Page images
[ocr errors]


“Bear with me.”—Mark Anthony's Speech over the dead body of


The moon uprising from the distant east, as yet not full dis. closed, nor clothed with clouds, kindles with silver fire, a wild wide wood-lake. Trees stand around in rude rough majesty --stern witnesses of her glory. They own their faded beauty, they mourn their lost leaves frozen, they feel that Winter's come, and that's “verbumto their sap.” The stars still shine. But such shining! They shine just as office holders, who know that in a very little time they are to be extinguished by a dispensation from a greater light. The clouds in the distance look as though they had some lightning in them ;solemn-phalanxial. The old trees have had rough times. Those near by are all troubled with the rheumatism, or have been cut down by convulsions. Some stumps, to be sure, show that the barbarous pioneer had never heard that exquisite ballad of " Woodman spare that tree.” But nearly all blighted-blasted. Only the pyramid pine, and fragrant fir --Heavenly ever-greens, Christ-mass greens for us poor sinners,-flutter, and bend to the tempest, and bear upon their boughs the cherishing comfort of snow. At the south-east corner of the lake, is built, with the artifice which nature sometimes indulges in, a hiding place, or

stand," arranged out of old logs and fallen trees, within the which you see two hunters-hunters !-Heaven help them ! who lie ensconced to shoot some timid, thirsty, doe, who may come down in the peace of night to take a drink out of the spring at the edge of the lake, which cold cannot freeze; -or at the crumbling ice which her hoof may break in.

But who is he that cometh from the barren forest, with slow and solemn tramp, bending the crackling ice, with his majestic feet? Hath Sir Bruin made an appointment with the cold Diana, to meet him at this secluded trysting spot ? If he have, he is a true and trusted lover, for she casts the first beam of her eye upon the lake just as her bear-knight emerges from the swamp to drink the new silver light of her eye that glitters upon the treeshade-sprinkled ice. But no. That cannot be ; the ardor of a lover is not in his eye ;-his pace is thoughtful and philosophical ;-he is, rather, thinking of his hungry cubs, left sulky and hopeful at home in their rock-cave in the hill side, and is contemplating the flesh of calves and lambs. Now, he is astronomical, and pious, and casteth his eyes toward Heaven, and marvelleth at the purity of his noble ancestors sitting clothed with brilliant garments in the constellations of Ursa Major, and Minor. He almost repents some unnecessary abstractions of the neighboring farmers' little children. Is that a tear in his eye ? Happy engraver ? if thou hast clearly globuled that chrystal evidence of sorrow for guilt ? Now, his head falls beneath his breast; you would think it was in submission to some decree of suffering depression, and that he feels he is unforgiven. Doomed wretch! Never to be exalted to a place among the bears in the stars ! But look at his eye. It is dry, keen, fierce, savage, voracious. He sees beneath him a salmon trout half benumbed, and he raises his “huge paw" to pound the ice to accomplish the water tenant's stunnation, when he will break a hole through the “ thick-ribbed” frost, and fish him out. A good piscator, and a hearty feeder is that same bear, he

suddenly starts, and his eye shoots fire toward the south-east. What is that scent which, borne on a new change of the wind, strikes his far-judging nose ? Is that a fawn at the boiling spring ? or a small girl that has lost her way? Snuff, snuff. No; the smell is too strong. That is the odor of full grown hunters—two legged members of his own profession, but bitter enemies to his particular guild. See him stand still, now, and muse, and survey. How would a piece of man-flesh taste ?-Good. How would a leaden bullet feel in the bowels? Rather indigestible fodder. He reasons ; he deliberates. He remembers his Kamtskadale cousins, and waits to see if the hunters will approach " to conciliate his friendship."* But is it a man? It might be an unmanageable colt, that has tumbled his master, and ran away, with the sweat from his rider's corduroys reeking upon his unsaddled back—or a stray porker acorn-ing. He is in doubt. He looks around and reconnoitres. He discovers, up the lake, at the north, a truant boy, who has seen him, skating away homeward, fast as his iron volitaters will glide leeward. It was not his trail that he nosed, for that juvenal is with the wind. Does Sir Bruin detect those lurkers at the stand with guns? Will he make a demonstration against them? Will they bring their artillery to bear upon him? How many balls will he take patiently? Will he hug either one of those gentlemen, with the ardor of a bridegroom? What will he weigh when dressed ? What frolicsome coun. try maiden will be first wrapped in his skin, upon a sleighride? Who will be invited to dine upon his smoking haunch ?

* Black bears are so numerous in Kamtschatka, that they are seen roaming about the plains in troops, and must long since have been exterminated, if they were not here more tame and gentle than in any other part of the world. In spring they descend from the mountains where they have wintered, to the mouths of the rivers, for catching fish, which swarm in all the streams of that peninsula. If the fish are plentiful, they eat only the heads; and when they find nets laid in any place, they dexterously drag them out of the water, and empty them of the fish. To

ards autumn, when the fish go up the rivers, they advance with them gradually to the mountains. When a Kamtschadalé espies a bear, he endeavors to conciliate his friendship at a distance, accompanying his gestures by courteous words. Indeed they are so familiar, that the women and girls, when they are gathering roots and herbs, or turf for fuel, are never disturbed in their employment, even in the midst of a whole drove of bears; and if one of these animals comes up to one of them, it is merely to take something out of their hands. They have never been known to attack a man, except when they are roused from their sleep, and they seldom turn upon the marksman whether they are hit or not. Notwithstanding this gentleness of the bear, its utility renders it a valuable object of prey. When the hunter and bear meet, the contest is generally bloody, but it generally terminates to the advantage of the artful huntsman. Armed with spears and clubs, the Kamtschadale goes in quest of the peaceful bear in his calm retreat, who, thinking only of his defence, takes the faggots brought by his pursuer, and chokes with them the entrance into his den. The mouth of the cavern being closed, tho hunter bores a hole through the top, and then with the greatest security, spears his de. fenceless foe.-Tooke's View of Russia, vol. ii, p. 442.

Reader, these are all questions which the publishers insist upon my submitting to thee; wherefore to answer them I forBear.

Let no bandbox Adonis turn up his self-sufficient nose at the foregoing ursine limnings. His father may have taught him the unjust expression “rough as a bear," when he swore at his landlord for calling for his rent before a month after quarter-day. The bear and his biography would be a splendid subject for the illustration of devoted family virtues, and of brave, bold, dashing chivalry, against enemies. His family is ancient and respectable. His blood has been kept pure and true.

He is but a little lower than man, while he can write or make his mark, better than any Congo-ese, or Bogtrotter. As to reading, he is accomplished. He can find

sermons in stones, and books in every thing." The book of nature is his summer food. He roams, and plucks the autumnal fruits of knowledge. When winter's snows shut up

« PreviousContinue »