« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
the popular terror, and if possible to get at the root of the evil, a determination was come to publicly to disinter the body of Arnod, with a view of ascertaining whether he really was a vampire; and in that event of treating him conformably. The day fixed for this proceeding was the fortieth after his burial.
It was on a grey morning in early August that the commission visited the quiet cemetery of Meduegna, which, surrounded with a wall of unhewn stone, lies sheltered by the mountain, that, rising in undulating green slopes irregularly planted with fruit trees, ends in an abrupt craggy ridge feathered with underwood. The graves were for the most part neatly kept, with borders of box or something like it, and flowers between; and at the head of most, a small wooden cross, painted black, bearing the name of the tenant. Here and there a stone had been raised; one of considerable height, a single narrow slab, ornamented with grotesque gothic carvings, dominated over the rest. Near this lay the grave of Arnod Paole, towards which the party moved. The work of throwing out the earth was begun by the grey crooked old sexton, who lived in the Leichenhouse beyond the great crucifix; he seemed unconcerned enough; no vampire would think of extracting a supper out of him. Nearest the grave stood two military surgeons, or feldscheerers, from Belgrade, and a drummer-boy, who held their case of instruments. The boy looked on with keen interest; and when the coffin was exposed, and rather roughly drawn out of the grave, his pale face and bright intent eye showed how the scene moved him. The sexton lifted the lid of the coffin; the body had become inclined to one side; when turning it straight, “Ha! ha!" said he, pointing to fresh blood upon the lips, “ Ha! ha! what, your mouth not wiped since last night's work?” The spectators shuddered—the drummer-boy sank forward fainting, and upset the instrument-case, scattering its contents; the senior surgeon, infected with the horror of the scene, repressed a hasty exclamation, and simply crossed himself. They threw water on the drummer-boy and he recovered, but would not leave the spot. Then they inspected the body of Arnod. It looked as if it had not been dead a day. On handling it the scarfskin came off, but below were new skin and new nails ! How could they have come there, but from its foul feeding ? The case was clear enough; there lay before them the thing they dreaded—the vampire. So without more ado they simply drove a stake through poor Arnod's chest; whereupon a quantity of blood gushed forth, and the corpse uttered an audible groan. "Murder, oh, murder!” shrieked the drummer-boy, as he rushed wildly with convulsed gestures from the cemetery.
The drummer-boy was not far from the mark. But quitting the romancing vein, which had led me to try and restore the original colours of the picture, let me confine myself, in describing the rest of the scene and what followed, to the words of my authority.
The body of Arnod was then burnt to ashes, which were returned to the grave. The authorities farther had staked and burnt the bodies of the four others, which were supposed to have been infected by Arnod; no mention is made of the state in which they were found. The adoption of these decisive measures failed, however, of entirely extinguishing the evil, which continued still to hang about the village. About five years afterwards it had again become very rife, and many died through it. Whereupon the authorities determined to make another and a complete clearance of the vampires in the cemetery; and with that object they had again all the graves, to which present suspicion attached, opened, and their contents officially anatomised; of which procedure the following is the medical report, here and there abridged only:-
1. A woman of the name of Stana, twenty years of age, who had died three months before of a three days' illness following her confinement. She had before her death avowed that she had anointed herself with the blood of a vampire, to liberate herself from his persecution. 'Nevertheless, she, as well as her infant, whose body, through careless interment, had been half eaten by the dogs, both had died. Her body was entirely free from decomposition. On opening it, the chest was found full of recently effused blood, and the bowels had exactly the appearances of sound health. The skin and nails of her hands and feet were loose and came off, but underneath lay new skin and nails.
2. A woman of the name of Miliza, who had died at the end of a three months' illness. The body had been buried ninety and odd days. In the chest was liquid blood. The viscera were as in the former instance. The body was declared by a heyduk, who recognised it, to be in better condition and fatter than it had been in the woman's legitimate life-time,
3. The body of a child eight years old, that had likewise been buried ninety days; it was in the vampire condition.
4. The son of a heyduk naned Milloc, sixteen years old. The body had lain in the grave nine weeks. He had died after three days' indisposition, and was in the condition of a vampire.
5. Joachim, likewise son of a heyduk, seventeen years old. He had died after three days' illness; had been buried eight weeks and some days; was found in the vampire state.
6. A woman of the name of Rusha, who had died of an illness of ten days' duration, and had been six weeks buried, in whom likewise fresh blood was found in the chest.
(The reader will understand, that to see blood in the chest, it is first necessary to cut the chest open.)
7. The body of a girl ten years of age, who had died two months before. It was likewise in the vampire state, perfectly undecomposed, with blood in the chest.
8. The body of the wife of one Hadnuck, buried seven weeks before; and that of her infant, eight weeks old, buried only twenty-one days. They were both in a state of decomposition, though buried in the same ground, and closely adjoining the others.
9. A servant, by name Rhade, twenty-three years of age; he had died after an illness of three months' duration, and the body had been buried five weeks. It was in a state of decomposition.
