For the introduction and chapter one, click here.
For chapter five, click here.
Littledon soon settled sleepily back into its customary peace. Which is not therefore to say that the wolf and the hunt were forgotten. Only that business was gone about, and so too the courtships of the youthful, as were the squabbles of the youthfully married.
Mr. Mackenzie put a fine performance of taxidermy into the wolf, which he mounted to a broad pedestal. The pose which he’d given it for all eternity was quite the most ferocious image the town had ever beheld. It stood upon three of its legs, with the fourth lifted into the air, a front paw, on the side in which it had received the arrows. And the whole creature was turning, baring teeth, as if to add further challenge, as though Mr. Lawson’s pair of arrows had not brought it down.
Arrows were placed into the wounds to complete the representation of the hunt, although Mr. Lawson declined to relinquish his own arrows to the project. He was of the firm opinion that, while the task had been necessary and proper, that it would not do for the town to continue dwelling on such a frenzy of fear and consternation.
Though the opinion was scorned by the greater part of the town, Mr. Lawson adapted Mr. Merritt’s case time and again, that this very wolf might account for all the threat the town may face in the next ten generations. Thus it was best for folks to get on about their lives, and not be given to flights of panic, interpreting every wayward sheep of being carried off by animals that may not even exist. Without the evidence of blood or a print, a sheep may merely have wandered off foolishly. This was not the general way of sheep, however such things happen from time to time.
And certainly no one suspected wolves to be prowling the streets every night. Notions as that had not occurred to anyone in Littledon. The commonest rebuke to Mr. Lawson’s stodginess was that there’d been such a scarcity of wolves in Littledon, having a specimen of one, killed by the baker’s own hand, was remarkable.
To Mr. Lawson however, scarcity of wolves seemed precisely to make his point clear. Littledon did not have real harassment by wolves. Only one pesky creature that had been brought down already. Why should the town speculate and tell the legends of old with such verve? Worked up minds may think another scourge might crest the surrounding hills any minute! All for the scrawny work set upon a table in the dining room of the Littledon Inn.
Quite unreasonably, some made dismissal of Mr. Lawson’s cautioning words. Perhaps, they wondered, wolves being so rarely spotted meant they were masters of the shadows, and could hide from the weak eyes of man where any other creature would be immediately identified.
Reckoned they, this one captured wolf, indeed no quality example of the truly fearsome legends, had managed to make off with stock from at least five flocks. Yet, it had only been spotted on the final day of its crimes. Might not a wily pack manage so much more in espionage and evasion?
At that, a general absence of knowledge only served to bring surety that such was of course true! How could it not be? It not being true was a thing which had to be proved. Only upon a pack of wolves being tracked down and studied at their cunning could such proof be forthcoming. And in event one could not find a pack to make study of, that only served to prove the superior craft, as insisted in speculation. So wolves that were not there, were there all the more and all the more dangerous because of their very absence!
Vincent Conn, in the meantime, had seen his status considerably raised in Littledon compared to that he’d possessed of before the hunt. As a boy, he’d been somewhat rambunctious, and had built up some small amounts of bad credit amongst some for petty annoyances and schemes.
Subsequent to those events, he’d found himself invested of a new confidence and worthiness in the eyes of even those who’d earlier liked him least. A few more gifts came, and more jobs. For as apprentice to his father, there was only so much blacksmithing to be done.
Often finding himself without tasks of ironwork to be done, Vincent ran messages and deliveries for people within the town, being always reliable in that sort of trust. He also took odd labor, which was often undesirable, though the pay was needed. With his father still having many good years of smithing to pass, Vincent would not be able to take over the trade until well into his manhood.
And with his idle time, Vincent decided to be a boy no longer. He put time into a study of wolves, so much that a study could be made. There were some scant records from earlier times, and Vincent also tapped the knowledge of Mr. and Mrs. Goodwin, who were always happy to oblige him with their wisdom.
He had only stretched the truth of the hunt so far, accounting that all which he said could be checked against the others who had attended the mission as well. And as for the wolf itself, anyone could go see it. The weeks had worn some part of the astonishment away, and no everyone knew that the particular beast had been half-starved at worst.
So it was to Vincent’s credit that he could tell all there was to know of wolves in Littledon. Anyone who wanted to be regaled with one of the old legends could get it from him, and though Mr. Goodwin was an excellent teller of tales, he had not Vincent’s youthful vigor and passion to work from.
Vincent could soon enrapture the mind of the hearer, he could mimic the splendid moves of a valiant warrior in mortal combat with a wolf that surely weighed the same as the fighter, pound for pound. Occasionally, Vincent would make this production for some descendant of the hunter of the story, which made the telling all the more exciting.
With grand proclaiming and the noblest of passions, these stories caught upon the virtue of Littledonians, and made them ever sure that, should the time come again, they could each rise up and demonstrate exceeding courage in a gallant fight for town and family.
Numerous young men opined how much they wished to have gone on the hunt, but had been busy with one thing or another that prevented them from having the opportunity. Nothing whatever prevented anyone from partaking of the events which followed the return of the hunters, and no one mentioned how easy it was to have gone in spirit, now seeing the withered wolf that had been pitted against seven grown men.
One thing upon which every man, woman, and child in Littledon was in perfect and settled agreement; Vincent Conn was a hero for his swiftly leading the hunt upon the wolf that only he had managed to see during those weeks of terror.