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Title: Wolfshead
Author: Robert E. Howard
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Title: Wolfshead
Author: Robert E. Howard



Fear? your pardon, Messieurs, but the meaning of fear you do not know.
No, I hold to my statement. You are soldiers, adventurers. You have
known the charges of regiments of dragoons, the frenzy of wind-lashed
seas. But fear, real hair-raising, horror-crawling fear, you have not
known. I myself have known such fear; but until the legions of
darkness swirl from hell's gate and the world flames to ruin, will
never such fear again be known to men:

Hark, I will tell you the tale; for it was many years ago and half
across the world; and none of you will ever see the man of whom I tell
you, or seeing, know.

Return, then, with me across the years to a day when I; a reckless
young cavalier, stepped from the small boat that had landed me from
the ship floating in the harbor, cursed the mud that littered the
crude wharf, and strode up the landing toward the castle, in answer to
the invitation of an old friend, Dom Vincente da Lusto.

Dom Vincente was a strange, far-sighted man-a strong man, one who saw
visions beyond the ken of his time. In his veins, perhaps, ran the
blood of those old Phoenicians who, the priests tell us, ruled the
seas and built cities in far lands, in the dim ages. His plan of
fortune was strange and yet successful; few men would have thought of
it; fewer could have succeeded. For his estate was upon the western
coast of that dark, mystic continent, that baffler of explorers--
Africa.

There by a small bay had he cleared away the sullen jungle, built his
castle and his storehouses, and with ruthless hand had he wrested the
riches of the land. Four ships he had: three smaller craft and one
great galleon. These plied between his domains and the cities of
Spain, Portugal, France, and even England, laden with rare woods,
ivory, slaves; the thousand strange riches that Dom Vincente had
gained by trade and by conquest.

Aye, a wild venture, a wilder commerce. And yet might he have shaped
an empire from the dark land, had it not been for the rat-faced
Carlos, his nephew-but I run ahead of my tale.

Look, Messieurs, I draw a map on the table, thus, with finger dipped
in wine. Here lay the small, shallow harbor, and here the wide
wharves: A landing ran thus, up the slight slope with hutlike
warehouses on each side, and here it stopped at a wide, shallow moat.
Over it went a--narrow drawbridge and then one was confronted with a
high palisade of logs set in the ground. This extended entirely around
the castle. The castle itself was built on the model of another,
earlier age; being more for strength than beauty. Built of stone
brought from a great distance; years of labor and a thousand Negroes
toiling--beneath the lash had reared its walls, and now, completely,
it offered an almost impregnable appearance. Such was the--intention
of its builders, for Barbary pirates ranged the coasts, and the horror
of a native uprising lurked ever near.

A space of about a half-mile on every side of the castle was kept
cleared away and roads had been built through the marshy land. All
this had required an immense amount of labor, but manpower was
plentiful. A present to a chief, and he furnished all that was needed,
And Portuguese know how to make men work!

Less than three hundred yards to the east of the castle ran a wide,
shallow river, which emptied into the harbor. The name has entirely
slipt my mind. It was a heathenish title and I could never lay my
tongue to it.

I found that I was not the only friend invited to the castle. It seems
that once a year or some such matter, Dom Vincente brought a host of
jolly companions to his lonely estate and made merry for some weeks,
to make up for the work and solitude of the rest of the year.

In fact, it was nearly night, and a great banquet was in progress when
I entered. I was acclaimed with great delight, greeted boisterously by
friends and introduced to such strangers as were there.

Entirely too weary to take much part in the revelry, I ate, drank
quietly, listened to the toasts and songs, and studied the feasters.

Dom Vincente, of course, I knew, as I had been intimate with him for
years; also his pretty niece, Ysabel, who was one reason I had
accepted his invitation to come to that stinking wilderness. Her
second cousin, Carlos, I knew and disliked-a sly, mincing fellow with
a face like a mink's. Then there was my old friend, Luigi Verenza, an
Italian; and his flirt of a sister, Marcita, making eyes at the men as
usual. Then there was a short, stocky German who called himself Baron
von Scluller; and Jean Desmarte, an out-at-the-elbows nobleman of
Gascony; and Don Florenzo de Seville, a lean, dark, silent man, who
called himself a Spaniard and wore a rapier nearly as long as himself.

There were others, men and women, but it was long ago and all their
names and faces I do not remember. But there was one man whose face
somehow drew my gaze as an alchemist's magnet draws steel. He was a
leanly built man of slightly more than medium height, dressed plainly,
almost austerely, and he wore a sword almost as long as the
Spaniard's.

But it was neither his clothes nor his sword which attracted my
attention. It was his face. A refined, high-bred face, it was furrowed
deep with lines that gave it a weary, haggard expression. Tiny scars
flecked jaw and forehead as if torn by savage claws; I could have
sworn the narrow gray eyes had a fleeting, haunted look in their
expression at times.

I leaned over to that flirt, Marcita, and asked the name of the man,
as it had slipt my mind that we had been introduced.

"De Montour, from Normandy," she answered. "A strange man. I don't
think I like him."

"Then he resists your snares, my little enchantress?" I murmured; long
friendship making me as immune from her anger as from her wiles. But
she chose not to be angry and answered coyly, glancing from under
demurely lowered lashes.