10. The body of the heyduk Stanco, sixty years of age, who had died six weeks previously. There was much blood and other fluid in the chest and abdomen, and the body was in the vampire condition.
11. Millac, a heyduk, twenty-five years old. The body had been in the earth six weeks. It was perfectly in the vampire condition.
12. Stanjoika, the wife of a heyduk, twenty years old; but died after an illness of three days, and had been buried eighteen. The countenance was florid. There was blood in the chest and in the heart. The viscera were perfectly sound: the skin remarkably fresh.
The document which gives the above particulars is signed by three regimental surgeons, and formally countersigned by a lieutenant-colonel and sub-lieutenant. It bears the date of June 7, 1732, Meduegna, near Belgrade. No doubt can be entertained of its authenticity, or of its general fidelity; the less that it does not stand alone, but is supported by à mass of evidence to the same effect. It appears to establish beyond question, that where the fear of vampirism prevails
, and there occur several deaths in the popular belief connected with it, the bodies, when disinterred weeks after burial, present the
appearance of corpses
from which life has only recently departed.
What inference shall we draw from this fact?-that mpirism is true in the popular sense; and that these fresh-looking and well-conditioned corpses had some mysterious source of preternatural nourishment? That would be to adopt, not to solve the superstition. Let us content ourselves with a notion not so monstrous, but still startling enough-That the bodies which were found in the so-called vampire state, instead of being in a new or mystical condition, were simply alive in the common way, or had been for some time subsequently to their interment; that, in short, they were the bodies of persons who had been buried alive, and whose life, where it yet lingered, was finally extinguished through the ignorance and barbarity of those who disinterred them. In the following sketch of a similar scene to that above described, the correctness of this inference comes out with terrific force.
Erasmus Francisci, in his remarks upon the description of the Dukedom of Krain by Valvasor, speaks of a man of the name of Grando, in the district of Kring, who died, was buried, and became a vampire, and as such was exhumed for the purpose of having a stake thrust through him.
When they opened his grave, after he had been long buried, his face was found with a colour, and his features made natural sorts of movements, as if the dead man smiled. He even opened his mouth as if he would inhale fresh air. They held the crucifix before him, and called in a loud voice, “See, this is Jesus
Oct.-- VOL. LXXXVII. NO. CCCXLVI.
Christ, who redeemed your soul from hell, and died for you.” After the sound had acted on his organs of hearing, and he had connected perhaps some ideas with it, tears began to flow from the dead man's eyes. Finally, when after a short prayer for his poor soul they proceeded to hack off his head, the corpse uttered a screech, and turned and rolled just as if it had been alive, and the grave was full of blood.”
But this is not all; there still remains the vampire-visit to be explained. The vampire-visit! Well, it is clear the vampire could not have left his grave bodily; or at all events, if he could, he never could have buried himself again. Yet there they always found him. If the body could not have been the visitant, then, in popular language, it was the ghost of the vampire that haunted its victim.
“ There are two ways,” Dr. Mayo remarks, “ of dealing with this knot; one is to cut it, the other to untie it.”
It may be cut, by denying the supposed connexion between the vampire-visit and the supervention of death-trance in the second party. Nor is the explanation thus obtained devoid of plausibility. There is no reason why death-trance should not in certain seasons and places be epidemic. Then the persons most liable to it would be those of weak and irritable nervous systems. Again, a first effect of the epidemic might be, further, to shake the nerves of weaker subjects. These are exactly the persons who are likely to be infected with imaginary terrors, and to dream, or even to fancy, they have seen Mr. or Mrs. Such a one, the last victims of the epidemic. The dream or impression upon the senses might again recur, and the sickening patient have already talked of it to his neighbours, before he himself was seized with death-trance. On this supposition the vampire-visit would sink into the subordinate rank of a mere premonitory symptom.
To myself, I must confess, this explanation, the best I am yet in a position to offer, appears barren and jejune; and not at all to do justice to the force and frequency, or, as tradition represents the matter, the universality of the vampire visit as a precursor of the victim's fate. Imagine how strong must have been the conviction of the reality of the apparition, how common a feature it must have been, to have led to the laying down of the unnatural and repulsive process customarily followed at the vampire's grave, as the regular and proper and only preventive of ulterior consequences.
I am disposed, therefore, rather to try and untie this knot, and with that object to wait. In the mean time I would beg leave to consider this second half of the problem a compound phenomenon, the solutions of the two parts of which may not emerge simultaneously. The vampire-visit is one thing; its presumed contagious effect, another.
BY CHARLES HERVEY, ESQ.
To deck thy raven hair,
I'd see it blooming there.
To my fond heart 'twill be
of thee !
Its wither'd petals fall,
Its beauty to recall,
Unchang'd that flow'r will be,
THE CANNING RIVER AND ITS SETTLERS, WESTERN
By J. W. F. BLUNDELL, Esq.
