BY THE SAME AUTHOR
SOME HAUNTED HOUSES OF ENGLAND AND WALES
THE HAUNTED HOUSES OF LONDON
SCOTTISH GHOST TALES
BYEWAYS OF GHOSTLAND
THE REMINISCENCES OF MRS. E. M. WARD
METHUEN & CO. LTD. 36 ESSEX STREET W.C. LONDON
First Published in 1912
CHAP. PAGE I. WHAT IS A WERWOLF? 1
II. WERWOLF METAMORPHOSIS COMPARED WITH OTHER BRANCHES OF LYCANTHROPY 20
III. THE SPIRITS OF WERWOLVES 44
IV. HOW TO BECOME A WERWOLF 55
V. WERWOLVES AND EXORCISM 71
VI. THE WERWOLF IN THE BRITISH ISLES 92
VII. THE WERWOLF IN FRANCE 110
VIII. WERWOLVES AND VAMPIRES AND GHOULS 126
IX. WERWOLVES IN GERMANY 143
X. A LYCANTHROPOUS BROOK IN THE HARZ MOUNTAINS; OR, THE CASE OF THE COUNTESS HILDA VON BREBER 161
XI. WERWOLVES IN AUSTRIA-HUNGARY AND THE BALKAN PENINSULA 174
XII. THE WERWOLF IN SPAIN 194
XIII. THE WERWOLF IN BELGIUM AND THE NETHERLANDS 212
XIV. THE WERWOLVES AND MARAS OF DENMARK 225
XV. WERWOLVES IN NORWAY AND SWEDEN 236
XVI. WERWOLVES IN ICELAND, LAPLAND, AND FINLAND 256
XVII. THE WERWOLF IN RUSSIA AND SIBERIA 270
WHAT IS A WERWOLF?
What is a werwolf? To this there is no one very satisfactory reply. There are, indeed, so many diverse views held with regard to the nature and classification of werwolves, their existence is so keenly disputed, and the subject is capable of being regarded from so many standpoints, that any attempt at definition in a restricted sense would be well-nigh impossible.
The word werwolf (or werewolf) is derived from the Anglo-Saxon wer, man, and wulf, wolf, and has its equivalents in the German Waehrwolf and French loup-garou, whilst it is also to be found in the languages, respectively, of Scandinavia, Russia, Austria-Hungary, the Balkan Peninsula, and of certain of the countries of Asia and Africa; from which it may be concluded that its range is pretty well universal.
Indeed, there is scarcely a country in the world in which belief in a werwolf, or in some other form of lycanthropy, has not once existed, though it may have ceased to exist now. But whereas in some countries the werwolf is considered wholly physical, in others it is looked upon as partly, if not entirely, superphysical. And whilst in some countries it is restricted to the male sex, in others it is confined to the female; and, again, in others it is to be met with in both sexes.
Hence, when asked to describe a werwolf, or what is generally believed to be a werwolf, one can only say that a werwolf is an anomaly—sometimes man, sometimes woman (or in the guise of man or woman); sometimes adult, sometimes child (or in the guise of such)—that, under certain conditions, possesses the property of metamorphosing into a wolf, the change being either temporary or permanent.
This, perhaps, expresses most of what is general concerning werwolves. For more particular features, upon which I will touch later, one must look to locality and time.
Those who are sceptical with regard to the existence of the werwolf, and refuse to accept, as proof of such existence, the accumulated testimony of centuries, attribute the origin of the belief in the phenomenon merely to an insane delusion, which, by reason of its novelty, gained a footing and attracted followers.
Humanity, they say, has ever been the same; and any fresh idea—no matter how bizarre or monstrous, so long as it is monstrous enough—has always met with support and won credence.
In favour of this argument it is pointed out that in many of the cases of persons accused of werwolfery, tried in France, and elsewhere, in the middle of the sixteenth century, when belief in this species of lycanthropy was at its zenith, there was an extraordinary readiness among the accused to confess, and even to give circumstantial evidence of their own metamorphosis; and that this particular form of self-accusation at length became so popular among the leading people in the land, that the judicial court, having its suspicions awakened, and, doubtless, fearful of sentencing so many important personages, acquitted the majority of the accused, announcing them to be the victims of delusion and hysteria.
Now, if it were admitted, argue these sceptics, that the bulk of so-called werwolves were impostors, is it not reasonable to suppose that all so-called werwolves were either voluntary or involuntary impostors?—the latter, i.e., those who were not self-accused, being falsely accused by persons whose motive for so doing was revenge. For parallel cases one has only to refer to the trials for sorcery and witchcraft in England. And with regard to false accusations of lycanthropy—accusations founded entirely on hatred of the accused person—how easy it was to trump up testimony and get the accused convicted. The witnesses were rarely, if ever, subjected to a searching examination; the court was always biased, and a confession of guilt, when not voluntary—as in the case of the prominent citizen, when it was invariably pronounced due to hysteria or delusion—could always be obtained by means of torture, though a confession thus obtained, needless to say, is completely nullified. Moreover, we have no record of metamorphosis taking place in court, or before witnesses chosen for their impartiality. On the contrary, the alleged transmutations always occurred in obscure places, and in the presence of people who, one has reason to believe, were both hysterical and imaginative, and therefore predisposed to see wonders. So says this order of sceptic, and, to my mind, he says a great deal more than his facts justify; for although contemporary writers generally are agreed that a large percentage of those people who voluntarily confessed they were werwolves were mere dissemblers, there is no recorded conclusive testimony to show that all such self-accused persons were shams and delusionaries. Besides, even if such testimony were forthcoming, it would in nowise preclude the existence of the werwolf.
Nor does the fact that all the accused persons submitted to the rack, or other modes of torture, confessed themselves werwolves prove that all such confessions were false.
Granted also that some of the charges of lycanthropy were groundless, being based on malice—which, by the by, is no argument for the non-existence of lycanthropy, since it is acknowledged that accusations of all sorts, having been based on malice, have been equally groundless—there is nothing in the nature of written evidence that would justify one in assuming that all such charges were traceable to the same cause, i.e., a malicious agency. Neither can one dismiss the testimony of those who swore they were actual eye-witnesses of metamorphoses, on the mere assumption that all such witnesses were liable to hallucination or hysteria, or were hyper-imaginative.
Testimony to an event having taken place must be regarded as positive evidence of such an occurrence, until it can be satisfactorily proved to be otherwise—and this is where the case of the sceptic breaks down; he can only offer assumption, not proof.
Another view, advanced by those who discredit werwolves, is that belief in the existence of such an anomaly originates in the impression made on man in early times by the great elemental powers of nature. It was, they say, man's contemplation of the changes of these great elemental powers of nature, i.e., the changes of the sun and moon, wind, thunder and lightning, of the day and night, sunshine and rain, of the seasons, and of life and death, and his deductions therefrom, that led to his belief in and worship of gods that could assume varying shapes, such, for example, as India (who occasionally took the form of a bull), Derketo (who sometimes metamorphosed into a fish), Poseidon, Jupiter Ammon, Milosh Kobilitch, Minerva, and countless others—and that it is to this particular belief and worship, which is to be found in the mythology of every race, that all religions, as well as belief in fairies, demons, werwolves, and phantasms, may be traced.
Well, this might be so, if there were not, in my opinion, sufficient accumulative corroborative evidence to show that not only were there such anomalies as werwolves formerly, but that, in certain restricted areas, they are even yet to be encountered.
Taking, then, the actual existence of werwolves to be an established fact, it is, of course, just as impossible to state their origin as it is to state the origin of any other extraordinary form of creation. Every religious creed, every Occult sect, advances its own respective views—and has a perfect right to do so, as long as it advances them as views and not dogmatisms.
I, for my part, bearing in mind that everything appertaining to the creation of man and the universe is a profound mystery, cannot see the object on the part of religionists and scientists in being arbitrary with regard to a subject which any child of ten will apprehend to be one whereon it is futile to do other than theorize. My own theory, or rather one of my own theories, is that the property of transmutation, i.e., the power of assuming any animal guise, was one of the many properties—including second sight, the property of becoming invisible at will, of divining the presence of water, metals, the advent of death, and of projecting the etherical body—which were bestowed on man at the time of his creation; and that although mankind in general is no longer possessed of them, a few of these properties are still, in a lesser degree, to be found among those of us who are termed psychic.
