It was in 1899 and in Upper Burma that two little bears were brought,
by villagers who had caught them, to an officer still flourishing as a
magistrate in Burma, but averse to fame for himself, though willing
that his pets should have their place in history. “They were at first
no bigger than that,” he said, as he held his hands about a foot
apart, “and I took a fancy to them and decided to bring up both.”

It was as interesting as if they had been babies, and easier. Indeed
the bear has a certain primeval claim upon us, having perhaps been
humanity’s oldest acquaintance. It is not a mere accident that the
Greeks made him a king of the woods and sacred to Diana, and the Red
Indians of America made elaborate respectful speeches to excuse
themselves for eating him, as if it were a kind of cannibalism. It can
hardly be doubted that men and bears became friends at first in much
the same way as men become friendly among themselves at college and
elsewhere, because they chanced to be neighbours and of similar
habits. Nuts were nuts to bears and men, and fruits and eggs were
appreciated by both alike. For thousands of years our arboreal
ancestors and the bears must have hobnobbed together, both finding it
awkward to have to be at home upon the trees and yet move about upon
the ground. Ah! how we both did envy the birds! We have risen a great
deal in the world since then, and the bears have been stationary, but
we need not be proud. While we watch the clumsy gait of the bear as he
brings his forelegs to the ground, if he has far to go, and hobbles
along, not very nimbly perhaps, but better than we could go on all
fours, his very clumsiness should give us food for thought. As he is
now, so once were we, that is to say, our ancestors, meaning our
arboreal ancestors, not long ago, that is to say, probably less than a
million years ago.

When he is young and only learning to walk, his toes being turned in
so as to suit his arboreal movements, the bear trips on his own paws
and at times rolls over in a ludicrous way, as if turning an unwilling
somersault. After such a collapse, his next impulse naturally is to
move backwards, as the safer way. But then, his eyes being set in his
head like our own, he soon finds that the universe is too complex to
allow indefinite blind retrogression; and so he tries again, and makes
another cautious step or two forward, with a continuous effort to
avoid tripping on his own toes. At last, though not without many a sad
catastrophe, he does learn to go forward and follow his nose like
other people. This is natural history, an account of how a little bear
learns to walk, and it is not an allegory of the Russian empire, as
readers might suppose. That was how these two little ones learned,
while growing in size and in favour with man and woman. They were in
their native climate, and too young as yet to see any difference
between humanity and themselves.

It was pleasant to watch them and share their feelings, and escape for
a moment from the narrow limitations of humanity.–

At home in the world, wheresoever I be,
There’s nothing alive that is foreign to me.

I have another friend, who has also been foster-father to bears, and
who is fond of illustrating the distinction between instinct and
reason by their infantile habits. However small the cub, he never
needs to be taught how to bend and arrange the twigs, so as to give
himself a convenient resting-place upon a branch. That, I am told, is
instinct; and so, I suppose, is licking his paws, which comes as easy
as breathing. But once two baby bears were attracted by the smell of
honey to a wild bees’ nest up a tree. The bees came out with angry
buzz and stings. The assailants were young, and had neither bee-hats
nor aprons, and they retired, discomfited. Their kind master gave
them, as consolation prize, some spoonfuls of honey on a plate. They
licked it all up, and then looked at each other with surprise and
animation, as men do who are realising something strange, as if saying
to each other, and each to himself, “So that was the meaning of the
smell we went to investigate.”

When the “brutality of instinct,” as the French call it, was thus
reinforced by knowledge, they did not hesitate. “They did not pause to
parley or dissemble.” Straight back to the tree they went, and up it,
swiftly, steadily, right to the nest of the bees, and tore it open,
heedless of the stings, brushing the bees aside as carelessly as if
they were flies. They guzzled the honey, and came down slowly, licking
their lips, only when it was finished. Surely their foster-father
might well be proud of bears like these, and say that they could draw
inferences as well as an undergraduate.

In case any reader is led by this history to bring up a cub, let him
remember to leave plenty of water in his tub in the bathroom. It is
sure to be much appreciated in the hot weather. There is no prettier
sight than a little bear enjoying himself in that way, with his two
little hands–I mean forepaws–hanging over different sides of the
tub, as he leans back. It should, however, be remembered that, not
being equal to the use of towels, he likes to go to a bed and roll
himself on the bedding when he comes out of the water. So unless there
is someone standing by, there should be a waterproof sheet over any
accessible bed.

