“Yes. At Fort Rae, and elsewhere. But I do not remember you.”
“I was brought up at Winnipeg,” the other explained.
“Once,” pursued Galen Albret, “I did your father a wrong, unintentionally, but nevertheless a great wrong. For that reason and others I am going to give you your life.”
“What wrong?” demanded Ned Trent, with dawning excitement.
“I forced him from the Company.”
“Yes, I. Proof was brought me that he had won from me my young wife. It could not be doubted. I could not kill him. Afterward the man who deceived me confessed. He is now dead.”
Ned Trent, gasping, rose slowly to his feet. One hand stole inside his jacket and clutched the butt of the little pistol.
“You did that,” he cried, hoarsely. “You tell me of it yourself? Do you wish to know the real reason for my coming into this country, why I have traded in defiance of the Company throughout the whole Far North? I have thought my father was persecuted by a body of men, and though I could not do much, still I have accomplished what I could to avenge him. Had I known that a single man had done this—and you are that man!”
He came a step nearer. Galen Albret regarded him steadily.
“If I had known this before, I should never have rested until I had hunted you down, until I had killed you, even in the midst of your own people!” cried the Free Trader at last.
Galen Albret drew his heavy revolver and laid it on the table.
“Do so now,” he said, quietly.
A pause fell on them, pregnant with possibility. The Free Trader dropped his head.
“No,” he groaned. “No, I cannot. She stands in the way!”
“So that, after all,” concluded the Factor, in a gentler tone than he had yet employed, “we two shall part peaceably. I have wronged you greatly, though without intention. Perhaps one balances the other. We will let it pass.”
“Yes,” agreed Ned Trent with an effort, “we will let it pass.”
They mused in silence, while the Factor drummed on the table with the stubby fingers of his right hand.
“I am dispatching to-day,” he announced curtly at length, “the Abitibi brigade. Matters of importance brought by runner from Rupert’s House force me to do so a month earlier than I had expected. I shall send you out with that brigade.”
“You will find your packs and arms in the canoe, quite intact.”
The Factor examined the young man’s face with some deliberation.
“You love my daughter truly?” he asked, quietly.
“Yes,” replied Ned Trent, also quietly.
“That is well, for she loves you. And,” went on the old man, throwing his massive head back proudly, “my people love well! I won her mother in a day, and nothing could stay us. God be thanked, you are a man and brave and clean. Enough of that! I place the brigade under your command! You must be responsible for it, for I am sending no other white—the crew are Indians and metis.”