I shook his great paw with gusto, and he returned the gesture to me. I asked him what he was doing there, and he returned the question to me. I told the bear I was traveling, a wanderer finding his way. He told me that he was similar, his arrangements changing by the day. With a bit of bashfulness I followed it up with a question abut what he ate; the bear reassured me quite sweetly that I wouldn’t end up on his plate. Humans, it seems, are not tasty, when one can have honey and wine; a bear is not likely to eat us but they fear that we covet what they dine. I told my new friend with assurance that he could expect better from me; the bear seemed to believe it, but said that we’d have to see. I could tell he was a bit frightened, and badly wanted to run; when I asked him what was the matter, he asked if I owned a gun. When I told him I didn’t, I could see he was relieved, but the bear reminded me warily that his worry was scarcely eased. For a lifetime in the forests had taught him one thing well: close by any unarmed human was a gun-toting one as well.

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