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Lost in the Wilds

De Brunier knew nothing of him

"I am not Dick Vanner's groom," said Diome, "but he wants me to hold his horse in the shadow of those pines or under the orchard wall; and I'll hold it as long as he likes, and walk it about half the night in readiness for him, and then I shall know where he is bound for."

"The American frontier, with Wilfred behind him, unless I am making a great mistake. If Bowkett laid a finger on him here, half his guests would turn upon him," observed Mr. De Brunier.

"That's about it," returned Diome. "Now I am going to shut up this horse in one of the sheds, ready for Vanner at a moment's notice, and then I'll try for a word with Forgill. He is working so hard with the carving-knife there is no getting at him."

"There is one of the Aclands' men lighting a fire in his hut, ready for us," put in Gaspe.

Diome shook his head. "He!" he repeated in accents of contempt; "he would let it all out at the wrong time."

"Is the Cree gone?"

"Maxica is on the scent already,' replied Diome, whistling carelessly as they parted.

"Gaspard," said Mr. De Brunier, as they entered the hut, "do you remember passing a policeman on the road. He was watching for a Yankee spirit cart, contraband of course. He will have caught it by this time, and emptied the barrels, according to our new Canadian law. Go back in the sledge--you will meet him returning--and bring him here. If he rides into the farm-court before daybreak, your little friend is safe. As for me, I must keep watch here. No one can leave the house without me seeing him, the night is so clear. A dark figure against the white ground is visible at twice this distance; and Maxica is somewhere by the back of the homestead. Neither sight nor sound will escape an Indian."

Mr. De Brunier despatched the sledge-driver back to the farm with the man Bowkett had sent to light their fire, to try to procure a fresh horse. This was easily managed. Bowkett was delighted to think the travellers were about to resume their journey, and declared the better half of hospitality was to speed the parting guest.

The sledge went round to Forgill's hut. Gaspe wrapped himself in the bearskin and departed. No one saw him go; no one knew that Mr. De Brunier was left behind. He built up the fire and reconnoitred his ground. In one corner of the hut was a good stout cudgel.

"I must anticipate your owner's permission and adopt you," he said, as he gave it a flourish to try its weight. Then he looked to the revolver in his breast pocket, and began his walk, so many paces in front of the hut, with his eye on the farm-house porch, and so many paces walking backwards, with it still in sight--a self-appointed sentry, ready to challenge the enemy single-handed, for he did not count much upon Diome. He saw how loath he was to come into collision with Bowkett, and reckoned him more as a friend in the camp than as an active ally. There was Maxica, ready like a faithful mastiff to fly at the throat of the first man who dared to lay a hand on Wilfred, regardless of consequences. He did not know Maxica, but he knew the working of the Indian mind. Revenge is the justice of the savage. It was Maxica's retaliation that he feared. Diome had spoken of Forgill, but Mr. De Brunier knew nothing of him, so he left him out of count. It was clear he must chiefly rely on his own coolness and courage. "The moral force will tell in such an encounter as this, and that is all on my side," he said to himself. "It will tell on the outsiders and the farm-servants. I shall find some to second me." He heard the scrape of the fiddle and the merry chorus of some hunting-song, followed by the quick beat of the dancers' footsteps.

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