Tag Archive: Dogs


He was the runt of the litter.   His mother was a beauty queen with many prizes to her credit.

She had not been an enthusiastic participant in her mating with a much older dog at a distant kennel.  Her resentment had grown during her pregnancy and her owners had watched her very carefully during the whelping.  It was feared that she might decide to devour her puppies.

The thought might have crossed her mind, but she chose to just glare balefully at any human who came into sight.  Humans had betrayed her.  She, a prizewinning pedigree Pekinese bitch, who could trace her ancestors back to intimate companions to emperors, some of whom had even been suckled by the aristocratic ladies of the Court, had been humiliated.

She had been taken away from her territory, dumped unceremoniously into a strange room, and before she had had time to adjust to her new surroundings, That Dog had invaded her space.  And her person.  She had tried to refuse, both haughtily and very firmly, but it was his territory, so she had had to submit.  She could have fought him, but she was too frightened.  And bewildered.  Why had her humans done this to her?

The smell of him had lingered, even after her next shampoo.  It came back in waves.  Even now, after the birth of her puppies, she could still smell him.  Then there was The Runt.

He was much smaller than the others and she just knew that there was something wrong with him.  It wasn’t his size, nor the fact that his nose jutted out slightly – a hideous fault, which certainly didn’t come from her side.  (There was obviously bad blood in That Dog.)  It was something more subtle.  She couldn’t quite put her paw on it, but she knew that he shouldn’t be encouraged to live.

She tried to prevent him suckling.  Somehow, he managed to sneak to a teat while, exhausted, she was taking a well-earned nap.

After the puppies’ eyes had opened, humans started to visit the new mother.  They ooh-ed and ah-ed over the puppies – and ignored her completely.

Before her maternity, she had been the kennel’s star attraction.  Torn between indignation at being ignored and maternal pride, she decided that it was time to examine The Runt’s case more closely.

Apart from The Nose, everything about him was perfect show material.  His legs were beautifully bowed, his eyes bulged as they should, his socks were just the right height, his rusty markings were beautiful, his tail curled as it ought.  He was small of course, but the unavoidable defect was indubitably those few millimetres of Nose.  The perfect Pekinese nose is flat against the face, and this one wasn’t.

However, it wasn’t his physical appearance that repelled her.  It was something else.  A feeling.  He had to go.

She tried suffocation.  Pekinese jaws open to a surprising (and often very frightening) size.  She wrapped them around the runt’s neck and held her mouth shut.  She didn’t try to bite.  She just waited.  A kennel maid saw her and, with much shrieking, alerted the owners.  The Runt was removed from her jaws and she was accused of trying to bite off his head.  Which was quite untrue.  The time for eating him would have been at his birth.  It was much too late now.

She made a second attempt at suffocation a few days later, but was again thwarted.  After that, she was constantly watched, so she gave up trying to rid the world of her defective offspring.

***

My parents visited the kennel and were introduced to the now weaned Runt.  He had a very aristocratic pedigree name, but Daddy christened him Cheng with an acute accent on the “e”.  I don’t know why.  Was he trying to make the name sound French?  If so, why?  I don’t even know why he chose a Pekinese.  The only possible reason which comes to mind is that our next-door neighbours had a Pekinese.  An affable gentleman whose bulging eyes became completely blind and were further damaged by the poor old thing constantly running into things while roaring around the yard.  He was eventually helped to a merciful end.  However, when Cheng arrived home, our canine neighbour could still see and was very interested in the puppy next-door.

***

Cheng had been in our home for a few days and was poking his head into every cupboard he could reach, as soon as it was opened.  Mummy was kneeling in front of the open saucepan cupboard and Cheng’s head was inside.  Mummy sneezed.  The sound echoed through the cupboard and Cheng screeched, shot across the room, and cowered up against the wall, near the back door.  He was in the corner sitting on his backside with his front paws pawing the air.  Later, Mummy taught him to “clap hands” while in this position – a variation on this first pawing of the air.   However, he avoided going near the open saucepan cupboard again.

***

Cheng once appeared in a play.  I don’t remember the name of it, but the lady who carried him onstage (he was playing her lap-dog) was Miss Lorna Taylor.  I called her Auntie Lorna because, in our family, children did not address adults by their first names.  It was disrespectful.  Close family friends were given the honorary title of “aunt” or “uncle”.  Everyone else was Mr, Mrs or Miss.  We didn’t know any Lords, Ladies or knights at the time.

