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Lost in the Wilds

Until old Petre or Pete as he was usually called


It

was a very busy time on the farm. Marley, the other labourer, who was Forgill's chum in the little hut in the corner, was away in the prairie looking up the cows, which had been turned loose in the early summer to get their own living, and must now be brought in and comfortably housed for the winter. Forgill had been away nearly a fortnight. Hands were short on the farm now the poor old master was laid aside. There was land to be sold all round them; but at present it was unoccupied, and the nearest settler was dozens of miles away. Their only neighbours were the roving hunters, who had no settled home, but wandered about like gipsies, living entirely by the chase and selling furs. They were partly descended from the old French settlers, and partly Indians. They were a careless, light-hearted, dashing set of fellows, who made plenty of money when skins were dear, and spent it almost as fast as it came. Uncle Caleb thought it prudent to keep on friendly terms with these roving neighbours, who were always ready to give him occasional help, as they were always well paid for it.

"There is one of these hunter fellows here now," said Forgill. "The missis is arranging with him to help me to get in the supply of meat for the winter."

The stage at which Forgill was hammering resembled the framework of a very high, long, narrow table, with four tall fir poles for its legs. Here the meat was to be laid, high up

above the reach of the many animals, wild and tame. It would soon be frozen through and through as hard as a stone, and keep quite good until the spring thaws set in.

Wilfred was quickly on the top of the stage, enjoying the prospect, for the atmosphere in Canada is so clear that the eye can distinguish objects a very long way off. He had plenty of amusement watching the great buzzards and hawks, which are never long out of sight. He had entered a region where birds abounded. There were cries in the air above and the drumming note of the prairie-hen in the grass below. There were gray clouds of huge white pelicans flapping heavily along, and faster-flying strings of small white birds, looking like rows of pearls waving in the morning air. A moving band, also of snowy white, crossing the blue water of a distant lakelet, puzzled him a while, until it rose with a flutter and scream, and proved itself another flock of northern geese on wing for the south, just pausing on its way to drink.

Presently Wilfred was aware that Petre was at the foot of the ladder talking earnestly to Forgill. An unpleasant tingling in his cheek told the subject of their conversation. He turned his back towards them, not choosing to hear the remarks they might be making upon his escapade of the morning, until old Petre--or Pete as he was usually called, for somehow the "r" slipped out of his name on the English lips around him--raised his voice, protesting, "You and I know well how the black mud by the reed pool sticks like glue. Now, I say, put him on the little brown pony, and take him with you."

"Follow the hunt!" cried Wilfred, overjoyed. "Oh, may I, Forgill?"

*CHAPTER II.*

_*HUNTING THE BUFFALO.*_

The cloudy morning ended in a brilliant noon. Wilfred was in ecstasies when he found himself mounted on the sagacious Brownie, who had followed them like a dog on the preceding evening.

Aunt Miriam had consented to Pete's proposal with a thankfulness which led the hunter, Hugh Bowkett, to remark, as Wilfred trotted beside him, "Come, you young scamp! so you are altogether beyond petticoat government, are you?"


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