These things are common to adolescent bears. The uniformity of Nature
is an old discovery, and one of them is like another. As this is not a
treatise on Natural History but a biography of an individual, I must
restrict myself to what was peculiar to our heroine and her companion,
and leave others to dilate upon what may be generally seen in her
fellow-creatures of the same species.


In writing as in living, it is easier to see what is right than to do
it. The biographers of Europe would agree that their proper concern
was only what was characteristic of their heroes, and not the details
of human life in general. “In the abstract,” they would all agree to
this; yet which of them does it? The difficulty is to discover what is

If that is hard for a man who is writing about a man, it is still
harder for the historian of a bear. If I were a bear, I would not have
been puzzled to know whether the great adventure in the chimney was a
thing to tell, or only what any bears would have done. Not being a
bear, the writer could not ask his inner consciousness. He had to ask
his friends who had bred bears; and when he found that our heroine’s
master was the only one of them all who had a house with a chimney,
the problem had to be abandoned as insoluble. So he has decided, like
a certain great author, to take the risk of being tedious rather than

The open-brick fireplace with a chimney was for heating, not for
cooking; and stood in the hall, near the front door. “I could never
discover why it was there,” said the unfortunate tenant of the house.
The building was an achievement of the Public Works Department, which
is surrounded by mysteries and has ways past finding out in Burma.

That fireplace and chimney perplexed the two little bears as well as
their master; and once, when there was no fire, they sat down together
on the hearth, and meditated; and as they meditated they lifted up
their eyes and saw the sky! How their hearts did burn within them, as
they gazed upon that light in darkness; and their instinctive
propensity to climb made them get up on their hind legs and gape at
each other, and rub their eyes and look up again. Like the juvenile
hero of Longfellow, they felt the impulse of “Excelsior!” Up they
started, to reach that sky. At first, they were quite composed–it
seemed little harder than going upstairs; and there was no hurry or
flurry. They helped each other. But a chimney that grows narrower as
you go up is disconcerting to the aspiring climber without hands. It
disturbs the centre of gravity in an unusual way. They fell back,
first one and then the other, and again, and again, and again; and
ever, like the spider whose persistence cheered the Bruce, they tried
again, and again, and again; and still they fell. They became
individualistic, but not all at once desperate. There was a sublime
fixity upon their countenances, significant of the primeval elemental
forces which impelled them, yet nevertheless pathetically human. After
all, they were “seeking the light,” be it remembered, honestly
“seeking the light.” Their blind impulsiveness made them all the
better symbols of humanity. Think of the European scholastics in the
Middle Ages. What were _they_ doing for many centuries but trying to
climb to the sky through a sooty chimney?

Smile if you will and must, but do not laugh. You would have had no
heart for laughing if you had seen the agonies of the bears when
strength failed them, and their falls and bruises were–enough! They
flung themselves upon the ashes of the hearth in a despair that was
equal to that of any man. From nose to tail they covered themselves
with ashes–to say nothing of the soot already there.

However, as Byron sings, and psalmists and fakirs have experienced,
“the heart may break, yet brokenly live on.” When they had had enough
of the ashes and the soot, they emerged; and naturally, desiring above
all things to be clean again, they rubbed themselves upon the freshly
painted walls and nice clean furniture; and when the servants ran to
remonstrate, they made for the bedrooms, amidst a general alleluia!

I abstained from asking their master what he said when he came home;
and he seemed to appreciate my forbearance.


The next remarkable incident was on a railway journey, on the way to
Ye-U. The guard had charge of them, and kept them in their basket in
his own van, where he “could have an eye upon them.” This would have
been enough if they had been common wild bears, newly caught; but
these were civilised animals, and while the guard kept an eye upon
them, they kept two pairs of eyes on the guard.

It was a single line of railway, and there were long pauses at every
station, during which the guard was on the platform. In one of these
intervals, the bears made a united effort, “with a pull, and a push,
and a push altogether,” and then the shrieks of a stampeding crowd
drew the eyes of the guard and the station-master and everybody else
to the unusual sight of two fine young bears enjoying a walk on the
station platform.