The history of the Jews is full of references to certain of these properties. The greatest of all the Superphysical Forces—the creating Force (the Hebrew Jah, Jehovah)—so says the Bible, constantly held direct communication with His elect—with Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses, while His emissaries, the angels, or what modern Occultists would term Benevolent Elementals, conversed with Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, and hosts of others. In this same history, too, there is no lack of reference to sorcery; and whilst Black Magic is illustrated in the tricks wrought by the magicians before Pharaoh, and the infliction of all manner of plagues upon the Egyptians, one is rather inclined to attribute to White Magic Daniel's safety among the lions; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego's preservation from the flames; Elijah's miraculous spinning out of the barrel of meal and cruse of oil, in the days of famine, and his raising of the widow's son. Also, to the account of White Magic—and should anyone dispute this point let me remind him that it is merely a difference in the point of view—I would add Elisha's calling up of the bears that made such short work of the naughty children who tormented him. There are, too, many examples of divination recorded in the Bible. In Genesis, chapter xxx., verses 27-43, a description is given of a divining rod and its influence over sheep and other animals; in Exodus, chapter xvii., verse 15, Moses with the aid of a rod discovers water in the rock at Rephidim, and for similar instances one has only to refer to Exodus, chapter xiv., verse 16, and chapter xvii., verses 9-11. The calling up of the phantasm of Samuel at Endor more than suggests a biblical precedent for the modern practice of spiritualism; and it was, undoubtedly, the abuse of such power as that possessed by the witch of Endor, and the prevalence of sorcery, such as she practised, that finally led to the decree delivered by Moses to the Children of Israel, that on no account were they to suffer a witch to live. Reference to yet another property of the occult—namely, Etherical Projection—which is clearly exemplified in the Scriptures, may be found in Numbers, chapter xii., verse 6; in Job, chapter xxxiii., verse 15; in the First Book of Kings, chapter iii., verse 5; in Genesis, chapter xx., verses 3 and 6, and chapter xxxi., verse 24; in Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nahum, and Zechariah; and more particularly in the Acts of the Apostles, and in the Revelation of St. John. Lastly, in this history of the Jews, which is surely neither more nor less authenticated than any other well established history, testimony as to the existence of one species of Elemental of much the same order as the werwolf is recorded by Isaiah. In chapter xiii., verse 21, we read: "And their houses shall be full of doleful creatures, and owls shall dwell there, and satyrs shall dance there." Satyrs! we repeat; are not satyrs every whit as grotesque and outrageous as werwolves? Why, then, should those who, regarding the Scriptures as infallible, confess to a belief in the satyr, reject the possibility of a werwolf? And for those who are more logically sceptical—who question the veracity of the Bible and are dubious as to its authenticity—there are the chronicles of Herodotus, Petronius Arbiter, Baronius, Dole, Olaus Magnus, Marie de France, Thomas Aquinas, Richard Verstegan, and many other recognized historians and classics, covering a large area in the history of man, all of whom specially testify to the existence—in their own respective periods—of werwolves.
And if any further evidence of this once near relationship with the Other World is required, one has only to turn to Aristotle, who wrote so voluminously on psychic dreams (most of which I am inclined to think were due to projection); to the teachings of Pythagoras and his followers, Empedocles and Apollonius; to Cicero and Tacitus; to Virgil, who frequently talks of ghosts and seers of Tyana; to Plato, the exponent of magic; and to Plutarch, whose works swarm with allusions to Occultism of all kinds—phantasms of the dead, satyrs, and numerous other species of Elementals.
I say, then, that in ages past, before any of the artificialities appertaining to our present mode of living were introduced; when the world was but thinly populated and there were vast regions of wild wastes and silent forests, the Known and Unknown walked hand in hand. It was seclusion of this kind, the seclusion of nature, that spirits loved, and it was in this seclusion they were always to be found whenever man wanted to hold communication with them. To such silent spots—to the woods and wildernesses—Buddha, Mohammed, the Hebrew Patriarchs and Prophets, all, in their turn, resorted, to solicit the companionship of benevolently disposed spirits, to be tutored by them, and, in all probability, to receive from them additional powers. To these wastes and forests, too, went all those who wished to do ill. There they communed with the spirits of darkness, i.e., demons, or what are also termed Vice Elementals; and from the latter they acquired—possibly in exchange for some of their own vitality, for spirits of this order are said to have envied man his material body—tuition in sorcery, and such properties as second sight, invisibility, and lycanthropy.
This property of lycanthropy, or metamorphosing into a beast, probably dates back to man's creation. It was, I am inclined to believe, conferred on man at his creation by Malevolent Forces that were antagonistic to man's progress; and that these Malevolent Forces had a large share in the creation of this universe is, to my mind, extremely probable. But, however that may be, I cannot believe that the creation of man and the universe were due entirely to one Creator—there are assuredly too many inconsistencies in all we see around us to justify belief in only one Creative Force. The Creator who inspired man with love—love for his fellow beings and love of the beautiful—could not be the same Creator who framed that irredeemably cruel principle observable throughout nature, i.e., the survival of the fittest; the preying of the stronger on the weaker—of the tiger on the feebler beasts of the jungle; the eagle on the smaller birds of the air; the wolf on the sheep; the shark on the poor, defenceless fish, and so on; neither could He be the Creator that deals in diseases—foul and filthy diseases, common, not only to all divisions of the human species, but to quadrupeds, birds, fish, and even flora; that brings into existence cripples and idiots, the blind, the deaf and dumb; and watches with passive inertness the most acute sufferings, not only of adults, but of sinless children and all manner of helpless animals. No! It is impossible to conceive that such incompatibilities can be the work of one Creator. But, supposing, for the sake of argument, we may admit the possibility of only one Creator, we cannot concede that this Creator is at the same time both omnipotent and merciful. My own belief, which is merely based on common sense and observation, is that this earth was created by many Forces—that everything that makes for man's welfare is due to Benevolent Forces; and that everything that tends to his detriment is due to antagonistic Malevolent Forces; and that the Malevolent Forces exist for the very simple reason that the Benevolent Forces are not sufficiently powerful to destroy them.
These Malevolent Forces, then—the originators of all evil—created werwolves; and the property of lycanthropy becoming in many cases hereditary, there were families that could look back upon countless generations possessed of it. But lycanthropy did not remain in the exclusive possession of a few families; the bestowal of it continued long after its original creation, and I doubt if this bestowal has, even now, become entirely a thing of the past. There are still a few regions—desolate and isolated regions in Europe (in Russia, Scandinavia, and even France), to say nothing of Asia, Africa and America, Australasia and Polynesia—which are unquestionably the haunts of Vagrarians, Barrowvians, and other kinds of undesirable Elementals, and it is quite possible that, through the agency of these spirits, the property of lycanthropy might be acquired by those who have learned in solitude how to commune with them.
I have already referred to the werwolf as an anomaly, and for its designation I do not think I could have chosen a more suitable term. Though its movements and actions are physical—for what could be more material than the act of devouring flesh and blood?—the actual process of the metamorphosis savours of the superphysical; whilst to still further strengthen its relationship with the latter, its appearance is sometimes half man and half wolf, which is certainly more than suggestive of the semi-human and by no means uncommon type of Elemental. Its inconsistency, too, which is a striking characteristic of all psychic phenomena, is also suggestive of the superphysical; and there is certainly neither consistency as to the nature of the metamorphosis—which is sometimes brought about at will and sometimes entirely controlled by the hour of day, or by the seasons—nor as to the outward form of the werwolf, which is sometimes merely that of a wolf, and sometimes partly wolf and partly human; nor as to its shape at the moment of death, when in some cases there is metamorphosis, whilst in other cases there is no metamorphosis. Nor is this inconsistency only characteristic of the movements, actions, and shape of the werwolf. It is also characteristic of it psychologically. When the metamorphosis is involuntary, and is enforced by agencies over which the subject has no control, the werwolf, though filled with all the passions characteristic of a beast of prey, when a wolf, is not of necessity cruel and savage when a human being, that is to say, before the transmutations take place. There are many instances of such werwolves being, as people, affectionate and kindly disposed. On the other hand, in some cases of involuntary metamorphosis, and in the majority of cases of voluntary metamorphosis—that is to say, when the transmutation is compassed by means of magic—the werwolf, as a person, is evilly disposed, and as a wolf shows a distinct blending of the beast with the passions, subtle ingenuity, and reasoning powers of the human being. From this it is obvious, then, that the werwolf is a hybrid of the material and immaterial—of man and Elemental, known and Unknown. The latter term does not, of course, meet with acceptance at the hands of the Rationalists, who profess to believe that all phenomena can be explained by perfectly natural causes. They suggest that belief in the werwolf (as indeed in all other forms of lycanthropy) is traceable to the craving for blood which is innate in certain natures and is sometimes accompanied by hallucination, the subject genuinely believing himself to be a wolf (or whatever beast of prey is most common in the district), and, in imitation of that animal's habits, committing acts of devastation at night, selecting his victims principally from among women and children—those, in fact, who are too feeble to resist him.
Often, however, say these Rationalists, there is no suggestion of hallucination, the question resolving itself into one of vulgar trickery. The anthropophagi, unable to suppress their appetite for human food, taking advantage of the general awe in which the wolf is held by their neighbours, dress themselves up in the skins of that beast, and prowling about lonely, isolated spots at night, pounce upon those people they can most easily overpower. Rumours (most probably started by the murderers themselves) speedily get in circulation that the mangled and half-eaten remains of the villagers are attributable to creatures, half human and half wolf, that have been seen gliding about certain places after dark. The simple country-folk, among whom superstitions are rife, are only too ready to give credence to such reports; the existence of the monsters becomes an established thing, whilst the localities that harbour them are regarded with horror, and looked upon as the happy hunting ground of every imaginable occult power of evil.
Now, although such an explanation of werwolves might be applicable in certain districts of West Africa, where the native population is excessively bloodthirsty and ignorant, it could not for one moment be applied to werwolfery in Germany, France, or Scandinavia, where the peasantry are, generally speaking, kindly and intelligent people, whom one could certainly accuse neither of being sanguinary nor of possessing any natural taste for cannibalism.
The rationalist view can therefore only be said to be feasible in certain limited spheres, outside of which it is grotesque and ridiculous.
Now a question that has occurred to me, and which, I fancy, may give rise to some interesting speculation, is, whether some of the werwolves stated to have been seen may not have been some peculiar type of phantasm. I make this suggestion because I have seen several sub-human and sub-animal occult phenomena in England, and have, too, met other people who have had similar experiences.
With our limited knowledge of the Unknown it is, of course, impossible to be arbitrary as to the class of spirits to which such phenomena belong. They may be Vice Elementals, i.e., spirits that have never inhabited any material body, whether human or animal, and which are wholly inimical to man's progress—such spirits assume an infinite number of shapes, agreeable and otherwise; or they may be phantasms of dead human beings—vicious and carnal-minded people, idiots, and imbecile epileptics. It is an old belief that the souls of cataleptic and epileptic people, during the body's unconsciousness, adjourned temporarily to animals, and it is therefore only in keeping with such a view to suggest that on the deaths of such people their spirits take permanently the form of animals. This would account for the fact that places where cataleptics and idiots have died are often haunted by semi and by wholly animal types of phantasms.
