“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 their day.
“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.