The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains
by Frederick Marryat
Photo: Michael S. Quinton
“‘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.
“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.
“‘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.