The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Frederick Marryat Pt. 7

The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains

by Frederick Marryat

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“You may imagine in what a state of suspense Marcella and I remained during his absence. After a few minutes we heard the report of a gun. It did not awaken my father; and we lay trembling with anxiety. In a minute afterwards we saw our mother-in-law enter the cottage —her dress was bloody. I put my hand to Marcella’s mouth to prevent her crying out, although I was myself in great alarm. Our mother-in-law approached my father’s bed, looked to see if he was asleep, and then went to the chimney and blew up the embers into a blaze.

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“‘Who is there?’ said my father, waking up.

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“‘Lie still, dearest,’ replied my mother-in-law; ‘it is only me; I have lighted the fire to warm some water; I am not quite well.’

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“My father turned round, and was soon asleep; but we watched our mother-in-law. She changed her linen, and threw the garments she had worn into the fire; and we then perceived that her right leg was bleeding profusely, as if from a gun-shot wound. She bandaged it up, and then dressing herself, remained before the fire until the break of day.

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“Poor little Marcella, her heart beat quick as she pressed me to her side —so indeed did mine. Where was our brother Caesar? How did my mother-in-law receive the wound unless from his gun? At last my father rose, and then for the first time I spoke, saying, ‘Father, where is my brother Caesar?’

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“‘Your brother!’ exclaimed he; ‘Why, where can he be?’

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“‘Merciful Heaven! I thought, as lay very restless last night,’ observed our mother-in-law, ‘that I heard somebody open the latch of the door; and, dear me, husband, what has become of your gun?’

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“My father cast his eyes up above the chimney, and perceived that his gun was missing. For a moment he looked perplexed; then, seizing a broad axe, he went out of the cottage without saying another word.

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“He did not remain away from us long; in a few minutes he returned, bearing in his arms the mangled body of my poor brother; he laid it down, and covered up his face.

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“My mother-in-law rose up, and looked at the body, while Marcella and I threw ourselves by its side, wailing and sobbing bitterly.

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“‘Go to bed again, children,’ said she, sharply. ‘Husband,’ continued she, ‘your boy must have taken the gun down, to shoot a wolf, and the animal has been too powerful for him. Poor boy! he has paid dearly for his rashness.’

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“My father made no reply. I wished to speak —to tell all —but Marcella who perceived my intention, held me by the arm, and looked at me so imploringly, that I desisted.

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“My father, therefore, was left in his error; but Marcella and I, although we could not comprehend it, were conscious that our mother-in-law was in some way connected with my brother’s death.

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“That day my father went out and dug a grave; and when he hid the body in the earth, he piled up stones over it so that the wolves should not be able to dig it up. The shock of this catastrophe was to my poor father very severe; for several days he never went to the chase, although at times he would utter bitter anathemas and vengeance against the wolves.

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“But during this time of mourning on his part, my mother-in-law’s nocturnal wanderings continued with the same regularity as before.

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“At last my father took down his gun to repair to the forest; but he soon returned, and appeared much annoyed.

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“‘Would you believe it, Christina, that the wolves —perdition to the whole race —have actually contrived to dig up the body of my poor boy, and now there is nothing left of him but his bones?’

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“‘Indeed!’ replied my mother-in-law. Marcella looked at me; and I saw in her intelligent eye all she would have uttered.

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“‘A wolf growls under our window every night, father,’ said I.

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“‘Ay, indeed! Why did you not tell me, boy? Wake me the next time you hear it.’

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“I saw my mother-in-law turn away; her eyes flashed fire, and she gnashed her teeth.

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“My father went out again, and covered up with a larger pile of stones the little remnants of my poor brother which the wolves had spared. Such was the first act of the tragedy.

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The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Frederick Marryat Pt. 6

The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains

by Frederick Marryat

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“‘Marcella, dear, did you hear?’ said my brother, in a low tone.

“‘Yes,’ replied Marcella in a whisper, ‘I heard all. Oh! brother, I cannot bear to look upon that woman —I feel so frightened.’

“My brother made no reply, and shortly afterwards we were all three fast asleep.

