The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Frederick Marryat Pt. 8

The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains

by Frederick Marryat

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“The spring now came on; the snow disappeared, and we were permitted to leave the cottage; but never would I quit for one moment my dear little sister, to whom since the death of my brother, I was more ardently attached than ever; indeed, I was afraid to leave her alone with my mother-in-law, who appeared to have a particular pleasure in ill-treating the child. My father was now employed upon his little farm, and I was able to render him some assistance.

“Marcella used to sit by us while we were at work, leaving my mother-in-law alone in the cottage. I ought to observe that, as the spring advanced, so did my mother-in-law decrease her nocturnal rambles, and that we never heard the growl of the wolf under the window after I had spoken of it to my father.

“One day, when my father and I were in the field, Marcella being with us, my mother-in-law came out, saying that she was going into the forest to collect some herbs my father wanted, and that Marcella must go to the cottage and watch the dinner. Marcella went; and my mother-in-law soon disappeared in the forest, taking a direction quite contrary to that in which the cottage stood, and leaving my father and I, as it were, between her and Marcella.

“About an hour afterwards we were startled by shrieks from the cottage —evidently the shrieks of little Marcella. ‘Marcella has burnt herself, father,’ said I, throwing down my spade. My father threw down his, and we both hastened to the cottage. Before we could gain the door, out darted a large white wolf, which fled with the utmost celerity. My father had no weapon; he rushed into the cottage, and there saw poor little Marcella expiring. Her body was dreadfully mangled, and the blood pouring from it had formed a large pool on the cottage floor. My father’s first intention had been to seize his gun and pursue; but he was checked by this horrid spectacle; he knelt down by his dying child, and burst into tears. Marcella could just look kindly on us for a few seconds, and then her eyes were closed in death.

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“My father and I were still hanging over my poor sister’s body, when my mother-in-law came in. At the dreadful sight she expressed much concern; but she did not appear to recoil from the sight of blood, as most women do.

“‘Poor child!’ said she, ‘it must have been that great white wolf which passed me just now, and frightened me so. She’s quite dead, Krantz.’

“‘I know it —I know it!’ cried my father, in agony.

“I thought my father would never recover from the effects of this second tragedy; he mourned bitterly over the body of his sweet child, and for several days would not consign it to its grave, although frequently requested by my mother-in-law to do so. At last he yielded, and dug a grave for her close by that of my poor brother, and took every precaution that the wolves should not violate her remains.

“I was now really miserable, as I lay alone in the bed which I had formerly shared with my brother and sister. I could not help thinking that my mother-in-law was implicated in both their deaths, although I could not account for the manner; but I no longer felt afraid of her; my little heart was full of hatred and revenge.

“The night after my sister had been buried, as I lay awake, I perceived my mother-in-law get up and go out of the cottage. I waited some time, then dressed myself, and looked out through the door, which I half opened. The moon shone bright and I could see the spot where my brother and my sister had been buried; and what was my horror when I perceived my mother-in-law busily removing the stones from Marcella’s grave!

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“She was in her white night-dress and the moon shone full upon her. She was digging with her hands, and throwing away the stones behind her with all the ferocity of a wild beast. It was some time before I could collect my senses, and decide what I should do. At last I perceived that she had arrived at the body, and raised it up to the side of the grave. I could bear it no longer, I ran to my father and awoke him.

“‘Father, father!’ cried I, ‘dress yourself, and get your gun.’

“‘What!’ cried my father, ‘the wolves are there, are they?’

“He jumped out of bed, threw on his clothes, and, in his anxiety, did not appear to perceive the absence of his wife. As soon as he was ready I opened the door; he went out, and I followed him.

“Imagine his horror, when (unprepared as he was for such a sight) he beheld, as he advanced towards the grave not a wolf, but his wife, in her night-dress, on her hands and knees, crouching by the body of my sister, and tearing off large pieces of the flesh, and devouring them with all the avidity of a wolf. She was too busy to be aware of our approach. My father dropped his gun; his hair stood on end, so did mine; he breathed heavily, and then his breath for a time stopped. I picked up the gun and put it into his hand. Suddenly he appeared as if concentrated rage had restored him to double vigor; he leveled his piece, fired, and with a loud shriek down fell the wretch whom he had fostered in his bosom.

“‘God of Heaven!’ cried my father, sinking down upon the earth in a swoon, as soon as he had discharged his gun.

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To be continued…

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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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