According to Paracelsus Man has in him two spirits—an animal spirit and a human spirit—and that in after life he appears in the shape of whichever of these two spirits he has allowed to dominate him. If, for example, he has obeyed the spirit that prompts him to be sober and temperate, then his phantasm resembles a man; but on the other hand, if he has given way to his carnal and bestial cravings, then his phantasm is earthbound, in the guise of some terrifying and repellent animal—maybe a wolf, bear, dog, or cat—all of which shapes are far from uncommon in psychic manifestations.
This view has been held either in toto, or with certain reservations, by many other writers on the subject, and I, too, in a great measure endorse it—its pronouncement of a limit to man's phantasms being, perhaps, the only important point to which I cannot accede. My own view is that so complex a creature as man—complex both physically and psychologically—may have a representative spirit for each of his personalities. Hence on man's physical dissolution there may emanate from him a host of phantasms, each with a shape most fitting the personality it represents. And what more thoroughly representative of cruelty, savageness, and treachery than a wolf, or even something partly lupine! Therefore, as I have suggested elsewhere, in some instances, but emphatically not in all, what were thought to have been werwolves may only have been phantasms of the dead, or Elementals.
WERWOLF METAMORPHOSIS COMPARED WITH OTHER BRANCHES OF LYCANTHROPY
The wolf is not the only animal whose shape, it is stated, man may possess the power of assuming; and it may be of some interest to inquire briefly into the varying branches of lycanthropy, comparing them with the one already under discussion.
In Orissa, the power of metamorphosing into a tiger is asserted by the Kandhs to be hereditary, and also to be acquired through the practice of magic; many who have travelled in this country have assured me that there is a very great amount of truth in this assertion; and that although there are, without doubt, a number of impostors among those designated wer-tigers, there are most certainly many who are genuine.
As with the werwolf, so with the wer-tiger, the metamorphosis is usually dependent on the hour of the day, and generally occurs cotemporaneous with the setting of the sun.
But the lycanthropy of the wer-tiger differs from that of the werwolf inasmuch as there is a definite god or spirit, in the shape of a tiger, that is directly responsible for the bestowal of the property. This tiger deity is looked upon and worshipped as a totem or national deity—that is to say, as a divine being that has the welfare of the Kandh nation especially at heart. It is communed with at home, but more particularly in the wild dreariness of the jungle, where, on the condition that the prayers of its devotees are sufficiently concentrated and in earnest, it confers—as an honour and privilege—the power of transmutation into its own shape. Some idea of its appearance may perhaps be gathered from the following description of it given me by a Mr. K——, whose name I see in the list of passengers reported "missing" in the deplorable disaster to the "Titanic."
"Anxious to see," Mr. K—— stated, "if there was anything of truth in the alleged materialization of the tiger totem to those supplicating it, I went one evening to a spot in the jungle—some two or three miles from the village—where I had been informed the manifestations took place. As the jungle was universally held to be haunted I met no one; and in spite of my dread of the snakes, big cats, wild boars, scorpions, and other poisonous vermin with which the place was swarming, arrived without mishap at the place that had been so carefully described to me—a circular clearing of about twenty feet in diameter, surrounded on all sides by rank grass of a prodigious height, trolsee shrubs, kulpa and tamarind-trees. Quickly concealing myself, I waited the coming of the would-be tiger-man.
"He was hardly more than a boy—slim and almost feminine—and came gallivanting along the narrow path through the brushwood, like some careless, high-spirited, brown-skinned hoyden.
"The moment he reached the edge of the mystic circle, however, his behaviour changed; the light of laughter died from his eyes, his lips straightened, his limbs stiffened, and his whole demeanour became one of respect and humility.
"Advancing with bare head and feet some three or so feet into the clearing, he knelt down, and, touching the ground three times in succession with his forehead, looked up at a giant kulpa-tree opposite him, chanting as he did so some weird and monotonous refrain, the meaning of which was unintelligible to me. Up to then it had been light—the sky, like all Indian skies at that season, one blaze of moonbeams and stars; but now it gradually grew dark. An unnatural, awe-inspiring shade seemed to swoop down from the far distant mountains and to hush into breathless silence everything it touched. Not a bird sang, not an insect ticked, not a leaf stirred. One might have said all nature slept, had it not been for an uncomfortable sensation that the silence was but the silence of intense expectation—merely the prelude to some unpleasant revelation that was to follow. At this juncture my feelings were certainly novel—entirely different from any I had hitherto experienced.
"I had not believed in the supernatural, and had had absolutely no apprehensions of coming across anything of a ghostly character—all my fears had been of malicious natives and tigers; they now, however, changed, and I was confronted with a dread of what I could not understand and could not analyse—of something that suggested an appearance, alarming on account of its very vagueness.
"The pulsations of my heart became irregular, I grew faint and sick, and painfully susceptible to a sensation of excessive coldness, which instinct told me was quite independent of any actual change in the atmosphere.
"I made several attempts to remove my gaze from the kulpa-tree, which intuition told me would be the spot where the something, whatever it was, that was going to happen would manifest itself. My eyes, however, refused to obey, and I was obliged to keep them steadily fixed on this spot, which grew more and more gloomy. All of a sudden the silence was broken, and a cry, half human and half animal, but horribly ominous, sounding at first faint and distant, speedily grew louder and louder. Soon I heard footsteps, the footsteps of something running towards us and covering the ground with huge, light strides. Nearer and nearer it came, till, with a sudden spring, it burst into view—the giant reeds and trolsees were dashed aside, and I saw standing in front of the kulpa-tree a vertical column of crimson light of perhaps seven feet in height and one or so in width. A column—only a column, though the suggestion conveyed to me by the column was nasty—nasty with a nastiness that baffles description. I looked at the native, and the expression in his eyes and mouth assured me he saw more—a very great deal more. For some seconds he only gasped; then, by degrees, the rolling of his eyes and twitching of his lips ceased. He stretched out a hand and made some sign on the ground. Then he produced a string of beads, and after placing it over the scratchings he had made on the soil, jerked out some strange incantation in a voice that thickened and quivered with terror. I then saw a stream of red light steal from the base of the column and dart like forked lightning to the beads, which instantly shone a luminous red. The native now picked them up, and, putting them round his neck, clapped the palms of his hands vigorously together, uttering as he did so a succession of shrill cries, that gradually became more and more animal in tone, and finally ended in a roar that converted every particle of blood in my veins into ice. The crimson colour now abruptly vanished—whither it went I know not—the shade that had been veiling the jungle was dissipated, and in the burst of brilliant moonlight that succeeded I saw, peering up at me, from the spot where the native had lain, the yellow, glittering, malevolent eyes, not of a man, but a tiger—a tiger thirsting for human blood. The shock was so great that for a second or two I was paralysed, and could only stare back at the thing in fascinated helplessness. Then a big bird close at hand screeched, and some small quadruped flew past me terrified; and with these awakenings of nature all my faculties revived, and I simply jumped on my feet and—fled!
"Some fifty yards ahead of me, and showing their tops well above the moon-kissed reeds and bushes, were two trees—a tamarind and a kulpa briksha. God knows why I decided on the latter! Probably through a mere fluke, for I hadn't the remotest idea which of the trees offered the best facilities to a poor climber. My mind once made up, there was no time to alter. The wer-tiger was already terribly close behind. I could gauge its distance by the patter of its feet—apparently the metamorphosis had only been in part—and by the steadily intensifying purr, purr; so unmistakably interpretative of the brute's utter satisfaction in its power to overtake me, as well as at the prospect of so good a meal. I was just thirteen stone, seemingly a most unlucky number even in weight! Had the tiger wanted, I am sure he could have caught me at once, but I fancy it wished to play with me a little first—to let me think I was going to escape, and then, when it had got all the amusement possible out of me, just to give a little sprint and haul me over. Perhaps it was my anger at such undignified treatment of the human race that gave a kind of sting to my running, for I certainly got over the ground at twice the speed I had ever done before, or ever thought myself capable of doing. At times my limbs were on the verge of mutiny, but I forced them onward, and though my lungs seemed bursting, I never paused. At last a clearing was reached and the kulpa-tree stood fully revealed. I glanced at once at the trunk. The lowest branch of any size was some eight feet from the ground. . . . Could I reach it? Summoning up all my efforts for this final, and in all probability fatal, rush, I hurled myself forward. There was a low exultant roar, a soft, almost feminine purr, and a long hairy paw, with black, gleaming claws shot past my cheek. I gave a great gasp of anguish, and with all the pent-up force of despair clutched at the branch overhead. My finger-tips just curled over it; I tightened them, but, at the most, it was a very feeble, puny grasp, and totally insufficient to enable me to swing my body out of reach of the tiger. I immediately gave myself up as lost, and was endeavouring to reconcile myself to the idea of being slowly chewed alive, when an extraordinary thing happened. The wer-tiger gave a low growl of terror and, bounding away, was speedily lost in the jungle. Fearing it might return, I waited for some time in the tree, and then, as there were no signs of it, descended, and very cautiously made my way back to the village.
"That night an entire family, father, mother, son, and daughter, were murdered, and their mutilated and half-eaten bodies were discovered on the floor of their hut in the morning. Evidence pointed to their having been killed by a tiger; and as they had been the sworn enemies of the young man whose metamorphosis I had witnessed, it was not difficult to guess at the identity of their destroyer.