I watched de Montour much, feeling somehow a strange fascination. He
ate lightly, drank much, seldom spoke, and then only to answer
questions.

Presently, toasts making the rounds, I noticed his companions urging
him to rise and give a health. At first he refused, then rose, upon
their repeated urgings, and stood silent for a moment, goblet raised.
He seemed to dominate, to overawe the group of revelers. Then with a
mocking, savage laugh, he lifted the goblet above his head.

"To Solomon," he exclaimed, "who bound all devils! And thrice cursed
be he for that some escaped!"

A toast and a curse in one! It was drunk silently, and with many
sidelong, doubting glances.

That night I retired early, weary of the long sea voyage and my head
spinning from the strength of the wine,--of which Dom Vincente kept
such great stores.

My room was near the top of the castle and looked out toward the
forests of the south and the river. The room was furnished in crude,
barbaric splendor, as was all the rest of the castle.

Going to the window, I gazed out at the arquebusier pacing the castle
grounds just inside the palisade; at the cleared space lying unsightly
and barren in the moonlight; at the forest beyond; at the silent
river.

From the native quarters close to the river bank came the weird
twanging of some rude lute, sounding a barbaric melody.

In the dark shadows of the forest some uncanny nightbird lifted a
mocking voice. A thousand minor notes sounded-birds, and beasts, and
the devil knows what else! Some great jungle cat began a hair-lifting
yowling. I shrugged my shoulders and turned from the windows. Surely
devils lurked in those somber depths.

There came a knock at my door and I opened it, to, admit de Montour.

He strode to the window and gazed at the moon, which rode resplendent
and glorious.

"The moon is almost full, is it not, Monsieur?" he remarked, turning
to me. I nodded, and I could have sworn that he shuddered.

"Your pardon, Monsieur. I will not annoy you further." He turned to
go, but at the door turned and retraced his steps.

"Monsieur," he almost whispered, with a fierce intensity, "whatever
you do, be sure you bar and bolt your door tonight!"

Then he was gone, leaving me to stare after him bewilderedly.

I dozed off to sleep, the distant shouts of the revelers in my ears,
and though I was weary, or perhaps because of it, I slept lightly.
While I never really awoke until morning, sounds and noises seemed to
drift to me through my veil of slumber, and once it seemed that
something was prying and shoving against the bolted door.

As is to be supposed, most of the guests were in a beastly humor the
following day and remained in their rooms most of the morning or else
straggled down late. Besides Dom Vincente there were really only three
of the masculine members sober: de Montour; the Spaniard, de Seville
(as he called himself); and myself. The Spaniard never touched wine,
and though de Montour consumed incredible quantities of it, it never
affected him in any way.

The ladies greeted us most graciously.

"S'truth, Signor," remarked that minx Marcita, giving me her hand with
a gracious air that was like to make me snicker, "I am glad to see
there are gentlemen among us who care more for our company than for
the wine cup; for most of them are most surprizingly befuddled this
morning."

Then with a most outrageous turning of her wondrous eyes, "Methinks
someone was too drunk to be discreet last night--or not drunk enough.
For unless my poor senses deceive me much, someone came fumbling at my
door late in the night."

"Ha!" I exclaimed in quick anger, "some-!"

"No. Hush." She glanced about as if to see that we were alone, then:
"Is it not strange that Signor de Montour, before he retired last
night, instructed me to fasten my door firmly?"

"Strange," I murmured, but did not tell her that he had told me the
same thing.

"And is it not strange, Pierre, that though Signor de Montour left the
banquet hall even before you did, yet he has the appearance of one who
has been up all night?" I shrugged. A woman's fancies are often
strange.

"Tonight," she said roguishly, "I will leave my door unbolted and see
whom I catch."

"You will do no such thing."

She showed her little teeth in a contemptuous smile and displayed a
small, wicked dagger.

"Listen, imp. De Montour gave me: the same warning he did you.
Whatever he knew, whoever prowled the halls last night, the object was
more apt murder than amorous adventure. Keep you your doors bolted.
The lady Ysabel shares your room, does she not?"

"Not she. And I send my woman to the slave quarters at night," she
murmured, gazing mischievously at me from beneath drooping eyelids..

"One would think you a girl of no character from your talk," I told
her, with the frankness of youth and of long friendship. "Walk with
care, young lady, else I tell your brother to spank you."

And I walked away to pay my respects to Ysabel. The Portuguese girl
was the very opposite of Marcita, being a shy, modest young thing, not
so beautiful as the Italian, but exquisitely pretty in an appealing,
almost childish air. I once had thoughts-Hi ho! To be young and
foolish!

Your pardon, Messieurs. An old man's mind wanders. It was of de
Montour that I meant to tell you--de Montour and Dom Vincente's
mink-faced cousin.

A band of armed natives were thronged about the gates, kept at a
distance by the Portuguese soldiers. Among them were some score of
young men and women all naked, chained neck to neck. Slaves they were,
captured by some warlike tribe and brought for sale. Dom Vincente
looked them over personally.

Followed a long haggling and bartering, of which I quickly wearied and
turned away, wondering that a man of Dom Vincente's rank could so
demean himself as to stoop to trade.

