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Nathan and the bear.
By M. A. L. LANE
From The Book of Stories for the Storyteller by Fanny E. Coe.
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Start of Story
Little Nathan King was driving home his father's cows.
It was a cold night in October. In the clear sky the stars shone
The dry leaves fluttered down upon the road where they lay in drifts.
The air was sharp. Once a chestnut burr dropped at the boy's feet.
"Winter will soon be here," Nathan said to himself. He was thinking of
the snug kitchen and the good warm supper that his mother would have
ready for him.
It was dark. Nathan could just see the black shapes of the cows.
There were five of them. They were good, kind cows. Nathan liked to
take care of them.
He liked to pat their sleek, smooth sides.
The cows were fond of Nathan. Sometimes the black cow would put out
her rough tongue and touch his hand.
Now they were all in a hurry to reach the warm barn. They walked along
the road as fast as they could.
"I think I will go by the wood path," said Nathan to himself. "It is
only half as far, and I know every step of the way."
So he ran on before the cows, and let down the bars into the wood
The cows went on after him. They, too, knew every step of the path.
Nathan often took them home that way. The end of the wood path was
near the door of the barn.
It was very still in the woods. The dry leaves rustled as the cows
walked through them. There was no other sound. The trees looked big
Nathan whistled as he walked. He had never been in the woods after
dark before. He was glad that he was not far from home.
Once the black cow stepped on a long, dry branch. The other end of the
branch flew up in Nathan's face and made him jump.
"What a baby I am!" said he. "There is nothing to be afraid of. I can
see the lamp in our kitchen now."
Nathan was now on the top of the hill. The trees were cut down on one
side of the path. He could look across a cornfield to his home.
He whistled more loudly than ever and walked bravely on.
"I wonder if there are any bears in these woods," he was thinking.
"Tom Shaw's father saw a bear on the mountain last week. Tom says he
would like to meet one. I should run if I heard a bear coming."
Nathan stopped a moment to listen. His heart beat fast. He could feel
it thump, thump, thump against his jacket. But there was no sound
except the breaking of twigs and the rustling of leaves under the
heavy step of the cows.
"Home at last!" said Nathan.
His father heard him open the great gate, and came out with a light.
Nathan stood aside to let the cows go through the gateway. He always
counted them as they went through.
One, two, three, four, five--one, two, three, four, five--Nathan
rubbed his eyes. Then he counted again. One, two, three, four, five,
six! Where did the sixth cow come from? Was it a cow? It looked more
like a dog.
"Father!" cried Nathan. "Here's a bear with the cows!"
Mr King laughed. He had opened the barn door. The cows were going in,
one by one.
"What a boy you are!" he said. "You and Tom Shaw--why, it is a bear!"
Yes, it really was a bear. Mr King swung the lantern close, to make
When the bear saw the bright light, he turned slowly; then he went
back through the gateway across the road, into the wood path.
"Let me get my gun!" cried Mr King. "Take the lantern, Nathan!"
"Oh, don't shoot him, father!" begged Nathan. "Please don't shoot him.
He came all the way through the woods with me, and he did not hurt me
The boy was almost crying. He was holding his father's arm with both
"Please don't shoot him!" he said again.
"Well," said Mr King, "I don't like to let a bear go like that. He
seems gentle enough, but he might do some harm. Where did you find
"I did not find him," said the boy, still holding fast his father's
arm. "He must have been in the woods. I was counting the cows just
now, and there he was! I wish you would let him go. He was good to me
when he might have hurt me. I think it would be mean to shoot him
"It is strange that the cows were not frightened," said Mr King. "I
suppose the old fellow was cold. He thought you looked as if you were
a kind boy, Nathan."
Nathan knew that his father would not go after the bear now. He
laughed gaily as he went into the barn.
"I wish Tom Shaw had been here," said he. "I think I shall come home
by the road to-morrow night. I am not very fond of bears, after all."