Cheng was usually taken home after his last scene in the play.  However, on the last night, he was allowed to take his curtain call with the rest of the cast.  Auntie Lorna carried him onstage and the audience applauded – and so did Cheng.  He sat up in Auntie Lorna’s arms and “clapped hands” with all his might.  The audience went wild.  It was his greatest moment.  He quite stole the curtain call from the other actors.

***

Cheng was my first dog and I loved him.  After a few years, he started biting anyone who entered his yard, including me.  He would come roaring down from the other end and fasten his teeth onto my calf.  I would drag him along with me as I walked.  Mummy was worried about it but, after he bit my face, his days with us were numbered.

For some time, he had been refusing to allow anyone to groom him and his long fur was matted.  We had bite marks on our hands from our attempts to even cut out some of the knots.

One day, I came home from school to find my mother in tears.  She had called the R.S.P.C.A. to take him away.  I thought that I would never forgive her.

She told me that, when the people had come for him, he had sat up and “clapped hands” for them.  The lady had said to Mummy, “How can you bear to part with him?”  Mummy had explained about the biting and refusal of grooming and recommended that they find a home for him without children.

***

It has been suggested that he might have suffered brain damage when his mother was trying to destroy him.  I now think that he could have been missing performing and was depressive.

***

I don’t know where he went.  I never saw him again.

I remember there being a photo of him onstage during his curtain call.  The photo was taken from the wings.  However, I haven’t been able to find it, and I don’t remember any other photos of him.

***

Heather, aged 15, with her 13 year old sister.

Auntie Heather was born on 6 October 1918.  Her mother and father, my grandparents, had been courting for six years when they finally married on 5 January 1918.  This was because Pa (short for Papa, later for Grandpa) refused to marry while the other men were away at war.

Grandma had very nearly stood him up on their first “appointment” as she called their dates.  She had confided to a work colleague that she wasn’t really attracted to him and thought that she wouldn’t go.  Her colleague had encouraged her to meet him, saying “You never know, you might like him.”  Much later, she had confessed this hesitation to her husband, who had replied, “I knew where you lived!”

During the First World War, Australia’s soldiers were all volunteers.  Pa had volunteered but, although he passed muster on height and chest measurement, his request had been refused.  He wouldn’t say why.  Later, when the War dragged on and thousands of men were being killed or wounded, height and chest measurements were lowered and Pa thought that he might be accepted this time.  He was refused for the second time.  Grandma used to say that men who had volunteered and been refused should have been given some sort of badge to wear so that they didn’t receive dirty looks from passers-by in the street.  Pa played sport and looked like a strapping young man who just didn’t want to go to war.  After his death, Grandma found his application papers with CARDIAC written across them in red.

Heather at the beach.

So Grandma, who, at the age of sixteen had refused her first offer of marriage, finally had to wait until she was twenty-nine before being able to tie the knot.  Pa was thirty-five.

Their first child was born nine months and one day after the wedding, at home with the assistance of a midwife.  Grandma’s pregnancy had been a bit rough and so had the birth, but mother and daughter were doing well, even if both were very tired after the ordeal.  Grandma managed to say to the midwife, “I just saved my good name!”  To which the midwife snapped, “You would have saved your good name if she had been born three weeks ago!”

While Grandma was still weak, one of her husband’s aunts paid her a visit and enquired about the baby’s name.  Grandma replied that she was to be christened “Brenda”.  The aunt exclaimed, “Brenda!  Brenda!  Brindle!  Brindle cow!  If you call her Brenda, I’ll call her ‘Cowie'”  So Grandma, in her weakened state, agreed to change the name, and my aunt was named Heather Catherine.  Relatives sent white heather to her from Scotland the Brave.

Heather with her future husband.

When Grandma had recovered sufficiently to go for a walk with her baby in the perambulator (later shortened to “pram”) “an old biddy up the street” (Grandma’s words)  admired the little one, then proceeded to say insinuatingly, “My daughter had her baby one year after her wedding!”  Grandma rose to her full height of five feet two inches and replied icily, “Well, my daughter was born nine months and one day after my wedding!”  Put that in your pipe and smoke it!

The little girl had her mother’s blonde hair and blue eyes but her features were those of her father.  Later, a dark-haired hazel-green eyed sister came along and Pa, who would have loved to have fathered a son, refused to allow Grandma to risk her life a third time to try to have a boy.

Heather with her father and mother on her wedding day.