“When we awoke the next morning, we found that the hunter’s daughter had risen before us. I thought she looked more beautiful than ever. She came up to little Marcella and caressed her: the child burst into tears, and sobbed as if her heart would break.

“But, not to detain you with too long a story, the huntsman and his daughter were accommodated in the cottage. My father and he went out hunting daily, leaving Christina with us. She performed all the household duties; was very kind to us children; and, gradually, the dislike even of little Marcella wore away. But a great change took place in my father; he appeared to have conquered his aversion to the sex, and was most attentive to Christina. Often, after her father and we were in bed would he sit up with her, conversing in a low tone by the fire. I ought to have mentioned that my father and the huntsman Wilfred, slept in another portion of the cottage, and that the bed which he formerly occupied, and which was in the same room as ours, had been given up to the use of Christina. These visitors had been about three weeks at the cottage, when, one night, after we children had been sent to bed, a consultation was held. My father had asked Christina in marriage, and had obtained both her own consent and that of Wilfred; after this, a conversation took place, which was, as nearly as I can recollect, as follows.

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“‘You may take my child, Meinheer Krantz, and my blessing with her, and I shall then leave you and seek some other habitation —it matters little where.’

“‘Why not remain here, Wilfred?’

“‘No, no, I am called elsewhere; let that suffice, and ask no more questions. You have my child.’

“‘I thank you for her, and will duly value her; but there is one difficulty.’

“‘I know what you would say; there is no priest here in this wild country: true; neither is there any law to bind; still must some ceremony pass between you, to satisfy a father. Will you consent to marry her after my fashion? if so, I will marry you directly.’

“‘I will,’ replied my father.

“‘Then take her by the hand. Now, Meinheer, swear.’

“‘I swear,’ repeated my father.

“‘By all the spirits of the Hartz mountains—’

“‘Nay, why not by Heaven?’ interrupted my father.

“‘Because it is not my humour,’ rejoined Wilfred; ‘if I prefer that oath, less binding perhaps, than another, surely you will not thwart me.’

“‘Well be it so then; have your humour. Will you make me swear by that in which I do not believe?’

“‘Yet many do so, who in outward appearance are Christians,’ rejoined Wilfred; ‘say, will you be married, or shall I take my daughter away with me?’

“‘Proceed,’ replied my father, impatiently.

“‘I swear by all the spirits of the Hartz mountains, by all their power for good or for evil, that I take Christina for my wedded wife; that I will ever protect her, cherish her, and love her; that my hand shall never be raised against her to harm her.’

“My father repeated the words after Wilfred.

“‘And if I fail in this my vow, may all the vengeance of the spirits fall upon me and upon my children; may they perish by the vulture, by the wolf, or other beasts of the forest; may their flesh be torn from their limbs, and their bones blanch in the wilderness: all this I swear.’

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“My father hesitated, as he repeated the last words; little Marcella could not restrain herself, and as my father repeated the last sentence, she burst into tears. This sudden interruption appeared to discompose the party, particularly my father; he spoke harshly to the child, who controlled her sobs, burying her face under the bed-clothes.

“Such was the second marriage of my father. The next morning, the hunter Wilfred mounted his horse, and rode away.

“My father resumed his bed, which was in the same room as ours; and things went on much as before the marriage, except that our new mother-in-law did not show any kindness towards us; indeed during my father’s absence, she would often beat us, particularly little Marcella, and her eyes would flash fire, as she looked eagerly upon the fair and lovely child.

“One night, my sister awoke me and my brother.

“‘What is the matter?’ said Caesar.

“‘She has gone out,’ whispered Marcella.

“‘Gone out!’

“‘Yes, gone out at the door, in her night-clothes,’ replied the child; ‘I saw her get out of bed, look at my father to see if he slept, and then she went out at the door.’

“What could induce her to leave her bed, and all undressed to go out, in such bitter wintry weather, with the snow deep on the ground was to us incomprehensible; we lay awake, and in about an hour we heard the growl of a wolf, close under the window.

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“‘There is a wolf,’ said Caesar. ‘She will be torn to pieces.’

“‘Oh no!’ cried Marcella.

