THE CHIMNEY CORNER.
♦ 1 THE GAR-WOLF. I A ROMANCE OF. BRITTANY. J [CONTINUED. ] | “ Stay you here Annette,” whispered the old man. “ I will go on alone. If I don’t come back in half an hour, go home ( and alarm the countryside ; if you see the . wolves, climb yon tree and call for help. ” “ Oh do nothing rash, bonpapa, for the love ©f Notre Dame d’Auray ! Do nothing that may bring death on either of you, for my sake.” A wave of the hand and he too crept into the moonlight under the rocks and was lost to sight in the thicket. The wolves after a sodden burst had ceased howling; and as Annette heard bonpapa’s footsteps die away in the silence of the night, a vague dread seized her that she should never see him again, and she counted the moments to his return. Then as she strained her ears and eyes towards the thicket, she thought of his errand; of whom he was tracking; and all her year of married life passed by her like a dream. If bonpapa was successful, if he satisfied himself that Yvon was a Bisclaveret; what then? What would he and the Curd decide to do with him. He had been a good husband]; in spite of her knowledge of his double being, she loved him, it seemed now more than ever, at the chance of his being condemned to death through her means. Better,have faced it out than have told bonpapa! Bonpapa ! How long bonpapa has been absent—he should be back by this time. Th* half-hour must be up. The Bisclaveret might have seen them tracking him, turned on the old man now he was alone and killed him. That wore, if possible, worse than the other. And in her double agony of doubts and fears, she knelt and sobbed aloud to the Virgin. What is that velvet footfall on the firneedles ? That short sigh behind her ? O God ! the great wolf again at her elbow! “ Yvon ! Bisclaveret! have mercy !” For a moment or two, wolf and girl, glared at each other; and then, clashing the broad white-fanged jaws like a steel trap, he lunged at her. With all her force she drove the oxgoad home. But not this time ! and, ere she had. lifted it for a second blow, he was upon her, the white fangs buried in her white neck, and the cruel claws tearing shoulders and bosom. One long despairing death scream broke the stillness of the forest, cutting through the pine stems, buffeted against the rocky lodge, tossed from side to side of the glen down into the woods below, and then nothing but the muffled worying of the wolf, and the throbs of the girl’s death struggle. The scream reached the ears of bonpapa who, having suddenly lost ail trace of Yvon, was slowly returning. It could only mean one thing, that Annette had been attacked by wolves or the Bisclaveret, and he hurried back to where he had left her. As the wolf raised his head to look at the' newcomer, the same idea that had occurred to Annette had flashed across bonpapa—that Yvon had discovered them following him, that not. content with his skins, he had taken a wolf’s form, and having given him the slip, had gone back to ‘ kill his wife ; and the horror of the scene so unnerved the old man that he scarcely could hold his gun steady; but the Bisclaveret stood still frothing his bloody jaws over his victim ; and at last the silver bullet sped. With a howl the wolf sprang into the air, struggled a moment on the ground, and then shambled slowly off. Ah, what a sad ending to their expedition ! What a poor revenge on the Bisclaveret! He must die—the silver bullet must do its work ; but how dearly had that revenge been bought! And bitter tears dimmed the old man’s eyes as he Ifted into his lap the little head hacked and gashed by those cutting teeth. Who was to blame for it but himself. He should have followed the Bisclaveret alone! There was no question about Yvon’s identity now. He had suddenly disappeared only a few paces before him among the wolves, almost at the top of the ledge. The thicket, the plateau, had been searched, but he was not to be seen. Too suddenly and mysteriously had he disappeared for man. Bisclaveret he must be ! Devil he was, to come back and kill his poor defenceless wife ! But it was the prophecy ; the omen of the fountain had come true! He wiped away the blood from the face as well as he could, and after one long kiss, sat stupefied. The wild “ hoot! hoot! ” of a screechowl aroused him ; but now that the excitement had died off, how weak and helpless he felt. On rising his limbs were numbed and trembling that after carrying the body a few paces he was obliged to rest. It would be impossible for him to get it home alone, so he stuck a branch with a handkerchief on it over the body to keep away the wolves, and started sadly home to rouse the country side. How dreary was the downward path through the tall pine stems ; how ghostly the “hush! hush!” of their branches. But even that was company in the great silence of the forest, where a pine-seed quivering, spinning down, clicked as it touched a fallen limb. How heavy and choking the scent of the hyacinths below. Air! air ! To be again among his fellow-men, out of that dell were the mist rose heavy and dank, and the leaves sprinkled a clammy rain on him ; and as the sleeping vale below burst on his sight, and the dim outlines of the fields mapped out on its broad moonlit bosom ; as he peered down at the ferine, nestling in its sheltering aspens he breathed a prayer that revenge might bring at least a poor relief for his troubled thoughts. It was barely dawn when some twenty armed peasants filed out of the farm yard, the old man himself on a pony, vowing to find the Bisclaveret, dead or alive, and if the latter to take a fearful vengeance. A _ X A a— m MAM A I%«* \7 MA M m X. .._ * V I