The panic was not unreasonable. If they had been wild young things,
their own terror would have made them dangerous. Fear is the cause of
cruelty, as Sir Charles Elliot (_Odysseus_) has aptly remarked, in
explaining the reciprocal atrocities of Greeks and Turks. But the
bright little bears of this history had never known fear, secluded as
they were in a happy home. They only wanted to stretch their legs, as
other passengers were doing. When that was seen, the shrieks of terror
turned to shrieks of laughter; and people made reverent way for them,
and followed them with admiring looks, crowding respectfully, without
pressing close upon them, as if they had been royalties or popular
idols. The railway officials were not teased by any more impatient
questions as to when that train would start. It must have been more
than a quarter of an hour after the starting signals had been given,
before anyone thought of showing the bears and their admirers the need
of resuming their places and continuing the journey.

The rest of the life of the bigger of the two, the leader in this
adventure, was short, and like the records of common humanity, where
“to be born and die, of rich and poor makes all the history.” He was
wandering about with his chain loose, in his master’s garden, and went
up a tree. The chain became entangled round his neck; and, when next
he was seen, it was the dead body of a half-grown bear that was
hanging from the end of his chain. Nobody saw how it happened; but
there the beast was–dead!


“Life belongs to the living,” say the wise. Whoever survives, must be
prepared for changes; and there is no misfortune so great that a
person of sense cannot draw some benefit from it. That is true at
times of bears, as well as of men. For the surviving bear in this
instance, the sad death of her companion was not without a pleasant
result. She was delivered from her chain, and rejoiced in her liberty,
like a suffragette. That is why the story of her life is
interesting–and short. Incidentally, it might be a lesson and a
warning to her sister-mortals in petticoats and running loose; but, to
be perfectly candid, that is not why it is written. I do not wish to
claim any merit, undeserved. I tell her story just because I liked it.

It is often a pleasure to remember sorrows past, as Æneas reminded his
shipwrecked companions, by way of comforting them. But it may be
doubted whether our heroine ever took much pleasure in the
recollection of the breakfast at Ye-U.

Three officers came to breakfast with her master; and her usual place
at table being filled, she moved about, like a privileged child at a
party, suspecting no harm and intending none to any living creature,
when one of the men at table gave her the end of a cigarette. She ate
it. Whatever else she scrutinised, she had always eaten without
hesitation whatever was offered by the hand of man. So she swallowed
the end of the cigarette, and became very unhappy.

There may have been moral as well as physical nausea. Who can read
what passes in the brain of a bear? Or feel what is in her heart? She
may have felt, in a dumb, instinctive way, what Schiller has

“Oh, she _deserves_ to find herself deceived,
Who seeks a heart in the unthinking man!”

She went and lay near the wall of the dining-room, with unconscious
dignity averting her eyes from the merry party, and making them laugh
by her look of patient helplessness, as she rubbed her stomach with
her two forepaws.

A pony was the next performer that morning. The dining-room was on the
level of the ground, and the pony, running loose, came to the table as
usual for a tit-bit. “Send the beast away,” was the impatient wish of
a guest–let us hope he was the hero of the cigarette. The host, who
might otherwise have gradually given some bits of fruit, handed the
happy quadruped a whole pineapple, and bade him go away, intending
thus to please his guest and yet not disappoint his pony. Pineapples
are cheap in Burma. They are likewise very juicy and good. The lucky
pet, who also had the easy confidence of a privileged person, began to
roll the big pineapple in his mouth, and was in no haste to depart.

The mischief-maker, if it was he, as we hope, made a gesture to
quicken him; and the obedient animal in turning raised his nose above
the head of the impatient man; and then there flowed down upon the man
a torrent of mingled froth and pineapple juice, all churned together
into a sticky milk. He howled, and tried to dodge it, but was unlucky
in his movements. The only result was that he received the torrent in
two directions. While one stream ran down his face, and anointed
whatever took the place of a beard, the other ran down the back of his
head and neck, even to the uttermost skirts of his garments.

Then the bear was forgotten; and the other men began to laugh at the
man who sat under the pony. They laughed the more when he lost his
temper. Even the host did laugh; and let us, who can congratulate
ourselves that we have never been guilty of such a breach of courtesy,
be candid enough to consider–did we ever encounter such temptation?

