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Lost in the Wilds

De Brunier told Gaspard at last

Notwithstanding, the Company had not been losers by the riotous marketing, for the furs the Blackfeet had brought in were splendid.

"Yes, we were all on our guard--thanks to you, my little man--or it might have ended in the demolition of the fort," remarked Mr. De Brunier. "Now, if there is anything you want for your journey, tell me, and you shall have it."

"Yes, grandfather," interposed Gaspe. "He must have a blanket to sleep in, and there is the harness for the dogs, and a lot of things."

Wilfred grew hot. "Please, sir, thanks; but I don't think I want much. Most of all, perhaps, something to eat."

Mr. De Brunier recommended a good hunch of pemmican, to cut and come again. The hunters would let him mess with them if he brought his own pemmican and a handful of tea to throw into their boiling kettle. The hunters' camp was about sixty miles from Hungry Hall. They would be two or three days on the road.

More than one party of hunters had called at the fort already, wanting powder and ball, matches, and a knife; and when the lynx and marten and wolf skins which they brought were told up, and the few necessaries they required were provided, the gay, careless, improvident fellows would invest in a tasselled cap bright with glittering beads.

The longer Wilfred stayed at the fort, the more Mr. De Brunier hesitated about letting the boy start for so long a journey with no better protection. Gaspard never failed to paint the danger and magnify the difficulties of the undertaking, wishing to keep his new friend a little longer. But Wilfred was steady to his purpose. He saw no other chance of getting back to his home. He did not say much when Mr. De Brunier and Gaspe were weighing chances and probabilities, hoping some travelling party from the north might stop by the way at Hungry Hall and take him on with them. Such things did happen occasionally.

But Wilfred had a vivid recollection of his cross-country journey with Forgill. He could not see that he should be sure of getting home if he accepted Mr. De Brunier's offer and stayed until the river was frozen and then went down with him to their mid-winter station, trusting to a seat in some of the Company's carts or the Company's sledges to their next destination.

Then there would be waiting and trusting again to be sent on another stage, and another, and another, until he would at last find himself at Fort Garry. "Then," he asked, "what was he to do? If his uncle and aunt knew that he was there, they might send Forgill again to fetch him. But if letters reached Acland's Hut so uncertainly, how was he to let them know?"

As Wilfred worked the matter out thus in his own mind, he received every proposition of Mr. De Brunier's with, "Please, sir, I'd rather go to Bowkett. He lost me. He will be sure to take me straight home."

"The boy knew his own mind so thoroughly," Mr. De Brunier told Gaspard at last, "they must let him have his own way."

The sled was finished. It was a simple affair--two thin boards about four feet long nailed together edgeways, with a tri-cornered piece of wood fitted in at the end. Two old skates were screwed on the bottom, and the thing was done. The boys worked together at the harness as they sat round the stove in the evening. The snow was thicker, the frost was harder every night. Ice had settled on the quiet pools, and was spreading over the quick-running streams, but the dash of the falls still resisted its ever-encroaching influence. By-and-by they too must yield, and the whole face of nature would be locked in its iron clasp. November was wearing away. A sunny morning came now and then to cheer the little party so soon to separate.

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