In a slothful peace both courage will effeminate and manners corrupt. — Francis Bacon

Adventures of Baron Munchausen - R. E. Raspe




Further Hunting Exploits in Russia

The next day I went for a long ride on my new horse, and on my way home through the park I noticed a large animal near some sheds; however, as I was riding very quickly, and twilight had already begun, I failed to notice what it really was.

"On my return home I stabled my horse and hastened back to the park to discover if the animal I had seen were a dog or something else, and as I threaded my way among the still leafless trees the animal came bounding towards me with open jaws. In spite of the darkness, which was increasing every moment, I perceived that it was not a hound but a wolf which stood before me.

"Being quite unarmed, for I had left even my pistols in my saddle-bag, I was in great perplexity. The creature crept gradually nearer and nearer. It was useless to seek safety in flight; besides, in our family it is not customary to evade danger by running away from it. Instinctively, I clenched my fist and thrust it into the wolf's open jaws, pushing on and on for safety's sake, till my arm was in as far as my shoulder. But then I was at a loss what to do, and must confess that I did not find my situation, face to face with a wolf, a very pleasant one.

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe
I THRUST MY FIST INTO THE WOLF'S OPEN JAWS.


"We gazed at each other in a far from loving manner, and in the brute's squinting eyes I read its decision to spring at me the moment I withdrew my arm. Summoning all my strength, while the wolf howled and tried fruitlessly to bite, I seized him by the inner skin, turned him inside out like a glove, and flung him to the ground, where I left him. There he was found the next morning by one of the gardeners, who hastened to spread the tale, for naturally I had not mentioned it, in fact, I took small account of the matter, though the others considered it an heroic deed.

[Illustration] from Baron Munchausen by R. E. Raspe
WE ARRIVED IN SAFETY AT THE TOWN.


"In winter, horse-riding is not customary in Russia, so I entrusted to my groom the two valuable horses, which had been given me by Count Pumstock, and went on my next expedition by sleigh. As I was traversing the last wood, which lies before the outskirts of the town, a gaunt and starving wolf ran full speed after me. He soon overtook the sleigh, and there was no chance of escape. Almost mechanically, I laid myself down flat in the sleigh, and let the horse gallop on. What I wished, but hardly dared to hope or expect, took place. The wolf leapt over me, and, falling furiously upon the horse, began to devour the hinder part of the poor animal, which ran the faster for its pain and terror. Unnoticed, I presently raised my head, and discovered with horror that the wolf had gradually eaten his way into the horse's body. I took advantage of this to fall upon him with my whip. This unexpected attack in the rear frightened him so much that he rushed forward with all his might, the horse's carcass fell to the ground, and there was the wolf harnessed in his place! By dint of whipping him continually we arrived in full career safely at the town, to the terror and surprise of all spectators. I came to a standstill before the Field-marshal's palace, and Count Munnig, who happened to be standing at one of the windows, nearly died with laughter at the sight."