Tom, an Adventure in the Life of a Bear in
edited by Andrew
From Alexandre Dumas.
Some sixty years ago and more, a well-known artist named
Décamps lived in Paris. He was the intimate friend of
some of the first authors, artists, and scientific men of the
day, and was devotedly fond of animals of all sorts. He
loved to paint them, and he kept quite a small ménagerie
in his studio where a bear, a monkey, a tortoise, and a
frog lived (more or less) in peace and harmony together.
The bear’s name was ‘Tom,’ the monkey was called
‘Jacko I.,’ the frog was ‘Mademoiselle Camargo,’ and
the tortoise ‘Gazelle.’
Here follows the story of Tom, the bear.
It was the night of Shrove Tuesday in the year 1832.
Tom had as yet only spent six months in Paris, but he
was really one of the most attractive bears you could wish
He ran to open the door when the bell rang, he
mounted guard for hours together, halberd in hand,
standing on his hind legs, and he danced a minuet with
infinite grace, holding a broomstick behind his head.
He had spent the whole day in the exercise of these
varied accomplishments, to the great delight of the frequenters
of his master’s studio, and had just retired to the
press which did duty as his hutch, to seek a little repose,
when there was a knock at the street door. Jacko instantly
showed such signs of joy that Décamps made a shrewd
guess that the visitor could be no other than Fan, the
self-elected tutor in chief to the two animals—nor was he
mistaken. The door opened, Fan appeared, dressed as a
clown, and Jacko flung himself in rapture into his arms.
‘Very good, very good,’ said Fan, placing the monkey
on the table and handing him a cane. ‘You’re really
a charming creature. Carry arms, present arms, make
ready, fire! Capital!’
‘I’ll have a complete uniform made for you, and you
shall mount guard instead of me. But I haven’t come
for you to-night; it’s your friend Tom I want. Where may
‘Why, in his hutch, I suppose,’ said Décamps.
‘Tom! here, Tom!’ cried Fan.
Tom gave a low growl, just to show that he knew very
well who they were talking of, but that he was in no
hurry to show himself.
‘Well!’ exclaimed Fan, ‘is this how my orders are
obeyed? Tom, my friend, don’t force me to resort to
Tom stretched one great paw beyond the cupboard
without allowing any more of his person to be seen, and
began to yawn plaintively like a child just wakened from
its first sleep.
‘Where is the broomstick?’ inquired Fan in threatening
tones, and rattling the collection of Indian bows,
arrows, and spears which stood behind the door.
‘Ready!’ cried Décamps, pointing to Tom, who, on
hearing these well known sounds, had roused himself
without more ado, and advanced towards his tutor with a
perfectly innocent and unconscious air.
‘That’s right,’ said Fan: ‘now be a good fellow, particularly
as one has come all this way on purpose to fetch
TOM IS INVITED TO THE BALL
Tom waved his head up and down.
‘So, so—now shake hands with your friends:—first
‘Do you mean to take him with you?’ asked
‘Rather!’ replied Fan; ‘and give him a good time into
‘And where are you going?’
‘To the Carnival Masked Ball, nothing less! Now
then Tom, my friend, come along. We’ve got a cab outside
waiting by the hour.’
As though fully appreciating the force of this argument,
Tom trundled down stairs four steps at a time
followed by his friend. The driver opened the cab door,
and Tom, under Fan’s guidance, stepped in as if he had
done nothing else all his life.
‘My eye! that’s a queer sort of a fancy dress,’ said
cabby; ‘anyone might take him for a real bear. Where
‘Odéon Theatre,’ said Fan.
‘Grrrooonnn,’ observed Tom.
‘All right,’ said the cabman. ‘Keep your temper.
It’s a good step from here, but we shall get there all in
Half an hour later the cab drew up at the door of the
theatre. Fan got down first, paid the driver, handed out
Tom, took two tickets, and passed in without exciting any
At the second turn they made round the crush-room
people began to follow Fan. The perfection with which
the newcomer imitated the walk and movements of the
animal whose skin he wore attracted the notice of some
lovers of natural history. They pressed closer and
closer, and anxious to find out whether he was equally
clever in imitating the bear’s voice, they began to pull his
hairs and prick his ears—‘Grrrooonnn,’ said Tom.
A murmur of admiration ran through the crowd—nothing
could be more lifelike.
Fan led Tom to the buffet and offered him some little
cakes, to which he was very partial, and which he proceeded
to swallow with so admirable a pretence of voracity
that the bystanders burst out laughing. Then the mentor
poured out a tumbler full of water, which Tom took gingerly
between his paws, as he was accustomed to whenever
Décamps did him the honour of permitting him to appear
at table, and gulped down the contents at one draught.
