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Lost in the Wilds

The difficulty of getting Yula out again


all hope gone? His head grew dizzy. There were no words on his lips, and the bitter cry in his heart died mute. Then he seemed to hear again his mother's voice reading to him, as she used to read in far-off days by the evening fire: "I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Be strong, and of a good courage. Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed. For the Lord thy God is with thee, whithersoever thou goest."

The Indian train was out of sight, but the trampling of those fifty ponies, dragging the heavily-laden travoys, had left a beaten track--a path so broad he could not lose it--and he knew that it would bring him to some white man's home.

Wilfred sprang down from the tree, decided, resolute. Better to try and find this shop in the wilderness than linger there and die. The snow beneath the tree was crisp and hard. Yula bounded on before him, eager to follow where the Blackfeet dogs had passed. They were soon upon the road, trudging steadily onward.

The dog had evidently shared the strangers' breakfast; he was neither hungry nor thirsty. Not so his poor little master, who was feeling very faint for want of a dinner, when he saw a bit of pemmican on the ground, dropped no doubt by one of the Indian children.

Wilfred snatched it up and began to eat. Pemmican is the Indians' favourite food. It is made of meat cut in slices and dried.

It is then pounded between two smooth stones, and put in a bag of buffalo-skin. Melted fat is poured over it, to make it keep. To the best kinds of pemmican berries and sugar are added. It forms the most solid food a man can have. There are different ways of cooking it, but travellers, or voyageurs, as they are usually called in Canada, eat it raw. It was a piece of raw pemmican Wilfred had picked up. Hunger lent it the flavour it might have lacked at any other time.

With this for a late dinner, and a rest on a fallen tree, he felt himself once more, and started off again with renewed vigour. The sleet was increasing with the coming dusk. On he toiled, growing whiter and whiter, until his snow-covered figure was scarcely distinguishable from the frozen ground. Yula was powdered from head to foot; moreover, poor dog, he was obliged to stop every now and then to bite off the little icicles which were forming between his toes.

Fortunately for the weary travellers the sky began to clear when the moon arose. Before them stood dark ranks of solemn, stately pines, with here and there a poplar thicket rising black and bare from the sparkling ground. Their charred and shrivelled branches showed the work of the recent prairie fires, which had only been extinguished by the snowstorm.

Wilfred whistled Yula closer and closer to his side, as the forest echoes wakened to the moose-call and the wolf-howl. On, on they walked through the dusky shadows cast by the giant pines, until the strange meteors of the north lit up the icy night, flitting across the starry sky in such swift succession the Indians call it the dance of the dead spirits.

In a scene so weird and wild the boldest heart might quail. Wilfred felt his courage dwindling with every step, when Yula sprang forward with a bark that roused a sleeping herd, and Wilfred found himself in the midst of the Indian ponies, snorting and kicking at the disturber of their peace. The difficulty of getting Yula out again, without losing the track or rousing the camp, which they must now be approaching, engrossed Wilfred, and taxed his powers to their uttermost. He could see the gleam of their many watch-fires, and guided his course more warily. Imposing silence on Yula by every device he could imagine, he left the beaten track which would have taken him into the midst of the dreaded Blackfeet, and slanted further and further into the forest gloom, but not so far as to lose the glow of the Indians' fires. In the first faint gray of the wintry dawn he heard the rushing of a mighty fall, and found concealment in a wide expanse of frozen reeds and stunted willows.

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