Selected Modern Chinese Essays: My Narrow Escape from a Wolf’s Jaws

◎ Bing Xin

The editors of the Childhood asked me to write for kids an article entitled My Childhood. Since I have written more than once on the same subject, now I might as well tell you a thrilling story instead.

It was probably in 1906. My father was then in charge of a Yantai naval training camp. We lived just opposite in an old-style quadrangle for naval officers’ family members. It stood on a piece of level land dug out of the mountain slope. Every day, I remember, when mother was busy plaiting my hair, I would look out of the back window to set my eyes on a tall earthen wall and small clusters of dandelions growing out of the holes in the ground left by digging. They were the first flowers I have ever been friends with in my life!

On the slope behind our house was a platform for exchanging flag signals with warships at sea. Often, armed with a slate—the kind of slate as used by schoolchildren for learning arithmetic, father would mount the platform to communicate with warships in harbour, together with a seaman carrying two coloured flags.

Dongshan in Yantai was then a bleak and desolate place, often haunted by wolves at night hunting for food. Our cook often complained about wolves eating up our chicks the previous night after pushing off the heavy stone on top of the big bamboo coop. He suggested that a brick hen house be built to replace the bamboo coop. I had never seen a wolf, so didn’t take his words too much to heart.

One evening, father went up the platform again with a signal man, but he remained there long after the seaman came back. So I started running up to meet him. Then, in the midst of the deepening dusk, I became aware of something like a big dog following at my heels. All of a sudden, father gave a loud shout, “Come on!Quick!”I looked back and saw a pair of grayish blue eyes glittering piercingly. Meanwhile, there was a terrific Bang!as father’s slate was smashed to pieces on the ground. The dog-like big beast, with its fearful grayish blue eyes, immediately turned to scurry away with its long tail between its legs. All that lasted but a few seconds!

Up on the platform, father hugged me closely in his arms and said, “It was a wolf that pursued you just now!Had I not frightened it away by smashing the slate, it would have eaten you up. From now on, don’t come out by yourself after dark. Understand?”I giggled in his arms, not knowing what it was like to be eaten up by a wolf. Today, nevertheless, the small incident never fails to strike fear in me whenever I recall it.