"I related my adventure to one of the chief people, and he informed me he knew that particular kulpa-tree well. 'You undoubtedly owe your salvation to having touched it,' he said. 'The original kulpa, which now stands in the first heaven, is said to have been one of the fourteen remarkable things turned up by the churning of the ocean by the gods and demons; and the name of Ram and his consort Seeter are written on the silvery trunks of all its earthly descendants. If once you touch any portion of a kulpa briksha tree, you are quite safe from any animal—that is why the wer-tiger snarled and ran away! But take my advice, sahib, and leave the village.'
"I did so, and on the way to my home in the hills visited the tree. There, sure enough, plainly visible on the silvery surface in the twilight, was the name of the incarnation of Vishnu, written in Sanskrit characters, and apparently by some supernatural hand; that is to say, there was a softness in the impression, as if the finger of some supernatural being had traced the characters. I did not want any further proofs—I had had enough; and taking good care to see my gun was loaded, I hurried off. Nor have I ever ventured into that neighbourhood since."
Mr. K——, continuing, informed me that from what he had been told by his friend in the Kandh village, he concluded that only those who had been initiated into the full rites of magic in their early youth could see the totem in its full state of materialization, i.e., an enormous tiger—half man and half beast. To those who were in some degree clairvoyant it would appear as it had appeared to him, a mere column of crimson light (crimson on account of its association with Black Magic); whilst to those who were not in any way clairvoyant it would remain entirely invisible. The young Kandh had prayed for the property of lycanthropy solely as a means of revenge on those whom he imagined had wronged him; and as a wer-tiger he was able to destroy them in the most cruel manner possible. The property when once acquired, however, could never be cast off, and the young man would, willy-nilly, undergo transmutation every night, and in all probability continue killing and eating people till some one plucked up the courage—for wer-tigers were not only dreaded, but held in the greatest awe—to shoot him.
There are certain tribes in India known to be adepts in Occultism, and therefore one is not surprised to find lycanthropy linked with the mysterious jugglery, etherical projection, and other psychic feats accomplished by these tribesmen. The wer-tiger is not confined to the Kandhs: it is met with in Malaysia, in the gorgeous tropical forests of Java and Sumatra, where it is feared more than anything on earth by the gentle and intelligent natives; and, if rumour be true, in the great, lone mountains and dense jungles, and along the hot, unhealthy river-banks of New Guinea.
In Arawak, it gives place to the wer-jaguar; in Ashangoland, and many parts of West Africa, to the wer-leopard. Of course, there are cases of charlatanism in lycanthropy as in medicine, politics, palmistry, and in every other science. But most, if not all, of these cases of sham lycanthropy seem to come from West Africa, where leopard societies are from time to time formed by young savages unable to restrain their craving for cannibalism. These human vampires dress up in leopard-skins, and stealing stealthily through the woods at night, attack stray pedestrians or isolated households. After killing their victims, they cut off any portions of the body—usually the breasts and thighs—they fancy most for eating, and then mutilate the rest with the signia of their society, i.e., long and deep scratchings, which are made either with the claws of a leopard or some other beast, or with sharp iron nails. Whole districts are often put in a state of panic by these marauders, who, retiring to their retreat in the heart of some little known, vast, and almost impenetrable forest, successfully defy capture. But the fact of there being pseudo-wer-leopards by no means disposes of the fact that there are genuine ones, any more than the fact that there are charlatan palmists precludes the possibility of there being bona fide palmists; and I am inclined to believe lycanthropy exists in certain parts of West Africa (i.e., where primitive conditions are most in evidence), although not, perhaps, to the same extent as it does in Asia and Europe. I do not think the negro's relationship to the Occult Forces is quite the same as that of other races. He is often clairvoyant and clairaudiant, and always very much in awe of the superphysical; but it is rarely he can ever claim close intimacy with it—not close enough, at all events, to be the recipient of its special gifts.
In werwolfery there is no "totem." The property of metamorphosis, in this branch of lycanthropy, is not deemed the gift of a national deity, but either of the Occult Powers in general or of some particular local phantasm. In other branches of lycanthropy, viz., that of the wer-tiger and wer-leopard—I am doubtful about the wer-jaguar—the property of transmutation is said to be conferred solely by the god, or a god, of the tribe.
But although these various properties of lycanthropy are apparently derived from different sources, the difference is only in outward form; and I have no hesitation in saying that the occult power from which all lycanthropy proceeds, whether in the form of a wolf, tiger, leopard, or any other beast, is in reality the same species of Elemental.[32:1] But whether a Vagrarian, Vice, or some other Elemental, I cannot possibly say.
I have stated that I am doubtful as to whether totemism exists in Arawak. The truth is, with regard to this question, I am in receipt of somewhat conflicting testimony. Some say that the natives have as their god a deity in the form of a jaguar, to whom they pray for vengeance on their foes and for the property of lycanthropy; which property (vide the case of the Kandhs) would give them the additional pleasure of executing vengeance in their own person. On the other hand, I have heard that the form of a jaguar is the form most commonly assumed by spirits in Arawak, particularly by those invoked at seances. Hence it is extremely difficult to arrive at the truth. From the corroborating testimony of various people, however, I conclude that whereas among the Kandhs and West African negroes the property of lycanthropy (unless, of course, hereditary) is rarely conferred on females, or on anyone younger than sixteen, in Arawak and Malaysia it is awarded regardless of sex or age.
Some years ago there was current, among certain tribes of the natives in Arawak, a story to this effect:—
A Dutch trader, of the name of Van Hielen, was visiting for purely business purposes an Indian settlement in a very remote part of the colony. Roaming about the village one evening, he came to a hut standing alone on the outskirts of one of those dense forests that are so characteristic of Arawak. Van Hielen paused, and was marvelling how anyone could choose to live in so outlandish and lonely a spot, when a shrill scream, followed by a series of violent guttural ejaculations, came from the interior of the building, and the next moment a little boy—some seven or eight years of age—rushed out of the house, pursued by a prodigiously fat woman, who whacked him soundly across the shoulders with a knotted club and then halted for want of breath. Van Hielen, who was well versed in the native language, politely asked her what the boy had done to deserve so severe a chastisement.
"Done!" the woman replied, opening her beady little eyes to their full extent; "why, he's not done anything—that's why I beat him—he's incorrigibly idle. He and his sister spend all their time amid the trees yonder conversing with the bad spirits. They learned that trick from Guska, with the evil eye. She has bewitched them. She was shot to death with arrows in the market-place last year, and my only regret is that she wasn't put out of the way ten years sooner. Ah! there's that wicked girl Yarakna—she's been hiding from me all the day. I must punish her, too!" and before Van Hielen could speak the indignant parent waddled off—with surprising swiftness for one of her vast proportions—and reappeared dragging by the wrist an elfish-looking girl of about ten. She gave the urchin one blow, and was about to give her another, when Van Hielen, whose heart was particularly tender where children were concerned, interfered, and by dint of bribery persuaded her to desist. She retired indoors, and Van Hielen found himself alone with the child.
"May the spirit of the woods for ever be your friend!" the maiden said. "But for you my poor back would have been beaten to a tonka bean. My brother and I have suffered enough at the hands of the old woman—we'll suffer no more."
"What will you do then?" Van Hielen asked, shocked at the revengeful expression that marred the otherwise pretty features of the child. "Remember, she is your mother, and has every right to expect you to be obedient and industrious."
"She is not our mother!" the girl answered. "Our mother is the spirit of the woods. We work for her—not for this old woman, and in return she tells us tales and amuses us."
"You work for her!" Van Hielen said in amazement. "What do you mean?"
The child smiled—the ignorance of the white man tickled her. "We gather aloes for medicine for her sick children; the core of the lechugilla for their food, yucca leaves for plumes for their heads, and scarlet panicles of the Fouquiera splendens for their clothes. My brother and I will go to her to-night when the old woman is sleeping. Where? Ah! we do not tell anyone that. Do we see her? The spirit of the woods, you mean? Yes, we see her, but it is not every one who can see her—only those who have sight like ours. But I must go now—my brother is calling me."
Van Hielen could hear nothing; though he did not doubt, from the child's behaviour, that she had been called. She ran merrily away, and he watched her black head disappear in the thick undergrowth facing him. Van Hielen's curiosity was roused. What the child had said impressed him deeply; and against his saner judgment he resolved to secrete himself near the hut and watch. After it had been dusk some time, and all sounds had ceased, he saw the two children emerge from the hut, and, tiptoeing softly towards the trees, fall on their hands and knees and crawl along a tiny, deviating path. Hardly knowing what he was doing, but impelled by a force he could not resist, Van Hielen followed them. It was a delicious night—at that time of year every night in Arawak is delicious—and Van Hielen, who was very simple in his love of nature, imbibed delight through every pore in his body. As he trod gently along, pushing first this branch and then that out of the way, and stooping down to half his height to creep under a formidable bramble, countless voices from animal land fell on his ears. From a glimmering patch of water, away on his left, came the trump of a bull-frog and the wail of the whip-poor-will; a monkey chattered, a parrot screeched, whilst a shrill cry of terror, accompanied by a savage growl, plainly told of the surprise and slaughter of some defenceless animal by one of the many big beasts of prey that made every tree their lurking place.
On any other occasion Van Hielen would have thought twice before embarking on such an expedition; but that night he seemed to be labouring under some charm which had lulled to sleep all sense of insecurity. It was true he was armed, but of what avail is a rifle against the unexpected spring of a jaguar or leopard—from a bough some ten or twenty feet directly over one's head—or the sudden lunge of a boa constrictor!
