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Lost in the Wilds

With cautious steps De Brunier followed

Hour succeeded hour. The fire in the hut burned low. De Brunier left his post for a moment to throw on fresh logs. He returned to his watch. The house-door opened. Out came Diome and crossed to the cattle-sheds. Mr. De Brunier saw him come back with Vanner's horse. He changed his position, creeping in behind the orchard trees, until he was within a few yards of the house. The three feet of snow beneath his feet gave him an elevation. He was looking down into the court, where the snow had been partially cleared.

Diome was walking the horse up and down before the door. It was not a night in which any one could stand still. His impatient stamping to warm his feet brought out Vanner and Bowkett, with half-a-dozen others. The leave-taking was noisy and prolonged. Batiste's head appeared in the doorway.

"I cannot count on his assistance," thought Mr. De Brunier, "but I can count on his neutrality; and Diome must know that a word from me would bring about his dismissal from his new master."

Vanner mounted and rode off along the slippery ground as only a hunter could ride.

"Now for the first act," thought Mr. De Brunier. "May my Gaspard be speeding on his errand. The hour draws near."

As Bowkett and his friends turned back into the house, Diome walked rapidly across the other end of the orchard and went towards Forgill's hut. With cautious steps De Brunier followed.

Diome was standing moodily by the fire. He started.

"Well," demanded Mr. De Brunier, "how goes the night?"

"For God's sake keep out of the way, sir. They have made this hut the rendezvous, believing you had started hours ago," exclaimed Diome brightening.

"Did you think I had deserted the poor boy?" asked Mr. De Brunier.

"I was thinking," answered Diome, waiving the question, "Dick Vanner is a dangerous fellow to thwart when the bowie-knife is in his hand."

"Well, you will see it done, and then you may find him not quite so dangerous as he seems," was the quiet reply.



Diome had no more information to give. "For the love of life, sir," he entreated, as the brief conference ended, "move off to the other side of the house, or you will be seen by Vanner as he returns. A hunter's eye, Mr. De Brunier, notices the least change in the shadows. You mean to hide among the orchard trees, but you can't stand still. You will be frozen to death, and a moving shadow will betray you."

His cautionary counsels were wasted on a preoccupied mind. De Brunier was examining the fastenings of the door. There was a lock, but the key was with the owners of the hut. There was also a bar which secured it on the inside. Forgill's basket of tools stood by the chimney.

"How much time have we?" asked Mr. De Brunier.

"A good half-hour, sir," replied Diome.

"Time enough for me to transfer this staple to the outside of the doorpost?"

Diome hesitated before he answered this inquiry. "Well then?" he asked in turn.

"Well then," repeated Mr. De Brunier, "this Vanner is to meet you here. Don't go out of the hut to take his horse; beckon him to come inside. Shut the door, as if for caution, and tell him you have seen me watching him from the orchard trees. He will listen to that. Two minutes will be enough for me to bar the door on the outside, and we shall have caged the wild hawk before he has had time to pounce upon his prey. I must shut you in together; but play your part well, and leave the rest to me."

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