But I strolled back when one of the natives of the village nearby came
up and interrupted the sale with a long harangue to Dom Vincente.

While they talked de Montour came up, and presently Dom Vincente
turned to us and said, "One of the woodcutters of the village was torn
to pieces by a leopard or some such beast last night. A strong young
man and unmarried."

"A leopard? Did they, see it?" suddenly asked de Montour, and when Dom
Vincente said no, that it came and went in the night, de Montour
lifted a trembling hand and drew it across his forehead, as if to
brush away cold sweat.

"Look you, Pierre," quoth Dom Vincente, "I have here a slave who,
wonder of wonders, desires to be your man. Though the devil only knows
why."

He led up a slim young Jakri, a mere youth, whose main asset seemed a
merry grin.

"He is yours," said Dom Vincente. "He is goodly trained and will make
a fine servant. And look ye, a slave is of an advantage over a
servant, for all he requires is food and a loincloth or so with a
touch of the whip to keep him in his place."

It was not long before. I learned why Gola wished to be "my man,"
choosing me among all the rest. It was because of my hair. Like many
dandies of that day, I. wore it long and curled, the strands falling
to my shoulders. As it happened, I was the only man of the party who
so wore my hair, and Gola would sit and gaze at it in silent
admiration for hours at a time, or until, growing nervous under his
unblinking scrutiny, I would boot him forth.

It was that night that a brooding animosity, hardly apparent, between
Baron von Schiller and Jean Desmarie broke out into a flame.

As usual, woman was the cause. Marcita carried-on a most outrageous
flirtation with both of them.

That was not wise. Desmarte was a wild young fool. Von Schiller was a
lustful beast. But when, Messieurs, did woman ever use wisdom?

Their hare flamed to a murderous fury when the German sought to kiss
Marcita.

Swords were clashing in an instant. But before Dom Vincente could
thunder a command to halt, Luigi was between the combatants, and had
beaten their swords down, hurling them back viciously.

"Signori," said he softly, but with a fierce intensity, "is it the
part of high-bred signori to fight over my sister? Ha, by the toenails
of Satan, for the toss of a coin I would call you both out! You,
Marcita, go to your chamber, instantly, nor leave until I give you
permission."

And she went, for, independent though she was, none cared to face the
slim, effeminate-appearing youth when a tigerish snarl curled his
lips, a murderous gleam lightened his dark eyes.

Apologies were made, but from the glances the two rivals threw at each
other, we knew that the quarrel was not forgotten and would blaze
forth again at the slightest pretext.

Late that night I woke suddenly with a strange, eery feeling of
horror. Why' I could not say. I rose, saw that the door was firmly
bolted, and seeing Gola asleep art the floor, kicked him awake
irritably.

And just as he got up, hastily, rubbing himself, the silence was
broken by a wild scream, a scream that rang through the castle and
brought a startled shout from the arquebusier pacing the palisade; a
scream from the mouth of a girl, frenzied with terror.

Gola squawked and dived behind the divan. I jerked the door open and
raced down the dark corridor. Dashing down a u-inding stair, I caromed
into someone at the bottom and we tumbled headlono.

He rasped something and I recognized the voice of Jean Desmarte. I
hauled him to his feet, and raced along, he following; the screams had
ceased, but the whole castle was in an uproar, voices shouting, the
clank of weapons, lights flashing up, Dom Vincente's voice shouting
for the soldiers, the noise of armed men rushing through the rooms and
falling over each other. With all the confusion, Desmarte, the
Spaniard, and I reached Marcita's room just as Luigi darted inside and
snatched his sister into his arms.

Others rushed in, carrying lights and weapons, shouting, demanding to
know what was occurring.

The girl lay quietly in her brother's arms, her dark hair loose and
rippling over her shoulders, her dainty night-garments torn to shreds
and exposing her'lovely body. Long scratches showed upon her arms,
breasts and shoulders.

Presently, she opened her eyes, shuddered, then shrieked wildly and
clung frantically to Luigi, begging him not to let something take her.

"The door!" she whimpered. "I left it unbarred. And something crept
into my room through the darkness. I struck at it with my dagger and
it hurled me to the floor, tearing, tearing at me. Then I fainted."

"Where is von Schiller?" asked the Spaniard, a fierce glint in his
dark eyes. Every man glanced at his neighbor. All the guests were
there except the German. I noted de Montour gazing at the terrified
girl, his face more haggard than usual. And I thought it strange that
he wore no weapon.

"Aye, von Schiller!" exclaimed Desmarte fiercely. And half of us
followed Dom Vincente out into the corridor. We began a vengeful
search through the castle, and in a small, dark hallway we found von
Schiher. On his face he lay, in a crimson, ever-widening stain.

"This is the work of some native!" exclaimed Desmarte, face aghast.

"Nonsense," bellowed Dom Vincente. "No native from the outside could
pass the soldiers. All slaves, von Schiller's among them, were barred
and bolted in the slave quarters, except Cola, who sleeps in Pierre's
room, and Ysabel's woman."

"But who else could have done this deed?" exclaimed Desmarte in a
fury.

"You!" I said abruptly; "else why ran you so swiftly away from the
room of Marcita?"

