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that after all, it was no laughing matter, and that I should do well to heed the old adage 66 us, not to hallo till we are
out of the woods!"
Instead of dispersing in
pursuit of other and more accessible prey, as I had hoped they would, the wolves pressed close together around the foot of the tree, and looked up at me with their glistening eyes, as much as to say, we can stay here as long as you can, old fellow, and by-and-by you will be obliged to come down!"
It was evident that they designed to besiege the fortress until the garrison should be compelled to surrender from want of provisions; and my only hope of escape was in killing the whole troop, or being relieved by my friends from the settlement who might, perchance, discover my absence and come to the rescue.
Accordingly, I examined my ammunition, but I soon found that I had not balls enough to kill one-fourth of the troop, even if none should miss their aim. I resolved, however, to shoot as many as possible, immediately; saving only three or four balls to be used in case of any unforeseen emergency.
In pursuit of this design I climbed into a
fork of the tree, and commenced loading and firing as fast as I could; every ball carrying death to some one of the four-legged fiends, until I had destroyed eleven of them, which were speedily devoured by their ravenous companions.
Having but four balls left, I desisted from firing; and settling myself into an casy position, deposited my gun upon an overhanging branch, and proceeded to take a philosophic view of my situation.
This, however, afforded me but very little satisfaction; for, all my philosophy failed to relieve me of the uncomfortable idea that I had got into a very bad scrape. My tormentors still remained at the foot of the tree; and to add to my discomfort, the night had closed in with more than Egyptian darkness, while I began to feel decidedly cold and hungry, without any prospect of being less so, at present, if ever.
At first, I resolved to keep awake during the night, but after a vigil of several hours duration, I became so drowsy that I was compelled to yield to the powers of the "dull god;" and, having taken a secure position among the branches, fell into a deep slumber, from which I did not awake nntil the grey dawn was beginning to streak the eastern horizon.
Notwithstanding the intense cold, I had slept comfortably; and although upon waking, I found myself chilled and benumbed to such an extent as to be almost incapable of motion, I was still untouched by the frost. As soon as I could muster spirit and resolution enough to stir my benumbed limbs, I began to climb up and down the branches of the tree for the purpose of causing the almost stagnant blood to circulate in my veins, and send a glow of warmth through my body.
In this manner, I at length succeeded in getting warm, and again returned to the perch upon which I had passed the night, to take an observation of the hostile army. The devils were still there, in full force, and I was beginning to despair of ever being relieved from my uncomfortable position except by death, when a sudden and unexpected event speedily changed the aspect of affairs, and released me from my elevated prison.
This was nothing more or less, than the sudden appearance, upon the scene of action, of a huge grizzly bear, which bounded through the bushes into the clearing, gazed, for a moment, upon the pack of hungry and ferocious wolves collected at the foot of my tree, and then as if
unwilling to form a closer acquaintance with them, turned to flec.
At the first appearance of the bear, the wolves, as if conscious, by instinct, of the fact that bruin would furnish a more abundant meal than a poor human like myself, instantly forsook their position at the fir tree, and, springing forward in solid column, pursued him to the edge of the clearing, where they managed to close around him and cut off his retreat.
And now ensued the most singular combat that the eye of man ever beheld. I have neither time nor space to give the details of the battle; suffice it to say that, although the bear succeeded in killing several of the wolves, he was, at length, compelled to yield to a superior force, and be torn in pieces and devoured by his small but numerous and ferocious antagonists.
"So fell the eagle by a swarm of gnats
So the whale perished by a shoal of sprats."
The reader will scarcely need to be told that I improved the time, while the wolves were engaged in feasting upon the carcase of the bear, to decamp, without so much as saying, "by your leave," or bidding a formal
"good-bye!" In less than half an hour I reached the settlement of Oudskoi and my own. hut, happy in returning at all, even without the skins for which I had dared so much, and endured so great hardship and anxiety of mind.
Subsequently, however, I procured several of the much coveted skins and many other trophies of my hunting adventures in the wilds of Siberia.
If the natives of Siberia but knew the value of furs, and were not too indolent, they might easily capture many of the bears, wolves, sables and foxes, which abound in that region, and derive much profit from the sale of their skins. Indolence and want of care for the future, however, are their "easily besetting sins;" hence, their degraded condition, and frequent wants of the necessities of life Nature provides sufficient store of food and raiment, if they would but take pains to secure it; but although ignorant of the Bible, they daily and constantly obey, in its most literal sense, the injunction, "take no heed of the morrow, what thou shalt eat, or what thou shalt put on."
The river Oudskoi, upon which the settlement of the same name is situated, abounds,