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CUNNING OF THE BEAR.
learned afterwards that his hang-dog look and apparent confusion was assumed; for the men on board were able to follow all his movements, and from them we gathered that so far from being unaware of our tactics, the wily traitor was himself practising all his cunning in his efforts to cut off some straggler from our party. With this evident object in view, he was seen to make a large circuit, running from hummock to hummock, and hiding behind every elevation in his course as he stopped to listen to the sound of our tramping feet. In this way he had managed to pass nearly to our rear, and another two hundred yards would have exposed us to an attack from a quarter we little expected he would have been found in. The great paws of the Arctic bear are admirably adapted for rapid and noiseless walking upon the ice and snow drifts. To prevent surprise we talk of the necessity of the rear man of the party in our next bear exploit walking backwards to keep a good look-out.
When the beast found he was observed, he drew back to conceal himself behind the hummock nearest to him, and displayed no fear whatever. Our companion ran round to a point from whence he could see Master B. waiting for us, and the opportunity presenting itself he took steady aim, and dropped
the bear with a well-directed bullet. The body rolled over into a pool of water, and as he was quite dead it hardly needed the stout kick delivered by an incredulous looker-on to satisfy himself of the fact. Then the men proceeded to flay the hide. There was not the slightest trace of food in the miserably contracted stomach, and we were puzzling over this strange fact, unable to account for the vitality of an animal so empty, when one of the men volunteered to explain by what means the bear's life is sustained. According to him, when food fails these Arctic bears, a gland behind the middle claw in the hollow of the foot is sucked by the starving beast, and by this story, whose truth the man implicitly believed in, he unconsciously confirmed one of the oldest fables recounting the peculiarities of Bruin. We ourselves, however, had no opportunity of witnessing this interesting operation.
We now set to work in earnest. · Attaching the rope to the hide, we dragged it towards the ship, while some of the men made a bonfire of the carcase. As the men make up the fire, we examine the powerful structure of the limbs ; flat and without any indication of strength when viewed from the front, the fore-arms are a vast network of powerful sinews, when looked at in profile,—the paw attached
to these powerful limbs proves that it needs no second blow to secure its victim, and the encounters of bears with seals no longer seem incredible as we gaze on these massive limbs, one net-work of muscular fibre. One man is laden with our rifles; the rest follow, dragging our hide after usa laborious operation, and we are heartily weary of it by the time we reach our ship. This successful bear-hunt affords much material for comment. The season opens earlier this year than last, as no bear was killed in the former cruise at this date, and everybody is busy speculating on our chances. Every one on board settles down into a charming state of rest, and it is only by chance that one of the men goes on deck, and, looking over the side, sees another Brownie gnawing at the hawser! Had he crept aft and informed us of his discovery, we should then and there have added another bear-skin to our collection ; but, taken aback by the awkward propinquity of ursus arctus, he holloas out Bear, bear! In an instant every one seizes a gun and rushes on deck. Bang go the bullets in all directions, —one fellow jumps on the ice and starts in pursuit, getting in line of our fire, so that whatever chance we might have had is robbed by our too eager hunter. A long shot may do wonders, we think ; and so we hasten after the retreating bear. By good luck a
bullet is lodged in the near hind leg, which sadly impedes his flight, and we gain on him every step we take. Another long shot stops him altogether; not in the least deterred, we dash into the bitter cold water where he has fallen, in our anxiety to secure him. In a trice the bear is dragged out and divested of his outer covering. This fellow was as empty as his mate, and in this state his temper is sure to be at its worst point. The want of food may be a common thing amongst the family generally, but regardless of their savage nature, we go single-handed towards the fire smouldering in the remains of his companion, in the hopes of picking up a third bear. We are forced to return empty handed.
The well-known “Polar" or "Ice Bear” is not now nearly so plentiful as in former times, and is rarely seen at the present day between lat. 59° and 66° in Mid-Greenland. The Company of Royal Merchants in Greenland give the natives about five rigsdaler (11s. 3d.) for the skin. Occasionally there are a number killed near Cape Farewell, which come round on the annual ice-drift. There a curious custom prevails, viz., that whosoever sights the bear firstman, woman, or child—is entitled to the skin, and the person who has shot it only to the blubber and flesh, which is said to be, especially the liver, poi