Page images
PDF
EPUB

edge of the road straight before, only a few paces off, a bear staring at me fixedly. In broad daylight one does not have the nightmare; one cannot be deceived by a form, by an appearance, by a queer-shaped rock, by an absurd log of wood. At noon, under a May-day sun, one is not subject to illusions.

It was indeed a bear, a living bear, a real bear, and, moreover, perfectly hideous. He was gravely seated on his haunches, shewing me the dusty underneath of his hind-paws, all the claws of which I could distinguish, his fore-paws softly crossed over his belly. His jaws were partly open ; one of his ears, torn and bleeding, was hanging half off ; his lower lip half torn away, shewed his well-bared tusks; one of his eyes was gone, and with the other he was looking at me with a serious air.

There was not a woodman in the forest, and what little I could see of the road was entirely deserted.

One may sometimes get out of a scrape with a dog by calling Gip or Flora, but what could one say to a bear? Where did he come from? What could it mean, this bear on the Paris high-road?. What business could this new sort of vagabond have? It was very strange, very ridiculous, very unreasonable, and, after all, anything but pleasant. I was, I confess, much perplexed. However, I remained immovable. The bear on his side also remained immovable; he even seemed to me, to a certain extent, benevolent. He looked at me as tenderly as a one-eyed bear could look. True, he had his jaws wide open, but he opened them as one opens one's mouth. It was not a grin, it was only a gape. There was something honest, sanctimonious, resigned, and sleepy, about this bear. Upon the whole, his face was so good that I, too, resolved to put a good face on the matter. I accepted

the bear as a spectator, and went on with what I had begun.

While I was writing, a large fly alighted on the bleeding ear of my spectator. He slowly raised his right paw, , and passed it over his ear with a cat-like movement. The fly took itself off. He looked after it as it went; then, when it had disappeared, he seized his two fore-paws, and as if satisfied with this classical attitude, he resumed his contemplation. I assure you I watched his movements with interest. I was beginning to get accustomed to his

presence,

when an unexpected incident occurred. A noise of hasty steps was heard on the high-road, and all at once I saw turning the corner another bear, a large black bear. The first was brown. This black bear arrived at full trot, and perceiving the brown bear, gracefully rolled himself on the ground by his side. The brown bear did not condescend to look at the black bear, and the black bear did not condescend to look at me.

I confess that at sight of this new arrival, which redoubled my perplexity, my hand shook. Two bears ! This time it was too much. What did it all mean? Judging from the direction from which the black bear had come, both of them must have set out from Paris, a place where bears are few, especially wild ones.

I was all but petrified—the brown bear had at last joined in the gambols of the other, and by dint of rolling in the dust, both of them had become gray. Meanwhile I had risen, and was considering whether I should pick up my stick, which had fallen into the ditch at my feet, when a third bear made his appearance—a reddish, diminutive, deformed bear, still more torn and bloody than the first; the a fourth, then a fifth, and a sixth, the two last trotting in company. The last four bears crossed the road without looking at anything, almost running and as if they were pursued. This became too puzzling. I could not but be near the explanation. I heard barkings and shoutings; ten or twelve bull-dogs, seven or eight men armed with iron-shod sticks, and with muzzles in their hands, ran up at the heels of the fugitive bears. One of these men paused while the others were bringing back the muzzled beasts, and he explained to me this strange riddle. The proprietor of a circus was taking advantage of the Easter holidays to send his bears and his dogs to give some performances in the country. The whole party travelled on foot; at the last resting-place the bears had been loosed, and while their keepers were dining at the neighbouring tavern, they had taken advantage of their liberty to proceed merrily and alone on their journey.

They were bears out for a holiday.

THE REA PE R.

1.
Behold her, single in the field,

Yon solitary Highland lass !
Reaping and singing by herself;

Stop here, or gently pass !
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,

And sings a melancholy strain ;
O listen ! for the vale profound

Is overflowing with the sound.

2. No nightingale did ever chaunt More welcome notes to weary

bands Of travellers in some shady haunt,

Among Arabian sands :
No sweeter voice was ever heard
In spring-time from the cuckoo

bird, Breaking the silence of the seas Among the farthest Hebrides.

3. Will no one tell me what she sings ?

Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,

And battles long ago :
Or is it some more humble lay,

Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again !

4.
Whate'er the theme, the maiden sang

As if her song could have no ending; I saw her singing at her work,

And o'er the sickle bending ; I listened till I had

my And as I mounted up the hill, The music in my heart I bore

Long after it was heard no more.

fill;

[graphic][merged small]
[blocks in formation]

1. Amid the rushes green and slight,

Beneath the willows tall and strong, Wave after wave so fast and bright,

The river runs along.

2. The winter comes with icy blast,

The summer brings her scorching suns, Day after day has come and passed,

And still the river runs.

3. I see it flow : away, away,

Along the same broad even track, The waves sweep onward night and day,

But never one comes back.

4. And thus it is, time passes by,

Nor ever stops for joy or pain; Thus years, and days, and moments ily,

But never come again.

5. The shadows on the river fall,

The wave reflects them every one, The bending rush, the poplar tall,

But carries with it none.

« PreviousContinue »