The girls grew up in a two-bedroom brick house, with a dog and an enormous aviary in the backyard.  The birds were Pa’s but the dog was everyone’s.  She was a black Pomeranian who loved to taunt the biggest dogs she could find on her walks, then, when chased by them, leap into Grandma’s arms and let her deal with them.  Grandma was not amused by this.  She wasn’t afraid of dogs, but an angry German Shepherd, still being insulted by the black curly bundle in her arms, was not a reassuring encounter.

The girls shared a bedroom and this arrangement displayed its limitations when the younger of the two went into a depression (known as a nervous breakdown then) and piled all the blame for her state on her sister Heather, who was twenty years old at the time.  Not only did young Heather have to assume the burden of her mentally ill sister at this time, the antagonism lasted for the rest of their lives.  Her sister continued to systematically blame her for everything that had gone wrong with her life and eventually stopped talking to her.  At the same time she did everything that she could to try to turn the rest of the family against her.  Fortunately, not always successfully.  Auntie Heather maintained a dignified silence through it all.

The family (left to right) Heather’s sister (my mother), me at 14, Grandma, Heather’s husband, her daughter at 10, and Heather.

Despite these problems, which hadn’t yet reached complete maturity when I was born, Auntie Heather became one of my godmothers.  She was consulted, including by her sister, my mother, for questions concerning the correct way to dress for a particular event.  The sisters even collaborated as a medical first-aid team during the Second World War.  Auntie Heather always knew what the text-book said to do and my mother always knew how to do it.  Things didn’t go as well when they tried to reverse the roles.  The whole family was on first-aid alert duty on the night that the Japanese attacked Sydney Harbour.  The siren was at the end of the street, a few houses away.  On the bus, on their way to work the next morning, the girls thought that people were joking when they heard them talking about the attack and the siren going off.  They had slept through the whole thing and could have been fined for it.

Same people, different places. We’re all a bit older.

Auntie Heather was the matriarch of the family.  She outlived her parents, her younger sister, her husband (a high-ranking Free Mason) and her only child, my cousin.  She died last Friday, 29 June, and will be cremated tomorrow, 4 July 2012, in Sydney.

She is survived by her four grandchildren and her son-in-law, but I am the only one left who knew her when she was a young woman.  Which is why I have written this.  All of the people in these photos, except for me, are now deceased.

The Devil’s Footprints

The strange beings who people our folklore could perhaps be inspired by real events, like the one that occurred in Devonshire in 1855.

It is 7 February 1855.  The whole of England’s South-West has been swept since morning by an appalling tempest.  Wind of unheard-of violence is uprooting trees, taking off roofs, blowing down belfries and ripping out gravestones in the cemeteries, leaving tombs open and coffins scattered.

Barricaded inside their houses, the inhabitants of Devonshire are terrified.  Some would later say:

“It was an infernal night, the wind was screaming like a thousand witches…”

Suddenly, around five o’clock in the morning, the wind calms, the noise stops and snow begins to fall heavily.

This silence, after the torment, worries all who have not slept a wink that night.  One of them would say,

“We had the impression that there was some sort of threat hovering…  With my wife who was trembling with fear huddled against me, we were afraid of something supernatural.  Everything was really strange that night.”

It is in Blayford that it all unfolds.

Around six o’clock, a high-pitched, terrifying howl suddenly erupts near the village.  A dog’s howl which is heard for about a kilometre all around.  The good people huddle under their eiderdowns.  Then, once again, there is silence.

Around eight o’clock, Dawn breaks and the inhabitants of Blayford fearfully open their shutters.  Snow is no longer falling, but the countryside is all white.  Many times, the villagers of the little English town have seen this spectacle upon rising and they have always found something marvellous about it.  Today, inexplicably, they feel anguish.  A woman, unable to clearly explain her unease, would say:

“Bad luck seemed to be floating over us…”

Despite this, that same morning, a farm hand goes to have a look around to see the damage caused by the tempest.  He then notices some strange footprints.  Footprints of a kind that he has never seen and which correspond to no known animal in the region.  They look like a little horse-hoof and pierce the snow with mathematical regularity.  The farm hand, very intrigued, follows them across the fields and soon arrives beside the tattered remains of the dog who had howled so atrociously in the early hours of the morning.

He bends over it and notices, stunned,

“that the poor animal had died from wounds which could not have been made by either a man or a beast”…

He runs back to alert the village, saying:

“Come and see!  There are some strange footprints.”

The inhabitants of Blayford rush out and see that the farm hand has not lied.

Further, at that same moment, throughout the whole of Devonshire, peasants are discovering the same footprints in the fresh snow.

They extend over more than 160 kilometres.

