Something New For A Bear To Do


Shirley Isherwood


One morning, Mr Manders woke with an interesting thought in his head. He woke the little bear, Edward James, to tell him about it.

"It is this," said Mr Manders. "Why do bears al~ays do the things that bears do? Why don't they do other things?"

Edward James said that he didn't know. He wanted to go back to sleep, but Mr Manders took him by the paw, and led him out into the garden, to discuss the matter further.

It was very early in the morning. The garden was full of mist and the birds were waking up and singing in the branches of the trees.

"That is what I mean," said Mr Manders. "Why do birds sing so beautifully in the trees, and bears don't?"

He climbed a tree, sat down on a branch and began to sing. His voice was very deep and low. "OO-ROO-OO-ROW;" he sang - then he looked down at Edward James. "How do I sound?" he asked.

"Like a bear singing in a tree," said Edward James.

Mr Manders sighed. He came down from the tree, and together he and Edward James went on through the garden, to where a little stream ran over the stones and pebbles. As they drew near, a frog jumped from the grass and into the water.

"N ow that is something that bears don't often do," said Mr Manders -and straight away he took a deep breath, flung himself forward, and sat down in the water. Then he sighed and climbed out again.

"And the reason they don't," he said as he sat by Edward James' side, "is, it isn't very interesting."

He lay down, and after a time the sun came out, his fur began to dry, and a little cloud of steam rose from his wet tummy.

As Mr Manders lay there gently steaming, a party of ants came by - each ant carrying a scrap of straw or a tiny ball of earth. "Now that is interesting," said Mr Manders. "They are working -building -and a bear could do that! "

He got up, and as Edward James watched, he began to collect stones and twigs. He picked them up and carried them across the garden, and put them down -just as the ants had done. Very soon he had built a little heap of stones and twigs, and he stood there gazing at it.

"What is it?" asked Edward James.

"It's plain to see what it is," said Mr Manders. "It's a sort of. ..well, I'm not sure what it is," he said, as he and Edward James climbed through the gap in the fence, "but it must be something."

They crossed the field, lay down under the hedge and very soon fell asleep.

When Mr Manders awoke he found a spider dangling over his face on the end of a long fine thread. As Mr Manders watched, the spider ran up and down the thread, like a little yo-yo on the end of a piece of string.

'Now that is a nice new thing for a bear to do,' said Mr Manders, and he searched beneath the hedge until he found an old piece of string.  

"I shall go up and down" he said, as he climbed a tree and tied the end of the string to a branch.. Then he tied the other end of the string round his tummy, and jumped.

"Or not," he said, as he hung in the air above Edward James' head.

He began to scrabble about wildly, but this only made him spin round and round.

"You see, Edward James," he said, when at last he stopped spinning, " one needs a lot of legs to go up and down, and I've only got two."

The string broke and he fell into the soft grass.

"I can't seem to do anything new at all," he said.

But as he lay, he heard someone moving in the earth. The next moment, Mole popped out.

"Excuse me," he said, "I meant to dig to the right, and instead I've dug to the left!" He came out of the hole, turned himself rourid and went back the way he had come.

the hole as well. He hoped not, for he liked the house where he and Mr Manders lived. He liked the kitchen with its bright fire, and he liked his bedroom with his own little bed.

As he stood and wondered, Mr Manders scrabbled out. He was covered in earth, and he blinked in the bright sunlight. "Moles dig holes," he said, "but I don't think bears care for them much." He gazed at Edward James sadly. "What new thing can I do?" he said.

"Just be a bear," said Edward James.

As he spoke a nice fat bee flew by.  

"What a good idea, Edward James!" said Mr Manders. "I could get lots of honey for our tea!" and he got up and trotted off to the house. When he came out he had brushed the earth from his fur and was wearing his yellow and black striped sweater.

"How do I look, Edward James?" he said.

"Like a bear in a yellow and black striped sweater," said Edward James, but softly to himself, for Mr Manders was already making his way down to the bottom of the garden, where the beehives stood. He was gone for such a long time that at last Edward James went to look for him.

He found Mr Manders sitting in the long grass, gazing sadly at the beehives. "It's a question of bears being large, Edward James," he said, "and bees being small, and beehive doors being small, and the honey being inside. If you understand what I mean."

Edward James said that he thought he understood. He helped Mr Manders to his feet, and together they went for a walk round the field.

As they went, Mr Manders thought of all the things he'd tried to be. " A singing bird, an ant, a frog, a spider, a mole and a bee," he said, "and really, I'm just a foolish old bear."

"No you're not! " said Edward James. "You're a bear with imagination, a bear with ambition, a bear with ideas, and I like you just the way you are."

Mr Manders was so pleased to hear Edward James say this that he gave him a big hug. It was a lovely warm hug, and it made Edward James feel safe and happy.

Mr Manders felt happy too, and gave a deep low growl. It was a wonderful sound, and everyone who lived in the field said, "Oh, what a wonderful growl he has! " -except for some very new fieldmice, who thought that the growl might be thunder and hurried home before the rain began to fall.

Mr Manders and. Edward James began to make their way home. But before they went through the gap in the hedge, Mr Manders climbed up on to the fence, sat down, and began to sing. "OO-ROO-OO-ROW!" he sang.

"How did I sound?" he asked when the song was ended.

"Like a bear singing on a fence," said Edward James. " A bear singing beautifully on a fence," he added -and with that they both went in for tea.