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Lost in the Wilds

But Bowkett was not willing to return


"We've

done, my lads!" shouted Bowkett; "we have about ended as glorious a day's sport as ever I had."

"Not yet," retorted Diome. "Just listen." There was a trampling, snorting sound as of many cattle on the brink of a lakelet sheltering at the foot of the neighbouring hills.

Were they not in the midst of what the early Canadian settlers used to call the Land of the Wild Cows? Those sounds proceeded from another herd coming down for its evening drink. On they crept with stealthy steps through bush and bulrush to get a nearer view in the bewildering shadows, which were growing darker and darker every moment.

"Stop! stop!" cried Forgill, hurrying forward, as the light yet lingering on the lake showed the familiar faces of his master's cows stooping down to reach the pale blue water at their feet. Yes, there they were, the truant herd Marley was endeavouring in vain to find.

Many a horned head was lifted at the sound of Forgill's well-known call. Away he went into the midst of the group, pointing out the great "A" he had branded deep in the thick hair on the left shoulder before he had turned them loose.

What was now to be done?

"Drive them home," said the careful Forgill, afraid of losing them again. But Bowkett was not willing to return.

Meanwhile

Diome and Wilfred were busy preparing for the night at the spot where they had halted, when the presence of the herd was first perceived. They had brought the horses down to the lake to water at a sufficient distance from the cows not to disturb them. But one or two of the wanderers began to "moo," as if they partially recognized their former companions.

"They will follow me and the horses," pursued Forgill, who knew he could guide his way across the trackless prairie by the aid of the stars.

"If you come upon Marley," he said, "he can take my place in the cart, for he has most likely found the trail of the cows by this time; or if I cross his path, I shall leave him to drive home the herd and return. You will see one of us before morning."

"As you like," replied Bowkett, who knew he could do without either man provided he kept the cart. "You will probably see us back at the gate of Acland's Hut by to-morrow night; and if we do not bring you game enough, we must plan a second expedition when you have more leisure."

So it was settled between them.

Forgill hurried back to the camping place to get his supper before he started. Bowkett lingered behind, surveying the goodly herd, whilst vague schemes for combining the twofold advantages of hunter and farmer floated through his mind.

When he rejoined his companions he found them seated round a blazing fire, enjoying the boiling kettle of tea, the fried steak, and biscuit which composed their supper. The saddles were hung up on the branches of the nearest tree, and the skins and blankets which were to make their bed were already spread upon the pine brush which strewed the ground.

"Now, young 'un," said Forgill solemnly, "strikes me I had better keep you alongside anyhow."

"No, no," retorted Diome. "The poor little fellow has been in the saddle all day, and he is dead asleep already; leave him under his blankets. He'll be right enough; must learn to rough it sooner or later."

Forgill, who had to be his own tailor and washer-woman, was lamenting over a rent in his sleeve, which he was endeavouring to stitch up. For a housewife, with its store of needles and thread, was never absent from his pocket.


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