“I wish to see Miss Albret.”
A moment later Virginia entered the room.
“Let us have some tea, O-mi-mi,” requested her father.
The girl moved gently about, preparing and lighting the lamp, measuring the tea, her fair head bowed gracefully over her task, her dark eyes pensive and but half following what she did. Finally with a certain air of decision she seated herself on the arm of a chair.
“Father,” said she.
“A stranger came to-day with Louis Placide of Kettle Portage.”
“He was treated strangely by our people, and he treated them strangely in return. Why is that?”
“Who can tell?”
“What is his station? Is he a common trader? He does not look it.”
“He is a man of intelligence and daring.”
“Then why is he not our guest?”
Galen Albret did not answer. After a moment’s pause he asked again for his tea. The girl turned away impatiently. Here was a puzzle, neither the voyageurs, nor Wishkobun her nurse, nor her father would explain to her. The first had grinned stupidly; the second had drawn her shawl across her face, the third asked for tea!
She handed her father the cup, hesitated, then ventured to inquire whether she was forbidden to greet the stranger should the occasion arise.
“He is a gentleman,” replied her father.
She sipped her tea thoughtfully, her imagination stirring. Again her recollection lingered over the clear bronze lines of the stranger’s face. Something vaguely familiar seemed to touch her consciousness with ghostly fingers. She closed her eyes and tried to clutch them. At once they were withdrawn. And then again, when her attention wandered, they stole back, plucking appealingly at the hem of her recollections.
The room was heavy-curtained, deep embrasured, for the house, beneath its clap-boards, was of logs. Although out of doors the clear spring sunshine still flooded the valley of the Moose; within, the shadows had begun with velvet fingers to extinguish the brighter lights. Virginia threw herself back on a chair in the corner.
“Virginia,” said Galen Albret, suddenly,
“You are no longer a child, but a woman. Would you like to go to Quebec?”
She did not answer him at once, but pondered beneath close-knit brows.
“Do you wish me to go, father?” she asked at length.
“You are eighteen. It is time you saw the world, time you learned the ways of other people. But the journey is hard. I may not see you again for some years. You go among strangers.”
He fell silent again. Motionless he had been, except for the mumbling of his lips beneath his beard.
“It shall be just as you wish,” he added a moment later.
At once a conflict arose in the girl’s mind between her restless dreams and her affections. But beneath all the glitter of the question there was really nothing to take her out. Here was her father, here were the things she loved; yonder was novelty—and loneliness.