Deep and even her paddle took the sweet waters and the current shot her forward like a racer. The dark shores flowed by in a long black ribbon of soft shadow, their leaning grasses and foliage playing with the ripples in endless dip and lift. No fear was in her, scarce any thought of what she did, only an obeying of the call which simplified all things.
McElroy was in danger, and she followed him.
That was all she knew, save the mighty sorrow of his falseness which never left her day or night.
He had taught her love in that one passionate embrace in the forest, and it was for all time.
What mattered it that he had turned from her for another? That was the sorry tangle of the threads of Fate,—she had naught to do with it.
Love was born in her and it set a new law unto her being, the law of service.
Every fibre in her revolted at thought of his death. If it was to be done beneath the pitying Heaven, he should be saved. He must be helped to escape. The other was insupportable. Nothing mattered in all the world save that. Therefore she set herself, alone and fearless, to follow the tribe of the Nakonkirhirinons to the far North if need be, to hang on their flank like a wolverine, to take every chance the good God might send. Chief of these was her hope of the Hudson’s Bay brigade which should be coming into the wilderness at this time of year. Somewhere she must meet them and demand their help.
There was no rebellion in her, no hope of gain in what she did. Love was of her own soul alone, since that evening by the factory when she had seen the factor bend his head and kiss the little Francette.
No more did she think of his words in the forest, no more did she dream of the wondrous glory of that first kiss.
Far apart and impersonal was McElroy now,—only she loved him with that vast idolatry which seeks naught but the good of its idol.
Even if he loved Francette he must be saved for that happiness.
Therefore she knelt in a cockleshell alone on a rushing river and sped through, a wilderness into appalling danger.
Such was the compelling power of that love which had come tardily to her.
CHAPTER XVIII “I AM A STONE TO YOUR FOOT, MA’AMSELLE”
At dawn Maren shot her craft into a little cove, opal and pearl in the pageantry of breaking light, and drawing it high on shore, went gathering little sticks for a micmac fire.
The bullet pouch held small allowance of food. She would eat and sleep for a few hours.
Deep and ghostly with white mist-wraiths was the forest, shouldering close to the living water, pierced with pine, shadowy with trembling maple, waist-high with ferns. She looked about with the old love of the wild stirring dumbly under the greater feeling that weighted her soul with iron and wondered vaguely what had come over the woods and the waters that their familiar faces were changed.