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Lost in the Wilds

Until Wilfred remembered his potato


He

invited Wilfred to join him, as he seated himself in front of the glowing fire, wrapped his bearskin round him, and lit his pipe.

The whole scene around them was changed as if by magic. The freezing chill, the unutterable loneliness had vanished. The ruddy light of the fire played and flickered among the shadowy trees, casting bright reflections of distorted forms along the whitening ground, and lighting up the cloudy sky with a radiance that must have been visible for miles. Wilfred was not slow in making his way into the charmed circle. He got over the ground like a worm, wriggling himself along until his feet were over the bank, and down he dropped in front of the glorious fire. He coiled himself round with a sense of exquisite enjoyment, stretching his stiffened limbs and spreading his hands to the glowing warmth, and altogether behaving in as senseless a fashion as the big doggie himself. He had waited for no invitation, bounding up to Wilfred in extravagant delight, and now lay rolling over and over before the fire, giving sharp, short barks of delight at the unexpected pleasure.

It was bliss, it was ecstasy, it was paradise, that sudden change from the bleak, dark, shivering night to the invigorating warmth and the cheery glow.

The Cree sat back in dreamy silence, sending great whiffs of smoke from the carved red-stone bowl of his long pipe, and watching the dog

and the boy at play. Their presence in noways detracted from his Indian comfort, for the puppy and the pappoose are the Cree's delight by his wigwam fire.

Hunger and thirst were almost forgotten, until Wilfred remembered his potato, and began to busy himself with roasting it in the ashes. But the dog, mistaking his purpose, and considering it a most inappropriate gift to the fire, rolled it out again before it was half roasted, and munched it up with great gusto.

"There's a shame! you bad old greedy boy," exclaimed Wilfred, when he found out what the dog was eating. "Well," he philosophised, determined to make the best of what could not now be helped, "I had a breakfast, and you--why, you look as if you had had neither breakfast, dinner, nor supper for many a long day. How have you existed?"

But this question was answered before the night was out. The potato was hot, and the impatient dog burned his lips. After sundry shakings and rubbings of his nose in the earth, the sagacious old fellow jumped up the bank and ran off. When he returned, his tongue touched damp and cool, and there were great drops of water hanging in his hair. Up sprang the thirsty Wilfred to search for the spring. The Cree was nodding; but the boy had no fear of losing himself, with that glorious fire-shine shedding its radiance far and wide through the lonely night. He called the dog to follow him, and groped along the edge of the dried-up watercourse, sometimes on all fours, sometimes trying to take a step. Painful as it was, he was satisfied his foot was none the worse for a little movement. His effort was rewarded. He caught the echo of a trickling sound from a corner of rock jutting out of the stunted bushes. The dog, which seemed now to guess the object of his search, led him up to a breakage in the lichen-covered stone, through which a bubbling spring dashed its warm spray into their faces. Yes, it was warm; and when Wilfred stooped to catch the longed-for water in his hands, it was warm to his lips, with a strong disagreeable taste. No matter, it was water; it was life. It was more than simple water; he had lighted on a sulphur spring. Wilfred drank eagerly as he felt its tonic effects fortifying him against the benumbing cold. For the wind seemed cutting the skin from his face, and the snowflakes driving before the blast were changing the dog from black to white.


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