Micene smiled back, but that night she lay far into the dark hours thinking of the subtle change in the maid of the trail. With a woman’s intuition she knew that the girl had lied, that all was not well with her.
And one other there was of that small party of venturers housed in the new cabins of De Seviere who knew vaguely that something had gone wrong-Prix Laroux, the sturdy prow of that little vessel of progress of which the girl was the beating heart, the unresting engine.
He had felt its coming even before it fell, that mighty shadow which blotted out the heavens and the earth, for to Maren, once given, there was no recalling the gift, and with that day in the glade she had lost possession of her soul and body forever.
Dazed in all the regions of her being, enshadowed in every vista of hope and scarce-tasted joy, she went quietly about the cabin, her mind a dark space in which there flashed sudden, reiterated visions,—now McElroy’s blue eyes, anxious and eager as he held up the doeskin dress at the door-sill, burning with fire and truth and passion in the glade in the forest, again tender and diffident what time they walked together to the gate to meet De Courtenay’s messenger, and again it was that scene at the factory steps that haunted her,—McElroy with his arms about Francette Moline, the grey husky crouching in the twilight. Throughout the whole sick tangle there went a twisting thread of wonder, of striving for understanding. What was this thing which had come clutching sweetly at her heart, which had stilled the very life in her with holy mystery, and whose swift passing had left her benumbed within as some old woman numbling in the sun on a door-sill? Where was the glory of the spring? What had come upon the face of the waters, that the light had gone from them? What was this thing that the good God wished her to learn, where was the lesson?
Given to reason and plain judgment of all things, the girl tried to think out her problem, to fathom the meaning of this which had befallen her, and to find if there was any good in it. But everywhere she looked there was the laughing face of the factor with his sunburnt hair and his blue eyes. The spring days were heavy as those steel-grey stretches that pass for the days in winter.
Too dull for sharp pain, she went about in a sort of apathy.
For several days McElroy watched uneasily for her, hoping for a chance meeting. He was anxious to speak about his boyish jealousy, to beg forgiveness for that abrupt leaving at the gate. So close did she stay at the cabin, however, that at last he was forced to go to her. It was twilight again, soft, filled with the breath of the forest, vibrant with the call of birds off in some marshy land to the south, and he found her alone, sitting upon the step, staring into the gathering dusk, listening to the laughter of the young married folk from the cabin next where Marie and Henri were loudest.