the edge of the muskegs, this brief flowering of the year passed. Again the nights werelong, again the frost crept down from the eternal snow, again the wolves howled acrossbarren wastes.Just now the girl stood ankle-deep in green grasses, a bath of sunlight falling about her, atingle of salt wind humming up the river from the bay's offing. She was clad in gray wool,and wore no hat. Her soft hair, the color of ripe wheat, blew about her temples, shadowingeyes of fathomless black. The wind had brought to the light and delicate brown of hercomplexion a trace of color to match her lips whose scarlet did not fade after the ordinaryand imperceptible manner into the tinge of her skin, but continued vivid to the very edge;her eyes were wide and unseeing. One hand rested idly on the breech of an ornamentedbronze field-gun.McDonald, the chief trader, passed from the house to the store where his bartering with theIndians was daily carried on; the other Scotchman in the Post, Galen Albret, her father, andthe head Factor of all this region, paced back and forth across the veranda of the factory,caressing his white beard; up by the stockade, young Achille Picard tuned his whistle to thenote of the curlew; across the meadow from the church wandered Crane, the little Church of England missionary, peering from short-sighted pale blue eyes; beyond the coulee, Sarnierand his Indians
away at the seams of the long coast-trading bateau.The girl saw nothing, heard nothing. She was dreaming, she was trying to remember.In the lines of her slight figure, in its pose there by the old gun over the old, old river, wasthe grace of gentle blood, the pride of caste. Of all this region her father was the absolutelord, feared, loved, obeyed by all its human creatures. When he went abroad, he travelled ina state almost mediaeval in its magnificence; when he stopped at home, men came to himfrom the Albany, the Kenogami, the Missinaibe, the Mattagami, the Abitibi--from all therivers of the North--to receive his commands. Way was made for him, his lightest word wasattended. In his house dwelt ceremony, and of his house she was the princess.Unconsciously she bad taken the gracious habit of command. She had come to value hersmile, her word; to value herself. The lady of a realm greater than the countries of Europe,she moved serene, pure, lofty amid dependants.And as the lady of this realm she did honor to her father's guests--sitting stately behind thebeautiful silver service, below the portrait of the Company's greatest explorer, Sir GeorgeSimpson, dispensing crude fare in gracious manner, listening silently to the conversation,finally withdrawing at the last with a sweeping courtesy to play soft, melancholy, and world-forgotten airs on the old piano, brought over years before by the
, while theguests made merry with the mellow port and ripe Manila cigars which the Company suppliedits servants. Then coffee, still with her natural Old World charm of the
. Suchguests were not many, nor came often. There was McTavish of Rupert's House, a threedays' journey to the northeast; Rand of Fort Albany, a week's travel to the northwest; Maultof Fort George, ten days beyond either, all grizzled in the Company's service. With themcame their clerks, mostly English and Scotch younger sons, with a vast respect for theCompany, and a vaster for their Factors daughter. Once in two or three years appeared theinspectors from Winnipeg, true lords of the North, with their six-fathom canoes, theirluxurious furs, their red banners trailing like gonfalons in the water. Then this post of Conjuror's House feasted and danced, undertook gay excursions, discussed in public orprivate conclave weighty matters, grave and reverend advices, cautions, and commands.They went. Desolation again crept in.