Part 2 out of 3
and I shall go on imagining--Oh, please have pity on me! I feel
the shadow of a tragedy. It comes out in everything, in everybody
to whom I turn. I see it in Wishkobun's avoidance of me, in my
father's silence, in Mr. Crane's confusion, in your
reluctance--yes, in the very reckless insolence of Mr. Trent
himself!"--her voice broke slightly. "If you will not tell me, I
shall go direct to my father," she ended, with more firmness.
Mrs. Cockburn examined the girl's flushed face through kindly but
shrewd and experienced eyes. Then, with a caressing little murmur
of pity, she arose and seated herself on the arm of the red chair,
taking the girl's hand in hers.
"I believe you mean it," she said, "and I am going to tell you
myself. There is much sorrow in it for you; but if you go to your
father it will only make it worse. I am doing what I should not.
It is shameful that such things happen in this nineteenth century,
but happen they do. The long and short of it is that the Factors
of this Post tolerate no competition in the country, and when a man
enters it for the purpose of trading with the Indians, he is
stopped and sent out."
"There is nothing very bad about that." said Virginia, relieved.
"No, my dear, not in that. But they say his arms and supplies are
taken from him, and he is given a bare handful of provisions. He
has to make a quick journey, and to starve at that. Once when I
was visiting out at the front, not many years ago, I saw one of
those men--they called him Jo Bagneau--and his condition was
"But hardships can be endured. A man can escape."
"Yes," almost whispered Mrs. Cockburn, looking about her
apprehensively, "but the story goes that there are some cases--when
the man is an old offender, or especially determined, or so
prominent as to be able to interest the law--no one breathes of
these cases here--but--_he never gets out_!"
"What do you mean?" cried Virginia, harshly.
"One dares not mean such things; but they are so. The hardships of
the wilderness are many, the dangers terrible--what more natural
than that a man should die of them in the forest? It is no one's
"What do you mean?" repeated Virginia; "for God's sake speak
"I dare not speak plainer than I know; and no one ever really
_knows_ anything about it--excepting the Indian who fires the shot,
or who watches the man until he dies of starvation." whispered Mrs.
"But--but!" cried the girl, grasping her companion's arm. "My
father! Does _he_ give such orders? _He_?"
"No orders are given. The thing is understood. Certain runners,
whose turn it is, shadow the Free Trader. Your father is not
responsible; no one is responsible. It is the policy."
"And this man----"
"It has gone about that he is to take _la Longue Traverse_. He
knows it himself."
"It is barbaric, horrible; it is murder."
"My dear, it is all that; but this is the country of dread. You
have known the soft, bright side always--the picturesque men, the
laugh, the song. If you had seen as much of the harshness of
wilderness life as a doctor's wife must you would know that when
the storms of their great passions rage it is well to sit quiet at
The girl's eyes were wide-fixed, staring at this first reality of
life. A thousand new thoughts jostled for recognition. Suddenly
her world had been swept from beneath her. The ancient
patriarchal, kindly rule had passed away, and in its place she was
forced to see a grim iron bond of death laid over her domain. And
her father--no longer the grave, kindly old man--had become the
ruthless tyrant. All these bright, laughing _voyageurs_, playmates
of her childhood, were in reality executioners of a savage
blood-law. She could not adjust herself to it.
She got to her feet with an effort. "Thank you, Mrs. Cockburn,"
she said, in a low voice. "I--I do not quite understand. But I
must go now. I must--I must see that my father's room is ready for
him." she finished, with the proud defensive instinct of the woman
who has been deeply touched. "You know I always do that myself."
"Good-night, dearie," replied the older woman, understanding well
the girl's desire to shelter behind the commonplace. She leaned
forward and kissed her. "God keep and guide you. I hope I have
"Yes," cried Virginia, with unexpected fire. "Yes, you did just
right! I ought to have been told long ago! They've kept me a
perfect child to whom everything has been bright and care-free and
simple. I--I feel that until this moment I have lacked my real
She bowed her head and passed through the log room into the outer
Her father, _her_ father, had willed this man's death, and so he
was to die! That explained many things--the young fellow's
insolence, his care-free recklessness, his passionate denunciation
of the Reverend Crane and the Reverend Crane's religion. He wanted
one little thing--the gift of a rifle wherewith to assure his
subsistence should he escape into the forest--and of all those at
Conjuror's House to whom he might turn for help, some were too hard
to give it to him, and some too afraid! He should have it! She,
the daughter of her father, would see to it that in this one
instance her father's sin should fail! Suddenly, in the white heat
of her emotion, she realized why these matters stirred her so
profoundly, and she stopped short and gasped with the shock of it.
It did not matter that she thwarted her father's will; it would not
matter if she should be discovered and punished as only these harsh
characters could punish. For the brave bearing, the brave jest,
the jaunty facing of death, the tender, low voice, the gay song,
the aurora-lit moment of his summons--all these had at last their
triumph. She knew that she loved him; and that if he were to die,
she would surely die too.
And, oh, it must be that he loved her! Had she not heard it in the
music of his voice from the first?--the passion of his tones? the
dreamy, lyrical swing of his talk by the old bronze guns?
Then she staggered sharply, and choked back a cry. For out of her
recollections leaped two sentences of his--the first careless,
imprudent, unforgivable; the second pregnant with meaning. "_Ah, a
star shoots_!" he had said. "_That means a kiss_!" and again, to
the clergyman, "_I came here without the slightest expectation of
getting what I asked for. There is another way, but I hate to use
She was the other way! She saw it plainly. He did not love her,
but he saw that he could fascinate her, and he hoped to use her as
an aid to his escape. She threw her head up proudly.
Then a man swung into view across the Northern Lights. Virginia
pressed back against the palings among the bushes until he should
have passed. It was Ned Trent, returning from a walk to the end of
the island. He was alone and unfollowed, and the girl realized
with a sudden grip at the heart that the wilderness itself was
sufficient safeguard against a man unarmed and unequipped. It was
not considered worth while even to watch him. Should he escape,
unarmed as he was, sure death by starvation awaited him in the land
As he entered the settlement he struck up an air.
"Le fils du roi s'en va chassant,
En roulant ma boule,
Avec son grand fusil d'argent,
Rouli roulant, ma boule roulant."
Almost immediately a window slid back, and an exasperated voice
"_Hola_ dere, w'at one time dam fool you for mak' de sing so late!"
The voice went on imperturbably:
"Avec son grand fusil d'argent,
En roulant ma boule,
Visa le noir, tua le blanc,
Rouli roulant, ma boule roulant."
"_Sacre_!" shrieked the habitant.
"Hello, Johnny Frenchman!" called Ned Trent, in his acid tones.
"That you? Be more polite, or I'll stand here and sing you the
whole of it."
The window slammed shut.
Ned Trent took up his walk again toward some designated
sleeping-place of his own, his song dying into the distance.
"Visa le noir, tua le blanc,
En roulant ma boule,
O fils du roi, tu es mechant!
Rouli roulant, ma boule roulant."
"And he can _sing_!" cried the girl bitterly to herself. "At such
a time! Oh, my dear God, help me, help me! I am the unhappiest
Virginia did not sleep at all that night. She was reaching toward
her new self. Heretofore she had ruled those about her proudly,
secure in her power and influence. Now she saw that all along her
influence had in not one jot exceeded that of the winsome girl.
She had no real power at all. They went mercilessly on in the grim
way of their fathers, dealing justice even-handed according to
their own crude conceptions of it, without thought of God or man.
She turned hot all over as she saw herself in this new light--as
she saw those about her indulgently smiling at her airs of the
mistress of it. It angered her--though the smile might be
good-humored, even affectionate.
And she shrank into herself with utter loathing when she remembered
Ned Trent. There indeed her woman's pride was hard stricken. She
recalled with burning cheeks how his intense voice had stirred her;
how his wishes had compelled her; she shivered pitifully as she
remembered the warmth of his shoulder touching carelessly her own.
If he had come to her honestly and asked her aid, she would have
given it; but this underhand pretence at love! It was unworthy of
him; and it was certainly most unworthy of her. What must he think
of her? How he must be laughing at her--and hoping that his spell
was working, so that he could get the coveted rifle and the forty
"I hate him!" she cried to herself, the backs of her long, slender
hands pressed against her eyes. She meant that she loved him, but
for the purposes in hand one would do as well as the other.
At earliest daylight she was up. Bathing her face and throat in
cold water, and hastily catching her beautiful light hair under a
cap, she slipped down stairs and out past the stockade to the
point. There she seated herself, a heavy shawl about her, and gave
herself up to reflection. She had approached silently, her
moccasins giving no sound. Presently she became aware that someone
was there before her. Looking toward the river she saw on the next
level below her a man, seated on a bowlder, and gazing to the south.
His very soul was in his eyes. Virginia gasped at the change in him
since last she had seen him. The gay, mocking demeanor which had
seemed an essential part of his very flesh and blood had fallen
away from him, leaving a sad and lofty dignity that ennobled his
countenance. The lines of his face were stern, of his mouth
pathetic; his eyes yearned. He stared toward the south with an
almost mesmeric intensity, as though he hoped by sheer longing to
materialize a vision. Tears sprang to the girl's eyes at the
subtle pathos of his attitude.
He stretched his arms wearily over his head, and sighed deeply and
looked up. His eyes rested on the girl without surprise; the
expression of his features did not change.
"Pardon me," he said, simply. "To-day is my last of plenty. I am
up enjoying it."
Virginia had anticipated the usual instantaneous transformation of
his manner when he should catch sight of her. Her resentment was
dispelled. In face of the vaster tragedies little considerations
"Do you leave--to-day?" she asked, in a low voice.
