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Lost in the Wilds

For Bowkett had been over the frontier more than once


"That

is not true," retorted Wilfred, "for I was never out of her Majesty's dominion for a single hour in my life."

It was a chance hit, for Bowkett had been over the frontier more than once, wintering among the Yankee roughs on the other side of the border, a proceeding which is synonymous in the North-West Dominion with "getting out of the way."

Bowkett was a handsome fellow, and a first-rate shot, who could accomplish the difficult task of hunting the long-eared, cunning moose-deer as well as a born Red Indian. Wilfred looked up at him with secret admiration. Not so Forgill, who owned to Pete there was no dependence on these half-and-half characters. But without Bowkett's help there would be no meat for the winter; and since the master had decided the boy was to go with them, there was nothing more to be said.

Aunt Miriam came to the gate, in her hood and cloak, to see them depart.

"Good-bye! good-bye, auntie!" shouted Wilfred. "I am awfully sorry about those eggs."

"Ah, you rogue! do you think I am going to believe you?" She laughed, shaking a warning finger at him; and so they parted, little dreaming of all that would happen before they met again.

Wilfred was equipped in an old, smoked deer-skin coat of his uncle's, and a fur cap with a flap falling like a cape on his

neck, and ear-pieces which met under his chin. He was a tall boy of his age, and his uncle was a little, wiry man. The coat was not very much too long for him. It wrapped over famously in front, and was belted round the waist. Pete had filled the pockets with a good supply of biscuit, and one or two potatoes, which he thought Wilfred could roast for his supper in the ashes of the campfire. For the hunting-party expected to camp out in the open for a night or two, as the buffaloes they were in quest of were further to seek and harder to find every season.

Forgill had stuck a hunting-knife in Wilfred's belt, to console him for the want of a gun. The boy would have liked to carry a gun like the others, but on that point there was a resolute "No" all round.

As they left the belt of pine trees, and struck out into the vast, trackless sea of grass, Wilfred looked back to the light blue column of smoke from the farm-house chimney, and wistfully watched it curling upwards in the clear atmosphere, with a dash of regret that he had not yet made friends with his uncle, or recovered his place in Aunt Miriam's good graces. But it scarcely took off the edge of his delight.

Forgill was in the cart, which he hoped to bring back loaded with game. At the corner of the first bluff, as the hills in Canada are usually called, they encountered Bowkett's man with a string of horses, one of which he rode. There was a joyous blaze of sunshine glinting through the broad fringes of white pines which marked the course of the river, making redder the red stems of the Norwegians which sprang up here and there in vivid contrast. A light canoe of tawny birch-bark, with its painted prow, was threading a narrow passage by the side of a tiny eyot or islet, where the pine boughs seemed to meet high overhead. The hunters exchanged a shout of recognition with its skilful rower, ere a stately heron, with grand crimson eye and leaden wings, came slowly flapping down the stream intent on fishing. Then the little party wound their way by ripple-worn rocks, covered with mosses and lichens. At last, on one of the few bare spots on a distant hillside, some dark moving specks became visible. The hunt began in earnest. Away went the horsemen over the wide, open plain. Wilfred and the cart following more slowly, yet near enough to watch the change to the stealthy approach and the cautious outlook over the hill-top, where the hunter's practised eye had detected the buffalo.


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