A Bicycle of Cathay (Chapter 8, page 3 of 5)


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Chapter 8

As he approached the kitchen there came a fearful scream from the open
window.

"Take him away! Take him away!" I heard, in the shrillest accents.

"They're dreadfully skeered," said John, as he led the bear back; "but
he wouldn't hurt nobody! It would be a good thing, though, to put his
muzzle on; that's it hangin' over there by the shed; it's like a
halter, and straps up his jaws. The Dago said there ain't no need for
it, but he puts it on when he's travellin' along the road to keep
people from bein' skeered."

"It would be well to put it on," said I. "I wonder if we can get him
into it?"

"I guess he'd let you do anything you'd a mind to," replied John, as
he again fastened the chain to the post.

I took down the muzzle and approached the bear. He did not growl, but
stood perfectly still and looked at me. I put the muzzle over his
head, and, holding myself in readiness to elude a sudden snap, I
strapped up his jaws. The creature made no snap--he gazed at me with
mild resignation.

"As far as he goes," said John, "he's all right; but as far as
everything else goes--especially horses--they're all wrong. He's got
to be got rid of some way."

I had nothing more to say to John, and I went into the house. I met
Mrs. Chester in the hall.

"I have had a bad time up-stairs," she said. "Mrs. Whittaker declares
that she will not stay an hour in a house where there is a bear
without a master; but as she has a terrible sciatica and cannot
travel, I do not know what she is going to do. Her trained nurse, I
believe, is now putting on her bonnet to depart."

As she spoke, the joyful anticipation of a few days at the Holly Sprig
Inn began to fade away. I did not blame the bear as the present cause
of my disappointment. He had done all he could for me. It was his
wretched master who had done the mischief by running away and leaving
him. But no matter what had happened, I saw my duty plainly before me.
I had not been encouraged to stay, but it is possible that I might
have done so without encouragement, but now I saw that I must go. The
Fates, who, as I had hoped, had compelled my stay, now compelled my
departure.

"Do not give yourself another thought upon the subject," I said. "I
will settle the whole matter, and nobody need be frightened or
disturbed. The Cheltenham Hotel is only a few miles farther on, and I
shall have to walk there anyway. I will start immediately and take the
bear with me. I am sure that he will allow me to lead him wherever I
please. I have tried him, and I find that he is a great deal gentler
than most children."

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