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Brunie, the Bear by Ellen Velvin

Brunie was feeling very lonely and sad, and sat, with her brown body all huddled up, sucking the soles of her feet in a subdued, disconsolate manner.

For the summer was over; October had come with its autumnal chills and cloudy days, and Brunie's husband had already betaken himself to his winter quarters to commence his long sleep, utterly regardless, and supremely indifferent, as to what became of his wife.

He had fattened himself well before retiring by eating large quantities of honey, nice ripe cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, cloudberries, and all sorts of other berries which grow so plentifully in the Scandinavian forests; not to speak of some beautiful, ripe corn, which he had eaten in a luxurious manner— seating himself on his wide haunches, and collecting with his outstretched arms great sheaves at a time, the ears of which he picked off and consumed at his leisure.

Then he had laid in a good stock of ants and ants' eggs, together with the remains of pine leaves, and other substances which he had scratched out of the ants' nests.

Old Bruin knew perfectly well that this matter, composed of pine leaves and other substances, was absolutely essential to him for the winter, for this is what makes the "tappen." And as the bear sleeps the whole of the winter without food, nature has provided this wonderful contrivance by which he can go on sleeping and remain as fat as ever.

As his stomach receives no food, it naturally becomes empty, and, when empty, subsides into a very small space. Then the "tappen" comes forward, blocks up a passage in the stomach, so that no food can pass through the system, and stays there until the bear wakes up in the spring. Then, as soon as he begins to take food, everything goes on as before.

Brunie knew perfectly well, as she sat there sucking her feet—for she changed the thick, hard skin which covered the soles of her feet every winter, and the sucking helped the new growth—that it was quite time she also looked out for and prepared her winter home.

And so when she had sucked them a little while longer, she hunted round for some nice convenient cave or hollow, and chose one which was hidden so cunningly that no one but a bear would have guessed at its existence.

Some bears make a big hillock of moss, and crawl into the middle of it, but Brunie preferred a cave; it was warmer, more private, and not so likely to be discovered, for she was looking forward to an important domestic event, and wished for privacy.

Having selected her winter home, she collected as many branches of the pine tree as she could find, and with some dry leaves, grass and twigs nearly filled up the cave, only leaving just enough room for herself to crawl in.

She, also, had been feeding well, and had become tremendously fat, for some of her feasts had been enormous.

But it was the end of October before she had completed her house and prepared to settle herself for her winter nap. The last thing she did before she went in was to have a big feed of honey, and a lot of bother and trouble she had to take to obtain it. For the little bees resented the big, brown animal coming and deliberately, eating up the whole of their winter stock which had taken them one long, long summer to collect.

But Brunie cared nothing about their anger, and their tiny stings could not penetrate her long, thick coat, and a good feed of honey was always worth a little trouble.

So, after patting the hives with her big paws in order to make the bees fly away, she lifted up the beautifully made honeycombs and devoured them ravenously.

Having eaten as much as she possibly could, she then betook herself, feeling very subdued and lonely, and very, very sleepy, to her nice, comfortable cave, and in a short time was fast asleep.

She remembered nothing more and never knew—and indeed was far too sleepy to care—that one of those horrible hunters had passed by the very mouth of her cave without knowing she was there.

But he had found Mr. Bruin, however, a little further on. He also was so dreadfully sleepy that he could not rouse himself, and the hunter could hardly get him even to turn over so that he could get a good shot at him.

But he was able to manage the deed very comfortably, as Bruin showed no signs of waking up; and having killed him, dragged him out with the help of some other hunters, stripped off his nice warm coat, and then had a good meal of bear steak, of which hunters are very fond.

But Brunie never even heard the shots which killed her husband, although they were so close by, and the vibrations made the very leaves and twigs on which she was lying quiver again.

She slept heavily on and on, in her snug home, but about the beginning of February woke up, gave one big yawn, and then bustled about.

For she was a very important bear that day.

The next day she was a more important bear still, for she was a mother bear, and had four pretty little children—very small, only about six or eight inches in length, but finely made little animals, and all healthy and strong.

Very, very pleased and proud Brunie was of them, and very tender and careful.

She had forgotten all about Bruin, her husband, now, her only thought being for her little ones.

She kept them carefully in the nice warm cave until the cold weather had passed, and the little bears knew that all they had to do if they felt chilly was to creep up to their mother, and nestle in among her nice warm fur.

And, oh, how proud Brunie felt when she had them all nestling up to her like that! And, oh, how happy she was! Surely no bear ever had such beautiful cubs as hers! And so well had she chosen her home that no one—not even a hunter—ever found the mother bear and her little ones.

