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Lost in the Wilds

But Gaspe repeated the question


So

the heavy bag of pemmican was put in the place of the weight, and a nice heap of tea was poured upon the blanket to make the balance true. The Indians were delighted.

"Now," continued Mr. De Brunier, "we must weigh the shot and the gun against your skins, according to your plan."

But when the red men saw their beautiful marten and otter and fisher skins piling higher and higher, and the heavy bag of shot still refusing to rise, a grave doubt as to the correctness of their own view of the matter arose in the Indians' minds. The first served took up his scarlet cloth and blanket and went out quickly, whilst the others deliberated.

The trader waited with good-humoured patience and a quiet gleam of amusement in the corner of his eye, when they told him at last to do it his own way, for the steel swing was a great medicine warriors could not understand. It was plain it could only be worked by some great medicine man like himself.

This decision had been reached so slowly, the impatience of the crowd in the waiting-room was at spirit-boil.

The brave who had come back satisfied was exhibiting his blankets and his scarlet cloth, which had to be felt and looked at by all in turn.

"Were there many more inside?" they asked eagerly.

He shook his head.

style="text-align: justify;">A belief that the good things would all be gone before the rest of the Indians could get their turn spread among the excited crowd like wild-fire.

Gaspe still held to his watch by the gate, with Wilfred beside him.

There was plenty of laughing and talking among the party of resolute men who kept it open; they seemed full of fun, and were joking each other in the highest spirits. Gaspe's eyes turned again and again to the frozen reeds, but all was quiet.

Wilfred was earnestly watching for a chance to ask the mirthful Blackfeet if an old squaw, the Far-off-Dawn, had joined their camp. He could not make them understand him, but Gaspe repeated the question.

At that moment one of the fiercest-looking of the younger warriors rushed out of the waiting-room in a state of intense excitement. He beckoned to his companions at the gate, exclaiming, "If we don't help ourselves there will be nothing left for you and me."

"We know who will see fair play," retorted the young chief, who was answering Gaspe.

A whoop rang through the frosty air, and the still stiff reeds seemed suddenly alive with dusky faces. The crush round the inner door in the waiting-room became intense.

"Help me," whispered Gaspe, seizing Wilfred's arm and dragging him after him through the sheds to the back of the house. He took out a key and unlocked a side door. There was a second before him, with the keyhole at the reverse hand. It admitted them into a darkened room, for the windows were closely shuttered; but Gaspe knew his ground, and was not at a moment's loss.

The double doors were locked and bolted in double quick time behind them. Then Gaspe lifted up a heavy iron bar and banged it into its socket. Noise did not matter. The clamour in the waiting-room drowned every other sound.


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