A swift change had fallen into the depth of her golden voice, a subtle wistfulness that sang with weird pathos, and the eyes raised toward the western rim of the forest were suddenly far and sombre.
“Forgive!” said her sister gently; “I had forgot. I know the dream, but is it not better that we rest and gain new strength for another season? Here might well be home, here on this pretty river. We have come a mighty length already. What could be fairer, cherie,—even though we leave another to win to the untracked West.”
A small spasm drew across the features of Maren, a twitching of the full lips.
“Faint heart of you,” she said sadly. “Oh, Marie, ’tis your voice has ever held us back. They would prod faster but for you. Is there no glory within you, no daring, no dreams of conquest? Bien! But I could go alone. This dallying stiffles the breath in me!”
She put up a hand and tore open the garment at her throat, taking a deep breath of the sunlit air.
“But it is poverty that must be reckoned with. By spring again we may be better equipped than ever.”
So rode up the hope that was ever in her.
“Yes,” sighed Marie, “as the good God wills.”
But she glanced wistfully around the new cabin, to be her own for the length of the four seasons. And who should say what might not happen in four seasons?
She wondered fretfully what fate had fashioned the glorious creature beside her in the form of Love itself to put within the soul of the restless conqueror. Never had she known Maren, though they two had come from the same lap.
Presently Maren looked down at her, and the shimmering smile, like light across dark waters, had again returned.
“Nay,” she said gently, “fret not. It is spring-and you have at last a home.”
True, it was spring.
Did not each breath of the south wind tell it, each flute-like call from the budding forest without the post, each burst of song from some hot-blooded youth with his red cap perched on the back of his head, his gay sash knotted jauntily?
It stirred the heart in the breast of Maren Le Moyne, but not with the thought of love. It called to her as she stood at night alone under the stars, with her head lifted as if to drink the keen, sweet darkness; called to her from far-distant plains of blowing grass, virgin of man’s foot; from rushing rivers, bare of canoe and raft; from high hills, smiling, sweet and fair, up to the cloudless sky—and always it called from the West.
Spring was here and cast its largess at her feet,—fate held back her eager hand.
A year she must wait, a year in which to win those necessaries of the long trail, without which all would fail.
Travel, even by so primitive a method as canoe and foot, must demand its toll of salvage.
At Rainy Lake they had been held by thieving Indians and a great part of their provisions taken from them, leaving them to make their way in comparative poverty to the next post of De Seviere.