Her naturally affectionate nature glowed with love, and not once did she leave her children until the spring had fairly set in, and she began to think it was time to set about finding a little food for herself.

It was, however, very scarce. There were no nice berries or corn, and very little honey left. But she found some winter vegetables and several kinds of roots, nuts, snails, small limbs of aspen trees, and plenty of acorns; so that she was able to make a good meal, and then lumber heavily back to her cave.

It was April now, and the other mother-bears began to make their appearance with their various families, and the male bears, too, began to wake up and come out.

Once having got over their long winter sleep, bears begin to be sociable again, and take an interest in their fellow-creatures.

The mother-bears were particularly busy, for they had to teach and educate their little ones, and there is no quainter sight on the earth than a heavy, lumbering, brown mother-bear followed by her funny little woolly cubs.

Brunie commenced to take her children now for daily walks, showed them the most likely places to find dainty bits of food, taught them to climb and dig, and, as they grew older, to swim; and, by way of amusement when resting occasionally, told them about their many relations who existed in all parts of the world.

She told them about their various cousins: the Black Bear, the Syrian bear, the Grizzly bear of America the Thibetan sun bear, the Polar bear of the Arctic regions, the Aswail hear of India, the Bruany bear (also of India), the Sloth bear, the White bear, and the Brown bears who lived in Asia.

The bear family was so varied, and so enormously large, Brunie explained to them, that she did not even know one-quarter of her own brown bears who lived in Northern Europe.

She told them, too—for she was a very intelligent mother-bear—that in whatever country bears lived they were peculiarly adapted to it. The Polar bear, for instance, had nice thick fur all over the bottoms of his feet; this protected him from the intense cold of the ice, and also prevented him from slipping. Then the bears who lived in hot countries did not have such thick coats as those who lived where it was cold.

"But," said Brunie, in conclusion, "all bears are very much alike, and have much the same habits; all can climb, dig and swim, and all are very, very fond of honey."

And the little bears listened to it all, and thought what a nice little mother-bear Brunie was, and what an extremely important family they belonged to.

But, as the months went on, Brunie began to get very thin and very touchy and irritable, and by the time June came she was so cross and savage that even her little ones were sometimes afraid of her. Curiously enough, all the other bears were just as cross and savage as Brunie; perhaps it was that they were all so dreadfully thin. But, whatever the reason, they snarled and growled, quarreled and fought until sometimes the little bears wondered what on earth was the matter.

The male bears seemed to be particularly savage, and even the hunters —those men who never seemed to be afraid of anything: not even a bear —were very careful to keep at a safe distance, and never attempted to molest them in any way.

All through that month of June the amiable affectionate nature of the bears seemed to have departed, and left in its place a vindictive, irritable and savage one—savage to their companions and to everything but the little cubs, and these the mother-bears never forsook. They took the same care of them as formerly, and fed and cared for them in spite of their irritable, bad-tempered mood. And woe betide anything, whether man or beast, who attempted to touch their little ones.

Brunie herself had a terrible time one day, when a band of hunters, seeing a mother-bear and her cubs alone, tried to capture them.

Furious with rage, Brunie rose up, and in her stiff, ungainly way went to meet them. Each of the hunters held a hatchet in his hands ready to strike at her, but Brunie cared not for hatchets, or anything else, where her little ones were concerned, and, going straight up to one of the hunters, she reared up on her hind feet, and with a terrific blow with one of her fore paws, which she aimed direct at the hunter's head, she killed him on the spot.

Not hesitating a moment, she did the same with two other hunters, always aiming her blows at the head. And here she proved the truth of an old Scandinavian proverb, which says that, "a bear has the strength of ten men and the sense of twelve." Brunie knew perfectly well that the quickest way to kill a man was to aim all the blows at his head, and this she did with fearful effect.

But when she was finishing the fourth, another hunter ran up and struck her a fearful blow with his hatchet, which cut deeply into her hind leg, severing some of the tendons, and causing the blood to gush forth and dye the spot a deep, dark red.

At the same moment that he dealt Brunie the blow, the hunter, with a deft movement, captured one of her cubs, and while Brunie's attention was taken up with the two remaining hunters her little one was carried off.

[Illustration: "FURIOUS WITH RAGE, BRUNIE ROSE UP AND WENT TO MEET
THEM"]

But the pain of her wound and the loss of her cub made Brunie so wildly fierce and savage that the two hunters, remembering the fate of their comrades, came to the conclusion that "discretion was the better part of valor," and with much difficulty managed to get away.