What enhanced the fun, and his affliction, was that instead of frankly
facing the situation and going to a bathroom, he tried to clean
himself at table. After exhausting the resources of civilisation in
the shape of handkerchiefs and napkins and finger-bowls, he used
towels–big bathroom towels; and still he found purification as
difficult as ever did Macbeth.–

“Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand? No, this my hand will rather
The multitudinous seas incarnadine,
Making the green one red.”

But it was not a troubled conscience that dimmed his eyes. His bodily
eyes saw perfectly. The trouble was the real adhesiveness of the
mixture saturating his garments and his skin. The language of Macbeth,
too, was refined in comparison to his; for, as he glared at the
laughers around him, he said … what I would not repeat, not even in
an affidavit.

Our heroine said nothing. _She_ did not join in the laughing. She was
generally fond of fun; but on this particular occasion, she seemed to
be completely self-absorbed, as sufferers are apt to be. There are
times when one craves to be alone. She turned her face to the wall and
her back to the company.


Her master loved her as dearly as ever any man loved a dog; and so,
when he was transferred from the north of Upper to the south of Lower
Burma, he took her with him. This was lucky for her. She had made a
bad impression on the man who came to relieve him, although, as
himself a father of children, he might have been expected to
appreciate her. It was all a misunderstanding.

The new man had come in advance of his family, but brought with him a
perambulator, nicely upholstered; and when the gentleman went upstairs
to bed, and the servants to their quarters, our heroine naturally
proceeded to examine the perambulator, which was exactly the right
size for her. There was nobody else in the house whom it suited at
all. How could she know, without being told, of the impending arrival
of another little thing? Everything thereabouts had been at her
disposal hitherto. How could she suspect that this might not be?

Of course she was too young to understand distinctions of property;
but, even if she had had a mature human intellect, she might easily
have made the mistake she apparently did.

At any rate, what is certain is that, next morning, the fine leather
was torn to tatters, and the horse-hair spread about, while she
contemplated the work of her paws with complacency. The new magistrate
was as unable to express his feelings as our heroine to explain her
thoughts. They gaped at each other, I believe. Presumably, she had
found the stuffing hot, and wished to make her new toy suit the
climate and her taste. But she could not explain all that; and the new
magistrate said….

Suffice it for the purpose of this history that he made no objection
when her own dear, original master declared that he would take her
with him wherever he went. So they departed together.

_P.S._–While the biographer of the bear is correcting the proofs of
this book at Toungoo, Burma, in June, 1910, he meets the owner of the
perambulator, who not only confirms what is here recorded, but even
becomes bitter again against the bear, and, warming at the
recollection, rhapsodies in his wrath.–“She was a wicked beast. She
tore out the insides of my pillows, too. She was eternally meddling.
She went everywhere. Nothing was sacred to her at all. I never was
gladder to see any pet begone.” “But did not N. love her?” it was
asked, naming her owner. “O yes, he did, he thought nothing too good
for her.” What a happy little bear!


Their destination was Kyauktan, a Burman name that means a “ridge of
rock.” As you go up the river to Rangoon a low ridge is visible,
inland, on the right, almost parallel to the muddy bank, and not very
far from it. It is a ridge of rock; but, in that benignant land, there
seems to be something indecent, or at least savouring of skeletons, in
bare rocks like those of more desolate countries; and in this
instance, as usual there, you may know the rock is below, but you see
only the elevated greenery. Towards the seaward end of the ridge is
Kyauktan, a little country town on a tidal creek, invisible from the
ocean steamers. There was the new home of our happy heroine. There she
lived in her master’s house, amid abundance infinite to her, because
she could not measure it. Milk and rice she tolerated, as other
children do; but even of these she took only what she wanted; and she
had an embarrassing choice of riches of other kinds, enough to make
any honey-bear quite happy.

The deep black of her fine fur was relieved by beautiful white lines
on her bosom, meeting in the middle, like a necklace with a pendant on
the breast. As she squatted on her haunches her nose was little above
the edge of the table; but when she stood up to help herself, as she
was continually doing, the natural decoration on her bosom was
conspicuous, and she almost seemed as if quite nicely dressed.

