“It is quite safe to keep him, John,” said the Hermit. “We cannot turn him out to starve, for he is too young to care for himself. You will see to-morrow that he will play like any puppy. Brutus and he will be great friends,—they are relatives already. Once upon a time Brutus had a wolf for his ancestor. And as we ourselves know not from whom we may be descended, so must we treat all creatures as our brothers. Yes, this wolfkin will grow up lean and ugly-looking, like any wolf. But we will teach him to be kind and gentle, John, even as Brutus is.”
And the Hermit was right. The wolf-cub soon became the pet and plaything of the animal kingdom. With food and care he grew into a round, roly-poly ball of fur. He played merrily with Brutus and the kittens. And though at first he was a bit rough, they and John taught him better ways, so that he kicked and bit his friends no longer.
As the months went by, they watched him change gradually from cub to wolf. They were sorry to see him lose his puppy looks and frisky manners. But what could they do? It is a great pity, but no one has yet discovered how to make babies of any sort remain babies. Gradually he lost his roundness. He grew longer and longer, until he was stretched out into four feet of gaunt yellowish-gray wolf. But still he remained quiet and gentle with his friends, quick to learn and ready to obey.
He was a perfectly good wolf, and he loved John so dearly that he could scarcely be separated from him. He followed the boy wherever he went, and lay down beside him when he slept, like any watch-dog. And though he was so gentle in the animal kingdom, the Hermit knew that it would go hard with any one who should try to hurt Wolf’s little master.
Yet he and Brutus were the best of friends. The good dog was too noble to be jealous.
THE GREEN STRANGER
For five happy years John lived with the good Hermit, and became a sturdy lad of fourteen before anything new happened of great moment to the animal kingdom. In all this time he had seen no human creature except the Hermit himself. Their hut was so far in the forest that no travelers ever passed that way.
But John was never lonely, for he had the kindest of fathers in the Hermit, and the happiest of comrades and playmates in the circle of pets, ever increasing, who gathered about the abode of peace. Brutus was still his dearest friend. But the wolf was almost as intimate. As for Bruin, he was never a constant dweller with the colony, but came and went at will. Sometimes he disappeared for weeks at a time, and they knew that he was wandering through the forest which stretched for miles in every direction, pathless and uninhabited. And sometimes they wondered what adventures the big brother might be enjoying.
“If only he could tell me!” wished John. But this kind of gossip was still impossible between them.