The solitudes of the East Coast had shaken off the grip of the long snows. A thousand streams and rivers choked with snow water from bleak Ungava hills plunged and foamed and raced into the west, seeking the salt Hudson’s Bay, the Big Water of the Crees. In the lakes the honeycombed ice was daily fading under the strengthening sun. Already, here and there the buds of the willows reddened the river shores, while the southern slopes of sun warmed ridges were softening with the pale green of the young leaves of birch and poplar. Long since, the armies of the snowy geese had passed, bound for far Arctic islands; while marshes and muskeg were vocal with the raucous clamor of the nesting gray goose. In the air of the valleys hung the odor of wood mole and wet earth. And one day, with the spring, returned Jean Marcel from his camp on the Ghost, the northernmost tributary of the Great Whale to the bald ridge where in March, he had seen the sun glitter on a broad expanse of level snow unbroken by trees, in the hills to the north.