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Title: Stranger Than Fiction - Being Tales from the Byways of Ghosts and Folk-lore
Author: Lewes, Mary L.
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                           STRANGER THAN FICTION

            BEING TALES FROM THE BYWAYS OF GHOSTS AND FOLK-LORE

                             BY MARY L. LEWES


    LONDON
    WILLIAM RIDER & SON LTD.
    164 ALDERSGATE STREET, E.C.
    1911

    PRINTED BY
    BALLANTYNE & COMPANY LTD
    AT THE BALLANTYNE PRESS
    TAVISTOCK STREET COVENT GARDEN
    LONDON



       TO
    MY SISTER



PREFACE


I have to thank the Editor of the _Occult Review_ for his kindness in
allowing me to reprint here many stories which have appeared at
different times in his magazine.

And I am most grateful to the friends who have helped to swell the
contents of this little volume, by permitting me to record their
interesting experiences of the supernatural, or by furnishing me with
details concerning local beliefs and superstitions, which would
otherwise have been difficult to obtain.

M. L. LEWES



CONTENTS


I. INTRODUCTORY

II. WELSH GHOSTS

III. WELSH GHOSTS (_continued_)

IV. OTHER GHOSTS

V. CORPSE-CANDLES AND THE TOILI

VI. CORPSE-CANDLES AND THE TOILI (_continued_)

VII. WELSH FAIRIES

VIII. WISE MEN, WITCHES, AND FAMILY CURSES

IX. ODD NOTES

X. CONCLUSION



CHAPTER I

INTRODUCTORY

    "Strange, is it not? that of the myriads who
    Before us passed the door of Darkness through,
    Not one returns to tell us of the Road,
    Which to discover we must travel too."


If we may judge by the assertion contained in the above quatrain, Omar
Khayyám was no believer in ghosts. In which respect the Persian poet
must have differed from the general opinion of his times. For until a
very few centuries ago, it was only a small minority of those who
considered themselves wise above their fellows, who ventured to deny the
possibility of the spirit's return to earth. Even amongst the Romans
during the Antonine Age (A.D. 98-180), when scepticism on religious
matters had become almost universal among the learned, and the worship
of the gods had sunk to mere outward observance of ceremony, Gibbon
says, "I do not pretend to assert that in this irreligious age, the
natural terrors of superstitions, dreams, omens, apparitions, &c., had
lost their efficacy." The younger Pliny, in a letter to his friend Sura,
writes: "I am extremely desirous to know whether you believe in the
existence of ghosts, and that they have a real form, and are a sort of
divinities, or only the visionary impression of a terrified
imagination." He also relates a really exciting tale of a haunted house
at Athens, but it is too long to quote here.

The ancients believed that every one possessed three distinct ghosts;
the _manes_, of which the ultimate destination was the lower regions,
the _spiritus_, which returned to Heaven, and the _umbra_, that,
unwilling to sever finally its connection with this life, was wont to
haunt the last resting-place of the earthly body. These "shades" were
supposed to "walk" between the hours of midnight and cock-crow, causing
burial-grounds, cemeteries or tombs to be carefully avoided at night.
One reason given as to why very old yew-trees are so often found in
country churchyards is, that originally these trees were planted to
supply the peasants with wood for their bows, for in lawless times it
was soon discovered that the only place where the trees would be safe
from nightly marauders was the churchyard, where not the most hardened
thief dared venture between darkness and dawn. Particularly were the
shades of those who, perishing by crimes of violence without
absolution--

    "Unhousel'd, disappointed, unanel'd--"

supposed to be uneasy; haunting sometimes the scene of their end, or, in
other cases, the footsteps of the slayer. If a living person could
summon courage to address one of these haunting spirits (for no ghost
may speak unless spoken to) and discover the cause of its restlessness,
it was thought possible to give it peace or "lay it," by righting the
wrong it suffered from; whether by vengeance on a murderer, atonement
for a crime committed, or by the offices of a priest to give absolution
to an unshrived soul. An old writer tells us: "The mode of addressing a
Ghost is by commanding it in the name of the three Persons of the
Trinity to tell you what it is, and what its business.... During the
narration of its business a Ghost must by no means be interrupted by
questions of any kind; so doing is extremely dangerous...."

Besides believing in these ghosts of departed human beings, there was
ever present in the minds of our forefathers, the dread of a host of
"evil spirits" who were the agents and assistants of Satan, always ready
to injure innocent souls, and where possible, to cause worldly disaster
also. Magicians and sorcerers[1] were supposed by their arts to have
power in this world of demons, the forfeit being their own souls, lost
beyond redemption. In his delightful "Memoirs," Benvenuto Cellini
(1500-1571) describes with great vividness some experiments he conducted
with a necromancer at Rome, in order to discover the whereabouts of a
girl he loved. The magician was a Sicilian priest, "a man of genius and
well versed in the Latin and Greek authors," who made an appointment
with Cellini for a certain evening, desiring him to bring two
companions. "I invited Vincenzo Romoli ... he brought with him a native
of Pistoja, who cultivated the black art himself." The trio then
repaired to the Colosseum, where the priest "... began to draw circles
upon the ground with the most impressive ceremonies imaginable...."
After this sort of thing and many incantations had lasted an hour and a
half, "there appeared several legions of devils, insomuch that the
amphitheatre was quite filled with them." This terrible phenomenon
sounds dreadful enough to have frightened most people, but obtaining no
result from his inquiries on the first occasion, Cellini was intrepid
enough to arrange for a second experiment, his account of which
absolutely bristles with demons and bad spirits; the strange part being
that he writes as if their appearance at the sorcerer's bidding was the
most natural thing in the world, and quite what he had expected to see.
And this attitude of absolute, matter-of-fact faith in the powers of
darkness, and acceptance of the magician's arts, is very interesting in
the man, of whose famous autobiography John Addington Symonds wrote:
"The Genius of the Renaissance, incarnate in a single personality, leans
forth and speaks to us."

[Footnote 1: Magicians were able to command spirits to do their bidding,
while sorcerers, though they could _summon_ demons, were obliged to obey
them.]

It is only when we begin to investigate the origin of certain old
customs and superstitions that we gain any real idea of how deeply
rooted in men's minds during the Dark and Middle Ages was the fear of
the supernatural, and particularly of evil spirits. To this day in
Pembrokeshire, the cottagers, after the Saturday morning scrubbing, take
a piece of chalk and draw a rough geometrical pattern round the edge of
the threshold stone. This they do, not knowing that their ancestors
thought it a sure way of keeping the Devil from entering the house.
Another custom, often noticeable in country parishes, is the reluctance
to bury the dead on the north side of the churchyard; this is because
evil spirits were always supposed to lurk on that side of the church
precincts.

For many centuries Christianity, at all events among the mass of the
people, seemed powerless to raise the dark veil of superstition which
the old pagan beliefs had spread over the world; and indeed in many
countries--sometimes from ignorance, sometimes from motives of
expediency--heathen traditions and practices were preserved, and merely
transferred to a Christian setting. Particularly was this the case among
the Celtic nations, whose Christianity must in the early ages have
merely been grafted on the native Druid beliefs. For the material that
the great Irish and Welsh missionaries had to work with was rough
indeed; and any drastic attempt to impose a new system of religion on a
horde of Celtic tribesmen would doubtless have ended in speedy
disaster. So it is probable that St. Patrick and St. David and their
evangelist successors, instead of bluntly denouncing the most cherished
of the heathen legends, merely took and adapted them to their own
teaching; giving them first a decent Christian garb. Two instances of
evident adaptation are quoted by Mr. Elworthy, in his book "The History
of the Evil Eye," where he remarks: "Here in Britain the goddess of love
was turned into St. Brychan's daughter; and as late as the fourteenth
century lovers are said to have come from all parts to pray at her
shrine in Anglesey. Another similar example is found in the confusion of
St. Bridget and an Irish goddess, whose gifts were poetry, fire and
medicine ... almost all the incidents in her legend can be referred to
the Pagan ritual."

And though so many long centuries have passed since the days when the
Druid priests offered propitiatory sacrifices to the spirits that dwelt
in the great oak-trees, yet in the minds of the descendants of those old
Celts (in spite of all that civilisation and intermixture with other
races have done) there still lingers a trace of mystery, a readiness of
belief in things outside the realm of the five senses, which perhaps
future ages will never quite obliterate. For this quality, call it what
we will (and too often it has degenerated into mere superstition), is
yet of the "Unknown," and for all we can tell may indeed be a spark,
though dwindled, of the Divine fire. As every one knows, among the
Highlanders this curious mystic vein sometimes produces seers, and their
gift is called "second sight." According to a very interesting book
called "A Description of the Western Islands of Scotland," published in
1703, this power of foretelling the future was in those days a
recognised talent possessed by certain individuals, which apparently
excited but little surprise among the rest of the community. The writer
of the "Description" says: "It is an ordinary thing for them (the seers)
to see a Man who is to come to the house shortly after, and if he is not
of the Seer's acquaintance, yet he gives such a lively description of
his Stature, Complexion, Habit, &c., that upon his arrival he answers
the character given him in all respects. I have been seen thus myself by
Seers of both sexes at some hundred miles' distance--some that saw me in
this manner had never seen me personally." In Wales also, if we may
believe the old writers, there seems to have been a class of persons
somewhat resembling the Highland seers, and called "Awenyddion"
(inspired people). "When consulted upon any doubtful event, they roar
out violently, and become as it were possessed of an evil spirit. They
deliver the answer in sentences that are trifling, and have little
meaning, but are elegantly expressed. In the meantime, he who watches
what is said unriddles the answer from some turn of a word. They are
then roused as from a deep sleep, and by violent shaking compelled to
return to their senses, when they lose all recollection of the answers
they gave."

And though the day of the Awenyddion is long past, yet something of
their inspiration, and a faint echo of the bards' songs of valour and
enchantments seems still to linger about the mountains of Wales. It is
true that down in the valleys the railways and Council schools have
routed the "Tylwyth Teg" (fairies) from those "sweet green fields" of
which Matthew Arnold wrote; and the young generation has no time to
spare for listening in the winter evenings to the old folks' tales of
haunted "mansions," or of the "canwyll corph," or the awe-inspiring
"G[^w]rach" spectre. And there are very few people left now who will
mistake the weird cry of a string of wild geese flying high overhead in
the winter dusk, for the shrieks of tormented souls pursued by the
hounds of hell. Still, though fast disappearing, some of the old tales
and beliefs are not entirely lost in the more remote localities; and it
was with the idea of preserving a few of them from oblivion that this
book was begun. Living, as I have for many years, in a hitherto
little-known part of the Principality, where almost every old country
house has its ghost (sometimes more than one), and where the highest
hill is crowned by the grave of a mighty "ca[^w]r" (or giant)--though
archæologists will tell you that it is merely a British
burial-mound--and where the neighbouring lake is inhabited by fairy
cattle that disappear at the approach of man; it is impossible not to
feel regretful that all these old stories should be forgotten.
Especially will any one feel this who happens to have Celtic blood in
his veins; in which case, and if he inhabits a corner of "fair Cambria,"
some of the things he hears will not appear so highly improbable and
far-fetched as they might to the less imaginative Saxon. We all know
Owen Glendower's celebrated assertion:

    "I can call spirits from the vasty deep,"

and his description of the wonders that local tradition told him had
preceded his birth. And we remember Hotspur's aggravating retort to what
he doubtless considered the empty boasting of the great Welshman. But
living amongst a people absolutely steeped in occult and legendary lore,
quite ready to attribute any extraordinary characteristics in their
leaders to supernatural aid, there is little doubt that Glendower's
belief in his wizard powers was as entirely sincere as his courage and
energy were unquestioned. But one rather sympathises, too, with Hotspur,
when he describes afterwards how Glendower had kept him up

              "last night, at least nine hours,
    In reckoning up the several devils' names
    That were his lackeys."

Most people like a good "ghost story." Even the loudest of scoffers does
so really; and he is generally the person who draws his chair nearest
to that of the story-teller, and who, after asserting that the tale is
"all rubbish," will nevertheless proceed to say what he would have done
at that particular point in the narrative when "the candle burnt blue,
and a faint rattling of chains was heard," &c. &c. But, as a fact, there
are few real old-fashioned scoffers left. We have passed through the
phase of extreme incredulity regarding occult happenings which was
inevitable, and was merely the swing of the pendulum from the rank
superstition and ignorance of the Middle Ages. Few people now venture to
declare that "there are no such things as ghosts"; for the mass of
evidence collected and weighed by savants, such as Gurney, Myers,
Hodgson, T. H. Hudson, and Sir Oliver Lodge, is overwhelming as regards
the truth that things _have_ happened, and do still happen, quite
outside the limit of human explanation. But while most intelligent
persons admit this, the time is still far distant when we shall be able
to say how or why these things occur; though, guided by some of the
greatest thinkers of our day, we may at last dare to hope that our feet
are set in the path of knowledge, and that at some future time humanity
may perhaps reach the goal, and lift the dark and impenetrable curtain
that hides the Unseen. Whether the world will be any better off, when,
or if, that happens, concerns us of this generation not at all; in fact,
most of us who have this world's work to do, will find it best to leave
close investigation of supernormal phenomena to those who are able to
approach such subjects with a scientific mind, capable of recognising
and collecting truthful evidence, and of detecting and setting aside
what is false. And how very much the false outweighs the true, when it
comes to a question of evidence in psychic inquiry, only the really
conscientious searcher knows. All sorts of questions rise up in the mind
of the critical inquirer and have to be satisfied before he will admit
the impossibility of accounting by human explanation for the experiences
brought to his notice. And besides the need for this severely critical
attitude of mind, which we do not all of us possess, and in many cases
the lack of leisure necessary for such abstract study, there is another
reason why it is best for the majority of us to refrain from speculating
overmuch on the whys and hows of these glimpses of the "Unknown" that we
are occasionally granted. It is because many people have actually not
the strength of mind necessary to withstand the possible shock
occasioned by occult experiences, and for these, such studies end only
too often in mental disaster. This assertion may sound exaggerated, but
it is not so; and if it serves as a hint of warning to those over-fond
of dabbling in a sea of mystery, fathomless and wide beyond all human
imaginings, so much the better.

After these remarks, it will be realised that this book has nothing to
do with the scientific aspect of "ghost-hunting," but is merely an
attempt to gather together a number of stories dealing with the
supernatural, and particularly those connected with the old
superstitions and beliefs of Welsh people which have happened to come to
my knowledge. Of course some of these tales are absurd, and interesting
only from their quaintness; yet in many of them there is an element
which, as the French say, "gives to think," and should interest serious
students of the occult in search of fresh material. So, much of the
ghostly gossip in the following chapters belongs to Wales; indeed my
original purpose was to deal with Welsh ghosts and superstitions only.
But in the course of collection, I came across so many interesting
particulars and incidents concerning people and places beyond the
borders of the Principality, that I decided to include them in this
volume, on the chance that they may be new to most of my readers. All
the stories to be narrated are what are known as "true" ones, or have at
least a well-established reputation in tradition; the majority having
either been told me at first-hand, or imparted by people who believed in
their truth, and who, in many cases, had personal knowledge of the
people whose experiences they related, and of the localities they
described.

Naturally, such tales as follow, in which hear-say must figure
considerably, cannot lay claim to the evidential value possessed by the
carefully sifted records of the Psychical Research Society. But it may
be pointed out that many of the stories contained in Chapters II., III.,
and IV. concern the constant _repetition_ of certain definite phenomena,
a feature which strongly supports belief in their foundation on a basis
of truth.

For instance, it seems to happen continually that a person going to a
house which he does not know is haunted, sees a "ghost," and afterwards
finds, on relating his experience, that the apparition he describes is
exactly what other people have also seen. A good example of this occurs
in Chapter IV., where "Colonel and Mrs. West" saw the ghost of the
headless woman, being previously unaware that they were occupying a
haunted room.

This agreement in the testimony of people who at different times, and
generally quite unprepared, have seen particular apparitions is an
interesting fact in itself, and surely not to be altogether despised as
evidence of the cumulative order, though the scientific details demanded
by the professional ghost-hunter may be lacking.

The stories in my later chapters dealing with some ancient Welsh
superstitions need no comment, as, whatever may be thought of them as
supernatural incidents, their interest from the standpoint of folk-lore
is indisputable, and for that reason alone they are worth recording.

Throughout this book I shall change the real names of people for
fictitious ones or initials, for reasons that will be obvious to every
one. There are a few exceptions; and where they occur they will be
noted. In most cases I shall disguise the names of houses, and sometimes
those of villages and towns; but where the names of counties are
mentioned they are the true ones.



CHAPTER II

WELSH GHOSTS

    "A kind of old Hobgoblin Hall
    Now somewhat fallen to decay,
    With weather-stains upon the wall,
    And stairways worn, and crazy doors,
    And creaking and uneven floors,
    And chimneys huge and tiled and tall."


In one of the most remote parts of South Wales there stands on a low
cliff that is washed by the waters of a certain bay in St. George's
Channel a very curious old house which we will call Plâsgwyn. Inside one
finds walls many feet in thickness, dark panelled rooms with enormous
cupboards, and a beautiful oak staircase, its shallow, uneven steps
polished by the feet of many generations. Of course there is a ghost
story too, and one possessing an element of picturesqueness, its origin
dating far back to the days when smuggling was considered by quite
respectable people as a useful means of increasing their income in a
gentlemanly manner.

When one reflects on the lonely situation of Plâsgwyn, and
listens--especially in winter--to the boom of wind and wave advertising
with loud persistence the nearness of the sea, it is not difficult for
the imagination to conjure up those far-away times; to picture the
landing of many an interesting cargo in the little cove hard by when the
nights were dark and stormy and the Revenue men off their guard; and to
conjecture that perhaps many crimes were committed at that period by
villains using the smuggler's cloak to cover misdoing, and that possibly
some such dark deed may have happened in the old house, thus giving a
real foundation to our story.

It begins with an incident that was told me as having occurred a few
years ago at Plâsgwyn. One day two maid-servants went to do some work in
the largest bedroom, used always as a visitors' room. When they quickly
came downstairs again, with white faces and trembling knees, they had a
strange tale to tell. They declared that in the room, floating in the
air near the bed, they had seen what appeared to be a human hand and
wrist, bleeding as if just severed from an arm, the fingers of the hand
covered with splendid rings. Horribly frightened, the two maids did not
look long at the apparition but fled downstairs as fast as they could.
However, so convinced were they both of the reality of the thing they
saw that neither could ever be induced to enter the room alone as long
as they remained in the house, and one at least was in the service of
the family for some years.

Now the legend of Plâsgwyn is as follows. Long ago a strange lady of
great wealth once stayed there, and, for reasons now unknown, her hosts
went away leaving her alone one night. Feeling solitary and remembering
with alarm tales she had heard of the lawless doings of smugglers known
to frequent the coast, she went early to her room and tried to sleep.
Well-grounded indeed were her fears, for in the middle of the night she
was aroused by loud knocking at her door and rough voices demanding
admittance. Terrified, the lady tried to hold the door, but in vain. It
soon gave way beneath violent blows, and her arm, thrust forward in
feeble resistance, was seized and held. Unfortunately, she had forgotten
to remove her rings, of which she wore many of great size and
brilliance, and the sight of the jewels so excited the greedy robbers
that they immediately tried to pull them off. They fitted the fingers so
tightly, however, that they would not move; accordingly, the ruffians,
determined to have possession of them, ruthlessly chopped off the poor
woman's hand and wrist, immediately afterwards decamping with their
dreadful booty. Ever since that night, runs the tale, those who have the
"gift" may sometimes see the jewel-covered hand hovering over the bed in
the room once occupied by the ill-fated lady.

Nor is the spectral hand the only uncanny thing to be seen at Plâsgwyn,
if local rumour be correct; which declares that the spirit of "Old
Brown," a former owner of the property, and from all accounts a person
of much character (whether good or bad matters not), has been seen in a
ball of fire rolling down the staircase into the hall at midnight!

I have never met anybody who has witnessed this somewhat alarming
phenomenon, but the legend is merely related for what it is worth, and
as it was told me by a very old inhabitant of the neighbourhood. And
whether the "ball of fire" is only an absurdity, originating in some
one's too lively imagination, or really one of those "fire elementals"
of which advanced occultists tell us, must be left to the reader's
judgment to determine. But there are few people of imagination who could
visit this quaint old house without feeling that scarcely any tale of
the marvellous relating to it would sound incredible in such a setting.

Of quite a different type is another incident connected with the same
place, which, though it certainly lacks sensation, is curious as one of
that class of apparently pointless events so realistic as to seem
commonplace, and which yet leave one in a perfect "cul-de-sac" of
mystification as to why they should have happened at all.

Many years ago--perhaps thirty or forty--a meet of the hounds took place
at Plâsgwyn. Most of the houses round sent representatives, but the meet
was not a large one. Among those who drove over were a Mrs. A. and her
friend Miss B. When riders and hounds had trotted off to draw the
coverts near the house, the hostess, Mrs. C., suggested that she and
her daughter, with Mrs. A. and her friend, should walk out and watch
the find. The two elder ladies kept on the main road, just outside the
drive gate, while Miss C. and Miss B., more energetic, went through some
fields and climbed a little hill which commanded a good view of the
covert where the hounds were. Just beneath them was the field where all
the riders were grouped, and beyond that was the road, a short stretch
of which was plainly visible from the hill, though at each end of this
open piece it was hidden by the trees.

After they had been waiting some little time on the hill-side, the two
ladies heard the sound of a horse trotting quietly along the road
beneath the trees, and very soon a rider mounted on a white horse, and
wearing a red coat, emerged in the open part of the road, presently
disappearing again beneath the further trees.

Miss B. remarked: "That must be Mr. X." (the only gentleman in the
district who usually hunted on a white horse), "how late he is." And she
and Miss C. concluded that Mr. X. was making his way down the road to
where a gate beyond the trees would take him into the field where the
rest of the hunters were gathered. But the minutes passed, and he never
came to join the other riders, though Miss B. and her friend must have
seen him if he had done so. However, they supposed that he was perhaps
waiting in the road after all, hidden by the trees, and so thought no
more of the matter.

Later on when the ladies were lunching at Plâsgwyn, and were joined by
some of the returned hunters, Miss B. mentioned having seen Mr. X. go
along the road towards the covert. "You must be mistaken," said one of
the party, "he was not out to-day." The two ladies then described the
rider they had seen, and were still more puzzled when told that _no one_
had appeared with the hounds wearing a red coat and riding a white
horse! Yet Miss B. and her friend knew they had both seen such a
horseman, and that he was as absolutely real to them as the rest of the
"field" close by. The odd thing was, that a good many people were
gathered in the road beneath the trees behind the open stretch referred
to, among them being Mrs. A. and Mrs. C. Now none of these people had
seen any such rider pass them, though he was coming from their direction
when he became visible to Miss B. on the hill, and yet he must have been
a noticeable figure in his red coat on the white horse. He certainly did
not come from the opposite direction and then turn in his tracks before
reaching the foot-people, because in that case he must have been seen
arriving by Miss B. and Miss C. who had been waiting some time on the
hill-side overlooking the road. The mystery was never solved, for when
Miss B. next saw Miss C. the latter said she had made inquiries amongst
other people who were out hunting that day, and no one had seen the man
on the white horse. Neither had he been seen by the country people,
though as is usual in Wales on a hunting day, there were a good many
labourers, &c., round the coverts and in the fields, snatching an hour's
holiday for a taste of sport. When relating the experience to me after
the lapse of many years, Miss B. said she had no theory to offer on the
subject, having always regarded it as a mystery defying ordinary
explanation.

[Illustration]

There does not seem to be any tradition connected with Plâsgwyn which
would throw light on the appearance of this phantom horseman, but a
short time ago, I thought I had really come across his track, in
conversation with a certain friend. This Mr. R. declared that once when
he and others were hunting on the hills, they suddenly saw an "unknown
horseman" riding with the hounds, who, as they approached him,
disappeared, no one knew whither, nobody at the time or since having
been able to "place" him, either as a stranger or inhabitant of the
country. But that the apparition _was_ an apparition, and no horse or
man of flesh and blood, Mr. R. seemed firmly persuaded. Roughly
speaking, the district where this mysterious rider was seen would be
about a dozen miles from Plâsgwyn.

But there are two phantom hunt legends belonging to Cardiganshire. Of
one I have only gleaned the very vaguest particulars, to the effect that
on a certain farm in the sea-board parish of Penbryn, a ghostly pack of
hounds and hunters have occasionally been seen, all circumstantial
details, or any origin for the tale being wanting.

The other tradition of a spectral chase is really picturesque, and
located in the neighbourhood of the little town of Lland----l, is
related by Mr. Alfred Rees, in his charming book "Ianto the Fisherman."
Condensed, the story runs that long ago there lived, a few miles from
Lland----l, an old gentleman-farmer, who was well known and liked as a
true sportsman throughout the county. He kept a pack of harriers, and
had hunting rights over a considerable tract of country. His end was
tragic, for one November evening, when returning late with the hounds,
he was shot in the woods above the house by a supposed poacher; though
in spite of the great hue and cry raised by such a foul deed, the
murderer managed to evade justice. But, "the villagers still declare,
that whenever November nights are moonlit and windy, the huntsman's horn
is heard above the wood, and the pack winds down the glade in full
music, till suddenly a shot echoes in the valley, after which there is
silence. They declare that Will the Saddler, a sober deacon, coming home
one night, when he had taken some mended harness to a farmer at the top
of the wood, witnessed plainly a full repetition of the tragedy. The
opening scene appeared so real, that unmindful of religious prejudices,
he actually joined in the chase, till with the flash of the gun he
remembered the story, and presently saw shadowy forms, attended by
hounds and horse, pass by him down the glade with muttered whisperings,
bearing the burden of their dead."

Another phantom horseman figures in the tradition attached to an old and
well-known Welsh house; which says, that always before a death occurs in
the family, a noise of galloping hoofs is heard coming up the drive
towards the house at dead of night. Nearer and nearer it draws, passing
at length under the windows, then ceases suddenly at the front door, as
if a horse were violently reined in there. A pause succeeds, then loud
hoof-beats again, hurry-scurry past the windows, and so down the drive,
growing ever fainter, till they are lost in distance. If sleepers are
awakened and rush to look out, nothing can be seen. But in the morning,
fresh hoof-marks will be found upon the gravel.[2]

[Footnote 2: The noise of a ghostly equipage being driven to the door is
to be heard at Ô--l T--e, a house in Ireland. A friend who lived there
for some months told me she heard it not once but several times, and not
only she, but other people in the house heard it also. The sound was
described as unmistakably that of heavy carriage wheels; yet nothing was
to be _seen_, nor could such a characteristic noise be accounted for in
any other way.]

Mention of these ghostly horses and riders reminds one that
Pembrokeshire--in common with several other districts in Great Britain
and Ireland--possesses a good phantom coach legend, localised in the
southern part of the county, at a place where four roads meet, called
Sampson Cross. In old days, the belated farmer, driving home in his gig
from market, was apt to cast a nervous glance over his shoulder as his
pony slowly climbed the last steep pitch leading up to the Cross. For he
remembered the story connected with that dark bit of road, that told how
every night a certain Lady Z. (who lived in the seventeenth century, and
whose monument is in the church close by) drives over from Tenby, ten
miles distant, in a coach drawn by headless horses, guided by a headless
coachman. She also has no head; and arriving by midnight at Sampson
Cross, the whole equipage is said to disappear in a flame of fire, with
a loud noise of explosion. A clergyman living in the immediate
neighbourhood, who told me the story, said that some people believed the
ghostly traveller had been safely "laid" many years ago, in the waters
of a lake not far distant. He added, however that might be, it was an
odd fact that his sedate and elderly cob, when driven past the Cross
after nightfall, would invariably start as if frightened there, a thing
which never happened by daylight.

It is not every one who is acquainted with the precise meaning of the
expression "laying a ghost," which Brand in his "Antiquities" advises as
the best remedy for cases of troublesome hauntings. "Sometimes," he
says, "Ghosts appear and disturb a house without deigning to give a
reason for so doing; with these the shortest way is to lay them. For
this purpose there must be two or three clergymen and the ceremony must
be performed in Latin.... A Ghost may be laid for any time less than a
hundred years and in any place or body, as a solid oak, the point of a
sword, or a barrel of beer, or a pipe of wine.... But of all places the
most common and what a ghost least likes is the Red Sea." From another
authority we learn that seven parsons are necessary to this weird
performance. They must all sit in a row, each holding a lighted candle,
and should all seven candles continue to burn steadily, it shows that
not one of the reverend gentlemen is capable of wrestling with the
uneasy spirit. But if one of the lights suddenly goes out, it is a sign
that its holder may read the prayers of exorcism, though in so doing he
must be careful that the ghost (who will mockingly repeat the words)
does not get a line ahead of him. If this happens his labour is lost,
and the ghost will defy his efforts and remain a wanderer. In some parts
of the country it was believed that only a Roman Catholic priest could
lay a ghost successfully.

But to return to Pembrokeshire. About a mile or so from Sampson Cross,
there is a certain rectory said to be haunted by a mysterious "grey
figure" which sometimes showed itself in the "best bedroom." Two
visitors, on different occasions (having previously known nothing of any
supposed ghost in the house), declared that they had seen a "grey lady"
standing by their bedside. A daughter of the house, who told me about
this apparition, added that though she herself had never _seen_
anything, yet one night when she chanced to sleep in this room, she had
been awakened by the most horrible and mysterious noises. She described
the sounds as resembling "the groans and cries of a tortured animal,"
and they came, not from beneath the window (which looked on a strip of
garden), but apparently from high up in the air above it, and could not
be accounted for in any ordinary way. Nor does there seem to be any
story connected with the house in past times which might afford a clue
to the meaning of these hauntings; or if any event of tragic or dramatic
significance ever took place there, it has been forgotten by the present
generation. Yet it is quite reasonable to suppose that some such event
may have happened at that lonely rectory. There must be few houses,
constantly inhabited for, let us say, fifty years, of which the walls
have not witnessed many varying circumstances of life--circumstances of
joy and woe, and all the shades between. And besides actual events,
think of the developments of human character, the play of different
temperaments, and the range of passions and emotions that any such house
has sheltered! And if, as some psychologists aver, human passions,
thoughts, and emotions have at their greatest height actual dynamic
force, capable of leaving impressions on their environment which may
endure for ages, and even be perceptible to certain people--then does
not this assertion supply us with a reason for many of the unexplained
"ghosts" and hauntings of which one so constantly hears?

For we can easily believe that these impressions would be most apt to
linger round those earthly scenes best known in life, and where perhaps
only the most ordinary chain of familiar events sufficed to lead up to
the crisis which evoked the elemental passions and emotional force of
some strong personality.

Certainly the lady who furnished the few particulars about the rectory
ghost must possess the sixth sense necessary for the perception of these
impressions, for she added that she had once seen an apparition in
another Pembrokeshire house, where she happened to be staying. One day
during her visit, as she was coming out of her room in search of a book
she wanted from the bookcase on the landing, she suddenly saw a woman's
figure appear in front of her. "A little thin person," she described,
"dressed in light blue, with sandy hair, much dragged up on top of her
head," presenting altogether such a curious old-fashioned appearance
that Miss L----d looked very hard at her, and wondered who she could be,
and where she had appeared from. But the next moment the figure vanished
from view through the door of another bedroom. Although her curiosity
was rather roused by the odd looks of the woman she had seen, Miss
L----d thought little of the incident, imagining she must have seen one
of the servants in rather strange attire. And it was only when she had
been several days longer in the house that she discovered it possessed
no inmate in the slightest degree resembling the queer apparition of the
landing, which she was forced to conclude was no human being, but most
probably the family ghost! Personally I know this house well, and had
always heard there was supposed to be a ghost there; but though I have
often stayed there, and even slept in the "haunted" room, I never saw
the sandy-haired lady, nor anything else of an uncanny nature.