The journalists of the County of course write about the phenomenon, remarking that the footprints, which are like dots on rigorously straight lines, each measures ten centimetres in length by seven centimetres in width, and that they are very regularly twenty-five centimetres apart…  One journalist writes:

“These footprints don’t stop anywhere.  Whatever it was, the unknown creature walked on hooves in short, leaping steps, in an inexplicable fashion without stopping nor resting, and it covered here more than thirty kilometres during the tragic night of 7 February, crossing rivers, climbing the walls of several houses and walking on the roofs before finally arriving at the little village cemetery without daring to enter it…”

Zoologists soon come from London to examine these strange prints which remain visible in the frozen snow.  None of them manages to identify the animal who had travelled all over South-East England – always in a straight line.

The mysterious “Devil’s Footprints”, drawn by a witness and published in “The Illustrated London News” on 24 February 1855.

One of them writes a few days later in the Illustrated London News:

“This mysterious visitor generally only passed once down or across each garden or courtyard, and did so in nearly all the houses in many parts of the several towns above mentioned, as also in the farms scattered about;  this regular track passing in some instances over the roofs of houses, and hayricks, and very high walls (one fourteen feet [4.50 metres]), without displacing the snow on either side or altering the distance between the feet, and passing on as if the wall had not been any impediment.  The gardens with high fences or walls, and gates locked, were equally visited as those open and unprotected.”

Another notes that

“two inhabitants of one community followed a line of prints for three and a half hours, passing under rows of redcurrant bushes and fruit trees in espaliers;  losing the prints and finding them again on the roof of houses to which their search had led them”.

Farther on, he adds that these prints

“passed through a circular opening of about thirty centimetres in diameter and inside a drain of 15 cm;  finally, they crossed an estuary around 3,500 kilometres wide”…

A third writes:

“These footprints are strange, for the snow is completely removed, as if it has been cut by a diamond or marked by a red-hot iron…”

Naturally, many hypotheses are emitted by both journalists and scholars who study the case.  Some are extravagant.  Someone suggests that these strange marks could have been made

“by a balloon dragging its tethering ring at the end of a rope”.

But this explanation appears absurd.  How could a metal ring tear apart the Blayford dog;  and by what miracle could this ring, attached to a balloon blown by the wind, leave perfect prints, disposed in a straight line and regularly distanced at 25 centimetres?…

A journalist suggests that it could be marks left by a kangaroo who had escaped from a menagerie.  The zoologists reply that it is extremely rare that kangaroos leap on only one leg, and that they haven’t any hooves, anyway…

Other investigators try to explain the presence of these marks by an atmospheric phenomenon.  It is pertinently replied that no-one had ever yet seen an atmospheric phenomenon leave hoof-prints…

Finally, none of the hypotheses emitted having been retained, the newspapers publish the embarrassed words of zoologists, physicists and meteorologists.  One of them, Doctor Williamson, goes as far as writing this:

“These millions of prints constitute an absolute enigma.  Neither a man, nor an animal, nor a machine is capable of leaving such marks.  This phenomenon is inexplicable.  Consequently, the best thing, in my opinion, is to forget it.”

A surprising declaration, coming from a scholar.

But the Devonshire peasants do not forget, and they give a name to these mysterious marks:  they call them The Devil’s Footprints…  A name that is not very scientific of course, but which still remains.  And it is by this name that Historians continue to designate them today…

***

Guy Breton, whose work I have translated, consulted the English Press of the epoch and was able to note that, for two months, February and March 1855, all of the English newspapers published articles, investigations, interviews and sketches on what was called at the time the “mysterious Devonshire holes”.  He adds that a number of authors have studied this case.  Charles Fort, who called himself an “amateur of the unusual and scribe of miracles”, consecrated a chapter of his Book of the Damned to them, as did Jacques Bergier and the Info group in Le Livre de l’Inexplicable

***

They give no explanation and only emit hypotheses.  Some speak of sea birds, hailstones, field-mice.  But there is no bird, nor field-mouse whose feet end in hooves.  As for hailstones, has anyone ever seen any fall in a straight line, twenty-five centimetres apart?…  A modern author had another idea:  he suggested that these marks could have been left by an extra-terrestrial who landed from a space-ship…  Guy Breton says that he is not hostile a priori to this kind of explanation, but that this person would have had a strange way of walking.  On top of which, he must have been very small to have been able to pass through openings of a diameter of thirty centimetres…

***

So, we come back to Charles Fort’s explanation.  He said with humour:

“These prints could only have been made by a thousand one-legged kangaroos wearing a very small horseshoe…”

In other words, we don’t know.

