Lumbering into the open, turning only to growl at the dog which was yelping wildly in its rear, but keeping wisely out of its reach, was a black bear. The beast did not see the woman opposite him, but rushed at the log and was half way across it when she screamed. Then it paused. Behind was the dog, before the woman; it advanced slowly, growling.
Harlson, in the tree, saw it all, and, as a fireman drops with a rush down the pole in the engine-house, he came down the maple’s boll and bounded toward the log. The bear hesitated.
“Shoot! you little fool, shoot!” shouted the man, as he ran.
Her courage returned in a moment, at least did partial presence of mind. She raised the gun desperately, and the report rang out. The bear clutched wildly at the log, then rolled off, and fell to the rocky bottom, twenty feet below. Harlson seized his own gun and looked down. The beast was motionless, and from a little hole in its head the blood was trickling.
And the woman—well, the woman was sitting on the grass, very pale of face and silent.
The man seized her, and half smothered her with kisses, and shouted aloud to the forest and all its creatures that great was Diana of the Ephesians!
THE HOUSE WONDERFUL.
And the bear’s skin was tanned with the glossy black fur still upon it, the head with the white-fanged jaws still attached and made natural with all the skill of an artist in such things, and it lay, a great, soft, black rug, upon a couch in the House Wonderful, or, at least, the house to which Harlson gave that name. It seemed to him the House Wonderful, indeed.
Therein was held all there was in the world for him, and he was satisfied with it all, and content, save that he felt, at seasons, how little man is worthy of the happiness which may come to him sometimes, even in this world. Yet it was not all poetry in the House Wonderful; there were many practical happenings, and many droll ones.
The House Wonderful, it is needless to say, was in the city. The bear-skin was but one of many such soft trophies of the chase which were spread upon the floors or upon soft lounges and divans. Over this particular skin there was much said, at times, when there were guests.
Jean would explain to some curious person, that she herself had shot the original wearer of the skin, and that her husband was up a tree at the time, and there would be odd looks, and he would explain nothing, and then she, woman-like, must needs spoil the mystery by telling all about it, as if any one would not comprehend some jest in the matter! It was a home of rugs and books, and very restful. I liked to go there, where they both spoiled me, and where the softness and the perfume of it all made me useless and dissatisfied after I had come away. There is no reason in the average man. But in the Eden was one great serpent—not a real serpent, but a glittering one, like the toy snakes sold at Christmas time.