"Curse you, you lie!" he shouted, and his swift-drawn sword leaped for
my breast; but quick as he was, the Spaniard was quicker. Desmarte's
rapier clattered against the wall and Desmarte stood like a statue,
the Spaniard's motionless point just touching his throat.

"Bind him," said the Spaniard without passion. "Put down your blade,
Don FIorenzo," commanded Dom Vincente, striding forward and dominating
the scene. "Signor Desmarte, you are one of my best friends, but I am
the only law here and duty must be done. Give your word that you will
not seek to escape."

"I give it," replied the Gascon calmly. "I acted hastily. I apologize.
I was not intentionally running away, but the halls and corridors of
this cursed castle confuse me." Of us all, probably but one man
believed him.

"Messieurs!" De Montour stepped forward. "This youth is not guilty.
Turn the German over."

Two soldiers did as he asked. De Montour shuddered, pointing. The rest
of us glanced once, then recoiled in horror.

"Could man have done that thing?" "With a dagger--" began someone.

"No dagger makes wounds like that," said the Spaniard: "The German was
torn to pieces by the talons of some frightful beast."

We glanced about us, half expecting some hideous monster to leap upon
us from the shadows.

We searched that castle; every foot, every inch of it. And we found no
trace of any beast.

Dawn was breaking when I returned to my room, to find that Cola had
barred himself in; and it took me nearly a half-hour to convince him
to let me in. Having smacked him soundly and berated him for his
cowardice, I told him what had taken place, as he could understand
French and: could speak a weird mixture which he proudly called
French.

His mouth gaped and only the whites of his eyes showed as the tale
reached its climax.

"Ju ju!" he whispered fearsomely. "Fetish man!" Suddenly an idea came
to me. I had heard vague tales, tittle more than hints of legends, of
the devilish leopard cult that existed on the West Coast. No white man
had ever seen one of its votaries, but Dom Vincente had told us tales
of beast-men, disguised in skins of leopards, who stole through the
midnight jungle and slew and devoured. A ghastly thrill traveled up
and down my spine, and in an instant I had Gola in a grasp which made
him veil.

"Was that a leopard-man?" I hissed, shaking him viciously.

"Massa, massa!" he gasped. "Me good boy! Ju ju man Qet! More besser no
tell!"

"You'll tell--me!" I gritted, renewing my endeavors, until, his hands
waving feeble protests, he promised to tell me what he knew.

"No leopard-man!" he whispered, and his eyes grew big with
supernatural fear. "Moon, he full, woodcutter find, him heap clawed.
Find 'nother woodcutter. Big Massa (Dom Vincente) say, 'leopard.' No
leopard. But leopard-man, he come to kill. Something kill leopardman!
Heap claw! Hai, hai! Moon full again. Something come in, lonely hut;
claw um woman, claw um pick'nin. I an find um claw up. Big Massa say
'leopard..' Full moon again, and woodcutter find, heap clawed. Now
come in castle. No leopard. But always footmarks of a man'."

I gave a startled, incredulous exclamation.

It was true, Gola averred. Always the footprints of a man led away
from the scene of the murder. Then why did the natives not tell the
Big Massa that he might hunt down the fiend? Here Gala assumed a
crafty expression and whispered in my ear, The footprints were of a
man who wore shoes!

Even assuming that Gola was lying, I felt a thrill of unexplainable
horror. Who, then, did the natives believe was doing these frightful
murders?

And he answered: Dom Vincente!

By this time, Messieurs, my mind was in a whirl. What was the meaning
of all this? Who stew the German and sought to ravish Marcita? And as
I reviewed the crime, it appeared to me that murder rather than rape
was the object of the attack.

Why did de Montour warn us, and then appear to have knowledge of the
crime, telling us that Desmarte was innocent and then proving it?

It was all beyond me.

The tale of the slaughter got among the natives, in spite of all we
could do, and they appeared restless and nervous, and thrice that day
Dom Vincente had a black lashed for insolence. A brooding atmosphere
pervaded the castle.

I considered going to Dom Vincente with Gola's tale, but decided to
wait awhile.

The women kept their chambers that, day, the men were restless and
moody. Dom Vincente announced that the sentries would be doubled and
some would patrol the corridors of the castle itself. I found myself
musing cynically that if Gola's suspicions were true, sentries would
be of little good.

I am not, Messieurs, a man to brook such a situation with patience.
And I was young then. So as we drank before retiring, I flung my
goblet on the table and angrily announced that in spite of man, beast
or devil, I slept that night with doors flung wide. And I tramped
angrily to my chamber.

Again, as on the first night, de Montour came. And his face was as a
man who has looked into the gaping gates of hell.

"I have come," he said, "to ask you--nay, Monsieur, to implore you-to
reconsider your rash determination." I shook my head impatiently..

"You are 'resolved? Yes? Then I ask you do to this for me, that after
I enter my chamber, you will bolt my doors from the outside."

I did as he asked, and then made my way back to my chamber, my mind in
a maze of wonderment. I had sent Gola to the slave quarters, and I
laid rapier and dagger close at hand. Nor did I go to bed, but
crouched in a great chair, in the darkness. Then I had much ado to
keep from sleeping. To keep myself awake, I fell to musing on the
strange words of de Montour. He seemed to be laboring under great
excitement; his eyes hinted of ghastly mysteries known to him alone.
And yet his face was not that of a wicked man.