***

There have been some absolutely identical marks left in Scotland in 1839, in the Kerguelen Islands in 1840, in the United States in 1908, in Belgium in 1945 and in Brazil in 1954…  So, you see, the Devil walks around his estates.  After all, he is called the Prince of this World…

***

Esquisse de deux amis

George Weaver from She Kept a Parrot, a WordPress blog that can be found in my Blogroll, wants me to translate a poem, Esquisse de deux amis, which won a prize in France.  It does not translate well into English.

Another poem of mine, which was originally attempted in English and abandoned because it sounded “mushy” to me, was re-written in French and came out very well because French suited it better.  The poem was called Clair de lune and went on to be highly-rated in a poetry competition at the prestigious Salon Orange in Champagne, so the language chosen for a particular subject, or a particular style, is often very important.

As the following poem sounds very jerky in English, when it should be flowing, with quiet pauses, I was reluctant to display it online.  However, as George was insistent, I decided to scan the original French version which appeared in the Municipal Bulletin with a quote about it from a local newspaper, and include it with the translation.  All complaints should be addressed to George.

The reason that the poem was written concerns another insistent person, Pascal, who harassed me until I wrote something about him and his dog Junior.  The original version was longer and included their names.  It also had a different mood about it.  However, as the entries in the competition had to be limited to twenty lines, the mood changed when I deleted the lines down to twenty.  Pascal and Junior visited me every day while I was working as Guide to a mediaeval castle in 2002.  He sent the long version of the poem to his father, so I felt obliged to give him the shorter, calligraphed, framed version that I had done for an Art show, when I left France to come back to Australia.

Pouance Infos Numero 76 Juin 2003

 

Esquisse de deux amis

(translation)

They resemble each other a lot.

They both have long, lean bodies.

The short one loves food, the tall one is more a gourmet.

How do they manage to stay slim?

 

Neither one nor the other smokes cigarettes or drinks alcohol.

Both have sparkling eyes and narrow, pointed faces.

They like other people a lot and mutually adore each other.

 

They take their meals together, watch television together.

They sleep together and both of them snore.

They separate only for work.

The tall one leaves to earn their living.

The short one stays in bed.

 

It’s because they belong to two different races.

The tall one has two legs, the short one has four.

They have been living together for more than ten years.

 

The master, a bit hunched over, takes long paces, with an absent air.

The dog stops, reads a message left by another canine, leaves a reply in return.

The master waits patiently for him to finish.

They set off again, turn the corner and are out of sight.

A man and his dog – my friends.

 

As proof that this poem really did win something (a painting by Dominique Guedon to be precise) the following is the complete article about the prize-winning poems.  I was not there, having received my letter on the day that the article appeared, so I am not in either of the photos.

Having just re-read the article, I am reminded that another of my poems, in another category, came second ex-aequo.  I’d completely forgotten about that one.

Don’t forget:  all complaints and criticisms are to be addressed to George Weaver.  This post is all her fault.

Courrier de l'Ouest du lundi 24 mars 2003.

Frederic Mistral’s dog – part 3

Frederic Mistral and his dog Pan Perdu.

A few decades ago, the Soviet researcher Vassiliev was able to determine that a radio-biological connection animated all of the vital communications in a same species of animal.

Mistral was of course not a dog.  But he was doubtless a good telepath…

Louis Pauwels thinks that Pan Perdu found the tomb that he had never visited, by telepathy.  It could have been enough for Mistral, his wife, or the maid to have projected inside his or her brain an eidetic image of the cemetery, for the dog to have been able to orientate himself, after having captured it telepathically…  (An eidetic image is a very clear image of any sort of object which, in certain subjects, comports details that they do not notice during a direct perception of it.)

***

The goddess Hecate was the messenger of demons and ghosts. It was said that she was followed by a howling pack. Dogs, being animals who could see spirits, were sacrificed to her. Which is why she also bears the name Cynosphages.