"To-morrow morning, early," he corrected. "To-day I found my
provisions packed and laid at my door. It is a hint I know how to
"You have everything you need?" asked the girl, with an assumption
He looked her in the eyes for a moment.
"Everything," he lied, calmly.
Virginia perceived that he lied, and her heart stood still with a
sudden hope that perhaps, at this eleventh hour, he might have
repented of his unworthy intentions toward herself. She leaned to
him over the edge of the little rise.
"Have you a rifle--for _la Longue Traverse_?" she inquired, with
He stared at her a little the harder.
"Why--why, surely," he replied, in a tone less confident. "Nobody
travels without a rifle in the North."
She dropped swiftly down the slope and stood face to face with him.
"Listen," she began, in her superb manner. "I know all there is to
know. You are a Free Trader, and you are to be sent to your death.
It is murder, and it is done by my father." She held her head
proudly, but the notes of her voice were straining. "I knew
nothing of this yesterday. I was a foolish girl who thought all
men were good and just, and that all those whom I knew were noble.
My eyes are open now. I see injustice being done by my own
household, and "--tears were trembling near her lashes, but she
blinked them back--"and I am no longer a foolish girl! You need
not try to deceive me. You must tell me what I can do, for I
cannot permit so great a wrong to be done by my father without
attempting to set it right." This was not what she had intended to
say, but suddenly the course was clear to her. The influence of
the man had again swept over her, drowning her will, filling her
with the old fear, which was now for the moment turned to pride by
the character of the situation.
But to her surprise the man was thinking of something else.
"Who told you?" he demanded, harshly. Then, without waiting for a
reply, "It was that little preacher; I'll have an interview with
"No, no!" protested the girl. "It was not he. It was a friend. I
had the right to know."
"You had no right!" he cried, vehemently. "You and life should
have nothing to do with each other. There is a look in your eyes
that was not in them yesterday, and the one who put it there is not
your friend." He stood staring at her intently, as one who ponders
what is best to do. Then very quietly he took her hands and drew
her to a place beside him on the bowlder.
"I am going to tell you something, little girl," said he, "and you
must listen quietly to the end. Perhaps at the last you may see
more clearly than you do now.
"This old Company of yours has been established for a great many
years. Back in old days, over two centuries ago, it pushed up into
this wilderness to trade for its furs. That you know. And then it
explored ever farther to the west and the north, until its servants
stood on the shores of the Pacific and the stretches of the Arctic
Ocean. And its servants loved it. Enduring immense hardships, cut
off from their kind, outlining dimly with the eye of faith the
structure of a mighty power, they loved it always. Thousands of
men were in its employ, and so loyal were they that its secrets
were safe and its prestige was defended, often to a lonely death.
I have known the Company and its servants for a long time, and if I
had leisure I could instance a hundred examples of devotion and
sacrifice beside which mere patriotism, would seem a little thing.
Men who had no country cleaved to her desolate posts, her lakes and
rivers and forests; men who had no home ties felt the tug of her
wild life at their hearts; men who had no God bowed in awe before
her power and grandeur. The Company was a living thing.
"Rivals attempted her supremacy, and were defeated by the
steadfastness of the men who received her meagre wages and looked
to her as their one ideal. Her explorers were the bravest, her
traders the most enterprising and single-minded, her factors and
partners the most capable and potent in all the world. No country,
no leader, no State ever received half the worship her sons gave
her. The fierce Nor'westers, the traders of Montreal, the Company
of the X Y, Astor himself, had to give way. For, although they
were bold or reckless or crafty or able, they had not the ideal
which raises such qualities to invincibility.
"And, little girl, nothing is wrong to men who have such an ideal
before them. They see but one thing, and all means are good that
help them to assure that one thing. They front the dangers, they
overcome the hardships, they crush the rivals. Bloody wars have
taken place in these forests, ruthless deeds have been done, but
the men who accomplished them held the deeds good. So for two
hundred years, aided by the charter from the king, they have made
good their undisputed right.
"Then the railroad entered the west. The charter of monopoly ran
out. Through the Nipissing, the Athabasca, the Edmonton, came the
Free Traders--men who traded independently. These the Company
could not control, so it competed--and to its credit its
competition has held its own. Even far into the Northwest, where
the trails are long, the Free Traders have established their chains
of supplies, entering into rivalry with the Company for a barter it
has always considered its right. The medicine has been bitter, but
the servants of the Company have adjusted themselves to the new
conditions, and are holding their own.
"But one region still remains cut off from the outside world by a
broad band of unexplored waste. The life here at Hudson's
Bay--although you may not know it--is exactly the same to-day that
it was two hundred years ago. And here the Company makes its stand
for a monopoly.
"At first it worked openly. But in the case of Guillaume Sayer, a
daring and pugnacious _metis_, it got into trouble with the law.
Since that time it has wrapped itself in secrecy and mystery,
carrying on its affairs behind the screen of five hundred miles of
forest. Here it has still the power; no man can establish himself
here, can even travel here, without its consent, for it controls
the food and the Indians. The Free Trader enters, but he does not
stay for long. The Company's servants are mindful of their old
fanatical ideal. Nothing is ever known, no orders are ever given,
but something happens, find the man never ventures again.
"If he is an ordinary _metis_ or Canadian, he emerges from the
forest starved, frightened, thankful. If his story is likely to be
believed in high places, he never emerges at all. The dangers of
wilderness travel are many: he succumbs to them. That is the whole
story. Nothing definite is known; no instances can be proved; your
father denies the legend and calls it a myth. The Company claims
to be ignorant of it, perhaps its greater officers really are, but
the legend holds so good that the journey has its name--_la Longue
"But remember this, no man is to blame--unless it is he who of
knowledge takes the chances. It is a policy, a growth of
centuries, an idea unchangeable to which the long services of many
fierce and loyal men have given substance. A Factor cannot change
it. If he did, the thing would be outside of nature, something not
to be understood.
"I am here. I am to take _la Longue Traverse_. But no man is to
blame. If the scheme of the thing is wrong, it has been so from
the very beginning, from the time when King Charles set his
signature to the charter of unlimited authority. The history of a
thousand men gives the tradition power, gives it insistence. It is
bigger than any one individual. It is as inevitable as that water
should flow down hill."
He had spoken quietly, but very earnestly, still holding her two
hands, and she had sat looking at him unblinking from eyes behind
which passed many thoughts. When he had finished, a short pause
followed, at the end of which she asked unexpectedly,
"Last evening you told me that you might come to me and ask me to
choose between my pity and what I might think to be my duty. What
are you going to ask of me?"
"Nothing. I spoke idle words."
"Last evening I overheard you demand something of Mr. Crane," she
pursued, without commenting on his answer. "When he refused you I
heard you say these words 'Here is where I should have received
aid; I may have to get it where I should not.' What was the aid you
asked of him? and where else did you expect to get it?"
"The aid was something impossible to accord, and I did not expect
to get it elsewhere. I said that in order to induce him to help
A wonderful light sprang to the girl's eyes, but still she
maintained her level voice.
"You asked him for a rifle with which to escape. You expected to
get it of me. Deny it if you can."
Ned Trent looked at her keenly a moment, then dropped his eyes.
"It is true," said he.
"And the pity was to give you this weapon; and the duty was my duty
to my father's house."
"It is true," he repeated, dejectedly.
"And you lied to me when you said you had a rifle with which to
journey _la Longue Traverse_."
"That too is true," he acknowledged.
When next she spoke her voice was not quite so well controlled.
"Why did you not ask me, as you intended? Why did you tell me
The young man hesitated, looked her in the face, turned away, and
murmured, "I could not."
"Why?" persisted the girl. "Why? You must tell me."
"Because," said Ned Trent--"because it could not be done. Every
rifle in the place is known. Because you would be found out in
this, and I do not know what your punishment might not be."
"You knew this before?" insisted Virginia, stonily.
"Then why did you change your mind?"
"When first I saw you by the gun," began Ned Trent, in a low voice,
"I was a desperate man, clutching at the slightest chance. The
thought crossed my mind then that I might use you. Then later I
saw that I had some influence over you, and I made my plan. But
"Yes, last night?" urged Virginia, softly.
"Last night I paced the island, and I found out many things. One
of them was that I could not."
"Even though this dreadful journey----"
"I would rather take my chances."
Again there was silence between them.
"It was a good lie," then said Virginia, gently--"a noble lie. And
what you have told me to comfort me about my father has been nobly
said. And I believe you, for I have known the truth about your
fate." He shut his lips grimly. "Why--why did you come?" she
cried, passionately. "Is the trade so good, are your needs then so
great, that you must run these perils?"
"My needs," he replied. "No; I have enough."
"Then why?" she insisted.
"Because that old charter has long since expired, and now this
country is as free for me as for the Company," he explained. "We
are in a civilized century, and no man has a right to tell me where
I shall or shall not go. Does the Company own the Indians and the
creatures of the woods?" Something in the tone of his voice
brought her eyes steadily to his for a moment.
"Is that all?" she asked at length.
He hesitated, looked away, looked back again.
"No, it is not," he confessed, in a low voice. "It is a thing I do
not speak of. My father was a servant of this Company, a good,
true servant. No man was more honest, more zealous, more loyal."
"I am sure of it," said Virginia, softly.