Poor Brunie was, by this time, weak from loss of blood, and sat down, doing her best to lick her wound and comfort her remaining cubs. The little ones in their turn did their best for her, helping her to lick the sore place, and every now and then sucking it with their little lips.

This adventure upset poor Brunie for several days, and the loss of blood made her more weak, irritable and savage than ever.

But she had not forgotten the hunter that struck her with his hatchet, or the loss of her little one, and so, one warm moonlight night, when she was feeling better, and her three remaining cubs were in a sound sleep, she betook herself quietly through the forest, and at last came near the very place where that particular hunter lived.

There was but one field that separated her from the hunter's house, and that was occupied by big, horned cattle, and these cattle, not liking the look of Brunie in the moonlight, and not having sense enough to keep quiet and not molest her, commenced at once to bellow and charge at her as soon as she entered the field.

Brunie had never, like some bears, gone in for cattle killing, but had always kept to a vegetable diet; and she was not at all anxious— particularly at this moment—to have anything to do with cattle. So, with a few growls and a hoarse kind of a grumbling sound, she took no notice of them, but swung herself heavily along towards the farmyard.

The cattle, unfortunately, had not sense enough to let well enough alone and allow her to go quietly on her way, but kept on bellowing, prancing about and charging until Brunie lost her temper.

What! She could not even cross a field without these stupid cattle bothering and worrying her to death, when her little one was a few yards off, and already calling for her! It was too much. So, with a growl of rage, which was more like a hoarse bellow, Brunie made for them, and very soon killed two or three. So excited did she become at last, that for the moment she even forgot her beloved little one, and set herself to work all the destruction she possibly could, out of pure revenge.

But the bellowing and lowing of the cattle, and the growling and grumbling of the bear, had awakened the hunter, and, while Brunie was killing off his cattle, he called up his farm hands, and was already on the spot with guns, and quite close to her before she had any idea of it.

Hiding themselves under the shade of some bushes, the hunter and his men waited until a fine young heifer galloped madly by them followed by Brunie, and then fired. No less than five of the shots took effect, and poor Brunie's life-blood began to gush out.

But, recalled to herself and her mission by her danger, she bethought herself of her little one, and, never stopping to even look at her enemies, made straight for the farmyard, where her beloved one was calling her, leaving a trail of blood as she went.

Had her cub not been there, she would have faced the hunter and his men, and probably have dispatched them in a few minutes; as it was, having forgotten the cattle, her mother-love returned, and she determined to get her cub if she died for it.

But, curiously enough, the little bear seemed to be fully aware of his mother's presence, and, as she came closer, his excitement grew intense, and, calling forth all his strength, by one desperate push he broke open the door of his shed and trotted forth to meet his dying mother.

Poor Brunie sank down just as he came up to her, and licked and caressed him in a most touching fashion, while the little cub, overwhelmed with joy—and yet uneasy and worried at his mother's condition—gave alternate little sounds of pleasure and fright and distress.

Brunie's joy was complete at having her cub restored to her, but her head was swimming and her eyes growing dim, and she groped in vain through the gathering darkness to catch a glimpse of her little one. She was lying at full length, with one huge paw stretched out towards the cub in a peculiarly pathetic manner, and panting her life out when the hunter and his men came up.

A few more pants, a struggle, and, with a deep gasp, Brunie lay quite, quite still, while the little cub jumped about, restless and ill at ease, and giving little, beseeching cries of distress.

First making sure, as he thought, that the bear was dead, the hunter attempted, with the help of his men, to once more capture the cub. But Brunie had—as all bears have—extreme tenacity of life, and she seemed to have compressed all her energy into her last moment of existence; for she was not yet dead, as the hunter supposed, and, just as he laid hands on the cub, with a great effort she raised herself up, struck him a terrible blow on his head, which killed him instantly, and then sank back and died.

And this was the end of Brunie. Had she lived she would probably, as all mother-bears do, have taken great care of her children all the summer, but in the winter she would have left them, for she would probably have had another family, which would have taken up all her time and attention.

As it was, the little cubs had to do the best they could, and soon learned to shift for themselves.

The little captured one—after he had got over the death of his mother—grew quite tame, and was taught many tricks. He was always well treated and well fed, and he grew extremely fond of his master; and there he may be seen to this day, walking and running about that Scandinavian farm, scaring the other animals, thinking a great deal of himself, but always looking just what he is—a brown bear.