I'LL tell you a story true: 

'T was when the country all was new,

And bears, sometimes, came ranging through.

On woods and fields, all brown and grey, 

Was closing the November day, 

With cold winds whistling every way.

Just eight years old was little Ned. 

Along the lonesome path he sped, 

With pa's old hat down on his head.

Changing, to give each hand its share, 

A heaped-up pail of pommes de terre, 

Just dug, all fresh, and white, and fair.

The pail was heavy, and too slow 

His hurrying footsteps seemed to go, 

Dark fears and darkness gathering so.

And now looms up, just in his track, 

A something, strange and awful black. 

The woods are dark, he can't go back 

And that black something, growling low, 

Is coming toward him, crawling slow. 

Way down the hill the home-lights glow.

"The candle's lit, pancakes for tea," 

He said aloud; " and here I be, 

And there's the cake ma promised me.

"If I could fly, or climb a tree, 

Or pa would come, or somebody, 

For that's a bear, I truly see.

"Oh, if I only wasn't Ned, 

Or this a dream, and I in bed." 

Then popped a thought into his head.

The steady gaze of human eye

Will make the wildest creature shy.

So fixing on the moody bear 

Both eyes fierce shining with despair, 

He looked and looked, with all his might, 

Crept sideways and outflanked him quite. 

Slowly, full two rods the other side, 

The magic of his heels he tried. 

He scarcely minded logs and stumps, 

Nor heeded many graceless bumps, 

Still kept his pail, the contents too 

To lose them it would never do; 

Though twenty bears were at his back, 

Breakfast must not potatoes lack; 

And reached home safe, poor little boy, 

Back through the years, I wish him joy.

Close to the door, he thought a minute

What he should say, and how begin it.

For Ned was famed for seeing bears,

And having many causeless scares.

So, he said, creeping in quite still,

"I saw a black dog on the hill."

"What dog? How big?" the children cry.

"Large as our pig, and just as high;

He reared on his hind feet, just so,

And showed his teeth, and eyes aglow.

I called, 'Good fellow,' he growled more;"

I don't know what it was I'm sure."

"Seems like a bear," said Uncle Dick;

"I'll go and see; Ned, where's my stick?"

Short time sufficed his search to make,

It was a bear, and no mistake;

He saw it in the twilight dim;

It reared and made great mouths at him.

Ma'ma and children, all turned pale.

Papa came in and heard the tale.

"I'll go to Smith's, he calmly said;

"Hush, children, you have nought to dread;

Smith always keeps a loaded gun;

You get the pitchforks, Ned, now run."

Pa, Uncle Dick, Smith and his boys,

Were, soon en route, with little noise;

Their main dependence, Smith's old gun,

Of long descent from sire to son.

Pitchforks were three, with three keen prongs;

Dick held aloft the massive tongs.

Darkness had gathered round the hill,

As cautiously they marched, and still,

Peering far off into the dark,

With now and then a whispered "Hark!"

Till "Halt," says Smith, "there sits your bear."

All looked; all saw his eyeballs glare.

They halted, held a consultation,

Giving to every man his station.

Smith made a speech. They all agreed

To march right up, with fiercest speed;

Not to back out, or shirk, or run,

Until the victory was won.

Smith was to fire, the rest be ready

To meet the bear with weapons steady.

Flash in the pan did that old gun;

But bravely rushed they, every one,

And all at once gave thrust and thump,

When, lo, 'twas nothing but a stump!

So, children, never let your fear 

Make mole-hills mountain high appear. 

And when your duty you've begun, 

Be sure there's danger ere you run. 

For Satan, sly and artful foe, 

Is not well pleased that you should go 

In paths of right, and hence will try 

By fears to make you turn and fly. 

But do not tremble at his scares, 

They all are stumps, they are not bears.