Way back in 1893, Theodore Roosevelt, the future President of the United States, published his latest book, entitled “The Wilderness Hunter”. It was :
“An Account of the Big Game of the United States and Its Chase with Horse, Hound, and Rifle”
Last time I showed you the first part of a very famous story which I knew Roosevelt had incorporated into his book. It concerns two men, one called Bauman and the other unnamed, who go into the American wilderness to trap animals for their fur. I finished the first instalment of the story with a whole host of disquieting events:
“In the morning, they left to inspect the traps they had set the previous evening, and to put out new ones. They kept together all day and returned towards evening.
Hardly to their astonishment, their lean-to had been again torn down. The visitor of the preceding day had returned and maliciously thrown around their camp kit and bedding, and destroyed the shanty. Its tracks were everywhere. On leaving the camp, it had trod in the soft earth near the brook, and the footprints were as plain as if on snow. And after a careful scrutiny of the trail, it certainly did seem that, whatever the creature was, it had walked off on two legs.”
The men were now uneasy. They gathered a great heap of dead logs and kept up a roaring fire all through the night.”
And now, the nightmare continues…………
“One or the other man stood on guard all the time. Around midnight, the creature came down through the forest opposite, across the brook, and stayed on the hillside for nearly an hour. Branches were crackling as it moved about. Several times it uttered a harsh, grating, long-drawn moan, a peculiarly sinister sound. Yet it never approached the fire.
In the morning, the two trappers decided that they would leave the valley that afternoon. They were the more ready to do this because, despite seeing a good deal of game, they had caught very little.
First they had to gather up their traps. All morning, they kept together, picking up trap after trap, each one empty. Leaving their camp, they had the disagreeable sensation of being followed. In the dense spruce thickets, they occasionally heard a branch snap after they had passed; and now and then, there were slight rustling noises among the small pines to one side of them.
At noon, they were around a couple of miles from camp. In the bright sunlight, their fears seemed absurd to the two armed men, accustomed as they were to face every danger from man, animal, or element. There were still three beaver traps to retrieve from a little pond in a wide ravine nearby. Bauman volunteered to recover these, while his companion went ahead and got their packs ready.
Bauman reached the pond and found three dead beaver in the traps, one of which had been pulled loose and carried into a beaver house. He took several hours in securing and preparing the beaver, and when he started homewards he was worried how low the sun was getting. As he hurried back under the tall trees, the silence and desolation of the forest weighed on him. His feet made no sound on the pine needles, and the slanting sun rays, striking through the straight trunks, created a grey twilight where distant objects glimmered indistinctly. There was nothing to break the ghostly stillness which, on windless days, always broods over these sombre primeval forests.”
“At last, he came to the little glade where the camp lay. He shouted as he approached, but there was no answer. The campfire had gone out, although the thin blue smoke was still curling upwards. Nearby lay the packs wrapped and arranged. At first, Bauman could see nobody. There was no answer to his call. Stepping forward he shouted again. And then his eyes fell on the body of his friend, stretched beside the trunk of a great fallen spruce. Rushing towards it, the horrified trapper found that the body was still warm, but that the neck was broken, and there were four great fang marks in the throat.
The footprints of the unknown creature, printed deep in the soil, told the whole story:
“The poor man had finished his packing and then sat down on the spruce log with his face to the fire. His back faced the dense woods, as he waited for his companion to return. His monstrous assailant must have been lurking nearby in the woods, waiting to catch one of the fur trappers unprepared. He came silently from behind, walking with long, noiseless steps, and seemingly still on two legs. Evidently unheard, it reached the man, and broke his neck by wrenching his head back with its forepaws, while it buried its teeth in his throat. It had not eaten the body, but had gambolled around it in ferocious glee, occasionally rolling over and over it. Then he fled back into the soundless depths of the woods.”
Bauman, utterly unnerved, and believing that the creature was either half-human or half-devil, abandoned everything but his rifle, and rushed off at top speed down the valley, not stopping until he reached the beaver meadows where the hobbled ponies were still grazing. Mounting, he rode onwards through the night, until far beyond the reach of pursuit.”
The book from which this famous story is taken is freely available. Here is the link.
The account begins at page 441, where it is introduced as a “goblin story”. That must have been one heck of a goblin. Still, everything is bigger in the USA, as they say.