In fact, the county of Pembroke is a happy hunting-ground for the
ghost-tracker. Nor is this to be wondered at, considering the
innumerable associations, legendary, historical and romantic connected
with a tract of country which is certainly one of the most interesting
in Great Britain. So that the student of ghost-lore and superstition
will there discover a fine field for research, the only pity being that
in Pembrokeshire as in other parts of Wales, although almost every other
old country house has its ghost, yet the stories and legends connected
with these apparitions and hauntings are very often forgotten, and only
vague details as to "noises," or doubtful reports of spectral
appearances are forthcoming. However, in the case of one house (which we
will call Hill-view), some kind of explanation is given of hauntings
which seem to have continued for a long time, and have been remarked by
various people who have rented the place. I first heard of the Hill-view
ghost many years ago, when it was said to have caused a frightful noise
one night in a room upstairs, which was apparently reserved for
visitors, and at the time that the sound was heard was unoccupied. The
noise was described as exactly like the thud and crash that a large
piece of furniture, such as a wardrobe, would make in falling heavily on
the floor; there seemed no mistaking the sound for anything else. Yet
when with fear and trembling the door was opened, those who looked in
were astonished to find nothing unusual in the empty room, or in the
dressing-room which opened off it. All was in order, darkness, and
silence, and search as they would, nothing that could possibly account
for such a noise could be found, nor was the problem ever solved. That
happened a long while ago, but quite lately, the present occupants of
the house were one day sitting in the room immediately beneath the
bedroom before referred to, when they distinctly saw the door open,
apparently of itself, and heard a sound as of some one entering the
room. On another occasion also, members of the family have heard
mysterious footsteps; but none of them seem to have heeded the ghost
very much until a certain friend came to stay with them. This friend
they put to sleep in the haunted bedroom, and one night spent there
seems to have been quite enough for her. Next morning she complained
that she could get no sleep, owing to the incessant noises--knockings,
rappings, and scrapings--which went on all night.

That something of a sinister nature may still linger about that room is
not strange, if local report be true; which says that a very long time
ago a little boy--a son of the family who owned the property--was
dreadfully ill-treated by a nurse or governess, and shut up in a
cupboard in the room now haunted, where the poor child was eventually
discovered, dead.

Not a thousand miles from Hill-view is a house (we will temporarily
christen it Shipton Rise) which possesses a rather interesting little
story connected with a picture that hangs in the dining-room
representing a ship, called the _Shipton Rise_. The original of this
picture was a vessel commanded once upon a time by one Captain Joseph
Turner, of the East India Company's service. During a long voyage on
this ship, he was one night awakened by a voice, which said, "Joseph
Turner, get up and sound the well." He thought he was dreaming, and
promptly went to sleep again. A second time the same call woke him, and
again he paid no attention, and slept. But once more came the voice,
more insistent than before, "Joseph Turner, Joseph Turner, sound the
well!" This time he was really roused, and felt so impressed that he
determined to do as he was bid. So he went, and sounded the ship's well,
and found a great leak sprung. The pumps were manned, and thanks to the
timely warning, the ship was saved.

It is extraordinary how very many stories of occult occurrences belong
to what we may call the "warning type"; yet among them we find few
resembling the foregoing instance, in which the message conveyed by
ghostly voice or visitant has been of use in averting misfortune. In
fact these supernormal intimations seem to be generally heralds of the
inevitable, rather than friendly envoys of any special Providence. The
traditional "White Swans of Closeburn"; the mysterious "Drummer-boy" of
the Airlies; the Lytteltons' "White Lady" (all figuring in tales too
well known for repetition), belong to this very large class of
supernatural incident which it seems only impending calamity can evoke.

In this connection there is a rather curious sequel added to the "family
ghost" story of Mayfield, a very old house in West Wales, dating back to
the year 1600. Among the family portraits there, one is shown the
picture of a young lady in the dress of the eighteenth century. This was
a Mrs. Jones (Jones shall replace the real name of the family) and an
ancestress of the present owner of the house. Tradition says that a
wicked butler murdered this poor lady in a large cupboard--almost a
little room--which opens out of the dining-room. He then fled with the
family plate, but finding it too heavy, he dropped part of his plunder
in a ditch near the house, where it was subsequently found, though
history is silent as regards the fate of the butler. Ever since then,
the ghost of the murdered lady walks out of the cupboard every Christmas
evening (the anniversary of the tragedy), never appearing till the
ladies have left the dinner-table. At least, so runs the tale; and now
for the sequel.

Early in the last century, Mayfield and the property were owned by a
certain Jones, who had a brother living in India. Whether Mr. Jones was
a bachelor or widower at the time of the following occurrence, one does
not know, but at all events he lived at Mayfield by himself. He used the
dining-room as a sitting-room of an evening, and after his dinner would
turn his chair round to the fire, and sit there reading till it was
bed-time. One night he had sat up later than usual, and as he shut up
his book and bethought him of bed, the clock struck midnight. In the
corner of the room, behind his chair, was the cupboard already referred
to. Now as the last stroke of twelve died away, Mr. Jones heard the
click of the door opening. He turned his head and there, walking out of
the cupboard towards him, he saw the figure of a woman dressed in an
old-fashioned costume. She advanced a few paces, stopped, and said in
loud, clear tones, "Your brother is dead." Then she turned and walked
back into the cupboard, the door of which shut with a loud clang. As
soon as he recovered from his astonishment, Mr. Jones made a thorough
search of the cupboard and room, but could find no trace of any inmate.
Convinced at length that a message from the other world had been brought
to him, he made a careful note of the date and hour of the incident. In
those days letters took a long while to travel from India to this
country, and he had therefore many weeks to wait before the mail brought
him news that his brother had died, the time of death _coinciding
exactly_ with the night and hour in which he was warned by the
apparition at Mayfield.

Another incident which seems to have fore-shadowed death (though the
warning in this case was not definitely given) recurs to my mind, and
though trivial in a way, it yet possesses a certain impressiveness,
perhaps from its very simplicity and lack of any dramatic element. Or
perhaps it is only because the locality described is so familiar to me
that the following little story seems more weird and realistic than it
really is. The reader must imagine one of the most peaceful and
beautiful spots in Wales, where there stands a large, square house
called Wernafon, backed by hanging oak woods, beneath which flows a
clear river. Higher up the vale the stream loiters through pleasant
meadows, affording the angler many a tempting pool; but as it reaches
Wernafon, it begins to sing and clatter over stone and shingle as if it
already heard the calling of the not far-distant sea, while in
flood-time, heavy water rushes down, deeply covering stepping-stones,
and swamping shallow fords. So, for the convenience of the Wernafon
workmen and labourers, and others who live on the hither side of the
river, it is spanned near the house by a narrow, wooden foot-bridge,
which saves people a considerable walk round.

Many years ago, there lived on the Wernafon estate, two labourers, whom
we will call Ben and Tom; and these men were great friends. They had
worked together from boyhood, and when at last--both being old--Ben
died, Tom felt sadly lonely and forlorn. One day, soon after his
friend's funeral, he had occasion to cross the river by the little
foot-bridge, and as he trudged heavily along its narrow planks, his head
bent down in melancholy thought, he suddenly came to a full stop, for
there was a man standing in the middle of the bridge. Moreover, as he
looked hard at the man, he somehow became aware that it was Ben who
stood there, and who smiled at Tom as if glad to see him. Entirely
forgetting for the moment that he had seen Ben buried but a few days
before, Tom accosted him, and a short conversation ensued between the
two about ordinary, every-day matters. But suddenly Ben asked his friend
"if he would like to see the inside of Wernafon, for," said he, "I go
there every night, and a strange sight it is to see the people all
asleep while I pass through." He then offered to take Tom through the
house that very night, if he would meet him again on the bridge at
midnight; and without waiting for an answer, he glided along the bridge,
and disappeared. Immediately and with a feeling of horror, it dawned on
Tom that the man he had just talked to had actually been dead for
several days, and he began to think he had seen a vision or had had some
extraordinary dream. Nevertheless, being a courageous old fellow, and at
the same time curious to see if any result would follow, he determined
to keep the strange appointment. So midnight found him waiting on the
little bridge. A bright moon illumined the river and banks, and by its
soft light, the old workman was presently aware of a dark shape
hastening to join him. Greeting the living man, the apparition took his
former comrade by the hand, and led him to the front door of Wernafon,
which, as might be expected, was closely locked and barred. But at a
touch from Tom's escort, the great door opened without a sound, and the
companions passed into the hall of the house. There, the silence of
sleep and complete darkness reigned. Yet without a stumble, Tom found
himself mounting the staircase with his ghostly guide. Arrived on the
landing, the pair stopped before a closed door, which immediately
opened, allowing them to enter. Softly they crept into the room, Tom
remarking that it seemed filled with a faint bluish light, unlike
anything he had ever seen before. They gazed at the occupant of the room
wrapped in deep slumber, and creeping out again, visited all the other
rooms in turn, Tom becoming more and more bewildered by the strangeness
of his experience. At last--how he hardly knew--he found himself
standing again in the moonlight outside the front door; and turning to
speak to his friend, discovered that he was alone. He rubbed his eyes in
astonishment, for an instant before, Ben had been standing by his side.
And now, except the fact of finding himself in such an unusual place at
so late an hour, nothing remained to show that his adventure had been
real and not a dream. He went home, wondering greatly at what had
happened, and it does not appear that he saw the apparition again before
his death, which occurred suddenly, only a few days after his mysterious
experience.

At a much later period than the date of the above story, but still some
years ago, a curious instance of the "warning" kind occurred at N----e,
which is a hamlet distant a few miles from Wernafon. Though in this case
there is nothing tragic or of an important character to record, yet it
is worth recounting on the ground of coincidence alone, if coincidence
it really was.

About eight o'clock one summer evening, several neighbours happened to
be at the blacksmith's house, having a quiet smoke and gossip together.
They were sitting in a room at the back of the smithy, which faced the
main road. Suddenly the talkers in this room were startled by the sound
of a tremendous crash. Exclaiming "Some one's cart must have upset on
the road," they all rushed out through the shop, fully expecting to see
some bad accident. To every one's surprise, all was still, the road
empty, and no sign of any vehicle could be seen in either direction.
Much perplexed, they went home, but the next evening, most of them were
again at the smith's, and of course began to discuss the strange
incident of the night before. But as the clock struck eight, again came
the same terrific noise. Once more they ran out, and this time they
found a heavily laden cart upset on the road just outside the forge.

Nobody seems to have been killed or even hurt by the accident, and one
wonders why, in the case of such an--apparently--unimportant event, such
an impressive and collective warning should have been given.

Among my notes, I find mention of a little house near this same village
of N----e, which was reputed to be haunted. The note says: "Mr. Z. (an
old gentleman well versed in the antiquities and folk-lore of his
district) told me about a haunted house called Tyhir.... About twenty
years ago, the man who lived there used to see _curious, little people_,
of the size that could run under a chair, walking about the house. This
man was so nervous of what he heard and saw that he would never, if he
could help it, stay alone in the house. Mr. Z. spoke once to another
man, who had often gone to keep the other company on Sundays, when he
was afraid to sit in the house by himself. This second man told Mr. Z.
that though he himself had seen nothing, yet he had heard noises which
were quite unaccountable. The 'little people' seen were said to exactly
resemble in feature the former dwellers in the house; a little old man
called 'Tom Tyhir,' and his wife."

Cases of apparitions that have acted as protectors in danger to the
percipient are occasionally heard of, and one of the most interesting
stories of this type was recorded in a well-known Welsh newspaper, about
two years ago, and will quite bear repetition in these pages. To quote
the original words: "A story which appears strange even in these days of
telepathic experiment has appeared recently concerning the Rev. John
Jones,[3] of Holywell, in Flintshire, one of the most prominent
preachers of his day. He was once travelling alone on horseback from
Bala to Machynlleth, where the country is wild and desolate. When
emerging from a wood he met a man carrying a sickle. The man had been
seen by the minister at an inn when passing. In answer to a question,
the minister gave information as to the time by his watch, and a short
time after, noticed the man had furtively moved into the field, and was
running alongside the hedge, removing the straw from his sickle as he
ran. Then he noticed the man trying to conceal himself behind the hedge
near the gate through which Mr. Jones would have to pass. Firmly
believing that the man intended to murder him, the minister bent his
head in prayer. As he did so the horse became impatient, and started off
so suddenly that the minister had to clutch the reins, which had fallen
on the neck of the steed. Turning round to see if there was any
available help, the minister was astonished to find close to his side a
horseman in a dark dress, mounted on a white horse. No previous sound
had been given of the stranger's presence. Mr. Jones told him of the
danger he feared, but no reply was vouchsafed, the stranger simply
looking in the direction of the gate. Then the minister saw the reaper
sheathing his sickle and hurrying away. The gate was reached, the
minister hastened to open it for his mysterious companion, and waited
for him. But the guard on the white horse had disappeared as silently
and unobserved as he arrived."

[Footnote 3: This is the real name. The story is included by the kind
permission of the Editor of the _Western Mail_.]

And now this chapter will conclude with an account of a very frivolous
spirit indeed, for the story of the Riverside ghost must be told. Rarely
does one hear of a "spook" with a sense of humour, but that quality, as
expressed by a taste for practical joking, was evidently possessed by
the intelligence that used to haunt the old house to which we have given
the fictitious name of Riverside. Situated in one of the deep and
beautiful valleys of South Wales, and belonging originally to the
ancient family of Rhys, the house dates back to the time of Henry the
Seventh. The last Rhys died about forty years ago, since when the place
has changed hands several times, though its present tenants have owned
it for a long while, and have apparently been left severely alone by the
ghost.

Our story goes back fifty years or more, to a time when a certain Mrs.
X. and her infant daughter went to stay at Riverside. One evening after
dinner, Mrs. X. went upstairs to see her child (whom she had left
sleeping in her own room), but what was her astonishment and subsequent
alarm to find the cradle empty. On inquiry and search being made, no
trace of the baby could anywhere be found, and the distracted mother
rushed off to find her host, and acquaint him with her anxiety. Mr. Rhys
received the news with the astonishing remark, "Do not be alarmed; wait
patiently, and the baby will come back." He then went on to say that all
in the house were often annoyed by the tricks of the family ghost.
Frequently books, garments, umbrellas, anything in fact, if left lying
about, would disappear in the most unaccountable way. But if no notice
were taken, the articles were always returned in a short time. Mr. Rhys
added he was convinced that the ghost had taken the infant, and that she
would certainly soon be returned. All this was cold comfort to the poor
mother, who found the ghost theory a hard one to believe, and prepared
to endure a night of suspense as best she could. Left alone at length by
her friend with many exhortations to try and sleep, she could only lie
miserably awake, longing for the next day, when search could be renewed.
But towards morning, a sudden impulse seized her to get up and look once
more at the cradle, when scarcely could she believe her eyes! For there,
sleeping peacefully, lay the missing child, who, it may be added, was
never afterwards any the worse for what sounds like a rather unpleasant
adventure.

Of the above story I think that "se non è vero, è ben trovato" might
well be said! But it is here recounted for what it is worth, as an old
tale which probably had more or less foundation in facts of an occult
nature.

Another tale of Riverside dealt with a lady in a green silk dress who
could be heard rustling about the house, and had also the usual
unpleasant ghostly habit of appearing by one's bedside at midnight. But
the details--what there were of them--were too vague in character to be
worth more than a passing allusion. A pity, as I have always thought
there might be interesting possibilities connected with the history of
this daintily robed ghost, whose presence in the old house was known by
that gentle, feminine sound, the soft rustling of silken attire.



CHAPTER III

WELSH GHOSTS (_continued_)

    "Rest, rest, perturbèd spirit."


Many stories of haunted houses are told where the disturbing power has
seemed to have a distinct object in view, and this object attained, all
further manifestations have ceased. Such was the case of a very old
farm-house in one of the South Welsh counties. It had long been known
that mysterious tappings were constantly heard there, proceeding always
from a certain spot in the wall of one particular room. At last this
house fell into such bad repair that it had to be partly rebuilt. When
the masons were pulling down the wall from whence the tappings came,
they found, carefully built into this very wall, an old register-book.
It was in a fair state of preservation, and the later entries in it
dated from the time of the Commonwealth. They showed that a mason, who
could neither read nor write, was then appointed vicar of the parish,
and the former incumbent turned out. However, he seems to have remained
among his parishioners, performing the offices of the Church in secret,
and we may suppose that, taking refuge in the farm-house (which very
likely was a place of more importance in those days), the clergyman had
the register-book hidden in the wall, to preserve it from falling into
the hands of the illiterate mason. The old book has been restored, and
is much treasured by its possessor. Since its discovery, the house has
been rebuilt, and is now entirely free from the mysterious tappings.

A striking instance of what determination on the part of a ghost can do,
comes from Glamorganshire. Mr. Roberts, the owner of a very ancient
house in that county, decided for various reasons to let it for a time,
and was fortunate in finding a tenant who took it for a term of years,
seeming to be delighted with the place. But after he had lived there for
a few months, this gentleman wrote to Mr. Roberts saying he could no
longer stay in the house. When pressed for reasons, he evaded reply for
a while, but at length said "he could not stand the ghost." It appeared
that one day, soon after his arrival, he had been sitting quietly
reading in one of the rooms, when on raising his eyes from his book, he
had been astonished to see "a little old lady" with a "horrible frowning
expression" standing close by him. As he gazed at her, she vanished as
suddenly and noiselessly as she had come, but this appearance was
followed by many others; in fact, the old lady, always with her
sinister, frowning look, haunted him. Whenever he least expected her, he
was sure to look round and find her at his elbow. And at last the
apparition had become too much for his nerves, and he felt he must leave
the place. He added that he was sure the old lady was an ancestress of
Mr. Roberts, who, annoyed at the family home being occupied by a
stranger, evidently resolved to make herself unpleasant until she drove
him away, in which amiable resolution she succeeded.

As a rule, new bricks and mortar create an environment particularly
uncongenial to a self-respecting ghost. Ivied walls, gabled roots, dim
and musty passages leading to gloomy, oak-panelled rooms, supply the
kind of setting that the spook of convention demands, and nobody passing
a certain little house close to the road, just outside the seaside
village of Aber----n would ever think of its being haunted. Built some
fifteen years ago by a retired seaman named Captain Morgan, this very
ordinary dwelling (of the five-windows-and-door-in-the-middle style of
architecture, absolutely unrelieved by gable, porch or balcony) is
certainly far from suggesting any thoughts of the uncanny. Yet I
remember hearing, soon after it was built and occupied, that it was
supposed to harbour a ghost, though inquiry could elicit little beyond
the fact that Captain Morgan had remarked to a friend: "I don't know
what it is about my house, but we do hear the queerest noises that we
can't account for. We begin to think it is haunted." Then people who
heard about these "noises" remembered rather a curious thing. Soon
after the house was begun, while the workmen were engaged on the
foundations they came across the skeleton of a man, buried in the earth,
and examination revealed that the skull had a hole through the forehead.
Instead of keeping these remains together, and having them interred in
consecrated ground, the finders carelessly left the bones lying about
until they crumbled away and were hopelessly scattered. Whether this
discovery had anything to do with the disturbances of which Captain
Morgan and his family complained one can but conjecture; time has long
since closed the page on which is written the fate which overtook some
unknown individual on that spot perhaps a century or more ago, and there
is no local tradition to help one to frame a reason for any such deed of
violence. However, the inexplicable sounds are no longer heard; and it
is said that their cessation dates from the day of a terrible
thunder-storm when the house was struck by lightning (though not much
damaged), an electric disturbance which seems to have effectually laid,
or at least frightened away, the ghost.

Carmarthenshire abounds in tales of ghosts and ghostly happenings. I
know one house of great antiquity and historic interest in that county
which possesses a spectre of most approved pattern in the person of a
headless lady, who, report says, may be met walking along a certain path
in the garden by an old yew-tree, at the uncomfortable hour of one in
the morning. She is also supposed to account for mysterious footsteps
sometimes heard in an upstairs passage. Two people of my acquaintance
have heard these footfalls, and declare they are produced by no human
agency. A family tradition says that dancing must never take place in
the drawing-room; if it does, the ghost will surely appear among the
company.

But far more interesting than the vague rumours concerning the "headless
lady" (after all, a most conventional type of ghost) is the story
connected with a maple-tree growing by the roadside, about a mile and a
half from the house just described. "Once upon a time" there was a poor
tramp, who, walking along this road (which is the highway to
Carmarthen), sat down to rest at the very place where the tree now
stands. He carried a staff made of maple-wood, which he plunged into the
ground beside him, and soon, being very tired, he went to sleep. He
never woke again, for while he slept he was foully murdered. His body,
of course, was found and removed, but nobody noticed the maple staff,
stuck in the ground beside him; and left there, it took root, flourished
and became the tree one sees there now. And local belief declares the
spot is haunted. Nothing, say the country people, is ever _seen_; but
after nightfall, no animal, and especially horses, will willingly pass
the tree, which still marks the scene of an otherwise long-forgotten
tragedy.

If we continued our way along the road for a few miles beyond the
maple-tree, we should come to a house said to possess a ghost story, for
which, in repeating here, I feel I must apologise, owing to its very
apocryphal character. But I cannot resist the temptation to relate it;
as the tale--even if it is untrue, and perhaps it is not--is such an
excellent example of the kind that sends one to bed with the "creepy
feeling" that all really enjoyable ghost "yarns" should produce. Well,
many years ago, a young widow who was related to her hosts, went to pay
a visit at this house, and was given a room containing a large,
four-post bedstead. The dressing-table was against the wall opposite the
bed. One night, as the widow sat before the glass, combing her plentiful
locks, and murmuring sadly (we may presume in affectionate remembrance
of the departed), "Poor John, poor John," she suddenly saw, reflected in
her mirror, a horrid sight. There was the quaint old "four-poster," and,
hanging from the top rail, was the body of an old man. History is silent
as to the feelings of "poor John's relict" on beholding this terrible
reflection, but as she lived in Early Victorian times, it is safe to
conclude that she immediately "swooned" and probably had hysterics
afterwards. But she subsequently learned that an old miser had once
inhabited that room, and had been strangled in that very bed one night
for the sake of his money.

It is usually supposed that bodily ills are left behind on our exit from
this mortal world, but the tale of a well-known ghost that used to haunt
another Carmarthenshire house (now rebuilt) rather contradicts this
theory. Owing to the official position of its tenant, a great many
people used formerly to be entertained there, and one day a certain
guest asked his host which of the servants it was who had such a bad
cough. He said that since he arrived, he had constantly heard some one
coughing terribly in the passages and on the staircase, but could never
see the person, although sometimes the sound seemed quite near him.

The host listened gravely, and then remarked that he was sorry his
friend had been disturbed by the cough, which was no earthly sound, but
was caused by the "ghost," and had been heard by other people at
different times.

The "coughing" ghost had another idiosyncrasy. At this same house a
certain bedroom and dressing-room, communicating by a door, were once
occupied by a friend of mine and her husband during a couple of days'
visit. Now this door between the rooms was carefully shut and latched
the last thing at night. In the morning, greatly to my friend's
surprise, the door was thrown wide open, although she felt absolutely
certain, and so did her husband, that it was firmly shut the night
before. It was only a slight incident, but the strangeness of it rather
dwelt in Mrs. L----'s mind, until one day after her return home, when
she happened to mention it to a neighbour, who remarked: "You must have
had the haunted room. It has always been known that the dressing-room
door can never be kept shut; no matter how tightly closed the night
before, it is always found open in the morning."

For many years local legend has used Brynsawdde, the home of a very
ancient Carmarthenshire family, as a setting for various weird
happenings. Of these, perhaps the most interesting, and certainly the
most inexplicable, is a story that I well remember was current at the
time of the late owner's death, who was a well-known character in the
country.

It was said that on the day he died a small black dog appeared--from
whence no one knew--leapt on the bed, and lay across the dead man's
face. Chased away, it disappeared, but was again found sitting on the
coffin after the lid had been screwed down. And after the funeral, a
whisper went round that "the dog" had jumped into the hearse as the
coffin was put in; and that later it had appeared slinking, like some
evil thing, through the knot of mourners at the graveside and was never
seen again.[4]

[Footnote 4: See remarks in Chapter VI. referring to "Corpse Dogs."]

Another story tells how, not many years ago, some people were returning
from a dinner-party in the neighbourhood, and as they passed Brynsawdde,
which they knew to be entirely uninhabited, they were astonished to see
every window of the house brilliantly illuminated, as if for some great
festivity. Nor, on making inquiries, was the slightest explanation of
the lights ever forthcoming.

Near the Carmarthenshire border lies the little town of St. Govan's,
which, a very few years ago, was much agitated by the pranks of a most
inconsequent and noisy ghost. Selecting the abode of one of the quietest
and most respected families in the place for the scene of its exploits,
it proceeded with demonstrations that not only aroused excitement in the
neighbourhood, but for a few days attracted considerable attention from
the daily press. But in spite of close investigation no real solution of
the mystery was ever arrived at, though the sceptical (and larger)
section of the community at length dismissed the matter as a case of
trickery in some shape or other, an explanation which, in the light of
many reliable witnesses' evidence, was quite inadmissible to thoughtful
minds, compelled eventually to relegate the strange happenings to that
domain which M. Camille Flammarion has so happily called "L'Inconnu."
The first brief report of the occurrences in a local paper ran (slightly
altered) as follows: "Great excitement has been caused at St. Govan's
during the past week, owing to the alleged appearance in the principal
street of a ghost. It has taken up its abode (so the story goes) in the
house of Mr. Moore ... from which in the early hours of Sunday morning
loud metallic clanks were to be heard. Mr. A. B. Rose and others at once
proceeded to investigate, and it was found that a bed in one of the
rooms was rocking violently, and in doing so, came in contact with the
wall, causing the sounds which had been heard. Further investigation
failed to reveal the cause of the rocking. The bed was in contact with
nothing but the floor, and nothing could be found to indicate in any way
that the rocking was caused by anything natural. It is curious that the
phenomenon always takes place at about seven in the morning and at the
same hour in the evening.... This is not the first occasion on which
mysterious occurrences have taken place, and many are inclined to
attribute them to the supernatural....

"Since Sunday several attempts have been made to solve the mystery, but
up to now nothing has been deduced from the observations made.... The
street opposite the house has been thronged all day, and the aid of the
police has had to be called to remove the crowd of sightseers."

The "metallic clanking" referred to above was so loud that it could be
heard many yards away from the house, down the street. But though noises
and disturbance continued each morning for several days afterwards they
were never again as loud and insistent as on that Sunday. Various
persons, bent on investigation of a more or less "scientific" order,
soon discovered that by establishing a code of rappings they could
communicate with the disturbing agent, and accordingly each morning,
visitors arriving at the unconventional hour of 6.30 proceeded to the
room containing the mysterious bedstead, and by means of taps held long
conversations with the "ghost." These taps always came from the same
place on one of the walls. Some curious statements were thus obtained,
and in one case when a lady (whom I know personally) was the
interviewer, some assertions made to her were quite extraordinary in
correctness, containing as they did information known to no one else in
the town or district. On the other hand, it does not seem as if anything
new or interesting was imparted to anybody; the answers to questions in
most cases seemed evidently framed to suit preconceived ideas in the
listeners' minds, and however impressive at the moment, the statements
when repeated certainly sounded most vague and unconvincing, _except_ in
the one instance referred to. But that the knocks and rappings were in
themselves absolutely genuine, and produced by some supernormal means,
cannot be doubted. Any one who has ever had any experience of
"table-turning" will realise that this genuineness of manifestation is
quite compatible with the extreme futility of the "information" usually
conveyed in such ways, and will recognise that the noises and rappings
in the house at St. Govan's evidently belonged to the same class of
phenomena. Manifestations of such a vehement and insistent order must
surely have had their origin in some unknown psychic disturbance, some
mysterious jarring sufficient to set quivering the veil between things
seen and unseen. And in this and similar cases it has always seemed to
me that trying, however vainly, to find a reason for these disturbances
is very much more interesting than heeding or dwelling long on the
"messages" which reward the efforts of the investigator. For if indeed
"spirits" are responsible for the replies to our questions they seem
only too often to belong to that "lying" class, with whom it is
certainly best to avoid dealings.

In regard to the haunted house of St. Govan's its history and
associations may have had something to do with the manifestations, for,
as remarked in the previous chapter, there must be few old houses which
have not known strange happenings within their walls.

This particular habitation, of most unobtrusive and unghostlike aspect,
is of some antiquity as houses go in St. Govan's. For many years it was
used as a bank, and long before that, it was an inn. And surely a
"ghost" was ever a necessary appurtenance to every respectable inn of
the olden days! But no authentic tale or legend remains to connect those
times with the present, or to furnish a romantic background for the
strange and inexplicable behaviour of the "St. Govan's Ghost."

And as its noisy demonstrations daily became less, and at length ceased
entirely, so public interest gradually waned; and no definite result
having been obtained by any investigator, the subject--after forming for
several weeks a sort of conversational bone of contention between
sceptics and believers--shared at last the fate of all such abnormal
topics, and died a natural death.

High up in one of the wildest and loveliest valleys that pierce the
Ellineth mountains, is a house which we will call Nantyrefel. One would
like to linger in description of a place possessing a unique charm,
which must appeal to all who appreciate the enchantment of beautiful
scenery surrounding a house rich in literary and romantic associations.
Such a place without a ghost would be incomplete, and accordingly it has
the reputation of being most respectably haunted, and by more than one
"spook." For reasons of discretion, we cannot here relate the most
interesting of the occult incidents connected with Nantyrefel; but to
pass its gates without mention of any one of its "revenants" would be
impossible, and so the following short tale shall be told.

Rather more than two years ago, a certain lady went to stay at this
mountain abode, taking her maid "Brown" with her, a person, one is
assured, of average intelligence, and not over-burdened with
imagination.

One evening, during the visit, about nine o'clock, Brown had occasion to
go up the front staircase, in order to fetch something required by her
mistress. Half-way up the stairs she paused, for, descending towards
her, came an elderly man, with a long grey beard. Standing respectfully
on one side, Brown allowed him to pass, wondering meanwhile who he could
be, as she did not remember having seen such a noticeable figure about
the house before. Continuing his way down, the old gentleman reached the
foot of the staircase, and disappeared round a corner into the hall. He
walked very slowly, and the maid, looking round after he passed her,
saw, to her great surprise, that his clothes were of the most
extraordinary and antiquated cut. Her errand despatched, Brown found her
way back to the housekeeper's room, where she remarked to the butler
that she had just seen such an odd-looking old gentleman coming
downstairs; adding that she supposed he must have arrived by some late
train, and was going down to get some dinner. The butler promptly
replied that no new visitors at all had arrived at Nantyrefel that day;
and when Brown described the long beard and quaint garments of the man
she had seen, she was assured that there was no one in the least
resembling her description in the house. Yet the maid knew she had not
been dreaming, and that she actually had seen the old gentleman, and
that moreover he had brushed past her as she waited at the angle of the
stairs while he went slowly by.

So it would appear that what Brown really saw was an apparition, one of
those household ghosts with which many an old mansion is peopled, could
we but see them; ghosts harmless and timid, with no mission to terrify,
or grievances to air, but just indulging a little earthly hankering for
an occasional visit to the scenes they loved in life.

Do many people, I wonder, know the strange, uncanny feeling it gives
one, to return to a sitting-room at night, after the lights have been
out, and the house quiet for an hour or so? One descends to fetch a
forgotten book, and pushing open the door, one wishes the candle gave a
better light that would reach those far dark corners. For surely the
room, so short a time deserted, is nevertheless peopled--and by what? At
least, that is the impression I have had, and very odd it is, and one
cannot help wondering whether, at the

    "very witching time of night,"

the "gentle ghosts" that Shelley writes of, really do creep out of the
Invisible, and return for a little space to that human atmosphere, which
perhaps some of them may have left many a year ago with regret and
sorrow.

And now, from the rather tame incident just repeated, we will turn to a
real "thriller" in the way of ghostly experience, namely, the story of
Glanwern, in South Wales. Several mysterious tales are told about this
house, but the most interesting one (and undoubtedly authentic as far as
her own experience goes) was related to me by a Miss Travers, who was
asked to stay there a few years ago.

