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.