Suddenly the notion took me to go to his chamber and talk with him.

Walking those dark passages was a shuddersome task, but eventually I
stood before de Montour's door. I called softly. Silence. I reached
out a hand and felt splintered fragments of wood. Hastily I struck
flint and steel which I carried, and the flaming tinder showed the
great oaken door sagging on its mighty hinges; showed a door smashed
and splintered from the inside: And the chamber of de Montour was
unoccupied.

Some instinct prompted me to hurry back to my room, swiftly but
silently, shoeless feet treading softly. And as I neared the door, T
was aware of something in the darkness before me. Something which
crept in from a side corridor and glided stealthily along.

In a wild panic of, fear I leaped, striking wildly and aimlessly in
the darkness. All my clenched fist encountered a human head, and
something went down with a crash. Again I struck a light; a man lay
senseless on the floor, and he was de Montour.

I thrust a candle into a niche in the Wall, and just then de Montour's
eyes opened and he rose uncertainly. "You!" I exclaimed, hardly
knowing what I said. "You, of all men!"

He merely nodded.

"You killed von Sehiller?"

"Yes."

I recoiled with a gasp of horror.

"Listen." He raised his hand. "Take your rapier and run me through. No
man will touch you."

"No," I exclaimed. "I can not."

"Then, quick," he said hurriedly, "get into your chamber and bolt the
door. Haste! It will return!"

"What will return?" I asked, with a thrill of horror. "If it will harm
me, it will harm you. Come into the chamber with me."

"No, no!" he fairly shrieked, springing back from my outstretched arm.
"Haste, haste! It left me for an instant, but it will return." Then in
a low-pitched voice of indescribable horror: "It is returning. It is
here now!"

And I felt a something, a formless, shapeless presence near. A thing
of frightfulness.

De Montour was standing, legs braced, arms thrown back, fists
clenched. The muscles bulged beneath his skin, his eyes widened and
narrowed, the veins stood out upon his forehead as if in great
physical effort. As I looked, to my horror, out of nothing, a
shapeless, nameless something took vague form! Like a shadow it moved
upon de Montour.

It was hovering about him! Good God, it was merging, becoming one with
the man!

De Montour swayed; a great gasp escaped him. The dim thing vanished.
De Montour wavered. Then he turned toward me, and may God grant that I
never look on a face like that again!

It was a hideous, a bestial face. The eyes gleamed with a frightful
ferocity; the snarling lips were drawn back from gleaming teeth, which
to my startled gaze appeared more like bestial fangs than human teeth.

Silently the thing (I can not call it a human) slunk toward me.
Gasping with horror I sprang back and through the door, just as the
thing launched itself through the air, with a sinuous motion which
even then made me think of a leaping wolf. I slammed the door, holding
it against the frightful thing which hurled itself again and again
against it.

Finally it desisted and I heard it slink stealthily off down the
corridor. Faint and exhausted I sat down, waiting, listening. Through
the open window wafted the breeze, bearing all the scents of Africa,
the spicy and the foul. From the native village came the sound of a
native drum. Other drums answered farther up the river and back in the
bush. Then from somewhere in the jungle, horridly incongruous, sounded
the long, high-pitched call of a timber wolf. My soul revolted.

Dawn brought a tale of terrified villagers, of a Negro woman torn by
some fiend of the night, barely escaping. And to de Montour I went:

On the way I met Dom Vincente: He was perplexed and angry.

"Some hellish thing is at work in this castle," he said. "Last night,
though I have said naught of it to anyone, something leaped upon the
back of one of the arquebusiers, tore the leather jerkin from his
shoulders and pursued him to the barbican. More, someone locked de
Montour into his room last night, and he was forced to smash the door
to get out."

He strode on, muttering to himself, and I proceeded down the stairs,
more puzzled than ever.

De Montour sat upon a stool, gazing out the window. An indescribable
air of weariness was about him.

His long hair was uncombed and tousled, his garments were tattered.
With a shudder I saw faint crimson stains upon his hands,-and noted
that the nails were torn and broken.

He looked up as I came in, and waved me to a seat. His face was worn
and haggard, but was that of a man.

After a moment's silence, he spoke.

"I will tell you my strange tale. Never before has it passed my lips,
and why I tell you, knowing that you will not believe me, I can not
say."

And then I listened to what was surely the wildest, the most
fantastic, the weirdest tale ever heard by man.

"Years ago," said de Montour, "I was upon a military mission in
northern France. Alone, I was forced to pass through the fiendhaunted
woodlands of Villefere. In those frightful forests I was beset by an
inhuman, a ghastly thing-a werewolf. Beneath a midnight moon we
fought, and slew it. Now this is the truth: that if a werewolf is
slain in the half-form of a man, its ghost will haunt its slayer
through eternity. But if it is slain as a wolf, hell gapes to receive
it. The true werewolf is not (as many think) a man who may take the
form of a wolf, but a wolf who takes the form of a man!