Table manners she had none. How could she have manners when she had no
hands? The word “manners” comes from the word for hand (main, manus).
Manners mean a dexterity that hands make possible for men and monkeys,
but not for bears. If they had had the hands and we their paws, the
evolution of species would have taken a different turn, and the course
of the world’s history changed indeed! Our heroine had to adapt
herself, and did it with great dexterity, but she could not grow
hands. Her method at table was to reach forth both her paws, and scoop
in towards herself whatever she wanted; and then she would lift things
to her lips with both paws, using her nails almost as the Chinese do
their chopsticks. It was not her fault that she had to break glasses
and upset dishes and make many a mess.

Her master could deny her nothing. It was therefore lucky for him that
her tastes were not expensive. She liked fruits best, and the fresh
kinds too, which are cheap, not the tinned things. But she was not
bigoted. Her appetite was eclectic. Sweet jam was appreciated, and
honey in a high degree; but she did not altogether refuse marmalade if
she saw nothing better.

Occasionally she was utterly unreasonable, and became troublesome, not
by pulling the tablecloth, as did another Burman bear of my
acquaintance, but by a peculiarity equally characteristic of a pet
that was spoiled. Or it might be attributed to her temperament. It
consisted in being so absorbed in what she saw that she forgot
everything else, just like the ordinary doctrinaire or idealist or
athlete or any other kind of common person, able to see only one thing
at a time. For example, if she saw plantains on the table, and wanted
them, but did not then want any of the milk or sugar or other things
intervening, she ignored what she did not want, and leaned over far
enough to include the plantains in her magnificent embrace, and pulled
the plantains to her, unheeding all the rest.

No man is perfect. Her master has confessed that he once or twice was
so provoked at such a performance as to give her a tap on the nose,
whereupon she went and “sulked in a corner,” as he expressed it; but
how could he tell what she was thinking?

Some said she whimpered for her mother on such occasions. The Burmans
say, “When the child trips, it cries for its mother”; but it is not
certain that she remembered her early days, for she was but a young
thing when she was caught and taken to a man’s house. Her master may
well have been an indifferent substitute for an indulgent parent; but
he was all she had, and his jam was very good.

He was not allowed to monopolise her young affections. She had not
been long in Kyauktan before she had explored the town and even found
her way to the bazaar or market, where the stall-holders, male and
female, welcomed her with open arms.

To tell Europeans of a bear running about loose and being welcomed
with open arms in the markets may seem a fairy tale; and though in a
narrative of fact it is permissible to tell what is stranger than
fiction, still it may be as well to explain a few things that
Europeans cannot easily know. The Kyauktan bazaar was a _retail_
market, where people were never in a hurry, quite different from
Covent Garden; and the bears of Burma have different habits from those
of Europe. They are smaller too; but that is the least of the

In Europe, if we mean to be rude and impute rudeness, we call a man
a bear. To torture bears was a familiar sport, not long
ago–bear-baiting. We still use the word; and big bears ignominiously
led captive may still be seen, bemocked to make a foolish holiday. All
this implies a hostile attitude which is never seen in Burma.

Perhaps a grim passage in Gibbon’s _History_ may be quoted to show the
contrast. It is in chapter xxv, and concerns the great Emperor
Valentinian (A.D. 364–375). He had put his brother Valens on the
throne at Constantinople, and taken charge of the rowdier end of the
world himself.

“In the government of his household, or of his empire, slight, or even
imaginary offences, a hasty word, a casual omission, an involuntary
delay, were chastised by a sentence of immediate death. The
expressions which issued the most readily from the mouth of the
emperor of the West were, ‘Strike off his head’; ‘Burn him alive’;
‘Let him be beaten with clubs till he expires’; and his most favoured
ministers soon understood that, by a rash attempt to dispute or
suspend the execution of his sanguinary commands, they might involve
themselves in the guilt and punishment of disobedience. The repeated
gratification of this savage justice hardened the mind of Valentinian
against pity and remorse; and the sallies of passion were confirmed by
the habits of cruelty. He could behold with calm satisfaction the
convulsive agonies of torture and death: he reserved his friendship
for those faithful servants whose temper was the most congenial to his
own. The merit of Maximin, who had slaughtered the noblest families of
Rome, was rewarded with the royal approbation and the prefecture of
Gaul. Two fierce and enormous bears, distinguished by the appellations
of _Innocence_ and Mica Aurea, could alone deserve to share the favour
of Maximin. The cages of those trusty guards were always placed near
the bedchamber of Valentinian, who frequently amused his eyes with the
grateful spectacle of seeing them tear and devour the bleeding limbs
of the malefactors who were abandoned to their rage. Their diet and
exercises were carefully inspected by the Roman emperor; and, when
_Innocence_ had earned her discharge by a long course of meritorious
service, the faithful animal was again restored to the freedom of her
native woods.”

