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A Mating in the Wilds by Ottwell Binns

Ainley with his face set like a flint


With

a grimace of disappointment he moved towards the store. As he did so a little burst of mellow laughter sounded, and turning swiftly he saw the man whom he was looking for round the corner of the warehouse accompanied by a girl, who laughed heartily at some remark of her companion. Stane halted in his tracks and looked at the pair who were perhaps a dozen yards or so away. The monocled Ainley could not but be aware of his presence, yet except that he kept his gaze resolutely averted, he gave no sign of being so. But the girl looked at him frankly, and as she did so, Hubert Stane looked back, and caught his breath, as he had reason to.

She was fair as an English rose, moulded in spacious lines like a daughter of the gods, with an aureole of glorious chestnut hair, shot with warm tints of gold and massed in simplicity about a queenly head. Her mouth was full, her chin was softly strong, her neck round and firm as that of a Grecian statue, and her eyes were bluey-grey as the mist of the northern woods. Fair she was, and strong--a true type of those women who, bred by the English meadows, have adventured with their men and made their homes in the waste places of the earth.

Her grey eyes met Stane's quite frankly, without falling, then turned nonchalantly to her companion, and Stane, watching, saw her speak, and as Ainley flashed a swift glance in his direction, and then replied with a shrug of his shoulders, he easily

divined that the girl had asked a question about himself. They passed him at half a dozen yards distance, Ainley with his face set like a flint, the girl with a scrutinizing sidelong glance that set the blood rioting in Stane's heart. He stood and watched them until they reached the wharf, saw them step into a canoe, and then, both of them paddling, they thrust out to the broad bosom of the river.

Not till then did he avert his gaze, and turn again to the store. The great man of the company was still talking to the half-breed, and the other half-breed had risen from his seat and was staring into the store. He looked round as Stane approached him.

"By gar," he said enthusiastically, "dat one very fine squaw-girl dere."

Stane looked forward through the open doorway, and standing near the long counter, watching a tall Indian bartering with the factor, saw the beautiful Indian girl from the neighbouring camp. He nodded an affirmative, and seeing an opportunity to obtain information turned and spoke to the man.

"Yes, but that girl there with Mr. Ainley----"

"Oui, m'sieu. But she no squaw-girl. She grand person who make' ze tour with ze governor."

"Oh, the governor makes the tour, does he?"

"Oui, oui! In the old style, with a brigade of boats, and a bugler. A summer trip, vous comprenez--a picnic to all ze posts in ze province. Thus it is to be a great man!"

"And Mr. Ainley, what is he doing at Fort Malsun?"

"Ah, M'sieu Ainley! He also is ze great man. He is to be among the governors--one day. He also visits ze posts, and will no doubt travel with ze governor, whose protege he is."

"Is that so?"

"Dat is so! He is ze favourite, vous comprenez?"

"I did not know it."

"Non? But so it ees! And Louis and me, we go with heem in ze canoe to serve heem. Though by gar, I like to make stop here, an' talk to dat squaw-girl."


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