"Now listen, my friend, and I will tell you of the wisdom, the hellish
knowledge that is mine, gained through many a frightful deed, imparted
to me amid the ghastly shadows of midnight forests where fiends and
half-beasts roamed.

"In the beginning, the world was strange, misshapen. Grotesque beasts
wandered through its jungles. Driven from another world, ancient
demons and fiends came in great numbers and settled upon this newer,
younger world. Long the forces of good and evil warred.

"A strange beast, known as man, wandered among the other beasts, and
since good or bad must have a concrete form ere either accomplishes
its desire, the spirits of good entered man. The fiends entered other
beasts, reptiles and birds; and long and fiercely waged the age-old
battle. But man conquered. The great dragons and serpents were slain
and with them the demons. Finally, Solomon, wise beyond the ken of
man, made great war upon them, and by virtue of his wisdom, slew,
seized and bound. But there were some which were the fiercest, the
boldest, and though Solomon drove them out he could not conquer them.
Those had taken the form of wolves. As the ages passed, wolf and demon
became merged. No longer could the fiend leave the body of the wolf at
will. In many instances, the savagery of the wolf overcame the
subtlety of the demon and enslaved him, so the wolf became again only
a beast, a fierce, cunning beast, but merely a beast. But of the
werewolves, there are many, even yet."

"And during the time of the full moon, the wolf may take the form, or
the half-form of a man. When the moon hovers at her zenith, however,
the wolf-spirit again takes ascendency and the werewolf becomes a true
u-olf once more. But if it is slain in the form of a man, then the
spirit is free to haunt its slayer through the ages."

"Harken now. I had thought to have slain the thing after it had
changed to its true shape. But I slew it an instant too soon. The
moon, though it approached the zenith, had not yet reached it, nor had
the thing taken on fully the wolf-form."

"Of this I knew nothing and went my way. But when the neat time
approached for the full moon, I began to be aware of a strange,
malicious influence. An atmosphere of horror hovered in the air and I
was aware of inexplicable, uncanny impulses.

"One night in a small village in the center of a great forest, the
influence came upon me with full power. It was night, and the moon,
nearly full, was rising over the forest. And between the moon and me,
I saw, floating in the upper air, ghostly and barely discernible, the
outline of a wolf's head!

"I remember little of what happened thereafter. I remember, dimly,
clambering into the silent street, remember struggling, resisting
briefly, vainly, and the rest is a crimson maze, until I came to
myself the next morning and found my garments and hands caked and
stained crimson; and heard the horrified chattering of the villagers,
telling of a pair of clandestine lovers, slaughtered in a ghastly
manner, scarcely outside the village, torn to pieces as if by wild
beasts, as if by wolves.

"From that village I fled aghast, but I fled not alone. In the day I
could not feel the drive of my fearful captor, but when night fell and
the moon rose, I ranged the silent forest, a frightful-thing, a slayer
of humans, a fiend in a man's body.

"God, the battles I have fought! But always it overcame me and drove
me ravening after some new victim. But after the moon had passed its
fullness, the thing's power over me ceased suddenly. Nor did it return
until three nights before the moon was full again.

"Since then I have roamed the world-fleeing, fleeing, seeking to
escape. Always the thing follows, taking possession of my body when
the moon is full. Gods, the frightful deeds I have done!

"I would have slain myself long ago, but I dare not. For the soul of a
suicide is accurst, and my soul would be forever hunted through the
flames of hell. And harken, most frightful of all, my slain body would
for ever roam the earth, moved and inhabited by the soul of the
werewolf! Can any thought be more ghastly?

"And I seem immune to the weapons of man. Swords have pierced me,
daggers have hacked me. I am covered with scars. Yet never have they
struck me down. In Germany they bound and led me to the block. There
would I have willingly placed my head, but the thing came upon me, and
breaking my bonds, I slew and fled. Up and down the world I have
wandered, leaving horror and slaughter in my trail. Chains, cells, can
not hold me. The thing is fastened to me through all eternity.

"In desperation I accepted Dom Vincente's invitation, for look you,
none knows of my frightful double life, since no one could recognize
me in the clutch of the demon; and few, seeing me, live to tell of it.

"My hands are red, my soul doomed to everlasting flames, my mind is
torn with remorse for my crimes. And yet I can do nothing to help
myself. Surely, Pierre, no man ever knew the hell that I have known.

"Yes, I slew von Schiller, and I sought, to destroy the girl Marcita.
Why I did not, I can not say, for I have slain both women and men.

"Now, if you will, take your sword and slav me, and with my last
breath I will give you the good God's blessing. No?

"You know now my tale and you see before you a man, fiend-haunted for
all eternity."

My mind was spinning with wonderment as I left the room of de Montour.
What to do, I knew not. It seemed likely that he would yet murder us
all, and yet I could not bring myself to tell Dom Vincente all. From
the bottom of my soul I pitied de Montour.

So I kept my peace, and in the days that followed I made occasion to
seek him out and converse with him. A real friendship sprang up
between us.

About this time that black devil, Gola, began to wear an air of
suppressed excitement, as if he knew something he wished desperately
to tell, but would not or else dared not.

So the days passed in feasting, drinking and hunting, until one night
de Montour came to my chamber and pointed silently at the moon which
was just rising.

