Chapter XIII.--The Big Polar Bear.
 

"Your father!" cried Captain Sumner.

"Yes, my father," repeated Bob, in high excitement. "What shall we do?"

He felt like rushing forward, but the captain restrained him.

"We can do nothing against such a force of men," he said. "Wait--or--" He hesitated.

"What?"

"You or I might go back to the Dart for help. Every man on board can come heavily armed. When these people see our number they may be willing to talk reasonably to us."

"That's so, but I hate to leave," returned Bob. "They may do some harm to my father in the meantime."

"Then I will go, Bob. But mind, keep shady, unless they do something very bad."

Bob promised, and without delay Captain Sumner started on the return to the Dart.

With a wildly beating heart Bob watched the people who held his father a captive.

They were marching along silently now and did not stop until the center of the cave of ice was reached.

Here the party assembled in a circle at a point where there was a slight elevation.

Two of the men had axes, and with these they began to chop at the elevation, causing the pieces of ice to fly in all directions.

"Now what are they going to do?" thought our hero.

Presently he heard a slight noise behind him. Somewhat startled, he turned around to find himself face to face with a monstrous polar bear!

The beast had just discovered Bob. For a moment he stood still.

Then with a growl he leaped directly for the astonished youth.

Had Bob not sprung out of the way the bear would have landed on his head.

But Bob moved with the quickness of lightning, and this saved his life.

The bear, however, came down so close to the boy's side that our hero had no time left to fire at him.

He struck the bear one hasty blow with his gun stock and then ran for dear life.

Recovering, the huge beast came after him.

Although a heavyweight, the bear managed to cover the ground with incredible swiftness.

Down the side of the icy hill went Bob, with the bear less than a dozen feet in the rear.

The plain below reached, Bob scarcely knew which way to turn.

The bear uttered growl after growl, showing that he was working himself up to a perfect fury.

"I must get to the yacht, if possible," thought Bob, and headed in the direction without delay.

On and on came the polar bear.

He did not seem to gain, neither did he lose.

So far the race had been about even, but Bob felt he could not keep up that terrific strain much longer.

As he ran he fingered his gun nervously.

Should he risk a shot?

"I must do something," he said to himself desperately.

And wheeling about he took hasty aim and blazed away.

The shot was not a bad one. The bullet struck the polar bear in the side of the head, causing him to stagger back and halt.

On went Bob again, and by the time the bear recovered sufficiently to continue the pursuit he was nearly fifty yards in advance.

But the bear was undaunted, and on he came as swiftly as before.

Once Bob stumbled and almost gave himself up for lost.

But he scrambled up quickly, and was relieved to see the bear stop, not being able to make out what was about to happen.

Then on went again, until, with a cry of terror, Bob leaped back.

He had reached the edge of a swiftly flowing stream, which ran between smooth banks of ice.

To attempt to leap that body of water would be highly dangerous, and to enter it might cost him his life.

And now the polar bear was at his very heels.