Although there was nothing remarkable about the appearance of the room
that was given her, it struck her at once with an odd feeling of
nervousness, a feeling that increased so much when she was left alone
for the night, that having no night-light, she determined to keep both
her candles burning. The hours dragged by, Miss Travers finding sleep
out of the question. Suddenly, towards one o'clock, a sound broke the
heavy stillness of the night, exactly as if some one had violently
pushed open her door and rushed into the room. Imagine her alarm! And
the greater, as nothing was to be seen, although the first was followed
by a succession of noises resembling the shuffling of feet about the
floor, and struggles as of people fighting. After a time the sounds
ceased, but poor Miss Travers, too terrified to move, lay quaking, and
how she got through the night she never knew, for in an hour or so the
same thing occurred again: the door was burst open, and the shufflings
and strugglings went on as before. This invisible performance happened
_four times_ during the night, but on the fourth occasion the struggle
seemed to cease very abruptly, and the next sound Miss Travers heard was
distinctly that of a heavy body being dragged across the floor towards
the door. And as this occurred, she felt a horrible and indescribable
sensation of intense cold pass over her like a wave.

Resolved not to spend another night alone, and under the plea of feeling
nervous, she asked one of the daughters of the house to sleep in her
room for the rest of her stay, but fearing incredulity, said nothing of
her experience to her hosts, especially as after the first lonely night
there was no repetition of the sounds. But when at a neighbouring house
she mentioned where she was staying, her friend remarked, "I wonder if
the ghost ever 'walks' there now." Judicious inquiry from Miss Travers
elicited the story that "once upon a time" two brothers lived at
Glanwern. One night they quarrelled and fought, one killing the other,
and burying the body in a wood near the house. Ever since then the
murderer is said to haunt the room where the tragedy occurred.

The following tale, which was related as being absolutely true, I have
slightly altered in two or three minor details, to prevent any possible
localisation, as it is connected with a very well-known house and family
in West Wales. Oaklands will be a good name for the house, and in the
sixties and seventies of the last century a certain Colonel Vernon, a
widower, lived there as head of the family.

At the time of the story he had invited a young man, named Carter, the
son of an old friend, to stay at Oaklands, and besides Carter there was
another guest, a Captain Seaton, who was a frequent visitor there, and
a contemporary and valued friend of Colonel Vernon.

One night Mr. Carter stayed up reading long after his host and Captain
Seaton had gone to bed, and the lights in the house been put out.
Indeed, it was nearly one o'clock when he lit his bedroom candle, made
his way across the hall, and upstairs on the way to his room. Half-way
up the stair made a turn, and it was when he reached this turn and could
look back into the hall, which of course was quite dark, that Carter was
astonished to see a light coming towards him down a passage which ended
near the foot of the staircase. Wondering who could be about so late,
and thinking it might be one of the servants, he paused on the stairs,
and was somewhat surprised to see the tall figure of a woman emerge from
the passage, and begin swiftly mounting the stairs. She wore a kind of
loose, flowing garment, and as she passed Carter, who had involuntarily
drawn back against the wall, he saw that her face was extraordinarily
beautiful. He also noticed the candlestick she carried: it was of
brilliantly polished silver, and most curiously shaped in the form of a
swan. As the lady (for Carter instantly divined that she was no servant)
glided by without taking the slightest notice of him, his astonishment
became curiosity, and determining to see what became of her, he followed
her up the stairs. Never turning her head, or showing by the slightest
sign that she was aware of Carter's presence, she reached the landing,
where she stopped a moment, then turned down the corridor where the
principal bedrooms were situated. Carter, watching, saw her stop at the
third door and enter the room, the door closing softly behind her.
Rousing himself from his surprise, Carter proceeded to his own room, but
the extraordinary appearance of the lady he had seen, joined to her
apparent unconsciousness of his presence, the unusual hour, and the fact
that he knew of no woman inmate of the house, other than the servants,
produced such bewilderment of mind that he found it impossible to sleep.
Early next morning he was astir, and happening to meet Captain Seaton in
the garden, he could not forbear relating his nocturnal experience to
his fellow-guest.

When Captain Seaton heard the story he looked very grave and asked, "At
which door in the corridor did the lady stop?" Carter replying that it
was the third door, Captain Seaton would say no more, remarking that
they would discuss the subject again later on, only begging him to say
nothing of what he had seen to their host.

Soon after breakfast, Captain Seaton asked Carter to come with him to
the pantry, where they found the butler, who had been many years in the
Vernons' service. Chatting with the old servant, Captain Seaton
presently led the conversation round to the subject of the family plate,
remarking how fine it was, and finally asking the butler to show Mr.
Carter some of the most ancient and interesting pieces in the
collection. Much of the old silver was taken out of its wrappings and
displayed, and at length Seaton said, "But where are those queer
candlesticks? You know the ones I mean--made in the shape of a swan."
The butler answered rather reluctantly that the candlesticks mentioned
had been put away for many years, and he feared they must be very
tarnished. However, on being pressed, he fetched down from a high shelf
in the plate cupboard, a baize-covered parcel, and from it drew a silver
candlestick, very old and tarnished, but the shape of which, Carter was
startled to see, exactly resembled the one carried by the lady of his
adventure. Seaton said to the butler: "You are certain you have not had
these candlesticks out lately?" "Oh no, sir," answered the old man, but
noticing Seaton's serious expression, his tone changed to one of alarm,
and he exclaimed, "But what is the matter, sir? _Has anything been
seen?_"

Seaton then asked Carter to relate again what he had seen the night
before, and when he heard that the lady had entered the third room in
the corridor, the butler broke into a cry of, "Oh, my poor master! Some
grief is coming to him."

Captain Seaton then explained that the figure Carter had seen was no
human being, but an apparition, and that her appearance, carrying the
swan-shaped candlestick--always brightly polished--invariably betokened
trouble or misfortune for the Oaklands family.

"It was Colonel Vernon's door you saw her open," added Seaton; "let us
hope on this occasion her coming has not been for evil," a hope that was
unfulfilled, as before the day was over, Colonel Vernon received news
that his brother had died the night before.

Most people will agree that there is something particularly unpleasant
in the idea of a ghostly animal, though why it should be so is hard to
explain. But there is no doubt that the majority of us would prefer
encountering a human rather than a four-footed "revenant." The Welsh
have a superstition about "hell-hounds," or _c[^w]n ann[^w]n_, as they
are called in the Principality. These fearsome creatures are said to
hunt the souls of the departed, and generally only their mournful cry
can be heard--a sound to make one shudder and tremble. But occasionally
a stray hound is seen by some unlucky individual, to whom the sight is
sure to bring disaster or death--an old Celtic belief, and most
certainly superstition, but it recurs to one's mind in connection with
the following story.[5]

[Footnote 5: In his "Welsh Folk-lore" the Rev. Elias Owen says: "The
Fairy Dogs howled more at cross-roads and like public places than
elsewhere. And woe betide any one who stood in their way, for they bit
them and were likely to even drag a man away with them, and their bite
was often fatal. They collected together in huge numbers in the
churchyard when a person whose death they announced was to be buried,
and howling round the place that was to be his grave disappeared on that
very spot; sinking there with the earth and afterwards they were not to
be seen."]

A few years ago, a certain Mrs. Hudson went to live near the small town
of W----in South Wales. One day, not long after her arrival, she and a
friend went for a walk along the high road near the town. On their way
they had to pass a quarry, which was reached by a gate and path leading
off the road. Just after the two ladies had passed this gate Mrs. Hudson
heard a sound of loud panting behind her. She stopped, and looking back,
saw a large black dog come running out of the quarry down the path
towards the gate. Whereupon she said, "I wonder whose dog that is, and
why it was in the quarry." "What dog?" asked the friend, looking in the
same direction, "I don't see any dog." "But there is a dog," said Mrs.
Hudson impatiently; "can't you see it standing there looking at us?"

However, the friend could see nothing, so Mrs. Hudson somewhat
impatiently turned and walked on, feeling convinced the dog was there,
and marvelling that her friend neither saw it nor heard its panting
breaths.

Soon after this, happening to meet her brother-in-law, who was an old
resident in the neighbourhood, she asked him who was the owner of a
particularly large black dog, describing where she had seen it. The
brother-in-law, listening with a rather queer expression, answered, "So
you have seen that dog! Then, according to tradition, either you or your
friend will die before six months are past. That was a ghost-dog you
saw; it has appeared to several other people before now, and always
forebodes death."

Mrs. Hudson did not pay much attention to what she considered a very
superstitious explanation of a trivial occurrence, feeling perfectly
certain that what she had seen was a real animal. But it was an
explanation she recalled with a feeling of horror, when within six
months of the date of that walk, her friend most unexpectedly died. The
curious point in this experience is, of course, that the phantom dog was
visible to only one of the two friends, and that not the one for whom
the warning was intended.

As I have before remarked, there still lingers in some parts of Wales a
breath of that atmosphere of fairyland and romance which, to anybody
possessing imagination, gives a peculiar value to ideas and beliefs that
in less inspiring surroundings would be classed as unmixed superstition
by people of common sense. So that the explanation given to a certain
Mr. Blair--who was partly of Highland extraction, and therefore
possessed something of the Celtic temperament--of a singular little
adventure that befell him in Wales, did not seem to him at all
far-fetched at the time, but rather the one most appropriate, and quite
characteristic of the country. Business obliged Mr. Blair to live some
years in this particular Welsh valley, and often, after dinner in the
summer, he would cross the river, and walk up the opposite hill to a
house called Wernddhu where some friends lived, and spend the evening
with them. From Wernddhu a narrow, steep road led down to the bottom of
the hill, where it ended; and from this point, a grass lane led up in
the direction of a farm.

In the twilight of a certain beautiful evening Mr. Blair left Wernddhu,
and started to walk home. He had his dog, a spaniel, with him, and as he
descended the hill and reached the place from which the grass lane
diverged, he noticed his dog, who was running in front, suddenly lie
down and begin to whine. And then he saw that there was another dog, a
big Scotch collie, gambolling and playing round the spaniel, though
where it had come from he could not imagine, as he was sure that no
strange dog had followed him from Wernddhu. But as he walked up to the
two animals, his own still whining and shivering, the other suddenly
darted away and disappeared up the lane that led to the farm, much to
the apparent relief of the spaniel, who immediately seemed to forget his
fright, and became quite lively again. Blair continued his homeward way,
wondering to whom the collie belonged, as he did not remember having
seen it anywhere about before. But the incident, slight though it was,
somehow made a decided impression on his mind, so much so, that he could
not forbear mentioning it next day to his old landlady, remarking that
he supposed they must have got a new dog at Nantgwyn--the farm to which
the grass lane referred to eventually led. Mrs. Morgan asked him what
the dog was like, and when told, she exclaimed, "Why, indeed, Mr. Blair,
you must have seen the Nantgwyn Dog!" She said it was no creature of
flesh and blood, but an apparition which had appeared to other people at
different times. The story went that many years ago, a tramp had been
found lying dead on the very spot where Blair had seen the collie, and
it was always thought that the dog, when living, must have belonged to
him, and with the devotion characteristic of its kind, had continued
faithful, even after death.

Writing of these wraiths of dogs recalls a story told by a Welsh lady
whom I will name Miss Johnson, and who was staying during the winter of
1874 with some relations at a house in the West of England. One Sunday
evening about six o'clock, when Miss Johnson and the family were sitting
quietly in the drawing-room, a great noise was suddenly heard exactly
like hounds in full cry. It seemed as if the pack swept past the
drawing-room windows, turned the corner of the house, and entered the
yard behind. The kennels of the local hunt were only four miles away,
and on hunting days the hounds often met or ran in the direction of the
house. But to be disturbed by the cry of hounds on a Sunday evening was
such an unheard-of thing that Miss Johnson and her friends were, for the
moment, petrified with amazement. Almost immediately the butler came
running to the room, exclaiming, "The hounds must have got loose! I hear
them all in the back yard."

"But how could they get in?" asked some one; "the gates cannot be open
at this hour on Sunday." The butler went off looking rather
disconcerted, and not a little scared; and Miss Johnson went into the
hall, where she found her collie-dog--usually a very quiet, gentle
animal--barking and rushing about in a state of frenzy. She opened the
front door, and the collie ran out, barking and growling savagely, made
a great jump in the air as if springing at somebody or something, then
suddenly sank down cowering to the ground, and crept back whimpering to
his mistress's side. An exhaustive search revealed not a sign of a hound
or stray dog about the place, and Miss Johnson and her relations went to
bed that night feeling much puzzled by the strange incident. Next day
came the news that a near relative of Miss Johnson had died suddenly the
evening before at six o'clock!

Twenty-five years later, Miss Johnson had a similar experience previous
to the death of another relation, on which occasion the hour of the
death, and the time at which she heard the hounds cry, again tallied
exactly. And while meditating on the strangeness of such a coincidence
occurring twice over, Miss Johnson remembered the tales that the country
people about her old home in Wales used to tell concerning the "C[^w]n
Teulu" (family hounds) said to haunt the woods round the house, to see
or hear one of which was a sure sign of death.

Some people have a vague superstition about the ill-luck of a bird
coming into a house, and consider it a sure sign of approaching death
should a bird chance to dash itself against a window-pane, as sometimes
happens in a gale of wind, or through the attraction of a bright light
within the room.

A curious instance regarding this feeling, which occurred quite
recently, shows what tremendous power such a superstition may have on
certain minds, and how the mind, reacting on the body, may indeed bring
fulfilment of what was regarded as a prophecy. The person concerned was
a Pembrokeshire farmer, well known to the friend who gave me the story,
and whose words I now quote:

"Mr. A. B. Jones, of S----, who was one of the churchwardens of the
parish for forty years or thereabouts, died unexpectedly and somewhat
suddenly, about three weeks ago. I went the day before yesterday to see
Mrs. Jones, who told me all about it, and mentioned the following
circumstances. On a cold Sunday evening last winter, just as Mr. R----,
the Rector, was going to the pulpit for the sermon, a starling perched
on Mr. Jones's head, and remained there: presently he put out his hand,
gently grasped the bird, and putting it into his coat pocket, took it
home. He turned it loose in the stable, for he felt sorry for it, and
wished to give it a chance of living. Mrs. Jones said she was, as I
know, not superstitious, but was it not odd?

"It seems that Mr. Jones had had for some months a presentiment that he
was not long for this world; his widow showed me an entry in his diary
to this effect, and told me that he had been giving his son, a lad of
eighteen, all sorts of instructions not long before his death. Whether
he was influenced by the starling incident or not, I cannot say."

(This account was written in September 1907, some months after Mr.
Jones's death occurred.)

In a very interesting old work, entitled "Cambrian Superstitions"
(published in 1831), the author, William Howells, refers to the Welsh
belief in death-warnings brought by birds; quoting an instance which he
mentions as being well known in his day.

"The following remarkable occurrence I cannot refrain from narrating, as
the family in which it occurred, who now reside at Carmarthen, were far
from being superstitious; their seeing this will recall it to memory. As
they were seated in the parlour with an invalid lying very ill on the
sofa, they were much surprised at the appearance of a bird, similar in
size and colour to a blackbird, which hopped into the room, went up to
the female who was unwell, and after pecking on the sofa, strutted out
immediately; what appears very strange, a day or two after this, the
sick person died."

Having previously been told that the invalid was "very ill," her demise
does not appear in the cold light of print as "strange" as it did to Mr.
Howells, in whose ears the story doubtless sounded more impressive than
it does when read eighty years afterwards. After relating another story
of the same kind, Mr. Howells goes on to say, "I have learnt of several
similar instances occurring in England, and many more are related in
Wales; but this bird has now, I believe, become a 'rara avis in
terris.'"



CHAPTER IV

OTHER GHOSTS

    "What beckoning ghost along the moonlight shade,
    Invites my steps, and points to yonder glade?"


Let us now stray across the Cambrian border, and pursue some of the
"pale ghosts" that one suspects are probably just as numerous in
England, Scotland, and Ireland, as in "superstitious" Wales. And looking
through my notes, the first story I come across seems quite worthy of
repetition, though the incident described was not rounded off by
anything sensational in the way of sequel or discovery.

A few summers ago, a certain Mrs. Hunt, who is a relation of some
friends of mine, took a house at Blanksea on the south coast for the
summer holidays. The house turned out all that was comfortable and
convenient, and nothing particular happened while the Hunt family were
there. But after they all returned home, Mrs. Hunt noticed that her two
boys were continually talking between themselves of somebody called
"Bobo." At last one day she asked the children who they meant by "Bobo."
They replied, "Oh, she was the little girl who was always about the
house at Blanksea, and used to play with us. She didn't seem to have any
name, so we called her 'Bobo.'"

Mrs. Hunt was extremely puzzled by this piece of information, as she had
never seen any strange child in the house, and at length she concluded
that it was only some nonsense imagined by the two boys. However, she
still could not help thinking a little about the mysterious "Bobo," and
eventually determined to make some inquiries about the house; as to who
had lived there, &c. &c.; and great was her astonishment to learn
through these inquiries that the house was always supposed to be haunted
"by the ghost of a little girl."

This story reminded me of a very old house near Arundel, in Sussex, said
to be haunted by the ghost of a nun; and it is alleged that the
apparition has been seen by children living there. Inexplicable noises
are also frequently heard, and a window visible from outside is said to
belong to "the nun's room," though the room it really lights is walled
up and cannot be entered.

The apparition of a child figures in another very curious tale. I was
once told of a certain rectory in one of the English counties, where,
during a summer not very long ago, a Mr. Shadwell, by profession an
artist, went to stay as a paying guest. He was given a sitting-room of
his own, and did not join the family of an evening unless he felt
inclined. One evening after dinner he was sitting reading in this room
by himself, when the door was quietly opened, and in walked a little
girl. The clergyman had several children, with whom Shadwell had already
made friends, but this child he had not seen before, so concluded she
must have been away from home and had probably only just returned. So he
remarked, "Good evening, my dear, I don't think I have seen you before."

However, the child made no reply, and did not even look at him, but
walking slowly along the side of the room, she paused, laid her hand on
a certain part of the wall, and then turned, and as slowly and
deliberately walked out again. Trifling as the action was, there was
something so curiously impassive about the demeanour of the little girl,
and her absolute indifference to his presence, that it struck Shadwell
as extremely odd, and the more he thought of it the more uncomfortable
he felt, though for the life of him he could not imagine why. Next
morning, when he saw the Rector, he said to him: "I did not know you had
another daughter, the little girl who came into my room last evening.
Why haven't I heard about her before?" He spoke lightly enough, for a
night's sleep had convinced him that life in the country had made him
fanciful, and that the impression made upon him by the silent child was
due to morbid imagination. So what was his astonishment to see the
clergyman appear greatly agitated by his question, and apparently
unable to reply at once. Presently he said to Shadwell: "That was no
living child that entered your room, but an apparition which has been
seen before; and I beg of you not to mention the matter to my wife, for
she always reproaches herself with being partly to blame for the death
of that little girl, who was our eldest-born." He then told the artist
that a few years previously they had had workmen in the house, doing
some plastering and papering. One day, while the work was going on, the
Rector's wife had wished to pay somebody some money, and remembering
that she had just left half a crown on her dressing-table, she told her
eldest girl to run upstairs and bring down this coin. But after rather a
long interval, the child returned saying the money was not there.
Whereupon the mother became annoyed, knowing she had really left the
half-crown on the table, and told the child she must have either stolen
the coin or else be playing a trick for mischief. The little girl
obstinately denied all knowledge of the money, so she was sent to bed in
disgrace, where she presently fell into such a terrible fit of sobbing
and crying that an attack of convulsions came on, and finally she became
unconscious and died. To the parents' grief was added remorse, caused by
the torturing doubt that the poor child might have been after all
unjustly blamed for a fault committed perhaps by one of the strange
workmen, for the missing half-crown was never found.

Shadwell listened thoughtfully to this sad story, and later, after
thinking over the incident of the evening before, in connection with the
tragic circumstances of the child's death, an idea struck him. He at
once sought the Rector, and asked him whether he had ever thought of
having the wall examined at the spot to which the apparition had
pointed. On hearing that this had not been done, he asked permission to
investigate, and, with the clergyman's help, he opened the wall. And
there, embedded an inch or two in the plaster, exactly where the child's
hand had been placed the night before, was a half-crown!

Now was this merely a wonderful coincidence? Or may we believe that the
little girl, having hidden the coin in the tempting surface of the wet
plaster--whether for mischief or her own gain one cannot tell--was
afraid to confess her fault? And Death overtaking her, could not give
the spirit rest, till its efforts to reveal the truth had been
recognised and understood.

But it is certain that since the discovery of the coin in the wall the
apparition of the child has never again been seen.

Another rectory that possessed the reputation of being haunted is that
of Clifton, in Kent. This is a very old house, dating from the
fourteenth century, and, according to my informant, who knew the house
well (a relation of his having held the living from 1869 to 1880),
mysterious noises had often been heard there by different individuals.
One lady who was paying a visit reported having a "dreadful night,"
"with people walking up and down the passage, and muffled voices," but
no one had left their rooms all night. And a youth of sixteen or
seventeen, employed as an outside servant, declared that once when an
errand brought him into the house, he saw "an old gentleman in a grey
dressing-gown walk down the stairs before him, and suddenly disappear."
Whatever it was he saw, the boy was so thoroughly frightened that he
would never enter the house again. My friend's letter continued: "Mrs.
Lowther (whose husband, the late Dr. Lowther, succeeded my relative as
Rector) when 'moving in' elected to stay the night in the rectory by
herself, instead of returning to ... London. The workpeople left, and a
village woman, having prepared Mrs. Lowther's evening meal and made up
fires for her in sitting-room and bedroom, went home. _Something_ is
said to have occurred during the night, and Mrs. Lowther acknowledged
(so the writer has been told) as much, but would never say what it was
that had alarmed her; but it is believed that she _did_ say that nothing
would induce her again to be alone in the house at night."

I once went to tea with the wife of Canon C----, in the cathedral city
of E----. In the course of conversation the subject of "ghosts" came
up, apropos of which Mrs. C---- remarked: "As you know, these houses are
exceedingly old, being actually part of the ancient Norman monastery
adapted to modern use. Very odd and unaccountable noises were for a long
while heard in the house next door to ours, which of course is all part
of the same old building; and these noises were vaguely ascribed to 'the
ghost,' though nothing was ever seen. But, at last, some structural
alteration of the house became necessary, and in the course of this work
the discovery was made of a human skeleton, which had evidently lain
hidden for centuries, and presumably was that of a Benedictine monk. The
bones were carefully buried, and from that time no more noises have been
heard."

This story rather resembles the tale of a much more interesting ghost
which inhabited an old manor-house in Somersetshire, and which succeeded
for many years in keeping human beings out of the place. Time after time
the house would be let, people always making light of its haunted
reputation, or else determining to brave its terrors. But they never
stayed more than a few weeks, when they invariably went away, declaring
that one or more members of the household had seen an apparition on the
main staircase. The description--and rather horrible it was--was always
the same. The figure of a woman would come gliding downstairs, carrying
her head under her arm, and on arriving at the foot of the stairs she
invariably vanished.

At last there came a tenant bolder than his predecessors, and gifted
with an inquiring turn of mind. He said he liked the place and meant to
stay there, and if possible evict the ghost. And he at once began to
investigate. Beginning at the attics he tapped and sounded every wall
and suspicious-looking board in the house, with no result in the way of
discovery till he reached the principal staircase. This, being the
ghost's favourite haunt, received special attention, and working his way
patiently down step by step, he found at length under the old flooring
at the foot of the stairs, a hollow place of considerable size. And in
this hole reposed, _headless_, a human skeleton (which subsequent
examination proved to be that of a woman) with _the severed skull lying
by its side_. Then the enterprising tenant hied him to the Vicar of the
parish and told him of the grisly find, and after due consultation it
was decided to collect the poor remains and bury them decently in the
churchyard, a ceremony which seems to have effectually "laid" the ghost,
as report says it has never since been seen.

But to return for a while to the city of E----. The best ghost story I
heard there concerns the Bishop's Palace, a beautiful Tudor house, said
to be built on the site of the great monastery for which E---- was
famous in Saxon times, and the predecessor of the Norman building, of
which parts still survive in the modern canons' residences.

I was told that at some time during the sixties or seventies of the past
century, a certain friend of the reigning Bishop was invited to stay a
night at the Palace. He had never been at E---- before, and therefore
knew but little of its history or traditions. There was nothing at all
extraordinary in the appearance of the room assigned to him, and he
slept well enough for the first few hours after going to bed. But
towards morning he woke, and though he knew himself to be wide awake and
not dreaming, yet he had a terrible vision. He was first roused by
sounds which appeared like people scuffling and struggling, and almost
immediately he seemed to be aware in some way of a dreadful scene being
enacted in his room. Although all was dark, yet he saw, as if by some
extra sense, that a man dressed in what looked like very ancient armour
was lying on the floor, while another figure in a monk's habit, knelt
on, and was apparently trying to kill him. The vision--or whatever it
was--lasted but a few moments, then the whole picture faded, and all
became still again. The rest of the night passed undisturbed, though
further sleep was impossible for the visitor, so great was the sense of
horror and absolute reality left in his mind by the scene he had
witnessed, and the sinister sounds he had heard. In the morning he
sought the Bishop, to whom he described his experience, and who
listened gravely; answering that his friend's story was very remarkable
in the light of an old tradition connected with the house, and with the
Saxon monastery which it was believed anciently occupied the site of the
Palace. At the time of the Norman invasion, the community numbered only
forty monks; who, feeling themselves a small and undefended company, and
probably fearing local disturbances and possible pillage, when the
Conqueror's coming should be known, hastened to apply to William for
protection. In reply the grim Norman sent forty of his knights to be
billeted on the monastery, saying that each monk should have a knight to
defend him. Such a claim on their hospitality was probably rather more
than the holy men had bargained for, but the arrangement seems to have
worked well enough, until at last a sad tragedy occurred. One of the
monks having quarrelled (we are not told why) with his foreign guardian,
and quite oblivious of the danger he was thereby bringing on his
companions, rose up in the night and murdered the warrior, taken
unawares in the darkness. What followed history does not relate, but no
doubt William was careful to exact suitable vengeance for his slain
follower.

There is a curious mediæval painting still to be seen in the Palace,
representing the forty Saxon monks and their knightly protectors.

Still one more story of a haunted rectory must be told, a story which
when I heard it made a considerable impression on my mind, from the fact
that it was related by a person who, I feel sure, would stoutly deny
that she "believed in ghosts." And so her incredulity regarding matters
pertaining to the world beyond our five senses made her recital all the
more convincing.

Several years ago this lady, Miss Robinson, chanced to spend a summer
with the rest of her family at a certain country rectory, which her
father had rented for a few months. It should be stated that the
neighbourhood was new to the Robinsons; none of them had ever been in
the county before, and when they first went to the rectory they did not
know any of the residents around.

It happened one evening when the days were very long, and there was
still plenty of light left, that Miss Robinson was going upstairs about
nine o'clock followed by her little dog, which half-way up passed her
and ran on to the stair-head. There it suddenly stopped short, looking
down a passage which led off the landing, and exhibiting every symptom
of fear, shivering and whining, and its hair bristling. Miss Robinson
thought this behaviour on the animal's part rather odd, but as she
gained the landing and looked down the passage, wondering what had
frightened her dog, she distinctly saw a man cross the end of it and
apparently disappear into the wall. As there was no door at the spot
where the figure vanished, Miss Robinson thought this still more
curious, but as she saw nothing further, and the dog also seemed
immediately reassured, she began to think they had both been victims of
a hallucination, and resolved to keep the matter entirely to herself.

A short time afterwards she went to tea with some neighbours who had
called on them; and after the usual conventional inquiries as to how
they liked the place, and so forth, Miss Robinson and her sister were
asked, "if anything had been seen by them of the rectory ghost?"
Instantly Miss Robinson's thoughts flew back to that evening on the
staircase, and her dog's terror. However, in reply, she only asked what
form the "ghost" was supposed to take. The answer was that a former
inhabitant of the house had murdered his wife, and that ever since, the
murderer's ghost was said to _haunt the end of the passage_ which led
off the landing. As she listened to these words, Miss Robinson could not
repress a little shudder at the remembrance of the mysterious figure
seen by herself and her dog at the very spot described. But no
repetition of her experience ever occurred, nor was the apparition seen
by any one else in the house during the time the family stayed there.[6]

[Footnote 6: Mr. Leadbeater would probably class this "ghost" as a
"thought-form." "Apparitions at the spot where some crime was committed
are usually thought-forms projected by the criminal, who, whether living
or dead, but most especially when dead, is perpetually thinking over and
over again the circumstances of his action. Since these thoughts are
naturally specially vivid in his mind on the anniversary of the original
crime, it is often only on that occasion that the artificial elementals
which he creates are strong enough to materialise themselves to ordinary
sight."--"The Astral Plane."]

There is a curious story told of a country house of some antiquity in
North Devon. This house was once let to a Mr. Barlow, who took up his
abode there, and presently asked a friend to stay with him. This
friend's name was Sharpe, and he was put into a room containing an old
and handsome four-post bed. Next morning, Barlow asked Sharpe what sort
of a night he had had. "Very bad," was the unexpected reply. "I could
not sleep for the talking and whispering going on--I suppose--in the
next room. I hope you will ask the servants not to make so much noise
to-night." Barlow accordingly spoke to the servants, who promptly denied
having been anywhere near the guest's bedroom, or having sat up late at
all. But the following day Sharpe had again the same complaint to make;
he could get no sleep on account of the tiresome "whispering" going on
round him all night. Much mystified Barlow suggested a change of
apartment to his visitor, who refused, saying he would rather wait
another night and try to find out the cause of the disturbance. Barlow
then said he would sit up with Sharpe; and accordingly the two retired
to the room at bed-time, and putting out the light, awaited
developments. Presently, sure enough, a whisper was heard, and very soon
the room seemed full of whispering people. After listening amazed for
some time, Barlow struck a match, when immediately the sounds ceased,
nor, although both men carefully examined walls, chimneys, windows, and
every nook and corner anywhere near the room, could they find a sign of
a human being, or any possible reason for the extraordinary
manifestation. But both noticed with astonishment that, whereas the
curtains had been pulled back off the bed, ready for occupation, they
were now pulled _forward_, and the ends neatly folded up on the pillows
as a bed is left in the day-time.

After this Sharpe changed his room for the rest of his stay, but Barlow
made diligent inquiries until he found out all that he could about the
previous history of the house, and particularly of the room containing
the four-poster. He learnt eventually that the big bed had been for many
generations in the house, and had always been used when there was a
death in the family for the lying-in-state of the corpse.

Another Devonshire house, D----n Hall, the ancestral home of an old and
well-known family, is haunted by a lady who sometimes surprises visitors
unaccustomed to her little ways.

On one occasion a husband and wife, who happened to be staying at
D----n, were both dressing for dinner on the first evening of their
visit. Suddenly, without any warning, the door of the wife's room was
opened, and in walked a beautifully dressed woman, with grey or powdered
hair turned off her forehead and worn very high. Without appearing to
take the slightest notice of Mrs. Blank the intruder passed through the
room, opened the dressing-room door, went in and shut the door behind
her. Petrified with astonishment, Mrs. Blank stood for a moment staring
after the apparition, then dashing into the dressing-room she exclaimed,
"Where did that lady go?" (There was no other door except the one
communicating with the bedroom.) The husband, who was calmly dressing,
was naturally somewhat surprised at the question; explanations followed;
he had seen nothing and thought his wife must have been dreaming. But
over-flowing with wonder, Mrs. Blank went downstairs, and seeking her
hostess confided to her the singular incident, adding that she supposed
the "lady" was a fellow-guest who had in some way mistaken her room; but
where had she disappeared to when she entered the dressing-room? "Hush,"
was the reply. "It was no living person you saw, but the _ghost_; only
don't breathe a word to any one else here. There is no harm in her; and
she has often been seen before by people staying in the house." And with
this casual explanation Mrs. Blank was fain to be content.

A story very similar to the above is told by Mr. Henderson in
"Folk-lore of the Northern Counties" about a house in Perthshire, where
the figure of a very beautiful woman was one evening seen on the
staircase by a visitor staying in the house. In this case the hostess
informed her friend that the apparition had frequently been seen before,
but always by strangers, never by any member of the family.