"Look ye," he said, "I have a plan. I will give it out that I am going
into the jungle for hunting and will go forth, apparently for several
days. But at night I will return to the castle, and you must lock me
into the dungeon which is used as a storeroom."

This we did, and I managed to slip down twice a day and carry food and
drink to my friend. He insisted on remaining in the dungeon even in
the day, for though the fiend had never exerted its influence over him
in the daytime, and he believed it powerless then, yet he would take
no chances.

It was during this time that I began to notice that Dom Vincente's
mink-faced cousin, Carlos, was forcing his attentions upon Ysabel, who
was his second cousin, and who seemed to resent those attentions.

Myself, I would have challenged him for a duel for the toss of a coin,
for I despised him, but it was really none of my affair. However, it
seemed that Ysabel feared him.

My friend Luigi, by the way, had become enamored of the dainty
Portuguese girl, and was making swift love to her daily.

And de Montour sat in his cell and reviewed his ghastly deeds until he
battered the bars with his bare hands.

And Don Florenzo wandered about the castle grounds like a dour
Mephistopheles.

And the other guests rode and quarreled and drank.

And Gola slithered about, eyeing me if always on the point of
imparting momentous information. What wonder if my nerves became
rasped to the shrieking point?

Each day the natives grew surlier and more and more sullen and
intractable.

One night, not long before the full of the moon, I entered the dungeon
where de Montour sat.

He looked up quickly.

"You dare much, coming to me in the night."

I shrugged my shoulders, seating myself.

A small barred window let in the night scents and sounds of Africa.

"Hark to the native drums," I said. "For the past week they have
sounded almost incessantly."

De Montour assented.

"The natives are restless. Methinks 'tis deviltry they are planning.
Have you noticed that Carlos is much among them?"

"No," I answered, "but 'tis like there will be a break between him and
Luigi. Luigi is paying court to Ysabel."

So we talked, when suddenly de Montour became silent and moody,
answering only in monosyllables.

The moon rose and peered in at the barred windows. De Montour's face
was illuminated by its beams.

And then the hand of horror grasped me. On the wall behind de Montour
appeared a shadow, a shadow clearly defined of a wolf's head!

At the same instant de Montour felt its influence. With a shriek he
bounded from his stool.

He pointed fiercely, and as with trembling hands I slammed and bolted
the door behind me, I felt him hurl his weight against it. As I fled
up the stairway I heard a wild raving and battering at the iron-bound
door. But with all the werewolf's might the great door held.

As I entered my room, Gola dashed in and gasped out the tale he had
been keeping for days.

I listened, incredulously, and then dashed forth to find Dom
Vincente.'

I was told that Carlos had asked him to accompany him to the village
to arrange a sale of slaves.

My informer was Don Florenzo of Seville, and when I gave him a brief
outline of Gola's tale; he accompanied me.

Together we dashed through the castle gate, flinging a word to the
guards, and down the landing toward the village.

Dom Vincente, Dom Vincente, walk with care, keep sword loosened in its
sheath! Fool, fool, to walk in the night with Carlos, the traitor!

They were nearing the village when we caught up with them. "Dom
Vincente!" I exclaimed; "return instantly to the castle. Carlos is
selling you into the hands of the natives! Gola has told me that he
lusts for your wealth and for Ysabel! A terrified native babbled to
him of booted footprints near the places where the woodcutters were
murdered, and Carlos has made the blacks believe that the slayer was
you! Tonight the natives were to rise and slay every man in the castle
except Carlos! Do you not believe me, Dom Vincente?"

"Is this the truth, Carlos?" asked Dom Vincente, in amaze.

Carlos laughed mockingly.

"The fool speaks truth," he said, "but it accomplishes you nothing.
Ho!"

He shouted as he leaped for Dom Vincente. Steel flashed in the
moonlight and the Spaniard's sword was through Carlos ere he could
move.

And the shadows rose about us. Then it was back to back, sword and
dagger, three men against a hundred. Spears flashed, and a fiendish
yell went up from savage throats. I spitted three natives in as many
thrusts and then went down from a stunning swing from a warclub, and
an instant later Dom Vincente fell upon me, with a spear in one arm
and another through the leg. Don Florenzo was standing above us, sword
leaping like a live thing, when a charge of the arquebusiers swept the
river bank clear and we were borne into the castle.

The black hordes came with a rush, spears flashing like a wave of
steel, a thunderous roar of savagery going up to the skies.

Time and again they swept up the slopes, bounding the moat, until they
were swarming over the palisades. And time and again the fire of the
hundred-odd defenders hurled them back.

They had set fire to the plundered warehouses, and their light vied
with the light of the moon. Just across the river there was a larger
storehouse, and about this hordes of the natives gathered, tearing it
apart for plunder.

"Would that they would drop a torch upon it," said Dom Vincente, "for
naught is stored therein save some thousand pounds of gunpowder. I
dared not store the treacherous stuff this side of the river. All the
tribes of the river and coast have gathered for our slaughter and all
my ships are upon the seas. We may hold out awhile, but eventually
they will swarm the palisade and put us to the slaughter."

I hastened to the dungeon wherein de Montour sat. Outside the door I
called to him and he bade me enter in voice which told me the fiend
had left him for an instant.

