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Lost in the Wilds

Another was pointed towards Bowkett


"I

know it," retorted Bowkett with a scowl. "But," he added hurriedly, "it is not he."

"Oh, it isn't the boy you lost? Of course not. But take my advice, turn this impudent young coyote out into the snow. One midnight's frost will save you from any more bother. There are plenty of badger holes where he can rest safe and snug till doomsday."

Bowkett would not venture a reply. The low aside was unnoticed by the dancers; not the faintest breath could reach Wilfred, vainly endeavouring to pass between the whirling groups to Bowkett's side; but every syllable was caught by the quick ear of one of the Indians on the floor.

He picked up a tiny splinter of wood from the hearth, near which he was sitting; another was secreted. There were three in the hollow of his hand. Noiselessly and unobtrusively he stole behind the dancers. A gentle pull at Wilfred's coat made him look up into the half-blind eyes of Maxica the Cree.

Not a word was said. Maxica turned from him and seated himself once more on the ground, in which he deliberately stuck his three pegs.

Wilfred could not make out what he was going to do, but his heart felt lighter at the sight of him; "for," he thought, "he will confirm my story. He will tell Bowkett how he found me by the banks of the dried-up river." He dropped on the floor beside the wandering

Cree. But the Indian laid a finger on his lips, and one of his pegs was pressed on Wilfred's palm; another was pointed towards Bowkett. The third, which was a little charred, and therefore blackened, was turned to the door, which Wilfred had left open, to the darkness without, from whence, according to Indian belief, the evil spirits come.

Then Maxica took the three pegs and moved them rapidly about the floor. The black peg and Bowkett's peg were always close together, rubbing against each other until both were as black as a piece of charcoal. It was clear they were pursuing the other peg--which Wilfred took for himself--from corner to corner. At last it was knocked down under them, driven right into the earthen floor, and the two blackened pegs were left sticking upright over it.

Wilfred laid his hand softly on Maxica's knee, to show his warning was understood.

But what then?

Maxica got up and glided out of the hut as noiselessly as he had entered it. The black-browed hunter whispering at Bowkett's elbow made his way through the dancers towards Wilfred with a menacing air.

"What are you doing here?" he demanded.

"Waiting to speak to Mr. Bowkett," replied Wilfred stoutly.

"Then you may wait for him on the snow-bank," retorted the hunter, seizing Wilfred by the collar and flinging him out of the door.

"What is that for?" asked several of the dancers.

"I'll vow it is the same young imp who passed us with a party of miners coming from a summer's work in the Rocky Mountains, who stole my dinner from the spit," he went on, working himself into the semblance of a passion. "I marked him with a rare black eye before we parted then, and I'll give him another if he shows his face again where I am."

"It is false!" cried Wilfred, rising up in the heat of his indignation.

His tormentor came a step or two from the door, and gathering up a great lump of snow, hurled it at him.

Wilfred escaped from the avalanche, and the mocking laughter which accompanied it, to the sheltering darkness. He paused among the sombre shadows thrown by the wall of the opposite hut. Maxica was waiting for him under its pine-bark eaves, surveying the cloudless heavens.


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