The following incident is said to have happened quite lately in another
Scotch country house. Two sisters, one quite a young girl, went to stay
at this place, and were given rooms close to one another. One night the
younger sister suddenly woke up. The room was dimly lighted by a bright
moon, and there, close by the bed, the girl saw, apparently rising out
of the floor, a human hand. Thinking she had nightmare she closed her
eyes and vainly tried to sleep, but feeling impelled, in spite of fear,
to look again, there was the hand--nothing else--close by her bedside
still. This time she felt horribly frightened, and hurling herself out
of bed, she rushed to her sister's room, which she insisted on sharing
for the rest of the night. In the morning she told the elder girl what
she had seen, declaring she could not pass another night in that room.
Her sister scolded her a little for what she considered foolish
imagination, and begged her to say nothing of the "bad dream" to their
friends, as people did not like it to be thought that there was anything
ghostly about their houses.

Later in the day the son of the family was taking the elder sister over
the house, which was old and interesting. Presently he remarked, "We
have a ghost here, too, you know." The visitor pricked up her ears, and
asked what form the ghost was supposed to take. "It is a hand," was the
reply, "nothing else." "Then my sister saw it last night," exclaimed the
girl, whereupon she was much surprised to see her companion turn pale
and seem agitated. But in reply to her questions he would say nothing
further, leaving his listener wondering uncomfortably if the appearance
of the spectral hand was a bad omen; and if so, whether it boded ill to
the owners of the house or to the individual who had had the
disagreeable experience of seeing it.

Before leaving Scotland we must mention an Aberdeenshire house,
described to us by a friend as inhabited by the ghost of an old lady,
who regularly appears in a certain room once a year. Evidently her
unrest is caused by an uneasy conscience, if tradition be correct; which
says that she was a wicked old person who flourished in the early
seventeenth century. Having a deadly feud with a neighbouring family,
she decoyed them with false promises and an invitation to a feast into
the tower of the house. Then she had the doors locked, and setting fire
to the tower, she got rid of her enemies in one horrible holocaust.

From Scotland to Northumberland is not a far cry, and on our way South
you must listen to an odd little story connected with a house called
Wickstead Priory in that county. The friend who told me was staying at
Wickstead when the incident happened. I will call her X.; and her room
happened to be on the opposite side of the corridor to a large bedroom
occupied by a married sister of the hostess. One evening, while X. was
dressing for dinner she heard some noise and commotion going on in this
other room, and later in the evening, she asked its occupant what had
been the matter. "Oh," was the reply, "I had such a fright! I am sure
you won't believe me, but as I sat doing my hair before the
looking-glass, a _horrid-looking little monk_ came and peered over my
shoulder. I saw him plainly in the glass, but when I turned round, no
one was there!"

I have before remarked on the disagreeable habit so common amongst
ghosts of appearing by one's bedside at dead of night. In fact, a large
percentage of the ghost stories one hears contain the words, "He (or
she) looked round, and there was a figure standing by the bed," &c. &c.
And a tale which I heard on excellent authority of a Staffordshire house
concerns a "bedside" spook of the most conventional pattern, which
succeeded in thoroughly astonishing, if not alarming, a Colonel and Mrs.
West, who were paying a visit to Morton Hall. The owner of the house was
a cousin of Colonel West's, whom he had not seen for a long time, and
of whom he knew little, having been soldiering abroad for many years. On
the first night of their visit, towards the small hours, Mrs. West woke
up quite suddenly, and although the room was dark, yet she could somehow
perceive distinctly a figure advancing towards the end of the bed,
seeming to emerge from the opposite wall. Very startled, Mrs. West woke
her husband, who also saw the figure--by this time stationary at the
foot of the bed--and called out to it, "Who are you, and what do you
want?" But at the sound of the voice the figure retreated, and seemed to
fade away. The rest of the night passed undisturbed.

Next morning Colonel West said to one of the children of the house, "A
nice trick you played us last night." For after much discussion, he and
his wife had come to the conclusion that the only reasonable explanation
of what they had seen was that they had been the victims of a clever
practical joke. The child addressed looked puzzled, and when questioned
said that nobody had played any tricks at all. Later on, their hostess
came to Mrs. West, and said she was extremely sorry to hear from her
little girl that they had been disturbed the night before, adding that
owing to the house being full the Wests had been given the _haunted
room_. For knowing they were complete strangers to Morton, and probably
knew little of its traditions, it was thought very unlikely they would
be troubled by anything uncanny. They were then asked what they had
seen, and Mrs. West described the mysterious "figure," saying that it
resembled a woman wrapped in flowing garments, and carrying a bundle
under her arm. "That was the ghost," replied the cousin's wife. "Years
ago a woman was murdered in that room, and ever since then she has
occasionally appeared to people, dressed as you describe and carrying
her head under her arm."

Wherein lies the decided element of creepiness contained in my next
story? Perhaps it may be that it deals with a haunting of a most unusual
and remote character, having its origin in some unknown disturbance of
the very elements themselves. It relates to a very well-known English
house called Ainsley Abbey, where not so very long ago there was a large
party staying for the local hunt ball; among the guests a certain Mrs.
Devereux. Knowing that she would be very late returning from the ball,
this lady told her maid not to wait up for her, but to go to bed at her
usual time. So what was Mrs. Devereux's surprise when she came back in
the early hours of next morning, to find that the maid had disobeyed her
injunctions, and was waiting in her room. When asked why she had not
gone to bed, she told her mistress that she had done so but had been so
disturbed by the "terrible storm"--thunder and great gale--that she
could not rest and grew too frightened to stay in her room. She sought
the house-servants, but to her surprise they had noticed no storm, and
laughed at her when she said there was a high wind raging round the
house. Finally she resolved to wait in her mistress's room, adding that
she was thankful the party had got back safely, as she had felt
concerned at Mrs. Devereux being out in such awful weather. As the night
had been perfectly calm and fine, Mrs. Devereux was much astonished at
this tale, but at last concluded (though she did not say so) that her
maid must really have been asleep and dreamed of the storm. But
happening to mention the matter as a joke to her host next day, she was
surprised to find it treated with the greatest interest, and to be told
it was no case of a dream. That occasionally people who came to stay at
Ainsley _could_ hear sounds that they always described as a
thunder-storm and hurricane of wind blowing round the house. In fact, it
was a species of haunting which had never been accounted for. Like an
echo of Dante's

    "Infernal hurricane that never rests,
    Hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine;
    Whirling them round."

Not long ago, I came across a lady who told me of some very interesting
happenings of a ghostly nature connected with a house in a suburb of one
of the great University towns. This house was taken by a Mrs. Drew, in
order that she might be near her son, who was an undergraduate of one of
the colleges. But he lived with his mother, who also took in three
other undergraduates as paying guests. After a time Mrs. Drew discovered
that there was something rather unusual about this house. She heard
noises she could not account for, and frequently had the consciousness
of an invisible presence in the room with her. But at last one day, she
not only _felt_ but _saw_ quite near her, an appearance, as of the head
and shoulders of a very pretty, amiable-looking girl, the head draped in
a kind of veil. After this, she would sometimes become aware that the
same apparition was sitting beside her; on other occasions she would see
it dimly flitting about the rooms; but in time she got so accustomed to
its appearance that she took little notice of it at all.

Once, when her son went up to the North to play in a cricket match, Mrs.
Drew felt rather worried about him, as he had not been well, and she was
afraid he was not really fit to play. Especially during the night after
the match, she could not help lying awake and thinking about him.
Suddenly she became conscious that the now familiar figure of the
apparition was standing at the foot of the bed, looking at her. And
then, for the first time, it spoke to Mrs. Drew, telling her to feel no
alarm for her son's welfare, "for," it said, "I have been with him all
day. He is quite well, and played very well in the match." Then it
disappeared.

On another occasion, young Drew and one of his friends were reading at
night in the study, when they were startled by the sound of a terrific
crash in the next room. They rushed in, expecting they knew not what,
but the room was empty, quiet and dark.

One summer Mrs. Drew tried to let the house for a while. A lady came to
see and appeared on the point of taking it; but while discussing the
subject with Mrs. Drew in the drawing-room, and making final
arrangements, she quite suddenly got up and went away, saying she would
write. When her letter came, it merely said the house did not suit her;
but later, when pressed for an explanation of such a sudden change of
mind, she admitted that while talking to Mrs. Drew in the drawing-room
she had observed a beautiful young girl come and seat herself on the
sofa close by them. No one else seemed to see the girl or to be in the
least conscious of her presence; yet somehow her appearance produced
such an uncanny feeling in the visitor's mind that she felt she could
not stay another moment in the room or in the house. And so she broke
off the negotiation.

At last, her son's time at the University being finished, Mrs. Drew gave
up the house, and was succeeded in it by some people who opened a shop.
And while making the alterations necessary for the purpose, the
workpeople discovered hidden under a floor the skeleton of a young
woman! But who she was, and why her bones were there, no one had been
able to find out at the time when I heard the story--about two years
ago--though imagination promptly offers us a choice of sinister theories
to account for the buried skeleton and its restless _umbra_. "Requiescat
in pace" for the future!

Why the foregoing tale should remind me of a ghost that was seen in a
Northamptonshire house, I do not know; but, in spite of the irrelevance,
here is the story. Some years ago, a large party was assembled there for
shooting, and one of the guests was given a rather out-of-the-way room,
which was usually allotted to a stray bachelor, when, as happened on
this occasion, the house was very full. However, it was a very
comfortable room, and the visitor slept there soundly enough on the
first night, until at what seemed to be a very early hour, a knock on
his door woke him up. Mechanically saying "Come in," he opened his eyes,
and saw a little elderly man, dressed in rather tight-fitting,
pepper-and-salt clothes, such as grooms wear, who walked into the room
with an assured step, pulled up the blind, and went out again. Mr. Blank
imagined that the man had come to call him, though wondering why he came
so early and had brought no hot water; especially as a footman called
him later at the usual hour. When asked next morning if he had slept
well, he mentioned the fact of his being awakened so early, saying he
supposed that the man must have made some mistake. "What was he like?"
asked the host, and when his friend described the man as elderly, and
looking like a groom, his friend replied, "What you say is rather odd,
because only a fortnight ago, a groom, who was an old family servant
here, died. Of late years he had done little work, but almost until the
end, one of his duties, which he would never relinquish, was _to call
any one who chanced to occupy that room_."

My next tale has always seemed to me one of the most interesting psychic
experiences that I have ever heard related.

Some few years ago, a young officer, whom we will call Lestrange, went
to stay at a country house in the Midlands. It may be said that he was a
good type of the average British subaltern, whose tastes, far from
inclining towards abstract study or metaphysical speculation, lay
chiefly in the direction of polo, hunting, and sport generally. In fact,
the last person in the world one would have said likely to "see a
ghost." One afternoon during his visit, Lestrange borrowed a dog-cart
from his friend, and set out to drive to the neighbouring town. About
half-way there he saw walking along the road in front of him a very poor
and ragged-looking man, who, as he passed him, looked so ill and
miserable that Lestrange, being a kind-hearted person, took pity on him
and, pulling up, called out, "Look here, if you are going to C----, get
up behind me and I will give you a lift." The man said nothing but
proceeded to climb up on the cart, and as he did so, Lestrange noticed
that he wore a rather peculiar handkerchief round his neck, of bright
red, spotted with green. He took his seat and Lestrange drove on and
reaching C---- stopped at the door of the principal hotel. When the
ostler came forward to take the horse, Lestrange, without looking round,
said to him: "Just give that man on the back seat a good hot meal and
I'll pay. He looks as if he wanted it, poor chap." The ostler looked
puzzled and said: "Yes, sir; but what man do you mean?"

Lestrange turned his head and saw that the back seat was empty, which
rather astonished him and he exclaimed: "Well! I hope he didn't fall
off. But I never heard him get down. At all events, if he turns up here,
feed him. He is a ragged, miserable-looking fellow, and you will know
him by the handkerchief he had round his neck, bright red and green." As
these last words were uttered a waiter who had been standing in the
doorway and heard the conversation came forward and said to Lestrange,
"Would you mind stepping inside for a moment, sir?"

Lestrange followed him, noticing that he looked very grave, and the
waiter stopped at a closed door, behind the bar, saying: "I heard you
describe that tramp you met, sir, and I want you to see what is in
here." He then led the way into a small bedroom, and there, lying on the
bed, was the corpse of a man, ragged and poor, _wearing round his neck a
red handkerchief spotted with green_. Lestrange made a startled
exclamation. "Why, that is the very man I took up on the road just now.
How did he get here?"

He was then told that the body he saw had been found by the roadside at
four o'clock the preceding afternoon, and that it had been taken to the
hotel to await the inquest. Comparisons showed that Lestrange had picked
up his tramp at the spot where the body had been discovered on the
previous day; and the hour, four o'clock, was also found to tally
exactly.

Now was this, as the ancients would have told us, the _umbra_ of the
poor tramp, loth to quit entirely a world of which it knew at least the
worst ills, to "fly to others that it knew not of"? Or was it rather
what Mr. C. W. Leadbeater has described in his book, "The Other Side of
Death," as a _thought-form_, caused by the thoughts of the dead man
returning with honor to the scene of his lonely and miserable end, and
thereby producing psychic vibrations strong enough to construct an
actual representation of his physical body, visible to any "sensitive"
who happened that way? We must leave our readers to decide for
themselves what theory will best fit as an explanation of this strange
and true story.

And now for the curious experiences of a professor of a well-known
theological institution, which he related most unwillingly and under
great pressure to a small gathering of friends, amongst whom a friend
of mine was present, who afterwards, knowing my interest in ghostly
lore, told me the stories.

This professor, whom we will call Mr. Bliss, was a graduate of one of
the newer Universities. Some years after he had taken his degree, he had
occasion to return to his University, and resolved to put up at his
former lodgings, as he would have to make some little stay. So leaving
his luggage at the station, he walked to the house, but before going in,
he took a turn or two up and down the pavement to finish a cigarette he
was smoking. While he was doing this, he saw a man, whom he recognised
at once as the son of the landlady, run up the steps and enter the
house, shutting the door behind him. His cigarette finished, Bliss
followed the man, and knocking at the door was warmly welcomed by his
old landlady, who told him she would certainly take him in, adding, "You
can have my son's room." "But your son is at home," said Bliss. "Oh no,
he is abroad," was the reply, and as Mrs. X. spoke, Bliss saw a shadow
come over her expression. "But that is impossible. I have just seen your
son go into this house," and he told the mother how he had been smoking,
and had seen the man whom he recognised as her son enter the house a few
moments before himself. Nor could Mrs. X.'s continued assertions, that
her son, far from being in the house was not even in England, shake the
conviction of Bliss that he had seen the man in question only a few
minutes before. However, seeing that the subject was distressing to Mrs.
X. he said no more. When night came, the landlady told him that she had
decided to give him her own room, taking herself the one formerly used
by her son. Bliss went to bed, and at first slept well, but very early
next morning he was roused by a sound as of some one creeping softly
into the room. He struck a light, and to his intense surprise saw Mrs.
X.'s son walking stealthily across the room to a corner where there
stood an old closed bureau. The man apparently took not the smallest
notice of Bliss, who, watching him, saw him take a key from his pocket,
and unlocking the bureau, fumble in its recesses until he drew out what
appeared to be a bag of money. This was too much for Bliss, who,
convinced that he was witnessing an act of robbery, whether by young X.
or somebody cleverly impersonating him he had no time to consider,
jumped out of bed and rushed at the intruder, on whose shoulder he
brought his arm down with some violence. But imagine the horror of
Bliss, when instead of being checked by a human body, the blow
encountered--nothing! And even as he stood there, the apparition--for
such it surely was--vanished utterly.

Next day Bliss felt impelled to tell Mrs. X. of his astonishing
experience, and (passing over the painful excitement and emotion aroused
by his recital) he heard the following story, which seemed to afford a
possible if somewhat far-fetched explanation of an extraordinary
happening. It appeared that young X. was far from being an exemplary
character, and that he ended his various escapades by robbing his
mother. He had entered her room in the night and by means of a false key
opened her bureau, where he knew she kept money, and removed all that
was there. After which he had left the country, and was living abroad,
never, of course, having been home since.

So much for one experience; the other is more dramatic, and happened on
the same occasion of Bliss's visit to his old University. One afternoon,
he went for a long walk into the country, and it was quite dark when he
returned homewards. As he proceeded along a deep lane, so overhung with
trees that the gloom on either hand seemed almost impenetrable, he
became aware of a dim light approaching him, and presently he saw that
it came from the head of a figure who was walking towards him and who,
as it drew nearer, seemed to be dressed like a Sister of Mercy, in a
blue dress and large white cap, while always the strange, pale light
seemed to radiate from her head. She walked straight and swiftly towards
him, and Bliss saw that unless he moved they would collide; so, thinking
that the person did not see him in spite of the light she carried about
her, he quickly stepped aside to let her pass. As he did so, he stumbled
over what seemed to be a large bundle on the road, and, stooping down to
see what it was, he discovered that the bundle was really a man, lying
huddled up and inanimate, but whether drunk or otherwise unconscious it
was impossible for the moment to tell, for utter darkness had again
fallen, the woman with the light having absolutely disappeared. But
Bliss could now hear the sound of wheels and a horse being driven very
fast; indeed, had he not loudly shouted, he and the unconscious man must
have been run over. And what about this man, if he had not happened to
find him lying there? And again, how _would_ he have found him if the
figure with the light had not come by, and caused Bliss to step aside.
Such thoughts came to his mind, as he helped the driver to lift the man
into the trap, and gave directions for him to be taken to the nearest
hospital; while further reflection during his walk home convinced him
that any ordinary explanation of such an incident was quite inadequate,
and that perhaps it was just one of those "things" that, as Hamlet
reminded his friend, are undreamed of "in our philosophy."

This chapter shall conclude with a tale told me lately by a friend who
had herself heard it on excellent authority. It concerns a Mrs. Borrow
who, two years ago, happened to be staying at Fontainebleau. One evening
she thought she would go for a walk, and accordingly setting out, soon
found herself free of the town, and in a deep country lane. Suddenly, at
some distance ahead of her, but still quite near enough to see plainly,
she saw the oddest figure of a man jump down from the hedge into the
road. He wore a curious kind of cap, red, with a tassel hanging down,
and his costume altogether appeared more like a fancy dress than the
garb of the present day. He stood in the middle of the road, and then
Mrs. Borrow noticed that a deer, which had wandered from the forest into
the lane, evidently saw the man too, for it stood quite still, gazing
fixedly at him. Mrs. Borrow hurried on, wishing to get a closer look at
such a strange person, but to her great bewilderment, as she drew near
he seemed to vanish away, causing her to wonder if she and the deer had
both been the victims of an optical delusion. At all events, she saw no
more of the mysterious figure that evening, though, as may be imagined,
her mind was full of the occurrence, and as soon as she returned to
Fontainebleau she sought out some friends who were residents there, and
described what she had seen. They instantly exclaimed: "Oh, you have
seen 'le Grand Veneur.' How unlucky for you. He always presages
misfortune to those who meet him in the forest." They then explained
that "le Grand Veneur" was really a ghost, and told Mrs. Borrow the
legend relating to him.

It must be added that so far, happily, the omen has not worked in Mrs.
Borrow's case, as no particular misfortune had befallen her when my
friend heard the story, only a few months ago. So perhaps the powers of
"le Grand Veneur" for "ill-wishing" those who see him have lapsed with
time.

Mr. Henderson mentions this apparition in "Folk-lore of the Northern
Counties": "Near Fontainebleau, Hugh Capet is believed to ride...." And
again: "I have said that the Wild Huntsman rides in the woods of
Fontainebleau. He is known to have blown his horn loudly and rushed over
the palace with all his hounds, before the assassination of Henry the
Fourth." Henderson, it will be noted, describes the huntsman as mounted,
while Mrs. Borrow's apparition was on foot; as, however, her description
seems to have been immediately recognised as "le Grand Veneur," a
well-known ghost, it is probable that Henderson refers to the same
tradition.

In a note to his version of the German ballad of "The Chase," Sir Walter
Scott relates the legend of the "Wild Jäger," or Wild Huntsman of
Germany, adding: "The French had a similar tradition concerning an
aerial hunter who infested the forest of Fontainebleau." Also in
"Quentin Durward" he mentions "le Grand Veneur," to meet whom in the
forest was a bad omen; and again in "Woodstock" he writes of a similar
apparition, said to haunt the woods of Woodstock: "Anon it is a solitary
huntsman, who asks you if you can tell him which way the chase has gone.
He is always dressed in green, but the fashion of his clothes is some
five hundred years old."

In a former chapter I have mentioned the alleged appearances in quite
modern times of two phantom hunters in Wales. The fact seems to be that
the "Wild Huntsman" legend is one of great antiquity and wide
distribution, its details in different places being merely altered to
suit local circumstances.

But that is a fact that does not in the least detract from the interest
of Mrs. Borrow's strange little adventure in the lane near
Fontainebleau.



CHAPTER V

CORPSE-CANDLES AND THE TOILI

    "A vague presentiment of his pending doom
    Like ghostly footsteps in a vacant room
    Haunted him day and night."


When St. David of blessed memory lay dying his soul was greatly troubled
by the thought of his people, who would soon be bereft of his pious care
and exhortations. He remembered the Celtic character, apt to be lifted
to heights of enthusiastic piety by any passing influence of oratory,
and, alas! prone to sink to depths of indifference, or even scepticism,
when that influence was removed. So the Saint prayed very earnestly for
his flock that some special sign of divine assistance might be granted
them. Tradition says that his prayer was heard, and a promise given that
henceforth no one in the good Archbishop's diocese should die without
receiving previous intimation of his end, and so might be prepared. The
warning was to be a light proceeding from the person's dwelling to the
place where he should be buried, following exactly the road which the
funeral would afterwards take. This light, visible a few days before
death, is the _canwyll corph_ (corpse-candle).

Such is the legend generally supposed to be the foundation of a very
ancient belief, though a less common version is given by Howells in his
"Cambrian Superstitions" (1831), where he says: "The reason of their
(the candles) appearing is generally attributed to a Bishop of St.
David's, a martyr, who in olden days, while burning, prayed that they
might be seen in Wales (some say in his diocese only) before a person's
death, that they might testify that he had died a martyr...." The Bishop
alluded to here was Ferrars, who was burnt at Carmarthen under the
persecutions in Queen Mary's reign.

But whatever the origin of the _canwyll_ belief, it was once almost
universal in some parts of Wales, and even in these sceptical days one
sometimes comes across it in out-of-the-way corners of the Principality.

In Brand's "Antiquities" we read: "Corpse Candles, says Grose, are very
common appearances in the counties of Cardigan, Carmarthen, and
Pembroke, and also in some other parts of Wales; they are called candles
from their resemblance, not to the body of a candle, but the fire,
because that fire, says the honest Welshman, Mr. Davies, in a letter to
Mr. Baxter, doth as much resemble material candle-light as eggs do eggs;
saving that in their journey these candles are sometimes visible and
sometimes disappear, especially if any one comes near them or in the
way to meet them. On these occasions they vanish, but presently reappear
behind the observer and _hold their Corpse_ (_sic_). If a little candle
is seen, of a pale bluish colour, then follows the Corpse of some
Infant, if a larger one, then the Corpse of some one come to age.... If
two Candles come from different places and meet, two Corpses will do the
same, and if any of these Candles be seen to turn aside through some
bypath leading to the church the following Corpses will be found to take
exactly the same way. Sometimes these Candles point out the place where
people will sicken and die...."

The "honest Welshman" above quoted by Grose was the Rev. J. Davies of
Geneurglyn, and the whole of his letter, which Richard Baxter published
in his "World of Spirits" (1656), is most interesting to read. He
continues: "Now let us fall to evidence. Being about the age of fifteen,
dwelling at Llanylar, late at night, some neighbours saw one of these
candles hovering up and down along the river-bank, until they were weary
of beholding it; at last they left it so, and went to bed. A few weeks
after came a proper damsel from Montgomeryshire to see her friends, who
dwelt on the other side of the river Istwith, and thought to ford the
river at that very place where the light was seen, being dissuaded by
some lookers-on (some, it is most likely, of those who saw the light) to
adventure on the water, which was high by reason of a flood; she walked
up and down the river-bank, even where, and ever as the aforesaid candle
did, waiting for the falling of the water, which at last she took, but
too soon for her, for she was drowned therein.... Some thirty or forty
years since, my wife's sister being nurse to Baronet Rudd's three eldest
children, and (the Lady mistress being dead) the Lady-comptroller of the
house going late into the chamber where the maid-servants lay, saw no
less than five of these lights together. It happened a while after this,
that the chamber being newly plastered and a grate of coal-fire therein
kindled to hasten the drying of the plaster, that five of the
maid-servants went to bed as they were wont, but as it fell out, too
soon, for in the morning they were all dead, being suffocated in their
sleep by the steam of the newly tempered lime and coal. This was at
Llangathen in Carmarthenshire."

I have always been much interested in this story, as the house where the
accident happened two hundred and fifty years ago is very well known to
me in these days. And indeed the tradition of the five smothered maids
is still extant; for the tale, substantially as related by Mr. Davies,
was told me only a few years ago by an old woman living in Llangathen
village, who had been many years in service in the house referred to by
Baxter's reverend correspondent, though the Rudd family has long
disappeared, and the place changed owners many times since. As to
"Llanylar" on the river "Istwith" it is a village not so far from my own
home in Cardiganshire; and quite lately a clergyman, born and brought up
in that district, informed me that when he was a boy--and he is not
old--stories of "corpse-candles" abounded there, and belief in them was
very common.

To return to "Cambrian Superstitions" again, its author relates what he
seems to think a well-authenticated instance of a _canwyll's_
appearance, as follows. "Some years ago (he was writing in 1831), when
the coach which runs from Llandilo to Carmarthen was passing by Golden
Grove (the property of the noble Earl Cawdor), three corpse-candles were
observed on the surface of the water, gliding down the stream which runs
near the road; all the passengers beheld them, and it is related that a
few days after, some men were crossing the river near there in a
coracle, but one of them expressed his fear at venturing, as the river
was flooded, and remained behind; the other three possessing less
discernment, ventured, and when about the middle of the river,
lamentable to relate, their frail conveyance sank through the weight
that was in it, and they were drowned."

Writing in 1888 of Pembrokeshire, Mr. Edward Laws, in "Little England
beyond Wales," says: "It would be by no means difficult to find a score
of persons who are fully persuaded that they themselves have been
favoured with a vision of the mysterious lights," adding, "St. Daniel's
cemetery, Pembroke, is a likely place for 'fetch-candles.'"

Although the weird privilege was supposed to belong entirely to St.
David's diocese, yet some writers mention the belief as well known in
North Wales. George Borrow, in "Wild Wales," describes in Chapter XI. a
conversation he had on the subject with a woman who lived near
Llangollen, and had herself seen a _canwyll corph_. And in our days, Sir
John Rees writes in "Celtic Folk-lore": "It is hard to guess why it was
assumed that the _canwyll corph_ was unknown in other parts of Wales....
I have myself heard of them being seen in Anglesey." But earlier authors
nearly always assign South Wales as the real home of the tradition.
Meyrick, in his "History of Cardiganshire" (1810), speaks of St. David
obtaining the privilege for his diocese, adding: "The _canwyll corph_ is
bright or pale according to the age of the person, and if the candle is
seen to turn out of the path that leads to the church, the corpse will
do so likewise."

Scientifically approached, the corpse-candle is merely the well-known
_ignis fatuus_ (will-o'-the-wisp or marsh light) occasionally seen to
quiver and flicker at night over the surface of bog and swamp. Shelley
writes:

    "As a fen-fire's beam
    On a sluggish stream
      Gleams dimly."

Often appearing in the distance like a carried lantern, these lights
have been known to lure unwary travellers from a safe path to insecurity
and danger. Scott's name for the will-o'-the-wisp is Friar Rush's
lantern:

    "Better we had through mire and bush
    Been lantern-led by Friar Rush."

In the same connection, Milton in "L'Allegro" also mentions the "friar's
lantern."

But though one may have an open mind on the subject of the _canwyll
corph_, yet it does not seem as if the _ignis fatuus_ explanation covers
quite all the ground suggested in the various instances of the
_canwyll's_ appearance described in the following notes.

All authorities agree that the most characteristic feature of the
corpse-candle's appearance is, that it invariably follows the exact line
that will be taken by the funeral procession. This is well illustrated
by an instance that occurred some years ago at a house in Cardiganshire.
Instead of going straight along the drive, the light was seen to flicker
down some steps and round the garden pond; and when the death occurred
the drive was partly broken up under repair, and the coffin had to be
taken the way indicated by the corpse-candle. At another place in the
same county, tradition says that before a death takes place there, a
corpse-light is always seen to emerge from the neighbouring churchyard,
and pass quivering up the drive towards the house. Another story from
Carmarthenshire relates how shortly before a death in the family owning
a certain house, the woman living at the lodge saw a pale light come
down the drive one evening. It pursued its way as far as the lodge,
where it hovered a few moments, then through the gates, and out on the
road, where it stopped again for several minutes under some trees. On
the day of the funeral the hearse, for an unexpected reason, was pulled
up for some time at the exact spot where the _canwyll_ had halted.

The following story, which was related by a lady of cultured mind and
much common sense, has always seemed to me one of the most interesting
of its kind that I have ever heard. Whether it was a case of _canwyll
corph_ or not must be left to my readers to determine, but it is
certainly hard to account for the incident in any ordinary way:

My friend, Miss Morris, lived when she was a young girl in Wales, and
her father's house stood on a steep hill-side, with the village church
just below, a short walk from the lodge gates. One Sunday evening, in
winter, Miss Morris, her sister, and two maids walked down to the church
to attend the six o'clock service. As they came out from the drive on to
the road, they saw flickering down the hill in front of them, a pale
bluish light, which, in the darkness, Miss Morris and her sister took to
be a lantern carried by some church-goer like themselves, although they
could see no figure of man or woman. The light stopped at the
churchyard gate, and turned in, but Miss Morris observed that the person
carrying it did not enter the church, but went on towards a grave with a
tombstone. Now this grave happened to be the only one in the
burying-ground, for the church had only lately been built, and the
churchyard but newly consecrated. Arrived at the solitary tombstone, the
light suddenly disappeared. The two girls went round to the same place,
as their curiosity was roused by the light's disappearance, but there
was nobody by the grave. Rather puzzled, they went into the church,
where they had to wait some time for the service to begin, as the Vicar
was very late. Afterwards he told Miss Morris that he had been detained
at a cottage by a dying woman, who had begged him to stay with her till
the end. When they returned home, the sisters told their mother of the
light they had seen, and were promptly advised by her to speak to no one
else on the subject, and to dismiss it from their minds as soon as
possible. However, next day, as Miss Morris was passing the churchyard
gate, she saw a brother of the deceased woman standing there with the
Vicar, to whom he said: "My sister wished to be buried by the side of
her friend, Sarah Jones." And the man then walked through the
churchyard, _straight to the exact place by the tombstone_ where Miss
Morris and her sister had seen the light disappear on the evening
before.

Not long ago I was talking about the _canwyll corph_ and kindred
subjects with the postmistress of a Cardiganshire village, who remarked
that she had only known one person who had ever seen a "corpse-light."
This was a woman--now dead--called Mary Jones, and to use the words of
the postmistress "a very religious and respectable person." At one time
in her life she lived in a village called Pennant (its real name), a
place well known to me, where the church is rather a landmark, being set
on top of a hill. Mary Jones invariably and solemnly declared that
whenever a death occurred among her neighbours, she would always
previously see a corpse-candle wend its way up the hill from the village
to the churchyard. And at the same place she once saw the Toili (a
phantom funeral). This last experience was in broad daylight, and was
shared with several other people who were haymaking at the time, and who
all saw clearly the spectral procession appear along a road and
mysteriously vanish when it reached a certain point. But we will speak
of the Toili presently.

