When they had rested, there were to be three new cabins squeezed somehow into the already overcrowded stockade, and five more men and six women would belong to Fort de Seviere.
As he walked toward the factory the young man was thinking of all this. Of a surety the tall girl, had come with the strangers, yet he had not noticed her until that moment outside the stockade wall, when he had caught the striking picture in the morning sun.
Name? Most certainly it would be in that list which the leader of the party had promised him by noon. When he entered the big room the man was there before him, a picturesque figure of a man, big and graceful and dark of brow, with long black curls beneath his crimson cap. As McElroy went forward he straightened up from his lounging position against the railing and held out the paper he had promised.
“For enrollment, M’sieu,” he said simply.
The factor took the proffered slip and read eagerly down its length, done neatly in a finished hand.
“Adventurers,” he read, “from Grand Portage on Lake Superior, bound for the west,—agreed to stop for the length of one year at Fort de Seviere on the Assiniboine River,—Prix Laroux and wife Ninette, Pierre and Cif Bordoux and their wives Anon and Micene, Franz LeClede and wife Mora, Henri Baptiste and wife Marie, and Maren Le Moyne, an unmarried woman and sister to Marie Baptiste.”
A sudden little light flamed for a moment in the young factor’s blue eyes.
For some unknown reason it had pleased him, that last ingenious sentence.
“Prix Laroux,” he said, turning to his new acquisition, “we will get to the work of our contract.”
Springtime lay over the vast region of lake and forest. Along the shores of the little rivers the new grass was springing, and in nook and sheltered corner of rock and depression shy white flowers lifted their pretty heads to the coaxing sun. Deep in the budding woods birds in flocks and bevies called across the wilderness of tender green, while at the post the youths sang snatches of wild French songs and all the world felt the thirst of the new life.
A somewhat hard winter it had been, long and cold, with crackling frost of nights and the snow piled deep around the stockade, and the gracious release was very welcome.
The somewhat fickle stream of the Assiniboine had loosed its locks of ice and rolled and gurgled, full to its low banks, as if the late summer would not see it shrunk to a lazy thread, refusing sometimes even the shallow canoes and barely licking the parched lips of the land.
In gay attire the maids of De Seviere ventured beyond the gates to stray a little way into the forest and come back laden with tiny green sprays of the golden trailer, with wee white blossoms and now and again a great swelling bud of the gorgeous purple flower of the death plant.