At first, the path wound its way through a dense chapparal consisting of the various shrubs and plants rarely to be met with in other parts of Arawak, namely, acacias, aloes, lechuguillas, and the Fouquiera splendens. But after a short time this kind of vegetation was succeeded by something far more imposing—by dense masses of trees, many of them at the least one hundred and fifty feet in height: the mora, which from a distance appears like a hillock clothed with the brightest vegetation; the ayucari, or red cedar; and the cuamara, laden with tonka beans. So thick was their foliage overhead that one by one Van Hielen watched the stars disappear; and the path ahead of him darkened till it was as much as he could do to grope along. Still he was not afraid. The thought of that elfish little maiden with the luminous eyes crawling along in front of him inspired him with extraordinary confidence and he plunged on, anxious only to catch another glimpse of her and see the play out. Once his progress was interrupted by something hot and leathery, that pushed him nearly off his feet and puffed rudely in his face. It was on the tip of his tongue to give vent to his ruffled feelings in forcible language, but the knowledge that this would assuredly warn the children of his proximity kept him quiet, and he contented himself with striking a vigorous blow. There was a loud snort, a crashing and breaking of brushwood, and the thing, whatever it was, rushed away. Another time he stumbled over a snake which was gliding from one side of the path to the other. The creature hissed, and Van Hielen, giving himself up for lost, jumped for all he was worth. As luck would have it the snake missed, and Van Hielen, escaping with nothing more serious than a few scratches and a bump or two, was able to continue his course. After long gropings the path at length came to an end, the trees cleared, and Van Hielen saw before him a pool, radiantly illuminated by the moon, and in the very centre—an immense Victoria Regia water-lily.
Though accustomed to the fine species of this plant in Guiana—which is the home of the Victoria Regia—Van Hielen was doubtful if he had ever before beheld such a magnificent specimen. The silvery moonlight, falling on its white and pink petals, threw into relief all the exquisite delicacy of their composition, and gave to them a glow which could only have been rivalled in Elysium. Indeed, the whole scene, enhanced by the glamour of the hour and the sweet scent of plants and flowers, was so reminiscent of fairyland that Van Hielen—enraptured beyond description—stood and gazed in open-mouthed ecstasy.
Then his eyes fell on the children and he noiselessly slipped back under cover of a tree.
Hand in hand the boy and girl advanced to the water's edge, and kneeling, commenced to recite some strange incantation, which Van Hielen tried in vain to interpret. Sometimes their voices reached a high, plaintive key; sometimes they sank to a low murmur, strangely musical, and strangely suggestive of the babbling of brook water over stones and pebbles. When they had finished their incantation, they got up, and running to some bushes, returned in a few seconds with their arms full of flowers, which they threw with great dexterity on to the leaves of the giant lily. With their faces still turned to the water they remained standing, side by side, whilst a silence—deep and impressive, and shared, so it appeared to Van Hielen, by all nature—fell upon them.
A cold current of air, rising apparently from the pool, blew across the opening, and sweeping past Van Hielen, set all the leaves in motion. It rustled on till its echoes gradually ceased, and all was still again. It now seemed to Van Hielen that the character of everything around underwent a subtle change; and the feeling that every object around him was indulging in a hearty laugh at his expense intensified with every breath he drew. For the first time Van Hielen was afraid. He could not define the cause of his fear—but that only made his fear the more acute. He was frightened of the wind and darkness, and of something more than the wind and darkness—something concealed in—something cloaked by the wind and darkness. Even the atmosphere had altered—it, too, was making game of him. It distorted his vision. The things he saw around him were no longer stationary—they moved. They twirled and twisted themselves into all sorts of grotesque and fanciful attitudes; grew large, then small; nearer and then more distant. The plot of ground in front of which the children knelt played all manner of pranks—pranks Van Hielen did not at all like. It moved round and round—faster and faster, until it eventually became a whirlpool; which suddenly reversed and assumed the appearance of a pyramid revolving on its apex. Quicker and quicker it spun round—closer and closer it drew; until, without warning, it suddenly stopped and disappeared; whilst its place was taken by an oddly shaped bulge in the ground, which, swaying backward and forward, increased and increased in stature, till it attained the height of some seven or eight feet. Van Hielen could not compare this with anything he had ever seen. It was monstrous but shapeless—a mere mass of irregular lumps, a dull leadish white, and vibrating horribly in the moonlight. He thought of the children; but where they had stood he saw only two greenish-yellow spheres that, twirling round and round, suddenly approached him. As he started back to escape them, all was again changed. The lumpy figure had vanished, the atmosphere cleared, and everything was absolutely normal. There were now, however, solid grounds for fear. Advancing on him with flashing eyes and scintillating teeth were two vividly marked jaguars—a male and female. Van Hielen, usually calm and collected in the face of danger, on this occasion lost his presence of mind: his gun dropped from his hands, his knees quivered, and, helpless and inert, he reeled against the tree under which he had been standing. The jaguars—which seemed to be unusually savage even for jaguars—prepared to spring, and Van Hielen, certain his hour had come, was about to close his eyes and resign himself to his fate, when the female brute, although the bigger and more formidable, hesitated—thrust its dark, handsomely spotted head almost in its victim's face, and then, lashing its companion sharply with its tail, swerved aside and was off like a dart.
It took Van Hielen some minutes to realize his escape, and then, more in a dream than awake, he mechanically shouldered his rifle and slowly followed in the beasts' wake.
An hour's walking brought him to the end of the forest. The dawn was breaking, and the track leading to the settlement was just beginning to exhibit the mellowing influence of the first rays of the sun. There was an exhilarating freshness in the air that made Van Hielen keenly sensitive to the ambitious demands of a newly awakened stomach. Opposite him was the hut of the old woman, the entrance somewhat clumsily blocked with a makeshift door. As Van Hielen looked at it curiously, wondering if the woman was in the habit of barricading it in this fashion on account of her proximity to the forest, sounds greeted him from within.
Stepping lightly up to the hut, Van Hielen listened attentively. Some big animal—a hound most probably—was gnawing a bone—crunch, crunch, crunch!
Van Hielen moved away, but hadn't gone very far before an indefinable something made him turn back. That crunching, was it a dog or was it——? His heart turned sick within him at the bare thought. Again he listened at the threshold, and again he heard the sounds—gnaw, gnaw, gnaw—crunch, crunch, crunch! He rapped at first gently, and then loudly, ever so loudly.
The gnawing at once stopped, but no one answered him. Then he called—once, twice, thrice: there was no reply. Assured now there was something amiss, he gripped his rifle, and putting his shoulder to the door, burst it open. A flood of daylight rushed in, and he saw before him on the floor the mutilated and half-eaten remains of a woman, and—did his eyes deceive him or did he see?—crouching in a corner all ready to spring, two magnificent jaguars. Van Hielen raised his rifle, but—in less than a second—it fell from his grasp.
Towards him, from the same spot—their small mouths and slender hands smeared with blood—ran Yarakna and her brother.
[32:1] A spirit that has never inhabited any material body. Elementals are a genus of a large order, and include innumerable species.
THE SPIRITS OF WERWOLVES
It seems that there is a disposition in certain minds to associate lycanthropy with the doctrine of the transmigration of souls. A brief examination of the latter will, however, suffice to show there is very little analogy between the two.
Transmigration of souls, a metempsychosis, deals solely with the passing of the soul after death into another mortal form. Lycanthropy confines itself to the metamorphosis of physical man to animal form only during man's physical lifetime.
Metempsychosis is a change of condition dependent on the principle of evolution (i.e. evolution upward and retrogressive). Lycanthropy is a change of condition relative to a property, entirely independent of evolution. The one is wholly determined by man's spiritual state at the time of his physical dissolution; the other is simply a faculty of sense, either handed down to man by his forefathers or acquired by man, during his lifetime, through the knowledge and practice of magic.
There are absolutely no grounds, other than purely hypothetical ones, for supposing a werwolf to be a reincarnation; but on the other hand there is reason to believe that the wolf personality of the werwolf, at the latter's physical dissolution, remains earthbound in the form of a lupine phantasm. So that although there is nothing to associate lycanthropy with metempsychosis, there is, at all events, something in common between lycanthropy and animism. Animism, be it understood, holds that every living thing, whether man, beast, reptile, insect, or vegetable, has a representative spirit.
As an example of a lupine phantasm representing the personality of the werwolf, I will quote a case, reported to me some years ago as having occurred in Estonia, on the shores of the Baltic. A gentleman and his sister, whom I will call Stanislaus and Anno D'Adhemar, were invited to spend a few weeks with their old friends, the Baron and Baroness Von A——, at their country home in Estonia. On the day arranged, they set out for their friends' house, and alighting at a little station, within twenty miles of their destination, were met by the Baron's droshky. It was one of those exquisite evenings—a night light without moon, a day shady without clouds—peculiar to that clime. Indeed, it seemed as if the last glow of the evening and the first grey of the morning had melted together, and as if all the luminaries of the sky merely rested their beams without withdrawing them. To Stanislaus and Anno, jaded with the wear and tear of life in a big city, the calm and quiet of the country-side was most refreshing, and they heaved great sighs of contentment as they leaned far back amid the luxurious upholstery of the carriage, and drew in deep breaths of the smokeless, pure, scented air. Their surroundings modelled their thoughts. Instead of discussing monetary matters, which had so long been uppermost in their minds, they discoursed on the wonderful economy of happiness in a world full of toil and struggle; the fewer the joys, they argued, the higher the enjoyment, till the last and highest joy of all, true peace of mind, i.e., content, was the one joy found to contain every other joy. Occasionally they paused to remark on the brilliant lustre of the stars, and, not infrequently, alluded to the Creator's graciousness in allowing them to behold such beauty. Occasionally, too, they would break off in the midst of their conversation to listen to the plaintive utterings of some night bird or the shrill cry of a startled hare. The rate at which they were progressing—for the horses were young and fresh—speedily brought them to an end of the open country, and they found themselves suddenly immersed in the deepening gloom of a dense and extensive forest of pines. The track now was not quite so smooth; here and there were big ruts, and Stanislaus and his sister were subjected to such a vigorous bumping that they had to hold on to the sides of the droshky, and to one another. In the altered conditions of their travel, conversation was well-nigh impossible. The little they attempted was unceremoniously jerked out of them, and the nature of it—I am loath to admit—had somewhat deteriorated. It had, in fact, in accordance with their surroundings, undergone a considerable change.