An Italian researcher, Ernest Bozzano, uncovered nearly a century ago already, the extraordinary premonitions and transformations of which all animals were capable.  In his book, Les Manifestations metapsychiques chez les animaux, he analyzed 130 cases of haunting, visions of ghosts and apparitions, where diverse animals played a determining role.  All of these cases appear authentic and speak about absolutely astonishing premonitions of death:  dogs starting to howl death, for example, when their master, who will only die several days later, is still in excellent health.  In 17 cases, non-human animals also perceive ghosts that men do not see, and which cause them intense fear.  It is usually discovered that they are hauntings which have already occurred in the past, and have been seen by other people…

Bozzano, who believes in an After-Life and who is a bit of a spiritist, concludes with the possibility of the survival of the animal psyche and its capacity to project itself like the human psyche into other bodies.  This is the whole idea of Amerindian totemism, which permits a Cherokee who has to travel on foot in Winter to identify himself so well with the wolf (thanks to chants and magical operations) that his limbs really become insensitive to the cold…

In all parts of the world and at all periods, men have believed that they could temporarily or permanently metamorphose themselves like this into another entity or an animal form.  Paracelsius, the father of hermetic medicine and chemical therapy, absolutely believed it, just like the Romans who admitted the possibility for the soul to exist temporarily separated from the body.  They called it the “genius”, a word which comes from the word “animal” and which has also given that of “guide”…  What is so astonishing then that the creator of the Felibrige believed that his dog had exceptional gifts of clairvoyance?

***

As for the birth of the three puppies…  This epilogue could also have an explanation…  almost natural or at least sensible.  In Mistral’s time, people believed a lot in the “astral body”, those doubles that, according to spiritist doctrine, certain humans are able to project outside themselves so that they can be reincarnated elsewhere.  The Yogi also seeks to release the ties which attach the spirit to the body, to disconnect himself from the Karma, that sum of the acts of a life, which is going to weigh heavily on the lives to come of a person, and predestine them.  Liberated, the soul is able to go to live in any organism whether living or dead, says Brahmanic doctrine.

For the Egyptians, cats were magical animals. They embalmed them.

The year that Mistral dies, in 1914, Professor Richet, who won the Nobel Prize for Medicine, experimentally observes the materialization of human forms and faces produced by mediums from portraits of deceased persons that are presented to them.  These forms come out of their mouths in long, whiteish filaments or imprint themselves in tubs of wax placed near them…  Richet asks himself whether living matter could not be modelled by thought and he baptises this operation “ideoplasty”.

***

This is just an hypothesis on the appearance of the puppies, and it is true that there are simpler and more agreeable ways for a dog to become a father.  However, in the word “Panet” there is “pain” [bread].  This could have some bearing on the case.  It makes Louis Pauwels think of the multiplication of the loaves of bread which, like other miracles, will doubtless be explained in the near future otherwise than by divine intervention…

For example, by the gifts of certain exceptional beings, who manage to provoke those anomalies of matter that scholars see every day in their laboratories and which cause them to question fundamentally that which only yesterday were eternal laws of established Physics…

***

Louis Pauwels says that, in the domain of paranormal powers, that which Jesus did, an Amerindian dog can do.  Which does not at all detract from Jesus-Christ…  like the great anthropologist James Frazer, he thinks that in the Universe, the sum of vital energy is constant, that from the mineral to the human, the chain of transformations can ceaselessly lengthen and that the forms that it engenders are linked to each other to infinity…

***

This story proves that for all living beings the modifiable part can remain immense…  We only have to want it…

***

Frederic Mistral’s dog – part 2

Frederic Mistral and his dog Pan Perdu.

The journalist who interviewed Frederic Mistral was Jules Bois, who was famous at the beginning of the XXth Century.  He was passionate about occultism and fantastic stories.  He interviewed the greatest personalities of the epoch – Alphonse Daudet, Anatole France, Huysmans, Verlaine, Camille Flammarion – on the subject of the After-Life…

***

Spirits have always been reincarnated in all sorts of creatures, dogs and other animals notably, who even form the biggest part of the troup which desolates cursed crossroads, castles and haunted houses…

***

Frederic Mistral, aged 81.

We see that the poet lends a spirit to this creature who surges from we don’t really know where…  This is both a very ancient idea and a very modern one.  Ancient, because all of the archaic peoples believed that the soul of Man and the souls of other animals are closely linked.  New, because the most advanced Physics teach us that all things issue from one, unique substance, whether we call it soul, spirit or energy.  That a man is able to change into another animal, while still retaining certain characteristics of his preceding condition, is also a belief that is as old as the world.  The Zoroastrians believed it, just like Plato and Pythagorus, and christianism admitted it until the VIth Century.  In Mistral’s time, under the influence of spiritism, metempsychosis was mentioned, that is to say, the passage of the soul after death into innumerable bodies, going from the vegetal to the animal, then to Man, but also going back the other way.

