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blood dancing through my veins by the alarming cry of, « Volka! volka !” - Wolves ! wolves !” I sprang from my seat, and looking ahead saw six great, gaunt, and no doubt hungry, wolves sitting exactly in our way at the distance of about a hundred yards
Our horses had huddled themselves together, trembling in every limb, and refused to stir. We shouted and bawled, but the wolves also refused to stir. My fat friend, gathering a large handful of hay from the sledge-bottom, rolled it into the form of a ball and handed it to me, saying, “Match.” I understood him at once. The driver managed by awful lashing and “noo nooing” to get the horses on until we came to within a short distance of our enemies. By this time I had succeeded in setting fire to the ball of hay, and, just as it began to blaze out well, I threw it among them. It worked like a charm. Instantly the wretches parted, three on each side, and skulked off slowly at right angles, their tails dragging as if they were beaten curs. On dashed our brave team, lash lash, noo noo. “Hurrah!” I shouted, with a lightened heart.
I “We are safe this time, thank God!”
“Wait, look back," said Fatsides.
I did so, and I saw the wolves, who had joined each other again in the centre track, pausing as if to deliberate. Our horses were going at their utmost speed, the driver standing up, and using lash and voice with all his might to urge them on to the station, then only about a mile and a half ahead. Luckily the road or track, as far as we could see, was free from drift, and our hope was that we could gain the station before the wolves, should they pursue us. Looking back just as we turned a bend in the track I saw the whole pack in swift pursuit.
uninhabited establishment requisite cudgel
phlegmatic deliberate cigarette
I had often been told that wolves will not attack a party unless in a large pack. Six was no large pack, yet here they were coming up to attack us,
there now no doubt about that. Hunger, through a long and severe winter, must have made them daring. With the consciousness of an impending death-struggle, I prepared for the result. My thoughts went for one moment to my wife and children ; for another to the great Disposer of events. Then, throwing off my sheepskin coat so as not to impede the free action of my arms and legs, I sprang on the front seat beside the driver, but with my back to the horses, and my face to the enemy. I said to the driver
They are coming, brother ; drive fast but steadily. I have six bullets in this pistol. Don't move from your seat, but drive right in the centre of the track.”
My fat companion sat still in his corner and neither moved nor spoke; but I saw the blade of my bearknife gleaming in his hand.
The track had become worse, so that the horses could not maintain their pace. In a short time the wolves ran beside the sledge; the horses strained and shot on, but, in forcing our way through a drift, we came to a walking pace, and the first wolf on my side made a dash at the horse next him. The pistol was
within a foot and a half of his head when I fired, and the ball went through his brain. I shouted my triumph in English, my companion echoed it with “Bravo !” The second wolf received my second fire in the leg, which must have shattered the bone, for he dropped
behind instantly. “ Bravo !" was again cried from the corner. But the same moment was the moment of our greatest peril. My pistol fell into the sledge, as, with a sudden jolt, our horses floundered up to their bellies in a deep drift; then they came to a dead stop, and there was a wolf at each side of the sledge attempting to
raised it high, and brought it down with the desperate force of a man in mortal extremity, upon the head of the wolf on my side. He tumbled over on his back, and the skull was afterwards found to have been completely smashed.
As I stooped to regain my pistol, I was astonished to see my companion coolly thrust one of his arms into the wolf's mouth, and as coolly, with the disengaged hand, drawing the knife with a deep and sharp cut across its throat. A peculiar cry among the horses arrested my attention. Looking round, I saw another wolf actually fastened on the off-horse by the neck. The driver was between me and the wolf. He cried, "Give me the pistol!” I did so, and the poor horse was
, free. So also were we, for the other wolf ran off, followed by the one with the broken leg. The wolf last shot was tumbling among the snow. The driver handed me the pistol to put right, and begged another shot at the brute. This finished the engagement. I cannot tell how I felt. I could scarcely realise our great deliverance.
The driver secured the carcases to the sledge, and when we reached the station I was completely exhausted from the reaction of the strong excitement. My friend of the twenty stone chuckled much at his own trick upon the wolf that he had killed. Instead of putting his arm into the animal's open mouth, as I supposed, he had stuffed into it the loose sleeves of his enormous sheepskin coat, thereby getting plenty of time to cut the monster's throat. arm was untouched. But the poor horse's neck and shoulder were very
much torn. After consuming an enormous quantity of tea, and part of our provisions, we left the station, and, without meeting more adventures, except several diggings-out, arrived at Jaroslav at eight o'clock, having accomplished about thirty miles in thirteen hours.
His own Next morning we found ourselves popular characters in the town. The driver's tongue had not been idle. My revolver underwent many an examination. The government or local reward for a dead wolf is three roubles, which we claimed and received for three. So the wolves, instead of killing us, paid our travelling expenses. The fourth animal I caused to be skinned for preservation, as a remembrance of the greatest peril I was ever in.
Heap on more wood! The wind is chill;