One summer morning at sunrise I was shocked out of sleep by shrieks and shouts and scurrying feet. I sprang out of bed and rushed into the hall in time to see Tom dash out of it into the dining-room, mother-in-law and the girl disappearing up stairs and the two hired men through the barn door. My husband soon followed Tom, who had taken refuge under a large heavy falling-leaf table, and seemed inclined to stay there. This time his collar was broken and feeling the advantage he paid no heed to the hand or voice of his quandom master. He would not move, but growled defiance, and the table protected him from a blow under the ear, so his late master became utterly nonplussed. If the cage were there, the great beast would probably go into it, but how get it there? The wealth of India would not have induced one of those men to come out of that barn, or one of those women to come down those stairs.
Something must be done, and I proposed to hold Tom while my husband brought the cage. He hesitated. I was not in good fighting trim, for my hair which was long and heavy had fallen loose, but preparation could avail nothing. The only hope lay in perfect coolness and a steady gaze. I knelt and took hold of Tom by the back of the neck, talked to him and thought that cage was long in coming. He shifted his weight and seemed about to get up. This meant escape, and I held him hard, commanding him to “lie down, sir.” He blinked at me, seemed quite indifferent and altogether comfortable. By and by, the man who had ceased to be master returned without the cage, utterly demoralized; and was here without a weapon, without a plan. I resigned my place and told him I would bring a rope. This I intended to do, and also my hatchet.
I had but gotten half way to the front door when there was a scuffle, the loud voice of my husband, shrieks up stairs, rattling of furniture and crashing of glass, and when I got back to the room I saw the tip of Tom’s tail disappearing. He had gone through the window and taken the sash with him. He ran into his cage, and that was his last taste of liberty; but he lived a year after, chained in a corn crib. Every evening in the gloaming he would pace back and forth, raise his kingly head, utter his piercing shriek, then stop and hark for a response; walk again, shriek and listen, while the bears would bellow an answer.
The bears, too, were often exciting and interesting. Once I rescued a toddling child when running towards “big bear,” and not more than two feet from where he stood waiting with hungry eyes. At another time, they both broke loose, on a bitter cold day when I was alone in the house. I defended myself with fire, meeting them at every door and window with a hickory brand. I wondered as they went round and round the house, if they would stop in the chimney corner, and make the acquaintance of Tom; but they took no notice of him, and after they had eaten several buckets of porridge, they concluded there was nothing in the house they wanted, so became good natured and went and climbed a tree.