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Chambers's Edinburgh Journal, No. 449 Volume 18, New Series, August 7, 1852   By:

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CHAMBERS' EDINBURGH JOURNAL

CONDUCTED BY WILLIAM AND ROBERT CHAMBERS, EDITORS OF 'CHAMBERS'S INFORMATION FOR THE PEOPLE,' 'CHAMBERS'S EDUCATIONAL COURSE,' &c.

No. 449. NEW SERIES. SATURDAY, AUGUST 7, 1852. PRICE 1 1/2 d.

THE SULTAN'S BEAR.[1]

The sultan being one day rather out of sorts, sent for his Jewish physician, a man very eminent for skill in his profession, and not less distinguished by his love of his own nation and his desperate enmity to the Christians. Finding that his patient had not really much the matter with him, and thinking a little gossip would not only be more agreeable, but more likely to do him good, than any medicine which could be prescribed, the doctor began to discourse on the very familiar topic of his highness's favourite bear, which was lying at his feet, and whose virtues and abilities he was never tired of extolling.

'You would wonder,' said the sultan, 'not only at the natural sagacity of the creature, and the tact which he shews in a thousand different ways, but at the amount of knowledge he has collected, and the logical correctness with which he uses it. He is really a very knowing beast.' The Jew politely acquiesced in all this and much more; but at length added: 'It is well that such a clever animal is in such good hands. If his extraordinary talents are not developed to the utmost, they are at least not perverted and made a bad use of.'

'I hope not, indeed,' said the sultan. 'But what do you mean by his talents not being developed? or in what way would they be likely to be perverted in bad hands?'

'Pardon me,' said the Jew; 'I have spoken rashly before your sublime highness such things should not be talked of; but it is natural that, although I know very little about them, I should consider the practice and the purpose bad, when they belong to what I consider a bad people: at the same time, if your sublime highness thinks fit to tolerate them, it is not for your faithful slave to say a word about it. I should be sorry that your sublime highness should not extend to your Christian subjects the same toleration and paternal kindness my own people enjoy.'

'What in the world do you mean?' said the sultan. 'What have the Christians to do with my bear?'

'Nothing at all,' replied the Jew with great earnestness; and he added, with a sigh, 'that is the very thing I am thankful for. It is such a remarkable creature, that there is no saying what might come of it.'

'Come of what?' said the sultan.

'Why,' said the Jew, in a humble and very confidential tone, 'your sublime highness is of course aware, that among the many curious secrets the Christians possess, they have one which enables them to teach bears to read.'

'You don't say so?' exclaimed the sultan. 'How do they contrive it?'

'Ah,' replied the Jew with an internal shudder, 'that is more than I can tell your sublime highness. I don't suppose that half a dozen of your subjects, except themselves, are aware of the fact; and few even among the Christians know the secret. I only obtained the little knowledge I have by accidental circumstances, which put me upon the inquiry; and I was a long while before I could feel perfectly certain that they actually did the thing. How they did it, and why , I have never been able to learn. It is one of their greatest secrets, one of their deepest, and therefore, I suspect, one of their most pernicious mysteries. I do not suppose that any man among them would confess it to save his life not even the old patriarch, if he were put to the rack.'

'It is very strange,' said the sultan, after a pause.

'It is wonderful,' said the physician with much emphasis.

'What is the harm of it?' exclaimed the sultan abruptly after a pause. 'Why should not bears read as well as men, if they are capable of learning?'

'Most true and most wisely said,' replied the Jew. 'If they were taught to read good books, it would probably mend their manners... Continue reading book >>


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