Unlike those occidental savages, the heroine of our history, if asked
to eat the flesh of men or even butchers’ meat, would have felt as
much insulted as Bernard Shaw himself. I do not mean that either she
or “the Shaw” would rather starve than nibble a chicken; but that
their tastes were delicate, and they preferred cereals and vegetables
and fruits and sweets to any kind of carcasses.

The Burmans call the bear “wetwun,” the governor or minister of the
pigs, the “gentleman pig”; and sometimes say, between jest and
earnest, that pigs and bears are good Buddhists. That is because they
are not murderous, though strong. It is only in self-defence that they
ever do hurt. They live in general without taking life; and a nice
she-bear that was sleek and tame was a treat to see, especially as she
was not proud, the unpardonable sin in Mongolian eyes. She was ever
willing to accept little tit-bits of fruit and to stand and be
caressed by anybody.

The woods were near. No doubt she often lifted up her eyes in that
direction; but the sweet things of the table and the excitements of
the bazaar–all the comforts of Charing Cross, so to speak–kept her
from trying to escape.

I once knew a pet that did run away, and after some days’ absence came
back again; but in this instance, the bear did not worry her master in
that way. Servants are not partial to pets. She could go wherever she
liked, and perhaps they would not have been sorry if she had departed
altogether. But she always came back. Perhaps it was because she could
escape at any time, as easily to-morrow as to-day. There was no hurry.
She may have intended to go off to the woods at some time or other,
and always postponed it. As Goethe admirably says, “We love to walk
along the plains, with the summit in our eye.”

Whatever her feelings or thoughts, when she took her walks abroad,
that is to say, outside her master’s little park or compound, she
generally went to the bazaar.


One of the most amusing of European ways in Burma and India is the
habit of adhering to hours of work and fashions of garments that suit
London. In the heat of the day the whites and their direct employees
are supposed to be working hard. This leaves the best hours of the
twenty-four for amusement, which is not exactly what was intended. The
fashion is set by men who live in the hills. That is the secret.

You cannot really ignore the sun in the Tropics, however; you can only
pretend to do it. Go into many a native quarter or bazaar in the
middle of the day, as the bear used to do at Kyauktan, and you behold
life honestly relaxed. The customers in the bazaar are country cousins
from a distance, if there are any customers. The buzz of an occasional
sewing-machine is like the drone of bees in summer, harmonious enough
in the ears of the bazaar-sellers, many of whom are taking a siesta.

When she wanted fun or fruit or to see the crowd–when she was on
business, so to speak–the bear went to the bazaar like other Kyauktan
people, in the morning, or perhaps the late afternoon. When she went
in the middle of the day, it was just because master was busy at court
and it was dull at home, and a rest seemed likely to be more enjoyable
in company.

When once she was sauntering towards it at this mid-day hour, she
passed an Indian cottage, in front of which, upon a “charpoy” or
bedstead, used also as a couch, and now set upon the ground in a shady
spot, a young Indian mother lay sound asleep, with baby in her lap, it
may be guessed. At any rate the baby had had enough for the time,
while mamma lay back upon the couch, breathing peacefully. Her plump
and healthy breasts were full of milk; and as the little bearess
looked, the instinct of childhood returned upon her, and she went up
softly and laid her lips to the nipple which the other baby had
abandoned. “She milked the woman dry,” said people afterwards; but
nobody saw it being done. Nobody noticed anything till the street rang
with female shrieks. “Ayāh! Ayāh! Ayāh! Mother! mother! Help, help!
Come, all! Come, all! Come! Come! Come, all! Come, all! Help! help!
Ah, mother, mother, mother, mother! Ayāh! Ayāh!” The bear pushed her
way through the gathering crowd and hurried home unhurt. One does not
readily lift a hand against an old favourite; and she was home before
people realised the terrible event.

