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Lost in the Wilds

He was wide of the Blackfeet camp


Yula

had been brought to order. A tired dog is far more manageable. He lay down at his master's feet, whilst Wilfred watched and listened. He was wide of the Blackfeet camp, yet not at such a distance as to be unable to distinguish the sounds of awakening life within it from the roar of the waterfall. To his right the ground was rising. He scarcely felt himself safe so near the Blackfeet, and determined to push on to the higher ground, where he would have a better chance of seeing what they were about. If they moved on, he could go back to their camping-place and gather the crumbs they might have let fall, and boil himself some water before their fires were extinguished, and then follow in their wake as before.

He began to climb the hill with difficulty, when he was aware of a thin, blue column of light smoke curling upwards in the morning air. It was not from the Indian camp. Had he nearly reached his goal? The light was steadily increasing, and he could clearly see on the height before him three or four tall pines, which had been stripped of their branches by the voyageur's axe, and left to mark a landing-place. These lop-sticks, as the Canadians call them, were a welcome sight. He reached them at last, and gained the view he had been longing to obtain. At his feet rolled the majestic river, plunging in one broad, white sheet over a hidden precipice.

In the still uncertain light of the early dawn the

cataract seemed twice its actual size. The jagged tops of the pine trees on the other side of the river rose against the pale green of coming day. Close above the falls the bright star of the morning gleamed like a diamond on the rim of the descending flood; at its foot the silvery spray sprang high into the air, covering the gloomy pines which had reared their dark branches in many a crack and cleft with glittering spangles.

Nestling at the foot of the crag on which Wilfred stood was the well-built stockade of the trading-fort. The faint blue line of smoke which he had perceived was issuing from the chimney of the trader's house, but the inmates were not yet astir.

He brushed the tears from his eyes, but they were mingled tears of joy and thankfulness and exhaustion. As he was watching, a party of Indians stole out from their camp, and posted themselves among the frozen reeds which he had so recently vacated.

The chief, with a few of the Blackfeet, followed by three or four squaws laden with skins, advanced to the front of the stockade, where they halted. The chief was waving in his hand a little flag, to show that he had come to trade. After a while the sounds of life and movement began within the fort. The little group outside was steadily increasing in numbers. Some more of the Blackfeet warriors had loaded their horses and their wives, and were coming up behind their chief, with their heavy bags of pemmican hanging like panniers across the backs of the horses, whilst the poor women toiled after them with the piles of skins and leather.

All was bustle and activity inside the trader's walls. Wilfred guessed they were making all sorts of prudent preparations before they ventured to receive so large a party. He was thinking of the men in ambush among the reeds, and he longed to give some warning to the Hudson Bay officer, who could have no idea of the numbers lurking round his gate.

But how was this to be done in time? There was but one entrance to the fort. He was afraid to descend his hill and knock for admittance, under the lynx-like eyes of the Blackfoot chief, who was growing impatient, and was making fresh signs to attract the trader's attention.


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