The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains: Part 3
by Frederick Marryat
“One evening my father returned home rather later than usual; he had been unsuccessful, and, as the weather was very severe, and many feet of snow were upon the ground, he was not only very cold, but in a very bad humour. He had brought in wood, and we were all three gladly assisting each other in blowing on the embers to create the blaze, when he caught poor little Marcella by the arm and threw her aside; the child fell, struck her mouth, and bled very much. My brother ran to raise her up. Accustomed to ill-usage and afraid of my father, she did not dare to cry, but looked up in his face very piteously. My father drew his stool nearer to the hearth, muttered something in abuse of women, and busied himself with the fire, which both my brother and I had deserted when our sister was so unkindly treated. A cheerful blaze was soon the result of his exertions; but we did not, as usual, crowd round it. Marcella, still bleeding, retired to a corner, and my brother and I took our seats beside her, while my father hung over the fire gloomily and alone.
Such had been our position for about half an hour, when the howl of a wolf, close under the window of the cottage, fell on our ears. My father started up, and seized his gun: the howl was repeated, he examined the priming, and then hastily left the cottage, shutting the door after him. We all waited (anxiously listening), for we thought that if he succeeded in shooting the wolf, he would return in a better humour; and, although he was harsh to all of us, and particularly so to our little sister, still we loved our father, and loved to see him cheerful and happy, for what else had we to look up to? And I may here observe, that perhaps there never were three children who were fonder of each other; we did not, like other children, fight and dispute together; and if, by chance, any disagreement did arise between my elder brother and me, little Marcella would run to us, and kissing us both, seal, through her entreaties, the peace between us. Marcella was a lovely, amiable child; I can recall her beautiful features even now —Alas! poor little Marcella.”
“She is dead, then?” observed Philip.
“Dead! yes, dead! —but how did she die? —But I must not anticipate, Philip; let me tell my story.
“We waited for some time, but the report of the gun did not reach us, and my elder brother then said, ‘Our father has followed the wolf, and will not be back for some time. Marcella, let us wash the blood from your mouth, and then we will leave this corner, and go to the fire and warm ourselves.’
“We did so, and remained there until near midnight, every minute wondering, as it grew later, why our father did not return. We had no idea that he was in any danger, but we thought that he must have chased the wolf for a very long time. ‘I will look out and see if father is coming,’ said my brother Caesar, going to the door. ‘Take care,’ said Marcella, ‘the wolves must be about now, and we cannot kill them, brother.’ My brother opened the door very cautiously, and but a few inches: he peeped out. —’I see nothing,’ said he, after a time, and once more he joined us at the fire. ‘We have had no supper,’ said I, for my father usually cooked the meat as soon as he came home; and during his absence we had nothing but the fragments of the preceding day.
“‘And if our father comes home after his hunt, Caesar,’ said Marcella, ‘he will be pleased to have some supper; let us cook it for him and for ourselves.’ Caesar climbed upon the stool, and reached down some meat —I forget now whether it was venison or bear’s meat; but we cut off the usual quantity, and proceeded to dress it, as we used to do under our father’s superintendence. We were all busy putting it into the platters before the fire, to await his coming, when we heard the sound of a horn. We listened —there was a noise outside, and a minute afterwards my father entered, ushering in a young female, and a large dark man in a hunter’s dress.