"But in some way that he never knew himself he made enemies in high
places. The cowards did not meet him man to man, and so he never
knew who they were. If he had, he would have killed them. But
they worked against him always. He was given hard posts,
inadequate supplies, scant help, and then he was held to account
for what he could not do. Finally he left the company in
disgrace--undeserved disgrace. He became a Free Trader in the days
when to become a Free Trader was worse than attacking a grizzly
with cubs. In three years he was killed. But when I grew to be a
man "--he clenched his teeth--"by God! how I have prayed to know
who did it." He brooded for a moment, then went on. "Still, I
have accomplished something. I have traded in spite of your
factors in many districts. One summer I pushed to the Coppermine
in the teeth of them, and traded with the Yellow Knives for the
robes of the musk-ox. And they knew me and feared my rivalry,
these traders of the Company. No district of the far North but has
felt the influence of my bartering. The traders of all
districts--Fort au Liard, Lapierre's House, Fort Rae, Ile a la
Crosse, Portage la Loche, Lac la Biche, Jasper's House, the House
of the Touchwood Hills--all these, and many more, have heard of Ned
"Your father--you knew him well?"
"No, but I remember him--a tall, dark man, with a smile always in
his eyes and a laugh on his lips. I was brought up at a school in
Winnipeg under a priest. Two or three times in the year my father
used to appear for a few days. I remember well the last time I saw
him. I was about thirteen years old. 'You are growing to be a
man,' said he; 'next year we will go out on the trail.' I never
saw him again."
"Oh, he was just killed," replied Ned Trent, bitterly.
The girl laid her hand on his arm with an appealing little gesture.
"I am so sorry," said she.
"I have no portrait of him," continued the Free Trader, after an
instant. "No gift from his hands; nothing at all of his but this."
He showed her an ordinary little silver match-safe such as men use
in the North country.
"They brought that to me at the last--the Indians who came to tell
my priest the news, and the priest, who was a good man, gave it to
me. I have carried it ever since."
Virginia took it reverently. To her it had all the largeness that
envelops the symbol of a great passion. After a moment she looked
up in surprise.
"Why!" she exclaimed, "this has a name carved on it!"
"Yes," he replied.
"But the name is Graehme Stewart."
"Of course I could not bear my father's name in a country where it
was well known," he explained.
"Of course," she agreed. Impulsively she raised her face to his,
her eyes shining. "To me all this is very fine," said she.
He smiled a little sadly. "At least you know why I came."
"Yes." she repeated, "I know why you came. But you are in trouble."
"The chances of war."
"And they have defeated you after all."
"I shall start on _la Longue Traverse_ singing 'Rouli roulant.'
It's a small defeat, that.'
"Listen," said she, rapidly. "When I was quite a small girl Mr.
McTavish, of Rupert's House, gave me a little rifle. I have never
used it, because I do not care to shoot. That rifle has never been
counted, and my father has long since forgotten all about it. You
must take that, and escape to-night. I will let you have it on one
condition--that you give me your solemn promise never to venture
into this country again."
"Yes," he agreed, without enthusiasm nor surprise.
She smiled happily at his gloomy face and listless attitude.
"But I do not want to give up the little rifle entirely," she went
on, with dainty preciosity, watching him closely. "As I said, it
was a present, given to me when I was quite a small girl. You must
return it to me at Quebec, in August. Will you promise to do that?"
He wheeled on her swift as light, the eagerness flashing back into
"You are going to Quebec?" he cried. "My father wishes me to. I
have decided to do so. I shall start with the Abitibi _brigade_ in
He leaped to his feet.
"I promise!" he exulted, "I promise! To-night, then! Bring the
rifle and the cartridges, and some matches, and a little salt. You
must take me across the river in a canoe, for I want them to guess
at where I strike the woods. I shall cover my trail. And with ten
hours' start, let them catch Ned Trent who can!"
She laughed happily.
"To-night, then. At the south of the island there is a trail, and
at the end of the trail a beach----"
"I know!" he cried.
"Meet me there as soon after dark as you can do so without danger."
He threw his hat into the air and caught it, his face boyishly
upturned. Again that something, so vaguely familiar, plucked at
her with its ghostly, appealing fingers. She turned swiftly, and
seized them, and so found herself in possession of a memory out of
her far-off childhood.
"I know you!" she cried. "I have seen you before this!"
He bent his puzzled gaze upon her.
"I was a very little girl," she explained, "and you but a lad. It
was at a party, I think, a great and brilliant party, for I
remember many beautiful women and fine men. You held me up in your
arms for people to see, because I was going on a long journey."
"I remember, of course I do!" he exclaimed.
A bell clanged, turning over and over, calling the Company's men to
"Farewell." she said, hurriedly. "To-night."
"To-night," he repeated.
She glided rapidly through the grass, noiseless in her moccasined
feet. And as she went she heard his voice humming soft and low,
"Isabeau s'y promene
Le long de son jardin,
Le long de son jardin,
Sur le bord de l'ile,
Le long de son jardin."
"How could he _help_ singing," murmured Virginia, fondly. "Ah,
dear Heaven, but I am the happiest girl alive!"
Such a difference can one night bring about.
The day rose and flooded the land with its fuller life. All
through the settlement the Post Indians and half-breeds set about
their tasks. Some aided Sarnier with his calking of the bateaux;
some worked in the fields; some mended or constructed in the
different shops. At eight o'clock the bell rang again, and they
ate breakfast. Then a group of seven, armed with muzzle-loading
"trade-guns" bound in brass, set out for the marshes in hopes of
geese. For the flight was arriving, and the Hudson Bay man knows
very well the flavor of goose-flesh, smoked, salted, and barrelled.
Now the _voyageurs_ began to stroll into the sun. They were men of
leisure. Picturesque, handsome, careless, debonair, they wandered
back and forth, smoking their cigarettes, exhibiting their finery.
Indian women, wrinkled and careworn, plodded patiently about on
various businesses. Indian girls, full of fun and mischief,
drifted here and there in arm-locked groups of a dozen, smiling,
whispering among themselves, ready to collapse toward a common
centre of giggles if addressed by one of the numerous
woods-dandies. Indian men stalked singly, indifferent, stolid.
Indian children of all sizes and degrees of nakedness darted back
and forth, playing strange games. The sound of many voices rose
across the air.
Once the voices moderated, when McDonald, the Chief Trader, walked
rapidly from the barracks building to the trading store; once they
died entirely into a hush of respect, when Galen Albret himself
appeared on the broad veranda of the factory. He stood for a
moment--bulked broad and black against the whitewash--his hands
clasped behind him, gazing abstractedly toward the distant bay.
Then he turned into the house to some mysterious and weighty
business of his own. The hubbub at once broke out again.
Now about the mouth of the long picketed lane leading to the
massive trading store gathered a silent group, bearing packs.
These were Indians from the more immediate vicinity, desirous of
trading their skins. After a moment McDonald appeared in the
doorway, a hundred feet away, and raised his hand. Two of the
savages, and two only, trotted down the narrow picket lane, their
packs on their shoulders.
McDonald ushered them into a big square room, where the bales were
undone and spread abroad. Deftly, silently the Trader sorted the
furs, placing to one side or the other the "primes," "seconds," and
"thirds" of each species. For a moment he calculated. Then he
stepped to a post whereon hung long strings of pierced wooden
counters, worn smooth by use. Swiftly he told the strings over.
To one of the Indians he gave one with these words:
"Mu-hi-kun, my brother, here be pelts to the value of two hundred
'beaver.' Behold a string, then, of two hundred 'castors,' and in
addition I give my brother one fathom of tobacco."
The Indian calculated rapidly, his eye abstracted. He had known
exactly the value of his catch, and what he would receive for it in
"castors," but had hoped for a larger "present," by which the
premium on the standard price is measured.
"Ah hah," he exclaimed, finally, and stepped to one side.
"Sak-we-su, my brother," went on McDonald, "here be pelts to the
value of three hundred 'beaver.' Behold a string, then, of three
hundred 'castors,' and because you have brought so fine a skin of
the otter, behold also a fathom of tobacco and a half sack of
"Good!" ejaculated the Indian.
The Trader then led them to stairs, up which they clambered to
where Davis, the Assistant Trader, kept store. There, barred by a
heavy wooden grill from the airy loft filled with bright calicoes,
sashes, pails, guns, blankets, clothes, and other ornamental and
useful things, Sak-we-su and Mu-hi-kun made their choice, trading
in the worn wooden "castors" on the string. So much flour, so much
tea, so much sugar and powder and lead, so much in clothing. Thus
were their simple needs supplied for the year to come. Then the
remainder they squandered on all sorts of useless things--beads,
silks, sashes, bright handkerchiefs, mirrors. And when the last
wooden "castor" was in they went down stairs and out the picket
lane, carrying their lighter purchases, but leaving the larger as
"debt," to be called for when needed. Two of their companions
mounted the stairs as they descended; and two more passed them in
the narrow picket lane. So the trade went on.
At once Sak-we-su and Mu-hi-kun were surrounded. In detail they
told what they had done. Then in greater detail their friends told
what _they_ would have done, until after five minutes of
bewildering advice the disconsolate pair would have been only too
glad to have exchanged everything--if that had been allowed.
Now the bell rang again. It was "smoke time." Everyone quit work
for a half-hour. The sun climbed higher in the heavens. The
laughing crews of idlers sprawled in the warmth, gambling, telling
stories, singing. Then one might have heard all the picturesque
songs of the Far North--"A la claire Fontaine"; "Ma Boule Roulant";
"Par derrier' chez-mon Pere"; "Isabeau s'y promene"; "P'tite
Jeanneton"; "Luron, Lurette"; "Chante, Rossignol, chante"; the
ever-popular "Malbrouck"; "C'est la belle Francoise"; "Alouette";
or the beautiful and tender "La Violette Dandine." They had good
voices, these _voyageurs_, with the French artistic instinct, and
it was fine to hear them.