Another belief relating to the _canwyll_ was that it not only boded
future troubles, but that it was positively dangerous for anybody who
saw one to get in its way. I had never heard locally of this
disagreeable attribute of the corpse-light until I talked to the
postmistress already quoted. This woman said that long ago she and other
children were always frightened from straying far from home by tales of
"Jacky Lantern," a mysterious light, which, encountered on the road,
would infallibly burn them up! George Borrow ("Wild Wales," Chapter
LXXXVIII.) mentions meeting with the same belief when talking to a
shepherd who acted as his guide from the Devil's Bridge over Plinlimmon.
Borrow said: "They (corpse-candles) foreshadow deaths, don't they?" To
which the shepherd replied: "They do, sir; but that's not all the harm
they do. They are very dangerous for anybody to meet with. If they come
bump up against you when you are walking carelessly, its generally all
over with you in this world." Then followed the story of how a man, well
known to the shepherd, had actually met his death in that weird manner.
Howells also mentions the same idea in "Cambrian Superstitions," where,
writing of corpse-lights, he says: "When any one observes their
approach, if they do not move aside they will be struck down by their
force, as I was informed by a person living, whose father coming in
contact with one was thrown off his horse."

This certainly adds to the fear inspired by the sight of the _canwyll_,
but the more general belief seems to have been that these lights were
quite harmless in themselves, and when seen were regarded with awe only
as sure harbingers of future woe.

If we may believe the Rev. Mr. Davies, whose letter, published in
Baxter's "World of Spirits," has been already quoted, there is yet
another kind of fire apparition peculiar to Wales, called the Tanwe, or
Tanwed. "This appeareth to our seeming, in the lower region of the air,
straight and long ... but far more slowly than falling stars. It
lighteneth all the air and ground where it passeth, lasteth three or
four miles or more for ought is known, and when it falls to the ground
it sparkleth and lighteth all about. These commonly announce the
death ... of freeholders, by falling on their lands, and you shall
scarcely bury any such with us, be he but a lord of a house and garden,
but you shall find some one at his burial that hath seen this fire fall
on some part of his lands." Sometimes these appearances have been seen
by the persons whose deaths they foretold, two instances of which Mr.
Davies records as having happened in his own family.

When reading the above description of the "Tanwe"--of which I had
previously never heard--there came to my mind a story told me by an old
Welsh lady of an extraordinary phenomenon, which she solemnly declared
had preceded the death of her brother-in-law--a gentleman well known and
respected in Cardiganshire. Shortly before his last and fatal illness
his wife, returning home one evening, was amazed to see the most curious
lights, apparently falling from the sky immediately over their house.
From the account given by my friend, her sister seems to have at once
recognised the supernatural character and sinister import of the
mysterious lights; their appearance being recalled with melancholy
interest by her and her sisters after the sad event which so soon
followed. Can this incident be explained as a survival of the old
"Tanwe" idea, of which our authority, the then Vicar of Geneurglyn,
wrote in the seventeenth century? It seems as if it might be so, and
that belief in the Tanwe was probably an old _local_ superstition,
peculiar to that district; considering the fact that the parish of which
Mr. Davies was Vicar is in the same county and not more than a dozen
miles from the house where the fiery death-signals are supposed to have
been seen twelve or fifteen years ago. For so far I have neither heard
nor read of the Tanwe being known in any other part of Wales.

Belief in the Toili used to be very widely spread in Cardiganshire,
especially, it is said, in the northern part of the county. Meyrick, the
historian of Cardiganshire, tells us: "The Toili ... is a phantasmagoric
representation of a funeral, and the peasants affirm that when they meet
with this, unless they move out of the road, they must inevitably be
knocked down by the pressure of the crowd. They add that they know the
persons whose spirits they behold, and hear them distinctly singing
hymns." But the Toili was not always visible; sometimes the presence of
the ghostly _cortège_ would be known merely by the sudden feeling of
encountering a crowd of people and hearing a dim wailing like the sound
of a distant funeral dirge.

Those of us who have lived in the country, and know how characteristic
of a Welsh burial is this singing of funeral hymns--one or two of which
are of a poignant sadness impossible to describe--can imagine how
significant and suggestive such a ghostly sound would be to peasant
ears. An old woman, whom I knew well years ago, used always to declare
that she heard this hymn singing before the death of any friend or
neighbour. She would invariably say, if one commented on any death that
occurred: "Yes, indeed, but I knew some one was going; I heard the Toili
last week."

I have heard of two cases of people being involved in invisible funeral
processions, which must truly be a most disagreeable experience. One
story relates to a Mrs. D----, who lived in the parish of Llandewi
Brefi, in Cardiganshire. Her husband was ill, and one day as she was
going upstairs to his room, she had a feeling as of being in a vision,
though she could _see_ nothing. But the staircase seemed suddenly
crowded with people, and by their shuffling, irregular footsteps, low
exclamations, and heavy breathings she knew they were carrying a heavy
burden downstairs. So realistic was the impression, that when she had
struggled to the top of the stairs she felt actually faint and weak
from the pressure of the crowd. A few days later her husband died, and
on the day of the funeral, when the house was full of people, and the
coffin carried with difficulty down the narrow stairs, she realised that
her curious experience had been a warning of sorrow to come.

The other instance was told me by the Rev. G. Eyre Evans of Aberystwith
(who kindly allows his real name to be given), a minister and writer on
archæological subjects of considerable local fame. In his own words: "As
to the Toili, well, if ever a man met one and got mixed in it, I
certainly did when crossing Trychrug[7] one night. I seemed to feel the
brush of people, to buffet against them, and to be in the way; perhaps
the feeling lasted a couple of minutes. It was an eerie, weird feeling,
quite inexplicable to me, but there was the experience, say what you
will."

[Footnote 7: A high hill in Cardiganshire.]

Quite lately a friend writes from South Cardiganshire telling me of "a
ghostly hearse and followers, seen recently by a neighbour, the man
recognising the driver of the hearse and the chief mourner ... and
little thinking it was a ghostly procession he was looking at, he
whipped up his horse to get closer.... The animal reared and trembled,
refusing to go nearer or move even in the direction taken by the hearse.
Terror then also seized the man, and he turned and fled the longest way
home to avoid the ghostly burial-ground."

Another story of the Toili comes from St. David's, and this we will also
give in the words of the correspondent who, knowing my weakness for
"ghosteses," was kind enough to send it.

"An old lady, one Miss Black, who is still living, resided some time ago
in the house formerly belonging to the Archdeacon of St. David's, with
one servant-maid, whom on a certain evening she sent on an errand,
telling her to return at once. This she did not do, and in consequence
was found fault with. The girl stated, in explanation, that she had been
greatly frightened by coming across a phantom funeral descending the
steps below the entrance gateway towers (of the Cathedral) and that it
turned to the right in the direction of the Lady Chapel. The old lady
was incredulous, and said, moreover, that funerals never entered the
Cathedral yard (this was, of course, before the yard was closed for
burials) that way, which was the fact; they used to pass down the road
running parallel with the yard, and enter by the big gate below the
Deanery.

"But actually not long after a real funeral did come by the way the girl
said, and went in the direction she described; the road referred to
being for the time impassable, having been dug across for the laying of
some pipes."

The next very good example of this strange second sight also comes from
St. David's, and it is through the courtesy of the Editor of the
_Western Mail_ that I am able to relate it here: "The following anecdote
was related by the late Mr. Pavin Phillips, the Haverfordwest antiquary,
of a friend of his, a clergyman resident at St. David's. One of his
parishioners was notorious as a seer of phantom funerals. When the
clergyman used to go out to his Sunday duties, the old woman would
frequently accost him with, 'Ay, ay, Mr. ---- _fach_,[8] you'll be here
of a weekday soon, for I saw a funeral last night.'

[Footnote 8: _Fach_, a mild term of endearment in Welsh.]

"On one occasion he asked her, 'Well, Molly, have you seen a funeral
lately?' 'Ay, ay, Mr. ---- _fach_,' was the reply; 'I saw one a night or
two ago, and I saw you as plainly as I see you now, but you did what I
never saw you do before.' 'What was that?' 'Why,' replied the old woman,
'as you came out of the church to meet the funeral, you stooped down and
appeared to pick something off the ground.' 'Well,' thought the
clergyman to himself, 'I'll try, Molly, if I can't make a liar of you
for once.' Some time afterwards the good man was summoned to a funeral
on horseback. Dismounting he donned his surplice, and moved forward to
meet the procession. The surplice became entangled in his spur, and as
he stooped to disengage it he suddenly thought of the old woman and her
vision. Molly was right, after all."

Our next story, recounting a most curious incident which happened a
comparatively short time ago in my own neighbourhood, certainly sounds
incredible. Yet I have reason to believe in the truthfulness of the
clergyman whose experience is narrated, and should judge him incapable
of even wishing to invent any such extraordinary adventure as befell him
one night only a few years ago.

Mr. Harris is the Vicar of Llangaredig (which I substitute for the real
name), a pretty country church with a comfortable vicarage just across
the road from the churchyard. At the time of our story the Vicar's pony
was sick, and feeling very anxious about the animal, he determined to
sit up one night, in order to see how it got on. About midnight he
thought he would go out and have a look at the pony, which was in a
stable exactly opposite the churchyard, with the road between. As the
Vicar emerged from the stable into the road he was surprised to hear the
sound as of many footsteps, while he immediately had a queer feeling of
people pressing round him. In a minute or two he heard wheels as of
traps and carriages driving up to the churchyard gate and stopping
there, and especially the sound of a heavy vehicle like a hearse. Then,
after a pause, came the unmistakable, hollow sound of the hearse door,
as it was slammed to on an empty interior.

Then followed the heavy tread of men, bearing a burden into the church.
But all this time Mr. Harris _saw_ nothing. Rooted to the spot with
amazement, he waited a while at the stable-door till the night's
stillness was again broken by the sound of many people coming out of
church. Past him they brushed invisibly, then came the roll and rattle
of wheels, as traps and gigs drove away. Then as the crowd seemed slowly
to move off, the Vicar _distinctly heard talking_, and though he could
not distinguish the words spoken, yet he plainly recognised the voices
of two or three of his parishioners. When all at last was still, Mr.
Harris returned to the house, much mystified by his inexplicable
experience, which he was presently forced to regard as a prophecy. For
next day came a telegram, informing him that a relation _of the people
whose voices he had recognised_ had died, and requesting him to arrange
for the burial of the deceased in Llangaredig churchyard.

Much resembling these accounts of the Toili in Wales is the experience
of certain persons possessing second sight, of whom Martin writes, in
his "Description of the Western Islands of Scotland": "Some find
themselves as it were in a crowd of people, having a Corpse which they
carry along with them, and after such Visions the Seers come in sweating
and describe the People that appeared; if there be any of their
Acquaintances among them, they give an account of their Names, also of
the Bearers, but they know nothing concerning the Corpse."

So that in ancient times belief in the Toili may have been common to
several of the Celtic tribes, and its origin is possibly of great
antiquity. Corpse-candles, too, seem to have been known in Scotland,
judging by Scott's allusion, in his ballad of "Glenfinlas"--

    "I see the death-damps chill thy brow,
    I hear thy warning spirit cry;
    The corpse-lights dance--they're gone, and now ...
    No more is given to gifted eye."

--though the "lights" here mentioned more probably refer to the vivid
blue flames which seers declared to be visible hovering over a dying
person. Such a "superstition" is possibly supposed to be extinct; yet
this phenomenon has been witnessed by a friend of mine (need I say of
Celtic race?) who described the tiny flames as "dancing," using exactly
the same word as Sir Walter Scott does.[9] It seemed impossible to
disbelieve my friend's statement, which was made with the utmost
solemnity and carried conviction at the moment; yet what can we think as
to the absolute truth of it and the many alleged appearances of the
Canwyll Corph and the Toili? It is difficult indeed to say. No doubt
large "grains of salt" must be taken with some of the stories, while on
the other hand one cannot entirely discredit the testimony of sane and
sober individuals, such as Mr. Harris, or Mary Jones, the "very
respectable and religious" friend of the postmistress. Personally I have
no wish to be too sceptical; partly on the principle that all these
ancient beliefs and legends help to add interest and lend a glamour to a
world ever becoming more matter-of-fact and material. And also to quote
the words of the great French scientist M. Camille Flammarion, because
"Ce que nous pouvons penser ... c'est que tout en faisant la part des
superstitions, des erreurs, des illusions, des farces, des malices, des
mensonges, des fourberies, il reste des faits psychiques véritables,
digne de l'attention des chercheurs."

[Footnote 9: In "Folk-lore of the Northern Counties" Mr. Henderson says:
"They believe in the county of Sussex that the death of a sick person is
shown by the prognostic of 'shell-fire.' This is a sort of lambent
flame, which seems to rise from the bodies of those who are ill and
envelop the bed."]



CHAPTER VI

CORPSE-CANDLES AND THE TOILI[10] (_continued_)

    "O that's a meteor sent us, a message dumb, portentous,
    An undeciphered solemn signal of help or hurt."

[Footnote 10: I am indebted to Mr. Owen M. Edwards, the Editor of
_Cymru_, for his kind permission to publish the translations included in
this and Chapter VII.]


The stories and experiences contained in this chapter consist of
material relating to the "Canwyll Corph," the "Toili," and other
beliefs, which were collected by the late Lledrod Davies, an inhabitant
of the village of Swyddffynon, near Ystrad Meurig, in Cardiganshire.

He was a young man of delicate constitution, but gifted with that
intelligence and zest for knowledge which distinguish so many of our
Welsh people, and which, when joined to ambition and steadiness of
character, are apt to carry them far in worldly progress. And this love
of knowledge, and a native shrewdness untrammelled by any smattering of
modern education, combined to form many a delightful character amongst
our old-fashioned peasants, a few of whom still survive, though the type
is fast dying out. If we may believe the descriptions in "Wild Wales,"
George Borrow met many such people in his travels through the
Principality, but that was nearly sixty years ago, before the flower of
our rural population had begun to migrate to "the Works"--as they call
the mines and iron foundries of Glamorganshire.

However, we are digressing from Lledrod Davies, who it seems had
intended to enter the Church, but died before he could be ordained.
Apparently he was always much interested in the legendary lore and
superstitions of his native county, and for a long time had made a point
of collecting all the curious tales and experiences he could glean on
these subjects; and as the district to which he belonged happens to be
remarkable for all kinds of uncanny occurrences in the way of
"corpse-candles," fairy legends and the like, he had no doubt a wide
field for research. His object in collecting all this information seems
to have been exactly the same as my own in a similar pursuit; namely,
that he thought it too quaint and interesting to be allowed to die with
the old generation, to whom a firm belief in these occult happenings was
a matter of course. Also, in the spirit of the true folklorist, he had
intended if he had lived to endeavour to trace a connection between
these old Welsh beliefs and the folk-legends of other countries. But he
died before he could accomplish this object, and after his death (which
took place in 1890, at the age of thirty-three) his MSS. relating to
these subjects were collected by friends, and published locally in a
little pamphlet entitled "Ystraeon y Gwyll"--in English, "Stories of the
Dark." This pamphlet, now out of print, was lent to me a short time ago,
and partly because its contents concerned my own county and several
districts that I know, it interested me so much that I asked and
obtained permission to translate and republish the tales contained
therein. As folk-lore these are really valuable, for they were noted
down exactly as Mr. Davies heard them from the lips of the country
people, free from all self-consciousness, and with no idea that they
were relating anything but what were fairly common experiences amongst
themselves and their friends.

In my translation I have occasionally made use of abbreviation, and I
have sometimes slightly paraphrased the original text, here and there
rather weighted by repetition, a trait which, however quaint and
characteristic in the vernacular, is apt to sound tedious in our more
precise and reserved English language. But with these small limitations,
I have kept as nearly as possible to Mr. Davies' narrative, which, he
tells us, he wrote down as well as he could in the words used by his
informants. I will pass over his general description of
"corpse-candles," because most of it would only be a recapitulation of
what I have already told in the last chapter. But he mentions an
interesting item connected with the superstition of which I had never
heard before; to the effect that people who saw the candles were able
to judge how soon the death which they prognosticated would occur. If
the light were seen in the evening, death would follow quickly; if in
the depths of night, the fatal event would be delayed a while. And it is
said that there was scarcely ever a mistake made in this calculation of
time.

       *       *       *       *       *

I will now proceed in Mr. Davies' words, heading each incident with the
title given it in the collection, and the first is called


THE OLD WOMAN WHO SAW HER OWN CORPSE-LIGHT

In the quiet village of S---- there dwelt an old woman, poor, of
miserable appearance and very ragged in clothing.

The only light that entered her cottage came through the door; in a
word, the whole business of the house took place at the door. Even the
smoke generally escaped by it, although it is true there was a chimney.
In such a place had the old woman chosen to pass the rest of her life.
She spent many of the long summer days on her door-step, knitting in
hand, exchanging the gossip of the season with her friends; while in
winter she would be found sitting by the hearth, near a wretched heap of
ashes or a bit of turf fire.

One very cold winter evening, as she sat in her accustomed place,
knitting her stocking, and humming an old hymn-tune or ballad, she saw
something like a spark fall from her bosom into the ashes of the fire
before her, where it glittered very brightly. Thinking to find out what
the spark was, she seized the tongs, and searched about with them in the
ashes. She drew the tongs backwards and forwards through the ashes, and
while so doing, she perceived the spark jump up again from the hearth,
and go out through the door, and she herself got up and went to the door
to see what direction it took. She looked out, and there before her was
the little spark become a great light; so bright that it lit the whole
place. She took courage to look well at it, she said, in order to make
sure what it was. She saw it go out of the house rather slowly, onward
along the road towards the burial-ground, to which it was probable that
in the course of nature she would ere long be carried. Then, overcome by
fear, she went back into the house, and afterwards fell very ill,
because she felt quite sure that it was her own corpse-light she had
seen, and no other. She related what had happened to her friends, and in
truth it was not long before her body followed its light to the
burial-ground, there to be reunited. This old woman was noted for seeing
and hearing spirits, corpse-candles, and the Toili. Whenever she said to
her friends, "There will soon be a burial at such and such a house,"
they were quite certain the prediction would come to pass.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next story tells of possible danger connected with seeing a
corpse-light.


THE OLD WOMAN WHO WAS BLINDED FOR A MONTH BY A CORPSE-LIGHT

This time it was one of the most wonderful things I have heard in
connection with a corpse-light. An old woman, considered one of the best
nurses in the country, was made blind by the light. She was always
remarkably fortunate in her cases, and chiefly for the reason that she
was a seventh daughter. Because it is considered very lucky to have as
your doctor or nurse a seventh son or daughter. So because she was
lucky, she was universally in request by all the good-wives far and
near.

On a certain night the farmer's wife at G---- was taken ill, and Elli
the nurse must be sent for, and they despatched the servant-man at once
to fetch her. She lived not far from G----, but the road was very rough.
The servant mounted a horse and away he rode with much diligence. And
very quickly he reached the nurse's dwelling. He told his errand, and it
was not long before both set out on the way back. It was a beautiful
starlight night, but there was no moon at that season. The old woman
went on horseback, and the servant behind her. They were going along as
fast as they could, when the woman asked the man, "Dost thou see a
light, Tom?"

"I don't see one; where do you see it?"

"I tell thee it is coming along the road, down from Bont Bren Garreg."

"Oh, I see it now," said Tom.

The old woman knew it at once for a corpse-light. They went on talking
about the light, and Tom said in his opinion it was perhaps the light
from that house or the other. Now there was a cross-road[11] on the road
along which the light was coming. On they went until they came to the
main road, in which place there was a turn, and as they approached the
turn, Tom the servant said, "Well, if there was no light before,
good-wife, here is one now." And there it was in their midst, on the
road and bushes, every corner of the compass was illuminated. They had
now stopped at the house. The old woman went in and fell fainting, and
when she came to herself, she was quite blind, and could see nothing.
They put her to bed and when the morrow brought daylight, she went home.
And a month passed before she saw again as usual. After the old nurse
went home the servant had to go out again to fetch the mistress's
mother. Now he was obliged to go along the road where the light had
been, and past the churchyard. Away he went and very quickly came in
sight of the burial-ground, where, to his fright and agitation, he saw
the light again! For as he came opposite the graveyard, he plainly saw
the light inside, and carefully noticed the exact spot at which it
lingered.

[Footnote 11: In Welsh folk-lore cross-roads always figure as likely
spots for uncanny happenings.]

The old woman declared that some one would most surely soon be brought
along that road to be buried, which came to pass very quickly after the
light's appearance, this showing that it was indeed a corpse-candle. She
also told Tom where the grave of this person would be in the churchyard,
which he remembered, and found to be at the exact spot she described.
Although this old woman in her day had seen scores of corpse-candles
after nightfall, yet this was the most wonderful she ever saw, because
of its direct connection with what followed. For its effect could be
seen, and Tom the servant, who was an eye-witness of it all, bore
testimony of the circumstances from the beginning to the end.

       *       *       *       *       *

The two following incidents show how the identity of the doomed
individual was known.


HOW TO KNOW WHOSE LIGHT IT WAS

In old times I have heard numbers of elderly people assert that they
could tell one whose was the "light" passing by, and could relate how
this was possible; and with my own ears I have heard one man say how his
fear of the thing decreased as he came to know its mystery. One way was
to mind and be near running water, or any pond that happened to be
conveniently near the road along which the light was coming.

As soon as the light was to be seen approaching, one should stop near
the water or the running brook that the candle had to cross, and therein
would be seen a reflection of the person whose light it was. Apparently
the illumination of the light showed it in the water. There was always a
mysterious light on the breast of the doomed individual. One man told me
how he had seen the corpse-light after hearing a sound like a great
report, whereupon running to some water he found out the person who was
to be buried. Though he had seen other corpse-lights from time to time,
yet he had never happened to be near water until a certain night. He had
been very late, he said, at the smithy, having a ploughshare sharpened,
and had a middling long way to return home from the forge. As he was
going along the road, he saw a light in the far distance, coming towards
him. He did not suspect any harm at the moment, and hastened along,
keeping his eye on the light, until he got to the bottom of a slope, up
which he had to go. He had a big old cape over him, and for convenience,
he folded the skirts of it round his middle. As he straightened himself
after doing this, he perceived the light just at his side, and
realising that it was a corpse-candle, he determined to see whether the
saying was false or true that one could see whose light it was. Now
there happened to be a little brook crossing the road at that place. As
the light went by he looked carefully into the water, and saw therein a
woman he knew very well. He went home much frightened. A little time
after, that woman was stricken with illness, and when she subsequently
died it happened that her body was carried along that very road for
burial. Afterwards he saw a man's light, and that time again it was near
water. He resolved to try and know whose it was. He saw the light
reflected in the water, and knew the person at once as the gamekeeper in
that neighbourhood. Though the keeper was in good health at the time,
yet very soon afterwards he fell ill and died, and his funeral too
followed the course the "candle" had taken.


THE SMITH OF LLANFIHANGEL AND THE CORPSE-LIGHT

There was yet another way of knowing whose corpse-candle was seen. This
way of finding out required more nerve than the other, for the reason
that one must go to the churchyard, through the graves, and inside the
church door, and there wait until the corpse-candle came in. And there,
as if he were going in his body to church, would be seen the doomed
person. This required great determination and bravery as may easily be
seen, and for this reason there were but few found to do such a thing.
As a rule it was better for the children of men to have but a
half-knowledge about the corpse-candle than to dare this thing, as few
knew whether they could bear such a sight. But according to universal
rule, "Every country nourishes brave men," and so it was in quiet
Llanfihangel. A blacksmith of unusual stature and strength lived there,
and his bravery and prowess had become a proverb throughout the country,
and of his daring many things were spoken by the fireside. This smith
took it into his head to go to the church porch every time a
corpse-light was seen going towards the burial-ground. Through the
advantage given him by his daring and courage, he was thus able to say
beforehand who would be buried next, which appeared amazing to the
people, because he invariably foretold the truth. At last was discovered
what had been a mystery to the neighbours, and they knew that he was in
the habit of going to the porch every time the corpse-light was seen,
and that he there found out whose light it was.

On a certain night, as there were, according to custom, many men and
boys in the smithy, their conversation turned to corpse-candles, and
from talking to disputing hotly whether it was possible to know
beforehand whose light it was. At last they asked the smith for his
opinion on the point, asking him if it was true that he himself had
acquired the knowledge, to which he replied that it was perfectly true.
Just then a neighbour entered breathless and perspiring, having had a
great fright. When he recovered himself a little, he said he had seen a
corpse-candle making towards the churchyard, and if they went out they
could all see it. Out they all went, and there they saw the light
approaching in the direction of the burial-ground. "Now then," said they
to the smith, "go you to the porch this evening." He answered that he
was quite at leisure and ready to go, and proud to be of use. As the
blacksmith's house and shop were at the side of the churchyard, he had
but a few steps to take before finding himself amongst the quiet
inhabitants of the churchyard; so leaving his work as it was, away he
went without any hesitation to the church porch, so that he might be
there ready before the light came. He was seen to enter the church, and
very soon the corpse-candle was seen coming along the path, and then it,
too, went into the porch.

After a little while the smith returned, looking most unusually upset
and frightened. When he was more collected, he related to the gathering
what had happened. He said he had gone to the church porch, and after a
short wait, he saw the corpse-candle coming through the churchyard and
then to the church. There, standing as usual in the porch, was to be
seen the person who would be buried. As the light shone upon him, the
smith recognised him as the Nanteos keeper. But as the corpse passed him
by to enter the church, it turned towards him and exposed its grinning
teeth in the most horrible and ghastly manner. He felt so alarmed that
he was near to falling down dead, and indeed would so have fallen if he
had not been a giant for strength. He said it was the last time he
should go and see the corpse-light, to know who was going to die.

Some little time after this, the keeper was stricken by death in some
form or other, and his body was brought to Llanfihangel to be buried, as
the old smith had truly said. So the neighbours were assured that it was
possible to identify the person whose light was seen, but that it was a
great risk to life to seek to find out.

       *       *       *       *       *

The next story gives a particularly unpleasant experience.


FOLLOWING HIS OWN CANDLE

It happened once that a young man of the neighbourhood of Ll----i went
to visit a friend of his in the neighbouring district. After passing an
amusing day, he had a mind to return, and of course his friend must go
with him, to "send" his crony home.[12] As they walked along talking of
each other's affairs, they saw far off in front of them, a light. And
one said to the other about it: "I tell you, that is a corpse-light,
let's follow it and see whose light it is. Because they say you can see
that, if you mind to get to the churchyard gate before the light goes
through."

[Footnote 12: To "send" any one means to go with him part of the way
back--a Welsh idiom.]

So away they went, and it was not long before they got to within
measurable distance of the light. But as they followed, a great fear
fell on the visitor, and he told his friend he could not go a step
farther in pursuit. The other laughed in his face; and so they
separated. The friend went home, and left the man he had been visiting
to follow the spirit of the light. He went on till he came to the
churchyard entrance. There he plainly saw whose light it was. He went
home dreadfully frightened, and took to his bed, from which he never
rose again. He confessed to his family that he had seen _his own light_
at the churchyard gate. But he never said a word as to its appearance,
though it was supposed that the Thing had given him a ghastly look and
nothing more. And very soon his funeral took place in the very
churchyard where he had seen the light.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mr. Davies now goes on to relate some


STORIES OF THE TOILI

Before passing on to stories of the Toili, a word of explanation
regarding them may not be out of place, in case it happens that these
lines travel to a region where there is no Toili, or fall into the hands
of those not privileged to see it. The Toili was a spirit burial or
funeral. It was also an apparition or "double"; and very often in days
gone by one heard that So-and-so had seen his own apparition. In some
parts the Cyheuraeth[13] was seen. The people of Glamorganshire always
saw the Cyheuraeth; and the folks of Teify-side used to see, and still
do see, the Toili. All the movement and action of a real funeral were to
be perceived in the Toili. In this way the whole business of the real
funeral could be known beforehand by the person who happened to witness
the spectral one, and a few of his friends to whom he would speak about
it. There was the crowd collected round a certain house, then came the
corpse carried out to the bier or hearse, the reading, the prayers, the
singing, and if any particularly penetrating voice were heard at the
funeral in the crying of the deceased's relatives, that was sure to have
been noticed beforehand in the Toili. In this way it came to be known
very often which of a family was to go. In the movement of the
procession the sound of the coach-wheels was loudly heard. And on it
went, just like the real funeral, to the churchyard; there again it
could be observed where the real body should be buried. The voice of the
minister was clearly to be heard going through the burial service. As
was the Toili, so was the funeral. But we have never heard of the church
bell tolling for the Toili; that is the one difference between the
vision and the reality.

[Footnote 13: A horrible spectre, supposed to foretell death.]

They were able to predict the date of the burial from the time of night
when the Toili appeared. If it were seen at the beginning of the night,
the funeral would be soon; if very late at night, it would not happen
quickly. Every one had his Toili, but it could not always be seen, and
not by everybody. Those people born on Sunday could not see it, nor any
other kind of spirit either.

As a rule we readily observed that whenever the Toili was heard or seen,
a funeral did inevitably follow. And we only knew it fail once, thus
showing there is no rule without exception.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is interesting to read of this exception to an ordinarily fatal rule
in the story called


THE TOILI WITHOUT A FUNERAL

Just as the Toili itself upsets the usual order of things, so we will
reverse the general rule of writers by relating, first, the story of the
Toili without a funeral. This case happened at a farm not very far from
Tregaron, inhabited by a quiet and respectable old couple. The
dwelling-house was very old, and like other old things had become very
fragile, but because the old man had been born and brought up in it, he
had determined to end his days there also, on the old hearth so dear to
him. But very suddenly he was taken ill with a high fever, which took
hold of his system so powerfully that his improvement became very
uncertain, and unless his constitution proved the stronger, there was
little hope that he could pull through. One night, when the fever was at
its highest point, those who watched him were alarmed by a sudden and
terrifying noise. They were two in number, sitting by the fireside; and
a little before midnight, after everybody else had gone to sleep, and
when even the sick man seemed to be slumbering quietly, they heard this
noise in the inner room where the patient was; something like a great
stove or furnace being raked out, they said.

At first they thought the invalid was awake, and had got out of bed in a
state of unconsciousness and was knocking things about; and they ran in,
but everything was as usual, not a sign of anything having taken place
there, so they came back. Whereupon they felt as if the door was open,
and a multitude of people pushing in, and before they had time to speak,
they found themselves in the midst of a crowd of men, without being able
to move a step. _Yet nothing was to be seen._ Neither said a word to
the other, perhaps overcome with fright, but both made the best of their
way to the hearth and there sat down as close in the corner as they
could. They could not hear a single word clearly, but only a sort of
whispering all through the place, and felt perfectly sure they heard
breathings. Presently it seemed that the place got clearer, and they
heard men going out through the door, which in reality was shut and
locked. At last they thought they heard a coffin closed in the next
room. Therefore they knew that it was the Toili; and presently the
coffin was taken up with great bustle and shaking--for the old man who
was ill was very heavy--and then it was carried from the inner room,
through the kitchen, knocking against the dresser as it went, for they
distinctly heard the sound. Then it was taken outside, and there again
they thought they heard the house door creak as the weight was forced
against it. Then the coffin was put on the bier, and they heard the feet
of those in the Toili moving away from the house.

Now there was no disputing that it really was the Toili, and so every
one supposed there was no hope of recovery for the old man. But the
wonderful thing is, that he got better! Then the point was, who was
going to die? Weeks went by without a sign that Death had singled out
any one of the family. Weeks ran into months, and years passed by
without a single funeral from the place. Here was a mystery; the Toili
followed by a burial was entirely natural, but a Toili without a
funeral!! The best guess failed to solve the problem. However, the old
house becoming at last in danger from the roof, it was necessary to
build a new one, and the other fell to ruin, so that no burial ever
could take place from there, and therefore quite naturally this unusual
case of the Toili was explained.

I confess the explanation is hard to follow. It seems to suggest that
apparently even destiny may be cheated on occasion, or perhaps the Toili
in this case was an auto-suggestion.

       *       *       *       *       *

The three stories that follow are very typical instances of the strange
old belief.


THE UNBELIEVER AND THE TOILI

We were never very fond of that class of person who denies everything he
cannot see through himself, and thinks it is impossible for anything to
take place outside his own experience.... Such think themselves too wise
to put trust in those foolish stories relating to spirits,
corpse-candles, and such-like. They consider themselves too clever to
listen to those kind of tales; but some even of that class are
occasionally obliged to confess that there is a mystery about such
coincidences which is beyond their understanding to comprehend. Of this
class was the young man who heard this Toili. He had publicly denied
the authenticity of spirits, and when he heard any one relating a story
of having seen one, he would laugh in his face for superstition, and
contradict him in the most contemptuous manner. Whether it was conceit,
or whether he did really consider himself wiser than the common people,
we do not know. But one cold winter's night his head was brought low and
belief forced on him, in spite of his displeasure....