As to have gone by Yvon s chaumiere would have been longer, they went up straight through the woods to the spot. Little tits and golden crested wrens were twittering through the pine branches when they reached it. A woodpecker was tapping on the the tree over it, and flopping away through the woods, echoing his harsh laugh; but the body and handkerchief were gone ! Where ? “ Look for the clothes under the stone, ’ proposed_one. “If he is dead his own clothes will be there; if dead the skins. ” The stone was lifted, and there lay the Bisclaveret’s nightly garb, a rude blouse and trousers of wolfskin, with thongs round the waist. Off both of them the hair was frayed in great patches, and they were bedraggled with mud. “By St. Yves, his namesake, he does the saint honor, wearing the devil’s livery so freely J ” said a peasant. “ ’Twere well to take these and confront him with them as he is alive ! Even if he does deny killing Annette, he cannot deny that in these he has joined in a wolf dance. Ten to one he has buried the body in the woods, and gone down to the chaumidre to brazen it out. If he has, we can avenge Annette first and hunt for
her body afterward.” The advice seemed good, and in the first piece of soft ground along the trail they found Yvon’s tracks going down the mountain. At the corner of the pasture bonpapa called halt. Should they take him alive they could and make him confefS, or kill him outright ?
1 Kill him ! kill him !|kill the BhcV’ ret!” was the answer. “Why should ie 1 e allowed to live longer ? What was ie but a murdering demon in whose cimlany no one was safe ? If he would kill Annette he would kill any one! This aste for blood might bring out his wolflature, and our homes and little ones are lot safe! Call him out; shoot him lown ! and if he will not come out fire ;he roof. En avant len amnt /” And soon a ring of fierce faces close in >n the little chaumUre, from wheae dummy a thin film of white smoke simpers up ;hrough the morning air. “ Yvon ! Bisclaveret 1 come out and show yourself 1 Ha, ha ! we have you now, in spite of your sharp teeth ! Ho ! murderer ! wolf mate ! show yourself 1” Slowly the doors opens, and Yvon, pale and hollow-eyed, shows himself, only to stagger back into the house, slamming the door convulsively as the charges of a dozen guns rattle round him. “ Fire ! fire ! Burn him out! Set fire to the thatch I smoke the wolf out!” rang put again the revengeful voices, and ere it was well said tinder was put to the roof in two or three places. A pause. A bright streak of flame runs up a long straw, and the roof is in a blaze. “Aha! Bisclaveret, you are trapped now 1 The devil will have his own sooner than he expected 1 Show yourself murderer I Show your teeth for the last time, and die like a brave wolf!” But not an answering sound, till a sudden rush of smoke hurtles up as the roof crashes in, echoed by a cry of rage and pain which silenced even crackling straw and rafters. In a moment more the door was burst outw'ard, and from the debris into their midst struggled Yvon, shambling and tottering, grimed with smoke, and dripping blood from a dozen wounds ; but in his arms was clutched something, of which, in the fury of revenge, they had forgotten the existence—the body of the unfortunate Annette—in a dress once white, but now moottled with the fresh blood of Yvon’s wounds, and smirched with cinders. The sight was so unexpected that all shrank back as he staggered across the road, and fell beside the spring. Still further they shrank back as, glaring round bn them, he panted out with the energy of death—- “ Devils? what do you mean ! What have I done to deserve such a death ? ” “ Done ? ” exclaimed bonpapa, his anger rising as Yvon spoke; “have you not done enough ? Did not Annette and I track you last night to your wolf-den ? and did not you murder the innocent thing while I was in search of you ? Did not my silver bullet bite into your wolf flesh? And do you ask what you have done, fiend that you ar* 1 But ’tis no use you have not long to live, so make your peace with God, or the devil your master, whichever it be.” “ Stay,” said Yvon, “ I came out of my mine this morning (there’s no use concealing it longer, as I’m dying) to find Annette cut to pieces by wolves, I suppose, though some one must have been there since, as the body had been moved. Water ! quick 1 I’m dying! lam a miner. A year ago, in hunting, I killed two wolves in which I found traces of lead. I opened the mine, used their skins to work in, so as not to soil my clothes and betray myself, sold my lead in Guingamp, and to put Annette of the scent, I told her I was a Bisclaveaet. And the omen of the fountain has come doubly true—Annette! Annette ! ” Slowly the last words bubbled up through the frothy lips, and drooping over her body there passed away the soul of Yvon Oardook the last Bisclaveret of Brittany. CONCLUDED.
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