STORIES ABOUT WOLVES 167
betaken themselves to their lair, to sleep away the effects of their night's gorge.
A sledge journey through the plains of Siberia in winter is a perilous undertaking. If a pack of hungry wolves get on the track of a sledge, the travellers know, as soon as they hear the horrid howls and see the grey forms stealing swiftly across the snow, that their chances of escape are small. If the sledge stops one instant men and horses are lost; the only safety is in flight at utmost speed. It is indeed a race for life ! The horses, mad with terror, seem to have wings; the wolves, no less swift, pursue them, their cruel eyes gleaming with the lust for blood. From time to time a shot is fired, and a wolf falls dead in the snow; bolder than the others, he has tried to climb into the sledge and has met his reward. This incident gives a momentary respite to the pursued, for the murderous pack will pause to tear in pieces and devour their dead comrade; then, further inflamed with the taste of blood, they will continue the headlong pursuit with redoubled vigour.
Should the travellers be able to reach a village or friendly farmhouse before the horses are completely exhausted, the wolves, frightened by the lights, will slink away into the forest, balked this time of their prey. On the other hand, should no refuge be near, the wolves will keep up with the horses till the poor beasts stumble and fall from fatigue, when the whole pack will instantly spring upon men and horses, and in a few moments the bloodstained snow alone tells the tale.
There have been instances, but fortunately few, of wolves with a perfect craving for human flesh. Such was the notorious BSte (or beast) du Gevaudan, that from the year 1764 and onwards ravaged the district of that name, in Auvergne, to the south of the centre of France. This wolf was of enormous size, measuring six feet from the point of its nose to the tip of its tail. It devoured eighty-three persons, principally women and children, and