Their parents had told them so many times,
“Don’t go anywhere near the forest after dark”.
Robert and Sarah had stayed too long at the birthday party of their friend, and nobody was going their way when the party came to an end.
They had started to walk home, but Robert said it would be much quicker if they were to cut through the forest.
Sarah wasn’t too happy to do this, but Robert was insistent.
“Come on Sarah, we will be home much sooner if we go this way,” he said.
Reluctantly she agreed and followed him into the dark trees.
As they walked, Robert began to whistle, a sure sign to Sarah that he was nervous.
“Let’s go back Robert. We are going to get lost in here,” she said quietly, but he paid her no mind, and boldly strode deeper into the dense forest.
Sarah hurried along, afraid to go either way alone.
In the gloom ahead they could see a dim light.
“There you are,” cried Robert, “Civilisation ahead.”
She could see that he was elated with his sense of direction, but as they neared the light she realised that they were still deep in the forest and that the light was coming from the window of a little cabin.
She had never seen a cabin in this forest before, and her curiousity slowly turned to dread.
“Robert; it isn’t what you think it is, it’s a cabin,” she whispered.
“I can see it’s a cabin, but who owns it, for I’ve never seen a cabin here in the forest before?”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care,” replied Sarah.
Let’s just keep going and get home as fast as we can."
As they were about to continue walking, the cabin door was flung wide open and a huge man stood within its frame. He was holding a gun.
“Who goes there?” he demanded in a threatening tone.
Robert appeared to have lost the ability to speak, so Sarah said,“It’s only we two, Robert and Sarah. We’re sorry to have disturbed you, but we are on our way home and we are cutting through the forest.”
“Show yourselves,” ordered the man, in an even gruffer voice.
Slowly they walked into the weak rays of the light.
“Come inside,” said the man as he stepped to one side.
They entered the cabin very nervously. It was sparsely furnished and had no comforts at all. Just a table and two chairs and a small bed.
In the corner was an oak chest and an open fireplace.
“Where do you both live?” asked the man.
“On the other side of the forest,” replied Robert, who had now found his voice again.
“We are making our way home, and our parents will be worried that we are so late.”
“I should think they will. Haven’t they ever told you to avoid the forest after dark?” he questioned.
“Yes, they have, but we are so late that we thought it would be quicker to come throught the forest, rather than to walk right around it,” said Sarah.
“Well, I had better walk with you as there are wolves in this forest after dark,” said the man.
“Wolves!, exclaimed Robert, there are no wolves here, at least I’ve never heard of anyone ever having seen or heard one, ever.”
The man just looked at Robert with knowing eyes and shrugged himself into a furry jacket.
“Let’s be getting you two home,” he said.
He led the way through the pitch-black forest and they seemed to walk for such a long time.
Suddenly the man stopped and signalled them to be quiet. There was a stirring in the undergrowth and a huge dog leapt toward the man.
He had already readied his gun and he fired at the great beast
The animal collapsed to the floor and lay quite still.The sound of the gun echoed through the still forest, and the pungent aroma of the shot hung heavily in the air.
They continued for a short while until the man said,“There is your village. Make sure to never come this way again after dark. I won’t always be here to help you.” At that he turned about and quickly disappeared back into the forest.
Sarah and Robert hurried home.
They said nothing to their parents about the man, and about coming through the forest. They knew well that they would be in big trouble with their parents.
The next morning they went shopping in the village for their mother. The old shopkeeper was a friendly sort and Robert casually asked her about their ever having been a cabin in the forest. The shopkeeper laughed and said that there was a cabin there, about a hundred years ago. A hunter and his wife had lived there, but she had been killed by a wolf. The man died in a terrible fire when the cabin burned down.
Sarah and Robert looked at each other in amazement, then they hurried home with their purchases.
After delivering their mothers groceries they again headed into the forest. They were looking for the dead wolf, but they weren’t surprised not to find one. What they did find though was a musket-ball lodged in the trunk of a big tree.
Robert prised it out of the tree with his knife.
It was rusted with age.