Enthusiasm knew no bounds! Indeed such was the
delight and interest shown that when, at length, Fan
wished to leave the buffet, he found they were hemmed
in by so dense a crowd that he felt nervous lest Tom
should think of clearing the road with claws and teeth.
So he promptly led his bear to a corner, placed him with
his back against the wall, and told him to stay there till
As has been already mentioned, this kind of drill was
quite familiar to Tom, and was well suited to his natural
indolence, and when a harlequin offered his hat to complete
the picture, he settled himself comfortably, gravely
laying one great paw on his wooden gun.
‘Do you happen to know,’ said Fan to the obliging
harlequin, ‘who you have lent your hat to?’
‘No,’ replied harlequin.
‘You mean to say you don’t guess?’
‘Not in the least.’
‘Come, take a good look at him. From the grace of
all his movements, from the manner in which he carries
his head, slightly on one side, like Alexander the Great—from
the admirable imitations of the bear’s voice—you
don’t mean to say you don’t recognise him?’
‘Upon my word I don’t.’
‘Odry!’ whispered Fan mysteriously; ‘Odry, in his
costume from “The Bear and the Pacha”!’
‘Oh, but he acts a white bear, you know.’
‘Just so; that’s why he has chosen a brown bear’s skin
as a disguise.’
‘Ho, ho! You’re a good one,’ cried harlequin.
‘Grrooonnn,’ observed Tom.
‘Well, now you mention it, I do recognise his voice.
Really, I wonder it had not struck me before. Do ask
him to disguise it better.’
‘Yes, yes,’ said Fan, moving towards the ball-room,
‘but it will never do to worry him. However, I’ll try to
persuade him to dance a minuet presently.’
‘Oh, could you really?’
‘He promised to do so. Just give a hint to your
friends and try to prevent their teasing him.’
Tom made his way through the crowd, whilst the
delighted harlequin moved from one mask to another,
telling his news with warnings to be discreet, which were
well received. Just then, too, the sounds of a lively galop
were heard, and a general rush to the ball-room took place,
harlequin only pausing to murmur in Tom’s ear: ‘I know
you, my fine mask.’
‘Grroooonnn,’ replied Tom.
‘Ah, it’s all very well to growl, but you’ll dance a
minuet, won’t you, old fellow?’
Tom waved his head up and down as his way was
when anyone asked him a question, and harlequin, satisfied
with this silent consent, ran off to find a columbine
and to dance the galop.
Meanwhile, Tom remained alone with the waiters;
motionless at his post, but with longing eyes turned
towards the counter on which the most tempting piles
of cake were heaped on numerous dishes. The waiters,
remarking his rapt attention, and pleased to tempt a
customer, stretched out a dish, Tom extended his paw
and gingerly took a cake—then a second—then a third:
the waiters seemed never tired of offering, or Tom of
accepting these delicacies, and so, when the galop ended
and the dancers returned to the crush-room, he had made
short work of some dozens of little cakes.
Harlequin had recruited a columbine and a shepherdess,
and he introduced these ladies as partners for the promised
minuet. With all the air of an old friend he whispered a
few words to Tom, who, in the best of humours after so
many cakes, replied with his most gracious growl. The
harlequin, turning towards the gallery, announced that his
lordship had much pleasure in complying with the universal
request, and amidst loud applause, the shepherdess
took one of Tom’s paws and the columbine the other.
Tom, for his part, like an accomplished cavalier, walked
between his two partners, glancing at them by turns with
looks of some surprise, and soon found himself with them
in the middle of the pit of the theatre which was used as
a ball-room. All took their places, some in the boxes,
others in the galleries, the greater number forming a
circle round the dancers. The band struck up.
The minuet was Tom’s greatest triumph and Fan’s
masterpiece, and with the very first steps success was
assured and went on increasing with each movement,
till at the last figure the applause became delirious. Tom
was swept off in triumph to a stage box where the
shepherdess, removing her wreath of roses, crowned him
with it, whilst the whole theatre resounded with the
applause of the spectators.
Tom leant over the front of the box with a grace all
his own; at the same time the strains of a fresh dance
were heard, and everyone hurried to secure partners
except a few courtiers of the new star who hovered round
in hope of extracting an order for the play from him, but
Tom only replied to their broadest hints with his perpetual
By degrees this became rather monotonous, and gradually
Tom’s court dwindled away, people murmuring that,
though his dancing powers were certainly unrivalled, his
conversation was a trifle insipid. An hour later Tom was
alone! So fleeting is public favour.
‘THE MINUET WAS TOM’S GREATEST TRIUMPH’
And now the hour of departure drew near. The pit
was thinning and the boxes empty, and pale rays of
morning light were glinting into the hall when the box-opener,
who was going her rounds, heard sounds of snoring
proceeding from one of the stage boxes. She opened
the door, and there was Tom, who, tired out after his eventful
night, had fallen fast asleep on the floor. The box-opener
stepped in and politely hinted that it was six
o’clock and time to go home.
