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Lost in the Wilds

The atim would lead his own master to the spot


called out to Wilfred that he had discovered his atim digging in the snow at some distance.

What his atim might prove to be Wilfred could not imagine. He was choosing a stick from the heap of firewood. Balancing himself on one foot, he popped his head through the hole to reconnoitre. He fancied he too could see a moving speck in the distance.

"The dog!" he cried joyfully, giving a long, shrill whistle that brought it bounding over the crisping snow towards him with a ptarmigan in its mouth.

After much coaxing, Wilfred induced the dog to lay the bird down, to lap the melting snow which was filling the hollows in the floor with little puddles.

The squaw pounced upon the bird as a welcome addition to the beaver-skin soup. Where had the dog found it? He had not killed it, that was clear, for it was frozen hard. Yet it had not been frozen to death. The quick Indian perception of the squaw pointed to the bite on its breast. It was not the tooth of a dog, but the sharp beak of some bird of prey which had killed it. The atim had found the _cache_ of a great white owl; a provident bird, which, when once its hunger is satisfied, stores the remainder of its prey in some handy crevice.

The snow had ceased to fall. The moon was rising. The thick white carpet which covered all around was hardening under the touch

of the coming frost.

Another cup from the half-made soup, and Maxica proposed to start with Wilfred to search for the supposed store. The dog was no longer hungry. It had stretched itself on the ground at Wilfred's feet for a comfortable slumber.

An Indian never stops for pain or illness. With the grasp of death upon him, he will follow the war-path or the hunting track, so that Maxica paid no regard to Wilfred's swollen foot. If the boy could not walk, his shoulder was ready, but go he must; the atim would lead his own master to the spot, but it would never show it to a stranger.

Wilfred glanced up quickly, and then looked down with a nod to himself. It would not do to make much of his hurt in such company. Well, he had added a word to his limited stock of Indian. "Atim" was Cree for dog, that at least was clear; and they had added the atim to his slender possessions. They thought the dog was his own, and why should not he adopt him? They were both lost, they might as well be chums.

This conclusion arrived at, Wilfred caught up the wing of the ptarmigan, and showing it to the dog did his best to incite him to find another. He caught sight of a long strip of moose-skin which had evidently tied up the squaw's blanket on her journey. He persuaded her to lend it to him, making more use of signs than of words.

"Ugh! ugh!" she replied, and her "yes" was as intelligible to Wilfred as Diome's "caween." He soon found that "yes" and "no" alone can go a good way in making our wants understood by any one as naturally quick and observant as an Indian.

The squaw saw what Wilfred was trying to do, and helped him, feeble as she was, to make a sling for his foot. With the stick in his hand, when this was accomplished, he managed to hobble after Maxica and the dog.

The Cree went first, treading down a path, and partially clearing the way before him with his pole. But a disappointment awaited them. The dog led them intelligently enough to the very spot where it had unquestionably found a most abundant dinner, by the bones and feathers still sticking in the snow. Maxica, guided by his long experience, felt about him until he found two rats, still wedged in a hole in a decaying tree which had gone down before the gale. But he would not take them, for fear the owl might abandon her reserve.

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