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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Daniel Defoe (1661?–1731)

Friday’s Conflict with the Bear

From “Robinson Crusoe”

BUT never was a fight managed so hardily, and in such a surprising manner, as that between Friday and the bear, which gave us all—though at first we were surprised and afraid for him—the greatest diversion imaginable.

My man Friday had delivered our guide, and when we came up to him he was helping him off from his horse, for the man was both hurt and frightened, and indeed the last more than the first, when on a sudden we espied the bear come out of the wood, and a vast, monstrous one it was, the biggest by far that ever I saw. We were all a little surprised when we saw him; but when Friday saw him, it was easy to see joy and courage in the fellow’s countenance. “Oh, oh, oh!” says Friday three times, pointing to him; “oh, master! you give me te leave, me shakee te hand with him; me makee you good laugh.”

I was surprised to see the fellow so pleased. “You fool!” said I, “he will eat you up.” “Eatee me up! eatee me up!” says Friday twice over again; “me eatee him up; me makee you good laugh; you all stay here, me show you good laugh.” So down he sits, and gets his boots off in a moment, and puts on a pair of pumps (as we call the flat shoes they wear, and which he had in his pocket), gives my other servant his horse, and with his gun away he flew, swift like the wind.

The bear was walking softly on, and offered to meddle with nobody, till Friday, coming pretty near, calls to him as if the bear could understand him, “Hark ye, hark ye,” says Friday, “me speakee with you.” We followed at a distance, for now, being come down to the Gascony side of the mountains, we were entered a vast, great forest, where the country was plain and pretty open, though it had many trees in it scattered here and there. Friday, who had, as we say, the heels of the bear, came up with him quickly, and took up a great stone and threw it at him, and hit him just on the head, but did him no more harm than if he had thrown it against a wall; but it answered Friday’s end, for the rogue was so void of fear that he did it purely to make the bear follow him and show us some laugh, as he called it. As soon as the bear felt the stone, and saw him, he turns about and comes after him, taking very long strides, and shuffling on at a strange rate, so as would have put a horse to a middling gallop. Away runs Friday, and takes his course as if he ran toward us for help; so we all resolved to fire at once upon the bear, and deliver my man; though I was angry at him heartily for bringing the bear back upon us, when he was going about his own business another way; and especially I was angry that he had turned the bear upon us and then run away; and I called out, “You dog!” said I, “is this your making us laugh? Come away, and take your horse, that we may shoot the creature.” He heard me, and cried out, “No shoot! no shoot! stand still, you get much laugh.” And as the nimble creature ran two feet for the beast’s one, he turned on a sudden on one side of us, and seeing a great oak-tree fit for his purpose, he beckoned us to follow; and doubling his pace, he got nimbly up the tree, laying his gun down upon the ground, at about five or six yards from the bottom of the tree.

The bear soon came to the tree, and we followed at a distance. The first thing he did, he stopped at the gun, smelled at it, but let it lie, and up he scrambles into the tree, climbing like a cat, though so monstrous heavy. I was amazed at the folly, as I thought it, of my man, and could not for my life see anything to laugh at yet, till, seeing the bear get up the tree, we all rode near to him.

When we came to the tree, there was Friday got out to the small end of a large limb of the tree, and the bear got about half-way to him. As soon as the bear got out to that part where the limb of the tree was weaker, “Ha!” says he to us, “now you see me teachee the bear dance”; so he began jumping and shaking the bough, at which the bear began to totter, but stood still, and began to look behind him, to see how he should get back; then, indeed, we did laugh heartily. But Friday had not done with him by a great deal. When seeing him stand still, he called out to him again, as if he had supposed the bear could speak English, “What, you no come farther? Pray you come farther.” So he left jumping and shaking the bough; and the bear, just as if he had understood what he had said, did come a little farther. Then he began jumping again, and the bear stopped again. We thought now was a good time to knock him on the head, and called to Friday to stand still, and we would shoot the bear; but he cried out earnestly, “Oh, pray! oh, pray! no shoot! me shoot by-and-then.” He would have said by-and-by.

However, to shorten the story, Friday danced so much, and the bear stood so ticklish, that we had laughing enough indeed, but still could not imagine what the fellow would do; for first we thought he depended upon shaking the bear off; and we found the bear was too cunning for that too; for he would not go out far enough to be thrown down, but clung fast with his great broad claws and feet, so that we could not imagine what would be the end of it, and what the jest would be at last. But Friday put us out of doubt quickly; for, seeing the bear cling fast to the bough, and that he would not be persuaded to come any farther, “Well, well,” says Friday, “you no come farther, me go; you no come to me, me come to you.” And upon this he went out to the smaller end of the bough, where it would bend with his weight, and gently let himself down by it, sliding down the bough till he came near enough to jump down on his feet, and away he ran to his gun, took it up, and stood still. “Well,” said I to him, “Friday, what will you do now? Why don’t you shoot him?” “No shoot,” says Friday, “no yet; me shoot now, me no kill; me stay, give you one more laugh.” And, indeed, so he did, as you will see presently. For when the bear saw his enemy gone, he came back from the bough where he stood, but did it very cautiously, looking behind him every step, and coming backward till he got into the body of the tree. Then, with the same hinder end foremost, he came down the tree, grasping it with his claws, and moving one foot at a time, very leisurely. At this juncture, and just before he could set his hind feet upon the ground, Friday stepped up close to him, clapped the muzzle of his piece into his ear, and shot him dead as a stone. Then the rogue turned about to see if we did not laugh; and when he saw we were pleased by our looks, he began to laugh very loud. “So we kill bear in my country,” says Friday. “So you kill them?” says I; “why, you have no guns.” “No,” says he, “no gun, but shoot great much long arrow.”