In that part of the country--Teify-side--they used to be very fond of
"courting" of an evening, and on "courting" nights the boys would gather
and go off together to the different houses where their friends amongst
the maidens lived. On such a journey was the young man when he heard the
Toili. He had a friend who was going to visit his sweetheart some little
way off, and our hero must needs go with him for company. It was a
frosty night, and a thin covering of snow had fallen. They had to cross
Gors Goch on their way, and as the bog was frozen, they got across with
comparative ease. When they reached the farm, the young man left his
friend to go in and visit his beloved, while he himself turned his steps
back across the Gors towards home. But on the way there lived another
friend, and to save the trouble of calling up his own family to let him
in, he determined to stay with this friend instead. Now this man lived
in a cottage, in a place where there were two or three other workmen's
houses. One of these was under the same roof as the friend's house, and
in order to call on him, our young man had to pass the door of the upper
house.... He hastened along as fast as his feet would carry him, for
night was now rather far advanced, and very soon he came to the
cottages. The next thing we know about him is, that he called up his
friend, who let him in, and made a splendid fire to warm him. Then we
find the friend observing that he trembled either from fear or cold, and
looked terrified, which caused the question: "What has come to thee! Art
thou frightened?"

At first he denied, and it was long before he let the cat out of the
bag. But at last, hard pressed, he confessed that he _had_ heard
something he could not explain. "What didst thou hear? Was it a spirit
or the Toili?" was immediately demanded. Now our friend did not know
what to do, because he had always publicly scoffed at all such things,
but here was his belief in himself collapsed without resistance. On the
other hand, to keep silence might cause pain and trouble to his friend's
family, who might fear he had heard something concerning them. At last
he made an unequivocal confession of all that he had heard.... He said
that all had gone well until he drew near the door of the cottage
adjoining his friend's, and when opposite that house he thought he heard
the sound of a man's voice speaking. Approaching nearer, he recognised
the voice at once as that of the minister, the Rev. T. R., of D----. He
heard him take a certain text--afterwards he remembered exactly what the
text was--and after the reading of the text, waited to hear the
beginning of the address. At first he thought he was strong enough to
stop and listen to the sermon, but fear suddenly overcame him, and he
left the door and took refuge in the next house with his friend.
Besides, he felt almost too weak to stand on his feet, or even shout to
his friend, so greatly had terror seized him. That was all he had heard,
but he had received proof enough of the possibility of seeing and
hearing the Toili, and would deny it no longer.

In the house we have mentioned there lived an old man and woman and
their daughter, all at that time in good health, considering the age of
the old people. But soon afterwards the wife was taken ill with
jaundice, and though every remedy was tried, she grew weaker, and at
last died of the complaint. The day of the funeral came, but no preacher
could be found to read and pray by the door when the corpse was carried
out. All the ministers in the neighbourhood had gone off to the end of
the county to attend some monthly meeting that was being held that week.
Our young man, his friend and family, waited with great interest to see
if the real funeral would take place like the Toili, though it is true
they were much puzzled as to how it could happen, seeing that Mr. T.
R., the minister, was at the meeting. But on the morning of the day, as
the young man was himself on the way to the funeral, he met the reverend
pastor returning from his journey, and although it took much persuasion,
he finally induced him to come to the funeral and do the service. After
reading, praying, and hymn-singing, the minister chose his text from the
very same chapter and verse as the young man had heard in the Toili, and
immediately began his address in the same words as the ghostly sermon,
well remembered by the terrified listener, and which now corroborated
his account!

We have no hesitation in setting down this old story as true, for we
have not the least doubt of the truthfulness of those who told it to
us--namely, the friend and family of the young man himself. We do not
know how it will appear to the wise and learned, but we do know that it
is not an easy task to gainsay the facts of the case.


THE TOILI AT LLANBADARN ODWYN CHURCHYARD

What we are about to chronicle happened some years ago, during the time
of September harvest, and there are a number of people living who were
eye-witnesses of the circumstance. Consequently it cannot have been
imagination, or anything of that kind, of which solitary individuals are
sometimes accused when they see these inexplicable visions. There could
have been no deception, as it happened in broad daylight, and on high
and open ground, the season, as we have already observed, being
harvest-time.

The cemetery and church of Llanbadarn Odwyn are situated on a high and
healthy hill overlooking the beautiful little Vale of Aeron. Over
against the church, on an equally salubrious spot, stands the farm
called Birch Hill, more to the south than the church, but in sight of,
and quite near it. One day in harvest there happened to be a strong
reaping party at Birch Hill, and they were reaping a field which
overlooked the churchyard. Just before noon, one of the men chanced to
look that way, and perceived a funeral procession. He remarked this to
his fellow-labourers, and looking in the direction of the church, they
one and all saw the funeral too. It appeared to be rather different to
the common run of burials, more "stylish," like that of a well-to-do
person. They particularly noticed a pall over the coffin, which was a
very unusual thing with them. The whole ceremony seemed to be taking
place in perfect order. Now the great question was, whose burial could
it be? They asked one another, but no one knew of any death within the
district. And at dinner-time they told the farmer's wife what they had
seen, asking her if she knew what funeral it could be. But neither
could she tell. However, those were not the sort of people to be
hindered from finding out exactly what they wanted to know. So they
decided that the head-servant should go to the sexton, and ask him whose
burial they had seen, and let them know on the morrow. And at the proper
time away went the servant to the grave-digger to get the information.
But when he got there and asked, not a sound or syllable of a funeral
could he hear of. The sexton was quite certain that nobody had been
buried that day, and said they must have seen something else than a
funeral. The servant could not believe the sexton, who, on the other
hand, disbelieved the servant when he asserted that he had seen a
funeral that day. And each one was so sure of his own facts as to leave
the matter a mystery impossible to explain. The servant went home, and
when he said there had been no burial that day at Llanbadarn it was
concluded that they must have seen the Toili, with which conclusion the
reapers also agreed on the morrow. Then came the excitement of watching
to see whose funeral would follow. Some days later, as the minister's
family was returning home from London for a stay in the country, it
happened that his wife was taken ill, and it was not long before her
soul left the body to join the world of spirits. The family burial-place
was at Llanbadarn Odwyn, and no time was lost in making arrangements for
burying her there. Every one was informed of the sad event, so that on
the day of the funeral quite a crowd of relations and family connections
were gathered together to go and meet the corpse. And towards the time
at which the Toili was seen, there was the real funeral in the cemetery,
exactly in the same way as the phantom one was seen. Everything was the
same, even to the white pall thrown over the coffin. So the reapers of
Birch Hill were quite satisfied that it was the Toili of this funeral
they saw, and no other. Here was an example of the Toili seen by a crowd
of people in the broad light of noonday, each individual seeing it
exactly in the same form in which the real funeral presently took place.
Their eyes did not deceive them, because so many eyes perceived the same
occurrence at the same moment, and moreover, the testimony of the sexton
was certain proof that there was no burial in the churchyard that day.
Let the wise explain that vision as they will.


THE TOILI OF RHOSMEHERIN

As already stated, night was the time when the Toili was commonly seen
and heard. It was then one might expect to meet it, and men and women
are to be found who have been carried along with it even to the
churchyard gate. But the vision has been seen at midday and at the hour
of dusk, and it was at this latter time that appeared the Toili of
Rhosmeherin.

On a beautiful spring evening it happened that a farmer, after a hard
day's work, lingered outside his house for a while, enjoying the soft
breeze that blew through wood and orchard, and listening to the anthem
of the winged choir. Presently he chanced to look in the direction of
Bryn Meherin, where lived Vicar Hughes, a well-known and industrious man
in his day; and the farmer was amazed to perceive every appearance of a
funeral there. He knew very well that it could not be a funeral either,
for nobody was dead, and besides the time of day was contrary to the
usual hour for burials, so he concluded that what he saw must be the
Toili. He called his family from the house to look lest he should be
mistaken. But there, seen by all of them, was a complete funeral, and
from its appointments a very respectable one. In front, preceding the
crowd, was a man on horseback; then, according to the custom of those
parts, there followed the men on foot, then the body. Over the coffin
was a black cloth. Then came the women on foot, and last of all the
coaches. As the procession moved slowly along a man on a white horse
from the crowd behind moved from his place right up to the man on
horseback at its head.

Not a doubt remained with the spectators that they had seen the Toili,
and it was not long before the vision was fulfilled. The clergyman died
soon afterwards, and on the day of the funeral the farmer and family
observed carefully to see if it resembled the Toili.

The clergyman had always been greatly respected; he was liked by all
ranks and classes, and beloved by the poor; so that at the funeral there
was a larger number of people than had ever been seen before. And there
in their midst was a man on a white horse, who turned out to be one of
the clergy, and who, anxious to be ready to take his part in the burial
service, was seen to push forward from the back of the procession and
move up to the front--exactly what had happened in the Toili.

We have heard that several other people also saw this Toili, and
observed that the incidents of the real funeral were similar to those of
the spectral one.

       *       *       *       *       *

Really grisly was the belief in corpse-dogs, of which our author relates
the following stories:


CORPSE-DOGS

Our "wrestlings with the spirits" have led us from corpse-candles to the
Toili, and in natural order we now come to the subject of "corpse-dogs,"
not the least important of death omens. It is true that I have failed to
get the knowledge of their appearance that I wanted, and can therefore
not give a very good description of them. There are those I know that
have seen corpse-candles, a spirit, and the Toili. But of the many tales
concerning hell-hounds I have heard of but one person who actually saw
one, and his free description must therefore suffice us. "Hell-hounds"
is another name for these apparitions.

This particular corpse-dog was seen at a place called Llwyn Beudy Isaf
by a member of the family who happened to be living there then, and that
was about a hundred and fifty-two years ago. An inmate of the house was
taken very ill one day, and at night the farm dog began to howl in a
very unusual and disturbing manner. On the following night, as one of
the sons of the family went out to look after the animals before going
to bed, he heard a sound which he thought was made by a sheep or a pig
coming towards him, with a curious noise of chains; he could hear a
chain clanking quite plainly. As it came nearer him he saw the thing
clearly, namely, a little dog in appearance, of a sort of reddish grey
colour, dragging a chain. It ran past him with the speed of lightning,
and he saw no sign of it again. He supposed some one had been leading
it, but could see no one about. Directly afterwards their own dog began
to howl in the most dismal and extraordinary way, and when this sound
was heard all hope of recovery for the sick person was given up, and
indeed it was not long before he drew his last breath.

The tradition about corpse-dogs is, that they are sent from hell to the
country of the Earth to fetch corpses, and as a rule Death follows
wherever they appear. And when they approach a dwelling where Death is
coming they are seen by the dog of the house, and cause the animal such
terror that it foams at the mouth, and utters dismal howlings as long as
the hell-hounds continue near.

That is the reason why a dog howls before a death; when you hear that
mournful sound you may be quite sure that a corpse-dog is in the
neighbourhood, and if you observe which way the dog's head is turned, in
that same direction is the demon animal. Some dogs are daring enough to
go to the door of the sick person's house, where the corpse-dog
watches--yes, and howl beneath the window of the room where Death awaits
his prey. Although corpse-dogs are as a rule invisible, yet of their
existence nobody has a doubt. That one has been actually seen by an
individual is as good a proof as if a hundred or more had seen them.
Dogs are reliable witnesses of their presence in any place where they
come. They strike terror in any religious family, especially if any
member of it be ill, and no small anxiety is felt until the foul
creatures leave the neighbourhood, and the house-dogs cease to howl and
foam....

The hour of their visitation to a locality is generally towards the edge
of night, just before cock-crow. Usually at that hour the dogs will
begin howling in heart-rending fashion, as if pitying him who will soon
be seized by the teeth of the hounds of hell, and find themselves
gripped in the claws of the King of Terrors. As every reader must have
heard many a dog howl, it would be idle to describe the sound which has
often caused the remark, "We shall be sure to hear of a death very
soon," and it is but rarely that it happens otherwise.

It is well known that dogs and horses are creatures gifted with very
keen senses of scent and sight, especially after the shades of night
have fallen on the face of Nature, and particularly as regards sight or
smell of anything beyond the usual limits of this world, such as
spirits, corpse-candles, Toili, hell-hounds and the like. But there is a
great difference in the powers of individual dogs and horses in this
respect. It is just the same with mankind; some have been endued with
powers to behold the Unseen, while others again are found blind to every
vision of the kind. That is the reason why it is useless to heed every
dog that howls, but only certain ones in cases where it has been found
that a death always follows their howling.... Such a one was old "Brins"
of Tymawr, of respected memory. Shaggy and red-eyed, he was not a
particularly good sheep-dog, but he was very faithful to his owners and
full of doggish common sense. The voice of Brins always struck terror
into the community, for well was it known that some one was sure to die
if Brins opened his mouth to howl at night. People would go out and
look to see in what direction his head was pointed, so as to know
whereabouts the death would be.

There was an old butcher who had exceeded the allotted span of human
days by ten years. At last his time came; he was taken ill, and from the
hour when he began to keep to his bed, the old dog Brins began to howl.
As night after night went by, John Hughes growing weaker and weaker, so
did the dog continue his howlings. At first he gave tongue near his own
home, but as the old man's end drew near, Brins went over to his house,
the two places not being far apart. At last, such was his boldness that
he crept right under the window of the room where the dying man lay, and
howled steadily until the end came. After this his voice was not heard
again at night, until just before another death occurred.

It was indeed bold of the old dog to go and howl beneath the sick man's
window; because the wise who know say that as Death approaches, the
C[^w]n Ann[^w]n (hell-hounds) draw round the house, and on the last
night they enter the room and stay by the bedside, so as to be near when
the breath leaves the body.



CHAPTER VII

WELSH FAIRIES

    "Heaven defend me from that Welsh fairy."


Readers must not turn up their noses when they read the title of this
short chapter. Of course nobody believes in fairies nowadays, but in the
olden time most Welsh people did, and in other things more remarkable
even than "y Tylwyth Teg,"[14] such as giants and dragons. I could
relate a most interesting story of a giant who once lived (rather long
ago!) only about three miles from my own home; and there is a
respectable tradition of a terrible dragon having been seen--history
omits the date--flying over the town of Newcastle Emlyn. And I feel this
volume would be incomplete without a passing reference to one of the
most picturesque and romantic of the ancient Welsh beliefs. Sir John
Rhys, the great Celtic scholar, has said almost the last word on the
subject of Welsh fairy-lore, and there are indeed few crumbs of
information that he neglected to gather about the Fair Folk. But I do
not think he gleaned the two or three genuine fairy-tales which I found
in Mr. Lledrod Davies' little pamphlet, and which I have translated, and
will repeat here. For as folk-lore it is material far too valuable to be
lost in a publication already out of print, and in any case inaccessible
to people not conversant with the Welsh language. Personally I have only
come across two people who had anything to say about the Tylwyth Teg,
and they were not of the peasantry, but persons of antiquarian tastes,
who had noted the instances they referred to as curiosities of local
belief. So, though I have heard numbers of tales relating to
superstitions such as corpse-candles, the Toili, &c., yet I have never
myself heard a single _first-hand_ story about fairies, and I fancy
their disappearance from their old haunts dates very nearly from the
time that Board Schools were established in Wales. Education then
became--and very properly so--a practical and rather material business;
children were told that fairies were "silly," in fact, non-existent, and
so they learnt to despise the wonderful tales their parents and
grandparents knew, and would listen no more to them. So the old stories,
handed down by word of mouth through centuries, and always greedily
heard, and willingly remembered, were gradually forgotten; and as the
elder folk died out, were nearly all lost. A pity, for trivial and even
childish as they would sound to us who live in a world of scientific
wonders that those old people could never dream of, and no longer
require to feed our imagination with the marvellous and supernatural,
still all those ancient beliefs, legends and superstitions always seem
to me like the romance of life crystallised, and, as such, a very
precious thing. For Romance and Glamour grow rare as the world grows
older, though most of us have had a glimpse--even though a momentary
one--of what those two names mean. And the power to express them grows
less; I think most people will agree about that. But these old fairy
beliefs and curious traditions seem to transmit the true, romantic
atmosphere throughout the ages, bringing to our knowledge what our
forefathers thought and felt in that set of ideas not immediately
affected by their material necessities and circumstances. So that is why
I think almost any of these old tales are interesting and worth
preserving.

[Footnote 14: Literally, "Fair Family."]

W. Howells, who wrote that entertaining old book, "Cambrian
Superstitions," to which I have often referred, has a great deal to say
about Fair Folk, or Ellyllyn, or Bendith eu Mammau, for by these
different names were the fairies known in different districts. This is
what he tells us of their origin: "The following is the account related
in Wales of the origin of the fairies, and was told me by an individual
from Anglesey. In our Saviour's time there lived a woman whose fortune
it was to be possessed of near a score of children ... and as she saw
our blessed Lord approach her dwelling, being ashamed of being so
prolific, and that He might not see them all, she concealed about half
of them closely, and after His departure, when she went in search of
them, to her surprise found they were all gone. They never afterwards
could be discovered, for it was supposed that as a punishment from
heaven, for hiding what God had given her, she was deprived of them;
and, it is said, these her offspring have generated the race of beings
called fairies."

Howells also mentions the interesting belief formerly prevailing in
Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire concerning mysterious islands,
inhabited by fairies, who "attended regularly the markets at Milford
Haven and Laugharne, bought in silence their meat and other necessaries,
and leaving the money (generally silver pennies) departed, as if knowing
what they would have been charged. They were sometimes visible and at
other times invisible. The islands, which appeared to be beautifully and
tastefully arranged, were seen at a distance from land, and supposed to
be numerously peopled by an unknown race of beings. It was also imagined
that they had a subterraneous passage from these islands to the towns."

Our author tells us that both Cardiganshire and Carmarthenshire were
specially favoured by the Tylwyth Teg; he heard of them on the banks of
the Gwili (a tributary of the Towy), where "they made excursions to the
neighbouring farms to inspect the dairies, hearths, barn-floors, and
the 'ystafell,'[15] to reward the meritorious housemaid, and to punish
the slut and sluggard. It is said they were not partial at all to the
Gospel, and that they left Monmouthshire on account of there being so
much preaching, praying to, and praising God, which were averse to their
dispositions."

[Footnote 15: Rooms.]

It seems that there was a well-known tradition in Carmarthenshire about
one Iago ap Dewi, a man, Howells tells us, of considerable talent, who
translated the "Pilgrim's Progress" into Welsh. He lived in the parish
of Llanllawddog, and "was considered a wonderful man and of great
learning, as he spent the whole of his time in study and meditation;
that he was absent from the neighbourhood for a long period, and the
universal belief among the peasantry was, that Iago got out of bed one
night to gaze on the starry sky, as he was accustomed (astrology being
one of his favourite studies), and whilst thus occupied the fairies, who
were accustomed to resort to the neighbouring wood, passing by, carried
him away, and he dwelt with them seven years. Upon his return he was
questioned by many as to where he had been, but he always avoided giving
them a reply." Howells afterwards goes on to say that others with whom
he conversed related that "their parents credited the above story, and
that they had no question of the existence of fairies and their
wonderful exploits; but one Mary Shon Crydd said that when a child she
knew the daughter of Iago ap Dewi, and that she thought it very probable
that he had been from home with some learned characters, but the
superstition of the people led them to attribute his learning, &c., to
the interference of the fairies." Although it disposes of the fairy
idea, "Mary Shon Crydd's" explanation of Iago's absence, though prosaic,
was, I should think, the true one! But it is interesting to read of such
a tradition being extant in days so comparatively near our own.

All dwellers in the country are familiar with the appearance of "fairy
rings," those curious and inexplicable circles that occur in the grass
of meadows and lawns. No amount of mowing obliterates them, and probably
nothing short of digging up or ploughing would get rid of them. In Wales
these odd patches seem to have ever been regarded with a mixture of fear
and interest, as the undoubted haunts of the Tylwyth Teg, and were
carefully shunned in consequence, especially after nightfall. Howells
says, regarding these rings, that "no beasts will eat of them, although
some persons suppose that sheep will greedily devour the grass." He adds
that he had a friend who told him that when he was a child he was always
warned by his mother never to approach, much less enter, the rings, for
they were enchanted ground, and anybody going near them was liable to be
carried off by the Fair Folk. In connection with the fairies' practice
of kidnapping human beings, there are many stories in "Cambrian
Superstitions," most of which have one feature in common, namely, that
when the people thus carried off returned to this upper world--in the
cases where they did return, but that did not always happen--they always
supposed they had been but a few moments absent, though the period had
often run into years, as in Iago ap Dewi's case.

Giraldus Cambrensis, in his "Itinerary through Wales," in the twelfth
century, heard many marvels, and not the least of these was the tale of
one Elidorus, a priest, who in his youth had been carried off by the
fairies, and by them held in captivity for many years. According to
Giraldus, he made some use of his time amongst them by learning their
language, which he is said to have told the Bishop of St. David's much
resembled the Greek idiom!

I will now proceed with Mr. Lledrod Davies' account of the Tylwyth Teg,
as he heard of them in Cardiganshire, not so very many years ago.

       *       *       *       *       *

"In collecting and noting down these few tales from an older generation,
it is useless to try and trace their source in the history of the old
times before ours. It is enough for readers to know now that there were
always 'little people' of that kind in Wales, and that our ancestors
were very sociable and friendly with them. I take the following tales
from some I heard by word of mouth in the country of Teify-side.

"Small of stature were the Tylwyth Teg, towards two feet in height, and
their horses of the size of hares. Fair of aspect were they, and very
fine their clothing; their clothes were generally white, but on certain
occasions they are said to have been seen dressed in green; their gait
was lively, and ardent and loving was their glance. Very mischievous if
thwarted, kind and good-natured otherwise. And--speaking from the human
point of view--they were thieves by inclination, and therefore it was
considered rather dangerous to have them coming round houses, as they
regarded all property as shared in common....

"They were peaceful and kindly amongst themselves, diverting in their
tricks, and charming in their walk and dancing. They were good-natured
to good-natured people, and hateful to those who hated them. They were
subterranean people, therefore in the earth was their home. There were
their country, their cities, and their castles, and there lived their
King. And from thence they made their incursions into the Earth-country,
in some way that nobody can guess or know, nor is there any hope of any
one ever knowing."

       *       *       *       *       *

Our author goes on to information about the fairy rings, and has two
stories to relate of people who disappeared in them.


THE FAIRY RINGS

A number of these rings are shown by the old people all through the
country; I myself remember many of them. They were of various
appearance; sometimes the circle was but small, again others were seen
as large as a mill-wheel.... These rings were the places where the
Tylwyth Teg came to dance on fine, bright nights. The circles were only
to be seen on marshy meadow-ground, and sometimes on hay land. On a
moonlight night was the time to see these rings, because then the fairy
folk came out of their hiding-places to whirl and dance about; and so
they may be seen until the Son of the Dawn[16] opens his eyes and causes
them to disappear. On the following morning the keen-eyed may see the
mark of their feet on the meadow. The grass that surrounds the rings is
thicker than the rest, because no animal will feed on the spot where the
fairies have been. So these circles remained by day as the Tylwyth Teg
had shaped them; and they were considered places it was best to keep
away from, except in broad daylight while the owner of cattle was always
alarmed if he saw his animals go near them. There was great danger in
approaching the rings when the Fair Folk were dancing; for there was
such magic in their melody, such allurement in their appearance, and
such an attraction in their whirling, that it was impossible for any
one who came near to resist their charm. If within their enchanted
circle they could entice a handsome youth, or a pure maiden, nevermore
would they be seen in this world. In some cases people have been
kidnapped accidentally and against their will.

[Footnote 16: _I.e._, the sun.]

Such a one, and who lived with them for a year, was the servant of Allt
Ddu. This farm stood half-way along the road between Pontrhydyfendigaid
and Tregaron. It is said that this servant and another one left the
house at dusk to look for some cattle--yearlings and two-year-olds--that
had strayed that morning.... So, as was natural to do in such a case,
one servant took one road and his companion the other, so as to be sure
of coming across them. But after hours spent in searching, one of the
men returned; how he found the cattle is not related, but at least they
came back in safety. And as it was very late--indeed nearly morning--he
felt anxious about the safety of his fellow-servant, as he was afraid
some accident had befallen him in one of the bog-holes of Gors Goch.
Morning came but no servant, and not a sound of his footsteps returning.
Then inquiries were made, but no sign or syllable could be heard of him.
Days and weeks passed by, and now, doubt arose about his fate amongst
his relations, for they began to suspect that his fellow-servant was the
cause of his disappearance, and had murdered him and concealed his
body. So the other labourers, night after night, accused the poor man of
the crime; and though the young fellow protested his innocence in the
most emphatic manner, yet appearances were against him; he could not
satisfy their doubts, and a black mark stood against his name. At last,
whatever happened, he determined to go to a "wise man" (a person of
uncommon importance in those days) and ask him point-blank if he could
tell what had happened. So he went, and laid the case before the "wise
man," who told him that his companion was alive, but that a year and a
day must elapse before they would see him again, and that then they must
seek him at the very hour when he was lost.

So, after weary waiting, a year and a day passed by, and the
long-expected hour arrived. And then the missing man's family, with the
servant at their head, betook themselves to the appointed glade; and
there, to their amazement, whom should they see in the midst of a fairy
ring, dancing as gaily and happily as any one, but the lost youth. Then,
according as the wise man had directed, his fellow-servant seized him by
his coat collar and dragged him away, saying to him, "Where hast thou
been, lad?"

The other replied, "Hast thou got the cattle?" He thought he had been at
that spot only two or three minutes. When it was explained to him that
he had been in the fairy ring, and how he had been stolen by them, he
said they had been such good company that he never supposed he had been
more than a few minutes with them. And great was the joy at recovering
the lost one.


THE MAIDEN WHO WAS LOST IN A FAIRY RING

I will only tax the reader's patience with two of the tales about these
fairy rings, because we come across such tales in various forms all
through the country. But the extraordinary case of the disappearance of
the maiden in this story is excuse enough, I think, for introducing it
into this book of memories.

In an old farm on Teify-side there lived a very respectable family; and
in order to carry on the work of the farm briskly they kept both men and
maid servants. On a certain evening a servant man and maid went out to
fetch the cattle home for milking, and all of a sudden the man lost
sight of the maid, and, although he searched and called, no sign of her
or sound of her voice reached him. He went back with the cows, and told
the family of the mysterious disappearance of the girl. From the evil
reputation that the Tylwyth Teg had in those parts, it was decided to
consult a "wise man" at once. Away they went to him, and after answering
the usual inquiries he said the girl had been snatched into the fairies'
ring and that she was with them now. If they were careful they might get
her back after a year and a day, if they would go to the appointed place
at the proper time.

All was done as the wise man directed, and great was their astonishment
to perceive the maiden dancing away in the midst of the Fair Folk, and,
as they were instructed, they seized and drew her out of the magic
circle, happy and in good health.

Her master was told by the wise man to be careful never to touch her
with iron after she was rescued. At first he was very particular about
this, but as time went on they all got careless, and at last one day,
just as she had dressed to go on an errand, he accidentally touched her
with a horse's bridle; when, as suddenly as pulling a cat out of the
fire, he entirely lost sight of the maid. He rushed off at once to the
wise man for help, but was told that the girl was gone never to return.
We may observe further, in this connection, that it was formerly
supposed that the Tylwyth Teg always hovered round about dwelling-houses
watching people, especially at night. And in all likelihood, according
to this story, they had kept an eye on the maiden ever since she was
taken away from them.


THE TIME OF THEIR DANCING

The fairies' dancing took place when spring began, and continued
throughout the summer. But spring, as a rule, was the season of their
merriment, and at that time children would be lost, yes, and people of
full age too. Readers will surely have heard these tales of children
being stolen and returning again after some years; of the frequent
visitation by the Tylwyth Teg of families in a neighbourhood, of their
boldness as winter began, and their anger if every family were not
careful to put money, food, and such things in convenient places near
the hearth, so that when the fairies came they could take what they
wanted without difficulty. They required great cleanliness of every
woman and girl they met with. If care was not taken in these respects,
their curse was sure to fall on the family, in years to come. Night was
the time when they visited the earth, and from midnight till morning
they enjoyed themselves frolicking about hay-fields and marsh-lands.

They were very sociable beings. So much so that it was with difficulty
they were got rid of once they got their heads into the houses of any
neighbourhood. The only way to get rid of them was to throw rusty iron
at them. To do this was like spitting in the face of God, the greatest
insult you could hurl at them. Away they went at once, never to return
except for deeds of vengeance....

It may be observed, amongst their other characteristics, that they only
inhabited certain parts of the country. The neighbourhood of Swydd
Ffynon was especially distinguished by them. All around there would be
seen the "rings" on every fine morning in spring and summer, while other
parts of Wales were entirely ignorant of these fairy circles, and never
a sign or sight of them was to be had.


THE FAIRY OINTMENT

In the quiet village of Swydd Ffynon there lived an old woman who died
about twenty years ago, when drawing near her hundredth year. She was
very fond of old stories; in a word, she simply lived on them. She was
in her element when relating ancient tales of the adventures of the
Welsh folk, and according to her they were full of adventures in those
days. And amongst others, she told the following story about her
grandmother: This grandmother when young, seems to have been a pious and
thoughtful person, very fond of the society of invisible beings, and the
inhabitants of the spirit-world. Also, by some means or other, she got
into communication with the Fair Folk, and became great friends with
them; her hearth became a kind of rendezvous for them; and so faithful
was she to them that she thoroughly gained their favour and confidence,
such a thing as seldom happens to human beings. So fond of her were they
that they invited her to go with them to one of their palaces under the
earth, to which she heartily consented. When she got there she found
herself in the most beautiful and stately house her eyes had ever seen;
in truth, never had she imagined such a place was possible. How she went
there she did not know; all she knew was that she had left the Earth
country, and was now an inhabitant of a region she had not dreamed could
exist; but she went there and returned in some way entirely unknown to
herself.

At last one day she found herself summoned to the fairy country on an
errand as nurse to the wife of one of their princes, who lived in a
palace magnificent to a degree that exceeds earthly language to express.
There were splendid ornaments, costly pearls, a golden pavement,
partitions hung with silks of varying hue, and the garments of the
people all changing white and blue. Indeed the old woman was puzzled to
describe the splendours of the house, clothes and so on. There was
installed the nurse, and her charge, the fairy infant, slept on a bed of
down, with coverings of the finest lawn. Everything she wanted was
complete and at hand. The nurse was amazed at such perfection, and
astonished that a person like herself should have been summoned by such
princely people. While tending the baby night and morning, she had to
anoint him with a certain ointment. When this ointment was given her,
she was told to be careful not to let it touch the eyes, as it was
injurious and even destructive to the sight. At first her fear of the
ointment caused her to be very careful in using it, but as time went by
she grew forgetful. So in a little while, as she was anointing the
infant one day, something accidentally tickled her eye, and at once her
hand, faithful to its owner, went up to the eye and rubbed it gently.
Immediately it was as if a veil fell from her eyes, and she began to see
things a thousand times more wonderful than before. In the course of the
day she saw many a marvellous and splendid vision. She saw the Fair Folk
quite plainly, little men and women, going and coming through the
palace, and carrying presents of every kind to her lady. No lack of
dainties was brought her, the purest kindness and affection were
displayed. Later on, when undressing the child, she remarked to the
princess on the number of visitors she had had that day.

"How do you know that?" asked the princess, "have you anointed your eyes
with the ointment?" And in the flash of an eyelid she leapt from her
couch, and striking one hand with the other, she blew on the nurse's
eyes, which immediately lost sight of the enchanted surroundings, and
though she tried hard in future days, nevermore did she see the
princess, or any of the fair family or their doings.

And so, without knowing how, she found herself by her own fireside at
home, just as usual, and that was the last of her stories about the
Tylwyth Teg. And I also leave them here, for though I could add other
stories to these I have noted, I have written enough about them now. I
knew the old woman who told this story, and she always insisted she was
the grandchild of the fairies' nurse, and, moreover, was very proud of
the fact, and not without cause either.

