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Lost in the Wilds

And shields adorned the outside of the moya


Louison

stepped forward.

"Now for your questions, my boy," he said to Wilfred, "and I will play interpreter."

"Is there an old squaw in your camp named the Far-off-Dawn?"

Wilfred needed no interpreter to explain the "caween" given in reply.

"Tell her, Louison," he hurried on, "she was with me the night before last. I thought she left me to follow this trail. If she has not reached this camp, she must be lost in the snow."

"Will not some of your people go and look for her," added Louison, on his own account, "before you move on?"

"What is the use?" she asked. "Death will have got her by this time. She came to the camp; she was too old to travel. If she is alive, she may overtake us again. We shall not move on until another sunrising, to rest the horses."

"Then I shall go and look for her," said Wilfred resolutely.

"Not you," retorted Louison; "wait a bit." He put his hand in his pockets. They had been well filled with tea and tobacco, in readiness for any emergency. "Is not there anybody in the camp who will go and look for her?"

Louison was asking his questions for the sake of the information he elicited, but Wilfred caught at the idea in earnest. "Go and see," urged

Louison, offering her a handful of his tea.

"The!" she repeated. The magic word did wonders. Louison knew if one of the men were willing to leave the camp to look for Pe-na-Koam, no further mischief was intended. But if they were anticipating a repetition of "the high old time" they had enjoyed yesterday, not one of them could be induced to forego their portion in so congenial a lark, for in their eyes it was nothing more.

The squaw took the tea in both her hands, gladly leaving her kettle in the snow, as she led the way into the camp.

Wilfred, who had only seen the poor little canvas tents of the Crees, looked round him in astonishment. In the centre stood the lodge or moya of the chief--a wigwam built in true old Indian style, fourteen feet high at the least. Twelve strong poles were stuck in the ground, round a circle fifteen feet across. They were tied together at the top, and the outside was covered with buffalo-skins, painted black and red in all sorts of figures. Eagles seemed perching on the heads of deers, and serpents twisted and coiled beneath the feet of buffaloes. The other wigwams built around it were in the same style, on a smaller scale, all brown with smoke.

A goodly array of spears, bows, and shields adorned the outside of the moya; above them the much-coveted rifles were ranged with exceeding pride. The ground between the moya and the tents was littered with chips and bones, among which the dogs were busy. A few children were pelting each other with the snow, or trying to shoot at the busy jays with a baby of a bow and arrows to match.

Louison pushed aside the fur which hung over the entrance to the moya--the man-hole--and stepped inside. A beautiful fire was burning in the middle of the tent. The floor was strewed with pine brush, and skins were hung round the inside wall, like a dado. They fitted very closely to the ground, so as to keep out all draught. The rabbits and swans, the buzzards and squirrels painted on this dado were so lifelike, Wilfred thought it must be as good as a picture-book to the dear little pappoose, strapped to its flat board cradle, and set upright against the wall whilst mother was busy. The sleeping-places were divided by wicker-screens, and seemed furnished with plenty of blankets and skins. One or two of them were still occupied; but Oma-ka-pee-mulkee-yeu lay on a bear-skin by the fire, with his numerous pipes arranged beside him. The squaw explained the errand of their early visitors: a woman was lost in the snow, would the chief send one of his people to find her?


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