***

For the adepts of metempsychosis, this was however a regression of the spirit to a form of animal that was less evolved.  From the earthworm and the tarantula to the elephant, the new form varies following the gravity of the faults committed during life…

***

Could Mistral’s dog really have come from America with Colonel Cody?  We only know that for the famous Exhibition in 1889, which marked the completion of the Eiffel Tower and assembled 33 million visitors, Buffalo Bill had brought to France several Navajos…

For this mysterious tribe, the dog is the privileged animal of the transmigration of the soul, and even more than the dog, his wild brother, the coyote, which gives tamer cross-breds to the Navajos.

***

Mistral had a horse which he thought possessed strange gifts. When the animal died, the poet had it naturalized and placed inside his home.

Mistral insists that his dog Pan Perdu’s gaze was not that of a dog resembling a human, but really a man’s gaze…  Unknowingly perhaps, the creator of the Felibrige returns to the myth of lycanthropy, the illness which convinces those who are affected by it that they have been transformed into another animal.  Except for the eyes, which remain precisely those “windows of the soul” of which the poet speaks, and betray the metamorphosed person.  Suscitating discomfort, terror or, on the contrary, tenderness, as is thought, on the subject of captive beasts, by Emerson, the great American visionary philosopher of the XVIIIth Century:

“They send a sort of appeal to sympathy and fraternity, a gaze in which Ovid discovered the evidence for his Metamorphoses…”

***

So, is this dog a coyote or a wolfman?  Perhaps it was the dog of an Amerindian, who had received superior initiation from a Navajo shaman.  Mistral says that no-one had ever seen such a beast in the Saint-Remy region.  In any case, Louis Pauwels finds it troubling that the Navajos, inspired masters of natural magic, believe that the coyote is the reincarnation of a man condemned to roam forever throughout the world…

***

Certain animals, other than Man, have paranormal gifts.  At Mistral’s epoch, not very much was yet known about these other animals’ psychology, or for that matter about other animals in general who, in the world of scholars, were only allowed to exist through their fossils, or to establish zoological engravings.  The Anglo-Saxons are the first to begin to take an interest in other animals’ intelligence.  Starting with the idea that, from other animals to Man, there is a continual evolution, and not the rupture introduced by christianism.  In their researches they relied on intuitions such as those of the American Charles Leyland who, after having also studied Amerindian traditions, had arrived at the certainty that, at the Dawn of all life, the other animals were similar to Men and vice-versa.

The study of other animals’ comportments, through parapsychology, later showed that they are just as good telepaths as Men, and that they have telekinetic gifts, the faculty which permits the displacement of objects from a distance, without the intervention of the muscles.  And finally, that they were very superior to us in precognition…

Firstly studying the gifts already known in other animals, Rhine determines that a dog is capable of finding, ten days later, the owner of a stick that he had sniffed for ten seconds…  Or the brother of a twin, guiding itself, not by smell, but by certain physiological characteristics common to identical twins.  He also proves that the dog is capable of following an animal several days after it has passed by, and of having global knowledge of its environment (is it a friend, a foe, is it wounded, is it hungry or afraid) simply by sniffing its glandular secretions…

Rhine delved deeply into the case of the cat Sugar who, travelling for 2,500 kilometres in the boot of a car and not being able, therefore, to “mark” his itinerary, got lost, but nonetheless managed to return home after a voyage of several months.  In 1958, the founder of Duke University could re-edit too the exploits of the Elberfeld horses, studied notably by Maeterlinck, horses which were able to perform very complicated arithmetical calculations, designating the numbers with their hooves or their mouths.  No trickery was possible, for these animals gave their answers just as well in the dark, at a distance, or through a wall.  After having studied the case of Rolf, a fox-terrier who gave the answers to their arithmetical homework to two little girls, Rhine demonstrated that it had nothing to do with trickery or training, but was a telepathic gift.  More recently, the Frenchman Remy Chauvin was able to prove that certain dogs are perfectly able to distinguish between a neutral metal wire and a wire through which an electrical current is being passed.  Without touching it of course, by perceiving the slightest change in the ionisation of the air near the conducting wire…

***

To be continued.

Frederic Mistral’s dog

Frederic Mistral and his dog, Pan Perdu, who belonged to a race unknown in France.