“In a few minutes afterwards our mother-in-law appeared; she was in her night-dress, as Marcella had stated. She let down the latch of the door, so as to make no noise, went to a pail of water, and washed her face and hands, and then slipped into the bed where my father lay.

“We all three trembled —we hardly knew why; but we resolved to watch the next night: we did so; and not only on the ensuing night, but on many others, and always at about the same hour, would our mother-in-law rise from her bed and leave the cottage; and after she was gone we invariably heard the growl of a wolf under our window, and always saw her, on her return, wash herself before she retired to bed. We observed also that she seldom sat down to meals, and that when she did she appeared to eat with dislike; but when the meat was taken down to be prepared for dinner, she would often furtively put a raw piece into her mouth.

“My brother Caesar was a courageous boy; he did not like to speak to my father until he knew more. He resolved that he would follow her out, and ascertain what she did. Marcella and I endeavoured to dissuade him from this project; but he would not be controlled; and the very next night he lay down in his clothes, and as soon as our mother-in-law had left the cottage he jumped up, took down my father’s gun, and followed her.

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The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Frederick Marryat Pt. 5

The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains

by Frederick Marryat

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Photo: Michael S. Quinton

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“‘I was lured away in pursuit of a large white wolf,’ observed my father; ‘it came to the very window of my hut, or I should not have been out at this time of night.’

“‘The creature passed by us just as we came out of the wood,’ said the female, in a silvery tone.

“‘I was nearly discharging my piece at it,’ observed the hunter; ‘but since it did us such good service, I am glad I allowed it to escape.’

“In about an hour and a half, during which my father walked at a rapid pace, the party arrived at the cottage, and, as I said before, came in.

“‘We are in good time, apparently,’ observed the dark hunter, catching the smell of the roasted meat, as he walked to the fire and surveyed my brother and sister, and myself. ‘You have young cooks here, Meinheer.’

‘I am glad that we shall not have to wait,’ replied my father. ‘Come, mistress, seat yourself by the fire; you require warmth after your cold ride.’

‘And where can I put up my horse, Meinheer?’ observed the huntsman.

‘I will take care of him,’ replied my father, going out of the cottage door.

“The female must, however, be particularly described. She was young, and apparently twenty years of age. She was dressed in a travelling-dress, deeply bordered with white fur, and wore a cap of white ermine on her head. Her features were very beautiful, at least I thought so, and so my father has since declared. Her hair was flaxen, glossy, and shining, and bright as a mirror; and her mouth, although somewhat large when it was open, showed the most brilliant teeth I have ever beheld. But there was something about her eyes, bright as they were, which made us children afraid; they were so restless, so furtive; I could not at that time tell why, but I felt as if there was cruelty in her eye; and when she beckoned us to come to her, we approached her with fear and trembling. Still she was beautiful, very beautiful. She spoke kindly to my brother and myself, patted our heads and caressed us; but Marcella would not come near her; on the contrary, she slunk away, and hid herself in the bed, and would not wait for the supper, which half an hour before she had been so anxious for.

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El Greco
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“My father, having put the horse into a close shed, soon returned, and supper was placed upon the table. When it was over, my father requested that the young lady would take possession of his bed, and he would remain at the fire, and sit up with her father. After some hesitation on her part, this arrangement was agreed to, and I and my brother crept into the other bed with Marcella, for we had as yet always slept together.

“But we could not sleep; there was something so unusual, not only in seeing strange people, but in having those people sleep at the cottage, that we were bewildered. As for poor little Marcella, she was quiet, but I perceived that she trembled during the whole night, and sometimes I thought that she was checking a sob. My father had brought out some spirits, which he rarely used, and he and the strange hunter remained drinking and talking before the fire. Our ears were ready to catch the slightest whisper —so much was our curiosity excited.

“‘You said you came from Transylvania?’ observed my father.

“‘Even so, Meinheer,’ replied the hunter. ‘I was a serf to the noble house of —; my master would insist upon my surrendering up my fair girl to his wishes: it ended in my giving him a few inches of my hunting-knife.’

“‘We are countrymen, and brothers in misfortune,’ replied my father, taking the huntsman’s hand, and pressing it warmly.

