Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[blocks in formation]

we begin to suspect the presence of another whale, when the boy Jack cries out, “A whale, a whale ! ” and receives condign punishment forth with. This boy in his sleep often starts up with the same wild cry, in spite of the regular correction he receives from his father in whose bunk he sleeps. We sail along, passing through narrow strips of ice into inner lakes of open water, the ice growing larger as we proceed; the hard snow-covered surface occasionally rising into hummocks as we go. Here are floes of ice twenty miles in circumference, and fields of ice of several acres in extent. We see numbers of narwhals, but all our efforts to capture them as they swim northward prove unavailing. Next day we are forced to wait patiently at one place for a considerable time, and remembering the experience we had gained on a previous occasion we watch anxiously for the coming of some sleepy narwhal into our own scrap of open water. The hours seem to drag along wearily as we wait, and it is in the midst of our patient waiting the man from the nest aloft suddenly announces the presence of a polar bear, probably attracted towards us by his keen scent. As there is a likelihood of the chase being a protracted one we make all our arrangements with fitting care ; our rifles are examined, and the men provide a rope and haakpick, feeling certain that we shall have some use for them. Far out on the great ice field our surly customer is seen lumbering towards us; while a boat is being got ready to cut off his retreat should he take to the water, we step down upon the ice; on its surface, large pools of fresh water about a foot in depth spread themselves in all directions. Our hunting ground rises gradually from the water's edge—a vast plain diversified with hummocks of snow-covered ice. At first we busy ourselves in selecting a course to avoid the pools ; our boots are well adapted for wading, but we desire to gain upon Master Brownie with as little noise as possible. We are forced, however, to wade, and worse still, to go right through a deep snowdrift in search of the bear, of whose whereabouts we have not the slightest clue. Suddenly, he comes into view of our party, and presents an appearance as unlike the white-coated beasts we see in the Zoo as it is. possible to imagine. On the contrary, we see a gaunt, pale, yellow, hungry-looking brute, swaying his sharpcut muzzle from side to side in restless indecision. Whether it is the momentary fear of danger, or the usual habit of the Arctic bear we could not then say, but we wished he would adopt a more steady and dignified bearing for a few minutes to enable us to take a more certain and deliberate aim. We

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

CUNNING OF THE BEAR.

167

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

« AnteriorContinuar »