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Herrick knew for what he was paying. It was the pleasure of rescuing unwilling slaves from bondage. As to their expensive education, if they returned to a state of ignorance as rapidly as did most college graduates he knew, he would be satisfied. Two days later, when her engagement at the music hall closed, Madame Zichy reluctantly turned over her pets to their new manager. With Ikey she was especially loath to part.
"I'll never get one like him," she walled Ikey is the funniest four-legged clown in America. He's a natural-born comedian. Folks think I learn him those tricks, but it's all his own stuff. Only last week we was playing Paoli's in Bridgeport, and when I was putting Bruno through the hoops, Ikey runs to the stage-box and grabs a pound of caramels out of a girl's lap-and swallows the box. And in St. Paul, if the trombone hadn't worn a wig, Ikey would have scalped him. Say, it was a scream! When the audience see the trombone snatched bald-headed, and him trying to get back his wig, and Ikey chewing it, they went crazy. You can't learn a bear tricks like that. It's just genius. Some folks think I taught him to act like he was intoxicated, but he picked that up, too, all by himself, through watching my husband. And Ikey's very fond of beer on his own account. If I don't stop them, the stage hands would be always slipping him drinks. I hope you won't give him none."
"I will not!" said Herrick.
The bears, Ikey in one cage and Bruno and Clara in another, travelled by express to the station nearest the Herrick estate. There they were transferred to a farm wagon, and grumbling and growling, and with Ikey howling like an unspanked child, they were conveyed to the game preserve. At the only gate that entered it, Kelly and Jackson and a specially invited house party of youths and maidens were gathered to receive them. At a greater distance stood all of the servants and farm hands, and as the wagon backed against the gate, with the door of Ikey's cage opening against it, the entire audience, with one accord, moved solidly to the rear. Herrick, with a pleased but somewhat nervous smile, mounted the wagon. But before he could unlock the cage Kelly demanded to be heard. He insisted that, following the custom of all great artists, the bears should give a farewell performance."
He begged that Bruno and Clara might be permitted to dance together. He pointed out that this would be the last time they could listen to the strains of the "Merry Widow Waltz." He called upon everybody present to whistle it.
The suggestion of an open-air performance was received coldly. At the moment no one seemed able to pucker his lips into a whistle, and some even explained that with that famous waltz they were unfamiliar.
One girl attained an instant popularity by pointing out that the bears could waltz just as well on one side of the fence as the other. Kelly, cheated of his free performance, then begged that before Herrick condemned the bears to starve on acorns, he should give them a farewell drink, and Herrick, who was slightly rattled, replied excitedly that he had not ransomed the animals only to degrade them. The argument was interrupted by the French chef falling out of a tree. He had climbed it, he explained, in order to obtain a better view.
When, in turn, it was explained to him that a bear also could climb a tree, he remembered he had left his oven door open. His departure reminded other servants of duties they had neglected, and one of the guests, also, on remembering he had put in a long-distance call, hastened to the house. Jackson suggested that perhaps they had better all return with him, as the presence of so many people might frighten the bears. At the moment he spoke, Ikey emitted a hideous howl, whether of joy or rage no one knew, and few remained to find out. It was not until Herrick had investigated and reported that Ikey was still behind the bars that the house party cautiously returned. The house party then filed a vigorous protest. Its members, with Jackson as spokesman, complained that Herrick was relying entirely too much on his supposition that the bears would be anxious to enter the forest. Jackson pointed out that, should they not care to do so, there was nothing to prevent them from doubling back under the wagon; in which case the house party and all of the United States lay before them. It was not until a lawn-tennis net and much chicken wire was stretched in intricate thicknesses across the lower half of the gate that Herrick was allowed to proceed. Unassisted, he slid back the cage door, and without a moment's hesitation Ikey leaped from the wagon through the gate and into the preserve. For an instant, dazed by the sudden sunlight, he remained motionless, and then, after sniffing delightedly at the air, stuck his nose deep into the autumn leaves. Turning on his back, he luxuriously and joyfully kicked his legs, and rolled from side to side.
Herrick gave a shout of joy and triumph. "What did I tell you!" he called. "See how he loves it! See how happy he is."
"Not at all," protested Kelly. "He thought you gave him the sign to 'roll over.' Tell him to 'play dead,' and he'll do that." " Tell ALL the bears to 'play dead,'" begged Jackson, "until I'm back in the billiard-room."
Flushed with happiness, Herrick tossed Ikey's cage out of the wagon, and opened the door of the one that held Bruno and Clara. On their part, there was a moment of doubt. As though suspecting a trap, they moved to the edge of the cage, and gazed critically at the screen of trees and tangled vines that rose before them.
"They think it's a new backdrop," explained Kelly.
But the delight with which Ikey was enjoying his bath in the autumn leaves was not lost upon his parents. Slowly and clumsily they dropped to the ground. As though they expected to be recalled, each turned to look at the group of people who had now run to peer through the wire meshes of the fence. But, as no one spoke and no one signalled, the three bears, in single file, started toward the edge of the forest. They had of cleared space to cover only a little distance, and at each step, as though fearful they would be stopped and punished, one or the other turned his head. But no one halted them. With quickening footsteps the bears, now almost at a gallop, plunged forward. The next instant they were lost to sight, and only the crackling of the underbrush told that they had come into their own.
Herrick dropped to the ground and locked himself inside the preserve.
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Davis' Short Stories Vol. 3 -by- Richard Harding Davis