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Lost in the Wilds

How will Bowkett behave to him


The

bridegroom looked sharply round. "The boy," he repeated, seeing Gaspe by the fire. "There he is."

Up sprang Gaspe, bowing to the bride with all the courtly grace of the chivalrous De Bruniers of Breton days.

Aunt Miriam turned her head away. "O Pete!" she groaned, "I thought--I thought you meant--"

Bowkett did not let her finish her sentence, he hurried her into the dining-room. Behind him came his bright-eyed sister, who had played the part of bridesmaid, and was eager for the dancing and the fun, so soon to commence. At her side walked Forgill in his Sunday best, all important with the responsibility of his position, acting as proxy for his old master. He had given the bride away, and was at that moment cogitating over some half-dozen sentences destined for the after-dinner speech which he knew would be required of him. They were restive, and would not follow each other. "Happy day" and "Best wishes" wanted setting up on stilts, with a few long words to back them, for such an occasion. He knew the Indian love of speechifying would be too strong in their hunter guests to let him off. He had got as far as, "Uncommonly happy day for us all." But "uncommonly" sounded far too common in his critical ears. He was searching for a finer-sounding word, and thought he had got it in "preternaturally," when he heard the feeble voice of his master calling out, "Miriam! Here,

Miriam."

"Are they all deaf?" said Caleb Acland to Wilfred. "Open the door, my lad, and show yourself to your aunt."

Slowly and reluctantly Wilfred obeyed him. He held it open just a hand-breadth, and met the scowling brow of the owner of the forked tongue.

There was mutual recognition in the glance exchanged.

Wilfred shut the door softly, and drew the bolt without attracting his uncle's attention.

"The place is full of strangers," he said; "I shall see auntie soon. I'd rather wait here with you. I shall be sure to see her before she goes to her new home."

"As you like, my boy;--that Pete's a cow. There is no going away to a new home. It is bringing in a new master here before the old one is gone, so that your aunt should not be left unprotected a single day."

As Caleb Acland spoke, Wilfred felt himself growing hard and desperate in the cold clutch of a giant despair. The star of hope dropped from his sky. He saw himself in the hand of the man who had turned him from his door into the killing frost.

It was too late to speak out; Bowkett would be sure to deny it, and hate him the more. No, not a word to Uncle Caleb until he had taken counsel with Mr. De Brunier. But in his hasty glance into the outer world Mr. De Brunier was nowhere to be seen.

Wilfred was sure he would not go away without seeing him again. There was nothing for it but to gain a little time, wait with his uncle until the wedding guests were shut in the dining-room, and then go out and find Mr. De Brunier, unless Aunt Miriam had invited him to sit down with them. Yes, she was sure to do that, and Gaspe would be with his grandfather. But Maxica was there. He had saved him twice. He knew what Maxica would say: "To the free wild forest, and learn the use of the trap and the bow with me."

Wilfred was sorely tempted to run away. The recollection of Mr. De Brunier's old-world stories restrained him. He thought of the Breton emigrants. "What did they do in their despair? What all men can do, their duty." He kept on saying these words over and over, asking himself, "What is my duty? Have I no duty to the helpless old man who has welcomed me so kindly? How will Bowkett behave to him?" Wilfred felt much stronger to battle through with the hunter on his uncle's behalf, than when he thought only of himself. "The brave and loyal die at their posts. Gaspe would, rather than run away--rather than do anything that looked like running away."


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