HOW-OO-OW-OO-OO-L! How-oo-ow-oo-oo-l! It was the fearful howling of the wolves. Margareta lay in bed and shivered. How she hated that sound!
On these clear autumn nights, when the touch of frost was in the air, and the moon rode high, the wolves would call to each other for hours.
Margareta knew all too well what those wolves could do. She had heard of children being attacked by them. She remembered tales of lonely travelers who had never reached home—because the wolves got them first. There was reason to fear.
How-oo-oo-ow-oo-l, how-oo-oo-ow-oo-l, they called again. It was good to be in bed, safe and protected.
Margareta did not realize how soon she would meet those wolves face to face.
Mother’s call awakened her. The sun was not up yet, but this was the time of wheat harvest, and every moment counted.
Quickly the little family ate breakfast, then gathered for prayer. Father read from grandmother’s old German Bible. Together they repeated, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.” They bowed their heads and asked for the Lord’s protection through the day.
The cows were milked, and as the sun came up, the little family set off for the wheat field.
All the farmers in that Russian community in the 1890’s lived in the village and had fields at some distance from their homes. It was necessary for margareta and her parents to go over a hill to reach their field.
They took the cows with them to let them graze. Every day during harvest, Mother and Father would cut the ripened wheat with scythes and bind it into bundles. Margareta’s job was to watch the cows and see that they did not start eating the stacked wheat.
Usually Mother and Dad harvested a wagonload each day. Then, in the evening, with the wagon piled high, they would herd the cows and go back over the hill to home.
But today clouds were forming. Father feared that an early rain would ruin the crop. He and Mother, therefore, worked harder than ever to get in two wagonloads.
It wasn’t long after lunch when the first load was gathered. Father asked Margareta to be careful to watch the cows while he and Mother were gone. We’ll be back soon,” he promised.
Margareta watched the horse pull the wagon up the dirt road, with her parents beside it. Soon they disappeared around a corner, and she turned back to the cows.
She enjoyed being by herself. The sun was still shining brightly. In fields not far off she saw the neighbors cutting their wheat and loading their wagons.
The afternoon passed quickly—much more quickly, in fact, then she realized.
She looked up, and noticed a yellow haziness over the landscape. The shadows had grown long.
The sun was almost down!
Why had Mother and Dad not come back? Had they run into trouble? What was keeping them?
Then from the hills that surrounded her came the sound that made her heart stand still.
The wolves were beginning to stir!
Mother and Dad had not intended to be away so long. But unfortunately they had put too much wheat on the wagon. When they tried to go to the village by the usual route, the horse could not pull the heavy wagon up the hill. They had to turn around, go back down the hill, and follow a longer road, on which the hill was not so steep.
The horse snorted and strained. For a while they thought he would not make this hill either. But finally he reached the top, and it seemed their troubles were over. But the troubles were only beginning.
As they came down the hill on the other side, on of the two wheels struck a rock.,/p>Crash, bump, bang! The horse and wagon stopped. The load of wheat teetered at a crazy angle. The wheel was broken!
It was impossible to go on. Father left Mother with the horse, and started off to the house of a friend, hoping to borrow a wheel.
The friend returned with him, and together they lifted the load, and blocked it up long enough to remove the broken wheel and attach the borrowed one.
Father was greatly relieved when at last they were able to move again. But it had taken time–much more time than they had planned on. The sun was far into the west when they reached home. It was useless to think of bringing in another load.
Then Father heard the wolves.
Margareta shivered, more from fear than cold. Why didn’t Father come? She knew nothing about the broken wheel of course. Her frightened imagination pictured all sorts of evil things. She looked up the road, hoping for some sight of her parents. there was none.
The neighbors in the fields nearby were gathering in their tools and hitching up their horses. In groups of two or three, they made their way up the road, and were gone from sight, Margareta wanted to go with them. But she had been told to watch the cows. She could not take them home without help, and as long as the cows were in the field she would have to stay there too.
She looked around. There was not another human being in sight. She was alone-all alone.
