The Mississippi Bubble
The Mississippi Bubble
CHAPTER III. AU LARGE
It was weeks after the night of the great storm, and the camp of the voyageurs still held its place on the shore of the great Green Bay. The wild game and the abundant fishes of the lake gave ample provender for the party, and the little bivouac had been rendered more comfortable in many ways best known to those dwellers of the forest. The light jest, the burst of laughter, the careless ease of attitude showed the light-hearted voyageurs content with this, their last abode, nor for the time did any word issue which threatened to end their tarrying.
Law one morning strolled out from the lodge and seated himself on a bit of driftwood at the edge of the forest's fringe of cedars, where, seemingly half forgetting himself in the witchery of the scene, he gazed out idly over the wide prospect which lay before him. He was the same young man as ever. Surely, this increased gauntness was but the result of long hours at the paddle, the hollow cheeks but betokened hard fare and the defining winds of the outdoor air. If the eye were a trace more dim, that could be due but to the reflectiveness induced by the quiet scene and hour. Yet why should John Law, young and refreshed, drop chin in hand and sit there moodily looking ahead of him, comprehending not at all that which he beheld?
Indeed there appeared now to the eye of this young man not the white shores and black crowned bluffs and distant islands, not the sweep of broad-winged birds circling near the waters, nor the shadow of the high-poised eagle drifting far above. He felt not the soft wind upon his cheek, nor noted the warmth of the on-coming sun. In truth, even here, on the very threshold of a new world and a new life, he was going back, pausing uncertainly at the door of that life and of that world which he had left behind. There appeared to him not the rolling undulations of the black-topped forest, not the tossing surface of the inland sea, nor the white-pebbled beach laved by its pulsing waters. He saw instead a white and dusty road, lined by green English hedge-rows. Back, over there, beyond these rolling blue waves, back of the long water trail over which he had come, there were chapel and bell and robed priest, and the word which made all fast forever. But back of the wilderness mission, back of the straggling settlements of Montreal and Quebec, back of the blue waters of the ocean, there, too, were church and minister; and there dwelt a woman whose figure stood now before his eyes, part of this mental picture of the white road lined with the hedges of green.
A hand was laid on his shoulder, and he half started up in sudden surprise. Before him, the sun shining through her hair, her eyes dark in the shadow, stood Mary Connynge. A fair woman indeed, comely, round of form, soft-eyed, and light of touch, she might none the less have been a very savage as she stood there, clad no longer in the dress of civilization, but in the soft native garb of skins, ornamented with the stained quills of the porcupine and the bizarre adornments of the native bead work; in her hair dull metal bands, like any Indian woman, upon her feet little beaded moccasins--the very moccasin, it might have been, which Law had first seen in ancient London town and which had played so strange a part in his life since then.
"You startled me," said Law, simply. "I was thinking."
A sudden jealous wave of woman's divining intuition came upon the woman at his side. "I doubt not," said she, bitterly, "that I could name the subject of your thought! Why? Why sit here and dream of her, when here am I, who deserve everything that you can give?"
She stood erect, her eyes flashing, her arms outstretched, her bosom panting under the fringed garments, her voice ringing as it might have been with the very essence of truth and pass