“‘Indeed! Are you then from that country?’

“‘Yes; and I too have fled for my life. But mine is a melancholy tale.’

“‘Your name?’ inquired the hunter.

“‘Krantz.’

“‘What! Krantz of —? I have heard your tale; you need not renew your grief by repeating it now. Welcome, most welcome, Meinheer, and, I may say, my worthy kinsman. I am your second cousin, Wilfred of Barnsdorf,’ cried the hunter, rising up and embracing my father.

“They filled their horn-mugs to the brim, and drank to one another after the German fashion. The conversation was then carried on in a low tone; all that we could collect from it was that our new relative and his daughter were to take up their abode in our cottage, at least for the present. In about an hour they both fell back in their chairs and appeared to sleep.

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The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Frederick Marryat Pt. 4

The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains

by Frederick Marryat

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Pic: P. Tomkins

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“Perhaps I had better now relate what was only known to me many years afterwards. When my father had left the cottage, he perceived a large white wolf about thirty yards from him; as soon as the animal saw my father, it retreated slowly, growling and snarling. My father followed; the animal did not run, but always kept at some distance; and my father did not like to fire until he was pretty certain that his ball would take effect; thus they went on for some time, the wolf now leaving my father far behind, and then stopping and snarling defiance at him, and then, again, on his approach, setting off at speed.

“Anxious to shoot the animal (for the white wolf is very rare) my father continued the pursuit for several hours, during which he continually ascended the mountain.

“You must know, Philip, that there are peculiar spots on those mountains which are supposed, and, as my story will prove, truly supposed, to be inhabited by the evil influences: they are well known to the huntsmen, who invariably avoid them. Now, one of these spots, an open space in the pine forests above us, had been pointed out to my father as dangerous on that account. But, whether he disbelieved these wild stories, or whether, in his eager pursuit of the chase, he disregarded them, I know not; certain, however, it is, that he was decoyed by the white wolf to this open space, when the animal appeared to slacken her speed. My father approached, came close up to her, raised his gun to his shoulder, and was about to fire, when the wolf suddenly disappeared. He thought that the snow on the ground must have dazzled his sight, and he let down his gun to look for the beast —but she was gone; how she could have escaped over the clearance, without his seeing her, was beyond his comprehension.

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Mortified at the ill success of his chase, he was about to retrace his steps, when he heard the distant sound of a horn. Astonishment at such a sound —at such an hour —in such a wilderness, made him forget for the moment his disappointment, and he remained riveted to the spot. In a minute the horn was blown a second time, and at no great distance; my father stood still, and listened: a third time it was blown. I forget the term used to express it, but it was the signal which, my father well knew, implied that the party was lost in the woods. In a few minutes more my father beheld a man on horseback, with a female seated on the crupper, enter the cleared space, and ride up to him. At first, my father called to mind the strange stories which he had heard of the supernatural beings who were said to frequent these mountains; but the nearer approach of the parties satisfied him that they were mortals like himself. As soon as they came up to him, the man who guided the horse accosted him.

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“Friend Hunter, you are out late, the better fortune for us; we have ridden far, and are in fear of our lives which are eagerly sought after. These mountains have enabled us to elude our pursuers; but if we find not shelter and refreshment, that will avail us little, as we must perish from hunger and the inclemency of the night. My daughter, who rides behind me, is now more dead than alive —say, can you assist us in our difficulty?’

“‘My cottage is some few miles distant,’ replied my father, ‘but I have little to offer you besides a shelter from the weather; to the little I have you are welcome. May I ask whence you come?’

“‘Yes, friend, it is no secret now; we have escaped from Transylvania, where my daughter’s honour and my life were equally in jeopardy!’

“This information was quite enough to raise an interest in my father’s heart, he remembered his own escape; he remembered the loss of his wife’s honor, and the tragedy by which it was wound up. He immediately, and warmly, offered all the assistance which he could afford them.

“‘There is no time to be lost then, good sir,’ observed the horseman; ‘my daughter is chilled with the frost, and cannot hold out much longer against the severity of the weather.’

“‘Follow me,’ replied my father, leading the way towards his home.

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