At noon the squaws set out to gather canoe gum on the mainland.
They sat huddled in the bottom of their old and leaky canoe,
reaching far over the sides to dip their paddles, irregularly
placed, silent, mysterious. They did not paddle with the unison of
the men, but each jabbed a little short stroke as the time suited
her, so that always some paddles were rising and some falling.
Into the distance thus they flapped like wounded birds; then
rounded a bend, and were gone.
The sun swung over and down the slope, Dinner time had passed;
"smoke time" had come again. Squaws brought the first white-fish
of the season to the kitchen door of the factory, and Matthews
raised the hand of horror at the price they asked. Finally he
bought six of about three pounds each, giving in exchange tea to
the approximate value of twelve cents. The Indian women went away,
secretly pleased over their bargain.
Down by the Indian camp suddenly broke the roar of a dog-fight.
Two of the sledge _giddes_ had come to teeth, and the friends of
both were assisting the cause. The idlers went to see, laughing,
shouting, running impromptu races. They sat on their haunches and
cheered ironically, and made small bets, and encouraged the frantic
old squaw hags who, at imminent risk, were trying to disintegrate
the snarling, rolling mass. Over in the high log stockade wherein
the Company's sledge animals were confined, other wolf-dogs howled
mournfully, desolated at missing the fun.
And always the sun swung lower and lower toward the west, until
finally the long northern twilight fell, and the girl in the little
white bedroom at the factory bathed her face and whispered for the
hundredth time to her beating heart:
"Night has come!"
That evening at dinner Virginia studied her father's face again.
She saw the square settled line of the jaw under the beard, the
unwavering frown of the heavy eyebrows, the unblinking purpose of
the cavernous, mysterious eyes. Never had she felt herself very
close to this silent, inscrutable man, even in his moments of more
affectionate expansion. Now a gulf divided them.
And yet, strangely enough, she experienced no revulsion, no horror,
no recoil even. He had merely become more aloof, more
incomprehensible; his purposes vaster, less susceptible to the
grasp of such as she. There may have been some basis for this
feeling, or it may have been merely the reflex glow of a joy that
made all other things seem insignificant.
As soon as might be after the meal Virginia slipped away, carrying
the rifle, the cartridges, the matches, and the salt. She was
The night was providentially dark. No aurora threw its splendor
across the dome, and only a few rare stars peeped between the light
cirrus clouds. Virginia left behind her the buildings of the Post,
she passed in safety the tin-steepled chapel and the church house;
there remained only the Indian camp between her and the woods
trail. At once the dogs began to bark and howl, the fierce
_giddes_ lifting their pointed noses to the sky. The girl hurried
on, twinging far to the right through the grass. To her relief the
camp did not respond to the summons. An old crone or so appeared
in the flap of a teepee, eyes dazzled, to throw uselessly a billet
of wood or a volley of Cree abuse at the animals nearest. In a
moment Virginia entered the trail.
Here was no light at all. She had to proceed warily, feeling with
her moccasins for the beaten pathway, to which she returned with
infinite caution whenever she trod on grass or leaves. Though her
sight was dulled, her hearing was not. A thousand scurrying noises
swirled about her; a multitude of squeaks, whistles, snorts, and
whines attested that she disturbed the forest creatures at their
varied businesses; and underneath spoke an apparent dozen of
terrifying voices which were in reality only the winds and the
trees. Virginia knew that these things were not dangerous--that
day light would show them to be only deer-mice, hares, weasels,
bats, and owls--nevertheless, they had their effect. For about her
was cloying velvet blackness--not the closed-in blackness of a
room, where one feels the embrace of the four walls, but the
blackness of infinite space through which sweep mysterious currents
of air. After a long time she turned sharp to the left. After a
long time more she perceived a faint, opalescent glimmer in the
distance ahead. This she knew to be the river.
She felt her way onward, still cautiously, then she choked back a
scream and dropped her burden with a clatter to the ground. A dark
figure seemed to have risen mysteriously at her side.
"I didn't mean to frighten you," said Ned Trent, in guarded tones.
"I heard you coming. I thought you could hear me."
He picked up the fallen articles, running his hands over them
"Good," he whispered. "I got some moccasins to-day--traded a few
things I had in my pockets for them. I'm fixed."
"Have you a canoe?" she asked.
"Yes--here on the beach."
He preceded her down the few remaining yards of the trail. She
followed, already desolated at the thought of parting, for the
wilderness was very big. The bulk of the man partly blotted out
the lucent spot where the river was--now his arm, now his head, now
the breadth of his shoulders. This silhouette of him was dear to
her, the sound of his movements, the faint stir of his breathing
borne to her on the light breeze. Virginia's tender heart almost
overflowed with longing and fear for him.
They emerged on a little slope and at once pushed the canoe into
She accepted the aid of his hand for a moment, and sank to her
place, facing him He spurned lightly the shore, and so they were
In a moment they seemed to be floating on a vast vapor of night,
infinitely remote from anywhere, surrounded by the silence that
might have been before the world's beginning. A faint splash could
have been a muskrat near at hand or a caribou far away. The paddle
rose and dipped with a faint _swish_, _swish_, and the steersman's
twist of it was taken up by the man's strong wrist so it did not
click against the gunwale; the bow of the craft divided the waters
with a murmuring so faint as to seem but the echo of a silence.
Neither spoke. Virginia watched him, her heart too full for words;
watched the full swing of his strong shoulders, the balance of his
body at the hips, the poise of his head against the dull sky. In a
moment more the parting would have to come. She dreaded it, and
yet she looked forward to it with a hungry joy. Then he would say
what she had seen in his eyes; then he would speak; then she would
hear the words that should comfort her in the days of waiting. For
a woman lives much for the present, and the moment's word is an
The man swung his paddle steadily, throwing into the strokes a
wanton exuberance that showed how high his spirits ran. After a
time, when they were well out from the shore, he took a deep breath
"Ah, you don't know how happy I am," he exulted, "you don't know!
To be free, to play the game, to match my wits against their--ah,
that is life!"
"I am sorry to see you go," she murmured, "very sorry. The days
will be full of terror until I know you are safe."
"Oh, yes," he answered: "but I'll get there, and I shall tell it
all to you at Quebec--at Quebec in August. It will he a brave
tale! You will be there--surely?"
"Yes," said the girl, softly; "I will be there--surely."
"Good! Feel the wind on your cheek? It is from the Southland,
where I am going. I have ventured--and I have not lost! It is
something not to lose, when one has ventured against many. They
have my goods--but I----"
"You?" repeated Virginia, as he hesitated.
"Ah, I don't go back empty-handed!" he tried. Her heart stood
still, then leaped in anticipation of what he would say. Her soul
hungered for the words, the words that should not only comfort her,
but should be to her the excuse for many things. She saw
him--shadowy, graceful against the dim gray of the river and
sky--lean ever so slightly toward her. But then he straightened
again to his paddle, and contented himself with repeating merely:
"Quebec--in August, then."
The canoe grated. Ned Trent with an exclamation drove his paddle
into the clay.
"Lucky the bottom is soft here," said he; "I did not realize we
were so close ashore."
He drew the canoe up on the shelving beach, helped Virginia out,
took his rifle, and so stood ready to depart.
"Leave the canoe just where we got in," he advised; "it is around
the point, you see, and that may fool them a. little."
"You are going." she said, dully. Then she came close to him and
looked up at him with her wonderful eyes. "Good-by."
"Good-by," said he.
Was this to be all? Had he nothing more to tell her? Was the word
to lack, the word she needed so much? She had given herself
unreservedly into this man's hands, and at parting he had no more
to say to her than "Good-by." Virginia's eyes were tearful, but
she would not let him know that. She felt that her heart would
"Well, good-by," he said again after a moment, which he had spent
inspecting the heavens. "Ah, you don't know what it is to be free!
By to-morrow morning I shall be half-way to the Mattagami. I can
hardly wait to see it, for then I am safe! And then nex; day--why,
next day they won't know which of a dozen ways I've gone!" He was
full of the future, man fashion.
He took her hands, leaned over, and lightly kissed her on the
mouth. Instantly Virginia became wildly and unreasonably angry.
She could not have told herself why, but it was the lack of the
word she had wanted so much, the pain of feeling that he could go
like that, the thwarted bitterness of a longing that had grown
stronger than she had even yet realized.
Instinctively she leaped into the canoe, sending it spinning from
"Ah, you had no _right_ to do that!" she cried. "I gave you no
Then, heedless of what he was saying, she began to paddle straight
from the shore, weeping bitterly, her face upraised, her hair in
her eyes, and the tears coursing unheeded down her cheeks.
Slower and slower her paddle dipped, lower and lower hung her head,
faster and faster flowed her tears. The instinctive recoil, the
passionate resentment had gone. In the bitterness of her spirit
she knew not what she thought except that she would give her soul
to see him again, to feel the touch of his lips once more. For she
could not make herself believe that this would ever come to pass.
He had gone like a phantom, like a dream, and the mists of life had
closed about him, showing no sign. He had vanished, and at once
she seemed to know that the episode was finished.
The canoe whispered against the soft clay bottom. She had arrived,
though how the crossing had been made she could not have told.
Slowly and sorrowfully she disembarked. Languidly she drew the
light craft beyond the stream's eager fingers. Then, her forces at
an end, she huddled down on the ground and gave herself up to
The life of the forest went on as though she were not there. A big
owl far off said hurriedly his _whoo-whoo-whoo_, as though he had
the message to deliver and wanted to finish the task. A smaller
owl near at hand cried _ko-ko-ko-oh_ with the intonation of a tin
horn. Across the river a lynx screamed, and was answered at once
by the ululations of wolves. On the island the _giddes_ howled
defiance. Then from above, clear, spiritual, floated the whistle
of shore birds arriving from the south. Close by sounded a rustle
of leaves, a sharp squeak; a tragedy had been consummated, and the
fierce little mink stared malevolently across the body of his
victim at the motionless figure on the beach.
