A high station it was for so young a man, for his twenties were not yet behind him, and the pride of his heart, its holding.
Therefore, life was a living wine to Anders McElroy, and the small world of his post a kingdom. And into it, with that travel-tired band of venturers from Rainy Lake, had passed a princess.
Not yet did he know this,—not for many days, in which he looked from the factory door among the women, singling out one who wore no brilliant garment, yet whose shining head drew the eyes of the men like a magnet.
Slowly speech grew among them, very slowly, as if something held back the usual comment of the trappers, concerning this Maren Le Moyne.
“Look you, Pierre,” ventured Marc Dupre to Pierre Garcon, as they beached their canoe one dusk after a short trip up the river; “yonder is the young woman of the strong arm. A high head, and eyes like a thunderous night,—Eh? Is there love, think you, asleep anywhere within her?”
Whereat Pierre glanced aside under his cap to where Maren hauled up the bucket from the well, hand over hand, with the muscles slipping under her tawny skin like whipcords.
“Nom de Dieu!” ejaculated Pierre under his breath; “if there is, I would not be the one to awaken it and not be found its master! It would be a thing of flame and fury.”
“Ah!” laughed the other, “but I would. It would be, past all chance, a thing to remember, howe’er it went! But it is not like that you or I will be the one to wake it. Milady, though clad in seeming poverty, fixes those disdainful eyes upon the clouds.”
The work of raising the new cabins went forward merrily. Every one lent a hand, and by the end of May the new families were installed and living happily. In that last house near the northeast corner of the post dwelt Henri and Marie Baptiste and Maren Le Moyne.
A goodly place it was, divided into two rooms and already the hands of the two sisters had fashioned of such scant things as they possessed and dared buy from the factory on the year’s debt, a semblance of comfort.
In the other cabins the rest of the party managed to double, each family taking one of the two rooms in each, and the women at least drew a sigh of content that the long trail had at last found an end, however unstable of tenure.
“Ah, Maren,” said Marie Baptiste, sitting on the shining new log step of her domicile, “what it is to have a home! Does it not clutch at your heart sometimes, ma cherie, the desire for a home, and that which goes with it, the love of a man?”
She raised her eyes to the face of Maren leaning above her against the lintel, and they were full of a puzzled question.
Maren answered the look with a swift smile, toying lightly with a fold of the faded sleeve rolled above her elbow.
“Home for me, Marie, is the wide blue sky above, the wind in the tossing trees, the ripple of soft waters on the bow of a canoe. For me,—I grieve that we have stopped. Not this year do we reach the Land of the Whispering Hills.”