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"I'm going after them," he called, "to see what they'll do."
There was a frantic chorus of entreaties.
"Don't be an ass!" begged Jackson. "They'll eat you." Herrick waved his hand reassuringly.
"They won't even see me," he explained. "I can find my way about this place better than they can. And I'll keep to windward of them, and watch them. Go to the house," he commanded. "I'll be with you in an hour, and report."
It was with real relief that, on assembling for dinner, the house party found Herrick, in high spirits, with the usual number of limbs, and awaiting them. The experiment had proved a great success. He told how, unheeded by the bears, he had, without difficulty, followed in their tracks. For an hour he had watched them. No happy school-children, let loose at recess, could have embraced their freedom with more obvious delight. They drank from the running streams, for honey they explored the hollow tree-trunks, they sharpened their claws on moss-grown rocks, and among the fallen oak leaves scratched violently for acorns. So satisfied was Herrick with what he had seen, with the success of his experiment, and so genuine and unselfish was he in the thought of the happiness he had brought to the beasts of the forests, that for him no dinner ever passed more pleasantly. Miss Waring, who sat next to her host, thought she had seldom met a man with so kind and simple a nature. She rather resented the fact, and she was inwardly indignant that so much right feeling and affection could be wasted on farmyard fowls, and four-footed animals. She felt sure that some nice girl, seated at the other end of the table, smiling through the light of the wax candles upon Herrick, would soon make him forget his love of "Nature and Nature's children." She even saw herself there, and this may have made her exhibit more interest in Herrick's experiment than she really felt. In any event, Herrick found her most sympathetic' and when dinner was over carried her off to a corner of the terrace. It was a warm night in early October, and the great woods of the game preserve that stretched below them were lit with a full moon.
On his way to the lake for a moonlight row with one of the house party who belonged to that sex that does not row, but looks well in the moon-light, Kelly halted, and jeered mockingly.
"How can you sit there," he demanded, "while those poor beasts are freezing in a cave, with not even a silk coverlet or a pillow-sham. You and your valet ought to be down there now carrying them pajamas."
"Kelly," declared Herrick, unruffled in his moment of triumph, "I hate to say, 'I told you so,' but you force me. Go away," he commanded. "You have neither imagination nor soul."
"And that's true," he assured Miss Waring, as Kelly and his companion left them. "Now, I see nothing in what I accomplished that is ridiculous. Had you watched those bears as I did, you would have felt that sympathy that exists between all who love the out-of-door life. A dog loves to see his master pick up his stick and his hat to take him for a walk, and the man enjoys seeing the dog leaping and quartering the fields before him. They are both the happier. At least I am happier to-night, knowing those bears are at peace and at home, than I would be if I thought of them being whipped through their tricks in a dirty theatre." Herrick pointed to the great forest trees of the preserve, their tops showing dimly in the mist of moonlight. "Somewhere, down in that valley, he murmured, "are three happy animals. They are no longer slaves and puppets--they are their own masters. For the rest of their lives they can sleep on pine needles and dine on nuts and honey. No one shall molest them, no one shall force them through degrading tricks. Hereafter they can choose their life, and their own home among the rocks, and the ----" Herrick's words were frozen on his tongue. From the other end of the terrace came a scream so fierce, so long, so full of human suffering, that at the sound the blood of all that heard it turned to water. It was so appalling that for an instant no one moved, and then from every part of the house, along the garden walks, from the servants' quarters, came the sound of pounding feet. Herrick, with Miss Waring clutching at his sleeve, raced toward the other end of the terrace. They had not far to go. Directly in front of them they saw what had dragged from the very soul of the woman the scream of terror.
The drawing-room opened upon the terrace, and, seated at the piano, Jackson had been playing for those in the room to dance. The windows to the terrace were open. The terrace itself was flooded with moonlight. Seeking the fresh air, one of the dancers stepped from the drawing-room to the flags outside. She had then raised the cry of terror and fallen in a faint. What she had seen, Herrick a moment later also saw. On the terrace in the moon-light, Bruno and Clara, on their hind legs, were solemnly waltzing. Neither the scream nor the cessation of the music disturbed them. Contentedly, proudly, they continued to revolve in hops and leaps. From their happy expression, it was evident they not only were enjoying themselves, but that they felt they were greatly affording immeasurable delight to others. Sick at heart, furious, bitterly hurt, with roars of mocking laughter in his ears, Herrick ran toward the stables for help. At the farther end of the terrace the butler had placed a tray of liqueurs, whiskeys, and soda bottles. His back had been turned for only a few moments, but the time had sufficed.
Lolling with his legs out, stretched in a wicker chair, Herrick beheld the form of Ikey. Between his uplifted paws he held aloof the base of a decanter; between his teeth, and well jammed down his throat, was the long neck of the bottle. From it issued the sound of gentle gurgling. Herrick seized the decanter and hurled it crashing upon the terrace. With difficulty Ikey rose. Swaying and shaking his head reproachfully, he gave Herrick a perfectly accurate imitation of an intoxicated bear.
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Davis' Short Stories Vol. 3 -by- Richard Harding DavisBottom Content goes here. Wikipedia content requires these links..... Wikipedia content is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.