ABOUT eight miles from Perth, over level clay plains for half the distance, may be seen, on the opposite bank of the river, the lowly homestead of one of the earliest and most enduring pioneers of Western Australia. It is an abode which no colonist can pass without a sigh of regret for those unmeasured, and at the same time unmerited hardships, which beset the early days of a settlement planted with seeming care and much hope, and then abandoned to the cold bosom of untaught and unsympathising nature. For to this part of its unfailing history may be attributed the long-cherished notions of the unfitness of this colony for colonisation purposes ; while the ruin which attached to local circumstances alone was made the substance of a confirmed stigma, which remains even to the present hour.
The seventeen years of trial and sorrow that lingered their appointed duration around this homestead and its possessors, are varied and useful in their annals; telling a tale of troubles which, in these days of system and artificial appliance, are not likely to occur again—at least, to such an extent; and teaching a practical lesson to the emigrant, of capability for the labours of a new country, and perseverance amid educational and physical incapacity.
First amongst the throng of retired military and naval men who sought to occupy the lands upon either bank of this river, from the important fact of its being within an easy distance of the capital, was the inhabitant of the dwelling of which we have spoken. At the period of his arrival he was in the prime of life—full, as the emigrants of those days invariably were, of extravagant hopes and expectations—and both ready and anxious to commence upon plans of their own concocting, and determined to elaborate future sources of wealth and comfort upon certain preconceived ideas of a country, of which little was then known, and far less understood. The situation was chosen for its vicinity to markets for any produce that might be raised; and this having been accomplished, supplies of food, clothing, and stock, were purchased at existing exorbitant rates, such as were at that time sufficient to swamp the means and energies of men far more capable in all respects than those who had commenced inauspiciously upon a new and dubious sort of career. The result might be easily foreseen. Neither liking, nor indeed expecting, to have thus early to take plough in hand—for the land was so little encumbered with trees as to be ready for that operation-our friend, partially disgusted at the necessary high rate of labour, and the drudgery apparent in the simple and plain course of farming life, seemed to linger on in expectation of some spontaneous uprising of crops, or speedy abatement of those unthought-of impediments which then began to stare him in the face. Sports and diversions, too, were somewhat rife in this wellsettled locality; society there was of the best, for it might, in colonial parlance, be termed an aristocratical quarter of the colony. In vain was his Excellency the Governor seen applauding individuals who, spade in
hand, were assiduously turning up the virgin soil of the country, or, emulous of their fate, wheeling wheelbarrows full of bricks, or sawing and splitting timber for the erection of temporary dwellings. All this was in a measure thrown away. The utility of such earnest and zealous application was little acknowledged; our settlers were apparently waiting for that large influx of population and labour which should render their position similar to that of an old country, where, according to the theory of acres, they would be required alone to superintend and share the produce of a numerous tenantry, such as many of their forefathers, they were told in infancy, proudly acknowledged and possessed.
It is, therefore, neither a slur cast upon these desirable, and one could have wished successful settlers, nor is it a blot upon the past or future capability of the colony, to say that the waking from this dream was a disastrous acknowledgment of an untried and unexpected state of existence : on the contrary, it was a happy hour to themselves and the settlement they had assisted in founding, when they did awake—when they did open their eyes to the merits of the case, and sought zealously for the causes of their discomfiture. It was, however, the misfortune of this settlement, and one from which it has barely recovered—because the public mind is prone to judge hastily, and to receive the most superficial impressions as corroborative evidences-it was the misfortune of this condemned portion of her Majesty's dominions, to have the partial failure of these early settlers exhibited in anything but a fair light; and to receive in addition to these casualties a virtual withdrawal of the sympathy and assistance of the British Government, at a time when more than at any other it was needed. So that, from being the gayest and the most promising, the Canning River began to be deserted, many seeking the penal settlements of Van Dieman's Land or New South Wales ; and the fair lands
upon which they had commenced the rudiments of location were restored to their primitive bearing: and one sees even now in the district but the landmarks of a struggle, too faint to have afforded either proof or disproof of its qualities of soil, or susceptibility of rewarding those whose natural and inevitable exertions could alone accomplish the work of forming estates in the wilderness.
Yet, little as we like the task, from a conviction that, although true, it is ever of little or no avail, it would be preeminently unfair to pass over the share the home government undoubtedly had in those disasters, which have all along served to maintain the disparaging position which this colony held in the estimation of the emigrating portion of the British public. Perhaps nothing could more clearly exemplify that of which we intend to speak, than the unjustifiable use which has been made, even under authority, and with the keensightedness of puffy colonisation-promoters, of its early trials and misfortunes. At the foundation of a now rapidly rising and neighbouring settlement—which, by-the-bye, with assistance, surmounted difficulties as great, if not greater, than those which hampered the untoward career of the one under notice— Western Australia, or Swan River as it is depreciatingly styled, was brought forward as a proof of the sad consequences of a system of colonising said to be false ; and upon the mistakes of which, as was affirmed, much experience and many practical truths might be found to hinge: while, granting the correctness of their data, little did these people think or dream of the obligation which impinged the argument itself, either to restore a healthy action to