"What a vile road!" Stanislaus exclaimed, clutching the side of the droshky with both hands to save himself from being precipitated into space.
"Yes—isn't—it?" gasped Anno, as she lunged forward, and in a vain attempt to regain her seat fell on their handbag, which gave an ominous squish. "I declare there—there—will be—nothing left of me—by the—by the time we get there. Oh dear! Whatever shall I do? Wherever have you got to, Stanislaus?"
The upper half of Stanislaus was nowhere to be seen! His lower half, however, was discovered by his sister convulsively pressed against the side of the droshky. In another moment this, too, would undoubtedly have disappeared, and the lower extremities would have gone in pursuit of the upper, had not Anno with admirable presence of mind effected a rescue. She tugged at her brother's coat-tails in the very nick of time, with the result that his whole body once again hove into view.
Just then a bird sang its final song before retiring for the night, and Stanislaus, hot and trembling all over, shouted out: "What a hideous noise! I declare it quite frightened me"; whilst Anno shuddered and put her fingers in her ears. They once more abused the road; then the trees. "Great ugly things," they said; "they shut out all the light." And then they abused the driver for not looking out where he was going, and finally they began to abuse one another. Anno abused Stanislaus, because he had disarranged her hat and hair, and Stanislaus, Anno, because he couldn't hear all she said, and because what he did hear was silly. Then the Stygian darkness of the great pines grew; and the silence of wonder fell on the two quarrellers. On, on, on rolled the droshky, a monotonous rumble, rumble, that sounded very loud amid the intense hush that had suddenly fallen on the forest. Stanislaus and Anno grew drowsy; the cold night air, crowning their exertions of the day, induced sleep, and they were soon very much in the land of nods: Stanislaus with his head thrust back as far as it would go, and Anno with her head leaning slightly forward and her chin deeply rooted in the silvery recesses of her rich fur coat.
The driver stopped for a moment. He had to attend to his lights, which, he reflected, were behaving in rather an odd manner. Then, scratching his head thoughtfully, he cracked his whip and drove hurriedly on. Once again, rumble, rumble, rumble; and no other sounds but far away echoes and the gentle cooing of a soft night breeze through the forked and ragged branches of the sad and stately pines. On, on, on, the light uncertain and the horses brisk. Suddenly the driver hears something—he strains his ears to catch the meaning of the sounds—a peculiar, quick patter, patter—coming from far away in the droshky's wake. There is something—he can't exactly tell what—in those sounds he doesn't like; they are human, and yet not human; they may proceed from some one running—some one tall and lithe, with an unusually long stride. They may—and he casts a shuddering look over his shoulder as the thought strikes him—they may be nothing human—they may be the patter of a wolf! A huge, gaunt, hungry wolf! an abnormally big wolf! a wolf with a gallop like that of a horse! The driver was new to these parts; he had but lately come from the Baron's establishment in St. Petersburg. He had never been in this wood after dark, and he had never seen a wolf save in the Zoological Gardens. The atmosphere now began to sharpen. From being merely cold it became positively icy, and muttering, "I never felt anything like this in St. Petersburg," the driver shrank into the depths of his furs, and tried to settle himself more comfortably in his seat. The horses, too, four in number, were strangers in Estonia, the Baron having only recently paid a heavy price for them in Nava on account of their beauty. Not that they were merely handsome; despite their small and graceful build, and the glossy sleekness of their coats, they were both strong and spirited, and could cover twenty-five versts without a pause. But now they, too, heard the sounds—there was no doubt of that—and felt the cold. At first they shivered, then whined, and then came to an abrupt halt; and then, without the slightest warning, tore the shifting tag and rag tight around them, and bounding forward, were off like the wind. Then, away in their rear, and plainly audible above the thunder of their hoofs, came a moaning, snarling, drawn-out cry, which was almost instantly repeated, not once, but again and again.
Stanislaus and Anno, who had been rudely awakened from their slumbers by the unusual behaviour of the horses, were now on the qui vive.
"Good heavens! What's that?" they cried in chorus.
"What's that, coachman?" shrieked Anno, digging the shivering driver in the back.
"Volki, mistress, volki!" was the reply, and on flew the droshky faster, faster, faster!
To Stanislaus and Anno the word "wolves" came as a stunning shock. All the tales they had ever heard of these ferocious beasts crowded their minds at once. Wolves! was it possible that those dreadful bogies of their childhood—those grim and awful creatures, grotesquely but none the less vividly portrayed in their imagination by horror-loving nurses—were actually close at hand! Supposing the brutes caught them, who would be eaten first? Anno, Stanislaus, or the driver? Would they devour them with their clothes on? If not, how would they get them off? Then, filled with morbid curiosity, they strained their ears and listened. Again—this time nearer, much nearer—came that cry, dismal, protracted, nerve-racking. Nor was that all, for they could now discern the pat-pat, pat-pat of footsteps—long, soft, loping footsteps, as of huge furry paws or naked human feet. However, they could see nothing—nothing but blackness, intensified by the feeble flickering of the droshky's lanterns.
"Faster! drive faster!" Anno shouted, turning round and poking the coachman in the ribs with her umbrella. "Do you want us all to be eaten?"
"I can't mistress, I can't!" the man expostulated; "the horses are outstripping the wind as it is. They can't go quicker." And the driver, consigning Stanislaus and his sister to the innermost recesses of hell, prayed to the Virgin to save him.
Nearer and nearer drew the steps, and again a cry—a cry close behind them, perhaps fifty yards—fifty yards at the most. And as they were trying to locate it there burst into view a gigantic figure—nude and luminous, a figure that glowed like a glow-worm and bent slightly forward as it ran. It covered the ground with long, easy, swinging strides, without any apparent effort. In general form its body was like that of a man, saving that the limbs were longer and covered with short hair, and the feet and hands, besides being larger as a whole, had longer toes and fingers. Its head was partly human, partly lupine—the skull, ears, teeth, and eyes were those of a wolf, whilst the remaining features were those of a man. Its complexion was devoid of colour, startlingly white; its eyes green and lurid, its expression hellish.
Stanislaus and Anno did not know what to make of it. Was it some terrible monstrosity that had escaped from a show, or something that was peculiar to the forest itself, something generated by the giant trees and dark, silent road? In their sublime terror they shrieked aloud, beat the air with their hands to ward it off, and finally left their seats to cling on to the back of the driver's box.
But it came nearer, nearer, and nearer, until they were almost within reach of its arms. They read death in the glinting greenness of its eyes and in the flashing of its long bared teeth. The climax of their agony, they argued, could no longer be postponed. The thing had only to make a grab at them and they would die of horror—die even before it touched them. But this was not to be.
They were still staring into the pale malevolent face drawing nearer and nearer, and wondering when the long twitching fingers would catch them by the throats, when the droshky with a mad swirl forward cleared the forest, and they found themselves gazing wildly into empty moonlit space, with no sign of their pursuer anywhere.
An hour later they narrated their adventure to the Baron. Nothing could have exceeded his distress. "My dear friends!" he said, "I owe you a profound apology. I ought to have told my man to choose any other road rather than that through the forest, which is well known to be haunted. According to rumour, a werwolf—we have good reason to believe in werwolfs here—was killed there many years ago."
HOW TO BECOME A WERWOLF
As I have already stated, in some people lycanthropy is hereditary; and when it is not hereditary it may be acquired through the performance of certain of the rites ordained by Black Magic. For the present I can only deal with the more general features of these rites (which vary according to locality) and the conditions of mind essential to those who would successfully practise these rites. In the first place, it is necessary that the person desirous of acquiring the property of lycanthropy should be in earnest and a believer in those superphysical powers whose favour he is about to ask.
Assuming we have such an individual he must, first of all, betake himself to a spot remote from the haunts of men. The powers to be petitioned are not to be found promiscuously—anywhere. They favour only such waste and solitary places as the deserts, woods, and mountain-tops.
The locality chosen, our candidate must next select a night when the moon is new and strong.[56:1] He must then choose a perfectly level piece of ground, and on it, at midnight, he must mark, either with chalk or string—it really does not matter which—a circle of not less than seven feet in radius, and within this, and from the same centre, another circle of three feet in radius. Then, in the centre of this inner circle he must kindle a fire, and over the fire place an iron tripod containing an iron vessel of water. As soon as the water begins to boil the would-be lycanthropist must throw into it handfuls of any three of the following substances: Asafoetida, parsley, opium, hemlock, henbane, saffron, aloe, poppy-seed and solanum; repeating as he does so these words:—
"Spirits from the deep Who never sleep, Be kind to me.
"Spirits from the grave Without a soul to save, Be kind to me.
"Spirits of the trees That grow upon the leas, Be kind to me.
"Spirits of the air, Foul and black, not fair, Be kind to me.
"Water spirits hateful, To ships and bathers fateful, Be kind to me.
