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CHAPTER I v.
* What an infernal lie !" growled Daniel.
“ 'Have my doubts ;” suggested the somnolent Peter Probasco, with all the solemnity of a man who knows his situation; at the same time shaking his head and spilling his liquor.
“ Ha! ha! ha! Ha! ha! ha!" roared all the rest of the boys together.
“ Is he done?" asked Raynor Rock.
"How many shirks was there?" cried Long John, putting in his unusual lingual oar.
“ That story puts me in mind,” said Venus Raynor, “ about what I've heerd tell on Ebenezer Smith, at the time he went down to the north pole on a walen' voyage.”
“Now look out for a screamer," laughed out Raynor Rock, refilling his pipe. “Stand by, Mr. Cypress, to let the sheet
“Is there any thing uncommon about that yarn, Venus ?',
“ Oncommon! well, I expect it's putty smart and oncommon for a man to go to sea with a bear, all alone, on a bare cake of ice. Captain Smith's woman used to say she couldn't bear to think on't.” “ Tell us the whole of that, Venus,” said Ned;
:-" that is, if it is true. Mine was—the whole of it,-although Peter has his doubts."
“ I can't tell it as well as Zoph can, but I've no 'jections to tell it my way, no how. So, here goes-that's great brandy, Mr. Cypress." There was a gurgling sound of “somethingto-take,” running.
“Well, they was down into Baffin's Bay, or some other o' them cold Norwegen bays at the North, where the rain freezes as it comes down, and stands up in the air, on winter mornens, like great mountens o'ice, all in streaks. Well, the schooner was layen at anchor, and all the hands was out into the small boats, looken for wales ;—all except the capting, who said he wan't very well that day. Well, he was walken up and down, on deck, smoken and thinken, I expect, mostly, when all on a sudden he reckoned he see one o' them big white bears—polar bears, you know-big as thunder—with long teeth. He reckoned he see one on 'em sclumpen along on a great cake o' ice, they lay on the leeward side of the bay, up again the bank. The old cap. wanted to kill one o' them varmints most wonderful, but he never lucked to get a chance. Now tho', he thought, the time had come for him to walk into one on 'em at least, and fix his mutton for him right. So he run forrad and lay hold onto a small skiff, that was layen near the forc'stal, and run her out, and launched her. Then he tuk a drink, and-here's luck—and put in a stiff load of powder, a couple of balls, and jumped in, and pulled away for the ice.,
“ It wa’n't long fore he got 'cross the bay, for it was a narrer piece o' water—not more than haaf a mile wide—and then he got out on to the ice. It was a smart and large cake, and the bear was 'way down to the tother end on't, by the edge o' the water. So, he walked first strut along, and then when he got putty cloast he walked 'round catecornedlike-like's if he was driven for a plain plover-so that the bear wouldn't think he was comin arter him, and he dragged himself along on his hands and knees low down, mostly. Well, the bear did'nt seem to mind him none, and he got up within 'bout fifty yards on him, and then he looked so savage
and big, -the bear did, -that the captin stopped, and rested on his knees, and put up his gun, and he was a goin to shoot. But just then the bear turned round and snuffed up
capo tin,-just as one of Lif's hounds snuffs up an old buck, Mr. Cypress,-and begun to walk towards him, slowly like. He come along, the captin said, clump, clump, very slow, and made the ice bend and crack agin under him, so that the water come up and putty much kivered it all orer. Well, there the captin was all the time squat on his knees, with his gun pinted, waiten for the varment to come up, and his knees and legs was most mighty cold by means of the water, that the bear riz on the ice as I was mentionen. At last the bear seemed to make up his mind to see how the captin would taste, and so he left off walken slow, and started off on a smart and swift trot, right towards the old man, with his mouth wide open, roaren, and his tail sticken out stiff. The captin kept still, looken out all the time putty sharp, I should say, till the beast got within about ten yards on him, and then he let him have it. He aimed right at the fleshy part of his heart, but the bear dodged at the flash, and rared up, and the balls went into his two hind legs, jist by the jynt, one into each, and broke the thigh bones smack off, so that he went right down aft, on the ice, thump, on his hind quarters, with nothen standen but his fore legs and his head ris up, a growlen at the captin. When the old man see him down, and tryen to slide along the ice to get his revenge, likely, thinks he to himself, thinks he, I might as well get up and go and cut that ere creter's throat. So he tuk out his knife and opened it. But when he started to get up, he found to his extonishment, that he was fruz fast to the ice. Don't laugh ; it's a fact; there an't no doubt. The water, you see, had been round him, a smart and long while, whilst he
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
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 binder eend, comen at him. He kept getten weaker, tho', and comen slower and slower all the tiine, 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 pytty 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 eaptin 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."
“ 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 sometimes 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
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?"
:- 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