Here was a little world of itself, a small community of voyageurs, trappers, coureurs du bois, and a11 those that cast their lot in the wild places.
Adventurers from the Old World often passed through it on their way to the farther west, lured by the tales of dreamers who spoke of the Northwest Passage and the world that opened beyond the setting sun; renegades of the lakes and forest came for and found its ready hospitality, and into it came at all seasons those Indians whose skill and cunning accounted for so much of that great fur trade which made for wealth in the distant cities beyond the eastern sea.
Too small for a council, it gave allegiance wholly to its factor, young Anders McElroy, at whose right hand for sage advice and honest friendship stood that most admirable of men, Edmonton Ridgar, chief trader and anything else from accountant to armourer. Beneath them and in good command were some thirty able men whose families lived in the neat log cabins within the stockade.
With its back to the western wall there stood in the centre the factory itself, a good log building of somewhat spacious size; its big room, divided by a breast-high solid railing, with a small gate in the middle, serving as office and general receiving-place. Beyond the railing, in the smaller space toward the north, there stood the great wooden desk of the factor, its massive book of accounts always open on its face, its hand-made drawers filled with the documents of the Company. Here McElroy was wont to take account of the furs brought in, to distribute recompense, and to enforce the simple law. Attached to this room on the south was the great store-room, packed with those articles of merchandise most likely to seem of worth in savage eyes and brought, with such infinite labour by canoe and portage, from those favoured lower points whose waters admitted the yearly ships—namely, rifles and ammunition, knives of all sorts, bolts of bright cloth and beads of the colour of the rainbow, great iron kettles such as might hang most fittingly above an open fire, and bright woven garments made by hands across seas.
At the back of the big room was the small one where McElroy and Ridgar had their living, furnished scantily with a bed and table, an open fireplace and crane, some rude, hand-made chairs, and a shelf of books.
And to this post of De Seviere had come in the dusk of the previous night a little company of people.
They were tired and travel-stained, with their belongings in packs on the shoulders of the men, and the joy of the venturer in their eager faces.
From far down in the country below the Rainy River they had come, pushing to the west in that hope of gain and desire of travel which opens the wilderness of every land. They had met the factor at the great gate and entered in to rest and feast, as is the rule of every fire. By morning had come the leaders of the party to McElroy, and there had been talk that ended in an agreement, and the tired venturers had dropped their burden of progress.