Grandpapa's Wolf Story by Edward William Thomson
"Tell us a story, grandpapa."
"One that will last all the evening,
"Yes, grandpapa, darling," said Jenny, while
Jimmy clapped hands.
"What about?" said the old lumber king.
"About when you were a boy."
"When I was a boy," said the old gentleman,
taking Jenny on his knee and putting his arm
round Jimmy, "the boys and girls were as fond
of stories as they are now. Once when I was a
boy I said to my grandfather, 'Tell me a story,
grandpa,' and he replied, 'When I was a boy the
boys were as fond of stories as they are now; for
once when I was a boy I said to my grandfather,
"Tell me a story, grandpa,—"'".
"Why, it seems to go on just the same story,
grandpapa," said Jenny.
"That's not the end of it, Jenny, dear," said
"No-o?" said Jenny, dubiously.
Jimmy said nothing. He lived with his grandfather,
and knew his ways. Jenny came on visits
only, and was not well enough acquainted with
the old gentleman to know that he would soon
tire of the old joke, and reward patient children
by a good story.
"Shall I go on with the story, Jenny?" said
"Oh, yes, grandpapa!"
"Well, then, when that grandpa was a boy, he
said to his grandfather, 'Tell me a story, grandpapa,'
and his grandfather replied—"
Jenny soon listened with a demure smile of
"Do you like this story, dear?" said grandpapa,
after pursuing the repetition for some
"I shall, grandpapa, darling. It must be very
good when you come to the grandfather that told
it. I like to think of all my grandfathers, and
great, great, great, greater, greatest, great, great-grandpapas
all telling the same story."
"Yes, it's a genuine family story, Jenny, and
you're a little witch." The old gentleman kissed
her. "Well, where was I? Oh, now I remember!
And that grandpapa said to his grandfather,
'Tell me a story, grandpapa,' and his
grandpapa replied, 'When I was a young fellow—'"
"Now it's beginning!" cried Jimmy, clapping
his hands, and shifting to an easier attitude
by the old man's easy-chair.
Grandpapa looked comically at Jimmy, and
said, "His grandfather replied, 'When I was a
The faces of the children became woful
"'One rainy day I took my revolver—'"
"Revolver! Grandpapa!" cried Jenny.
"An American revolver, grandpapa?"
"And did he tell the story in English?"
"But, grandpapa, darling, that grandpapa
was seventy-three grandpapas back!"
"About that, my dear."
"I kept count, grandpapa."
"And don't you like good old-fashioned
"Oh, yes, grandpapa, but revolvers—and
Americans—and the English language! Why,
it was more than twenty-two hundred years ago,
"Ha! ha! You never thought of that,
Jimmy! Oh, you've been at school, Miss
Bright-eyes! Kiss me, you little rogue. Now
"When I was a young fellow—"
"You yourself, grandpapa?"
"I'm so glad it was you yourself! I like my
own grandpapa's stories best of all."
"Thank you, my dear. After that I must be
very entertaining. Yes, I'll tell my best story
of all—and Jimmy has never heard it. Well,
when I was a young fellow of seventeen I was
clerk in a lumber shanty on the Sheboiobonzhe-gunpashageshickawigamog
"How did you ever learn that name, grandpapa,
darling?" cried Jenny.
"Oh, I could learn things in those days.
Remembering it is the difficulty, dear—see if
it isn't. I'll give you a nice new ten-dollar bill
if you tell me that name to-morrow."
Jenny bent her brows and tried so hard to
recall the syllables that she almost lost part of
the story. Grandpapa went steadily on:—
"One day in February, when it was too rainy
for the men to work, and just rainy enough to
go deer-shooting if you hadn't had fresh meat
for five months, I took to the woods with my
gun, revolver, hatchet, and dinner. All the fore
part of the day I failed to get a shot, though I
saw many deer on the hemlock ridges of Sheboi—that's
the way it begins, Jenny, and Sheboi
we called it.