Virginia, drowned in grief, knew of none of these things. She was
seeing again the clear brown face of the stranger, his curly brown
hair, his steel eyes, and the swing of his graceful figure. Now he
fronted the wondering _voyageurs_, one foot raised against the bow
of the _brigade_ canoe; now he stood straight and tall against the
light of the sitting-room door; now he emptied the vials of his
wrath and contempt on Archibald Crane's reverend head; now he
passed in the darkness, singing gayly the _chanson de canot_. But
more fondly she saw him as he swept his hat to the ground on
discovering her by the guns, as he bent his impassioned eyes on her
in the dim lamplight of their first interview, as he tossed his hat
aloft in the air when he had understood that she would be in
Quebec. She hugged the visions to her, and wept over them softly,
for she was now sure she would never see him again.
And she heard his voice, now laughing, now scornful, now mocking,
now indignant, now rich and solemn with feeling. He flouted the
people, he turned the shafts of his irony on her father, he scathed
the minister, he laughed at Louis Placide awakened from his sleep,
he sang, he told her of the land of desolation, he pleaded. She
could hear him calling her name--although he had never spoken
it--in low, tender tones, "Virginia! Virginia!" over and over again
softly, as though his soul were crying through his lips.
Then somehow, in a manner not to be comprehended, it was borne in
on her consciousness that he was indeed near her, and that he was
indeed calling her name. And at once she made him out, standing
dripping on the beach. A moment later she was in his arms.
"Ah!" he cried, in gladness; "you are here!"
He crushed her hungrily to him, unmindful of his wet clothes,
kissing her eyes, her cheeks, her lips, her chin, even the fragrant
corner of her throat exposed by the collar of her gown. She did
"Oh!" she murmured, "my dear, my dear! Why did you come back? Why
did you come?"
"Why did I come?" he repeated, passionately. "Why did I come? Can
you ask that? How could I help but come? You must have known I
would come. Surely you must have known! Didn't you hear me
calling you when you paddled away? I came to get the right. I
came to get your promise, your kisses, to hear you say the word, to
get you! I thought you understood. It was all so clear to me. I
thought you knew. That was why I was so glad to go, so eager to
get away that I could not even realize I was parting from you--so I
could the sooner reach Quebec--reach you! Don't you see how I
felt? All this present was merely something to get over, to pass
by, to put behind us until I got to Quebec in August--and you. I
looked forward so eagerly to that, I was so anxious to get away, I
was desirous of hastening on to the time when things could be
_sure_! Don't you understand?"
"Yes, I think I do," replied the girl, softly.
"And I thought of course you knew, I should not have kissed you
"How could I know?" she sighed. "You said nothing, and, oh! I
_wanted_ so to hear!"
And singularly enough he said nothing now, but they stood facing
each other hand in hand, while the great vibrant life they were now
touching so closely filled their hearts and eyes, and left them
faint. So they stood for hours or for seconds, they could not
tell, spirit-hushed, ecstatic. The girl realized that they must
"You must go," she whispered brokenly, at last. "I do not want you
to, but you must."
She smiled up at him with trembling lips that whispered to her soul
that she must be brave.
"Now go," she nerved herself to say, releasing her hands.
"Tell me," he commanded.
"What?" she asked.
"What I most want to hear."
"I can tell you many things," said she, soberly, "but I do not know
which of them you want to hear. Ah, Ned. I can tell you that you
have come into a girl's life to make her very happy and very much
afraid. And that is a solemn thing; is it not?"
"Yes," said he.
"And I can tell you that this can never be undone. That is a
solemn thing, too, is it not?"
"Yes," said he.
"And that, according as you treat her, this girl will believe or
not believe in the goodness of all men or the badness of all men.
Ah, Ned, a woman's heart is fragile, and mine is in your keeping."
Her face was raised bravely and steadily to his. In the starlight
it shone white and pathetic. And her eyes were two liquid wells of
darkness in the shadow, and her half-parted lips were wistful and
The man caught both her hands, again looking down on her. Then he
answered her, solemnly and humbly.
"Virginia," said he, "I am setting out on a perilous Journey. As I
deal with you, may God deal with me."
"Ah, that is as I like you," she breathed.
"Good-by," said he.
She raised her lips of her own accord, and he kissed them
"Good-by," she murmured.
He turned away with an effort and ran down the beach to the canoe.
"Good-by, good-by," she murmured, under her breath. "Ah, good-by!
I love you! Oh, I do love you!"
Then suddenly from the bushes leaped dark figures. The still night
was broken by the sound of a violent scuffle--blows--a fall. She
heard Ned Trent's voice calling to her from the _melee_.
"Go back at once!" he commanded, clearly and steadily. "You can do
no good. I order you to go home before they search the woods."
But she crouched in dazed terror, her pupils wide to the dim light.
She saw them bind him, and stand waiting; she saw a canoe glide out
of the darkness; she saw the occupants of the canoe disembark; she
saw them exhibit her little rifle, and heard them explain in Cree,
that they had followed the man swimming. Then she knew that the
cause was lost, and fled as swiftly as she could through the forest.
Galen Albret had chosen to interrogate his recaptured prisoner
alone. He sat again, in the arm-chair of the Council Room. The
place was flooded with sun. It touched the high-lights of the
time-darkened, rough furniture, it picked out the brasses, it
glorified the whitewashed walls. In its uncompromising
illumination Me-en-gan, the bows-man, standing straight and tall
and silent by the door, studied his master's face and knew him to
be deeply angered.
For Galen Albret was at this moment called upon to deal with a
problem more subtle than any with which his policy had been puzzled
in thirty years. It was bad enough that, in repeated defiance of
his authority, this stranger should persist in his attempt to break
the Company's monopoly; it was bad enough that he had, when
captured, borne himself with so impudent an air of assurance; it
was bad enough that he should have made open love to the Factor's
daughter, should have laughed scornfully in the Factor's very face.
But now the case had become grave. In some mysterious manner he
had succeeded in corrupting one of the Company's servants.
Treachery was therefore to be dealt with.
Some facts Galen Albret had well in hand. Others eluded him
persistently. He had, of course, known promptly enough of the
disappearance of a canoe, and had thereupon dispatched his Indians
to the recapture. The Reverend Archibald Crane had reported that
two figures had been seen in the act of leaving camp, one by the
river, the other by the Woods Trail. But here the Factor's
investigations encountered a check. The rifle brought in by his
Indians, to his bewilderment, he recognized not at all. His
repeated cross-questionings, when they touched on the question of
Ned Trent's companion, got no farther than the Cree wooden
stolidity. No, they had seen no one, neither presence, sign, nor
trail. But Galen Albret, versed in the psychology of his savage
allies, knew they lied. He suspected them of clan loyalty to one
of their own number; and yet they had never failed him before.
Now, his heavy revolver at his right hand, he interviewed Ned
Trent, alone, except for the Indian by the portal.
As with the Indians, his cross-examination had borne scant results.
The best of his questions but involved him in a maze of baffling
surmises. Gradually his anger had mounted, until now the Indian at
the door knew by the wax-like appearance of the more prominent
places on his deeply carved countenance that he had nearly reached
the point of outbreak.
Swiftly, like the play of rapiers, the questions and answers broke
across the still room.
"You had aid," the Factor asserted, positively.
"You think so?"
"My Indians say you were alone. But where did you get this rifle?"
"I stole it."
"You were alone?"
Ned Trent paused for a barely appreciable instant. It was not
possible that the Indians had failed to establish the girl's
presence, and he feared a trap. Then he caught the expressive eye
of Me-en-gan at the door. Evidently Virginia had friends.
"I was alone," he repeated, confidently.
"That is a lie. For though my Indians were deceived, two people
were observed by my clergyman to leave the Post immediately before
I sent out to your capture. One rounded the island in a canoe; the
other took the Woods Trail."
"Bully for the Church," replied Trent, imperturbably. "Better
promote him to your scouts."
"Who was that second person?"
"Do you think I will tell you?"
"I think I'll find means to make you tell me!" burst out the Factor.
Ned Trent was silent.
"If you'll tell me the name of that man I'll let you go free. I'll
give you a permit to trade in the country. It touches my
authority--my discipline. The affair becomes a precedent. It is
Ned Trent fixed his eyes on the bay and hummed a little air, half
turning his shoulder to the older man.
The latter's face blazed with suppressed fury. Twice his hand
rested almost convulsively on the butt of his heavy revolver.
"Ned Trent," he cried, harshly, at last, "pay attention to me.
I've had enough of this. I swear if you do not tell me what I want
to know within five minutes, I'll hang you to-day!"
The young man spun on his heel.
"Hanging!" he cried. "You cannot mean that?"
The Free Trader measured him up and down, saw that his purpose was
sincere, and turned slowly pale under the bronze of his out-of-door
tan. Hanging is always a dreadful death, but in the Far North it
carries an extra stigma of ignominy with it, inasmuch as it is
resorted to only with the basest malefactors. Shooting is the
usual form of execution for all but the most despicable crimes. He
turned away with a little gesture.
"Well!" cried Albret.
Ned Trent locked his lips in a purposeful straight line of silence.
To such an outrage there could be nothing to say. The Factor
jerked his watch to the table.
"I said five minutes," he repeated. "I mean it."