       *       *       *       *       *

I should have mentioned earlier that in translating Mr. Lledrod Davies'
tales, I have left the names of places exactly as he had them. Where
they are filled in they are the real ones, several of them places I
know. It will be noticed that he often makes use of the expression
"Teify-side." Now that name we generally apply to the district of the
lower Teify, lying more or less between the towns of Llandyssil and
Cardigan. But from what Mr. Davies says, he evidently includes in this
term all the upper valley of the Teify too, which rises in the hills not
many miles away from his native village, and most of his stories are
located more or less in that neighbourhood. It is, or was until late
years, a remote and lonely district, backed by the wild moors of the
Ellineth Mountains, that to this day look as if they might be the last
refuge of all the fairies, ghosts, and goblins of Wales. With these
mountain wastes behind, and the gloomy stretch of the great Tregaron
bog before them, is it any wonder that the imaginative Celtic
inhabitants of Pontrhydyfendigaid and the surrounding hamlets saw, and
wished to see, evidences of the supernatural in almost every unimportant
coincidence? To them it came natural to believe in those

                            "Faery elves,
      Whose midnight revels, by a forest-side,
      Or fountain, some belated peasant sees,
      Or dreams he sees, while overhead the moon
    Sits arbitress."

George Borrow tells us that when he was walking through Cardiganshire,
he came one evening to a large sheet of water not far from Tregaron. He
must needs find out the name of this little lake, and therefore knocked
at the door of a cottage that happened to be close by, in order to ask
the information. A woman opened the door, of whom Borrow seems to have
asked a great many tiresome questions, after his usual habit; but this
time he elicited the curious information from his victim that a fairy
cow was supposed to live in the lake, a "water-cow, that used to come
out at night, and eat people's clover in the fields." That odd tradition
was living only sixty years ago, which is interesting to think of.

Now I have told the little I have been able to gather about the Tylwyth
Teg and their ways, and so we will bid them farewell, and turn to more
serious subjects.



CHAPTER VIII

WISE MEN, WITCHES, AND FAMILY CURSES

    "Wizards that peep and that mutter."


When reading a provincial daily paper a few days ago, I came across the
following paragraph:

"Although the school-master has been abroad in Wales for quite a long
time, the belief in witchcraft still lingers here and there, and cropped
up yesterday in an assault case at Aberavon, where one woman accused
another of 'marking her house with a criss-cross to bewitch her.'"

It seems curious to read these words in the twentieth century, and it is
hard to realise that a very few generations ago the woman who had put
the "criss-cross" on her neighbour's house would have stood a very good
chance of losing her life by being ducked by the mob for a witch, if
indeed legal proceedings had not been taken against her.

As late as the year 1664 the great judge, Sir Matthew Hale, presided at
the trial which resulted in the condemnation and hanging of two poor
women as witches, and the last execution of the kind took place in 1682
when three other wretched women were executed at Exeter for the same
offence, on their own confession. And the statute against witchcraft
passed under James the First was not repealed until the reign of George
the Second, though by that time it was indeed practically a dead letter.
Mental progress and education have since done their part in abolishing
that panic fear of witchcraft which, supported by a bad law, caused the
persecution and death of so many innocent persons for more than a
century; but that belief--genuine if surreptitious--in the powers of
"wise" men and women still lingers in the minds of the people in the
West Country, one need only live in Wales for a few years to find out.

Nor must one feel too scornful of such "superstition" when one
recollects how palmists, clairvoyants, and crystal-gazers flourish in
London and every other city on the payments of hundreds of well-educated
and enlightened people. "Oh, a pack of silly women with more money than
sense," you may exclaim. To which I reply, "Not at all," if the
testimony of a most respectable fortune-teller who was once well known
to me can be believed. According to her, quite a number of her clients
belonged to the sterner (and we presume) more sensible sex, and my own
observation has also led me to conclude that men on the whole are quite
as much tempted to peer into futurity as women are, only naturally they
think it their duty to pretend indifference on such matters! Still,
however that may be, the Bond Street fortune-teller, with whom one makes
a solemn appointment, and who never "looks at a hand" under a guinea, is
nevertheless but a witch, belonging to the same ancient guild as the
unkempt old woman who lives in a hovel on the sea-shore near a certain
little town in Cardiganshire. This particular old woman has quite a
local reputation as a witch--even attaining to the fame of having her
portrait on a postcard--and is much resorted to by summer visitors who
wish to have their fortunes told.

But Cardiganshire, especially the Northern part, has always been a
stronghold of belief in witches and wise men, and their supposed powers
of putting a "curse" on the persons or property of those who annoyed
them. There is a story told of an old woman who had the reputation of
being a witch in a lonely district of the wild hills of North
Cardiganshire. She was on the road one day, when the doctor came riding
along in great haste, whom she tried to detain. But he, either not
understanding what she wanted, or unwilling to stop, urged his horse
forward, somewhat roughly bidding the old crone begone. Shrieking after
him, she told him to beware, "as she would lay a curse upon his horse,"
which threat he soon forgot, and after visiting his patient returned
home in safety. That night, however, Dr. G. was roused from his sleep by
the groom, who asked him to come out at once to the horse, as it seemed
to be very ill. To make the story short, the poor animal died in a few
hours' time, nor could its owner ever determine the nature of its
extraordinary attack, as it was apparently perfectly well when stabled
for the night. But the coincidence between the horse's death and the
witch's words was certainly striking.

I am reminded of another and quite modern instance of a Welsh witch's
curse, though to avoid localisation I will not say exactly where she
lived in the Principality. Her father was cowman at a house called
Fairview, inhabited by a family called Trower. Mr. Trower possessed a
rather savage bull, which one day broke loose, charged all who tried to
catch him, and finally, sad to relate, gored and killed the poor cowman.
He had lived in a cottage on the estate, and nothing could exceed the
kindness and sympathy shown by the Trower family to his daughter in her
bereavement. We will call her Patty Jones. After a decent interval had
elapsed, Mr. Trower gave the woman notice to quit, as the cottage was
wanted for somebody else. Although every indulgence regarding the notice
was given, and continual consideration shown, Patty, being a woman of
violent and ungrateful temper, took the matter very badly. She refused
to go, and was eventually evicted, and her goods sold. It is said that
meeting Mr. Trower on the road one day, she took the occasion to call
down the wrath of Heaven upon him and his family, and made no secret
afterwards of having "put a curse" upon her benefactors, for such
indeed the Trowers had shown themselves. Whether it is ever really given
to any human being so to blast the lives of fellow-creatures or not, one
cannot tell. But it is certain that this particular family thereafter
appeared for some years to be singled out by fate for more than their
fair share of ill-luck, though, to avoid recognition, further details
must not be given here.

At the sale of her goods a man named Morgan happened to buy Patty
Jones's cow. Whereupon she told him she would "put a curse" on the
animal, so that "he would never get any good from her." Sure enough,
soon afterwards the cow sickened with a mysterious complaint, which
defied the skill of the local "cow-doctor." So Morgan, advised by his
neighbours, went to seek counsel of a "white witch," who gave him a
charm which she said would cure the cow. "And now," she added, "wouldn't
you like me to put a curse on that woman? Because I can if you wish it."
But Morgan magnanimously replied, "Oh, no. _I do not wish_ her any harm
whatever," and departed with his charm and cured his cow. It would be
interesting to know the nature of this "charm," whether it was a written
form of incantation, or something of the nature of a medicine. Mr.
Henderson, whose interesting book on folk-lore I have already quoted,
tells us of a piece of silver at Lockerby in Dumfries-shire, called the
Lockerby Penny, which was used against madness in cattle. It was put
into a cleft stick, and the water of a well stirred round with it, after
which the water was bottled off and given to any animal so afflicted. In
other districts certain pebbles and stones are supposed to have the same
magic property.

Some Welsh witches are said to treat their patients with sulphur, a
remedy which I think savours more of "black magic" than "white."

It seems that a favourite trick of North Cardiganshire witches was to
"put a spell" on the pigs of any neighbour who annoyed them, making the
poor animals _pranking_ mad (as my informant expressed it). And nothing
would cure this madness till the witch had been fetched, and (doubtless
for a consideration) consented to remove the spell.

However, belief in the powers of "wise" men and women is now chiefly
confined to their abilities as healers, and in this capacity they are
still resorted to in the more remote districts of Cardiganshire. The
cure--whatever the malady--appears to be always the same, and is called
"measuring the wool." The witch takes two pieces of yarn--scarlet for
choice--of exactly the same length. One of these is bound round the
wrist or leg of the patient; the other is worn in the same way by the
healer. The patient goes home, and after a few days the witch measures
her own piece of yarn. If it has shrunk from the original length, well
and good; the yarn continues to grow shorter (so it is said) and the
patient recovers. But if on the contrary the yarn grows perceptibly
slacker, the patient gets worse and will surely die. The person who told
me about the bewitched pigs had also much to say regarding this practice
of "measuring the yarn." She declared that quite lately a friend of
hers, a young man, who was very ill with "decline" and for whom ordinary
doctors could do nothing, went at last to consult a "wise woman" in the
parish of Eglwysfach[17] in North Cardiganshire. She measured the yarn
for him, and he immediately began to recover and is now well and working
at the business which ill-health had forced him to leave. In this case
faith must have been a strong factor towards recovery. But

    "I cannot tell how the truth may be;
    I say the tale as 'twas said to me."

[Footnote 17: "Eglwysfach" is the real name, and in "Welsh Folk-lore"
Mr. Owen relates a case of "measuring the yarn" in the same village,
where the custom seems to have been long prevalent and firmly believed
in. His account of the charming for a case of "Clefyd y Galon" (or
heart-sickness) is worth quoting. The patient was bidden to roll his
sleeves up above the elbow, then "Mr. Jenkins (a respectable farmer and
deacon amongst the Wesleyans) took a yarn thread and placing one end on
the elbow measured to the tip of Felix's (the patient) middle finger,
then he tells his patient to take hold of the yarn at one end, the other
end resting the while on the elbow, and he was to take fast hold of it,
and stretch it. This he did and the yarn lengthened, and this was a sign
he was actually sick of heart-disease. Then the charmer tied the yarn
around the patient's left arm above the elbow, and there it was left,
and in the next visit measured again, and he was pronounced cured."]

Only a year ago, in my own district, I heard of a young girl being taken
to the local "wise man" to have "her wool measured," but in her case the
charm does not seem to have worked well, as though she did not die, she
is still ailing. Another wizard, who died only last year, was an old man
who lived at Trawscoed in Cardiganshire. He also worked cures with
scarlet worsted, and enjoyed a great local reputation.

The use of scarlet wool as a charm is of great antiquity, and is
supposed to be originally derived from the practices of the magicians of
Babylon. And according to Theocritus, the Greek maidens used it as a
charm to bring back faithless lovers. Mr. Elworthy, in his book on the
"Evil Eye," refers to the ancient use made of coloured yarn in
incantations, quoting from Petronius: "She then took from her bosom a
web of twisted threads of various colours, and bound it on my neck."

In South Wales, as in many other districts, witches were supposed to
have the power of transforming themselves into hares. Especially, as I
have said before, was this superstition rife in North Cardiganshire, and
there to this day, any hare that has white about it is called "a witch
hare," and it is held very unlucky to kill it, while until quite lately
incidents such as the following were freely repeated and firmly believed
among the shepherds, small farmers, and miners who composed the scanty
population of those lonely hills.

One day, the story goes, a funeral party was proceeding from the
deceased's house towards the churchyard, when suddenly a hare was seen
running just ahead of the procession. Nobody took much notice of it at
first, thinking it had merely been disturbed from its form, and would
probably soon disappear on one side of the road or the other. There was
neither hedge nor fence to prevent its doing so, for the road was only a
mountain track, which the hare might have left at any moment to seek
cover among the heather and fern of the hill-side. But this it did not
do; to the astonishment of all, the animal, apparently not a whit
frightened by the people behind, held steadily on its way. Sometimes, of
course, owing to its swiftness, it would be lost to view for a few
moments, but always a turn of the way would bring it in sight again, and
so it led the procession to the burial-ground. Then on a sudden it
vanished as mysteriously as it had appeared. For no man could say what
direction it took; only that at one moment it was there in plain view of
all, and at the next it was gone. And after that, nobody present doubted
that the creature was no hare, but a witch in that shape, who, scenting
the approach of Death, had added her noisome presence to the crowd of
mourners, until their arrival on consecrated ground had forced her to
fly.

There is a tale belonging to the same district--roughly speaking--of
which I have unfortunately only heard the vague outlines, but the
incident is worth relating even without details, as it seems
extraordinary in whatever way it is explained.

On a certain day, not very many years ago, a hare was hunted somewhere
in the hill-country bordering the shires of Montgomery and Cardigan.
From all accounts, never was better sport seen; the animal was game to
the last, and by many a twist and turn managed to cheat its pursuers. At
last, however, it appeared exhausted; the hounds closed in, and the
hunters, immediately behind, saw them hurl themselves upon their quarry.
The huntsman hastened forward, and every one pressed round to see the
gallant animal which had given such a splendid run. But where was the
hare? Whimpers and yelps of disappointment from the hounds proclaimed
that their prey had escaped, but the question was, how? No hare that
ever lived could have eluded the hounds as they fairly threw themselves
upon her, but still the fact remained, "Puss" had disappeared, vanishing
somehow in the very onslaught of tearing, eager hounds, and before the
eyes of several spectators. Of course the story in the country has ever
been that a "witch hare" was hunted that day, and "every one knows" that
nothing but a silver bullet can destroy a witch.

The belief that only a silver bullet can harm a witch is illustrated in
my next story. It was related to me by the Rector of a certain parish in
Pembrokeshire, who said that though the people it concerned had been
dead some years, the incident was still repeated with conviction by the
country-folk of the district.

There was an old woman living in the village of Llaw----n who was
supposed to be a witch and to have the power of changing herself into a
hare. It was asserted that she had often been seen in this guise, and
several persons tried on various occasions to shoot the uncanny beast.
But no shot would touch it. However, "John the Smith" was a cunning man,
and one day he loaded his gun with a silver sixpence in lieu of shot,
and went out to look for the "witch hare." Presently he came across it
in a field, and then--Bang! went his gun. Instantly the poor animal made
off, but the sixpence had evidently found its mark, for as the hare ran
it trailed a hind leg behind it. Still, lame as it was, it managed to
elude the smith, and, turning in the direction of the village,
disappeared. But that evening John went to the house of 'Liza the Witch,
and, knocking at the door, cried, "How be'st thou, 'Liza?"

"John, John, thou very well knowest how I be," was the reply. Nor would
she allow him to enter. Then John the Smith went home well satisfied
that he had done what no one else had been able to do, and had wounded
the "witch hare."

Apropos of this belief in a witch's powers of self-transformation, a
rather curious incident came under my notice in my own neighbourhood
some few months ago. Two gentlemen were partridge-shooting, and in the
course of their walk the path they followed should have led them through
the garden of a somewhat lonely cottage inhabited by an old woman. This
woman was known to be very unpopular with her neighbours, in
consequence, it was supposed, of a quarrelsome disposition. When the
shooters reached this cottage, they found, to their surprise, that the
gate by which they usually passed through the premises was fastened with
a padlock. A shout produced the old woman from the house, who hastened
to let them through, apologising profusely for the padlock, but saying
she had been obliged to lock her gate, because "the boys were so bad to
her. Look," she added, pointing to the end wall of her cottage, "that is
what they did to me last night." And there, nailed to the wall, was a
black rabbit. One of the gentlemen, to cheer her, said jokingly, "Oh,
that's nothing. A black rabbit! Isn't that lucky?" "No," was the answer,
"not lucky; very bad luck, and they knew that very well."

To any one conversant with Cardiganshire superstitions, there is no
doubt that the nailing up of the black rabbit was intended to signify
that the inhabitant of the house was a witch. True, the animal should
have been a hare, but the Ground Game Act having caused hares to become
almost extinct in this district, the perpetrators of the insult took the
best substitute they could find in the shape of the black rabbit, well
knowing that its sinister significance would not be lost on the poor old
woman.

To return for a moment to the Pembrokeshire village we have already
mentioned, Llaw----n, where there is a beautiful ruin of a castle, most
picturesquely situated on the edge of a wooded cliff overhanging the
river Cleddau. In olden times this castle was a place of great
importance as a Palace of the Bishops of St. David's, some of whom, it
is said, preferred its strong, well-fortified walls to their splendid
palace in the episcopal city. And in Llaw----n Castle there was once
imprisoned a celebrated witch, Tanglost ferch Glyn, against whom the
reigning prelate, Bishop John Morgan, had taken proceedings for some
rather serious offence, and whom he pronounced "accursed," or, in other
words, excommunicated. After escaping once from custody, and being
rearrested, Tanglost made submission, and (we presume) did penance, and
was at length released, though banished from the diocese of St. David's.
Thereupon she betook herself to Bristol, where, engaging the services of
another witch, one Margaret Hackett, she endeavoured to "distrew" her
enemy the Bishop by witchcraft. After a time, Tanglost ventured to
return to Pembrokeshire, and at a certain house[18] (still well known
and inhabited), "in a chambre called Paradise Chambre," made, with
Hackett's help, two waxen images for injuring the Bishop. Two images not
being powerful enough to do the work, Tanglost and her coadjutor called
in the aid of a third party, "which they thought hadde more counynge and
experience than they had, and made the IIIrd ymage to distrew the
Bishop." However, not only did the prelate continue to live and
flourish, but, as was inevitable, knowledge of these sinister designs
reached his ears, and Tanglost, with her two assistants, was summoned to
appear for judgment before the Prior of Monckton, who held jurisdiction
in her neighbourhood. Escaping for the moment, she again fled to
Bristol, but was there reached by the long arm of the Church, and
arrested on a charge of heresy. Four Doctors of Divinity considered her
case, and handed her over to the Bishop for punishment, which would
probably have meant being burnt as a witch in the market-place, if Fate
had not again interfered through the efforts of her friends, who caused
Tanglost to be arrested on an accusation of debt, bailed her
successfully out of prison, and rescued her from the Bishop's
emissaries. Then a bill in Chancery was filed against her, praying that
the Mayor and Sheriffs of the city of Bristol should be ordered to
arrest her, and bring her before the King in Chancery. But to make a
long story short, Tanglost, who seems to have been a woman of infinite
resource, managed once more to evade this fresh danger, and it is to be
supposed eventually died in her bed, in spite of her unlawful traffic
with witchcraft. Her persecutor, Bishop John Morgan, held the See of St.
David's from 1496 to 1505, and reference to the Chancery proceedings
against Tanglost are to be found at the Record Office under "Early
Chancery Proceedings."

[Footnote 18: Perhaps this house had an ancient reputation for
possessing an atmosphere suitable for such "works of darkness." For
Giraldus Cambrensis, writing three hundred years before the time of
Tanglost, mentions it as being haunted by an unclean spirit which
"conversed with men, and in reply to their taunts upbraided them openly
with everything they had done from their birth, and which they were not
willing should be known by others ... the priests themselves, though
protected by the crucifix or the holy water, on devoutly entering the
house were equally subject to the same insults...."]

The practice of making waxen images of the person to be injured is of
immemorial antiquity. We read in Professor Maspero's "Dawn of
Civilisation" about the Egyptian magicians that "to compose an
irresistible charm they merely required a little blood from a person, a
few nail-parings, some hair, or a scrap of linen which he had worn, and
which from contact with his skin had become impregnated with his
personality. Portions of these were incorporated with the wax of a doll
which they modelled and clothed to resemble their victim. Thenceforward
all the inflictions to which the image was subjected were experienced
by the original; he was consumed with fever when his effigy was exposed
to the fire, he was wounded when the figure was pierced with a knife.
The Pharaohs themselves had no immunity from these spells." Nor need we
go back as far as the Pharaohs to find witches and wizards making use of
effigies for the undoing of their enemies. According to Mr. Elworthy,
from whose interesting book on the "Evil Eye" I have already quoted,
such images and figures were used in quite modern times by "witches"
among the Somersetshire peasants, and dried pigs' and sheeps' hearts
studded with pins have been found in old cottages in that county
dedicated to the same malevolent purpose. Onions were also sometimes
used in the same way. A lady, who lived many years in a rural parish of
Somerset, also told me only a few months ago that she had there known
several people who were supposed to be witches, and had seen hanging in
their chimneys, dried animals' hearts, stuck full of pins, intended to
injure their own or other people's enemies.

A well-known "white witch" lives and flourishes to-day in the village of
T----n, in South Pembrokeshire. Some most interesting particulars
concerning her were sent me a few weeks ago, by a correspondent in that
county. My friend wrote: "An old man, David Evans, (no relation to the
witch) ... who has worked ... for thirty years, 'failed,' as they say in
Pembrokeshire, some time ago, and has done no work for seventeen weeks.
He has had medical advice and medicine, but with no satisfactory
results.... He took it into his head that he would consult the
'charmer.' I was on my way to visit him and his wife, when I met Mr.
Blank's bailiff, Pike, who told me he had sent him to T----n that very
day, and that I should only find the wife at home.... When I got to the
house I found the old man had returned.... He told me whom he had been
to see, and I naturally wanted to know all about it. The following is
what he told me:

"'When I got to Gwen Davies'[19] house, I told her about myself, and how
long I had been ill, and that I had seen the doctor and had bottles of
physic and was no better. She made me sit down in a chair and she laid
eleven little pieces of straw on the table; then she took a long straw
and waved it several times round my head; having done this she went to
the table and removed one of the little bits of straw to another part of
the table. When this was done she came back to me and repeated the
waving of the long straw, and so on till all the eleven little bits of
straw had been removed from where they had been put at the beginning.'

[Footnote 19: The witch's name and that of her patient are of course
changed.]

"I asked whether the 'charmer' had said anything during this
performance. 'She mumbled something each time she was at the table, but
I could not make out the words.'

"I inquired then, 'What did she say to you when this was over?'

"David Evans replied that she said that he would recover, but that it
would be a long time....

"'What advice did she give you as to what you should eat, drink, and
avoid?'

"'Eat all you can get,' she told him, 'but no doctor's stuff, and no
drink.' My last inquiry was, 'Did you give her anything?'

"'No,' said the old man, 'she would take nothing.' I think I may safely
say this is a properly authenticated narrative."

To this account my friend a few days later added the following
postscript.

"To add something to my last letter. I met our Archdeacon ... on Friday,
and was telling him about the 'White Witch of T----n'; he had heard of
her when he was Vicar of L----n; his account of her proceedings is
slightly different from what I wrote to you;--the little bits of straw
are more than eleven, and she moves them, not on a table, but on two
chairs, transferring them from one to the other; and what the old man
described as 'mumbling' is that she repeats passages from the Bible.
This latter fact connects, in my mind, her 'hanky-panky' with the old
ceremony of 'touching' for the King's Evil."

The slight discrepancy in the details of the witch's proceedings in
nowise detracts from the central, most interesting fact, that such
professional "charmers" should be still resorted to in the rural
districts of Wales by invalids having apparently every faith in their
ability to work cures.

It was the Rector of Llaw----n who kindly gave me many particulars of a
very famous "wise man" known as Harries of Caio. These are real names;
Caio is a parish in Carmarthenshire, and my clerical friend had formerly
been Vicar there, though subsequent to Harries' death, which occurred
some years ago. But he is well remembered and talked of in the country,
and if all tales told of him are true he must have possessed
considerable psychic powers, which in these days would by no means be
thought supernatural by enlightened people, but which thirty or forty
years ago would most certainly have impressed and awed an ignorant
peasantry. Harries is described as a fine-looking man with a long beard
and remarkably bushy eyebrows. He would occasionally tramp the country,
carrying an enormous volume of astrological lore under his arm,
leather-bound, with a strong lock attached. This, he said, was to
prevent ignorant people reading the charms contained in the book, and
thereby raising evil spirits.

Although often consulted as a healer it was on his powers as a seer or
prophet that Harries' fame chiefly rested. If any one had a relation ill
or in trouble, he would go to the wizard and ask what his friend's fate
would be. Harries then put himself into a trance, and when he came out
of it would say, "I am sorry for you, but your friend will die," or "he
will recover," as the case might be.

But the most interesting story connected with Harries of Caio, and one
which the Rector of Llaw----n had heard on excellent authority, is as
follows: A certain man in Carmarthenshire started one day to walk over
the hills to Breconshire on some farming business. He did not return
when expected; time went by, and his friends became alarmed and made
inquiries, but to no purpose; nothing could be heard about him. At last
the police were called in, but they were equally unsuccessful, and after
many weeks had passed without news of the missing man, his relations
determined as a last resource to apply to the wizard of Caio. So a
deputation of them went to his house, and having stated the purpose of
their visit were told by Harries that he could give them the information
they sought. "But," he added solemnly and with great feeling, "I am
sorry to tell you that your friend is no longer alive. If you cross the
mountain between Llandovery and Brecon your path will lead you past a
ruined house, and near that house there is a large and solitary tree.
Dig at the foot of that tree and you will find him whom you seek." These
words of gloomy import only crystallised the feelings of vague
foreboding already in the minds of the inquirers, who, after a short
consultation, determined to test the truth of the wizard's information.
A small party was formed, who proceeded, according to the seer's
directions, along the lonely track that led over the mountain to Brecon,
the way by which it was known their friend had intended to travel. After
a while they came to a ruined cottage, with a large tree close
by--landmarks probably known to most of them. Dead leaves covered the
ground beneath the tree, but on raking these aside it was at once seen
that the earth had been lately disturbed, and on digging deep below
Harries' words were sadly verified by the searchers, who did indeed
discover the body of their friend. That a crime had been committed was
abundantly clear, but by whom has remained a mystery to this day, nor
was any ordinary explanation ever sufficient to account for Harries'
extraordinary information on the subject, all inquiry--and also his high
character--precluding the most remote suspicion of his being in any way
connected with such a misdeed.

After Harries' death his "magic books" were sold, and are now in the
possession of the Registrar of the Welsh University College at
Aberystwith.

Mention of Llandovery reminds me of a celebrated "Curse story" connected
with Cardiganshire, but which has been so often the theme of abler pens
than mine that I shall do little more than refer to it here. Briefly it
is this. In the seventeenth century, Maesyfelin Hall, a large house some
few miles from Lampeter, was the centre of hospitality and culture in
Cardiganshire. Judge Marmaduke Lloyd, owner of the house and great
estates, was universally known and respected in South Wales, counting
among his intimate friends the well-known Vicar Pritchard of Llandovery,
whose book, "Canwyll y Cymru" (The Welshman's Candle), is still much
prized for its quaintly pious teaching by all religious Welsh people.
This clergyman had a son, Samuel, who seems to have been a frequent and
welcome visitor at Maesyfelin, until a day came when a terrible tragedy
occurred. The young man's body, bearing evidence that he had been foully
done to death, was found floating in the river Teify, and dark must have
been the suspicions of his grief-stricken parent when he could pen words
such as the following, fraught with deadly enmity towards his former
friends:

    "The curse of God on Maesyfelin fall,
    On root of every tree, on stone of wall,
    Because the flower of fair Llandovery town,
    Was headlong cast in Teivi's flood to drown."

Or in the original Welsh:

    "Melldith Duw ar Maesyfelin
    Ar bob carreg, dan bob gwreiddyn,
    Am daflu blodeu tref Llandyfri
    Ar ei ben i Deifi i foddi."

Tradition asserts that Samuel Pritchard met his death in some brawl
arising from the discovery of his persistence in some prohibited love
affair; but the whole story rests on the most slender evidence, and
beyond the fact that he lost his life by violence, somewhere between
Lampeter and Llandovery, there is nothing to prove that the family of
Maesyfelin had any share at all in the dark deed. However, not many
generations passed before it seemed as if the Vicar's words had indeed
taken effect, for after Sir Marmaduke's death, the estate of Maesyfelin
was gradually weakened by the extravagance of his descendants, and
finally what was left of the land passed through marriage into the
possession of the Lloyds of Peterwell in the year 1750. Maesyfelin Hall
was left empty, and time and neglect have most literally fulfilled to
the letter the curse pronounced by Vicar Pritchard nearly three hundred
years ago. Not an unusual history, and one that might probably be true
of many an old and extinct family in Great Britain. But in Cardiganshire
the reverses and final extinction of the Lloyds of Maesyfelin were
always ascribed to the effect of the pious Vicar's malison. Oddly
enough, that curse seemed to follow the name of Lloyd, for the family of
Peterwell had no better luck with the Maesyfelin estates than the
original owners. At the death of John Lloyd of Peterwell, his great
property, including Maesyfelin, went to his brother Herbert, who was
made a baronet in 1763, and sat in Parliament for seven years. He was a
man of extravagant tastes and imperious temper, and seems to have ruled
like a dictator in his own neighbourhood. Many and interesting are the
tales still told of him and his ways, and the manner of his death and
burial were as sensational as his career through life might lead one to
expect. But all that is "another story," and here it is sufficient to
say that, Sir Herbert Lloyd dying deeply in debt and without
descendants, his heavily mortgaged lands passed to strangers and were
divided, while his great house of Peterwell, with its "four gilded
domes," became, like Maesyfelin, a ruin, of which only the broken walls
remain to tell of former splendours. And the famous curse, having
fulfilled its end, is now forgotten, or remembered in the district only
as an interesting tradition.

A Scotch friend once told me of a curse that had been laid upon her own
family by three Highlanders. These men were implicated in the '45
Rebellion, and were handed over to the Duke of Cumberland by an ancestor
of my friend, a man whose sympathies were Hanoverian, and the owner of
considerable property. The Highlanders were duly condemned and executed,
but before they died they solemnly cursed their enemy, prophesying that
his descendants in the third generation should not possess an acre of
land. This prophecy was fulfilled to the letter; and my friend tells me
that a relation of hers has talked with a very old woman who came from
the same part of the country, and who spoke of the curse and its origin
as well-known facts.

Connected with this subject of family curses is a story I heard not
long ago, of a certain country house in one of the Eastern Counties. On
the landing of the principal staircase of this house there might be
seen, a few years since, a glass case covered by a curtain, which, if
drawn, revealed the waxen effigy of a child, terribly wasted and
emaciated, lying on her side as if asleep. It was described to me as so
realistic as to be quite horrible, and it is apparent that some very
strong reason must have existed for keeping so unpleasant an object in
such a thoroughfare of the house. Its history is this. Some generations
ago, the wife of the owner of the place died, leaving motherless a
little girl. The father soon married again, giving his child a cruel
stepmother, who, in her husband's absence from home, so ill-treated and
starved the poor little girl that very soon after her father's return
she died. It is said that the facts of his wife's cruelty reached the
father's ears, and in order that he might punish her with perpetual
remorse, he had a wax model made of his child exactly as she appeared in
death, and placed it conspicuously on the staircase landing, where his
wife must see it whenever she went up or down stairs. He further
directed in his will that the model should never be removed from its
place, adding that if it were, _a curse_ should fall on house and
family. So, covered in later years by a curtain, the effigy remained
until a day arrived in quite recent times, when the family then in
possession were giving a dance, and for some reason had the case
containing the wax-work carried downstairs and put in an outhouse. But
mark what happened. That very night occurred a shock of earthquake
violent enough to cause part of the house to fall down! Very likely mere
coincidence; but as it _might_ have been the working of the curse
consequent on the removal of the case, it was thought advisable to
restore the grisly relic to its former position, where, as far as my
informant knew, it may be seen to this day.



CHAPTER IX

ODD NOTES

    "Plain and more plain, the unsubstantial Sprite
    To his astonish'd gaze each moment grew;
    Ghastly and gaunt, it reared its shadowy height,
    Of more than mortal seeming to the view,
    And round its long, thin, bony fingers drew
    A tatter'd winding-sheet, of course _all white_."


In that very interesting book, "John Silence," Mr. Algernon Blackwood
remarks that cats seem to possess a peculiar affinity for the Unknown,
and that while dogs are invariably terrified by anything in the nature
of occult phenomena, cats, on the contrary, are soothed and pleased.

