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Lost in the Wilds

Making Yula sit down in peace and quietness


had pointed out the place of the pool so earnestly that Wilfred thought, "I will go there first; perhaps it was there she found the moss."

The northern lights were flashing overhead, shooting long lines of roseate glory towards the zenith, as if some unseen angel's hand were stringing heaven's own harp. But the full chord which flowed beneath its touch was light instead of music.

Wilfred stood silent, rapt in admiring wonder, as he gazed upon those glowing splendours, forgetting everything beside. Yula recalled him to the work in hand. He hobbled on as fast as he could. He was drawing near the pool, for tall rushes bent and shivered above the all-covering snow, and pines and willows rocked in the night wind overhead. Another wary step, and the pool lay stretched before him like a silver shield.

A colony of beavers had made their home in this quiet spot, building their mounds of earth like a dam across the water. But the busy workers were all settling within doors to their winter sleep--drawbridges drawn up, and gates barred against intruders. "You are wiseheads," thought Wilfred, "and I almost wish I could do the same--work all summer like bees, and sleep all winter like dormice; but then the winter is so long."

"Would not it be a grand thing to take home a beaver, Yula?" he exclaimed, suddenly remembering his gloves in their late reduced

condition, and longing for another cup of the unpalatable soup; for the keen air sharpened the keener appetite, until he felt as if he could have eaten the said gloves, boiled or unboiled.

But how to get at the clever sleepers under their well-built dome was the difficulty, almost the impossibility.

"Yula, it can't be done--that is by you and me, old boy," he sighed. "We have not got their house-door key for certain. We shall have to put up with the moss, and think ourselves lucky if we find it."

The edge of the pool was already fringed with ice, and many a shallow basin where it had overflowed its banks was already frozen over. Wilfred was brushing away the crisp snow in his search for moss, when he caught sight of a big white fish, made prisoner by the ice in an awkward corner, where the rising flood had one day scooped a tiny reservoir. Making Yula sit down in peace and quietness, and remember manners, he set to work. He soon broke the ice with a blow from the handle of his knife, and took out the fish. As he expected, the hungry dog stood ready to devour it; but Wilfred, suspecting his intention, tied it up in the blanket, and swung it over his shoulder. Fortune did not favour him with such another find, although he searched about the edge of the lake until it grew so slippery he was afraid of falling in. He had now to retrace his steps, following the marks in the snow back to the hut.

The joy of Pe-na-Koam was unbounded when he untied the blanket and slid the fish into her hands.

The prospect of the hot supper it would provide for them nerved Wilfred to go a little further and try to reach the big owl's roost, for fear another snow should bury the path Maxica had made to it. Once lost he might never find it again. The owl was still their most trusty friend and most formidable foe. Thanks to the kindly labours of Maxica's pole, Wilfred could trudge along much faster now; but before he reached the hollow tree, strange noises broke the all-pervading stillness. There was a barking of dogs in the distance, to which Yula replied with all the energy in his nature. There was a tramping as of many feet, and of horses, coming nearer and nearer with a lumbering thud on the ground, deadened and muffled by the snow, but far too plain not to attract all Wilfred's attention.

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