A deadly hush had settled over the hills and fields. The wolves, for some reason, had stopped howling. The lowering sun was changing the clouds into great flames of red and scarlet, and the odd color made everything eerie.
Still no sign of Father and the wagon.
Something, moving in the next field, caught her eye. She turned to look at it more carefully.
Two dark forms were slinking through the standing wheat, coming her way.
Father had the wheat unloaded by now. he wasn’t worried about the wolves. They often howled at this time of night. There wasn’t a chance in a million that they would come near the village.
He surveyed the pile of wheat with a satisfied smile. “Too bad we didn’t get the second load in,” he muttered. “But it’s a good day’s work, anyway.”
Since it was too late to get the other load, he didn’t bother to take the wagon but mounted the horse.
“Good-bye Mommy,” he called. “I’ll be back soon. And be sure to have a nice supper for Margareta and me.”
You know I will,” she replied. “But hurry, dear. It’s getting dark and you know how frightened Margareta is of the wolves.”
“Yes, I do,” Father smiled. “It’s surprising how children can be afraid when there is nothing to worry about.”
“I think you ought to take the gun,” suggested Mother.
Oh, we’ll be all right,” Dad replied. “But if you would feel better, I’ll take it. Please get it for me.”
Mother brought out the gun, and Father slung it over his shoulder. At a quick pace he set off down the road and up the hill.
Margareta trembled from head to foot. For a moment she was too scared to move. Two hungry wolves were coming after her.
Then she turned and ran. It was a foolish thing to do, for it only attracted the wolves’ attention. Where could she go? There were no trees nearby. And now, seeing her run the wolves had quickened their pace. They were running after her, coming much faster then she could go. It would be only a matter of seconds before they caught up.
Margareta found herself beside a wheat shock larger than herself. Perhaps she could hide in it. Looking only for a place to hide, she forgot how easily the two great animals could knock over a thing so light. She pulled aside some of the bundles and pushed her way into the middle of the shock, the pulled the bundles together behind her.
To her mind flashed the text Father had read at morning worship. “Please, Jesus,” she prayed, “please protect me. Please send an angel to camp around me and deliver me.” Why didn’t Daddy come?
The wolves were upon her. She heard them sniffing at the wheat. She caught a glimpse of their evil eyes. She saw their flashing teeth. She felt the heat of their breath.
Clenching her fists, she prayed again, “Please, Jesus, look after me.” She remembered Daniel in the lions’ den. “Please, Jesus, send an angle to shut their mouths. And please make Daddy come. Please make him come quick.”
Father reached the top of the hill. In the dusk he ran his eyes quickly over the wheat field. He could see the cows and the standing shocks of wheat. But Margareta–where was she? The he saw the wolves.
Striking spurs to the horse, he galloped down the hill. he would gladly have tried a shot at the savage beasts, but in that half light he feared he would miss, and he might hit Margareta instead, if Margareta was still there.
He raised the muzzle and fired into the air. Alarmed at the sudden noise, the wolves looked up, then dashed away.
Father raced on. There was still no sight of Margareta. He remembered exactly where she had been when they had said good-bye, and to that place he galloped. Margareta was not there!
Fear clutched his heart. Where was she? Had the wolves got her? Why had he been so long in coming? Why had he not hurried more? Why had that wheel broken? Why? Why?
“Margareta, where are you? Margareta!” He leaped from the horse, looking everywhere. “Margareta! Margareta!”
There was a rustling in a wheat shock. A pale, trembling form emerged, too frightened, almost, to stand. Father rushed to her and clasped her in his arms. “Margareta are you all right?
For a long time Margareta stood there, unable to speak. Then, looking into father’s face, she said, “Jesus sent His angel. He camped beside me. And he shut the wolves’ mouths.”
There was no time to say more. Father rounded up the cows, then mounted the horse, and lifted his daughter up beside him.
What a story they had to tell Mother over the supper table that night! Then, in a deep gratitude, they knelt beside the fire and thanked God for His tender watchcare, dedicating their lives anew to Him.