"The blacks have risen," I told him.

"I guessed as much. How goes the battle?"

I gave him the details of the betrayal and the fight, and mentioned
the powder-house across the river. He sprang to his feet.

"Now by my hag-ridden soul!" he exclaimed. "I will fling the dice once
more with hell! Swift, let me out of the castle! I will essay to swim
the river and set off yon powder!"

"It is insanity!" I exclaimed. "A thousand blacks lurk between the
palisades and the river, and thrice that number beyond! The' river
itself swarms with crocodiles!"

"I will attempt it!" he answered, a great light in his face. "If I can
reach it, some thousand natives will lighten the siege; if I am slain,
then my soul is free and mayhap will gain some forgiveness for that I
gave my life to atone for my crimes."

Then, "Haste," he exclaimed, "for the demon is returning! Already I
feel his influence! Haste ye!"

For the castle gates we sped, and as de Montour ran he gasped as a man
in a terrific battle.

At the gate he pitched headlong, then rose, to spring through it. Wild
yells greeted him from the natives.

The arquebusiers shouted curses at him and at me. Peering down from
the top of the palisades I saw him turn from side to side uncertainly.
A score of natives were rushing recklessly forward, spears raised.

Then the eery wolf-yell rose to the skies, and de Montour bounded
forward. Aghast, the natives paused, and before a man of them could
move he was among them. Wild shrieks, not of rage, but of terror.

In amazement the arquebusiers held their fire.

Straight through the group of blacks de Montour charged, and when they
broke and fled, three of them fled not.

A dozen steps de Montour took in pursuit; then stopped stock-still. A
moment he stood so while spears flew about him, then turned and ran
swiftly in the direction of the river.

A few steps from the river another band of blacks barred his way. In
the famines light of the burning houses the scene was clearly
illuminated. A thrown spear tore through de Montour's shoulder.
Without pausing in his stride he tore it forth and drove it through a
native, leaping over his body to get among the others. They could not
face the fiend-driven white man. With shrieks they fled, and de
Montour, bounding upon the' back of one, brought him down.

Then he rose, staggered and sprang to the river bank. An instant he
paused there and then vanished in the shadows.

"Name of the devil!" gasped Dom Vincente at my shoulder. "What manner
of man is that? Was that de Montour?"

I nodded. The wild yells of the natives rose above the crackle of the
arquebus fire. They were massed thick about the great warehouse across
the river.

"They plan a great rush," said Dom Vincente. "They will swarm clear
over the palisade, methinks. Ha!"

A crash that seemed to rip the skies apart! A burst of flame that
mounted to the stars! The castle rocked with the explosion. Then
silence, as the smoke, drifting away, showed only a great crater where
the warehouse had stood.

I could tell of how Dom Vincente led a charge, crippled as he was, out
of the castle gate and, down the slope, to fall upon the terrified
blacks who had escaped the explosion. I could tell of the slaughter,
of the victory and the pursuit of the fleeing natives.

I could tell, too, Messieurs, of how I became separated from the band
and of how I wandered far into the jungle, unable to find my way back
to the coast.

I could tell how I was captured by a wandering band of slave raiders,
and of how I escaped. But such is not my intention. In itself it would
make a long tale; and it is of de Montour that I am speaking.

I thought much of the things that had passed and wondered if indeed de
Montour reached the storehouse to blow it to the skies or whether it
was but the deed of chance.

That a man could swim that reptile-swarming river, fiend-driven though
he was, seemed impossible. And if he blew up the storehouse, he must
have gone up with it.

So one night I pushed my way wearily through the jungle and sighted
the coast, and close to the shore a small, tumbledown but of thatch.
To it I went, thinking to sleep therein if insects and reptiles would
allow.

I entered the doorway and then stopped short. Upon a makeshift stool
sat a man. He looked up as I entered and the rays of the moon fell
across his face.

I started back with a ghastly thrill of horror. It was de Montour, and
the moon was full!

Then as I stood, unable to flee, he rose and came toward me. And his
face, though haggard as of a man who has looked into hell, was the
face of a sane man.

"Come in, my friend," he said, and there was a great peace in his
voice. "Come in and fear me not. The fiend has left me forever."

"But tell me, how conquered you?" I exclaimed as I grasped his hand.

"I fought a frightful battle, as I ran to the river," he answered,
"for the fiend had me in its grasp and drove me to fall upon the
natives. But for the first, time my soul and mind gained ascendency
for an instant, an instant just long enough to hold me to my purpose.
And I believe the good saints came to my aid, for I was giving my life
to save life.

"I leaped into the river and swam, and in an instant the crocodiles
were swarming about me.

"Again in the clutch of the fiend I fought them, there in the river.
Then suddenly the thing left me.

"I climbed from the river and fired the warehouse."

"The explosion hurled me hundreds of feet, and for days I wandered
witless through the jungle."

"But the full moon came, and came again, and I felt not the influence
of the fiend.

"I am free, free!" And a wondrous note of exultation, nay, exaltation,
thrilled his words:

"My soul is free. Incredible as it seems, the demon lies drowned upon
the bed of, the river, or else inhabits the body of one of the savage
reptiles that swim the ways of the Niger."



THE END



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