The young man leaned against the side at the window, his arms
folded, his back to the room. Outside, the varied life of the Post
went forward under his eyes. He even noted with a surface interest
the fact that out across the river a loon was floating, and
remarked that never before had he seen one of those birds so far
north. Galen Albret struck the table with the flat of his hand.
"Done!" he cried. "This is the last chance I shall give you.
Speak at this instant or accept the consequences!"
Ned Trent turned sharply, as though breaking a thread that bound
him to the distant prospect beyond the window. For an instant he
stared enigmatically at his opponent. Then in the sweetest tones,
"Oh, go to the devil!" said he, and began to walk deliberately
toward the older man.
There lay between the window and the head of the table perhaps a
dozen ordinary Steps, for the room was large. The young man took
them slowly, his eyes fixed with burning intensity on the seated
figure, the muscles of his locomotion contracting and relaxing with
the smooth, stealthy continuity of a cat. Galen Albret again laid
hand on his revolver.
"Come no nearer," he commanded.
Me-en-gan left the door and glided along the wall. But the table
intervened between him and the Free Trader.
The latter paid no attention to the Factor's command. Galen Albret
suddenly raised his weapon from the table.
"Stop, or I'll fire!" he cried, sharply.
"I mean just that." said Ned Trent between his clenched teeth.
But ten feet separated the two men. Galen Albret levelled the
revolver. Ned Trent, watchful, prepared to spring. Me-en-gan,
near the foot of the table, gathered himself for attack.
Then suddenly the Free Trader relaxed his muscles, straightened his
back, and returned deliberately to the window. Facing about in
astonishment to discover the reason for this sudden change of
decision, the other two men looked into the face of Virginia
Albret, standing in the doorway of the other room.
"Father!" she cried.
"You must go back," said Ned Trent speaking clearly and
collectedly, in the hope of imposing his will on her obvious
excitement. "This is not an affair in which you should interfere.
Galen Albret, send her away."
The Factor had turned squarely in his heavy arm-chair to regard the
girl, a frown on his brows.
"Virginia," he commanded, in deliberate, stern tones of authority,
"leave the room. You have nothing to do with this case, and I do
not desire your interference."
Virginia stepped bravely beyond the portals, and stopped. Her
fingers were nervously interlocked, her lip trembled, in her cheeks
the color came and went, but her eyes met her father's, unfaltering.
"I have more to do with it than you think." she replied.
Instantly Ned Trent was at the table. "I really think this has
gone far enough," he interposed. "We have had our interview and
come to a decision. Miss Albret must not be permitted to
exaggerate a slight sentiment of pity into an interest in my
affairs. If she knew that such a demonstration only made it worse
for me I am sure she would say no more." He looked at her
appealingly across the Factor's shoulder.
Me-en-gan was already holding open the door. "You come," he
But the Factor's suspicions were aroused.
"There is something in this," he decided. "I think you may stay,
"You are right," broke in the young man, desperately. "There is
something in it. Miss Albret knows who gave me the rifle, and she
was about to inform you of his identity. There is no need in
subjecting her to that distasteful ordeal. I am now ready to
confess to you. I beg you will ask her to leave the room."
Galen Albret, in the midst of these warring intentions, had sunk
into his customary impassive calm. The light had died from his
eyes, the expression from his face, the energy from his body. He
sat, an inert mass, void of initiative, his intelligence open to
what might be brought to his notice.
"Virginia, this is true?" his heavy, dead voice rumbled through his
beard. "You know who aided this man?"
Ned. Trent mutely appealed to her: her glance answered his.
"Yes, father," she replied.
A dead silence fell on the room. Galen Albret's expression and
attitude did not change. Through dull, lifeless eyes, from behind
the heavy mask of his waxen face and white beard, he looked
steadily out upon nothing. Along either arm of the chair stretched
his own arms limp and heavy with inertia. In suspense the other
three inmates of the place watched him, waiting for some change.
It did not come. Finally his lips moved.
"You?" he muttered, questioningly,
"I," she repeated
Another silence fell.
"Why?" he asked at last.
"Because it was an unjust thing. Because we could not think of
taking a life in that way, without some reason for it."
"Why?" he persisted, taking no account of her reply.
Virginia let her gaze slowly rest on the Free Trader, and her eyes
filled with a world of tenderness and trust.
"Because I love him," said she, softly.
After an instant Galen Albret turned slowly his massive head and
looked at her. He made no other movement, yet she staggered back
as though she had received a violent blow on the chest.
"Father!" she gasped.
Still slowly, gropingly, he arose to his feet, holding tight to the
edge of the table. Behind him unheeded the rough-built armchair
crashed to the floor. He stood there upright and motionless,
looking straight before him, his face formidable. At first his
speech was disjointed. The words came in widely punctuated gasps.
Then, as the wave of his emotion rolled back from the poise into
which the first shock of anger had thrown it, it escaped through
his lips in a constantly increasing stream of bitter words.
"You--you love him," he cried. "You--my daughter! You have been--a
traitor--to me! You have dared--dared--deny that which my whole
life has affirmed! My own flesh and blood--when I thought the
nearest _metis_ of them all more loyal! You love this man--this
man who has insulted me, mocked me! You have taken his part
against me! You have deliberately placed yourself in the class of
those I would hang for such an offence! If you were not my
daughter I would hang you. Hang my own child!" Suddenly his rage
flared. "You little fool! Do you dare set your judgment against
mine? Do you dare interfere where I think well? Do you dare deny
my will? By the eternal, I'll show you, old as you are, that you
have still a father! Get to your room! Out of my sight!" He took
two steps forward, and so his eye fell on Ned Trent. He uttered a
scream of rage, and reached for the pistol. Fortunately the
abruptness of his movement when he arose had knocked it to the
floor, so now in the blindness of a red anger he could not see it.
He shrieked out an epithet and jumped forward, his arm drawn to
strike. Ned Trent leaped back into an attitude of defence.
All three of those present had many times seen Galen Albret
possessed by his noted fits of anger, so striking in contrast to
his ordinary contained passivity. But always, though evidently in
a white heat of rage and given to violent action and decision, he
had retained the clearest command of his faculties, issuing
coherent and dreaded orders to those about him. Now he bad become
a raging wild beast. And for the spectators the sight had all the
horror of the unprecedented.
But the younger man, too, had gradually heated to the point where
his ordinary careless indifference could give off sparks. The
interview had been baffling, the threats real and unjust, the turn
of affairs when Virginia Albret entered the room most exasperating
on the side of the undesirable and unforeseen. In foiled escape,
in thwarted expedient, his emotions had been many times excited,
and then eddied back on themselves. The potentialities of as blind
an anger as that of Galen Albret were in him. It only needed a
touch to loose the flood. The physical threat of a blow supplied
that touch. As the two men faced each other both were ripe for the
extreme of recklessness.
But while Galen Albret looked to nothing less than murder, the
Free-Trader's individual genius turned to dead defiance and
resistance of will. While Galen Albret's countenance reflected the
height of passion, Trent was as smiling and cool and debonair as
though he had at that moment received from the older man an
extraordinary and particular favor. Only his eyes shot a baleful
blue flame, and his words, calmly enough delivered, showed the
extent to which his passion had cast policy to the winds.
"Don't go too far! I warn you!" said he. As though the words had
projected him bodily forward, Galen Albret sprang to deliver his
blow. The Free Trader ducked rapidly, threw his shoulder across
the middle of the older man's body, and by the very superiority of
his position forced his antagonist to give ground. That the
struggle would have then continued body to body there can be no
doubt, had it not been for the fact that the Factor's retrogressive
movement brought his knees sharply against the edge of a chair
standing near the side of the table. Albret lost his balance,
wavered, and finally sat down violently. Ned Trent promptly pinned
him by the shoulder into powerless immobility. Me-en-gan had
possessed himself of the fallen pistol, but beyond keeping a
generally wary eye out for dangerous developments, did not offer to
interfere. Your Indian is in such a crisis a disciplinarian, and
he had received no orders.
"Now," said Ned Trent, acidly, "I think this will stop right here.
You do not cut a very good figure, my dear sir," he laughed a
little. "You haven't cut a very good figure from the beginning,
you know. You forbade me to do various things, and I have done
them all. I traded with your Indians. I came and went in your
country. Do you think I have not been here often before I was
caught? And you forbade me to see your daughter again. I saw her
that very evening, and the next morning and the next evening."
He stood, still holding Galen Albret immovably in the chair,
looking steadily and angrily into the leader's eyes, driving each
word home with the weight of his contained passion. The girl
touched his arm.
"Hush! oh, hush!" she cried in a panic. "Do not anger him further!"
"When you forbade me to make love to her," he continued, unheeding,
"I laughed at you." With a sudden, swift motion of his left arm he
drew her to him and touched her forehead with his lips. "Look!
Your commands have been rather ridiculous, sir. I seem to have had
the upper hand of you from first to last. Incidentally you have my
life. Oh, welcome! That is small pay and little satisfaction."
He threw himself from the Factor and stepped back.
Galen Albret sat still without attempting to renew the struggle.
The enforced few moments of inaction had restored to him his
self-control. He was still deeply angered, but the insanity of
rage had left him. Outwardly he was himself again. Only a rapid
heaving of his chest answered Ned Trent's quick breathing, as the
two men glared defiantly at each other in the pause that followed.
"Very well, sir," said the Factor, curtly, at last. "Your time is
over. I find it unnecessary to hang you. You will start, on your
_Longue Traverse_ to-day."
"Oh!" cried Virginia, in a low voice of agony, and fluttered to her
"Hush! hush!" he soothed her. "There is a chance."
