A gray wolf.

"The She-Wolf" is a humorous short story by the British author Hector Hugh Munro who wrote under the pseudonym of Saki. The story first appeared in the Morning Post newspaper. It was later collected in the 1914 anthology Beasts and Super-Beasts.

The story features one of Saki's recurring characters, the mischievous antihero Clovis Sangrail. Clovis finds himself at a house party with a rather pompous man named Leonard Bilsiter. Bilsiter claims to be an expert in the mysterious forces called "Siberian Magic", and he is said to possess the power to transmute objects. When Bilsiter rudely refuses the hostess' request for a demonstration, Clovis decides to have a little fun at his expense.

An abridged version of "The She-Wolf" is read by Christopher Eccleston in the fourth and final episode of the British radio mini-series The Devil's Christmas.[1] The episode first aired on BBC Radio 2 on December 20, 2007.

Plot

One of the guests at Mary Hampton's house party, Leonard Bilsiter, is a believer in the mystical forces. He is said to have acquired supernatural powers – which he calls "Siberian Magic" – while traveling in Eastern Europe. His aunt Cecilia Hoops swears that she has seen him turn a vegetable marrow into a wood pigeon. Mary Hampton asks Bilsiter to turn her into a she-wolf. She wants him to wait, however, till after dinner the following night because they will be short a bridge player this evening if she becomes a wolf today. Bilsiter severely chides her for mocking the esoteric forces, and the subject is dropped.

Afterwards, the mischievous Clovis Sangrail seeks out Lord Pabham and inquires if he has a good-tempered she-wolf in his collection of wild animals. Having ascertained that Mary Hampton is willing to go along with Clovis' practical joke, Lord Pabham agrees to arrange for one of his men to sneak in a tame timber wolf named Louisa.

More guests arrive the following day. Encouraged by the new audience, Leonard Bilsiter talks at length about the mysterious forces. After dinner, with the guests gathered in the drawing room for coffee, Bilsiter's aunt begs him for a demonstration. From the adjacent conservatory where she is feeding her macaws, Mary Hampton expresses her skepticism and dares Bilsiter to turn her into a wolf if he can. She then disappears behind the azaleas. Bilsiter's protests are cut short by the macaws' screams. The guests are horrified to see an evil-looking gray wolf peering out from behind the azaleas.

Mrs. Hoops yells at her nephew and orders him to turn the wolf back into Mary Hampton. Bilsiter, looking terribly scared, says he does not know how to do so. Colonel Hampton is incensed by Bilsiter's irresponsible attitude. Bilsiter insists that he did not turn Mrs. Hampton into a wolf, but the Colonel does not believe him. Mrs. Hoops begs Bilsiter to at least turn the beast, before it attacks the guests, into something harmless like a rabbit. Clovis voices his opinion that the Colonel may not appreciate having his wife "turned into a succession of fancy animals." Colonel Hampton furiously forbids it.

Lord Pabham says that wolves are fond of sugar. He throws a lump of sugar and Louisa catches it in midair. He then proceeds to lure her out of the room. Everyone rushes into the conservatory. Mrs. Hampton is not there. Clovis deftly locks the door while pretending to test it. He declares it is locked on the inside, implying that Mrs. Hampton could not have gone out. Everyone turns to Bilsiter. Colonel Hampton demands an explanation. No one believes Bilsiter's denials.

Suddenly, Mary Hampton enters the room. She claims she was mesmerized and found herself in the game larder being fed sugar by Lord Pebham. When they explain to her what happened, she feigns excitement at the suggestion that Bilsiter really turned her into a wolf. Having so vehemently denied it earlier, Bilsiter finds himself unable to take credit for the fantastic feat. Clovis confesses that it was he who turned Mrs. Hampton into a wolf. He says he lived in Russia for a couple of years and understands Siberian Magic better than a mere tourist possibly can. Leonard Bilsiter wishes he could have turned Clovis into a cockroach and stepped on him.

Footnotes

  1. The other episodes of The Devil's Christmas are based on "The Signalman" by Charles Dickens, "The Necklace" by Guy de Maupassant and "Thurlow's Christmas Story" by John Kendrick Bangs.

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