"But late in the afternoon I killed a buck.
I cut off a haunch, lifted the carcass into the
low boughs of a spruce, and started for camp,
six miles away, across snowy hills and frozen
lakes. The snow-shoeing was heavy, and I
feared I should not get in before dark. The
Sheboi country was infested with wolves—"
"Bully! It's a wolf story!" said Jimmy.
Jenny shuddered with delight.
"As I went along you may be sure I never
thought my grandchildren would be pleased to
have me in danger of being eaten up by wolves."
Jenny looked shocked at the imputation.
Grandpapa watched her with twinkling eyes.
When she saw he was joking, she cried: "But
you weren't eaten, grandpapa. You were too
"Ah, I hadn't thought of that. Perhaps I'd
better not tell the story. You'll have a worse
opinion of my courage, my dear."
"Of course you had to run from wolves,
grandpapa!" said the little girl.
"I'll bet grandpapa didn't run then, miss,"
said Jimmy. "I'll bet he shot them with his
"He couldn't—could you, grandpapa?
There were too many. Of course grandpapa
had to run. That wasn't being cowardly. It
"No, Jenny, I didn't run a yard."
"Didn't I tell you?" cried Jimmy. "Grandpapa
shot them with his gun."
"You're mistaken, Jimmy."
"Then you must—No, for you're here—you
weren't eaten up?" said wondering Jenny.
"No, dear, I wasn't eaten up."
"Oh, I know! The wolves didn't come!"
cried Jimmy, who remembered one of his grandpapa's
stories as having ended in that unhappy
"Oh, but they did, Jimmy!"
"Why, grandpapa, what did you do?"
"I climbed into a hollow tree."
"Of course!" said both children.
"Now I'm going to tell you a true wolf story,
and that's what few grandpapas can do out of
their own experience.
"I was resting on the shore of a lake, with
my snow-shoes off to ease my sore toes, when I
saw a pack of wolves trotting lazily toward me
on the snow that covered the ice. I was sure
they had not seen me. Right at my elbow was
a big hollow pine. It had an opening down to
the ground, a good deal like the door of a
"There was a smaller opening about thirty
feet higher up. I had looked up and seen this
before I saw the wolves. Then I rose, stood for
a moment in the hollow, and climbed up by my
feet, knees, hands, and elbows till I thought my
feet were well above the top of the opening.
Dead wood and dust fell as I ascended, but I
hoped the wolves had not heard me."
"Did they, grandpapa?"
"Perhaps not at first, Jenny. But maybe
they got a scent of the deer-meat I was carrying.
At any rate, they were soon snapping and
snarling over it and my snow-shoes. Gobble-de-gobble,
yip, yap, snap, growl, snarl, gobble—the
meat was all gone in a moment, like little
Red Riding Hood."
"Why, grandpapa! The wolf didn't eat
little Red Riding Hood. The boy came in
time—don't you remember?"
"Perhaps you never read my Red Riding
Hood, Jenny," said the old gentleman, laughing.
"At any rate, the wolves lunched at my
expense; yet I hoped they wouldn't be polite
enough to look round for their host. But they
did inquire for me—not very politely, I
must say. They seemed in bad humor—perhaps
there hadn't been enough lunch to go
"The greedy things! A whole haunch of
venison!" cried Jenny.
"Ah, but I had provided no currant jelly with
it, and of course they were vexed. If you ever
give a dinner-party to wolves, don't forget the
currant jelly, Jenny. How they yelled for it—Cur-r-r-rant-jell-yell-yell-elly-yell!
way they went.
"And they also said, Yow—yow—there's—yow—no—desser-r-rt—either—yow—yow!
Perhaps they wanted me to explain.
At any rate, they put their heads into the opening—how
many at once I don't know, for I
could not see down; and then they screamed
for me. It was an uncomfortably close scream,
chickens. My feet must have been nearer
them than I thought, for one fellow's nose
touched my moccasin as he jumped."
