Part 4 out of 4
strong, and quite unmistakable. Finally he discovered some
tracks in the moss, like those of a barefooted man, or, I should
rather say, perhaps, a man-footed bear. The Prince was just
turning the corner of a projecting rock, when he saw a huge,
shaggy beast standing on its hind legs, examining in a leisurely
manner the inside of a hollow tree, while a swarm of bees were
buzzing about its ears. It was just hauling out a handful of
honey, and was smiling with a grewsome mirth, when His Royal
Highness sent it a bullet right in the breast, where its heart
must have been, if it had one. But, instead of falling down
flat, as it ought to have done, out of deference to the Prince,
it coolly turned its back, and gave its assailant a disgusted nod
over its shoulder as it trudged away through the underbrush. The
attendants ranged through the woods and beat the bushes in all
directions, but Mr. Bruin was no more to be seen that afternoon.
It was as if he had sunk into the earth; not a trace of him was
to be found by either dogs or men.
From that time forth the rumor spread abroad that this Gausdale
Bruin (for that was the name by which he became known) was
enchanted. It was said that he shook off bullets as a duck does
water; that he had the evil eye, and could bring misfortune to
whomsoever he looked upon. The peasants dreaded to meet him, and
ceased to hunt him. His size was described as something
enormous, his teeth, his claws, and his eyes as being diabolical
beyond human conception. In the meanwhile Mr. Bruin had it all
his own way in the mountains, killed a young bull or a fat heifer
for his dinner every day or two, chased in pure sport a herd of
sheep over a precipice; and as for Lars Moe's bay mare Stella, he
nearly finished her, leaving his claw-marks on her flank in a way
that spoiled her beauty forever.
Now Lars Moe himself was too old to hunt; and his nephew
was--well, he was not old enough. There was, in fact, no one in
the valley who was of the right age to hunt this Gausdale Bruin.
It was of no use that Lars Moe egged on the young lads to try
their luck, shaming them, or offering them rewards, according as
his mood might happen to be. He was the wealthiest man in the
valley, and his mare Stella had been the apple of his eye. He
felt it as a personal insult that the bear should have dared to
molest what belonged to him, especially the most precious of all
his possessions. It cut him to the heart to see the poor wounded
beauty, with those cruel scratches on her thigh, and one stiff,
aching leg done up in oil and cotton. When he opened the
stable-door, and was greeted by Stella's low, friendly neighing,
or when she limped forward in her box-stall and put her small,
clean-shaped head on his shoulder, then Lars Moe's heart swelled
until it seemed on the point of breaking. And so it came to pass
that he added a codicil to his will, setting aside five hundred
dollars of his estate as a reward to the man who, within six
years, should kill the Gausdale Bruin.
Soon after that, Lars Moe died, as some said, from grief and
chagrin; though the physician affirmed that it was of rheumatism
of the heart. At any rate, the codicil relating to the enchanted
bear was duly read before the church door, and pasted, among
other legal notices, in the vestibules of the judge's and the
sheriff's offices. When the executors had settled up the estate,
the question arose in whose name or to whose credit should be
deposited the money which was to be set aside for the benefit of
the bear-slayer. No one knew who would kill the bear, or if any
one would kill it. It was a puzzling question.
"Why, deposit it to the credit of the bear," said a jocose
executor; "then, in the absence of other heirs, his slayer will
inherit it. That is good old Norwegian practice, though I don't
know whether it has ever been the law."
"All right," said the other executors, "so long as it is
understood who is to have the money, it does not matter."
And so an amount equal to $500 was deposited in the county bank
to the credit of the Gausdale Bruin. Sir Barry Worthington,
Bart., who came abroad the following summer for the shooting,
heard the story, and thought it a good one. So, after having
vainly tried to earn the prize himself, he added another $500 to
the deposit, with the stipulation that he was to have the skin.
But his rival for parliamentary honors, Robert Stapleton, Esq.,
the great iron-master, who had come to Norway chiefly to outshine
Sir Barry, determined that he was to have the skin of that famous
bear, if any one was to have it, and that, at all events, Sir
Barry should not have it. So Mr. Stapleton added $750 to the
bear's bank account, with the stipulation that the skin should
come to him.
Mr. Bruin, in the meanwhile, as if to resent this unseemly
contention about his pelt, made worse havoc among the herds than
ever, and compelled several peasants to move their dairies to
other parts of the mountains, where the pastures were poorer, but
where they would be free from his depredations. If the $1,750 in
the bank had been meant as a bribe or a stipend for good
behavior, such as was formerly paid to Italian brigands, it
certainly could not have been more demoralizing in its effect;
for all agreed that, since Lars Moe's death, Bruin misbehaved
worse than ever.
