‘Whew!’ I whistled.
‘Thet’s eggszac’ly what he done,’ said Uncle Eb. ’He showed ’em plain. The boy was scairter’n a weasel. The bear he jumped up ’an down on his hind legs ’n laughed ‘n’ hollered ‘n’ shook himself.
‘"Only jes’ foolin,” says he, when he see the boy was goin’ t’ run ag’in. “What ye ’fraid uv?”
‘"Can’t bear t’ stay here,” says the boy, “’less ye’ll keep yer mouth shet.”
’An the bear he shet his mouth ’n pinted to the big pocket ’n his fur coat ’n winked ‘n motioned t’ the boy.
’The bear he reely did hev a pocket on the side uv his big fur coat. The boy slid his hand in up t’ the elbow. Wha’ d’ye s’pose he found?’
‘Durmo,’ said I.
‘Sumthin’ t’ eat,’ he continued. ‘Boy liked it best uv all things.’
I guessed everything I could think of, from cookies to beefsteak, and gave up.
‘Gingerbread,’ said he, soberly, at length.
‘Thought ye said bears couldn’t talk,’ I objected.
’Wall, the boy ‘d fell asleep an’ he’d only dreamed o’ the bear,’ said Uncle Eb. ‘Ye see, bears can talk when boys are dreamin’ uv ’em. Come daylight, the boy got up ’n ketched a crow. Broke his wing with the cross-gun. Then he tied the kite swing on t’ the crow’s leg, an’ the crow flopped along ’n the boy followed him ’n bime bye they come out a cornfield, where the crow’d been used t’ comin’ fer his dinner.’
’What ‘come o’ the boy?’ said I.
‘Went home,’ said he, gaping, as he lay on his back and looked up at the tree-tops. ‘An’ he allwus said a bear was good comp’ny if he’d only keep his mouth shet — jes’ like some folks I’ve hearn uv.’
‘An’ what ‘come o’ the crow?’
‘Went t’ the ol’ crow doctor ‘n got his wing fixed,’ he said, drowsily. And in a moment I heard him snoring.
We had been asleep a long time when the barking of Fred woke us. I could just see Uncle Eb in the dim light of the fire, kneeling beside me, the rifle in his hand.
‘I’ll fill ye full o’ lead if ye come any nearer,’ he shouted.
We listened awhile then but heard no sound in the thicket, although Fred was growling ominously, his hair on end. As for myself I never had a more fearful hour than that we suffered before the light of morning came.
I made no outcry, but clung to my old companion, trembling. He did not stir for a few minutes, and then we crept cautiously into the small hemlocks on one side of the opening.
‘Keep still,’ he whispered, ‘don’t move er speak.’
Presently we heard a move in the brush and then quick as a flash Uncle Eb lifted his rifle and fired in the direction of it Before the loud echo had gone off in the woods we heard something break through the brush at a run.
‘’S a man,’ said Uncle Eb, as he listened. ‘He ain’t a losin’ no time nuther.’