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Lost in the Wilds

But Yula could not be deceived


"He

speaks with a forked tongue," said the Cree, pointing to the man in the doorway, and dividing his fingers, to show that thoughts went one way and words another.

The scorn of the savage beside him was balm to Wilfred. The touch of sympathy which makes the whole world kin drew them together. But between him and the hunter swaggering on the snow-bank there was a moral gulf nothing could bridge over. There was a sense--a strange sense--of deliverance. What would it have been to live on with such men, touching their pitch, and feeling himself becoming blackened? That was the uttermost depth from which this fellow's mistake had saved him.

It was no mistake, as Maxica was quick to show him, but deliberate purpose. Then Wilfred gave up every hope of getting back to his home. All was lost to him--even his dogs were gone.

He tried to persuade Maxica to walk round the huts with him, to find out where they were. But the Cree was resolute to get him away as fast as he could beyond the reach of Bowkett and his companions. He expected that great lump of snow would be followed by a stone; that their steps would be dogged until they reached the open, when--he did not particularize the precise form that when was likeliest to assume. The experiences of his wild, wandering life suggested dangers that could not occur to Wilfred. There must be no boyish footprint in the snow to tell which

way they were going. Maxica wrapped his blanket round Wilfred, and threw him over his shoulder as if he had been a heavy pack of skins, and took his way through the noisiest part of the camp, choosing the route a frightened boy would be the last to take. He crossed in front of an outlying hut. Yula was tied by a strip of leather to one of the posts supporting its meat-stage, and Kusky to another. Maxica recognized Yula's bark before Wilfred did. He muffled the boy's head in the blanket, and drew it under his arm in such a position that Wilfred could scarcely either speak or hear. Then Maxica turned his course, and left the dogs behind him. But Yula could not be deceived. He bounded forward to the uttermost length of his tether. One sniff at the toe of Wilfred's boot, scarcely visible beneath the blanket, made him desperate. He hung at his collar; he tore up the earth; he dragged at the post, as if, like another Samson, he would use his unusual strength to pull down this prison-house.

Maxica, with his long, ungainly Indian stride, was quickly out of sight. Then Yula forbore his wailing howl, and set himself to the tough task of biting through the leathern thong which secured him. Fortunately for him, a dog-chain was unattainable in the hunters' camp. Time and persistency were safe to set him free before the daylight.

"I thought you were going to stifle me outright," said Wilfred, when Maxica released him.

"I kept you still," returned the Cree. "There were ears behind every log."

"Where are we going?" asked Wilfred.

But Maxica had no answer to that question. He was stealing over the snow with no more definite purpose before him than to take the boy away somewhere beyond the hunters' reach. A long night walk was nothing to him. He could find his way as well in the dark as in the light.

They were miles from the hunters' camp before he set Wilfred on his feet or paused to rest.

"You have saved me, Maxica," said Wilfred, in a low, deep voice. "You have saved my life from a greater danger than the snowdrift. I can only pray the Good Spirit to reward you."

"I was hunger-bitten, and you gave me beaver-skin," returned Maxica. "Now think; whilst this bad hunter keeps the gate of your house there is no going back for you, and you have neither trap nor bow. I'll guide you where the hunter will never follow--across the river to the pathless forest; and then--" he looked inquiringly, turning his dim eyes towards the boy.


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