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Lost in the Wilds

Have you parted company with Bowkett


Wilfred's

first sensation of joy at the sight of Pe-na-Koam turned to something like fear as he saw her companion, for he had known him only as Bowkett's man. But retreat was impossible. The old squaw had shuffled up to him and grasped his arm. The sight of Yula bounding over the snow had made her the first to perceive him. She was pouring forth her delight in her Indian tongue, and explaining her appearance in such altered surroundings. Wilfred could not understand a word, but Maxica was not far behind. Kusky and Yula were already in the hut, barking for the wa-wa (the goose) that was roasting before the fire.

When Maxica came up, walking beside Diome, Wilfred knew escape was out of the question. He must try to make a friend--at least he must meet him as a friend, even if he proved himself to be an enemy. But the work was done already.

"Ah, it is you!" cried Diome. "I was sure it was. You had dropped a button in the tumble-down hut, and the print of your boot, an English boot, was all over the snow when I got there. You look dazed, my little man; don't you understand what I'm talking about? That old squaw is my grandmother. You don't know, of course, who it was sent the Blackfoot Sapoo to dig her out of the snow; but I happen to know. The old man is going from Hungry Hall, and Louison is to be promoted. I'm on the look-out to take his place with the new-comer; so when I met with him, a snow-bird whispered

in my ear a thing or two. But where are your guides?"

Wilfred turned for a word with Maxica before he dared reply.

Both felt the only thing before them was to win Diome to Wilfred's side.

"Have you parted company with Bowkett?" asked Maxica cautiously.

"Bowkett," answered Diome, "is going to marry and turn farmer, and I to try my luck as voyageur to the Company. This is the hunters' idle month, and I am waiting here until my services are wanted at the fort.--What cheer?" he shouted to his bright-eyed little wife, driving the dogs from the door of the hut.

The wa-wa shortly disappeared before Maxica's knife, for an Indian likes about ten pounds of meat for a single meal. Wilfred was asleep beside the fire long before it was over; when they tried to rouse him his senses were roaming. The excitement and exertion, following the blow on his head, had taken effect at last.

Pe-na-Koam, with all an Indian woman's skill in the use of medicinal herbs, and the experience of a long life spent among her warrior tribe, knew well how to take care of him.

"Leave him to me," she said to Maxica, "and go your ways."

Diome too was anxious for the Cree to depart. He was looking forward to taking Wilfred back to Acland's Hut himself. Caleb Acland's gratitude would express itself in a tangible form, and he did not intend to divide it with Maxica. His evident desire to get rid of the Cree put the red man on his guard. Long did he sit beside the hunter's fire in brooding silence, trusting that Wilfred might rise up from his lengthened sleep ready to travel, as an Indian might have done. But his hope was abortive. He drew out of Pe-na-Koam all he wanted to know. Diome had been long in Bowkett's employ. When the Cree heard this he shut his lips.

"Watch over the boy," he said to Pe-na-Koam, "for danger threatens him."


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