Luckily for everybody, Kyauktan was, and still is, blessed with that
most useful of men–an honest lawyer. He was a barrister-at-law; but
the queer convention of some parts of Europe, which restricts the best
lawyers to talking in court, and allows them to be consulted only
through another lawyer, is as unknown in Burma as in America. At
Kyauktan, as in Boston, you do _not_ need to be “lathered in one shop
and shaved in another.” You choose your lawyer, and go to him,

The Kyauktan barrister had been an official once; but, as people said,
he had retired and reformed. In sober truth, he had been one of the
best Commissioners ever known in Burma; and now his mere presence at
Kyauktan made life more bearable to honest men, for many miles around.

To him the husband of the unhappy young mother, just milked dry, went
running, a score of women probably shrieking instructions after him,
and half the women in Kyauktan standing ready to advise. But,
wonderful to tell, there were many of them on the side of the bear,
poor harmless orphan; and when, after a while, the obedient husband
slowly returned to his wife, and did not announce a suit or anything
else to be done, some praised the lawyer, and others said that the man
had only pretended to go and consult him. The strangest thing of all,
significant of much, was that nobody then complained to the bear’s
master or even told him of the matter. He was left to learn it later
from the bantering of the honest lawyer. Was there ever a pet so
popular before?


There were many other freaks of the bear which a kind conspiracy of
silence concealed from her master as long as possible. Like other
bachelors who live alone, he was not always punctual in sitting down
to table. His pet had the healthy appetite of youth, and was hungry at
times before dinner was ready, and then, being at home everywhere and
not troubled with false pride, she naturally went to the kitchen and
helped herself.

It is likely that she burned or scalded herself in that way, for it is
known that another little Burman bear, who frequented the kitchen, had
that experience. But we have only probability to go upon in this
instance. She made no complaints, and returned regularly, and the cook
would not tell tales. Indeed, he seems to have taken great pains to
protect her, thrusting himself between her and danger so often that,
at last, not knowing what he would be at, she either misunderstood his
intentions or lost patience, and recollecting how strong she was, she
turned to claw that affectionate but too meddlesome cook.

The upshot was all her master was allowed to know. It could not be
concealed. The cook had to bolt. Alone in the kitchen, with unfettered
discretion, she behaved like the reasonable, civilised animal she was.
She merely took what she wanted and did what she liked, and allowed
the cook to return. She had never meant to hurt him, only to remove
him out of her way.

She used to travel about with her master, when he went on tour. Being
unable to ride a pony, she sat in a cart. The ideal method would have
been for her to sit in a box or basket on such occasions, and journey
as Gulliver did in Brobdingnag; but it was useless to argue with her.
She could burst any wickerwork, as easily as Samson burst his bonds,
and she saw no need for anything but a convenient seat. She liked to
joke with the driver, like a passenger on an old-fashioned bus or
coach; but gradually it came to her master’s knowledge that, only too
often, the driver and anybody else in the cart had to jump down to
avoid her–she was so rough in her horseplay. There was a rumour that
she once knocked down a driver; but he made no complaint and it was
probably an accident. I was once nearly knocked down by a bear that
cannoned against me by inadvertence, hurrying to greet me in a
friendly way.

When left alone in the cart, she never attempted to touch the reins.
She gazed at them and the bullocks, serenely unconcerned, as the
passengers in a steamer look at the machinery. When the driver went to
the bullocks’ heads and stopped them, and gathered up the reins and
climbed back into the cart, she seemed to consider his behaviour a
matter of course, and looked as if anything else would have surprised
her. Nevertheless, when these transporting adventures became known,
her master insisted on leaving her at home.


It was not altogether disagreeable to the bear to be left alone in the
house, with only a servant or two, and nobody to correct her; but she
made herself unpleasant to other people. Her master found her, after
every absence, “more and more savage” upon his return. These are his
own words; and yet, and yet, however imperious to others or
contemptuous of humanity, she was always amenable to him, and to him
she was always dear.

At this point, as is common in biographies, the historian who would be
faithful must face a divided duty. In order to please the friends and
relatives, one has to heed nothing but what they choose to tell; and
if one does that, then the biography is merely an unreadable fiction.
As a satirist cynically puts it,–

Facts inane the volume fill,
Keep the secret secret still;
Here and there may truth be guessed
From what can be seen–suppressed!

