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Lost in the Wilds

As Wilfred sat in silence watching the simmering kettle


Whilst

he was gone Wilfred and the squaw were beside the fire, sitting on the ground face to face, regarding each other attentively.

*CHAPTER V.*

_*IN THE BIRCH-BARK HUT.*_

The squaw was a very ugly woman; starvation and old age combined had made her perfectly hideous. As Wilfred sat in silence watching the simmering kettle, he thought she was the ugliest creature he had ever seen. Her complexion was a dark red-brown. Her glittering black eyes seemed to glare on him in the darkness of the hut like a cat's. Her shrivelled lips showed a row of formidably long teeth, which made Wilfred think of Little Red Ridinghood's grandmother, and he hoped she would not pounce on him and devour him before Maxica returned.

He wronged her shamefully, for she had been watching his limping movements with genuine pity. What did it matter that her gown was scant and short, or that her leggings, which had once been of bright-coloured cloth, curiously worked with beads, were reduced by time to a sort of no-colour and the tracery upon them to a dirty line? They hid a good, kind heart.

She loosened the English handkerchief tied over her head, and the long, raven locks, now streaked with white, fell over her shoulders.

justify;">She was a wild-looking being, but her awakening glance of alertness need not have alarmed Wilfred, for she was only intent upon dipping him a cup of water from the steaming kettle. She was careful to taste it and cool it with a little of the snow still driving through the hole in the roof, until she made it the right degree of heat that was safest for Wilfred in his starving, freezing condition.

"What would Aunt Miriam think if she could see me now?" mused the boy, as he fixed his eyes on the dying embers and turned away from the steaming cup he longed to snatch at.

Yet when the squaw held it towards him, he put it back with a smile, resolutely repeating "After you," for was she not a woman?

He made her drink. A little greasy water, oh! how nice! Then he refilled the cup and took his share.

The tottering creature smoothed the blanket from which she had risen on Wilfred's summary entrance, and motioned to him to lie down.

"It will be all glove with us now," laughed Wilfred to himself--"hand and glove with the Red Indians. If any one whispered that in uncle's ear, wouldn't he think me a queer fish! But I owe my life to Maxica, and I know it."

He threw himself down on the blanket, glad indeed of the rest for his swollen ankle. From this lowly bed he fell to contemplating his temporary refuge. It looked so very temporary, especially the side from which Maxica had abstracted his alpenstock, Wilfred began to fear the next disaster would be its downfall. He was dozing, when a sudden noise made him start up, in the full belief the catastrophe he had dreaded had arrived; but it was only Maxica dropping the firewood he had with difficulty collected through the hole in the roof.


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