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Lost in the Wilds

Mathurin drew up before one of the biggest of the huts


roused himself. The tinkle of the dog-bells was growing fainter and fainter, as Mathurin galloped into the midst of a score or so of huts promiscuously crowded together, while many a high-piled meat-stage gave promise of a winter's plenty. Huge bones and horns, the remnants of yesterday's feast, were everywhere strewing the ground, and changing its snowy carpet to a dingy drab. There were wolf-skins spread over framework. There were buffalo-skins to be smoked, and buffalo-robes--as they are called when the hair is left on--stretched out to dry. Men and horses, dogs and boys, women drawing water or carrying wood, jostled each other. There was a glow of firelight from many a parchment window, and here and there the sound of a fiddle, scraped by some rough hunter's hand, and the quick thud of the jovial hunter's heel upon the earthen floor.

It resembled nothing in the old world so much as an Irish fair, with its shouts of laughter and snatches of song, and that sense of inextricable confusion, heightened by the all too frequent fight in a most inconvenient corner. The rule of contrary found a notable example in the name bestowed upon this charming locality. A French missionary had once resided on the spot, so it was still called La Mission.

Mathurin drew up before one of the biggest of the huts, where the sounds of mirth were loudest, and the light streamed brightest on the bank of snow beside the door.

style="text-align: justify;">"Here we are!" he exclaimed, swinging Wilfred from the saddle to the threshold.



Mathurin knocked at the door. It was on the latch. He pushed Wilfred inside; but the boy was stubborn.

"No, no, I won't go in; I'll stand outside and wait for the others," he said. "I want my dogs."

"But the little 'un's dead beat. You would not have him hurried. I am going back to meet them," laughed Mathurin, proud of the neat way in which he had slipped out of all explanation of the blow Wilfred had received, which Bowkett might make awkward.

He was in the saddle and off again in a moment, leaving Wilfred standing at the half-open door.

"This is nothing but a dodge to get my dogs away from me," thought the boy, unwilling to go inside the hut without them.

"I am landed at last," he sighed, with a grateful sense of relief, as he heard Bowkett's voice in the pause of the dance. His words were received with bursts of laughter. But what was he saying?

"It all came about through the loss of the boy. There was lamentation and mourning and woe when I went back without him. The auntie would have given her eyes to find him. See my gain by the endeavour. As hope grew beautifully less, it dwindled down to 'Bring me some certain tidings of his fate, and there is nothing I can refuse you.' As luck would have it, I came across a Blackfoot wearing the very knife we stuck in the poor boy's belt before we started. I was not slow in bartering for an exchange; and when I ride next to Acland's Hut, it is but to change horses and prepare for a longer drive to the nearest church. So, friends, I invite you all to dance at my wedding feast. Less than three days of it won't content a hunter."

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