In the dark eyes there was a shine of tears, the lips, with their curled corners, were trembling. The face upturned in the fitful light was all tenderness. The calm brown hands clasped before her were all strength.
Marc Dupre, in the forest’s edge, felt his breast heave with an emotion beyond control as he stood so, looking upon the scene, listening to the sliding voice. Darkness hid the wilderness, out on the face of the lake a fish leaped with a slap, and a nightbird called shrilly off to the south. With aching throat the trapper turned softly back into the woods. When he came later along the shore, with heavier step than was his wont, the fagot and the forked stake were gone, there was no black crucifix, and Maren waited by the fire, water brought from the lake in Dupre’s small pail, the little sticks ready for the roasting.
“Let me have the grouse, M’sieu,” she said; “the hunt was long?”
But Dupre did not answer.
The two days that followed were heavy ones to Maren.
No farther did they dare venture lest they pass to the west and miss the brigade coming down from the north and entering the lake at the northeast extremity.
So they waited on the shore in anxiety of spirit, watching the bright waters with eyes that ached with the intensity of the vigil, and Dupre hunted in the forest and over the sand dunes, among the high meadows that broke the heavy woods in this region, and down along the reaches of the water.
“Farther with each day!” thought Maren to herself. “Holy Mother, send the brigade!”
And Dupre echoed the thought in sadness of soul.
“More pain for her heart in each hour’s delay. Would the trial were done!”
About three of the clock on the first day of waiting there came sounds of singing and a string of canoes rounded a bend of the shore at the south.
“M’sieu!” cried Maren swiftly; “who comes?”
Dupre, tinkering at the canoe overturned on the pebbly beach, straightened and looked in the direction she indicated.
He looked long with hand to eye, and presently turned quietly.
“Nor’westers, I think, Ma’amselle. They come from Fort William to the Wilderness.”
Back along the trail went memory with mention of the post on the distant shore of Lake Superior. How oft had she peeped with fascinated eyes from behind her father’s forge at sturdy men in buckskins who spoke with the blacksmith about the wonders of the country of the Red River, and they had come from Fort William. She saw again the bustle and activity of Grand Portage, the comfortable house of the Baptistes. Once more she felt the old yearning for the unknown.
And this was it,—this gleaming stretch of inland sea, one man who stood by her and another who betrayed her with a kiss, yet who drew her after him as the helpless leaf, fallen to the stream, is whirled into the white destruction of the rapids.