“Now we will go home,” said the Hermit softly, “and you, John, shall return with food for this poor hungry brother. You will soon make him your dear friend also. For, you see, he asks only love and patience. Men have been cruel to him. But we will be kind to our Brother Bear.”
Thus John learned a new lesson of courtesy to the wilder, bigger beasts. That same day he made the long journey a second time, bringing the bear his dinner, with a comb of wild honey which the Hermit had found on the way home. And he had the joy of seeing the creature act no longer like an enemy, but like a timid friend.
Day after day John went and ministered to the sick animal. At last, there came a joyous time when the bear rose to greet him on his approach. The injured paw was healed. And when John left the cave that night, the bear hobbled at his heels, even to the clearing where the Hermit lived. He would not go farther at that time. He sat down on his haunches outside the border of tall trees, and when John tried to coax him he looked at the hut doubtfully. At the sight of Brutus he made lumberingly away.
A few evenings later, the bear came of his own accord to beg for his supper; and at last this became a custom. Soon he also was accounted a member of the animal kingdom, and became good friends with them all. In time John taught him many tricks, such as he had seen the mountebanks do with their traveling bears. But unlike them, John taught only by kindness; and his bear learned the faster.
A FOREST RAMBLE
“Father,” said John one summer afternoon, when his tasks for the day were quite finished, “Brutus and I are going for a long walk.”
“Very well, my son,” answered the Hermit, “I will bide here and read my book, for the heat has made me somewhat weary. But see that you return before sunset.”
“Yes, father,” said John.
Slinging over his shoulder a little basket in which to fetch home any strange plants which he might find in the forest, John whistled to Brutus, and the pair trotted away together as they loved to do. The Hermit looked after them, and smiled.
“John is a good boy,” he said. “One day he will be a fine man. May the Saints help me to make him worthy of his father and of the name he bears.” Then he turned to his beloved book.
John and Brutus went merrily through the forest, the boy singing under his breath snatches of the cheerful hymns that he and the Hermit loved. The dog ran ahead, exploring in the bushes, sometimes disappearing for long minutes at a time, but ever returning to rub his nose in John’s hand and exchange a silent word with him. They were not going for any particular errand to any especial spot. They were just rambling wherever the forest looked inviting; which is the nicest way to travel through the woods,—especially if one of you can be trusted to find the way home, however wavering may be the trail that you leave behind. It was what John loved to do more than anything in the world.