than their hoof-prints in the moss, we returned on board. The next day--but I need not weary you with a journal of our daily proceedings, for, however interesting each moment of our stay in Spitzbergen was to ourselves--as much perhaps from a vague expectation of what we might see, as from anything we actually did see--a minute account of every walk we took, and every bone we picked up, or every human skeleton we came upon, would probably only make you wonder why on earth we should have wished to come so far to see so little. Suffice it to say that we explored the neighbourhood in the three directions left open to us by the mountains, that we climbed the two most accessible of the adjacent hills, wandered along the margin of the glaciers, rowed across to the opposite side of the bay, descended a certain distance along the sea-coast, and in fact exhausted all the lions of the vicinity. During the whole period of our stay in Spitzbergen, we had enjoyed unclouded sunshine. The nights were even brighter than the days, and afforded Fitz an opportunity of taking some photographic views by the light of a MIDNIGHT sun. The cold was never very intense, though the thermometer remained below freezing, but about four o'clock every evening, the salt-water bay in which the schooner lay was veneered over with a pellicle of ice one-eighth of an inch in thickness, and so elastic, that even when the sea beneath was considerably agitated, its surface remained unbroken, the smooth, round waves taking the appearance of billows of oil. If such is the effect produced by the slightest modification of the sun's power, in the month of August,--you can imagine what must be the result of his total disappearance beneath the horizon. The winter is, in fact, unendurable. Even in the height of summer, the moisture inherent in the atmosphere is often frozen into innumerable particles, so minute as to assume the appearance of an impalpable mist. Occasionally persons have wintered on the island, but unless the greatest precautions have been taken for their preservation, the consequences have been almost invariably fatal. About the same period as when the party of Dutch sailors were left at Jan Mayen, a similar experiment was tried in Spitzbergen. At the former place it was scurvy, rather than cold, which destroyed the poor wretches left there to fight it out with winter; at Spitzbergen, as well as could be gathered from their journal, it appeared that they had perished from the intolerable severity of the climate,--and the contorted attitudes in which their bodies were found lying, too plainly indicated the amount of agony they had suffered. No description can give an adequate idea of the intense rigour of the six months' winter in this part of the world. Stones crack with the noise of thunder; in a crowded hut the breath of its occupants will fall in flakes of snow; wine and spirits turn to ice; the snow burns like caustic; if iron touches the flesh, it brings the skin away with it; the soles of your stockings may be burnt off your feet, before you feel the slightest warmth from the fire; linen taken out of boiling water, instantly stiffens to the consistency of a wooden board; and heated stones will not prevent the sheets of the bed from freezing. If these are the effects of the climate within an air-tight, fire-warmed, crowded hut--what must they be among the dark, storm-lashed mountain-peaks outside? It was now time to think of going south again; we had spent many more days on the voyage to Spitzbergen than I had expected, and I was continually haunted by the dread of your becoming anxious at not hearing from us. It was a great disappointment to be obliged to return without having got any deer; but your peace of mind was of more consequence to me than a ship-load of horns, and accordingly we decided on not remaining more than another day in our present berth leaving it still an open question whether we should not run up to Magdalena Bay, if the weather proved very inviting, the last thing before quitting for ever the Spitzbergen shores. We had killed nothing as yet, except a few eider ducks, and one or two ice-birds--the most graceful winged creatures I have ever seen, with immensely long pinions, and plumage of spotless white. Although enormous seals from time to time used to lift their wise, grave faces above the water, with the dignity of sea-gods, none of us had any very great inclination to slay such rational human-looking creatures, and--with the exception of these and a white fish, a species of whale--no other living thing had been visible. On the very morning, however, of the day settled for our departure, Fitz came down from a solitary expedition up a hill with the news of his having seen some ptarmigan. Having taken a rifle with him instead of a gun, he had not been able to shoot more than one, which he had brought back in triumph as proof of the authenticity of his report, but the extreme juvenility of his victim hardly permitted us to identify the species; the hole made by the bullet