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The Were-wolf






H. B. MARRYATT


My father was not born, or originally a resident, in the Hartz
Mountains; he was the serf of an Hungarian nobleman, of great
possessions, in Transylvania; but, although a serf, he was not by any
means a poor or illiterate man. In fact, he was rich, and his
intelligence and respectability were such, that he had been raised by
his lord to the stewardship; but, whoever may happen to be born a serf,
a serf must he remain, even though he become a wealthy man; such was the
condition of my father. My father had been married for about five years;
and, by his marriage, had three children--my eldest brother Caesar,
myself (Hermann), and a sister named Marcella. Latin is still the
language spoken in that country; and that will account for our
high-sounding names. My mother was a very beautiful woman, unfortunately
more beautiful than virtuous: she was seen and admired by the lord of
the soil; my father was sent away upon some mission; and, during his
absence, my mother, flattered by the attentions, and won by the
assiduities, of this nobleman, yielded to his wishes. It so happened
that my father returned very unexpectedly, and discovered the intrigue.
The evidence of my mother's shame was positive: he surprised her in the
company of her seducer! Carried away by the impetuosity of his feelings,
he watched the opportunity of a meeting taking place between them, and
murdered both his wife and her seducer. Conscious that, as a serf, not
even the provocation which he had received would be allowed as a
justification of his conduct, he hastily collected together what money
he could lay his hands upon, and, as we were then in the depth of
winter, he put his horses to the sleigh, and taking his children with
him, he set off in the middle of the night, and was far away before the
tragical circumstance had transpired. Aware that he would be pursued,
and that he had no chance of escape if he remained in any portion of his
native country (in which the authorities could lay hold of him), he
continued his flight without intermission until he had buried himself in
the intricacies and seclusion of the Hartz Mountains. Of course, all
that I have now told you I learned afterwards. My oldest recollections
are knit to a rude, yet comfortable cottage, in which I lived with my
father, brother, and sister. It was on the confines of one of those vast
forests which cover the northern part of Germany; around it were a few
acres of ground, which, during the summer months, my father cultivated,
and which, though they yielded a doubtful harvest, were sufficient for
our support. In the winter we remained much in doors, for, as my father
followed the chase, we were left alone, and the wolves, during that
season, incessantly prowled about. My father had purchased the cottage,
and land about it, of one of the rude foresters, who gain their
livelihood partly by hunting, and partly by burning charcoal, for the
purpose of smelting the ore from the neighbouring mines; it was distant
about two miles from any other habitation. I can call to mind the whole
landscape now: the tall pines which rose up on the mountain above us,
and the wide expanse of forest beneath, on the topmost boughs and heads
of whose trees we looked down from our cottage, as the mountain below us
rapidly descended into the distant valley. In summer time the prospect
was beautiful; but during the severe winter, a more desolate scene could
not well be imagined.

I said that, in the winter, my father occupied himself with the chase;
every day he left us, and often would he lock the door, that we might
not leave the cottage. He had no one to assist him, or to take care of
us--indeed, it was not easy to find a female servant who would live in
such a solitude; but, could he have found one, my father would not have
received her, for he had imbibed a horror of the sex, as a difference of
his conduct toward us, his two boys, and my poor little sister,
Marcella, evidently proved. You may suppose we were sadly neglected;
indeed, we suffered much, for my father, fearful that we might come to
some harm, would not allow us fuel, when he left the cottage; and we
were obliged, therefore, to creep under the heaps of bears'-skins, and
there to keep ourselves as warm as we could until he returned in the
evening, when a blazing fire was our delight. That my father chose this
restless sort of life may appear strange, but the fact was that he could
not remain quiet; whether from remorse for having committed murder, or
from the misery consequent on his change of situation, or from both
combined, he was never happy unless he was in a state of activity.
Children, however, when left much to themselves, acquire a
thoughtfulness not common to their age. So it was with us; and during
the short cold days of winter we would sit silent, longing for the happy
hours when the snow would melt, and the leaves burst out, and the birds
begin their songs, and when we should again be set at liberty.

Such was our peculiar and savage sort of life until my brother Caesar was
nine, myself seven, and my sister five, years old, when the
circumstances occurred on which is based the extraordinary narrative
which I am about to relate.

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 of us 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.

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 busied 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.

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 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. 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. "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 honour, 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.

"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 that 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, Mynheer." "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, Mynheer?" 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, Mynheer," 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, Mynheer, 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.

"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:

"You may take my child, Mynheer 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, Mynheer, 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."

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.

"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.

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.

"Who is there?" said my father, waking up.

"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."

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.

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?"

"Your brother!" exclaimed he, "why, where can he be?"

"Merciful Heaven! I thought as I 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?"

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.

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.

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

"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."

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.

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.

That day my father went out and dug a grave, and when he laid 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.

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

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

"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?"

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

"A wolf growls under our window every night, father," said I.

"Aye, indeed?--why did you not tell me, boy?--wake me the next time you
hear it."

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

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.

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 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.

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 for 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.

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 vigour; he levelled 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.

I remained some time by his side before he recovered. "Where am I?" said
he, "what has happened?--Oh!--yes, yes! I recollect now. Heaven forgive
me!"

He rose and we walked up to the grave; what again was our astonishment
and horror to find that instead of the dead body of my mother-in-law,
as we expected, there was lying over the remains of my poor sister, a
large, white she wolf.

"The white wolf!" exclaimed my father, "the white wolf which decoyed me
into the forest--I see it all now--I have dealt with the spirits of the
Hartz Mountains."

For some time my father remained in silence and deep thought. He then
carefully lifted up the body of my sister, replaced it in the grave, and
covered it over as before, having struck the head of the dead animal
with the heel of his boot, and raving like a madman. He walked back to
the cottage, shut the door, and threw himself on the bed; I did the
same, for I was in a stupor of amazement.

Early in the morning we were both roused by a loud knocking at the door,
and in rushed the hunter Wilfred.

"My daughter!--man--my daughter!--where is my daughter!" cried he in a
rage.

"Where the wretch, the fiend, should be, I trust," replied my father,
starting up and displaying equal choler; "where she should be--in
hell!--Leave this cottage or you may fare worse."

"Ha-ha!" replied the hunter, "would you harm a potent spirit of the
Hartz Mountains? Poor mortal, who must needs wed a were wolf."

"Out, demon! I defy thee and thy power."

"Yet shall you feel it; remember your oath--your solemn oath--never to
raise your hand against her to harm her."

"I made no compact with evil spirits."

"You did; and if you failed in your vow, you were to meet the vengeance
of the spirits. Your children were to perish by the vulture, the
wolf----"

"Out, out, demon!"

"And their bones blanch in the wilderness. Ha!-ha!"

My father, frantic with rage, seized his axe, and raised it over
Wilfred's head to strike.

"All this I swear," continued the huntsman, mockingly.

The axe descended; but it passed through the form of the hunter, and my
father lost his balance, and fell heavily on the floor.

"Mortal!" said the hunter, striding over my father's body, "we have
power over those only who have committed murder. You have been guilty of
a double murder--you shall pay the penalty attached to your marriage
vow. Two of your children are gone; the third is yet to follow--and
follow them he will, for your oath is registered. Go--it were kindness
to kill thee--your punishment is--that you live!"





Next: The Withered Arm

Previous: The Four-fifteen Express



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