There was an odd clause in Lars Moe's will besides the codicil
relating to the bear. It read:
"I hereby give and bequeath to my daughter Unna, or, in case of
her decease, to her oldest living issue, my bay mare Stella, as a
token that I have forgiven her the sorrow she caused me by her
It seemed incredible that Lars Moe should wish to play a
practical joke (and a bad one at that) on his only child, his
daughter Unna, because she had displeased him by her marriage.
Yet that was the common opinion in the valley when this singular
clause became known. Unna had married Thorkel Tomlevold, a poor
tenant's son, and had refused her cousin, the great
lumber-dealer, Morten Janson, whom her father had selected for a
She dwelt now in a tenant's cottage, northward in the parish; and
her husband, who was a sturdy and fine-looking fellow, eked out a
living by hunting and fishing. But they surely had no
accommodations for a broken-down, wounded, trotting mare, which
could not even draw a plough. It is true Unna, in the days of
her girlhood, had been very fond of the mare, and it is only
charitable to suppose that the clause, which was in the body of
the will, was written while Stella was in her prime, and before
she had suffered at the paws of the Gausdale Bruin. But even
granting that, one could scarcely help suspecting malice
aforethought in the curious provision. To Unna the gift was
meant to say, as plainly as possible, "There, you see what you
have lost by disobeying your father! If you had married according
to his wishes, you would have been able to accept the gift, while
now you are obliged to decline it like a beggar."
But if it was Lars Moe's intention to convey such a message to
his daughter, he failed to take into account his daughter's
spirit. She appeared plainly but decently dressed at the reading
of the will, and carried her head not a whit less haughtily than
was her wont in her maiden days. She exhibited no chagrin when
she found that Janson was her father's heir and that she was
disinherited. She even listened with perfect composure to the
reading of the clause which bequeathed to her the broken-down
It at once became a matter of pride with her to accept her
girlhood's favorite, and accept it she did! And having borrowed
a side-saddle, she rode home, apparently quite contented. A
little shed, or lean-to, was built in the rear of the house, and
Stella became a member of Thorkel Tomlevold's family. Odd as it
may seem, the fortunes of the family took a turn for the better
from the day she arrived; Thorkel rarely came home without big
game, and in his traps he caught more than any three other men in
all the parish.
"The mare has brought us luck," he said to his wife. "If she
can't plough, she can at all events pull the sleigh to church;
and you have as good a right as any one to put on airs, if you
"Yes, she has brought us blessing," replied Unna, quietly; "and
we are going to keep her till she dies of old age."
To the children Stella became a pet, as much as if she had been a
dog or a cat. The little boy Lars climbed all over her, and
kissed her regularly good-morning when she put her handsome head
in through the kitchen-door to get her lump of sugar. She was as
gentle as a lamb and as intelligent as a dog. Her great brown
eyes, with their soft, liquid look, spoke as plainly as words
could speak, expressing pleasure when she was patted; and the low
neighing with which she greeted the little boy, when she heard
his footsteps in the door, was to him like the voice of a friend.
He grew to love this handsome and noble animal as he had loved
nothing on earth except his father and mother.
As a matter of course he heard a hundred times the story of
Stella's adventure with the terrible Gausdale bear. It was a
story that never lost its interest, that seemed to grow more
exciting the oftener it was told. The deep scars of the bear's
claws in Stella's thigh were curiously examined, and each time
gave rise to new questions. The mare became quite a heroic
character, and the suggestion was frequently discussed between
Lars and his little sister Marit, whether Stella might not be an
enchanted princess who was waiting for some one to cut off her
head, so that she might show herself in her glory. Marit thought
the experiment well worth trying, but Lars had his doubts, and
was unwilling to take the risk; yet if she brought luck, as his
mother said, then she certainly must be something more than an
Stella had dragged little Lars out of the river when he fell
overboard from the pier; and that, too, showed more sense than he
had ever known a horse to have.
There could be no doubt in his mind that Stella was an enchanted
princess. And instantly the thought occurred to him that the
dreadful enchanted bear with the evil eye was the sorcerer, and
that, when he was killed, Stella would resume her human guise.
