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Lost in the Wilds

If Kusky could but have run back home


"Ready for the same game?" asked Batiste, who was presiding over the tea-kettle.

The cup which Mathurin recommended was poured out; the sugar was not spared. Wilfred drank it gladly without speaking. When words were useless silence seemed golden. Yula was on guard beside him, and poor little Kusky, cowed and cringing, was shivering at his feet. They covered him up, and all he had seen and heard seemed as unreal as his dreams.

The now familiar cry of "_Leve! leve!_" made Yula sit upright. The hunters were astir before the dawn, but Wilfred was left undisturbed for another hour at least, until the rubeiboo was ready--that is, pemmican boiled in water until it makes a sort of soup. Pemmican, as Mr. De Brunier had said, was the hunters' favourite food.

"Now for the best of the breakfast for the lame and tame," laughed Batiste, pulling up Wilfred, and looking at his disfiguring bruises with a whistle.

Wilfred shrank from the prospect before him. Another day of bitter biting cold, and merciless cruelty to his poor dogs. "Oh, if Gaspe knew!--if Kusky could but have run back home!"

Wilfred could not eat much. He gave his breakfast to his dogs, and fondled them in silence. It was enough to make a fellow's blood boil to be called Mathurin's babby, _l'enfant endormi_ (sleepy child), and Pierre the pretty face.

"Can we be such stoics, Yula," he whispered, "as to stand all this another twenty-four hours, and see our poor little Kusky beaten right and left? Can we bear it till to-morrow morning?"

Yula washed the nervous fingers stroking his hair out of his eyes, and looked the picture of patient endurance. There was no escape, but it could not last long. Wilfred set his teeth, and asserted no one but himself should put the harness on his dogs.

"Gently, my little turkey-cock," put in Mathurin. "The puppy may be your own, but the stray belongs to a friend of mine, who will be glad enough to see him back again."

Wilfred was fairly frightened now. "Oh, if he had to give his Yula chummie back to some horrid stranger!" He thought it would be the last straw which brings the breakdown to boy as well as camel. But he consoled himself at their journey's end. Bowkett would interfere on his behalf. Mathurin's assertion was not true, by the twinkle in his eye and the laugh to his companions. Louison must have told his cousin that Yula was a stray, or they would never have guessed it. True or false, the danger of losing his dog was a real one. They meant to take it from him. One thing Wilfred had the sense to see, getting in a passion was of no good anyway. "Frederick the Great lost his battle when he lost his temper," he thought. "Keep mine for Yula's sake I will."

But the work was harder than he expected, although the time was shorter. The hardy broncos of the hunters were as untiring as their masters. Ten, twenty, thirty miles were got over without a sign of weariness from any one but Wilfred and Kusky. If they were dead beat, what did it matter? The dog was lashed along, and Wilfred was teased, to keep him from falling asleep.

"One more push," said the hunters, "and instead of sleeping with our feet to a camp-fire, and our beards freezing to the blankets, we shall be footing it to Bowkett's fiddle."

The moon had risen clear and bright above the sleeping clouds still darkening the horizon. A silent planet burned lamp-like in the western sky. Forest and prairie, ridges and lowland, were sparkling in the sheen of the moonlight and the snow.


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