being about the same size as the bird. Nevertheless, the slightest prospect of obtaining a supply of fresh meat was enough to reconcile us to any amount of exertion; therefore, on the strength of the pinch of feathers which Fitz kept gravely assuring us was the game he had bagged, we seized our guns--I took a rifle in case of a possible bear--and set our faces toward the hill. After a good hour's pull we reached the shoulder which Fitz had indicated as the scene of his exploit, but a patch of snow was the only thing visible. Suddenly I saw Sigurdr, who was remarkably sharp-sighted, run rapidly in the direction of the snow, and bringing his gun up to his shoulder, point it--as well as I could distinguish--at his own toes. When the smoke of the shot had cleared away, I fully expected to see the Icelander prostrate; but he was already reloading with the greatest expedition. Determined to prevent the repetition of so dreadful an attempt at self-destruction, I rushed to the spot. Guess then my relief when the bloody body of a ptarmigan--driven by so point blank a discharge a couple of feet into the snow--was triumphantly dragged forth by instalments from the sepulchre which it had received contemporaneously with its death wound, and thus happily accounted for Sigurdr's extraordinary proceeding. At the same moment I perceived two or three dozen other birds, brothers and sisters of the defunct, calmly strutting about under our very noses. By this time Sigurdr had reloaded, Fitz had also come up, and a regular massacre began. Retiring to a distance--for it was the case of Mahomet and the mountain reversed--the two sportsmen opened fire upon the innocent community, and in a few seconds sixteen corpses strewed the ground. Scarcely had they finished off the last survivor of this Niobean family, when we were startled by the distant report of a volley of musketry, fired in the direction of the schooner. I could not conceive what had happened. Had a mutiny taken place? Was Mr. Wyse re-enacting, with a less docile ship's company, the pistol scene on board the Glasgow steamer? Again resounded the rattle of the firing. At all events, there was no time to be lost in getting back, so, tying up the birds in three bundles, we flung ourselves down into the gully by which we had ascended, and leaping on from stone to stone, to the infinite danger of our limbs and necks, rolled rather than ran down the hill. On rounding the lower wall of the curve which hitherto had hid what was passing from our eyes, the first I observed was Wilson breasting up the hill, evidently in a state of the greatest agitation. As soon as he thought himself within earshot, he stopped dead short, and, making a speaking-trumpet with his hands, shrieked, rather than shouted, "If you please, my Lord!"--(as I have already said, Wilson never forgot les convenances)--"If you please, my Lord, there's a b-e-a-a-a-a-r!" prolonging the last word into a polysyllable of fearful import. Concluding by the enthusiasm he was exhibiting, that the animal in question was at his heels,--hidden from us probably by the inequality of the ground,--I cocked my rifle, and prepared to roll him over the moment he should appear in sight. But what was my disappointment, when, on looking towards the schooner, my eye caught sight of our three boats fastened in a row, and towing behind them a white floating object, which my glass only too surely resolved the next minute into the dead bear! On descending to the shore, I learned the whole story. As Mr. Wyse was pacing the deck, his attention was suddenly attracted by a white speck in the water, swimming across from Prince Charles's Foreland,--the long island which lies over against English Bay. When first observed, the creature, whatever it might be, was about a mile and a half off,--the width of the channel between the island and the main being about five miles. Some said it was a bird, others a whale, and the cook suggested a mermaid. When the fact was ascertained that it was a BONA FIDE bear, a gun was fired as a signal for us to return; but it was evident that unless at once intercepted, Bruin would get ashore. Mr. Wyse, therefore, very properly determined to make sure of him. This was a matter of no difficulty: the poor beast showed very little fight. His first impulse was to swim away from the boat; and even after he had been wounded, he only turned round once or twice upon his pursuers. The honour of having given him his death wound rests between the steward and Mr. Wyse; both contend for it. The evidence is conflicting, as at least half-a-dozen mortal wounds were found in the animal's body; each maybe considered to have had a share in his death. Mr. Grant rests his claim principally upon the fact of his having put two bullets in my new rifle-- which must have greatly improved the bore of that instrument. On the strength of this precaution, he now wears as an ornament about his person one of the bullets extracted from the gizzard of our prize.
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