“All right,” agreed Ned Trent, indifferently.
“My daughter you will take to Sacre Coeur at Quebec.”
“Virginia!” cried the young man.
“I am sending her to Quebec. I had not intended doing so until July, but the matters from Rupert’s House make it imperative now.”
“Virginia goes with me?”
“You consent? You——”
“Young man,” said Galen Albret, not unkindly, “I give my daughter in your charge; that is all. You must take her to Sacre Coeur. And you must be patient. Next year I shall resign, for I am getting old, and then we shall see. That is all I can tell you now.”
He arose abruptly.
“Come,” said he, “they are waiting.”
They threw wide the door and stepped out into the open. A breeze from the north brought a draught of air like cold water in its refreshment. The waters of the North sparkled and tossed in the silvery sun. Ned Trent threw his arms wide in the physical delight of a new freedom.
But his companion was already descending the steps. He followed across the square grass plot to the two bronze guns. A noise of peoples came down the breeze. In a moment he saw them—the varied multitude of the Post—gathered to speed the brigade on its distant journey.
The little beach was crowded with the Company’s people and with Indians, talking eagerly, moving hither and yon in a shifting kaleidoscope of brilliant color. Beyond the shore floated the long canoe, with its curving ends and its emblazonment of the five-pointed stars. Already its baggage was aboard, its crew in place, ten men in whose caps slanted long, graceful feathers, which proved them boatmen of a factor. The women sat amidships.
When Galen Albret reached the edge of the plateau he stopped, and laid his hand on the young man’s arm. As yet they were unperceived. Then a single man caught sight of them. He spoke to another; the two informed still others. In an instant the bright colors were dotted with upturned faces.
“Listen,” said Galen Albret, in his resonant chest-tones of authority. “This is my son, and he must be obeyed. I give to him the command of this brigade. See to it.”
Without troubling himself further as to the crowd below, Galen Albret turned to his companion.
“I will say good-by,” said he, formally.
“Good-by,” replied Ned Trent.
“All is at peace between us?”
The Free Trader looked long into the man’s sad eyes. The hard, proud spirit, bowed in knightly expiation of its one fault, for the first time in a long life of command looked out in petition.
“All is at peace,” repeated Ned Trent.
They clasped hands. And Virginia, perceiving them so, threw them a wonderful smile.
Instantly the spell of inaction broke. The crowd recommenced its babel of jests, advices, and farewells. Ned Trent swung down the bank to the shore. The boatmen fixed the canoe on the very edge of floating free. Two of them lifted the young man aboard to a place on the furs by Virginia Albret’s side. At once the crowd pressed forward, filling up the empty spaces.