As she had said, she was very much shaken. And, too, she way afraid.
She could not understand. Heretofore she had moved among the men around her, pure, lofty, serene. Now at one blow all this crumbled. The stranger had outraged her finer feelings. He had insulted her father in her very presence;—for this she was angry. He had insulted herself;—for this she was afraid. He had demanded that she meet him again; but this—at least in the manner he had suggested—should not happen. And yet she confessed to herself a delicious wonder as to what he would do next, and a vague desire to see him again in order to find out. That she could not successfully combat this feeling made her angry at herself. And so in mingled fear, pride, anger, and longing she remained until Wishkobun, the Indian woman, glided in to dress her for the dinner whose formality she and her father consistently maintained. She fell to talking the soft Ojibway dialect, and in the conversation forgot some of her emotion and regained some of her calm.
Her surface thoughts, at least, were compelled for the moment to occupy themselves with other things. The Indian woman had to tell her of the silver fox brought in by Mu-hi-ken, an Indian of her own tribe; of the retort Achille Picard had made when MacLane had taunted him; of the forest fire that had declared itself far to the east, and of the theories to account for it where no campers had been. Yet underneath the rambling chatter Virginia was aware of something new in her consciousness, something delicious but as yet vague. In the gayest moment of her half-jesting, half-affectionate gossip with the Indian woman, she felt its uplift catching her breath from beneath, so that for the tiniest instant she would pause as though in readiness for some message which nevertheless delayed. A fresh delight in the present moment held her, a fresh anticipation of the immediate future, though both delight and anticipation were based on something without her knowledge. That would come later.
The sound of rapid footsteps echoed across the lower hall, a whistle ran into an air, sung gayly, with spirit;
“J’ai perdu ma maitresse,
Sans l’avoir merite,
Pour un bouquet de roses
Que je lui refusai.
Li ya longtemps que je t’aime,
Jamais je ne t’oublierai!”
She fell abruptly silent, and spoke no more until she descended to the council-room where the table was now spread for dinner.
Two silver candlesticks lit the place. The men were waiting for her when she entered, and at once took their seats in the worn, rude chairs. White linen and glittering silver adorned the service. Galen Albret occupied one end of the table, Virginia the other. On either side were Doctor and Mrs. Cockburn; McDonald, the Chief Trader; Richardson, the clerk, and Crane, the missionary of the Church of England. Matthews served with rigid precision in the order of importance, first the Factor, then Virginia, then the doctor, his wife, McDonald, the clerk, and Crane in due order. On entering a room the same precedence would have held good. Thus these people, six hundred miles as the crow flies from the nearest settlement, maintained their shadowy hold on civilization.