could not bear to look upon him yet in the newness of this awakening.
And McElroy, deep in the work of the trading, was eaten by a thousand qualms and torments. All those doubts that beset lovers tore at his heart and made of his days a nightmare.
With the cooling of his exalted intoxication what time the touch of the girl’s young body had fired him with all confidence, came a thousand condemnations for his blundering haste, his stupid boasting of conquest.
To what depths of scorn might he not now be fallen in the mind of such a girl as Maren Le Moyne with her calm judgment; how far might he not be from the object of his longing!
And the fact that he could catch no sight of her, no matter how often he stepped near the door nor how diligently he sought for a glimpse of the shining braids and plain garment among the women at the well, but added fuel to the fire that scorched him.
But the times were getting very busy at Fort de Seviere. Before the Assiniboines were ready to depart back up the waterways down which they had come, their canoes laden with the wealth of the coming season, other flotillas were on the little waves of the river, other chiefs made their entrance up the main way of the post, and the goods of the Hudson’s Bay Company went out in a stream as the priceless pelts came in.
“Lad,” said Edmonton Ridgar with that easy probing of the well-known friend, “there is something eating at your mind these days. The trade goes differently from that of last year. It is not so all-absorbing. I fear me that the Nor’westers, with their plundering and their tales of deportation, have entered a wedge of worry.”