Read CHAPTER TEN - A WILD CHASE AND A BAD FAILURE. of The Walrus Hunters A Romance of the Realms of Ice , free online book, by R.M. Ballantyne, on

It does not necessarily require the influences of civilised life to make an honourable, upright man, any more than it needs the influences of savage life to make a thorough scoundrel.  Of course the tendency of civilisation is to elevate, of savagery to debase, nevertheless it is certain that as we occasionally see blackguards in the highest ranks, so we sometimes find men and women with exalted conceptions of right and wrong in the lowest circles of life.

The truth would seem to be that the Spirit of God is not confined to ranks or conditions of men-a fact that appears to be confirmed by the Scripture statement that “in every nation he that feareth God and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him.”

Cheenbuk’s mind must assuredly have been influenced by a good spirit when, after descending the little river at the utmost speed possible-so as to render recapture for a time at least improbable-he directed his companion to run the canoe on the bank in an eddy formed by a flat rock, and then, against his own most earnest desires, advised Adolay to return to her people.

“While we were paddling down-stream,” he said, “I have been thinking much, and I cannot believe that your people would be so hard as to kill you for only helping a poor Eskimo to escape.  Now, I have changed my mind.  I have often found that it is better to think more than once before acting, if you have time to do so.  What I think now is, that we should hide the canoe here, and return to your village on foot together.  When we get there-or when we meet them chasing us-you will go on, and I will hide to see how they receive you, and if they receive you kindly-as I feel sure they will do-I will return here to this spot, take the canoe, and go to my home alone.  I cannot bear to take you from your father and mother.  I think the Great Spirit, who is the father of all, would be angry with me.  But I will not force you to return if you are afraid.”

“I am afraid,” returned Adolay, quickly.  “You do not know how angry the men will be:  and you don’t know how sharp their eyes are.  If you were to return with me they would see you long before you could see them, and would give you no chance to hide.”

“Then there is nothing to be done but to go on,” said Cheenbuk, with a sigh which he loyally strove to vent as a sign of regret, but which insisted on issuing forth as a distinct sound of satisfaction!

“You have promised to take me safe to your mother’s igloe, and to bring me back to my own home,” said Adolay, with a look of confidence.  “I will go on and trust you.”

Without another word the Eskimo pushed off the head of the canoe, which was caught by the current and swept down-stream.  Ere long they reached the Greygoose River, and, paddling into the centre of the current, were soon careering towards the sea at a pace which they thought rendered their being overtaken almost impossible.  To make quite sure, however, they continued the voyage far into the night, and did not land for a very brief rest until the grey dawn had begun to appear over the eastern tree-tops.

Being both somewhat fatigued by that time they scarcely uttered a word as they encamped, but went about the work as if half asleep.  Cheenbuk lifted the canoe out of the water and laid it on the bank, bottom up, in which position it formed a rough and ready tent for his companion, who, meanwhile, carried up the provisions.  Seated on the grass beside it they ate a little dried venison, which required no cooking-uttering only a monosyllable now and then with half-closed eyes, and sometimes with an imbecile smile, which terminated occasionally in an irresistible nod.  The feebleness of the light, too, as well as the quietness of the hour, contributed not a little to this state of semi-consciousness.

The frugal supper having been washed down with a draught of water, from Nature’s own cup-the joined hands-Adolay lay down under the canoe.  Cheenbuk retired to a neighbouring spruce-fir and stretched himself under its branches.  Need we add that sleep closed their eyelids instantly?

But the Eskimo was much too experienced a hunter and warrior to allow the drowsy god to enchain him long.  Like a dead log he lay for little more than two hours, then he awoke with a start and stretched himself.

“Hoi!” he exclaimed sharply, looking towards the canoe, which was distant from his lair about five or six yards.

The exclamation had scarcely passed his lips when Adolay sprang up, and next moment went blinking, yawning, and stumbling down the bank with the provisions under one arm, the paddles and weapons under the other.  Cheenbuk lifted the canoe and followed her.  In a few minutes they were once more out in the middle of the strong current, paddling with might and main.

Now, it was well that they had used such diligence in their flight, for the pursuers were closer behind them than they had supposed.

When the unfortunate Alizay was felled by the Eskimo, as we have described, he lay for a considerable time in a state of insensibility, but he was by no means killed-not even seriously damaged-for Cheenbuk’s intense dislike to take life had not only induced him to drop the knife with which the Indian girl had supplied him to cut his cords, but inclined him to use his ponderous fist with moderation, so that Alizay, on recovering, found himself none the worse, except for a severe headache and an unnaturally large bridge to his nose.

Gathering himself up, and gradually swelling with rage as he reflected on the treatment to which he had been subjected, he ran at full speed to alarm the camp and begin a search.  But where were they to search?-that was the question.  There were four points to the compass-though they knew nothing about the compass-and the fugitive might have gone off in the direction of any of these, or between them, and it was too dark a night to permit of his trail being followed by sight, for, although the moon might aid them in the open, it would be quite useless in the darkness of the woods.

A hurried council was held, and a good deal of distracting advice given while the young braves were arming themselves.  To add to their perplexities, a lad rushed suddenly into the council-tent with glaring eyes, saying that the girl Idazoo had disappeared from the village.  This news greatly increased the fury of Alizay, but he had scarcely realised the truth when another lad, with, if possible, still more glaring eyes and a gaping mouth, rushed in to tell that the girl Adolay was also missing.  This blew up the agitation to a frenzy of excitement-not usual among the Red men of the north-because the necessity for prompt action was great, while the impossibility of doing anything definite was greater.

It was just at this point, when the clamour was at its height, that a sound was heard which instantly produced dead silence, while every man and boy became as if petrified, with eyes enlarged and ears cocked to listen.

