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Lost in the Wilds

De Brunier took it all in good part


A

crash and a thud in the room below verified his words.

"There! down it goes," he exclaimed, as a peal of laughter from many voices followed the rush of the crowd from one room to the other.

"They will be in here next," he added, springing down the steps for another load. Wilfred tried to shake off the strange sensations which oppressed him, and took it from him. Another and another followed quickly, until the boys had removed the greater part of the most valuable of the stores into the roof. The guns and the heavy bags of shot had all been carried up in the early morning, before the gate of the fort was opened.

And now the hammering began at the storeroom door, amid peals of uproarious laughter.

Gaspe tore up the steps with another heavy roll of bright blue cloth.

"We can do no more," he said, pausing for breath. "Now we will shut ourselves in here."

"We will have these up first," returned Wilfred, seizing hold of the top of the steps, and trying to drag them through the trap-door.

"Right!" ejaculated Gaspe. "If we had left them standing in the middle of the storeroom, it would have been inviting the Blackfeet to follow us."

They let down the trap-door as noiselessly as they could, and drew the heavy

bolt at the very moment the door below was broken open and the triumphant crowd rushed wildly in, banging down their bags of pemmican on the floor, and seizing the first thing which came to hand in return.

Louison had been knocked down in the first rush from the waiting-room, and was leaning against the wall, having narrowly escaped being trampled to death. "All right!" he shouted to his master, who had jumped up on his counter to see if his agile servitor had regained his feet. It was wild work, but Mr. De Brunier took it all in good part, flinging his blankets right and left wherever he saw an eager hand outstretched to receive them. He knew that it was far better to give before they had time to take, and so keep up a semblance of trade. Many a beautiful skin and buffalo-robe was tossed across the counter in return. The heterogeneous pile was growing higher and higher beside him, and in the confusion it was hard to tell how much was intended for purchase, how much for pillage.

The chief, the Great Swan, as his people called him, still stood by the scales, determined to see if the great medicine worked fairly for all his people.

Mr. De Brunier called to him by his Indian name: "Oma-ka-pee-mulkee-yeu, do you not hear what I am saying? Your young men are too rough. Restrain them. You say you can. How am I to weigh and measure to each his right portion in such a rout?"

"Give them all something and they will be content," shouted the chief, trying his best to restore order.

Dozens of gaudy cotton handkerchiefs went flying over the black heads, scrambling with each other to get possession of them. Spoonfuls of beads were received with chuckles of delight by the nearest ranks; hut the Indians outside the crowd were growing hot and angry. Turns had been long since disregarded. It was catch as catch can. They broke down the lattice, and helped themselves from the shelves behind the counter. These were soon cleared. A party of strong young fellows, laughing as if it were the best fun in the world, leaped clear over the counter, and began to chop at the storeroom door with their hatchets. With a dexterous hand Mr. De Brunier flung his bright silks in their faces. The dancing skeins were quickly caught up. But the work of demolition went forward. The panels were reduced to matchwood. Three glittering hatchets swung high over the men's heads, came down upon the still resisting framework, and smashed it. The mirthful crowd dashed in.


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