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A Mating in the Wilds by Ottwell Binns

And Ainley asked a sharp question


"And

I am not a hero," said Ainley with a harsh laugh. "No! I am just the ordinary man doing the ordinary things, and my one claim to notice is that I love you! But suppose the occasion came? Suppose I----." He broke off and stood looking at her for a moment. Then he asked, "Would that make no difference?"

"It might," replied the girl, the shrinking from the infliction of too severe a blow.

"Then I live for that occasion!" cried Ainley. "And who knows? In this wild land it may come any hour!"

As a matter of fact the occasion offered itself six days later--a Sunday, when Sir James Yardely had insisted on a day's rest. The various members of the party were employing their leisure according to their inclinations, and Ainley had gone after birds for the pot, whilst Helen Yardely, taking a small canoe, had paddled down stream to explore a creek where, according to one of the Indians, a colony of beavers had established itself.

When Ainley returned with a couple of brace of wood partridges it was to find that the girl was still absent from the camp. The day wore on towards evening and still the girl had not returned, and her uncle became anxious, as did others of the party.

"Some one had better go to look for her, Ainley," said Sir James. "I gather that a mile or two down the river the current quickens, and that there

are a number of islands where an inexpert canoeist may come to grief. I should never forgive myself if anything has happened to my niece."

"I will go myself, Sir James, and I will not return without her."

"Oh, I don't suppose anything very serious has happened," replied Sir James, with an uneasy laugh, "but it is just as well to take precautions."

"Yes, Sir James! I will go at once and take one of the Indians with me--one who knows the river. And it may be as well to send upstream also, as Miss Yardely may have changed her mind and taken that direction."

"Possibly so!" answered Sir James, turning away to give the necessary orders.

Gerald Ainley called one of the Indians to him, and ordered him to put three days' supply of food into the canoe, blankets and a small folding tent, and was just preparing to depart when Sir James drew near, and stared with evident surprise at the load in the canoe.

"Why, Gerald," he said, "you seem to have made preparations for a long search."

"That is only wise, Sir James. This river runs for sixty miles before it falls into the main river, and sixty miles will take a good deal of searching. If the search is a short one, and the food not needed, the burden of it will matter little; on the other hand----"

"In God's name go, boy--and bring Helen back!"

"I will do my best, Sir James."

The canoe pushed off, leaping forward under the combined propulsion of the paddles and the current, and sweeping round a tall bluff was soon out of sight of the camp.

The Indian in the bow of the canoe, after a little time, set the course slantingly across the current, making for the other side, and Ainley asked a sharp question. The Indian replied over his shoulder.

"The white Klootchman go to see the beaver! Beaver there!"

He jerked his head towards a creek now opening out on the further shore, and a look of impatience came on Ainley's face. He said nothing however, though to any one observing him closely it must have been abundantly clear that he had no expectation of finding the missing girl at the place which the Indian indicated. As a matter of fact they did not. Turning into the creek they presently caught sounds that were new to Ainley, and he asked a question.


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