Again the sound was heard-a distant yell undoubtedly, coming from the direction of the cliff.

All the self-possession and promptitude of the Indians returned in a moment.  In a second the braves glided out of the council-tent and disappeared, each making a straight line for the sound, while the women and children left behind listened with profound attention and expectation.

There was no lack of guiding sounds now, for the moment Idazoo managed to clear her mouth of the gag she began and continued a series of shrieks and yells which were intensified in vigour by the fact that she gradually became hysterical as well as wrathful.

The first to reach the spot was Alizay.  On beholding him the girl stopped, and, after two or three exasperated echoes had finished their remarks, a profound silence reigned.

Lovers among the Dogribs are not yet very gallant.  Civilisation may do something for them, as to this, in time.

“You can make a noise!” said the youth, stepping up to her.

“I have reason to do so,” replied the maiden, somewhat abashed.

“Did Adolay go with him?” asked Alizay as several of the other braves ran up.



“Yes-she helped to tie me and showed him the way.”

“Where did they go?”

“In the direction of the lake.”

Instantly the whole band turned and ran off in the direction mentioned-
Alizay being last, as he paused just long enough to cut the bonds of
Idazoo, but left her to disentangle herself as she best could.

On reaching the shores of the lake the footsteps of the fugitives showed clear in the moonlight, and the marks of launching the canoe were visible, so that there was no further doubt as to what should be done.  The Indians knew well that there was only one outlet from the lake.  Their canoes were close by, and their guns and tomahawks in their hands.  Nothing therefore required to be done but to embark and give chase.  For this purpose two canoes were deemed sufficient, with three men in each.

Magadar took charge of the leading canoe.  Alizay steered the other, and the rest of the braves returned to the village to gloat over the news that Idazoo had to tell, to feast on the produce of the previous day’s hunt, and to clear-or obfuscate-their intellects, more or less, with their tobacco-pipes.

As the six pursuers were very wrathful, and pretty strong, they caused their canoes to skim over the lake like swallows, and reached the head of the little river not very long after the fugitives had left it.  A stern chase, however, is proverbially a long one, and as they overhauled the chase only inch by inch, there seemed little chance of overtaking it that night.  The leaders, however, being men of great endurance, resolved to carry on without rest as long as possible.  This they did until about dawn-the same hour at which the fugitives had succumbed- and both parties put ashore at last for a rest, neither being aware of the fact that their separate camping-grounds were not more than three miles apart!

Well was it then for Adolay that her stout protector was a light sleeper, as well as a man of iron frame, and that he had aroused her fully an hour and a half sooner than the time at which the Indians left their camp to resume the chase.  It was well, also, that Cheenbuk required but a short rest to recruit his strength and enable him to resume the paddle with his full vigour.  The joy, also, consequent upon the discovery that he loved the Indian girl, and that she had made up her mind, without any persuasion on his part, to run away with him, lent additional power to his strong back.  Perhaps, also, a sympathetic feeling in the breast of the maiden added to the strength of her well-formed and by no means feeble arm, so that many miles were soon added to the three which intervened between the chasers and the chased.  To the horror of Adolay she found when she and Cheenbuk reached the mouth of the river, that the sea was extensively blocked by masses of ice, which extended out as far as the eye could reach.

Although thus encumbered, however, the sea was by no means choked up with it, and to the gaze of the young Eskimo the ice presented no insurmountable obstacle, for his experienced eye could trace leads and lanes of open water as far as the first group of distant islets, which lay like scarce perceptible specks on the horizon.

But to the inexperienced eye of the girl the scene was one of hopeless confusion, and it filled her with sudden alarm and despair, though she possessed more than the usual share of the Dogrib women’s courage.  Observing her alarm, Cheenbuk gave her a look of encouragement, but avoided telling her not to be afraid, for his admiration of her was too profound to admit of his thinking that she could really be frightened, whatever her looks might indicate.

“The ice is our friend to-day,” he said, with a cheery smile, as they stood together on the seashore beside their canoe, surveying the magnificent scene of snowy field, fantastic hummock, massive berg, and glittering pinnacle that lay spread out before them.

Adolay felt, but did not express surprise, for she was filled with a most commendable trust in the truth and wisdom as well as the courage of the man to whose care she had committed herself.

“If you say the ice is our friend, it must be so,” she remarked quietly, “but to the Indian girl it seems as if the ice was our foe, for she can see no escape, and my people will be sure to follow us.”

“Let them follow,” returned Cheenbuk, with a quiet laugh, as he re-arranged the lading of the canoe before continuing the voyage.  “They won’t follow beyond this place!”

Lifting out the big stone, which had formed a counterpoise to his weight, he flung it on the beach.

“We will change places now, Adolay,” he said, “you have guided our canoe when on the inland waters; it is now my turn to steer, for I understand the sea of ice.  Get in, we will start.”

When Magadar and his comrades arrived at the mouth of the Greygoose River and beheld the aspect of the sea, a cry of mingled surprise and disappointment escaped them, but when they had landed and discovered the canoe of the fugitives far away like a speck among the ice-floes, the cry was transmuted into a howl of rage.

“Quick! embark!  Let us after them!” shouted Magadar.

“Death to them both!” yelled Alizay.

For a few minutes the Indians followed the lanes of open water, till their turnings began to appear somewhat complicated; then the warlike spirit became a little subdued.  Presently one of the Indians discovered-or thought he discovered-that the lead of water was narrowing, and that the ice was closing in.

Promptly both canoes were put about, and the shore was regained with amazing speed.

After that the Dogribs paddled quietly up the Greygoose River, and meekly returned to their woodland home.