“I have profited by your advice—have learned much from what you have told me. I am under obligation to you. I appreciate your interest in—in my work, and am indeed grateful for what you have done to further it. But there are some things, I suppose, one must learn by experience. I may be silly and headstrong. I may be wrong. But I stand ready to pay the price. The loss will be mine. See!” she cried excitedly, “they are rolling up the logs for the store.”
“Yes,” answered the man gravely, “I bow to your wishes in the matter of your buildings. If you refuse to build a stockade we may erect a few more buildings—but as few as you can possibly manage with, Miss Elliston. I must hasten southward.”
Chloe studied for some moments. “The store”—she checked them off upon her fingers—“the schoolhouse, two bunkhouses, we can leave off the bathrooms, the river and the lake will serve until winter.”
Lapierre nodded, and the girl continued. “We can do without the laundry and the carpenter-shop, and the individual cabins. The Indians can set up their teepees in the clearing, and build the cabins and the other buildings later. But I would like a little cottage for myself, and Miss Penny, and Lena. We could make three rooms do. Can we have three rooms?”
Lapierre bowed low. “It shall be as you say,” he replied. “And now, if you will excuse me, I shall see to it that these canaille work. LeFroy they do not fear.”
He turned to go, and at that moment Chloe Elliston saw a look of terror flash into his eyes. Saw his fingers clutch and grope uncertainly at the gay scarf at his throat. Saw the muscles of his face work painfully. Saw his colour fade from rich tan to sickly yellow. An inarticulate, gurgling sound escaped his lips, and his eyes stared in horror toward a point beyond and behind her.
She turned swiftly and gazed into the face of a man who had approached unnoticed from the direction of the river, and stood a few paces distant with his eyes fixed upon her. As their glances met the man’s gaze continued unflinching, and the soft-brimmed Stetson remained on his head. Her slender fingers clenched into her palms and, unconsciously, her chin thrust forward—for she knew intuitively that the man was “Brute” MacNair.
Estimates are formed, in a far greater measure than most of us care to admit, upon first impressions. Manifestly shallow and embryonic though we admit them to be, our first impressions crystallize, in nine cases out of ten, into our fixed or permanent opinions. And, after all, the reason for this absurdity is simple—egotism.
Our opinions, based upon first impressions—and we rarely pause to analyse first impressions—have become our opinions, the result, as we fondly imagine, of our judgment. Our judgment must be right—because it is our judgment. Therefore, unconsciously or consciously, every subsequent impression is bent to bolster up and sustain that judgment. We hate to be wrong. We hate to admit, even to ourselves, that we are wrong.