+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

discernible for the moment, of our fellow-
companion, was his snow-shoes, which were
moving convulsively to and fro, near the
surface. Encumbered by them, he would
never have risen again but for our aid; and
it was some time ere he succeeded in getting
his mouth, ears, and nose, emptied of the
snow; he was more cautious afterwards in
the management of his feet, although his
inexperience somewhat retarded our progress.

We were soon in the very depths of the
forest, and lonely indeed are these Canadian
woods in the dreary winter time. All under
foot was enveloped in snow, from which as
from a white sea, rose like so many colossal
columns, the stately trunks of the trees,
through the leafless boughs of which, as
through an extended trellis-work, the blue
sky was discernible over head. The
undulations of the surface pleasantly diversified a
scene which would otherwise have been
monotonous; and we made our way merrily over
hill and valley, but ever through the
unbroken forest, in the deep dells of which we
now and then crossed a streamlet, whose
course had been arrested, and whose voice
had been hushed for months by the relentless

We had been thus occupied for about three
hours, when we at length came upon the
track of the game:––a deep furrow had been
made in the snow; bespeaking the labour
which the animal must have had in ploughing
his way through it. We stopped; and
McQuaigh, giving vent to a long expiration,
half between a whistle and a sigh, exclaimed,
wiping the perspiration from his horny
features, "We have him as sure as a gun, if
nobody else has got scent of him; and you
see," he added, pointing to the untrodden
snow around, " there's not the track of a
living soul after him."

"But what chance have we? " I asked,
"seeing that it must be more than two days
at least since the Moose passed this spot?"

"Give a deer any reasonable start in the
winter time," replied McQuaigh, " and a man
on his snow-shoes will run him down. We
have only to follow his track, and depend on 't
we 'll go over more ground than he will in a
day." So saying, he led off in the direction
which our prey had evidently taken. Blungle
did not like the possibility of being for a
week on the track of one deer; but he put
the best face on it, and laboured to keep up
with us.

We had not gone far, ere, like the confluence
of a small with a larger stream, we
found the track of an ordinary deer converge
upon that of the Moose. From the point of
junction, the follower, as affording him an
easier passage through the snow, had kept
to the track of his more powerful leader.

"Let's hurry, and we 'll have the two of
them," said McQuaigh, and he doubled the
length of his strides. Blungle groaned, but
laboured on.

We thus pursued the now double track,
until the shades of evening stole over the
forest, and imparted a mysterious solemnity
to the lonely solitudes, which we had invaded.
After a hard day's work, we looked out for
a spot in which to rest for the night. We
resolved to bivouac by a huge elm, whose
hollow trunk rose without branch or twig to
break its symmetry, for nearly sixty feet from
the ground. We dug a hole in the snow, more
than four feet deep, spreading our blankets
on the bottom of it. On one side we were
sheltered by the elm; on the other three by
our snowy circumvallation. Our next care
was to light a blazing fire, which we did in
the hollow of the tree; after which we laid
ourselves down to sleep, Jean Baptiste having
orders to keep the first watch, and to awake
any of us, whom he might find getting stiff.
In five minutes Blungle was snoring as
comfortably as if he were reposing on his own
pillow in Bloomsbury.

I was about turning the corner of consciousness,
when McQuaigh, who was stretched
beside me, and who never seemed to shut
more than one eye at a time, started suddenly
to his feet, and seizing the axe which was
resting against the tree, raised it to his
shoulder, and stood intently watching the
hollow in which the fire was burning. He
was quite a picture, standing out, as he did,
in fine relief from the surrounding darkness,
as the crackling flames threw their ruddy
glare on his brawny frame and furrowed visage,
But his sudden movement indisposing me for
the artistic mood, I was at once on my feet
beside him, and it was not till then that I heard
sounds proceed from the hollow trunk, which
gave me some clue to what had so suddenly
called him into action. I had but brief time
for consideration, for, in a moment or two
afterwards, down came a heavy body into the
fire, scattering the faggots about in all directions.
Blungle, who was still asleep, was
aroused by one of the blazing embers grazing
his nose, and on jumping up precipitated
himself into the embrace of a shaggy bear, which
was about to treat him to a fatal hug, when
McQuaigh's axe descended with terrific force
upon its skull, which it cleft in twain. The
slaughtered brute fell on its side carrying
Blungle along with it, who, when he was
removed, was nearly as insensible as the

"There's never two of them in a tree,"
laid McQuaigh, " so we may go to sleep now."
We did so, and I slept soundly for two or
three hours, Jean Baptiste kept watch as
before, employing himself, until his turn came
for sleeping, in dressing the carcass of the
bear, from which, in the morning, we were
supplied with hot chops for breakfast. If we
did not consider them unsavory, it was
perhaps because our appetites were too good to
be very discriminating. We could not
persuade Blungle to touch them. He was
possessed of an abstract idea that it was