One of the things that make this biography worth writing is the
freedom from conventional restraints. So readers shall have the truth,
and the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The bear’s master has
long been a friend of mine, and I hope will so continue, but truth is
dearer than anybody. So I will not suppress the remarks of the honest
lawyer at Kyauktan, who is also an old friend, and has read the first
draft of this work. He sent me a letter on the subject, containing the
excruciating words that the bear at Kyauktan had become “a nuisance.”
The expression is his. My responsibility is limited to quoting it. I
desire to express no opinion of my own.

What her own master could not help seeing was the contrast between her
behaviour and that of a very respectable bear at Syriam, a place at
the other end of the ridge, nearly a day’s walk from Kyauktan, just
across the river from Rangoon. The bear living there belonged to
Mr Brand of the Burma Oil Company, and he and our heroine’s master
often compared notes, and discussed the problem of her higher
education. Mr Brand seemed to think she had good natural gifts, but
had come to a difficult age when she needed _daily_ supervision. He
never went on tour himself, and was willing to take charge of her. She
would be sure to benefit by the company of an older and well-behaved
bear, and the two together would be happier at Syriam than either was
alone. At last her owner was persuaded, and, when every preliminary
had been settled, our heroine set out for her new home (A.D. 1900).

She went in a slow cart, and the day was hot. It is not so well known
as it should be that bears and elephants and tigers, too, are almost
as sensitive to the sunshine as white men. In this instance, though
every possible precaution was taken, the bear was decidedly unhappy on
the way. We have to remember that she was an adolescent female and a
fully emancipated one, who had lived exclusively for her own
amusement, and never had anything particular to do or to suffer in
this world. Her sensations, therefore, must have been remarkably like
those of the American family, immortalised in Ruskin’s letter to
Norton of 1869.

“I … was fated to come from Venice to Verona with an American
family, father and mother and two girls–presumably rich–girls 15
and 18. I never before conceived the misery of wretches who had
spent all their lives in trying to gratify themselves. It was a
little warm–warmer than was entirely luxurious–but nothing in
the least harmful. They moaned and fidgeted and frowned and puffed
and stretched and fanned, and ate lemons, and smelt bottles, and
covered their faces, and tore the cover off again, and had no one
thought or feeling, during five hours of travelling in the most
noble part of all the world, except what four poor beasts would
have had in their den in a menagerie, being dragged about on a hot
day….” (_Letters of John Ruskin to C.E. Norton_, I, pp. 218 and

The longest road has an end, and Syriam was reached at last. The cart
stopped, and the bear came down from it with every sensation smothered
in one irresistible craving for coolness “Anything to be cool!” A
pleasant-looking tank of water was near, and into it she plunged.

The details of what followed are variously reported. Eyes she had and
ears of the best; but she used them to avoid people. It was only after
a long time that it pleased her to emerge, quite shivering now, cool
enough at last.

Fever came on and pneumonia; and, next day she died, and that is the
end of the story. When you think of it, that is how every story would
end if it went on long enough.


It is now 1910: and already Mr Brand himself is dead; and, spinning in
the official whirligig, “like the wind’s blast, never resting,
homeless,” the bear’s old master has long ago left Kyauktan, and been
in many places. So it is natural that no monument has been put up to
her memory; and, maybe, none ever will be. But the things of the
spirit are so wonderfully made that words on paper may endure longer
than marble or brass; wherefore, though it has not been engraved, let
her epitaph be printed. If it is remembered till there is another as
long and equally free from falsehood, it may endure for centuries;
and, in the far forward dark abysms of time, this little bear may be
associated with the constellation of that name, the constellation
containing the Polar star. Far stranger things have happened in this
wonderful world.


“Here sleeps a bear emancipated,
Who died here young, and died unmated,
Because obedience was not taught her,
And so she stayed too long in water,
When once she wanted to be cool,
And did not know she was a fool:
Her every wish she gratified,
And so she had a chill, and died.

In vain are others’ love and care;
The others can’t be everywhere.
For sins no neighbours can atone;
We suffer, and we die, alone.
For fine sleek hair and sparkling eyes
Are useless, if you aren’t wise;
And things outside you have their laws,
Far stronger than the strongest paws.

So sister-mortals, learn from me!
Take warning if you’d happy be,
To hate the darkness, love the light,
And don’t do nothing but what’s right;
And listen sometimes now and then,
To what is yelled at you by men;
And so enjoy your lives, instead
Of being, prematurely, dead.”