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2017年6月 1日 (木)

existing circumstances


The pot had been full for supper, and, as every man couldsee, it was never half emptied - enough was always left forbreakfast. A resolution was accordingly passed that eachshould take his turn of an hour's watch at night, till theglutton was caught in the act.
My hour happened to be from 11 to 12 P.M. I stronglysuspected the thief to be an Indian, and loaded my big pistolwith slugs on the chance. It was a clear moonlight night. Ipropped myself comfortably with a bag of hams; and concealedmyself as well as I could in a bush of artemisia, which wasvery thick all round. I had not long been on the look-outwhen a large grey wolf prowled slowly out of the bushes. Thenight was bright as day; but every one of the men was soundasleep in a circle round the remains of the camp fire. Thewolf passed between them, hesitating as it almost touched acovering blanket. Step by step it crept up to the kettle,took the handle of the lid between its jaws, lifted it off,placed it noiselessly on the ground, and devoured the savourystew.
I could not fire, because of the men. I dared not move, lestI should disturb the robber. I was even afraid the click ofcocking the pistol would startle him and prevent my getting aquiet shot. But patience was rewarded. When satiated, thebrute retired as stealthily as he had advanced; and as hepassed within seven or eight yards of me I let him have it.
Great was my disappointment to  see him scamper off. How wasit possible I could have missed him? I must have fired overhis back. The men jumped to their feet and clutched theirrifles; but, though astonished at my story, were soon at restagain. After this the kettle was never robbed. Four dayslater we were annoyed with such a stench that it was aquestion of shifting our quarters. In hunting for thenuisance amongst the thicket of wormwood, the dead wolf wasdiscovered not twenty yards from our centre.
The reader would not thank me for an account of themonotonous drudgery, the hardships, the quarrellings, whichgrew worse from day to day after we left Fort Laramie. Fredand I were about the only two who were on speaking terms; weclung to each other, as a sort of forlorn security againstcoming disasters. Gradually it was dawning on me that, underthe , the fulfilment of my hopes wouldbe (as Fred had predicted) an impossibility; and that topersist in the attempt to realise them was to courtdestruction. As yet, I said nothing of this to him. PerhapsI was ashamed to. Perhaps I secretly acknowledged to myselfthat he had been wiser  than I, and that my stubbornness wasresponsible for the life itself of every one of the party.