It soon became clear to him that he was the boy to accomplish
this heroic deed; and it was equally plain to him that he must
keep his purpose secret from all except Marit, as his mother
would surely discourage him from engaging in so perilous an
enterprise. First of all, he had to learn how to shoot; and his
father, who was the best shot in the valley, was very willing to
teach him. It seemed quite natural to Thorkel that a hunter's
son should take readily to the rifle; and it gave him great
satisfaction to see how true his boy's aim was, and how steady
"Father," said Lars one day, "you shoot so well, why haven't you
ever tried to kill the Gausdale Bruin that hurt Stella so badly?"
"Hush, child! you don't know what you are talking about,"
answered his father; "no leaden bullet will harm that wicked
"I don't like to talk about it--but it is well known that he is
"But will he then live for ever? Is there no sort of bullet that
will kill him?" asked the boy.
"I don't know. I don't want to have anything to do with
witchcraft," said Thorkel.
The word "witchcraft" set the boy to thinking, and he suddenly
remembered that he had been warned not to speak to an old woman
named Martha Pladsen, because she was a witch. Now, she was
probably the very one who could tell him what he wanted to know.
Her cottage lay close up under the mountain-side, about two miles
from his home. He did not deliberate long before going to seek
this mysterious person, about whom the most remarkable stories
were told in the valley. To his astonishment, she received him
kindly, gave him a cup of coffee with rock candy, and declared
that she had long expected him. The bullet which was to slay the
enchanted bear had long been in her possession; and she would
give it to him if he would promise to give her the beast's heart.
He did not have to be asked twice for that; and off he started
gayly with his prize in his pocket. It was rather an odd-looking
bullet, made of silver, marked with a cross on one side and with
a lot of queer illegible figures on the other. It seemed to burn
in his pocket, so anxious was he to start out at once to release
the beloved Stella from the cruel enchantment. But Martha had
said that the bear could only be killed when the moon was full;
and until the moon was full he accordingly had to bridle his
It was a bright morning in January, and, as it happened, Lars's
fourteenth birthday. To his great delight, his mother had gone
down to the judge's to sell some ptarmigans, and his father had
gone to fell some timber up in the glen. Accordingly he could
secure the rifle without being observed. He took an affectionate
good-by of Stella, who rubbed her soft nose against his own,
playfully pulled at his coat-collar, and blew her sweet, warm
breath into his face. Lars was a simple-hearted boy, in spite of
his age, and quite a child at heart. He had lived so secluded
from all society, and breathed so long the atmosphere of fairy
tales, that he could see nothing at all absurd in what he was
about to undertake. The youngest son in the story-book always
did just that sort of thing, and everybody praised and admired
him for it. Lars meant, for once, to put the story-book hero
into the shade. He engaged little Marit to watch over Stella
while he was gone, and under no circumstances to betray him--all
of which Marit solemnly promised.
With his rifle on his shoulder and his skees on his feet, Lars
glided slowly along over the glittering surface of the snow, for
the mountain was steep, and he had to zigzag in long lines before
he reached the upper heights, where the bear was said to have his
haunts. The place where Bruin had his winter den had once been
pointed out to him, and he remembered yet how pale his father
was, when he found that he had strayed by chance into so
dangerous a neighborhood. Lars's heart, too, beat rather
uneasily as he saw the two heaps of stones, called "The Parson"
and "The Deacon," and the two huge fir-trees which marked the
dreaded spot. It had been customary from immemorial time for
each person who passed along the road to throw a large stone on
the Parson's heap, and a small one on the Deacon's; but since the
Gausdale Bruin had gone into winter quarters there, the stone
heaps had ceased to grow.
Under the great knotted roots of the fir-trees there was a hole,
which was more than half-covered with snow; and it was noticeable
that there was not a track of bird or beast to be seen anywhere
around it. Lars, who on the way had been buoyed up by the sense
of his heroism, began now to feel strangely uncomfortable. It
was so awfully hushed and still round about him; not the scream
of a bird --not even the falling of a broken bough was to be
heard. The pines stood in lines and in clumps, solemn, like a
funeral procession, shrouded in sepulchral white. Even if a crow
had cawed it would have been a relief to the frightened boy--for
it must be confessed that he was a trifle frightened--if only a
little shower of snow had fallen upon his head from the heavily
laden branches, he would have been grateful for it, for it would
have broken the spell of this oppressive silence.
There could be no doubt of it; inside, under those tree-roots
slept Stella's foe--the dreaded enchanted beast who had put the
boldest of hunters to flight, and set lords and baronets by the
ears for the privilege of possessing his skin. Lars became
suddenly aware that it was a foolhardy thing he had undertaken,
and that he had better betake himself home. But then, again, had
not Witch-Martha said that she had been waiting for him; that he
was destined by fate to accomplish this deed, just as the
youngest son had been in the story-book. Yes, to be sure, she
had said that; and it was a comforting thought.
