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Lost in the Wilds

It was not his Yula wanting to be let in


Wilfred

was soon nodding dangerously behind his billet-stack, forgetting in his drowsy musings the instability of his surroundings. The squaw rose up from the floor, and replaced the knot of wood he had sent rolling. He dreamed of Yula's bark in the distance, and wakened to find the noise a reality, but not the bark. It was not his Yula wanting to be let in, as he imagined, but a confused medley of sounds suggestive of the putting up of tent poles. There was the ring of the hatchet among the trees, the crash of the breaking boughs, the thud of the falling trunk. Even Wilfred could not entertain a doubt that the Blackfeet were encamping for the night alarmingly near their buried hut. In silence and darkness was their only safeguard. It was all for the best Yula had run away, his uneasy growls would have betrayed them.

Midnight came and passed; the sounds of work had ceased, but the galloping of the ponies, released from the travoys, the scraping of their hoofs seeking a supper beneath the snow, kept Wilfred on the rack. The echo of the ponies' feet seemed at times so near he quite expected to see a horse's head looking down through the hole, or, worse still, some unwary kick might demolish their fragile roof altogether.

With the gray of the dawn the snow began again to fall. Was ever snow more welcome? The heavy flakes beat back the feeble column of smoke, and hissed on the smouldering wood, as they found ready

entrance through the parting in the bark which did duty for a chimney. No matter, it was filling up the path which Maxica had made and obliterating every footprint around the hut. It seemed to Wilfred that the great feathery flakes were covering all above them, like a sheltering wing.

The tell-tale duck, the little snow-birds he had hung on the pine branch would all be hidden now. Not a chink was left in the bark through which the gray snow-light of the wintry morning could penetrate.

In spite of their anxiety, both the anxious watchers had fallen asleep. The squaw was the first to rouse. Wilfred's temporary trap-door refused to move when, finding all was still around them, she had tried to push it aside; for the hut was stifling, and she wanted snow to refill the kettle.

The fire was out, and the snow which had extinguished it was already stiffening. She took a half-burnt brand from the hearth, and, mounting the stones which surrounded the fireplace, opened the smoke-vent; for there the snow had not had time to harden, although the frost was setting in with the daylight. To get out of their hut in another hour might be impossible. With last night's supper, a spark of her former energy had returned. A piece of the smoke-dried bark gave way and precipitated an avalanche of snow into the tiny hut.

Wilfred wakened with a start. The daylight was streaming down upon him, and the squaw was gone. What could have happened while he slept? How he blamed himself for going to sleep at all. But then he could not live without it. As he wondered and waited and reasoned with himself thus, there was still the faint hope the squaw might return. Anyhow, Wilfred thought it was the wisest thing he could do to remain concealed where she had left him. If the Indians camping by the pool were her own people, they might befriend him too. Possibly she had gone over to their camp to ask for aid.


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