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graceful and majestic bearing, that, among the feathered race at least, is quite inimitable.
A few strokes of its broad feet propelled it into the open water near the middle of the stream, when, making a half wheel, it turned head down the river, and swam with the current.
At the point where it turned it was not two hundred yards ahead of the canoe. Its apparent boldness in permitting them to come so near without taking wing, led François to hope that they might get still nearer; and, begging his companions to ply the paddles, he seized hold of his double-barrel, and leaned forward in the canoe. Basil also conceived a hope that a shot was to be had; for he took up his rifle, and looked to the cock and cap. The others went steadily and quietly to work at the oars. In a few moments the canoe cleft the current at the rate of a galloping horse, and one would have supposed that the swan must either at once take wing or be overtaken.
Not so, however. The “trumpeter" knew his game better than that. He had full confidence both in his strength and speed upon the water. He was not going to undergo the trouble of a fly, until the necessity arose for so doing; and, as it was, he seemed to be satisfied that that necessity had not yet arrived. The swim cost him much less muscular exertion than flying would have done; and he judged that the current, here very swift, would carry him out of reach of his pursuers.
It soon began to appear that he judged rightly; and the voyageurs, to their chagrin, saw that, instead of gaining upon him, as they had expected, every moment widened the distance between him and the canoe. The bird had an advantage over his pursuers. Three distinct powers propelled him, while they had only two to rely upon. He had the current in his favour, so had they. He had oars or paddles, his feet; they had oars as well. He “carried sail,” while they spread not a " rag.” The wind chanced to blow directly down-stream, and the broad wings of the bird, held out from his body, and half extended, caught the very pith of the breeze on their double concave surfaces,
and carried him through the water with the velocity of an
Do you think that he was not aware of this advantage when he started in the race? Do you suppose
that these birds do not think? I, for one, am satisfied they do, and look upon every one who prates about the instinct of these creatures as a philosopher of a very old school indeed. Not only does the great swan think, but so does your parrot, and your piping bullfinch, and the little canary that hops on your thumb. All think, and reason, and judge,
Most certainly the swan, which our voyageurs were pursuing, thought, and reasoned, and judged, and calculated his distance, and resolved to keep on “the even tenor of his way," without putting himself to extra trouble by beating the air with his wings, and lifting his heavy body-thirty pounds at least—up into the heavens. His judgment proved sound; for, in less than ten minutes from the commencement of the chase, he had gained a clear hundred yards upon his pursuers, and continued to widen the distance. At intervals he raised his beak higher than usual, and uttered his loud booming note, which fell upon the ears of the voyageurs as though it had been sent back in mockery and defiance.
They would have given up the pursuit, had they not noticed that a few hundred yards farther down the river made a sharp turn to the right. The swan, on reaching this, would no longer have the wind in his favour. This
inspired them with fresh hopes. They thought they would · be able to overtake him after passing the bend, and then,
either get a shot at him, or force him into the air. The latter was the more likely; and, although it would be no great gratification to see him fly off, yet they had become so interested in this singular chase that they desired to terminate it by putting the trumpeter to some trouble. They bent, therefore, with fresh energy to their oars, and pulled onward in the pursuit. Fir the swan, and after him the canoe, swung round the bend, and entered the new “reach" of the river. The voyageurs at once perceived that the bird now swam more slowly. He no longer “carried sail," as the wind was no longer in his favour. His wings lay closely
folded to his body, and he moved only by the aid of his webbed feet and the current, which last happened to be sluggish, as the river at this part spread over a wide expanse of level land. The canoe was evidently catching up, and each stroke was bringing the pursuers nearer to the pursued.
After a few minutes' brisk pulling, the trumpeter had lost so much ground that he was not two hundred yards in the advance, and “dead ahead.” His body was no longer carried with the same gracefulness, and the majestic curving of his neek had disappeared. His bill protruded forward, and his thighs began to drag the water in his wake. He was evidently on the threshold of flight. Both François and Basil saw this, as they stood with their guns crossed
At this moment a shrill cry sounded over the water. It was the scream of some wild creature, ending in a strange laugh, like the laugh of a maniac.
