There was no longer pleasure in flipping jests and love words with the red-cheeked maids, and something had happened to the dashing spirit of the youth. All through those long days in the forest, those short blue nights under the velvet sky, one image had stood before him, calm, smiling, quivering with that illusive light which held men’s hearts. Never a day that he could win forgetfulness of the face of Maren Le Moyne, and now he glanced toward her doorway. It lay in the sunlight without a foot upon its sill, and Marc sighed unconsciously. He was not to see her, perhaps, to-day.
But suddenly, as he rounded a corner among the cabins, he came full upon her, and his flippant tongue clove to the roof of his mouth without speech.
She came toward him with a bread-pan in her hands and her eyes were cast down. The heart in him ran to water at sight of her, and he stopped.
Once more thought of his unworthiness abased him.
Then she felt his presence and raised her eyes, and the young trapper looked deep into them with that helplessness which draws the look of a child. Deep he looked and long, and the woman looked back, and in that moment there sprang into life the first thrill of that thing which was to lead to the great crisis which she had predicted that day by the stockade.
With it Marc Dupre found his tongue.
“Ma’amselle!” he cried sharply, “what is it? Mon Dieu! What is it?” For the dark eyes, with their light-behind-black-marble splendour, were quenched and dazed and all knowledge seemed stricken from them. The look of them cut to his very soul, quick and sensitive from the working of the great change, made ready as a wind-harp by the silent days of dreams, the nights of visions. To him alone was the devastation within them apparent. He stretched out a timid hand and touched her sleeve.
“What is it, Ma’amselle?” he begged abjectly. “I would heal it with my blood!”
Extravagant, impulsive, the boy was in deadly earnest, and Maren Le Moyne was conscious of it as simply as that she lived.
Just as simply she acknowledged to him what she would have to none other in De Seviere, that something had fallen from a clear sky.
“Nay,” she said, and the deep voice was lifeless, “I am beyond help.”
Dupre’s fingers slipped, trembling, around her arm.
“But I am a stone to your foot, Ma’amselle,—always remember that. When the way becomes too hard there shall be a stone to your foot. I ask no better fate and you have said.”
The miserable eyes were not dead to everything. At his swift words they glowed a moment.
“Aye,—I have said, and I thank God, M’sieu, for such friendship. I am rich, indeed.”
“Oho! Marc Dupre does better at the lovemaking than at the trapping! His account at the factory suffers from les amours!”
A childish voice broke in upon them, and Francette’s mpish face peeped round the corner of the nearest cabin.