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ship biscuits. Both the fish and horse flesh were devoured by the natives raw; but neither
" Tolman nor myself had, as yet, been able to overcome our disgust at the bare thought of eating uncooked flesh, and we, accordingly, broiled our portion of the horse meat upon a bed of coals.
We found our steaks, when prepared in this manner, to be delicious ; being much more juicy and tender than the beef of more civilized countries. We could not, however, induce the natives to partake of it, as they preferred to eat the flesh raw, cutting thick slices and lumps of clear fat from the body of the horse, which they devoured with as keen a relish, and as greedily, as I was wont to devour my mother's mince pies, when a boy at home.
The fish, of which we had an ample store, had been procured by the party of natives, upon whose mercy we had thrown ourselves, after our desertion, during their sojourn upon the coast. These had been taken by means of spears and nets—both of which articles, although of rude construction, answered the purpose for which they were intended, in a very satisfactory manner. As fast as the fish were caught, they were prepared for winter use, by
being cleaned and split open, and then spread out in the sun to dry, after being slightly sprinkled with salt, in the same manner that codfish are cured on the shores of the old Bay State.
In this manner, the natives procure, during the short Arctic summer, a good supply of fish, with which to eke out their scanty stock of provisions during the winter; and well it is for them that nature has given them access to the ocean storehouse--for they would otherwise be in frequent danger of want and starvation through the dreary winter of their desolate and unproductive climate.
After our native guides had satisfied their appetites by devouring raw horse flesh, in quantities which would have caused the eyes of the most inveterate glutton, of warmer regions, to protrude with astonishment, they stretched themselves on their backs beside the fire, and (not having the slightest fear of nightmare or troublesome dreams, before their eyes), were soon lost to all consciousness of earthly things in that blissful, mysterious region, the “ Land of Nod.”
It had been previously decided that a watch should be kept during the night; and that we might share equally in this duty, we had divid
ed the night into six watches, of two hours each, that is to say, as near as we could judge, for it will be remembered that we were no longer in the land of clocks and watches, and had arranged the order in which we should be called to relieve each other by lot.
The first watch fell to Tolman, and the second to myself. After conversing for a short time with my companion, upon the events of the past few days, and our future prospects, I lay down by the side of our nativo guides, and was soon fast asleep.
In due time, I was awakened from a pleasant dream of home, by my companion, who, after charging me to keep the fire burning brightly, and not, on any account, relax my vigilance for an instant, as he had heard the howling of wild beasts in the immediate vicinity but a short time before, exchanged places with me, and stretched himself on the ground for a comfortable sleep.
This warning and the recollection of the blissful dream which had been so suddenly and painfully dispelled, served to drive away any feeling of drowsiness that I might otherwise have felt; and after replenishing the fire, I seated myself upon a smooth rock, close to the
open side of our wigwam, and spent the first hour of my lonely vigil in a kind of waking drcam, in which bright memories of the past were mingled with a feeling of sadness, as I thought of my friends at home, and pictured the grief which the news of my abandonment in this remote corner of the globe, would cause them.
And then again, my spirits rose, as fancy painted fair pictures of that future time, when, God sparing my life, and preserving me from the dangers which beset me, I should return once more to my dear native land, and the beloved friends at home; or enjoyed again, in memory, the joys of the past, and the peaceful happy years of my childhood,
6. Thus in the stilly night,
At the commencement of my watch, I had resolved that nothing should tempt me to relax my vigilance, until relieved from duty, but it was not long before I had wandered so far into the realms of the ideal as to lose all consciousness of, or interest in the things of the real; at length a feeling of drowsiness, which I had not the power to resist, began to creep over me.
In short, I fell asleep at my post, and slumbered soundly for, I knew not how many hours, but long enough, at all events, to allow my fire to burn out, leaving nothing to mark the place where it had been, but a bed of smouldering ashes.
I was awakened, at length, by a sound which chilled the blood in my veins, and almost caused my
hair to stand on end, and which even now, I shudder to think of! It was the fearful howl of a wild beast in the very act of seizing his prey ! In an instant. I was wide awake and able to comprehend all. While I had slept the fire had gone out, in consequence of which the bears, which had been prowling in the neighborhood, had approached, and surrounded our encampment.
The first object which met my astonished gaze, as I opened my eyes, was a huge grizly bear, crouched upon its hind legs, and in the very act of springing upon one of our native guards, as he lay asleep and helpless upon the ground.
For a single instant, I stood paralyzed with surprise and fear, and incapable of the slightest motion, but the next moment my presence of mind, which seldom entirely forsakes me, re