Then her arms dropped, her eyes widened, her head bent forward in the attitude of listening.
“Achille!” she called. “Achille! Come here!”
The young fellow approached respectfully.
“Mademoiselle?” he asked.
“Don’t you hear?” she said.
Faint, between intermittent silences, came the singing of men’s voices from the south.
“Grace a Dieu!” cried Achille. “Eet is so. Eet is dat brigade!”
He ran shouting toward the factory.
Men, women, dogs, children sprang into sight from nowhere, and ran pell-mell to the two cannon. Galen Albret, reappearing from the factory, began to issue orders. Two men set about hoisting on the tall flag-staff the blood-red banner of the Company. Speculation, excited and earnest, arose among the men as to which of the branches of the Moose this brigade had hunted—the Abitibi, the Mattagami, or the Missinaibie. The half-breed women shaded their eyes. Mrs. Cockburn, the doctor’s wife, and the only other white woman in the settlement, came and stood by Virginia Albret’s side. Wishkobun, the Ojibway woman from the south country, and Virginia’s devoted familiar, took her half-jealous stand on the other.
“It is the same every year. We always like to see them come,” said Mrs. Cockburn, in her monotonous low voice of resignation.
“Yes,” replied Virginia, moving a little impatiently, for she anticipated eagerly the picturesque coming of these men of the Silent Places, and wished to savor the pleasure undistracted.
“Mi-di-mo-yay ka’-win-ni-shi-shin,” said Wishkobun, quietly.
“Ae,” replied Virginia, with a little laugh, patting the woman’s brown hand.
A shout arose. Around the bend shot a canoe. At once every paddle in it was raised to a perpendicular salute, then all together dashed into the water with the full strength of the voyageurs wielding them. The canoe fairly leaped through the cloud of spray. Another rounded the bend, another double row of paddles flashed in the sunlight, another crew broke into a tumult of rapid exertion as they raced the last quarter mile of the long journey. A third burst into view, a fourth, a fifth. The silent river was alive with motion, glittering with color. The canoes swept onward, like race-horses straining against the rider. Now the spectators could make out plainly the boatmen. It could be seen that they had decked themselves out for the occasion. Their heads were bound with bright-colored fillets, their necks with gay scarves. The paddles were adorned with gaudy woollen streamers. New leggings, of holiday pattern, were intermittently visible on the bowsmen and steersmen as they half rose to give added force to their efforts.