"O grandpapa! If he had caught your
"But he didn't, Jenny, dear. He caught
something worse. When he tumbled back he
must have fallen on the other fellows, for there
was a great snapping and snarling and yelping
all at once.
"Meantime I tried to go up out of reach.
It was easy enough; but with every fresh hold
I took with shoulders, elbows, hands, and feet,
the dead old wood crumbled and broke away,
so that thick dust filled the hollow tree.
"I was afraid I should be suffocated. But
up I worked till at last I got to the upper hole
and stuck out my head for fresh air. There I
was, pretty comfortable for a little while, and
I easily supported my weight by bending my
back, thrusting with my feet, and holding on
the edge of the hole by my hands.
"After getting breath I gave my attention to
the wolves. They did not catch sight of me for
a few moments. Some stood looking much
interested at the lower opening, as terriers do
at the hole where a rat has disappeared.
"Dust still came from the hole to the open
air. Some wolves sneezed; others sat and
squealed with annoyance, as Bruno does when
you close the door on him at dinner-time.
They were disgusted at my concealment. Of
course you have a pretty good idea of what
they said, Jenny."
"No, grandpapa. The horrid, cruel things!
What did they say?"
"Well, of course wolf talk is rude, even savage,
and dreadfully profane. As near as I could
make out, one fellow screamed, 'Shame, boy,
taking an unfair advantage of poor starving
wolves!' It seemed as if another fellow yelled,
'You young coward!' A third cried, 'Oh, yes,
you think you're safe, do you?' A fourth,
'Yow—yow—but we can wait till you come
Grandpapa mimicked the wolfish voices and
looks so effectively that Jenny was rather
"One old fellow seemed to suggest that they
should go away and look for more venison for
supper, while he kept watch on me. At that
there was a general howl of derision. They
seemed to me to be telling the old fellow that
they were just as fond of boy as he, and that
they understood his little game.
"The old chap evidently tried to explain,
but they grinned with all their teeth as he
turned from one to another. You must not
suppose, chickens, that wolves have no sense of
humor. Yet, poor things—"
"Poor things! Why, grandpapa!"
"Yes, Jenny; so lean and hungry, you know.
Then one of them suddenly caught sight of my
head, and didn't he yell! 'There he is—look
up the tree!' cried Mr. Wolf.
"For a few moments they were silent. Then
they sprang all at once, absurdly anxious to get
nearer to me, twenty-five feet or so above their
reach. On falling, they tumbled into several
heaps of mouths and legs and tails. After
scuffling and separating, they gazed up at me
with silent longing. I should have been very
popular for a few minutes had I gone down."
Jenny shuddered, and then nestled closer to
"Don't be afraid, Jenny. They didn't eat
me—not that time. After a few moments'
staring I became very impolite. 'Boo-ooh!'
said I. 'Yah-ha-ha!' said I. 'You be shot!'
I cried. They resented it. Even wolves love
to be gently addressed.
"They began yelling, snarling, and howling at
me worse than politicians at a sarcastic member
of the opposite party. I imitated them. Nevertheless,
I was beginning to be frightened. The
weather was turning cold, night was coming on,
and I didn't like the prospect of staying till
"All of a sudden I began laughing. I had
till then forgotten my pistol and pocketful of cartridges.
There were seventeen nice wolves—"
"Nice! Why, grandpa!"
"They seemed very nice wolves when I recollected
the county bounty of six dollars for a
wolf's head. Also, their skins would fetch two
dollars apiece. 'Why,' said I, 'my dear wolves,
you're worth one hundred and thirty-six dollars.'
"'Don't you wish you may get it!' said they,
"'You're worth one hundred and thirty-six
dollars,' I repeated, 'and yet you want to
sponge on a poor boy for a free supper!
"Did you say it out loud, grandpapa?"
"Well—no, Jenny. It's a thing I might
have said, you know; but I didn't exactly think
of it at the time. I was feeling for my pistol.
Just as I tugged it out of its case at my waist,
my knees, arms, and all lost their hold, and
down I fell."
