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Lost in the Wilds

And are you my own Aunt Miriam

This piece of intelligence was received with a low chuckle, and all three of the men became suddenly intent upon the buckles of the harness, leaving aunt and nephew to rectify the little mistake which had clearly arisen--not that they had anything to do with it.

"Come in," said the aunt in kindly tones, scarcely knowing whether it was a boy or a girl that she was welcoming. But when the rough deer-skin in which Forgill had enveloped his charge as the night drew on was thrown aside, the look which spread over her face was akin to consternation, as she asked his name and heard the prompt reply, "Wilfred Acland; and are you my own Aunt Miriam? How is my uncle?" But question was exchanged for question with exceeding rapidity. Then remembering the boy's long journey, Aunt Miriam drew a three-legged stool in front of the blazing fire, and bade him be seated.

The owner of Acland's Hut was an aged man, the eldest of a large family, while Wilfred's father was the youngest. They had been separated from each other in early life; the brotherly tie between them was loosely knitted. Intervals of several years' duration occurred in their correspondence, and many a kindly-worded epistle failed to reach its destination; for the adventurous daring of the elder brother led him again and again to sell his holding, and push his way still farther west. He loved the ring of the woodman's axe, the felling and the clearing. He grew rich from the abundant yield of the virgin soil, and his ever-increasing droves of cattle grew fat and fine in the grassy sea which surrounded his homestead. All went well until his life of arduous toil brought on an attack of rheumatic fever, which had left him a bedridden old man. Everything now depended upon the energy of his sole surviving sister, who had shared his fortunes.

Aunt Miriam retained a more affectionate remembrance of Wilfred's father, who had been her playmate. When the letter arrived announcing his death she was plunged in despondency. The letter had been sent from place to place, and was nine months after date before it reached Acland's Hut, on the verge of the lonely prairie between the Qu'appelle and South Saskatchewan rivers. The letter was written by a Mr. Cromer, who promised to take care of the child the late Mr. Acland had left, until he heard from the uncle he was addressing.

The brother and sister at Acland's Hut at once started the most capable man on their farm to purchase their winter stores and fetch the orphan child. Aunt Miriam looked back to the old letters to ascertain its age. In one of them the father rejoiced over the birth of a son; in another he spoke of a little daughter, named after herself; a third, which lamented the death of his wife, told also of the loss of a child--which, it did not say. Aunt Miriam, with a natural partiality for her namesake, decided, as she re-read the brief letter, that it must be the girl who was living; for it was then a baby, and every one would have called it "the baby." By using the word "child," the poor father must have referred to the eldest, the boy.

"Ah! very likely," answered her brother, who had no secret preference to bias his expectations. So the conjecture came to be regarded as a certainty, until Wilfred shook off the deer-skin and stood before his aunt, a strong hearty boy of thirteen summers, awkwardly shy, and alarmingly hungry.

But her welcome was not the less kindly, as she heaped his plate again and again. Wilfred was soon nodding over his supper in the very front of the blazing fire, basking in its genial warmth. But the delightful sense of comfort and enjoyment was rather shaken when he heard his aunt speaking in the inner room.

"Forgill has come back, Caleb; and after all it is the boy."

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