‘Grrooonnn,’ said Tom.
‘I hear you,’ said the box-opener; ‘you’re asleep, my
good man, but you’ll sleep better still in your own bed.
Come, come, your wife must be getting quite anxious!
Upon my word I don’t believe he hears a word I say.
How heavily he sleeps!’ And she shook him by the
‘All right, all right! This isn’t a time to make believe.
Besides, we all know you. There now, they’re putting out
the lights. Shall I send for a cab for you?’
‘Come, come, the Odéon Theatre isn’t an inn; come,
be off! Oh, that’s what you’re after, is it? Fie, Monsieur
Odry, fie! I shall call the guard; the inspector hasn’t
gone to bed yet. Ah, indeed! You won’t obey rules!
You are trying to beat me, are you? You would beat a
woman—and a former artiste to M. Odry, would you? For
shame! But we shall see. Here, help—police—inspector—help!’
‘What’s the matter?’ cried the fireman on duty.
‘Help!’ screamed the box-opener, ‘help!’
‘What’s the matter?’ asked the sergeant commanding
‘Oh, it’s old mother what’s her name, shrieking for help
in one of the stage boxes.’
‘Coming!’ shouted the sergeant.
‘This way, Mr. Sergeant, this way,’ cried the box-opener.
‘All right, my dear, here I am. But where are you?’
‘Don’t be afraid; there are no steps—straight on this
way—he’s in the corner. Oh, the rascal, he’s as strong
as a Turk!’
‘Grrrooonnn,’ said Tom.
‘There, do you hear him? Is that to be called a Christian
‘Come, come, my friend,’ said the sergeant, who had
at last managed to distinguish Tom in the faint twilight.
‘We all know what it is to be young—no one likes a joke
better than I do—but rules are rules, and the hour for
going home has struck, so right about face, march! and
quick step too.’
‘Very pretty; a first-rate imitation. But suppose we try
something else now for a change. Come, old fellow, step
out with a good will. Ah! you won’t. You’re going to
cut up rough, are you? Here, my man, lay hold and turn
‘He won’t walk, sergeant.’
‘Well, what are the butt ends of your muskets for?
Come, a tap or two will do no harm.’
‘Go on, give it him well!’
‘I say, sergeant,’ said one of the men, ‘it strikes me
he’s a real bear. I caught hold of him by the collar just
now, and the skin seems to grow on the flesh.’
‘Oh, if he’s a real bear treat him with every consideration.
His owner might claim damages. Go and fetch
the fireman’s lantern.’
‘Here’s the lantern,’ said a man; ‘now then, throw
some light on the prisoner.’
The soldier obeyed.
‘It is certainly a real snout,’ declared the sergeant.
‘Goodness gracious me!’ shrieked the box-opener as
she took to her heels, ‘a real live bear!’
‘Well, yes, a real live bear. Let’s see if he has any
name or address on him and take him home. I expect he
has strayed, and being of a sociable disposition, came in
to the Masked Ball.’
‘There, you see, he agrees.’
‘Hallo!’ exclaimed one of the soldiers.
‘What’s the matter?’
TOM DISCOVERED IN THE BOX
‘He has a little bag hung round his neck.’
‘Open the bag.’
‘Read the card.’
The soldier took it and read:
‘My name is Tom. I live at No. 109 Rue Faubourg
St.-Denis. I have five francs in my purse. Two for a cab,
and three for whoever takes me home.’
‘True enough; there are the five francs,’ cried the sergeant.
‘Now then, two volunteers for escort duty.’
‘Here!’ cried the guard in chorus.
‘Don’t all speak at once! Let the two seniors have
the benefit of the job; off with you, my lads.’
Two of the municipal guards advanced towards Tom,
slipped a rope round his neck and, for precaution’s sake,
gave it a twist or two round his snout. Tom offered no
resistance—the butt ends of the muskets had made him
as supple as a glove. When they were fifty yards from
the theatre, ‘Bah!’ said one of the soldiers, ‘’tis a fine
morning. Suppose we don’t take a cab. The walk will
do him good.’
‘Besides,’ remarked the other, ‘we should each have
two and a half francs instead of only one and a half.’
Half an hour later they stood at the door of 109. After
some knocking, a very sleepy portress looked out.
‘Look here, Mother Wideawake,’ said one of the guard;
‘here’s one of your lodgers. Do you recognise him?’
‘Why, I should rather think so. It’s Monsieur
The same day, Odry the actor received a bill for little
cakes, amounting to seven francs and a half.