The Old Rugged Cross

On top of the hill, hidden behind a line of pines, stands the old rugged cross, to the foot of which is tethered a wolf which, when night comes down and the stars come out, begins to howl, and howls until the dawn.

As dawn breaks, up the slope of the hill toils the village wolfman, with his bucket of slaughtered squirrels and hamsters and mice, food for the wolf. He empties the bucket at the foot of the old rugged cross and while the wolf gobbles down its breakfast, he strides in his wolfman’s boots to the rill, and dips the bucket in, collecting water for the wolf. When the wolf has eaten its fill and slurped up all the water it wants from the bucket, back down the hill goes the wolfman, having first given a few tugs to the tether, to test its strength.

In the village tavern the wolfman reports to the villagers on the strength of the tether and the health of the wolf.

“And the old rugged cross?” asks a villager, “Hangs Christ upon it still?”

“He does,” replies the wolfman, lying through his teeth. And he takes up his pot of hooch and drains it, and bangs the empty pot upon the tavern table.

Up on the hill, the wolf sleeps in the shadow of the old rugged cross, upon which hangs not Christ, but the carcass of a demon, beset by midges, bluebottles and flies.

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