"Spirits of earthbound dead That glide with noiseless tread, Be kind to me.
"Spirits of heat and fire, Destructive in your ire, Be kind to me.
"Spirits of cold and ice, Patrons of crime and vice, Be kind to me.
"Wolves, vampires, satyrs, ghosts! Elect of all the devilish hosts! I pray you send hither, Send hither, send hither, The great grey shape that makes men shiver! Shiver, shiver, shiver! Come! Come! Come!"
The supplicant then takes off his vest and shirt and smears his body with the fat of some newly killed animal (preferably a cat), mixed with aniseed, camphor, and opium. Then he binds round his loins a girdle made of wolf's-skin, and kneeling down within the circumference of the first circle, waits for the advent of the Unknown. When the fire burns blue and quickly dies out, the Unknown is about to manifest itself; if it does not then actually appear it will make its presence felt.
There is little consistency in the various methods of the spirit's advent: sometimes a deep unnatural silence immediately precedes it; sometimes crashes and bangs, groanings and shriekings, herald its approach. When it remains invisible its presence is indicated and accompanied by a sensation of abnormal cold and the most acute terror. It is sometimes visible in the guise of a huntsman—which is, perhaps, its most popular shape—sometimes in the form of a monstrosity, partly man and partly beast—and sometimes it is seen ill defined and only partially materialized. To what order of spirits it belongs is, of course, purely a matter of conjecture. I believe it to be some malevolent, superphysical, creative power, such as, in my opinion, participated largely in the creation of this and other planets. I do not believe it to be the Devil, because I do not believe in the existence of only one devil, but in countless devils. It is difficult to say to what extent the Unknown is believed to be powerful by those who approach it for the purpose of acquiring the gift of lycanthropy; but I am inclined to think that the majority of these, at all events, do not ascribe to it any supreme power, but regard it merely as a local spirit—the spirit of some particular wilderness or forest.
Of course, it is quite possible that the property of werwolfery might be acquired by other than a direct personal communication with the Unknown, as, for example, by eating a wolf's brains, by drinking water out of a wolf's footprints, or by drinking out of a stream from which three or more wolves have been seen to drink; but as most of the stories I have heard of werwolfery acquired in this way are of a wild and improbable nature, I think there is little to be learned from the modus operandi they advocate. The following story, which I believe to be true in the main, was told me by a Dr. Broniervski, whom I met in Boulogne.
"Ten years ago," my informant began, "I was engaged in a geological expedition in Montenegro. I left Cetinge in company with my escort, Dugald Dalghetty, a Dalmatian who had served me on many former occasions; but owing to an accident I was compelled to leave him behind at a village about thirty miles east of the capital. As it was absolutely necessary for me to have a guide, I chose a Montenegrin called Kniaz. Dalghetty warned me against him. 'Kniaz has the evil eye,' he said; 'he will bring misfortune on you. Choose some one else.'
"Kniaz was certainly not particularly prepossessing. He was tall and angular, and pock-marked and sandy-haired; and his eyes had a peculiar cast—only a cast, of course, nothing more. To balance these detractions he was civil in his manners and extremely moderate in his terms. Dalghetty, faithful fellow, almost wept as he watched us depart. 'I shall never see you again,' he said. 'Never!'
"Just outside the last cottage in the village we passed a gigantic, broad-shouldered man, clad in the usual clothes of frieze, a black skullcap, wide trousers, and tights from the knee to the ankle. Over his shoulders was a new white strookah, of which he seemed very proud; whilst he had a perfect armament of weapons—rifles, pistols, yatagan—polished up to the knocker—and cartouche-box. He was conversing with a girl at one of the windows, but turned as we came up to him and leered impudently at Kniaz. The sallow in Kniaz's cheeks turned to white, and the cast in his eyes became ten times more pronounced. But he said nothing—only drooped his head and shuffled a little closer to me.
"For the rest of the day he spoke little; and I could tell from his expression and general air of dejection that he was still brooding over the incident. The following morning—we stayed the night in a wayside inn—Kniaz informed me that the route we had intended taking to Skaravoski—the town I meant to make the head quarters for my daily excursions—was blocked (a blood feud had suddenly been declared between two tribes), and that consequently we should have to go by some other way. I inquired who had told him and whether he was sure the information was correct. He replied that our host had given him the warning, and that the possibility of such an occurrence had been suggested to him before leaving Cetinge. 'But,' he added, 'there is no need to worry, for the other road, though somewhat wild and rough, is, in reality, quite as safe, and certainly a good league and a half shorter.' As it made no very great difference to me which way I went, I acquiesced. There was no reason to suspect Kniaz of any sinister motive—cases of treachery on the part of escorts are practically unknown in Montenegro—and if it were true that some of the tribes were engaged in a vendetta, then I certainly agreed that we could not give them too wide a berth. At the same time I could not help observing a strange innovation in Kniaz's character. Besides the sullenness that had laid hold of him since his encounter with the man and girl, he now exhibited a restless eagerness—his eyes were never still, his lips constantly moved, and I could frequently hear him muttering to himself as we trudged along. He asked me several times if I believed in the supernatural, and when I laughingly replied 'No, I am far too practical and level-headed,' he said 'Wait. We are now in the land of spirits. You will soon change your opinion.'
"The country we were traversing was certainly forbidding—forbidding enough to be the hunting ground of legions of ferocious animals. But the supernatural! Bah! I flouted such an idea. All day we journeyed along a lofty ridge, from which, shortly before dusk, it became necessary to descend by a narrow and precipitous declivity, full of danger and difficulty. At the bottom we halted three or four hours, to wait for the moon, in a position sufficiently romantic and uncomfortable. A north-east wind, cold and biting, came whistling over the hills, and seemed to be sucked down into the hollow where we sat on the chilly stones. The moment we sighted the slightly depressed orb of the moon over the vast hill of rocks, and the Milky Way spanning the heavens with a brilliancy seen only in the East, we pushed on again. On, along a painfully rough and uneven track, flanked on either side by perpendicular masses of rock that reared themselves, black and frowning, like some huge ruined wall. On, till we eventually came to the end of the defile. Then an extraordinary scene burst upon us.
"Whilst the irregular line of rocks continued close on our left, beyond it—glittering in the miraculously magnifying moonlight with more gigantic proportions than nature had afforded—was a huge pile of white rocks, looking like the fortifications of some vast fabulous city. There were yawning gateways flanked by bastions of great altitude; towers and pyramids; crescents and domes; and dizzy pinnacles; and castellated heights; all invested with the unearthly grandeur of the moon, yet showing in their wide breaches and indescribable ruin sure proofs that during a long course of ages they had been battered and undermined by rain, hurricane, and lightning, and all the mighty artillery of time. Piled on one another, and repeated over and over again, these strangely contorted rocks stretched as far as the eye could reach, sinking, however, as they receded, and leading the mind, though not the eye, down to the plain below, through which a turbid stream wound its way rebelliously, like some great twisting, twirling, silvery-scaled serpent.
"It was into this gorge that Kniaz in a voice thrilling with excitement informed me we must plunge.
"'It is called,' he explained to me, 'the haunted valley, and it is said to have been from time immemorial under the spell of the grey spirits—a species of phantasm, half man and half animal, that have the power of metamorphosing men into wild beasts.' Horses, he went on to inform me, showed the greatest reluctance to enter the valley, which was a sure proof that the place was in very truth phantom-ridden. I must say its appearance favoured that theory. The path by which we descended was almost perpendicular, and filled with shadows. Precipices hemmed us in on every side; and here and there a huge fragment of rock, standing like a petrified giant, its summit gleaming white in the moonbeams, barred our way.
"On reaching the bottom we found ourselves exactly opposite the pile of white rocks, at the base of which roared the stream. Kniaz now declared that our best plan was to halt and bivouac here for the night. I expostulated, saying that I did not feel in the least degree tired, that the spot was far from comfortable, and that I preferred to push on. Kniaz then pleaded that he was too exhausted to proceed, and, in fact, whined to such an extent that in the end I gave way, and lying down under cover of a boulder, tried to imagine myself in bed. I did actually fall asleep, and awoke with the sensation of something crawling over my face. Sitting up, I looked around for Kniaz—he was nowhere to be seen. The oddness of his behaviour, his alternate talkativeness and sullenness, and the anxiety he had manifested to come by this route, made me at last suspicious. Had he any ulterior motive in leading me hither? What had become of him? Where was he? I got up and approached the margin of the stream, and then for the first time I felt frightened. The illimitable possibilities of that enormous mass of castellated rocks towering above me both quelled and fascinated me. Were these flickering shadows shadows, or—or had Kniaz, after all, spoken the truth when he said this valley was haunted? The moonlight rendered every object I looked upon so startlingly vivid, that not even the most trivial detail escaped my notice, and the more I scrutinized the more firmly the conviction grew on me that I was in a neighbourhood differing essentially from any spot I had hitherto visited. I saw nothing with which I had been formerly conversant. The few trees at hand resembled no growth of either the torrid, temperate, or northern frigid zones, and were altogether unlike those of the southern latitudes with which I was most familiar. The very rocks were novel in their mass, their colour, and their stratification; and the stream itself, utterly incredible as it may appear, had so little in common with the streams of other countries that I shrank away from it in alarm. I am at a loss to give any distinct idea of the nature of the water. I can only say it was not like ordinary water, either in appearance or behaviour. Even in the moonlight it was not colourless, nor was it of any one colour, presenting to the eye every variety of green and blue. Although it fell over stones and rocks with the same rapid descent as ordinary water, it made no sound, neither splash nor gurgle. Summoning up courage, I dipped my fingers in the stream; it was quite cold and limpid. The difference did not lie there. I was still puzzling over this phenomenon, still debating in my mind the possibility of the valley being haunted, when I heard a cry—a peculiarly ominous cry—human and yet animal. For a few seconds I was too overcome with fear to move. At last, however, having in some measure pulled myself together, I ventured cautiously in the direction of the noise, and after treading as lightly as I could over the rough and rocky soil for some couple of hundred yards, suddenly came to an abrupt standstill.