On both sides of the river there was a thick forest of tall trees of the cotton-wood species (populus angustifolia). From this forest the strange cry had proceeded, and from the right bank. Its echoes had hardly ceased, when it was answered by a similar cry from the trees upon the left. So like were the two, that it seemed as if some one of God's wild creatures was mocking another. These cries were hideous enough to frighten any one not used to them. They had not that effect upon our voyageurs, who knew their import. One and all of them were familiar with the voice of the white-headed eagle !
The trumpeter knew it as well as any of them, but on him it produced a far different effect. His terror was apparent, and his intention was all at once changed. Instead of rising into the air, as he had premeditated, he suddenly lowered his head, and disappeared under the water!
Again was heard the wild screams, and the maniac laugh ; and the next moment an eagle swept out from the timber, and, after a few strokes of its broad wing, poised itself over the spot where the trumpeter had gone down. The other, its mate, was seen crossing at the same time from the opposite side.
Presently the swan rose to the surface; but his head was hardly out of the water, when the eagle once more uttered its wild note, and, half folding its wings, darted down from above. The swan seemed to have expected this; for before the eagle could reach the surface, he had gone under a second time, and the latter, though passing with the velocity of an arrow, plunged his talons in the water to no purpose. With a cry of disappointment, the eagle mounted back into the air, and commenced wheeling in circles over the spot. It was joined by its mate, and both kept round and round, watching for the reappearance of their intended victim.
Again the swan came to the surface; but before either of the eagles could swoop upon him, he had for the third time disappeared. The swan is but an indifferent diver; but under such circumstances he was likely to do his best at it. But what could it avail him ? He must soon rise to the surface to take breath, each time at shorter intervals. He would soon become fatigued, and unable to dive with sufficient celerity, and then his cruel enemies would be down upon him with their terrible talons. Such is the usual result, unless the swan takes to the air, which he sometimes does. In the present case he had built his hopes upon a different means of escape. He contemplated being able to conceal himself in a heavy sedge of bulrushes (scirpus lacustris) that grew along the edge of the river ; and towards these he was evidently directing his course under the water. At each emersion he appeared some yards nearer them, until at length he rose within a few feet of their margin, and diving again was seen no more. He had crept in among the sedge, and no doubt was lying with only his head, or part of it, above the water, his body concealed by the broad leaves of the nymphe, while the head itself could not be distinguished among the white flowers that lay thickly along the surface.
The eagles now wheeled over the sedge, flapping the tops of the bulrushes with their broad wings, and screaming with disappointed rage. Keen as were their eyes, they could not discover the hiding-place of their victim. No doubt they would have searched for it a long while, but the canoe, which they now appeared to notice for the first time, had floated near; and, becoming aware of their own danger, both mounted into the air again, and with a farewell scream flew off, and alighted at some distance down the river.
"A swan for supper !" shouted François, as he poised his gun for the expected shot.
Meanwhile Marengo had been sent into the sedge, and was now heard plunging and sweltering about in search of game. Marengo was not much of a water-dog by nature; but he had been trained to almost every kind of hunting, and his experience among the swamps of Louisiana had long since relieved him of all dread for the water. His masters therefore had no fear but that Marengo would "put up" the trumpeter.
Marengo had been let loose a little too soon. Before the canoe could be cleared of the entangling sedge, the dog was heard to utter one of his loud growls; then followed a heavy plunge ; there was a confused fluttering of wings, and the great white bird rose majestically into the air, Before either of the gunners could direct their aim, he was beyond the range of shot, and both prudently reserved their fire. Marengo, having performed his part, swam back to the canoe, and was lifted over the gunwale.
The swan, after clearing the sedge, rose almost vertically into the air. These birds usually fly at a great elevation, sometimes entirely beyond the reach of sight. Unlike the wild geese and ducks, they never alight upon land, but always upon the bosom of the water. It was evidently the intention of this one to go far from the scene of his late dangers, perhaps to the great lake Winnipeg itself.
After attaining a height of several hundred yards, he flew forward in a horizontal course, and followed the direction of the stream. His flight was now regular, and his trumpet-note could be heard at intervals, as, with outstretched neck, he glided along the heavens. He seemed to