Page images
PDF
EPUB

was waiten for the bear, and it's wonderful cold in them regions, as I was sayen, and you'll freeze in a minit if you don't keep moven about smartly. So the captin he strained first one leg, and then he strained tother, but he couldn't move 'em none. They was both fruz fast into the ice, about an inch and a half deep, from knee to toe, tight as a Jarsey eyster perryauger on a mud flat at low water. So he laid down his gun, and looked at the bear, and doubled up his fists. Come on, you bloody varmint,' says the old man, as the bear swalloped along on his hinder eend, comen at him. He kept getten weaker, tho', and comen slower and slower all the time, so that, at last, be didn't seem to move none; and directly, when he'd got so near that the captin could jest give him a dig in the nose by reachen forrard putty smart and far, the captin see that the beast was fruz fast too, nor he couldn't move a step further forrard no ways. Then the captin burst out a laughen, and clapped his hands down on to his thighs, and roared. The bear seemed to be most onmighty mad at the old man's fun, and set up such a growlen that what should come to pass, but the ice cracks, and breaks all around the captin and the bear, down to the water's edge, and the wind jist then a shiften, and comen off shore, away they floated on a cake of ice about ten by six, off to sea, without the darned a biscuit, or a quart o' liquor to stand 'em on the cruise ! There they sot, the bear and the captin, jest so near that when they both reached forrads, they could jest about touch noses, and nother one not able to move any part on him, only excepten his upper part and fore paws."

By jolly! that was rather a critical predicament, Venus,” cried Ned, buttoning his coat. “I should have thought that the captain's nose and ears and hands would have been frozen too."

[ocr errors]

“ That's quite naytr'l to suppose, sir, but you see the bear kept him warm in the upper parts, by bein so cloast to him, and breathen hard and hot on the old man whenever he growled at him. Them polar bears is wonderful hardy animals, and has a monstrous deal o' heat in 'em, by means of their bein able to stand such cold climates, I expect. And so the captin knowed this, and whenever he felt chilly, he jest tuk his ramrod, and stirred up the old rascal, and made him roar and squeal, and then the hot breath would come pouren out all over the captin, and made the air quite moderut and pleasant." “Well, go on, Venus. Take another horn first."

Well, there a'nt much more on't. Off they went to sea, and sometiines the wind druv 'em nothe, and then agin it druv 'em southe, but they went southe mostly ; and so it went on, until they were out about three weeks. So at last one after

noon."

But, Venus, stop ; tell us in the name of wonder, how did the captain contrive to support life all this time ?"

Why, sir, to be sure, it was a hard kind o’life to support, but a hardy man will get used to almost”.

No, no; what did he eat? what did he feed on?" “0–0–I'd liked to’ve skipped that ere.-Why sir, I've heerd different accounts as to that. Uncle Obe Verity told me he reckoned the captin cut off one of the bear's paws, when he lay stretched out asleep, one day, with his jackknife, and sucked that for fodder, and they say there's a smart deal 'o nourishment in a white bear's foot. But if I may

be allowed to spend my 'pinion, I should say my old man's account is the rightest, and that's—what's as follows. You see after they'd been out three days abouts, they begun to grow kind o' hungry, and then they got friendly, for misery loves com

no more nor

pany, you know; and the captin said the bear looked at him several times, very sorrowful, as much as to say, 'captin what the devil shall we do? Well one day they was sitten, looken at each other, with the tears ready to burst out o' their eyes, when all of a hurry, something come floppen up out o'ıhe water onto the ice. The captin looked and see it was a seal. The bear's eyes kindled up as he looked at it, and then, the captin said he giv him a wink to keep stil). So there they sot, still as starch, till the seal not thinken nothen o' them

they were dead, walked right up between 'em. Then slump! went down old whitey's nails, into the fishes flesh, and the captin run his jack-knife into the tender loin. The seal soon got his bitters, and the captin cut a big hunk off the tail eend, and put it behind him, out o' the bear's reach, and then he felt smart and comfortable, for he had stores enough for a long cruise, though the bear couldn't say so much for himself.

