All this passed through her aching heart, and presently she said with a little catch in her deep voice,
“What awaits a man like this? A man who has done all these things and who speaks of their folly, who thinks of God in the nighttimes, whose heart turns with longing to that land behind the stars, and who gives,”—she paused a moment,—“I cannot say the rest,—But—but—Oh, there awaits this man the smile of that Christ of the Seven Scars, the loving tears of Our Lady of Sorrows, the very grace of the Good God!”
“Truly,—Ma’amselle?” asked Marc Dupre wistfully, “in your heart—not out of its goodness?”
“In my heart of hearts I think this, M’sieu.”
They fell silent for a long time, while the stars travelled with them in the broken water and the ripples lapped and sucked at the shores and the swift stream hurried to the bay.
At length the trapper tentatively raised his hand and touched the bare arm of Maren where it shone brown beneath the white of the fringed sleeve.
“I thank you for those words, Ma’amselle,” he said simply; “they are healing as the Confessional to my ragged soul.”
“M’sieu,” said De Courtenay, “what think you? It would seem that something stirs in this camp of squaws and old men. Gaiety and festive garb appear. Behold yonder brave with a double allowance of painted feathers and more animation than seems warrantable. What’s to do?”
The man was worn to the bone with the day’s work, yet the old brilliance played whimsically in his eyes. This day a wearing burden of skin packs had been added to the canoe, ladening it to the water’s lip, and the vicious prodding from behind had been in consequence of redoubled vigour.
McElroy, reclining beside him on his face,—to lie on his back was unbearable,—to one side of the camp, looked at the scene before them.
Surely it seemed as if something was toward.
Here and there among the Indians appeared strangers. More Bois-Brules, lean half-breeds more to be feared than any Indian from the Mandane country to the polar regions, decked half after the manner of white man and savage, all more animated than was the wont of these sullen Runners of the Burnt Woods, they passed back and forth among the fires, and presently McElroy caught the gleam of liquid that shone like rubies or topaz in the evening light.
“Aha!” he said, “these Bois-Brules that have joined our captors appear to have had dealings with the whites. Yonder is the source of your discovered animation. Whiskey, as I live, and circling fast among the braves. It bodes ill for us, my friend.”
“So? Why so?”
“Because never was redskin yet who could hold fire-water and himself at the same time. No matter how determined they are to reach their stamping-ground before the ceremonies of our despatch, their determination will evaporate like morning mists before the sun in the warmth of the spirit, or I know not Indian nature. Prepare for something, M’sieu.”