“About your mother, I mean.”
The man nodded. “Yes. She was a good woman. My father told me of her often. He loved her.”
The simplicity of the man puzzled Chloe. She was at a loss to reply.
“I think—I believe—a moment ago, you asked my name.”
“Oh!” The lines about the girl’s mouth tightened. “Then I’ll tell you. I am Chloe Elliston—Miss Chloe Elliston. The name means nothing to you—now. A year hence it will mean much.”
“Aye, maybe. I’ll not say it won’t. More like, though, it will be forgot in half the time. The North has scant use for the passing whims o’ women!”
THE MASTER MIND
After the visit of MacNair, Chloe noticed a marked diminution in the anxiety of Lapierre to resume his interrupted journey. True, he drove the Indians mercilessly from daylight till dark in the erection of the buildings, but his air of tense expectancy was gone, and he ceased to dart short, quick glances into the North, and to scan the upper reach of the river.
The Indians, too, had changed. They toiled more stolidly now with apathetic ears for Lapierre’s urging, where before they had worked in feverish haste, with their eyes upon the edges of the clearing. It was obviously patent that the canoemen shared Lapierre’s fear and hatred of MacNair.
In the late afternoon of the twelfth day after the rolling of the first log into place, Chloe accompanied Lapierre upon a tour of inspection of the completed buildings. The man had done his work well. The school-house and the barracks with the dining-room and kitchen were comfortably and solidly built; entirely sufficient for present needs and requirements. But the girl wondered at the trading-post and its appendant store-house they were fully twice the size she would have considered necessary, and constructed as to withstand a siege. Lapierre had built a fort.
“Excellent buildings; and solid as the Rock of Gibraltar, Miss Elliston,” smiled the quarter-breed, as with a wave of his hand he indicated the interior of the trading-room.
“But, they are so big!” exclaimed the girl, as her glance swept the spacious fur lofts, and the ample areas for the storing of supplies. She was concerned only with the size of the buildings. But her wonder would have increased could she have seen the rows of loopholes that pierced the thick walls—loopholes crammed with moss against the cold, and with their openings concealed by cleverly fitted pieces of bark. Lapierre’s smile deepened.
“Remember, you told me you intend to sell to all alike, while your goods last. I know what that will mean. It will mean that you will find yourself called upon to furnish the supplies for the inhabitants of several thousand square miles of territory. Indians will travel far to obtain a bargain. They look only at the price—never at the quality of the goods. That fact enables us free-traders to live. We sell cheaper than the H.B.C.; but, frankly, our goods are cheaper. The bargains are much more apparent than real. But, if I understand your position, you intend to sell goods that are up to H.B.C. standard at actual cost?”