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Lost in the Wilds

De Brunier walked into the sleeping room

Aunt Miriam got back into her own room; how, she never knew. She threw herself on her knees beside her bed, and listened; for in that wood-built house every word could be heard as plainly as if she had remained in the kitchen. Her grief and shame were hidden, that was all.

Wilfred's clear, straightforward answers made it plain there were no thieves in the case. Her wedding guests had set upon her little wanderer in the moment of his return.

Vanner, scowling and sullen, never uttered a single word.

Mathurin protested volubly. He never meant to let them hurt the boy, but some amongst them owed him a grudge, and they were bent on paying it off before they parted.

"A base and cowardly trick, by your own showing, to break into an old man's room in the dead of the night with a false alarm; not to mention your behaviour to the boy. If this outrage hastens the old gentleman's end, you will find yourselves in a very awkward position. His seizure in the night was solely due to the unwarrantable alarm," observed the policeman.

Mathurin began to interrupt. He checked him.

"If you have anything to say for yourself, reserve it for the proper time and place; for the present you must step into that sledge and come with me at once.--Mr. De Brunier, I shall meet you and your son at Garry on the twenty-ninth."

He marched his prisoners through the porch; a sullen silence reigned around. The sledge-bell tinkled, the snow gleamed white as ever in the morning sunshine, as Vanner and Mathurin left the farm.

With the air of a mute at a funeral, Forgill bolted the door behind them. Mr. De Brunier walked into the sleeping-room, to examine the scene of confusion it presented for himself.

Aunt Miriam came out, leaving the door behind her open, without knowing it. She moved like one in a dream. "I cannot understand all this," she said, "but we must do the thing that is nearest."

She directed Forgill to board up the broken window and to see that the house was secure, and took Pete with her to make up a bed for her brother in the dining-room. She laid her hand on Wilfred's shoulder as she passed him, but the words died on her lips.

The men obeyed her without reply. Forgill was afraid to go out of the house alone. As the cowman followed him, he patted Yula's head, observing, "After all that's said and done, it was this here dog which caught 'em. I reckon he's worth his weight in gold, wherever he comes from, that I do."

Yula shook off the stranger's caress as if it were an impertinent freedom. His eye was fixed on two small moccasined feet peeping out from under Aunt Miriam's bed.

There was a spring, but Wilfred's hand was in his collar.

"I know I had better stop him," he whispered, looking up at Gaspe, as he thought of Mr. De Brunier's reproof.

"Right enough now," cried Gaspe. "Wilfred, it is a girl."

He ran to the bed and handed out Bowkett's young sister, Anastasia. Her dress was of the universal smoked skin, but its gay embroidery of beads and the white ribbons which adorned it spoke of the recent bridal. Her black hair fell in one long, heavy braid to her waist.

"Oh, you uncomplimentary creatures!" she exclaimed, "not one of you remembered my existence; but I'll forgive you two"--extending a hand to each--"because you did not know of it. I crawled in here at the first alarm, and here I have lain trembling, and nobody missed me. But, I declare, you men folk have been going on awful. You will be the death of us all some of these days. I could have knocked your heads together until I had knocked some sense into you. Put your pappoose in its cradle, indeed! I wish you were all pappooses; I would soon let you know what I think of upsetting a poor old man like that."

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