"You think so?" broke in Galen Albret, harshly. And looking at his
set face and blazing eyes, they saw that there was no chance. The
Free Trader shrugged his shoulders.
"You are going to do this thing, father," appealed Virginia, "after
what I have told you?"
"My mind is made up."
"I shall not survive him, father!" she threatened, in a low voice.
Then, as the Factor did not respond, "Do not misunderstand me. I
do not intend to survive him."
"Silence! silence! silence!" cried Galen Albret, in a crescendo
outburst. "Silence! I will not be gainsaid! You have made your
choice! You are no longer a daughter of mine!"
"Father!" cried Virginia, faintly, her lips going pale.
"Don't speak to me! Don't look at me! Get out of here! Get out
of the place! I won't have you here another day--another hour!
The girl hesitated for a moment, then ran to him, sinking on her
knees, and clasping his hand.
"Father," she pleaded, "you are not yourself. This has been very
trying to you. To-morrow you will be sorry. But then it will be
too late. Think, while there is yet time. He has not committed a
crime. You yourself told me he was a man of intelligence and
daring--a gentleman; and surely, though he has been hasty, he has
acted with a brave spirit through it all. See, he will promise you
to go away quietly, to say nothing of all this, never to come into
this country again without your permission. He will do this if I
ask him, for he loves me. Look at me, father. Are you going to
treat your little girl so--your Virginia? You have never refused
me anything before. And this is the greatest thing in all my
life." She held his hand to her cheek and stroked it, murmuring
little feminine, caressing phrases, secure in her power of
witchery, which had never failed her before. The sound of her own
voice reassured her, the quietude of the man she pleaded with. A
lifetime of petting, of indulgence, threw its soothing influence
over her perturbation, convincing her that somehow all this storm
and stress must be phantasmagoric--a dream from which she was even
now awakening into a clearer day of happiness. "For you love me,
father," she concluded, and looked up daintily, with a pathetic,
coquettish tilt of her fair head, to peer into his face.
Galen Albret snarled like a wild beast, throwing aside the girl, as
he did the chair in which he had been sitting. Ned Trent caught
her, reeling, in his arms.
For as is often the case with passionate but strong temperaments,
though the Factor had attained a certain calm of control, the
turmoil of his deeper anger had not been in the least stilled.
Over it a crust of determination had formed--the determination to
make an end by the directest means in his autocratic power of this
galling opposition. The girl's pleading, instead of appealing to
him, had in reality but stirred his fury the more profoundly. It
had added a new fuel element to the fire. Heretofore his
consciousness had felt merely the thwarting of his pride, his
authority, his right to loyalty. Now his daughter's entreaty
brought home to him the bitter realization that he had been
attained on another side--that of his family affection. This man
had also killed for him his only child. For the child had
renounced him, had thrust him outside herself into the lonely and
ruined temple of his pride. At the first thought his face twisted
with emotion, then hardened to cold malice.
"Love you!" he cried. "Love you! An unnatural child! An ingrate!
One who turns from me so lightly!" He laughed bitterly, eyeing her
with chilling scrutiny. "You dare recall my love for you!"
Suddenly he stood upright, levelling a heavy, trembling arm at her.
"You think an appeal to my love will save him! Fool!"
Virginia's breath caught in her throat. She straightened, clutched
the neckband of her gown. Then her head fell slowly forward. She
had fainted in her lover's arms.
They stood exactly so for an appreciable interval, bewildered by
the suddenness of this outcome; Galen Albret's hand outstretched in
denunciation; the girl like a broken lily, supported in the young
man's arms; he searching her face passionately for a sign of life;
Me-en-gan, straight and sorrowful, again at the door.
Then the old man's arm dropped slowly, His gaze wavered. The lines
of his face relaxed. Twice he made an effort to turn away. All at
once his stubborn spirit broke; he uttered a cry, and sprang
forward to snatch the unconscious form hungrily into his bear
clasp, searching the girl's face, muttering incoherent things.
"Quick!" he cried, aloud, the guttural sounds jostling one another
in his throat. "Get Wishkobun, quick!"
Ned Trent looked at him with steady scorn, his arms folded.
"Ah!" he dropped distinctly in deliberate monosyllables across the
surcharged atmosphere of the scene. "So it seems you have found
your heart, my friend!"
Galen Albret glared wildly at him over the girl's fair head.
"She is my daughter," he mumbled.
They carried the unconscious girl into the dim-lighted apartment of
the curtained windows, and laid her on the divan. Wishkobun,
hastily summoned, unfastened the girl's dress at the throat.
"It is a faint," she announced in her own tongue. "She will
recover in a few minutes; I will get some water."
Ned Trent wiped the moisture from his forehead with his
handkerchief. The danger he had undergone coolly, but this
overcame his iron self-control. Galen Albret, like an anxious
bear, weaved back and forth the length of the couch. In him the
rumble of the storm was but just echoing into distance.
"Go into the next room," he growled at the Free Trader, when
finally he noticed the latter's presence.
Ned Trent hesitated.
"Go, I say!" snarled the Factor. "You can do nothing here." He
followed the young man to the door, which he closed with his own
hand, and then turned back to the couch on which his daughter lay.
In the middle of the floor his foot clicked on some small object.
Mechanically lie picked it up.
It proved to be a little silver match-safe of the sort universally
used in the Far North. Evidently the Free Trader had nipped it
from his pocket with his handkerchief, The Factor was about to
thrust it into his own pocket, when his eye caught lettering
roughly carved across one side. Still mechanically, he examined it
more closely, The lettering was that of a man's name. The man's
name was Graehme Stewart.
Without thinking of what he did, he dropped the object on the small
table, and returned anxiously to the girl's side, cursing the
tardiness of the Indian woman. But in a moment Wishkobun returned.
"Will she recover?" asked the Factor, distracted at the woman's
The latter smiled her indulgent, slow smile. "But surely," she
assured him in her own tongue, "it is no more than if she cut her
finger. In a few breaths she will recover. Now I will go to the
house of the Cockburn for a morsel of the sweet wood [camphor]
which she must smell." She looked her inquiry for permission.
"Sagaamig--go," assented Albret.
Relieved in mind, he dropped into a chair. His eye caught the
little silver match-safe, He picked it up and fell to staring at
the rudely carved letters.
He found that he was alone with his daughter--and the thoughts
aroused by the dozen letters of a man's name.
All his life long he had been a hard man. His commands had been
autocratic; his anger formidable; his punishments severe, and
sometimes cruel. The quality of mercy was with him tenuous and
weak. He knew this, and if he did not exactly glory in it, he was
at least indifferent to its effect on his reputation with others.
But always he had been just. The victims of his displeasure might
complain that his retributive measures were harsh, that his
forgiveness could not be evoked by even the most extenuating of
circumstances, but not that his anger had ever been baseless or the
punishment undeserved. Thus he had held always his own
self-respect, and from his self-respect had proceeded his iron and
So in the case of the young man with whom now his thoughts were
occupied. Twice he had warned him from the country without the
punishment which the third attempt rendered imperative. The events
succeeding his arrival at Conjuror's House warmed the Factor's
anger to the heat of almost preposterous retribution perhaps--for
after all a man's life is worth something, even in the wilds--but
it was actually retribution, and not merely a ruthless proof of
power. It might be justice as only the Factor saw it, but it was
still essentially justice--in the broader sense that to each act
had followed a definite consequence. Although another might have
condemned his conduct as unnecessarily harsh, Galen Albret's
conscience was satisfied and at rest.
Nor had his resolution been permanently affected by either the
girl's threat to make away with herself or by his momentary
softening when she had fainted. The affair was thereby
complicated, but that was all. In the sincerity of the threat he
recognized his own iron nature, and was perhaps a little pleased at
its manifestation. He knew she intended to fulfil her promise not
to survive her lover, but at the moment this did not reach his
fears; it only aroused further his dogged opposition.
The Free Trader's speech as he left the room, however, had touched
the one flaw in Galen Albret's confidence of righteousness.
Wearied with the struggles and the passions he had undergone, his
brain numbed, his will for the moment in abeyance, he seated
himself and contemplated the images those two words had called up.
Graehme Stewart! That man he had first met at Fort Rae over twenty
years ago. It was but just after he had married Virginia's mother.
At once his imagination, with the keen pictorial power of those who
have dwelt long in the Silent Places, brought forward the other
scene--that of his wooing. He had driven his dogs into Fort la
Cloche after a hard day's run in seventy-five degrees of frost.
Weary, hungry, half-frozen, he had staggered into the fire-lit
room. Against the blaze he had caught for a moment a young girl's
profile, lost as she turned her face toward him in startled
question of his entrance. Men had cared for his dogs. The girl
had brought him hot tea. In the corner of the fire they two had
whispered one to the other--the already grizzled traveller of the
silent land, the fresh, brave north-maiden. At midnight, their
parkas drawn close about their faces in the fearful cold, they had
met outside the inclosure of the Post. An hour later they were
away under the aurora for Qu'Apelle. Galen Albret's nostrils
expanded as he heard the _crack, crack, crack_ of the remorseless
dog-whip whose sting drew him away from the vain pursuit. After
the marriage at Qu'Apelle they had gone a weary journey to Rae, and
there he had first seen Graehme Stewart.
Fort Rae is on the northwestward arm of the Great Slave Lake in the
country of the Dog Ribs, only four degrees under the Arctic Circle.
It is a dreary spot, for the Barren Grounds are near. Men see only
the great lake, the great sky, the great gray country. They become
moody, fanciful. In the face of the silence they have little to
say. At Port Rae were old Jock Wilson, the Chief Trader; Father
Bonat, the priest; Andrew Levoy, the _metis_ clerk; four Dog Rib
teepees; Galen Albret and his bride; and Graehme Stewart.