"Grandpapa, dear!" Jenny nervously
"I didn't fall far, pet. But the dust! Talk
of sweeping floors! The whole inside of the
tree below me, borne down by my weight, had
fallen in chunks and dust. There I was, gasping
for breath, and the hole eight feet above my
head. The lower entrance was of course blocked
up by the rotten wood."
"And they couldn't get at you?"
"No, Jimmy; but I was in a dreadful situation.
At first I did not fully realize it. Choking
for air, my throat filled with particles of dry
rot, I tried to climb up again. But the hollow
had become too large. Nothing but a round
shell of sound wood, a few inches thick, was
left around me. With feet, hands, elbows, and
back, I strove to ascend as before. But I could
not. I was stuck fast!
"When I pushed with my feet I could only
press my back against the other side of the
enlarged hole. I was horrified. Indeed, I
thought the tree would be my coffin. There
I stood, breathing with difficulty even when I
breathed through my capuchin, which I took
off of my blanket overcoat. And there, I said
to myself, I was doomed to stand till my knees
should give way and my head fall forward, and
some day, after many years, the old tree would
blow down, and out would fall my white and
"Don't—please, grandpapa!" Jenny was
trying to keep from crying.
"In spite of my vision of my own skull and
cross-bones," went on grandpapa, solemnly, "I
was too young to despair wholly. I was at first
more annoyed than desperate. To be trapped
so, to die in a hole when I might have shot a
couple of wolves and split the heads of one or
two more with my hatchet before they could
have had boy for supper—this thought made
me very angry. And that brought me to thinking
of my hatchet.
"It was, I remembered, beneath my feet at
the bottom of the lower opening. If I could
get hold of it, I might use it to chop a hole
through my prison wall.
"But to burrow down was clearly impossible.
Nevertheless, I knelt to feel the punky stuff
under my feet. The absurdity of trying to work
down a hole without having, like a squirrel, any
place to throw out the material, was plain.
"But something more cheerful occurred to
me. As I knelt, an object at my back touched
my heels. It was the brass point of my hunting-knife
sheath. Instantly I sprang to my
feet, thrust my revolver back into its case, drew
the stout knife, and drove the blade into the
shell of pine.
"In two minutes I had scooped the blade
through. In five minutes I had my face at a
small hole that gave me fresh air. In half an
hour I had hacked out a space big enough to
put my shoulders through.
"The wolves, when they saw me again, were
delighted. As for me, I was much pleased to
see them, and said so. At the compliment they
licked their jaws. They thought I was coming
down, but I had something important to do
"I drew my pistol. It was a big old-fashioned
Colt's revolver. With the first round
of seven shots I killed three, and wounded
"Then the rest jumped on them and ate them
all up, didn't they, grandpapa?"
"No, Jimmy, I'm glad to say they didn't.
Wolves in Russian stories do, but American
wolves are not cannibalistic; for this is a civilized
country, you know.
"These wolves didn't even notice their fallen
friends. They devoted their attention wholly to
me, and I assure you, chickens, that I was much
gratified at that.
"I loaded again. It was a good deal of
trouble in those days, when revolvers wore caps.
I aimed very carefully, and killed four more.
The other ten then ran away—at least some
did; three could drag themselves but slowly.
"After loading again I dropped down, and
started for camp. Next morning we came back
and got ten skins, after looking up the three
"And you got only eighty dollars, instead of
one hundred and thirty-six, grandpapa," said
"Well, Jimmy, that was better than furnishing
the pack with raw boy for supper."
"Is that all, grandpapa?"
"Yes, Jenny, dear."
"Do tell us another story."
"Not to-night, chickens. Not to-night.
Grandpapa is old and sleepy. Good night,
dears; and if you begin to dream of wolves, be
sure you change the subject."
Grandpapa walked slowly up stairs.
"Can you make different dreams come,
Jimmy?" said Jenny.
"You goose! Grandpapa was pretending."