At the corner of the factory Maren Le Moyne stood looking through the twilight at the scene.
When Francette released him there were only they two and he had heard no step nor seen the silent beholder.
When the little French maid slipped away with the husky she fingered the carved toy of a knife in her sash and tossed her short curls in triumph.
Her failure had taken on a hue of victory.
“M’sieu,” said Marc Dupre, coming up the slope from the river, his buckskins much tattered, showing a swift cross-country run, “I have news of the great tribe. Like the forest leaves in fall in point of numbers they are, and they wear a wealth of wampum and elk teeth, so much that they are rich beyond any other tribe. Their young men are tall and heavy of stature and wonderful in the casting of their great carven spears. Also do they excel in the use of the bow. Warlike and suspicious, scouting every inch of country before them, they come down by way of Dear Lake,—and the young Nor’wester at Fort Brisac has already sent forth his messengers to meet them.”
Double anger swelled suddenly within him. In two ways had De Courtenay crossed his plane at opposing angles. It was evidently war that the adventurer wanted, the hot war of the two fur companies coupled to that of man and man for a maid. He stood a while and thought. Then he turned to Dupre.
“You have done well, Dupre,” he said shortly. “Get you to your cabin and rest, for I may want your wit again. Only, on the way, send Pierre Garqon to me.”
The young man touched his red toque, symbol of safety to all trappers in a land where the universal law is “kill,” for no wild animal of the woods bears a crimson head save that animal man who is the greatest killer of all, and turned away. He was draggled and stained from a forced march through forest and up-stream, over portage and rapid, carrying his tiny birchbark craft on his head, snatching a short sleep on a bed of moss, hurrying on that he might learn of the Nakonkirhirinons travelling slowly down from that unknown land to the far north, even many leagues beyond York factory on the shores of the great bay.
As he went toward his own cabin he glanced swiftly at the open door of the Baptistes. Always these days he glanced that way with a sick feeling in the region of his heart. Who was he, Marc Dupre, trapper of the big woods, that he should dare think so often of that woman from Grand Portage, with her wondrous beauty and her tongue that could be like a cold knife-blade or the petal of a lily for softness? And yet he was conscious of a mighty change that had come over him with that day on the flat rock by the stockade when she had talked to him of the trapping,—a change like that which comes to one when he is so fortunate as to be in distant Montreal and sits in the dusk of the great church there among the saints and the incense.