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Lost in the Wilds

Barking loudly to Wilfred to follow


Much

elated with his discovery, Wilfred returned to the fire, where the Cree still sat in statue-like repose.

"He is fast asleep," thought Wilfred, as he got down again as noiselessly as he could; but the Indian's sleep was like the sleep of the wild animal. Hearing was scarcely closed. He opened one eye, comprehended that it was Wilfred returning, and shut it, undisturbed by the whirling snow. Wilfred set up two great pieces of bark like a penthouse over his head, and coaxed the dog to nestle by his side. Sucking the tip of his beaver-skin gloves to still the craving for his supper, he too fell asleep, to awake shivering in the gray of the dawn to a changing world. Everywhere around him there was one vast dazzling whirl of driving sleet and dancing snow. The fire had become a smouldering pile, emitting a fitful visionary glow. On every side dim uncertain shapes loomed through the whitened atmosphere. A scene so weird and wild struck a chill to his heart. The dog moved by Wilfred's side, and threw off something of the damp, cold weight that was oppressing him. He sat upright.

Maxica, or Crow's Foot--for that was the Cree's name--was groping round and round the circle, pulling out pieces of dead wood from under the snow to replenish the dying fire. But he only succeeded in making it hiss and crackle and send up volumes of choking smoke, instead of the cheery flames of last night.

justify;">Between the dark, suffocating cloud which hovered over the fire and the white whirling maze beyond it, Maxica, with his failing sight, was completely bewildered. All tracks were long since buried and lost. It was equally impossible to find the footprints of Wilfred's hunting party, or to follow his own trail back to the birch-bark canoe which had been his home during the brief, bright summer. He folded his arms in hopeless, stony despair.

"We are in for a two days' snow," he said; "if the fire fails us and refuses to burn, we are as good as lost."

The dog leaped out of the sunken circle, half-strangled with the smoke, and Wilfred was coughing. One thought possessed them both, to get back to the water. Snow or no snow, the dog would find it. The Cree yielded to Wilfred's entreaty not to part company.

"I'll be eyes for both," urged the boy, "if you will only hold my hand."

Maxica replied by catching him round the waist and carrying him under one arm. They were soon at the spring. It was gushing and bubbling through the snow which surrounded it, hot and stinging as before. The dog was lapping at the little rill ere it lost itself in the all-shrouding snow.

In another minute Wilfred and the Cree were bending down beside it. Wilfred was guiding the rough, red hand to the right spot; and as Maxica drank, he snatched a drop for himself.

To linger beside it seemed to Wilfred their wisest course, but Maxica knew the snow was falling so thick and fast they should soon be buried beneath it. The dog, however, did not share in their perplexity. Perhaps, like Maxica, he knew they must keep moving, for he dashed through the pathless waste, barking loudly to Wilfred to follow.

The snow was now a foot deep, at least, on the highest ground, and Wilfred could no longer make his way through it. Maxica had to lift him out of it again and again. At last he took him on his back, and from this unwonted elevation Wilfred commanded a better outlook. The dog was some way in advance, making short bounds across the snow and leaving a succession of holes behind him. He at least appeared to know where he was going, for he kept as straight a course as if he were following some beaten path.


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