Jock Wilson was sixty-five; Father Bonat had no age; Andrew Levoy
possessed the years of dour silence. Only Graehme Stewart and
Elodie, bride of Albret, were young. In the great gray country
their lives were like spots of color on a mist. Galen Albret
finally became jealous.
At first there was nothing to be done, but finally Levoy brought to
the older man proof of the younger's guilt. The harsh traveller
bowed his head and wept. But since he loved Elodie more than
himself--which was perhaps the only redeeming feature of this sorry
business--he said nothing, nor did more than to journey south to
Edmonton, leaving the younger man alone in Fort Rae to the White
Silence. But his soul was stirred.
In the course of nature and of time Galen Albret had a daughter,
but lost a wife. It was no longer necessary for him to leave his
wrong unavenged. Then began a series of baffling hindrances which
resulted finally in his stooping to means repugnant to his open
sense of what was due himself. At the first he could not travel to
his enemy because of the child in his care; when finally he had
succeeded in placing the little girl where he would be satisfied to
leave her, he himself was suddenly and peremptorily called east to
take a post in Rupert's Land. He could not disobey and remain in
the Company, and the Company was more to him than life or revenue.
The little girl he left in Sacre Coeur of Quebec; he himself took
up his residence in the Hudson Bay country. After a few years,
becoming lonely for his own flesh and blood, he sent for his
daughter. There, as Factor, he gained a vast power, and this power
he turned into the channels of his hatred. Graehme Stewart felt
always against him the hand of influence. His posts in the
Company's service became intolerable. At length, in indignation
against continued injustice, oppression, and insult, he resigned,
broken in fortune and in prospects. He became one of the earliest
Free Traders on the Saskatchewan, devoting his energies to enraged
opposition of the Company which had wronged him. In the space of
three short years he had met a violent and striking death; for the
early days of the Free Trader were adventurous. Galen Albret's
revenge had struck home.
Then in after years the Factor had again met with Andrew Levoy.
The man staggered into Conjuror's House late at night, He had
started from Winnipeg to descend the Albany River, but had met with
mishap and starvation. One by one his dogs had died. In some
blind fashion he pushed on for days after his strength and sanity
had left him. Mu-hi-kun had brought him in. His toes and fingers
had frozen and dropped off; his face was a mask of black
frost-bitten flesh, in which deep fissures opened to the raw. He
had gone snow-blind. Scarcely was he recognizable as a human being.
From such a man in extremity could come nothing but the truth, so
Galen Albret believed him. Before Andrew Levoy died that night he
told of his deceit. The Factor left the room with the weight of a
crime on his conscience. For Graehme Stewart had been innocent of
any wrong toward him or his bride.
Such was the story Galen Albret saw in the little silver match-box.
That was the one flaw in his consciousness of righteousness; the
one instance in a long career when his ruthless acts of punishment
or reprisal had not rested on rigid justice, and by the irony of
fate the one instance had touched him very near. Now here before
him was his enemy's son--he wondered that he had not discovered the
resemblance before--and he was about to visit on him the severest
punishment in his power. Was not this an opportunity vouchsafed
him to repair his ancient fault, to cleanse his conscience of the
one sin of the kind it would acknowledge?
But then over him swept the same blur of jealousy that had resulted
in Graehme Stewart's undoing. This youth wooed his daughter; he
had won her affections away. Strangely enough Galen Albret
confused the new and the old; again youth cleaved to youth, leaving
age apart. Age felt fiercely the desire to maintain its own. The
Factor crushed the silver match-box between his great palms and
looked up. His daughter lay before him, still, lifeless.
Deliberately he rested his chin on his hands and contemplated her.
The room, as always, was full of contrast; shafts of light,
dust-moted, bewildering, crossed from the embrasured windows,
throwing high-lights into prominence and shadows into impenetrable
darkness. They rendered the gray-clad figure of the girl vague and
ethereal, like a mist above a stream; they darkened the dull-hued
couch on which she rested into a liquid, impalpable black; they
hazed the draped background of the corner into a far-reaching
distance; so that finally to Galen Albret, staring with hypnotic
intensity, it came to seem that he looked upon a pure and
disembodied spirit sleeping sweetly--cradled on illimitable space.
The ordinary and familiar surroundings all disappeared. His
consciousness accepted nothing but the cameo profile of marble
white, the nimbus of golden haze about the head, the mist-like
suggestion of a body, and again the clear marble spot of the hands.
All else was a background of modulated depths.
So gradually the old man's spirit, wearied by the stress of the
last hour, turned in on itself and began to create. The cameo
profile, the mist-like body, the marble hands remained; but now
Galen Albret saw other things as well. A dim, rare perfume was
wafted from some unseen space; indistinct flashes of light spotted
the darknesses; faint swells of music lifted the silence
intermittently. These things were small and still, and under the
external consciousness--like the voices one may hear beneath the
roar of a tumbling rapid--but gradually they defined themselves.
The perfume came to Galen Albret's nostrils on the wings of
incensed smoke; the flashes of light steadied to the ovals of
candle flames; the faint swells of music blended into
grand-breathed organ chords. He felt about him the dim awe of the
church, he saw the tapers burning at head and foot, the clear, calm
face of the dead, smiling faintly that at last it should be no more
disturbed. So had he looked all one night and all one day in the
long time ago. The Factor stretched his arms out to the figure on
the couch, but he called upon his wife, gone these twenty years.
"Elodie! Elodie!" he murmured, softly. She had never known it,
thank God, but he had wronged her too. In all sorrow and sweet
heavenly pity he had believed that her youth had turned to the
youth of the other man. It had not been so. Did be not owe her,
too, some reparation?
As though in answer to his appeal, or perhaps that merely the sound
of a human voice had broken the last shreds of her swoon, the girl
moved slightly. Galen Albret did not stir. Slowly Virginia turned
her head, until finally her wandering eyes met his, fixed on her
with passionate intensity. For a moment she stared at him, then
comprehension came to her along with memory. She cried out, and sat
upright in one violent motion.
"He! He!" she cried. "Is he gone?"
Instantly Galen Albret had her in his arms.
"It is all right," he soothed, drawing her close to his great
breast. "All right. You are my own little girl."
For perhaps ten minutes Ned Trent lingered near the door of the
Council Room until he had assured himself that Virginia was in no
serious danger. Then he began to pace the room examining minutely
the various objects that ornamented it. He paused longest at the
full length portrait of Sir George Simpson, the Company's great
traveller, with his mild blue eyes, his kindly face, denying the
potency of his official frown, his snowy hair and whiskers. The
painted man and the real man looked at each, other inquiringly.
The latter shook his head. "You travelled the wild country far,"
said he, thoughtfully. "You knew many men of many lands. And
wherever you went they tell me you made friends. And yet, as you
embodied this Company to all these people, and so made for the
fanatical loyalty that is destroying me, I suppose you and I are
enemies!" He shrugged his shoulders whimsically and turned away.
Thence he cast a fleeting glance out the window at the long reach
of the Moose and the blue bay gleaming in the distance. He tried
the outside door. It was locked. Taken with a new idea he
proceeded at once to the third door of the apartment. It opened.
He found himself in a small and much-littered room containing a
desk, two chairs, a vast quantity of papers, a stuffed bird or so,
and a row of account-books. Evidently the Factor's private office,
Ned Trent returned to the main room and listened intently for
several minutes. After that he ran back to the office and began
hastily to open and rummage, one after another, the drawers of the
desk. He discovered and concealed several bits of string, a
desk-knife, and a box of matches. Then he uttered a guarded
exclamation of delight. He had found a small revolver, and with it
part of a box of cartridges.
"A chance!" he exulted: "a chance!"
The game would be desperate. He would be forced first of all to
seek out and kill the men detailed to shadow him--a toy revolver
against rifles; white man against trained savages. And after that
he would have, with the cartridges remaining, to assure his
subsistence. Still it was a chance.
He closed the drawers and the door, and resumed his seat in the
arm-chair by the council table.
For over an hour thereafter he awaited the next move in the game.
He was already swinging up the pendulum arc. The case did not
appear utterly hopeless. He resolved, through Me-en-gan, whom he
divined as a friend of the girl's, to smuggle a message to Virginia
bidding her hope. Already his imagination had conducted him to
Quebec, when in August he would search her out and make her his own.
Soon one of the Indian servants entered the room for the purpose of
conducting him to a smaller apartment, where he was left alone for
some time longer. Food was brought him. He ate heartily, for he
considered that wise. Then at last the summons for which he had
been so long in readiness. Me-en-gan himself entered the room, and
motioned him to follow.
Ned Trent had already prepared his message on the back of an
envelope, writing ft with the lead of a cartridge. He now pressed
the bit of paper into the Indian's palm.
"For O-mi-mi," he explained.
Me-en-gan, bored him through with his bead-like eyes of the surface
"Nin nissitotam," he agreed after a moment.
He led the way. Ned Trent followed through the narrow, uncarpeted
hall with the faded photograph of Westminster, down the crooked
steep stairs with the creaking degrees, and finally into the
Council Room once more, with its heavy rafters, its two fireplaces,
its long table, and its narrow windows,
"Beka--wait!" commanded Me-en-gan, and left him.
Ned Trent had supposed he was being conducted to the canoe which
should bear him on the first stage of his long journey, but now he
seemed condemned again to take up the wearing uncertainty of
inaction. The interval was not long, however. Almost immediately
the other door opened and the Factor entered.