Well, the bear, by course, soon ran out o' provisions, and had to put himself onto short allowance; and then he begun to show his naytural temper. He first stretched himself out as far as he could go, and tried to hook the captin's piece o’seal, but when he found he could'nt reach that, he begun to blow and yell. Then he'd rare up and roar, and try to get himself clear from the ice. But mostly he rared up and roared, and pounded his big paws and head upon the ice, till bye and bye, (jest as the captin said he expected,) the ice cracked in two agin, and split right through between the bear and the captin, and there they was on two different pieces o' ice, the captin and the bear! The old man said he raaly felt sorry at parten company, and when the cake split and separate, he cut off about a haaf o’pound o' seal and chucked it to the bear. But either because it wa’nt enough for him, or else on account o' his feelen bad at the captin's goen, the beast would'nt touch it to eat it, and he laid it down, and growled and moaned over it quite pitiful. Well, off they went, one one way, and tother 'nother way, both feel'n pretty bad, I expect. After a while the captin got smart and cold, and felt mighty lonesome, and he said he raaly thought he'd a gi'n in and died, if they had'nt pick'd him up that arternoon."

“ Who picked him up, Venus ?”

“ Who? a codfish craft off o' Newfoundland, I expect. They did'nt know what to make o' him when they first see him slingen up his hat for 'em. But they got out all their boats, and took a small swivel and a couple o' muskets a board and started off-expecten it was the sea-sarpent, or an old maremaid. They would'nt believe it was a man, until he'd told 'em all about it, and then they did'nt hardly believe it nuther, and they cut him out o' the ice and tuk him aboard their vessel, and rubbed his legs with ile o' vitrol ; but it was a long time afore they come to.”

“ Did'nt they hurt him badly in cutting him out, Venus ?"

“ No sir, I believe not; not so bad as one might s'pose ; for you see he'd been stuck in so long, that the circulaten on his blood had kind o' rotted the ice that was right next to him, and when they begun to cut, it crack'd off pretty smart and easy, and he come out whole like a hard biled egg."

66 What became of the bear ?"

Ca’nt say as to that, what became o' him. He went off to sea somewheres, I expect. I should like to know, myself, how the varment got along, right well, for it was kind in him to let the captin have the biggest haaf o' the seal, any how. That's all boys. How many's asleep?"

5*

CH A P T E R V.

" ASLEEP !" cried Ned. " It would be difficult for any sensible person to fall asleep during a recital of such original and thrilling interest. The Argonautic expedition, the perilous navigation of Æneas, the bold adventure of the New England pilgrims"

“Have my doubts," snorted Peter, interrupting Ned's laudation, in a voice not so articulate, but that the utterance might have been acknowledged for the profound expression of the sentiments of a gentleman in the land of dreams. Peter's drowsiness had finally prevailed not only orer his sense of hearing but also over his sense of imbibition. I picked up his cannikin, and solemnly shook my own head in place of his, as he pronounced the oracular judgment. “Have my doubts, mostly, mister, I say,” he grumbled again, and then the veteran gray battallion that stood marshalled upon his chin, erect, and John of Gaunt-like, or rather like the ragged columns of the Giant's Causeway, bristled up to meet the descent of his overhanging, ultra-Wellington nose. There was a noise as of a muttered voice of trumpets. And then it gradually died away, and there was a deep, deep peace. To use Peter's own classical language, he was “shut up.”

Asleep? Not a man, Venus,” said Oliver Paul. “If thee tells us such yarns as that, we won't go to sleep all nighte But thee must not ask us to believe them."

“Well, every man must believe for himself,” replied Venus, " I expect. I admit it's likely the captin must have stretched a leetle about the length o'time he was out, I should say. But it's easy to make a mistake about the number of days in

« PreviousContinue »