The Animal Story Book - online children's book

Edited By Andrew Lang And With Numerous Illustrations By H. J. Ford

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168                  STORIES ABOUT WOLVES
seriously wounded twenty-five or thirty others. It was attacked from first to last by between two and three hundred thousand hunters, probably not all at once. With half a dozen wolves, each equal to 200,000 men, a country could afford to do without an army. But the wolf of Gevaudan was no common wolf. He never married, having no leisure, fortunately for the human race. The whole of France was in a state of alarm on its account; the peasants dared no longer go to their work in the fields alone and unarmed. Every day brought tidings of some fresh trouble; in the morning he would spread terror and confusion in some village in the plains, in the evening he would carry off some hapless victim from some moun­tain hamlet fifteen or twenty leagues away. Five little shepherd boys, feeding their flocks on the mountain-side, were attacked suddenly by the ferocious beast, who made off with the youngest of them; the others, armed only with sticks, pursued the wolf, and attacked it so valiantly that they compelled it to drop its prey and slink off into the wood. A poor woman was sitting at her cottage door with her three children, when the wolf came down on them and attempted to carry off each of the children in turn. The mother fought so courageously in defence of her little ones that she succeeded in putting the wolf to flight, but in so doing was terribly bitten herself, and the youngest child died of his wounds.
Sometimes twenty or thirty parishes joined forces to attack the beast, led by the most experienced huntsmen and the chief louvetier of the kingdom. On one occasion twenty thousand hunters surrounded the forest of Prei-nieres, where it lay concealed; but on this, as well as every other occasion, the wolf escaped in the most surprising — one might almost say miraculous — manner, disappearing as if he had been turned into smoke. Some hunters de­clared that their bullets had rebounded off him, flattened and harmless. Others alleged that when he had been shot, like the great Dundee, with a silver bullet (a well-
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