“Once at Leftfoot Lake, two Indians caught you asleep,” he pronounced. “They took your pelts and arms, and escorted you to Sudbury. They were my Indians. Once on the upper Abitibi you were stopped by a man named Herbert, who warned you from the country, after relieving you of your entire outfit. He told you on parting what you might expect if you should repeat the attempt—severe measures, the severest. Herbert was my man. Now Louis Placide surprises you in a rapids near Kettle Portage and brings you here.”
During the slow delivering of these accurately spaced words, the attitude of the men about the long, narrow table gradually changed. Their curiosity had been great before, but now their intellectual interest was awakened, for these were facts of which Louis Placide’s statement had given no inkling. Before them, for the dealing, was a problem of the sort whose solution had earned for Galen Albret a reputation in the north country. They glanced at one another to obtain the sympathy of attention, then back toward their chief in anxious expectation of his next words. The stranger, however, remained unmoved. A faint smile had sketched the outline of his lips when first the Factor began to speak. This smile he maintained to the end. As the older man paused, he shrugged his shoulders.
“All of that is quite true.” he admitted. Even the unimaginative men of the Silent Places started at these simple words, and vouchsafed to their speaker a more sympathetic attention. For the tones in which they were delivered possessed that deep, rich throat timbre which so often means power—personal magnetism—deep, from the chest, with vibrant throat tones suggesting a volume of sound which may in fact be only hinted by the loudness the man at the moment sees fit to employ. Such a voice is a responsive instrument on which emotion and mood play wonderfully seductive strains.
“All of that is quite true,” he repeated after a second’s pause; “but what has it to do with me? Why am I stopped and sent out from the free forest? I am really curious to know your excuse.”
“This,” replied Galen Albret, weightily, “is my domain. I tolerate no rivalry here.”
“Your right?” demanded the young man, briefly.
“I have made the trade, and I intend to keep it.”
“In other words, the strength of your good right arm,” supplemented the stranger, with the faintest hint of a sneer.
“That is neither here nor there,” rejoined Galen Albret, “the point is that I intend to keep it. I’ve had you sent out, but you have been too stupid or too obstinate to take the hint. Now I have to warn you in person. I shall send you out once more, but this time you must promise me not to meddle with the trade again.”
He paused for a response. The young man’s smile merely became accentuated,
“I have means of making my wishes felt,” warned the Factor.