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Lost in the Wilds

Kusky was limping painfully after him


But

Wilfred knew better than to think he could really live their savage life, with its dark alternations of hunger and cold.

"Could I get back to Hungry Hall in time to travel with Mr. De Brunier?" he asked his swarthy friend.

"Yes; that other place," repeated Maxica, "where is that?"

Wilfred could hardly tell him, he remembered so little of the road.

"Which way did the wind blow and the snow drift past as you stood at the friendly gates?" asked Maxica. "On which cheek did the wind cut keenest when you rode into the hunters' camp at nightfall?"

Wilfred tried to recollect.

"A two days' journey," reflected Maxica, "with the storm-wind in our faces."

He felt the edge of his hatchet, climbed the steep ascent, and struck a gash in the stem of the nearest poplar. His quick sense of touch told him at which edge of the cut the bark grew thickest. That was the north. He found it with the unerring precision of the mariner's compass. Although he had no names for the cardinal points, he knew them all.

There was an hour or two yet before daylight. Wilfred found himself a stick, as they passed between the poplars, to help himself along, and caught up Kusky under his other arm; for the poor little fellow was stiff in

every limb, and his feet were pricked and bleeding, from the icicles which he had suffered to gather between his toes, not yet knowing any better. But he was too big a dog for Wilfred to carry long. Wilfred carefully broke out the crimsoned spikes as soon as there was light enough to show him what was the matter, and Yula came and washed Kusky's feet more than once; so they helped him on.

Before the gray of the winter's dawn La Mission was miles behind them, and breakfast a growing necessity.

Maxica had struck out a new route for himself. He would not follow the track Batiste and his companions had taken. The black pegs might yet pursue the white and trample it down in the snow if they were not wary. Sooner or later an Indian accomplishes his purpose. He attributed the same fierce determination to Bowkett. Wilfred lagged more and more. Food must be had. Maxica left him to contrive a trap in the run of the game through the bushes to their right. So Wilfred took the dogs slowly on. Sitting down in the snow, without first clearing a hole or lighting a fire, was dangerous.

Yula, sharing in the general desire for breakfast, started off on a little hunting expedition of his own. Kusky was limping painfully after him, as he darted between the tall, dark pines which began to chequer the landscape and warn the travellers they were nearing the river.

Wilfred went after his dog to recall him. The sun was glinting through the trees, and the all-pervading stillness was broken by the sound of a hatchet. Had Maxica crossed over unawares? Had Wilfred turned back without knowing it? He drew to the spot. There was Diome chopping firewood, which Pe-na-Koam was dragging across the snow towards a roughly-built log-hut.

She dropped the boughs on the snow, and drawing her blanket round her, came to meet him.

Diome, not perceiving Wilfred's approach, had retreated further among the trees, intent upon his occupation.


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