"Kneeling beside the stream with its back turned to me was an extraordinary figure—a thing with a man's body and an animal's head—a dark, shaggy head with unmistakable prick ears. I gazed at it aghast. What was it? What was it doing? As I stared it bent down, lapped the water, and raising its head, uttered the same harrowing sound that had brought me thither. I then saw, with a fresh start of wonder, that its hands, which shone very white in the moonlight, were undergoing a gradual metamorphosis. I watched carefully, and first one finger, and then another, became amalgamated in a long, furry paw, armed with sharp, formidable talons.
"I suppose that in my fear and astonishment I made some sound of sufficient magnitude to attract attention; anyhow, the creature at once swung round, and, with a snarl of rage, rushed savagely at me. Being unarmed, and also, I confess, unnerved, I completely lost my presence of mind, and not attempting to escape—though flight would have been futile, for I was nothing of a runner—shrieked aloud for help. The thing sprang at me, its jaws wide open, its eyes red with rage. I struck at it wildly, and have dim recollections of my puny blows landing on its face. It closed in on me, and gripping me tightly round the body with its sinewy arms, hurled me to the ground. My head came in violent contact with a stone, and I lost consciousness. On recovering my senses, I was immeasurably surprised to find Dalghetty sitting on a rock watching me, whilst close beside him was Kniaz, bloodstained and motionless.
"Dalghetty explained the situation. 'Convinced that evil would befall you in the company of such a man,' he said, pointing to the figure at his feet, 'I determined to set out in pursuit of you. By a miracle, which I attribute to Our Lady, the effects of my accident suddenly wore off, and I felt absolutely well. I borrowed a horse, and, starting from Cetinge at nine this morning, reached the inn where you passed last night at eleven. There I learned the route you had taken, and leaving the horse behind—on such a road I was safer on my legs—I pressed on. The ground, being moist in places, revealed your footprints, and I had no difficulty at all in tracing you to the bottom of the declivity. There I was at sea for some moments, since the rocky soil was too hard to receive any impressions. But hearing the howl of some wild animal, I concluded you were attacked, and, guided by the sound, I arrived here to find a werwolf actually preparing to devour you. A bullet from my rifle speedily rendered the creature harmless, and a close inspection of it proved that my surmises were only too correct. It was none other than our friend here with the evil eye—Kniaz!'
"'Kniaz a werwolf!' I ejaculated.
"'Yes! he inveigled you here because he had made up his mind to drink the water of the enchanted stream, and so become metamorphosed from a man to a wild beast. His object in doing so was to destroy a young farmer who had stolen his sweetheart, and for whom he, as a man, was no match. However, he is harmless now, but it is a warning to you in future to trust no one who has the evil eye.'"
Belief in the evil eye is everywhere prevalent in the East, and it is undoubtedly true that people who have certain peculiarities in their eyes, both with regard to expression, colour, and formation, are people to be avoided. If malevolently inclined, they invariably bring ill-luck on all who become acquainted with them. I have followed the careers of several people in whom I have noticed this baneful feature, and their histories have been one long tale of sin or sorrow—often both.
But though the evil eye denotes an evil superphysical influence, the werwolf is not necessarily possessed of it. Sometimes a werwolf may be told by the long, straight, slanting eyebrows, which meet in an angle over the nose; sometimes by the hands, the third finger of which is a trifle the longest; or by the finger-nails, which are red, almond-shaped, and curved; sometimes by the ears, which are set rather low, and far back on their heads; and sometimes by a noticeably long, swinging stride, which is strongly suggestive of some animal. Either one or other of these features is always present in hereditary werwolves, and is also frequently developed in those people who become werwolves, either at the same time as or soon after they acquire the property.
[56:1] Psychic influences are demonstrated by the position of the planets. For instance, at a new moon, cusp of Seventh House, and cojoined with Saturn in opposition to Jupiter, sinister superphysical presences are much in evidence on the earth.
WERWOLVES AND EXORCISM
In the preceding chapter I touched on one or two modes of evoking the spirits that have it in their power to confer the property of lycanthropy; I now pass on to the question of exorcism in relation to werwolves.
Is it possible to exorcize the evil power of metamorphosis possessed by the werwolf, or, as those would say who see in the werwolf, not the possession of a property, but a spirit, "to exorcize the evil spirit"?
For my own part, and basing my opinion on my own experiences with other forms of the superphysical, with regard to the success of exorcism I am sceptical. I have been present when exorcism has been tried—tried on people supposed to be obsessed with demoniacal spirits, and tried on spontaneous psychic phenomena in haunted houses—and in both cases it has failed. Now, although, as I have said, I regard lycanthropy in the light of a property, and do not believe in the lycanthropist being possessed of a separate individual spirit, I am inclined to think, were exorcism efficacious at all, that it would take effect on werwolves, since the property of werwolfery is a gift which is, more or less, directly acquired from the malevolent spirits.
But I am not only dubious as to the powers of exorcism generally, I am also dubious as to its effect on werwolves. I have come across a good many alleged cases of its having been successfully practised on werwolves, but in regard to these cases, the authority is not very reliable, nor the corroborative evidence strong.
Nearly all the methods prescribed embrace the use of some potion; such, for example, as sulphur, asafoetida, and castoreum, mixed with clear spring water; or hypericum, compounded with vinegar—which two potions seem to have been (and to be still) the most favoured recipes for removing the devilish power.
The ceremony of exorcism proceeded as follows: The werwolf was sprinkled three times with one of the above solutions, and saluted with the sign of the cross, or addressed thrice by his baptismal name, each address being accompanied by a blow on the forehead with a knife; or he was sprinkled, whilst at the same time his girdle was removed; or in lieu of being sprinkled, he had three drops of blood drawn from his chest, or was compelled to kneel in one spot for a great number of years.
A full description of the practice and failure of exorcism was cited to me the other day in connexion with a comparatively recent happening in Asiatic Russia:—
Tina Peroviskei, a wealthy young widow, who lived in St. Nicholas Street, Moscow—not a hundred yards from the house of Herr Schauman, the well-known German banker and horticulturist (every one in Russia has heard of the Schauman tulips)—met a gentleman named Ivan Baranoff at a friend's house, and, despite the warning of her brother, married him.
Ivan Baranoff did not look more than thirty years of age. He was usually dressed in grey furs—a grey fur coat, grey fur leggings, and a grey fur cap. His features were very handsome—at least, so Tina thought—his hair was flaxen, glossy, and bright as a mirror; and his mouth, when open, displayed a most brilliant set of even, white teeth. Tina had three children by her first husband, and the fuss Ivan Baranoff made of them pleased her immensely. Their own father never evinced a greater anxiety for their welfare. Ivan brought them the most expensive toys and sweetmeats—particularly sweetmeats—and would insist on seeing for himself that they had plenty of rich, creamy milk, fresh eggs, and the best of butter.
"You'll kill them with kindness," Tina often remonstrated. "They are too fat by half now."
"They can't be too fat," Ivan would reply. "No one is too fat. I love to see rosy cheeks and stout limbs. Wait till you're in the country! Then you may talk about putting on flesh. The air there will fatten you even more than the food."
"Then we shall burst, and there will be an end of us," Tina would laughingly say.
But despite all this, despite the way in which he fondled and caressed them, the children involuntarily shrank away from Ivan; and on Tina angrily demanding the reason, they told her they could not help it—there was something in his bright eyes and touch that frightened them. When Tina's brothers and sisters heard of this, they upheld the children.
"We are not in the least surprised," they said; "his eyes are cruel—so are his lips; and as for his eyebrows—those dark, straight eyebrows that meet in a point over the nose—why, every one knows what a bad sign that is!"
But Tina grew so angry they had to desist. "You are jealous," she said to her brothers. "You envy him his looks and money." And to her sisters she said, "You only wish you could have had him yourselves. You know I love him already far more than I ever loved Rupert." (Rupert was her first husband.)
And within a month or so of the marriage Tina left all her relatives in Moscow, and, accompanied by her children and dogs—some people hinted that Tina was fonder of her dogs than of her children—went with Ivan Baranoff to his ancestral home near Orsk.
Though accustomed to the cold, Tina found the climate of Orsk almost more than she could bear. Her husband's house, which occupied an extremely solitary position on the confines of a gloomy forest, some few miles from the town, was a large, grey stone building full of dark winding passages and dungeon-like rooms. The furniture was scant, and the rooms, with the exception of those devoted to herself, her husband and the children, which were covered with crimson drugget, were carpetless. A more barren, inhospitable looking house could not be imagined, and the moment Tina entered it, her spirits sank to zero. The atmosphere of the place frightened her the most. It was not that it was merely forlorn and cheerless, but there was a something in it that reminded her of the smell of the animal houses in the Zoological Gardens in Moscow, and a something she could not analyse—a something which she concluded must be peculiar to the house. The children were very much upset. The sight of the dark entrance hall and wide, silent staircases, bathed in gloom, terrified them.
"Oh, mother!" they cried, clutching hold of Tina Baranoff and dragging her back, "we can never live here. Take us away at once. Look at those things. Whatever are they?" And they pointed to the shadows—queerly shaped shadows—that lay in thick clusters on the stairs and all around them.