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Lost in the Wilds

Poor Wilfred sat clapping his hands


Wilfred

was more truly afraid of the wild-looking creature before him than he would have been of the living moose.

*CHAPTER IV.*

_*MAXICA, THE CREE INDIAN.*_

Wilfred thought his fears were only too well-founded when he saw the Indian lay an arrow on his bow-string and point it towards him. He had heard that Indians shoot high. Down he flung himself flat on his face, exclaiming, "Spare me! spare me! I'm nothing but a boy."

The dog growled savagely beside him.

Despite the crash of the storm the Indian's quick ear had detected the sound of a human voice, and his hand was stayed. He seemed groping about him, as if to find the speaker.

"I am here," shouted Wilfred, "and there is the moose your arrow has brought down."

The Indian pointed to his own swarthy face, saying with a grave dignity, "The day has gone from me. I know it no longer. In the dim, dim twilight which comes before the night I perceive the movement, but I no longer see the game. Yet I shoot, for the blind man must eat."

Wilfred turned upon his side, immensely comforted to hear himself answered in such intelligent English. He crawled a little nearer to the wild

red man, and surveyed him earnestly as he tried to explain the disaster which had left him helpless in so desolate a spot. He knew he was in the hunting-grounds of the Crees, one of the most friendly of the Indian tribes. His being there gave no offence to the blind archer, for the Indians hold the earth is free to all.

The chief was wholly intent upon securing the moose Wilfred had told him his arrow had brought down.

"I have missed the running stream," he went on. "I felt the willow leaves, but the bed by which they are growing is a grassy slope."

"How could you know it?" asked Wilfred, in astonishment.

The Indian picked up a stone and threw it over the bank. "Listen," he said; "no splash, no gurgle, no water there." He stumbled against the fallen deer, and stooping down, felt it all over with evident rejoicing.

He had been medicine man and interpreter for his tribe before the blindness to which the Indians are so subject had overwhelmed him. It arises from the long Canadian winter, the dazzling whiteness of the frozen snow, over which they roam for three parts of the year, which they only exchange for the choking smoke that usually fills their chimneyless wig-wams.

The Cree was thinking now how best to secure his prize. He carefully gathered together the dry branches the storm was breaking and tearing away in every direction, and carefully covered it over. Then he took his axe from his belt and cut a gash in the bark of the nearest tree to mark the spot.

Wilfred sat watching every movement with a nervous excitement, which helped to keep his blood from freezing and his heart from failing.

The dog was walking cautiously round and round whilst this work was going forward.

The Cree turned to Wilfred.

"You are a boy of the Moka-manas?" (big knives, an Indian name for the white men).

"Yes," answered Wilfred.

When the _cache_, as the Canadians call such a place as the Indian was making, was finished, the darkness of night had fallen. Poor Wilfred sat clapping his hands, rubbing his knees, and hugging the dog to keep himself from freezing altogether. He could scarcely tell what his companion was about, but he heard the breaking of sticks and a steady sound of chopping and clearing. Suddenly a bright flame shot up in the murky midnight, and Wilfred saw before him a well-built pyramid of logs and branches, through which the fire was leaping and running until the whole mass became one steady blaze. Around the glowing heap the Indian had cleared away the thick carpet of pine brush and rubbish, banking it up in a circle as a defence from the cutting wind.


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