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Lost in the Wilds

The Blackfeet standing round their chief

style="text-align: justify;"> *CHAPTER VIII.*


As soon as Gaspe had despatched his messenger he turned to Wilfred, observing, in tones of grateful satisfaction, "I am so glad we know in time."

"Is that your grandfather?" asked Wilfred.

Gaspe nodded. "Come and look at him."

The two boys were soon watching earnestly through the grating, their faces almost touching. Gaspe's arm was over Wilfred's shoulder, as they drew closer and closer to each other.

Gaspe's grandfather took the slip of paper from his man, glanced at it, and crushed it in his hand. The chief was hastily heaping a mass of buffalo robes and skins and bags of pemmican upon one of the horses, a gift for the white man, horse and all. This was to show his big heart.

"Do you hear what he is saying?" whispered Gaspe, who understood the Indians much better than Wilfred did. "Listen!"

"Are there any Crees here? Crees have no manners. Crees are like dogs, always ready to bite if you turn your head away; but the Blackfeet have large hearts, and love hospitality."

"After all, those men in the reeds may only be on the watch for fear

of a surprise from the Crees," continued Gaspe.

"Will there be a fight?" asked Wilfred breathlessly.

"No, I think not," answered Gaspe. "The Crees have lived amongst us whites so long they have given up the war-path. But," he added confidentially, "I have locked our old Indian in the kitchen, for if they caught sight of him they might say we were friends of the Crees, and set on us."

One door in the white-painted house was standing open. It led into a large and almost empty room. Just inside it a number of articles were piled on the floor--a gun, blankets, scarlet cloth, and a brightly-painted canister of tea. Louison came back to fetch them, for a return present, with which the chief seemed highly delighted.

"We see but little of you white men," he said; "and our young men do not always know how to behave. But if you would come amongst us more, we chiefs would restrain them."

"He would have hard work," laughed Wilfred, little thinking how soon his words were to be verified. The Blackfeet standing round their chief, with their piles of skins, were so obviously getting excited, and impatient to begin the real trading, the chief must have felt even he could not hold them back much longer. But he was earnest in his exhortation to them not to give way to violence or rough behaviour.

Gaspe's grandfather was silently noting every face, without appearing to do so; and mindful of the warning he had received, he led the way to his gate, which he invited them to enter, observing, "My places are but small, friends. All shall come in by turns, but only a few at a time."

Gaspe drew back the bar and threw the gate wide. In walked the stately chief, with one or two of his followers who had taken part in the speech-making. The excited crowd at the back of them pushed their way in, as if they feared the gate might be shut in their faces.

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