Perhaps that is why cats have so often figured in history and fiction as
companions of sorcerers and witches; and perhaps it was a knowledge of
their occult sympathies that helped to render these animals sacred to
the ancient Egyptians. These are only speculations, but there is no
doubt that cats are, in fact, queer and sphinx-like creatures; capable
moreover of inspiring an extraordinary dread and dislike (quite out of
proportion to their size and character) in some people. It is said that
Lord Roberts, bravest of Generals, cannot stand the sight of a cat. I
have known personally at least two people who have the same loathing and
fear; and one of these individuals can tell if a cat is anywhere near
without either seeing or hearing it; and I have seen this exemplified
when my friend has been assured--in good faith--that there was not a cat
in the house, much less in the room. But on search being made a cat was
found--though no one knew how it got there. And this curious instance of
perception by some "sixth sense" reminds me of an odd thing I was told
about a man who, until quite lately, was employed as a verger in Ely
Cathedral. This man, in some unknown way, could always tell if there
were any person in the Cathedral, although he could neither see, feel,
nor hear them. It is said that this extraordinary faculty was tested
over and over again, but the verger was never mistaken.

But to return to our friend Puss; another of her funny characteristics
is, that she always seems to seek out the people who dislike her, and
appears to desire their friendship, contrary to her usual habit with
strangers, with whom she is generally coy and repellent. Altogether it
is not difficult to credit cats with some degree of psychic power, and
probably few of us would object to their comfortable Tabbies or languid
Persians seeing ghosts and spirits if they are able to. But when it
comes to a cat being itself a ghost, the idea is somehow horribly
uncanny. Yet I know a lady who for a long while occupied a house in
Dublin where there was a ghost cat. I had heard a vague rumour of this,
and much interested, I wrote to Miss M----n for information. She replied
(dated October 17, 1907): "With regard to my 'ghost cat' I have no story
to tell, or cause for its appearance. For some time my sister and I were
the only people who saw it, but of late my niece, and also different
friends I have had staying with me, have also seen it. It is always just
walking under a table or chair when seen, which may account for neither
its head nor front portion of its body ever having been seen. It is
coal-black. For many years when it used to appear, I had no black cat,
but have had one now for some time, so don't notice the ghost one so
much, as we don't bother to notice whether it is the real or the
supernatural, but know for a fact it has been seen several times this
year. I am sorry I can't give you any further details, but not being a
believer in ghosts, I am afraid I pay very little attention to my
friendly cat."

One would like to know the _raison d'être_ of that little feline
spectre, and there is doubtless some story connected with it that would
account for its presence could we but look back far enough into the
histories of former tenants of the house. But in a city or town, strange
happenings connected with any particular family are more quickly
forgotten than in the country, where such traditions are apt to linger
far longer in the memories of the local inhabitants. In a town, one is
told "such and such a house is haunted"; but if you ask why and how
haunted, you will generally meet with "I don't know" in reply. Whereas
in the country, if a house acquires a "haunted" reputation, there is
mostly chapter and verse for its particular kind of ghost, and often a
story told to account for the haunting.

But ghostly dogs are, to my mind, quite as unpleasant as ghostly cats,
and there is something very disagreeable, I think, about the following
experience of a person whom we will temporarily christen Mr. Archer. He
was a youngish man of strongly psychic temperament, and in the intervals
of business was accustomed to dabble pretty freely in occult matters of
all kinds. It happened once that he went to stay in a large northern
city, where he had some spiritualist friends, and one evening he and
these people arranged to hold a séance. Forgetting all about such a
mundane affair as dinner, they "sat" for hours, but with no result; they
could get no manifestations, and at last gave up the attempt, Archer
returning weary and disappointed to his hotel. It was then very late, so
going to his room, he locked the door, and proceeded to get ready for
bed. Suddenly he heard a very queer noise--a sort of rustling and
scrambling; and as he turned quickly to see where it came from, a large,
black dog darted from under the bed. Archer felt much annoyed at what he
considered the carelessness of the hotel servants in shutting the
animal into his room, and he promptly rushed at it with the intention of
turning it out into the passage. But before he could reach it, the dog
walked to the locked door and simply vanished or melted through the
panels, leaving Archer in a state of bewilderment hard to describe. The
incident as I heard it goes no further. But as Archer was presumably
accustomed to investigating supernatural phenomena, we may suppose that
he made full inquiries in the hotel as to a possible real dog, or an
already known ghostly one, though apparently without satisfaction. He
told the friend from whom I had the story that he had no shadow of doubt
as to his having really seen the thing, and that it disappeared in the
unusual manner related, and that, whatever the dog may have been, it was
no hallucination. Could it have been possible, I wonder, that the
fruitless séance was answerable for the creature's appearance? That not
being able to raise the powers they wished, the sitters had unwittingly
attracted some being from a lower plane, which Archer was able to
visualise, owing to the mental effects produced by a long fast and
bodily fatigue, joined to his peculiar temperament. For there is no
doubt that they who deliberately set to work to "raise spirits" must
take their chance of the character of such "demons" (to use the ancient
name) as respond to the call.

Traditions concerning mysterious "bogies," elementals, or spirits--call
them what we will--supposed to haunt certain localities, are to be
heard of in many parts of Great Britain. In Wales such legends have
always abounded, and innumerable are the tales of bogies said to
frequent lonely roads, and especially the neighbourhood of bridges. Many
of these stories were no doubt invented for the purpose of frightening
ignorant people and children, while others had their origin in the
brains of intoxicated individuals returning late at night from fair or
funeral. Yet it is curious how these old tales cling. There is a bridge
spanning a ravine or dingle, about a mile from my own home, which had
such an evil reputation for being haunted that until quite recent years
no local postboy or fly-driver would take his horses over it after dark,
for fear of the bogey that was said to sit on the parapet at night, or
that,

    "Half seen by fits, by fits half heard,"

would glide tall and menacing across the road just where the hill was
steepest, and the gloom of overhanging trees most impenetrable.

Only the other day, a Merionethshire woman told me of an extraordinary
apparition seen by two men whom she knew well, on the bridge in her
native village. One of these men was a chapel deacon, respected and
respectable, and, according to my friend, quite incapable of
misrepresenting facts. Their houses were separated by the bridge, and on
a certain evening, when one man had been visiting the other, he said
jokingly to his friend, "Now, John, you must come out and see me home,
for I'm afraid to cross the bridge alone." So the two started together.
It was a bright moonlight night, and arrived on the bridge, what should
they see but the figure of an enormous man, clad in white, standing in
the middle of the road! Remembrance of their jesting words, spoken only
a few minutes before, flashed across the deacon's memory, and with their
hearts in their mouths they stood rooted to the spot. But the figure,
whatever it was, made no movement, and at last with shaking limbs and
clammy brows, they stole past it in safety. Then came the dilemma. How
was he who had acted escort to reach his own home across the bridge
alone?

My informant said it was afterwards rumoured that the two friends spent
the whole night escorting each other home. For neither dared ever return
alone. But in fact all they themselves really said when questioned was,
that they had waited what seemed to them an interminable time before the
Shape which they watched vanished quite suddenly and never reappeared.

Of course this tale is capable of more than one humorous interpretation,
such as that of an evening spent in overmuch good-fellowship, or as an
example of a successful practical joke. But still I give it as it was
told me, as an excellent instance of the Welsh "bogey story," of a kind
that might, I expect, have been collected by the dozen in our remote
districts twenty or thirty years ago, but are now rapidly being
forgotten. I have heard of another "b[^w]cgi" (as bogey becomes in
Welsh) of the same type as the above, which used to frequent a
cross-road some four miles from Newcastle Emlyn, and took pleasure in
frightening respectable people after dark. And still another of these
creatures of the night was supposed to haunt the grounds of a house not
far from Cardigan, and was known as "B[^w]cgi chain," its appearance
being always accompanied by the noise of clanking chains. This bogey
seems to have been quite an institution in the neighbourhood, and I
fancy familiarity with the tradition had bred, if not contempt, at least
disregard of poor old "B[^w]cgi chain."

A friend who lives in South Cardiganshire wrote to me of a man in her
own neighbourhood--still living--who declared he had once seen "the evil
spirit" of a neighbour, "at dawn, near a limekiln, a creature 'twixt dog
and calf, and with lolloping gait, not fierce, but evil to look at, for
the Welsh believe that evil people can take the form of creatures and
roam about, for no good of course. And though they never name it, and
would deny it to you or me, yet secretly, behind closed doors, they
whisper of the different forms taken by the evil spirits of neighbours
who are workers of darkness."

Personally I have never come across this belief in Wales, but it is most
likely the remains of a very ancient superstition peculiar to that
district, just as the belief in the "Tanwe" (to which I alluded in a
former chapter) seems to have been localised in North Cardiganshire.

Of course this idea of the spirit of a living person roaming about to
work wickedness can be nothing more nor less than a variation of the
Were-wolf or Loup-garou legend, which from time immemorial has been
believed throughout almost all Europe, and, it is said, still lingers in
remote parts of France, and particularly Brittany. Now, closely related
in race as the Welsh are to the Bretons, it is not hard to imagine that
the superstitions and beliefs of both nations have had their origin in a
common stock, taking us back to those far-away times when the great
Celtic tribes were young. Local circumstances, religious influences, and
differences of education have combined in the course of centuries to
determine the survival or decay of these old traditions in both
countries, and probably the "loup-garou" ceased to be generally heard of
in Wales many hundreds of years ago. But everybody who has studied even
slightly the subject of folk-lore and superstition, knows how long
fragments of some ancient belief (often so tattered as to be almost
unrecognisable) will be found obstinately preserved in perhaps quite a
small district, among a few people in whom such a belief appears as an
instinct which yields but slowly before the spread of modern education.
And endeavouring to follow these dwindling rivulets of strange old-world
ideas to their source is one of the most fascinating subjects of
speculation in the world.

However, all this is digression, and we must come back to our Welsh
bogies, for to omit mention of the G[^w]rach or Cyhoeraeth, which is the
most terrible of them all, would be unpardonable. Fortunately, to see or
hear one of these spectres seems to be very rare. Howells, in his
"Cambrian Superstitions," says that the Cyhoeraeth is a being with
dishevelled hair, long black teeth, lank withered arms, a frightful
voice, and cadaverous appearance. "Its shriek is described as having
such an effect as literally to freeze the blood in the veins of those
who heard it, and was never uttered except when the ghost came to a
cross-road or went by some water, which she splashed with her hands ...
exclaiming 'Oh, oh fyn g[^w]r, fyn g[^w]r' (my husband, my husband), or
sometimes the cry would be 'my wife, my wife,' or 'my child.' Of course
this doleful plaint boded ill for the relations of those who were
unlucky enough to hear it, and if the cry were merely an inarticulate
scream it was supposed to mean the hearer's own death."

The wailing cry of the Welsh Cyhoeraeth reminds one of the Irish banshee
legends; and though I have never so far come across any one who has
seen or heard the Cyhoeraeth, yet two people in Wales have told me of
death warnings conveyed by what they called "banshees."

One story concerns a Welsh lady, Miss W----, who happened to be staying
at an hotel at Bangor, in North Wales, and was awakened one night by a
hideous, wailing cry. Much alarmed, she got up, and as she reached the
window (from whence the sound came) saw slowly and distinctly cross it
the shadow of some great flying creature, while the dreadful cry died
gradually away. Miss W---- felt half frozen with fear, but managed to
open the window and look into the street. Nothing was to be seen; but
afterwards, as she lay awake, trying to account for what she had seen
and heard, a possible, though perhaps far-fetched solution, occurred to
her.

Next morning, when breakfasting, she asked the waiter whether he knew if
any Irish person in the house or street had died. The man looked rather
surprised at the question, and said "No." Presently, however, he came
hurrying back to Miss W---- and said "Colonel F.," mentioning a
well-known name, "a gentleman from Ireland, who has been staying here
very ill for some time, died last night."

Miss W---- was always firmly convinced that what she heard and saw that
night at Bangor were the shadow and the warning cry of the Colonel's
family banshee.

The other instance was told me by a friend, who declared that being
awakened one night when staying in the town of Cardigan by an
extraordinary and startling noise at his window, he jumped up, threw
open the window and looked out. And there, _flying_ down the street he
saw what he called "a banshee"-like spectre "of horror indescribable,
which beat its way slowly past the silent houses till it disappeared in
the gloom beyond." It returned no more, and the rest of the night passed
undisturbed; but on receiving unexpected news next day of the death of a
great friend, my informant could not help thinking of the extraordinary
incident, and wondering if the "banshee" had brought a warning.

It is a common belief in Wales that the screeching of barn-owls close to
a house is a very bad sign, betokening the approach of death, and
certainly it requires no great effort of the imagination to produce a
shudder of foreboding as the gloom of an autumn evening is suddenly rent
by the weird cry. And though I am no believer in what is of course a
mere superstition, yet the recollection of it came to my mind on an
occasion when I happened to be staying at a country house where a death
occurred somewhat unexpectedly. I well remember the incessant and
extraordinary noise made by the owls during a few evenings immediately
before and after the event, shriek following shriek, often appearing to
be just outside the windows; and though every one knew it was only the
owls, yet it would be difficult to describe the uncanny, disturbing
effect produced on one's mind by such an unearthly-sounding clamour.
This was only coincidence; but whether regarded as prophetic or not, the
"gloom-bird's hated screech," as Keats calls it, is not a cheerful
sound, and seems a fitting accompaniment to that hour

    "In the dead vast and middle of the night
    When churchyards yawn."

Mysterious knockings and taps, or the sound of an invisible horse's
hoofs stopping at the door, are also thought in Wales to be death omens.
It is said that in the old days of lead-mining in Cardiganshire, the
miners always used to declare that to hear "the knockers" at work was "a
sure sign" of an accident coming.

I once heard a story about a woman belonging to a parish not far from my
own home, who went with her husband to live in Glamorganshire, where he
heard of work at Pontypridd, to which town he betook himself, leaving
his wife at Dowlais. But a terrible accident happened in the mine where
the man worked, and he was killed. His body was brought back to his
wife's house at Dowlais, and as the coffin was carried into one of the
upstairs rooms, it was carelessly allowed to knock noisily against the
door. The widow afterwards told her friends that two nights before the
accident happened she had been awakened in that very room, by a loud
sound exactly like that caused by the bumping of the coffin, and could
not imagine what had made such an odd noise. She was thenceforward
convinced that a premonitory sound of the coffin being carried into the
room had been sent her as a "warning."

There is a house I know very well in South Wales where a curious sound,
always supposed to be of "ghostly" origin, used to be heard occasionally
by a lady who lived there for a few years. She described it as the noise
"of a person digging a grave," or using a pick-axe for that purpose, and
said it was most horrible and gruesome to hear. It appeared to come from
just outside the drawing-room windows, yet nothing was to be seen if one
looked out. Other tenants have come and gone since that lady's time, and
I have never heard again of the ghostly grave-digger. But mysterious
footsteps have been heard in that house quite lately, and by three
people who say they do not "believe in ghosts"; one of them, however,
admitted to me that in spite of close investigation he was utterly
unable to account for the soft footfalls he most certainly heard. But it
may well be that invisible presences still linger about a place which in
olden times was the site of a little settlement of monks, though nothing
now remains but the name to remind us of the fact.[20]

[Footnote 20: There is a tradition connected with this house concerning
a former owner who was a miser and died about a century ago, to the
effect that his spirit is imprisoned within a certain rock on the coast
about two miles away, where he is doomed to stay until he has picked his
way out with a pin!]

While on the subject of warnings and death omens, I may mention a
curious tradition connected with an old church I know in Pembrokeshire.
In a corner of the building is kept the bier used at funerals; and it is
reported that always just before any death occurs in the parish, this
bier is heard to creak loudly, as though a heavy burden had been laid
upon it. The churchyard adjoining has also a haunted reputation, and I
have been told that not even a tramp would willingly pass its gates
after dark.

Another death warning is the tolling--by unseen hands--of the bell of
Blaenporth Church (in Cardiganshire). This eerie sound was said to be
always heard at midday and midnight just before the death of any
parishioner of importance. But as far as I can gather, the Blaenporth
bell has ceased to toll its warnings; for an inhabitant of the parish,
who knows the country people and their ideas very well, told me she had
never heard of the mysterious tolling, and thought it must be a dead
tradition. But it is a picturesque one, and so characteristic of Celtic
ideas, ever interpreting as signs and portents the slightest incident
that happens to break the ordinary routine of life, that I thought it
worth recording here.

Another superstition (certainly not picturesque), which I have never
heard of but in Cardiganshire, was that it was very unlucky to bury the
bodies of any cattle that happened to be found dead in the fields! What
idea can have been connected with such an unsanitary prejudice I cannot
imagine.

When reading a paper at a local antiquarian meeting some few weeks ago,
the Vicar of Lledrod,[21] Mr. H. M. Williams, referred to the origin of
the Welsh word "Croesaw," which means "welcome"; and in explanation he
related how he came to realise that the word was derived from the noun
_croes_ (a cross). He said: "A farmer's wife, whenever I visited her
house, as soon as she saw me at the door, would take some instrument of
iron, such as a poker or knitting-needle, and ceremoniously describe a
cross on the hearth, and would afterwards address me with the words
'Croesaw i' chwi, syr.' ('Welcome to you, sir.') This custom existed at
Llanddeusant, Carmarthenshire, where I lived twenty years ago."

[Footnote 21: A Cardiganshire parish.]

This strikes me as one of the most curious survivals of an ancient
superstition that I have heard of in Wales. Of course there can be no
doubt as to the word "croesaw" being derived from the "croes" made as
described above; but the question is, why was that cross made at all?
The Vicar, who is a scholar and learned antiquary, and whose views
should therefore be regarded with respect, seemed to think that the
cross was a sort of sign and seal of welcome, as a man in old days would
set his mark--a cross--to anything as a signification of approval and
affirmation. Perhaps that is so; but my own idea (advanced with all
diffidence) is that the cross had a far different meaning, and that it
had its origin in the mediæval dread of the "evil eye." A stranger
coming to the house must ever be welcomed according to the laws of Welsh
hospitality, and he might very likely be quite guiltless of the uncanny
power to "ill-wish" or "overlook." But to avoid risks, it was better to
use some simple charm, before bidding the visitor enter, and what could
be more powerful against malign influences than the holy symbol of the
cross quickly made in the ashes, where it could be as easily obliterated
the next moment, and so wound nobody's feelings. Again, the use of the
poker or knitting-needle for the rite seems to be a remnant of the old
universal belief that witches, evil spirits, and ghosts hated iron, and
cannot harm a person protected by that metal. Such at least is my
explanation of a most interesting local custom, which has become
mechanical nowadays--just as many of us cross ourselves when we see a
magpie, without knowing why--and perhaps by this time has disappeared
altogether.

Mr. Williams tells me he has never met with this custom in
Cardiganshire, but says that a curious little ceremony used to be
performed, about fifty years ago, by the children of the parish of
Verwig, near Cardigan. "As the children were going home from school, at
a cross-road before parting, one of the elder ones would describe a
cross on the road and solemnly utter the following holy wish:

                "Gris Groes,
    Myn Un, ie, Myn Un, aed mys moes."

Rendered in English this is:

                      "Christ's Cross
    By the Holy One, yea by the Holy One, may gentle manners prevail."

What the quaint little ceremony meant it is hard to say, and no doubt
the children themselves could have given no reason for its performance,
except that "they always did it." But it was a pretty idea, whatever its
esoteric meaning, which would probably lead us back to the days when
Wales was Roman Catholic, and nearly all instruction, both as regards
book-learning and manners, in the hands of priests and monks. Then it is
not difficult to imagine some such simple charm or invocation taught his
wild scholars by the gentle schoolmaster-monk of the local monastery, to
help carry the peace of the cloister home with them, and as a safeguard
against the emissaries of Satan, in whose active power to work ill our
forefathers so firmly believed. And it may be that the slight element of
mystery--always attractive to childish minds--connected with the making
of the cross may have helped to preserve the little custom, when one
dependent on words alone would more readily have been forgotten.



CHAPTER X

CONCLUSION

    "The wind-borne mirroring Soul:
    A thousand glimpses wins,
    And never sees a whole."


It is easier to write the title of this chapter than its contents. For
what general conclusion can be satisfactory, regarding all these
instances of the supernatural? Every one has his own ideas about them,
ranging from the sceptic's point of view to that of the most credulous
believer, both attitudes of mind to be equally deprecated when dealing
with occult phenomena. However, such extremes of opinion are becoming
rare, while the number of people who preserve an open mind on such
subjects is ever increasing, and this, I venture to think, is the right
way of regarding "the Unknown." For blind negation has never enlightened
any one, while uncritical acceptance of unsubstantiated statements is
equally prejudicial to real knowledge. Of course, this attitude of
toleration, and, as it were, awaiting further revelation, is essentially
a modern one. Our forefathers of three or four hundred years ago would
have thought us poor creatures for holding our judgment in suspense.
Most people then believed in "ghosts" and held it no shame to do so;
while the minority of the superior who disbelieved took no pains to
dissemble their scorn and contempt for those who did. There was never
any attempt at impartial investigation of supernatural occurrences; one
section would have had neither the courage nor intelligence necessary,
while the other would have scorned the undertaking. So Superstition's
sway remained unchecked for many a long century, and though its power
began to dwindle directly education became a systematic affair amongst
civilised nations, yet it is only in recent years that one has begun to
foresee a time when its terrors will have disappeared for good and all.
Because it is only within the last few decades that men of great and
trained intellect have discovered that the methods of science and law
apply as perfectly in the investigation of psychic as in material
phenomena; and that discovery once made, I cannot help thinking that it
is merely a matter of time before mankind penetrates the mystery of the
Unseen, though, as I have said before, this will not happen in our
generation. At present we are only at the beginnings of things; learning
the alphabet of a whole new series of experiences, one of which is
telepathy, or thought communicating thought, without aid of the ordinary
senses. We know this wonderful power does exist, reliable experiment has
proved it, but so far we know little more, and can only guess that some
minds in some way--probably unknown to themselves--possess the
mysterious faculty of setting in motion vibrations that travel along a
medium finer and rarer far than the famous Hertzian waves. But presently
the laws that govern such vibrations will be discovered, and mind will
then speak to mind at will, even across half the world. And telepathy,
which we are still apt to think of as something almost supernatural,
will then be as much a matter of course as wireless telegraphy is in our
day.

However, at present we are only on the threshold of these marvels, and
we who are not engaged in the task of occult discovery can still be
interested and entertained by "ghost stories" _as_ ghost stories, and
can discuss various points and form our own ideas about them. And there
is one feature common to a great many of these supernatural tales and
incidents which I think must strike everybody, whether believers or
sceptics, and that is their apparent lack of purpose. There are, as we
have seen, ghostly happenings which come as "warnings," though, as I
have remarked in a former chapter, these warnings seldom appear to avert
disaster. But in nine cases out of ten odd things are seen or heard, and
nothing particular happens afterwards. The question--and a puzzling
one--is, why should these things occur at all? Why should such a
tremendous reversal of the laws which ordinarily govern our human
environment take place, as is implied by, let us say, the extraordinary
experience of Miss Travers at Glanwern, related in Chapter III? Of
course in this volume I have tried to collect ghost stories that _did_
mean something, as naturally they are the more interesting type of
incident. But I have heard innumerable instances of people hearing and
seeing strange things, followed by no particular consequences. Probably
every one knows the kind of tale, interesting to the person concerned,
but rather dull when related.

Perhaps the following illustration will help us to understand these
inconsequent manifestations a little better. Let us imagine ourselves as
the audience in a huge, well-lighted theatre. At least the auditorium is
lit up, but the vast stage is in complete darkness, with a great shadowy
curtain hiding anything that may be taking place behind it from our
eyes. In fact, nobody troubles much about the stage at all, every one is
talking and thinking of other things and few people so much as glance
towards the curtain, though those who do dimly feel that there really is
a play going on behind it, and some of us wish, in a vague sort of way,
that we could know what it is. But sometimes the curtain goes up for a
moment, and then, if any one is looking, he sees a glimpse of the play;
and, not knowing what has come before or what is to follow, it seems
rather meaningless, or even alarming. Sometimes, too, an actor will
appear on the stage, or come amongst the audience with a message for one
or a group of them, but only the few can see him, and his message is not
always intelligible to them. Some bold people, tired of looking at the
impenetrable curtain, have ventured to explore behind it, and if they
escaped the dangers so braved, have tried to impart their experiences to
their friends when they returned. But their accounts are often received
with incredulity or lukewarm interest, some even asserting that there is
really nothing at all behind the curtain, and that the explorers have
merely been the victims of their own imaginations. And this they say,
knowing quite well that when "carriages are called" they and every one
else will have to leave the house by way of the dark stage, and be
obliged to go behind the scenes and learn the mystery that the curtain
hides.

In this simple illustration I have tried to convey the idea of a
life--or perhaps I should rather say a Consciousness--coincident and
connected with this life that we know, but separated from it by a
difference of consciousness which the majority of us are not able at
present to bridge. A few have done so, either by a system of mystic
training, or by the natural gift of the "sixth sense," clairvoyance,
second sight, whatever we like to call it, which in olden days often
caused its possessors to be classed as magicians and witches. And if we
grasp this idea of a consciousness, interwoven and yet by matter
separated from this life, of which only a few of us can get glimpses
from time to time, but which is as absolutely real, perhaps more so than
the life we live here, it will help us enormously to understand the
meaning of psychic phenomena, or what we call "ghost stories." Because
we shall realise that there is _continuity_ behind the veil which hides
the Unseen, just as there is continuity in this life, and that the law
of cause and effect goes with us "behind the scenes," just as it governs
our present existence. So that we must cease to think of any
supernatural incident as irrelevant or inconsequent, even if it means
nothing to ourselves. It is just a glimpse--seen "through a glass
darkly"--of a life organised on lines at present unfamiliar to our own,
and infused with a meaning which we cannot trace, and which we yet feel
has the most intimate connection with our life here.

However, these are paths of metaphysics, in which it is not well to
linger, unless one can give time and all one's thoughts to their
exploration. A little knowledge about occult matters is worse than
useless; it is absolutely dangerous, and every furlong of the road that
leads to such knowledge should be marked with a red signal, for it is
strewn with the wrecked intellects of those who, unequipped, have
lightly followed its windings.

Regarding the chapters in this book which concern Welsh superstitions,
the first idea which occurred to me when reading them over was the
exceedingly gloomy character of these ancient beliefs. They all seem to
dwell morbidly on death and its surroundings, ignoring the lighter and
happier side of life altogether. And any one who did not know Wales
might imagine from reading these tales that the Welsh were a sullen and
silent people, given to solitude and brooding. Nothing could be further
from the truth; they are a lively and gregarious race and never seem to
cease talking amongst themselves. Nobody is fonder of junketing than a
Welshman or Welshwoman, nothing in the way of an outing comes amiss;
fairs, eisteddfodau, "auctions," church and chapel festivals, political
meetings, anything for a jaunt! But the most important functions of all
are--funerals. Every one goes to a funeral, and makes it a point of
honour to do so, for the more burials you attend in your lifetime, the
greater are the number of people who will come to your own obsequies. I
often think of the characteristic remark addressed by a Welshwoman I
knew to an English neighbour, who had no taste for gadding, and found
Cardiganshire rather _triste_. "Well indeed, Mrs. Brown _fach_, I am
sorry for you; but indeed you should go about to fairs and funerals, and
enjoy yourself."

So as funerals and the excitement connected with them really occupy a
large place in the minds of the Welsh country-folk, it is perhaps not
strange that superstition and folk-lore have collected round the
subject and that omens and death warnings should be specially heeded and
repeated. Also, in spite of lively manners and gregarious instincts,
there is a curious strain of melancholy underlying the Welsh character,
in common with the other Celtic races; a trait which I do not think any
one can understand unless he has some Celtic blood in his veins. It is
not a melancholy which colours the disposition, for most Welsh people
are cheerful and pleasant companions. Of course there are variations
from the type, and differences of temperament just as in other
nationalities, but if asked suddenly to name a Welsh characteristic, I
should at once mention cheerfulness. And yet they are melancholy; and if
this sounds paradoxical, it cannot be helped, because it is true. It is
the primitive sadness of an old, old race, the remembrance of

    "Old unhappy, far-off things,
    And battles long ago,"

inherited from tribal ancestors, and the days when life was a struggle
even to the strong, and elementary passions held undisputed sway. So it
is that the Welsh character unconsciously responds to all that touches
this minor string in its nature, and, as it were, almost enjoys gloom
and woe. This is the secret of the great religious revivals that from
time to time agitate the Principality; the Welsh really relish their
spiritual wretchedness, and enjoy being miserable sinners (especially in
company!). And well does a revivalist like Evan Roberts understand his
work, and the character of his congregations, and know how to twang that
minor string. Not that I would jest at revivals; in many cases their
influence has been for permanent good, and the kind of people they reach
and benefit are no doubt those who require a spiritual "dressing-down"
occasionally.

Nowadays, as I have said before, belief in corpse-candles, Toili, &c.
has very much gone out of fashion amongst the country-folk; the present
generation, having many of them been away to London or the large towns,
are much too superior to believe such things, and it is difficult to get
the old people to talk about them. But it is not so very long ago that
such beliefs were really part of a Welsh person's life, and supernatural
experiences only infrequent enough to be interesting. If John Jones
entered the village inn trembling and perspiring declaring that he had
seen the Toili--well, he _had_ seen it, and no one thought of
questioning his statement, but all fell to wondering "whose Toili" it
could be. And it was not only among the lower classes that these beliefs
obtained, their "betters" often shared them. The story is still told
about here how a neighbouring squire, head of a well-known county
family, saw the Toili in the twilight of a summer's evening, wending its
way along the road which passed his house to the church.

The old gentleman who saw the vision has himself been dead for over
sixty years, but the locality is probably quite unchanged from what it
must have been in his day, and I have often thought when passing the
spot how well the natural surroundings of romantic beauty lent
themselves as a setting to any such weird happening, and have tried to
conjure up the scene in my own mind. To this day it is said that when a
death occurs in that particular family a corpse-light is always seen a
few days previously, flickering and quivering up the drive from the
direction of the churchyard.

But very soon all these ancient beliefs will be obliterated in the land
of Cambria; and though it seems a pity from the picturesque point of
view, and to lovers of antiquity and folk-lore, yet on the whole it is a
good thing. For we who are apt to bewail the passing of the old ideas
often forget that they frequently went hand in hand with dreadful
ignorance both mental and moral. For instance, belief in witchcraft is
very interesting and picturesque to read about in our times, but we
should not overlook the terrible consequences of it which took the form
of torturing and persecuting hundreds of innocent persons only three
hundred years ago. Read Sir Walter Scott's "Demonology and Witchcraft"
if you want to know what the result of a "picturesque superstition" may
be among ignorant people. There is no question as to the ultimate
benefit of enlightenment and education, even if at first they appear to
banish originality and produce monotony of character. But that is better
than the type of mind which could drown an old woman because she kept a
black cat, and sold nasty herbal "love-philtres" to silly girls. I do
not think witches were much persecuted in Wales as a matter of fact,
and, as I have shown, they and "wise men" are still to be found in the
country. As we have seen, superstition took other forms there, and a
greater hold, because it was, I am convinced, rooted in a foundation of
psychic facts, just as the "second sight" was, and I suppose is still, a
fact amongst the Highlanders of Scotland. But I have no doubt that for
one Welshman who did really have the vision of his own or a neighbour's
funeral, there were at least ten who would make the same assertion out
of their own imaginations. And probably now the real faculty is very
rare indeed, for it is a gift belonging to primitive races, and ever
stifled by education and self-consciousness. We cannot deplore its loss,
because with it has gone a mass of darkest ignorance, but that need not
prevent us from being interested in its effect on the traditions and
beliefs of the country. Personally I am quite indifferent as to the
amount of occult truth contained in the miscellaneous material of this
volume; that some truth there is, I do not doubt, but its existence is
of secondary importance in comparison with the delightful, old-world
atmosphere that clings to these antiquities, and seems in some way to
make us realise "the times of our forefathers" better than the history
of more serious events. So let us, in our hurrying, bustling days,
cherish this faint fragrance of a bygone age as long as we can; it will
fade quickly enough, dying with that

                        "... race of yore,
    Who danced their infancy upon their knee,
    And told our marvelling boyhood legends store,
    Of their strange ventures happed by land or sea.
    How are they blotted from the things that be!
    How few all weak and withered of their force,
    Wait on the verge of dark eternity,
    Like stranded wrecks, the tide returning hoarse,
    To sweep them from our sight...."





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