A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 8, page 1 of 5)


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Chapter 8

Mrs. Chester and I hurried back to the yard. There was the bear,
sitting calmly on his haunches, but there was no Italian.

"Now that his master is gone," my hostess exclaimed, "I am afraid of
him! I will not go any farther! Can you imagine anything that can be
done with that beast?"

I had no immediate answer to give, and I was still very much amused at
the absurdity of the situation. Had any one ever before paid his bill
in such fashion? At this moment the stable-man approached us from one
of the outbuildings. "This is my hostler," she said. "Perhaps he can
suggest something."

"This is a bad go, ma'am," said he. "The horse was out in the pasture
all night, but this morning when I went to bring him up I couldn't
make him come near the stable. He smells that bear! It seems to drive
him crazy!"

"It's awful!" she said. "What are we going to do, John? Do you think
the animal will become dangerous when he misses his master?"

"Oh, there's nothin' dangerous about him," answered John. "I was
sittin' talkin' to that Dago last night after supper, and he says his
bear's tamer than a cat. He is so mild-tempered that he wouldn't hurt
nobody. The Dago says he sleeps close up to him of cold nights to keep
himself warm. There ain't no trouble about his bein' dangerous, but
you can't bring the horse into the stable while he's about. If anybody
was to drive into this yard without knowin' they'd be a circus, I can
tell you! Horses can't stand bears."

She looked at me in dismay. "Couldn't he be shot and buried?" she
asked.

I had my doubts on that point. A tame bear is a valuable animal, and I
could not advise her to dispose of the property of another person in
that summary way.

"But he must be got away," she said. "We can't have a bear here. He
must be taken away some way or other. Isn't there any place where he
could be put until the Italian comes back?"

"That Dago's never comin' back," said the boy, solemnly. "If you'd
a-seen him scoot, you'd a-knowed that he was dead skeered, and would
never turn up here no more, bear or no bear."

Mrs. Chester looked at me. She was greatly worried, but she was also
amused, and she could not help laughing.

"Isn't this a dreadful predicament?" she said. "What in the world am I
to do?" At this moment there was an acidulated voice from the kitchen.
"Mrs. Whittaker wants to see you, Mrs. Chester," it cried, "right
away!"

"Oh, dear!" said she. "Here is more trouble! Mrs. Whittaker is an
invalid lady who is so nervous that she could not sleep one night
because she heard a man had killed a snake at the back of the barn,
and what she will say when she hears that we have a bear here without
a master I do not know. I must go to her, and I do wish you could
think of something that I can do;" as she said this she looked at me
as if it were a natural thing for her to rely upon me. For a moment it
made me think of the star that had winked the night before.

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