Accordingly, having again examined his rifle, which he had
carefully loaded with the silver bullet before leaving home, he
started boldly forward, climbed up on the little hillock between
the two trees, and began to pound it lustily with the butt-end of
his gun. He listened for a moment tremulously, and heard
distinctly long, heavy sighs from within.
His heart stood still. The bear was awake! Soon he would have to
face it! A minute more elapsed; Lars's heart shot up into his
throat. He leaped down, placed himself in front of the entrance
to the den, and cocked his rifle. Three long minutes passed.
Bruin had evidently gone to sleep again. Wild with excitement,
the boy rushed forward and drove his skee-staff straight into the
den with all his might. A sullen growl was heard, like a deep
and menacing thunder. There could be no doubt that now the
monster would take him to task for his impertinence.
Again the boy seized his rifle; and his nerves, though tense as
stretched bow-strings, seemed suddenly calm and steady. He
lifted the rifle to his cheek, and resolved not to shoot until he
had a clear aim at heart or brain. Bruin, though Lars could hear
him rummaging within, was in no hurry to come out, But he sighed
and growled uproariously, and presently showed a terrible,
long-clawed paw, which he thrust out through his door and then
again withdrew. But apparently it took him a long while to get
his mind clear as to the cause of the disturbance; for fully five
minutes had elapsed when suddenly a big tuft of moss was tossed
out upon the snow, followed by a cloud of dust and an angry
creaking of the tree-roots.
Great masses of snow were shaken from the swaying tops of the
firs, and fell with light thuds upon the ground. In the face of
this unexpected shower, which entirely hid the entrance to the
den, Lars was obliged to fall back a dozen paces; but, as the
glittering drizzle cleared away, he saw an enormous brown beast
standing upon its hind legs, with widely distended jaws. He was
conscious of no fear, but of a curious numbness in his limbs, and
strange noises, as of warning shouts and cries, filling his ears.
Fortunately, the great glare of the sun-smitten snow dazzled
Bruin; he advanced slowly, roaring savagely, but staring rather
blindly before him out of his small, evil-looking eyes.
Suddenly, when he was but a few yards distant, he raised his
great paw, as if to rub away the cobwebs that obscured his sight.
It was the moment for which the boy had waited. Now he had a
clear aim! Quickly he pulled the trigger; the shot reverberated
from mountain to mountain, and in the same instant the huge brown
bulk rolled in the snow, gave a gasp, and was dead! The spell
was broken! The silver bullet had pierced his heart. There was
a curious unreality about the whole thing to Lars. He scarcely
knew whether he was really himself or the hero of the fairy-tale.
All that was left for him to do now was to go home and marry
Stella, the delivered princess.
The noises about him seemed to come nearer and nearer; and now
they sounded like human voices. He looked about him, and to his
amazement saw his father and Marit, followed by two wood-cutters,
who, with raised axes, were running toward him. Then he did not
know exactly what happened; but he felt himself lifted up by two
strong arms, and tears fell hot and fast upon his face.
"My boy! my boy!" said the voice in his ears, "I expected to
find you dead."
"No, but the bear is dead," said Lars, innocently.
"I didn't mean to tell on you, Lars," cried Marit, "but I was so
afraid, and then I had to."
The rumor soon filled the whole valley that the great Gausdale
Bruin was dead, and that the boy Lars Tomlevold had killed him.
It is needless to say that Lars Tomlevold became the parish hero
from that day. He did not dare to confess in the presence of all
this praise and wonder that at heart he was bitterly
disappointed; for when he came home, throbbing with wild
expectancy, there stood Stella before the kitchen door, munching
a piece of bread; and when she hailed him with a low whinny, he
burst into tears. But he dared not tell any one why he was
This story might have ended here, but it has a little sequel.
The $1,750 which Bruin had to his credit in the bank had
increased to $2,290; and it was all paid to Lars. A few years
later, Martin Janson, who had inherited the estate of Moe from
old Lars, failed in consequence of his daring forest
speculations, and young Lars was enabled to buy the farm at
auction at less than half its value. Thus he had the happiness
to bring his mother back to the place of her birth, of which she
had been wrongfully deprived; and Stella, who was now twenty-one
years old, occupied once more her handsome box-stall, as in the
days of her glory. And although she never proved to be a
princess, she was treated as if she were one, during the few
years that remained to her.