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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