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Lost in the Wilds

Bowkett paused with the bow upraised


A

cheer went up from the noisy dancers, already calling for the fiddles.

Bowkett paused with the bow upraised. There stood Wilfred, like the skeleton at the feast, in the open doorway before him.

"If you have not found me, I have found you, Mr. Bowkett," he was saying. "I am the lost boy. I am Wilfred Acland."

The dark brow of the handsome young hunter contracted with angry dismay.

"Begone!" he exclaimed, with a toss of his head. "You! I know nothing of you! What business have you here?"

Hugh Bowkett turned his back upon Wilfred, and fiddled away more noisily than before. Two or three of his friends who stood nearest to him--men whom it would not have been pleasant to meet alone in the darkness of the night--closed round him as the dance began.

"A coyote in your lamb's-skin," laughed one, "on the lookout for a supper."

A coyote is a little wolfish creature, a most impudent thief, for ever prowling round the winter camps, nibbling at the skins and watching the meat-stage, fought off by the dogs and trapped like a rat by the hunters.

Wilfred looked round for Diome. He might have recognized him; but no Diome was there.

Was there not one among the merry fellows tripping

before him, not one that had ever seen him before? He knew he was sadly changed. His face was still swollen from the disfiguring blow. Could he wonder if Bowkett did not know him? Should he run back and call the men who had brought him to his assistance? He hated them, every one. He was writhing still under every lash which had fallen on poor Kusky's sides. Turn to them? no, never! His dogs would be taken as payment for any help that they might give. He would reason it out. He would convince Bowkett he was the same boy.

Three or four Indians entered behind him, and seated themselves on the floor, waiting for something to eat. He knew their silent way of begging for food when they thought that food was plentiful in the camp: the high-piled meat-stage had drawn them. It was such an ordinary thing Wilfred paid no heed to them. He was bent on making Bowkett listen; and yet he was afraid to leave the door, for fear of missing his dogs.

"A word in your ear," said the most ill-looking of the hunters standing by Bowkett's fiddle, trusting to the noise of the music to drown his words from every one but him for whom they were intended. "You and I have been over the border together, sharpened up a bit among the Yankee bowie-knives. You are counting Caleb Acland as a dead man. You are expecting, as his sister's husband, to step into his shoes. Back comes this boy and sweeps the stakes out of your very hand. He'll stand first."


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