Page:Yule Logs.djvu/78

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62
VENTURE OF THE "BERTHA" WHALER

"Very well; only look slippy, please, because I am not up to a big bear-fight. However, I do not see anything very alarming. Make haste and settle the business, because I am getting hungry."

The doctor and Reginald loaded their guns carefully, and went forward. They disappeared down the fore-hatch. Arthur walked the after-deck and went to peep down the cabin-stairs; he even inspected the main hatch, and wondered what was within amidships. The vessel was deserted, apparently, by every one except the two bears, which walked on their hind-legs, and did not speak, as they would have done, he concluded, had they been "only foreigners," not beasts.

Arthur listened for the discharge of the guns, but no sound reached him. The fog had increased, and more icebergs appeared, very close too. They were, in his opinion, closing in towards the derelict, and they might crush it. The north-west wind was rising, and in that case snow and mist were sure to envelop the ocean; and on the whole he decided that Crusoe-life, unless upon a fine and well-supplied island, with complaisant animals for companions, and plenty of shooting and books, was a mistake.

The doctor and his companion had disappeared, and at length Arthur became restless. He called out, then listened, but no reply came to him. He did not wish to fire his gun unless on an emergency, but he felt anxious, and the more so as the fog was encroaching; the bergs looked more terrible, the silence became more distressing. He would have welcomed a bear cub as a relief, but the stern cold silence of Nature and the awful solitude of the derelict preyed upon his nerves.

At length, unable to sustain the strain any longer, Arthur lifted up his voice and sent a coo-ee through the fog which must have alarmed and distressed the "King" penguins—birds which take a good deal of alarming too.