The unsuspecting bear came leisurely on, bent, no doubt, upon securing a drink of water to wash down a feast of blueberries of which it had just partaken, and seemingly occupied by the pleasant reveries that follow a good meal and go with a full stomach. Bob could hear it coming now, and raised his gun ready to give it the load the moment it passed the rock. Then, suddenly, he remembered that he had loaded the gun that morning with shot, when hunting a flock of partridges, and had failed to reload with ball. To kill a bear with a partridge load of shot was out of the question, and to wound the bear at close quarters was dangerous, for a wounded bear with its enemy within reach is pretty sure to retaliate.
Just at the instant this thought flashed through Bob’s mind the big black side of the bear appeared not ten feet from the muzzle of his gun, and before the lad realized it he had pulled the trigger.
Bob did not stop to see the result of the shot, but ran at full speed towards the boat. The bear gave an angry growl, and for a moment bit at the wound in its side, then in a rage took after him.
It was not over fifty yards to the boat, and though Bob had a few seconds the start, the bear seemed likely to catch him before he could reach it, for clumsy though they are in appearance, they are fast travellers when occasion demands. Half the distance was covered in a jiffy, but the bear was almost at his heels. A few more leaps and he would be within reach of safety. He could fairly feel the bear’s breath. Then his foot caught a projecting branch and he fell at full length directly in front of the infuriated animal.
SWEPT AWAY IN THE RAPIDS
When Bob went ashore Dick followed as far as a clump of bushes at the top of the bank below which the boat was concealed, and crouching there witnessed Bob’s flight from the bear, and was very close to him when he fell. Dick had already drawn a bead on the animal’s head, and just at the moment Bob stumbled fired. The bear made one blind strike with his paw and then fell forward, its momentum sending it upon Bob’s sprawling legs, Dick laughed uproariously at the boy as he extricated himself.
“Well, now,” he roared, “’twere as fine a race as I ever see—as I ever see—an’ ye were handy t’ winnin’ but for th’ tumble. A rare fine race.”
Bob was rather shamefaced, for an old hunter would scarcely have forgotten himself to such an extent as to go bear hunting with a partridge load in his gun, and he did not like to be laughed at.
“Anyhow,” said he, “I let un have un first. An’ I led un down where you could shoot un. An’ he’s a good fat un,” he commented kicking the carcass.
Ed and Bill had arrived now and all hands went to work at once skinning the bear.
“Speakin’ o’ bein’ chased by bears,” remarked Ed as they worked, “onct I were chased pretty hard myself an’ that time I come handy t’ bein’ done for sure enough.”