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This article is taken from PN Review 23, Volume 8 Number 3, January - February 1982.

'The Bear', a story Edgell Rickword
EDGELL RICKWORD first met Sylvia Townsend Warner at an ad-hoc meeting of the International Association of Writers for the Defence of Culture in the early 1930s and both were in Spain in 1937 for the Madrid Congress. The following story was included in a letter to Rickword's first wife, Johnnie, dated Christmas Eve, 1939, and is printed here by permission of Edgell Rickword and the estate of Sylvia Townsend Warner.

Once upon a time there was a bear. One morning he woke up and stretched himself.

'I declare,' said he, 'I'm eaten alive with fleas!'

He began to scratch. The more he scratched, the more he found. On his back, his ribs, his belly. On his nose and his chops and up and down his legs. Behind his ears and between his toes. Fleas of all sizes, all kinds, all colours, from the great big fleas that lived like landowners on his juiciest parts to the little piddling fleas that scurried about among the big ones snatching a suck here and a suck there. Having begun, he made a job of it. He scratched till he ached. He scratched till half his fur was off. His paws grew sore but he had no time to suck them. He went without his breakfast and his dinner and his supper, he was so busy scratching.

At last he got up and shook himself. There wasn't a flea left. 'My!' said the bear. 'It was a ...


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