“Don’t go too far! I warn you!” said he. As though the words had projected him bodily forward, Galen Albret sprang to deliver his blow. The Free Trader ducked rapidly, threw his shoulder across the middle of the older man’s body, and by the very superiority of his position forced his antagonist to give ground. That the struggle would have then continued body to body there can be no doubt, had it not been for the fact that the Factor’s retrogressive movement brought his knees sharply against the edge of a chair standing near the side of the table. Albret lost his balance, wavered, and finally sat down violently. Ned Trent promptly pinned him by the shoulder into powerless immobility. Me-en-gan had possessed himself of the fallen pistol, but beyond keeping a generally wary eye out for dangerous developments, did not offer to interfere. Your Indian is in such a crisis a disciplinarian, and he had received no orders.
“Now,” said Ned Trent, acidly, “I think this will stop right here. You do not cut a very good figure, my dear sir,” he laughed a little. “You haven’t cut a very good figure from the beginning, you know. You forbade me to do various things, and I have done them all. I traded with your Indians. I came and went in your country. Do you think I have not been here often before I was caught? And you forbade me to see your daughter again. I saw her that very evening, and the next morning and the next evening.”
He stood, still holding Galen Albret immovably in the chair, looking steadily and angrily into the leader’s eyes, driving each word home with the weight of his contained passion. The girl touched his arm.
“Hush! oh, hush!” she cried in a panic. “Do not anger him further!”
“When you forbade me to make love to her,” he continued, unheeding, “I laughed at you.” With a sudden, swift motion of his left arm he drew her to him and touched her forehead with his lips. “Look! Your commands have been rather ridiculous, sir. I seem to have had the upper hand of you from first to last. Incidentally you have my life. Oh, welcome! That is small pay and little satisfaction.”
He threw himself from the Factor and stepped back.
Galen Albret sat still without attempting to renew the struggle. The enforced few moments of inaction had restored to him his self-control. He was still deeply angered, but the insanity of rage had left him. Outwardly he was himself again. Only a rapid heaving of his chest answered Ned Trent’s quick breathing, as the two men glared defiantly at each other in the pause that followed.
“Very well, sir,” said the Factor, curtly, at last. “Your time is over. I find it unnecessary to hang you. You will start, on your Longue Traverse to-day.”
“Oh!” cried Virginia, in a low voice of agony, and fluttered to her lover’s side.
“Hush! hush!” he soothed her. “There is a chance.”