Galen Albret sat in his rough-hewn armchair at the head of the table, receiving the reports of his captains. The long, narrow room opened before him, heavy raftered, massive, white, with a cavernous fireplace at either end. Above him frowned Sir George’s portrait, at his right hand and his left stretched the row of home-made heavy chairs, finished smooth and dull by two centuries of use.
His arms were laid along the arms of his seat; his shaggy head was sunk forward until his beard swept the curve of his big chest; the heavy tufts of hair above his eyes were drawn steadily together in a frown of attention. One after another the men arose and spoke. He made no movement, gave no sign, his short, powerful form blotted against the lighter silhouette of his chair, only his eyes and the white of his beard gleaming out of the dusk.
Kern of Old Brunswick House, Achard of New; Ki-wa-nee, the Indian of Flying Post—these and others told briefly of many things, each in his own language. To all Galen Albret listened in silence. Finally Louis Placide from the post at Kettle Portage got to his feet. He too reported of the trade,—so many “beaver” of tobacco, of powder, of lead, of pork, of flour, of tea, given in exchange; so many mink, otter, beaver, ermine, marten, and fisher pelts taken in return. Then he paused and went on at greater length in regard to the stranger, speaking evenly but with emphasis. When he had finished. Galen Albret struck a bell at his elbow. Me-en-gan, the bowsman of the factor’s canoe, entered, followed closely by the young man who had that afternoon arrived.
He was dressed still in his costume of the voyageur—the loose blouse shirt, the buckskin leggings and moccasins, the long tasselled red sash. His head was as high and his glance as free, but now the steel blue of his eye had become steady and wary, and two faint lines had traced themselves between his brows. At his entrance a hush of expectation fell. Galen Albret did not stir, but the others hitched nearer the long, narrow table, and two or three leaned both elbows on it the better to catch what should ensue.
Me-en-gan stopped by the door, but the stranger walked steadily the length of the room until he faced the Factor. Then he paused and waited collectedly for the other to speak.
This the Factor did not at once begin to do, but sat impassive—apparently without thought—while the heavy breathing of the men in the room marked off the seconds of time. Finally abruptly Galen Albret’s cavernous voice boomed forth. Something there was strangely mysterious, cryptic, in the virile tones issuing from a bulk so massive and inert. Galen Albret did not move, did not even raise the heavy-lidded, dull stare of his eyes to the young man who stood before him; hardly did his broad arched chest seem to rise and fall with the respiration of speech; and yet each separate word leaped forth alive, instinct with authority.