At the beginning of the XXth Century, Frederic Mistral is both a hero and a legend.  Because he had interested the whole world in Oc speech which was dying out, and had drawn attention to the charms of the Rhone’s fairies and sorcerers…  But although he plunged his contemporaries into a dream world, the “Wise Man of the West” was not a dreamer…  He was more of a sturdy general who mobilised all the defenders of Occitan culture to create the last, but also the most ingenious, romantic illusion of the century.  He knew all the local cultures of Europe and elsewhere.  He was passionate about occultism too, as well as esoteric religions, and he even believed in reincarnation.  Perhaps he had read the theosophs or rubbed shoulders with the spiritists, who, followers of Allan Kardec, were legion at the time.  But the winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature answers those who question him, like a journalist of this epoch, that his faith in the transmigration of the soul and its faculty to live again in another, very different body, comes quite simply from a dog.  A very singular dog it is true.  A dog like none that had ever before been seen between Aix and the Saintes-Maries, and whose story he tells…

“Dear friend, you are interested in magical stories…  You think that there are unknown forces and that we are surrounded by Spirit.  Well, I’ll tell you a secret:  I believe it too!  And if I believe it, it is because of a dog!

“He was a dog of a race that no-one had ever seen around here.  I met him one evening.  He ran straight up to me.  He looked at me, and he never left me.  So, I took him back home, since he had chosen me for his master.  And I called him Pan Perdu.  Pan Perdu is the name of a troubadour dwarf in our legends of the South of France.

“His gaze was extraordinarily piercing when he looked fixedly at me.  A gaze which made me uncomfortable, and made me think:  but it’s not possible, it’s a human gaze!…

“No-one had ever seen this dog anywhere, absolutely no-one, before I met him.  Right!…  So he is installed in our house.  It’s Autumn.  On the Day of the Dead [All Saints Day – Ist November], my wife and her maid go to take a crown [wreath] to my family’s tomb.  As you know, our cemetery is walled and locked by a grille.  Pan Perdu was trotting behind my wife.  He had never entered the cemetery…

“My wife opened the grille, and Pan Perdu passes in front of her and disappears into the trees.  And guess where my wife and the maid found him?  Lying on the tomb of my ancestors!  He was waiting for them.  How did this strange dog recognize my family’s tomb among the hundreds that were there?…

“My wife, with her maid as witness, told me about it when they came back.  She was very shaken, you know, and still pale…  Well, starting from there, I became convinced that the dog Pan Perdu was the spirit of a dead friend, or of one of my ancestors, specially come to me to protect me.  Do you find that stupid?”

The journalist replies:

Mistral's house at Maillane in the Bouches-du-Rhone where he adopted the dog.

“No.  But it’s perhaps just a question of flair.  Your dog smelled traces of your presence around this tomb…”

“Certainly not!  Neither my wife, nor myself, nor anyone among us had come to the cemetery for a year…”

“But did you finally find out where the dog came from?”

“Listen, I think that this dog came on purpose from America to find his true master, that is to say me, because the spirit of one of my ancestors reincarnated in him, and that he looked for me throughout the Earth!…”

“Your dog came from America?  He swam and walked?”

“No!  He came by boat and rail…”

“Please explain!”

“Well, you know that in 1889, for the Exhibition, Buffalo Bill came to Paris, with his horses, his troupe of Redskins, and a pack of little Indian dogs.  After the Exhibition, Buffalo Bill went to Marseille, where he gave some performances.  Then, my dog, I say “my” dog, the one who was meant for me and who was looking for me throughout the world, escaped from a wagon at Tarascon or Arles, and came here…  As you know, and as the whole of France knows, I look a lot like Buffalo Bill.  I wear big hats like his and I have the same pointy beard.  When he saw me, he ran towards me, like he would have run to Buffalo Bill, but I was really the one that he was looking for.  And you know where he was waiting for me, that evening, when I was walking in the countryside?  Well, he was waiting right behind the house where I was born, and that I had left a long time ago.  He was waiting for me at the foot of the big black cypresses.  And it was there that I always played when I was little.

“And, my dear friend, I call that an exaggerated coincidence.  So exaggerated, that it resembles predestination, destiny, and a long voyage of a soul who was looking for me in the body of a little dog.  And I have other proofs…

“I had a neighbour, an old man called Eynaud.  Eynaud had been, in his youth, a labourer employed by my father, and I loved him a lot when I was a child.  As soon as Pan Perdu came to my place, he went to visit Eynaud, and he made great demonstrations of friendship to him.  And then, every day, he went to visit him.  And Eynaud was struck by Pan Perdu’s gaze, just like I was, and by something very loveable, mysterious and cabalistic, that he had in his eyes.  And when Eynaud was about to die, with his family around him, he lifted himself up on his bed, and said:  ‘Children, are you there?’  They were all expecting some last advice.  And he in fact gave them some.  He said to them:  ‘I ask you all to take care of Pan Perdu, the poet’s dog.  As long as he lives, give him fresh straw.’  And straight after that, he died…

“I conclude that very old men know great mysteries…  But I want to tell you Pan Perdu’s last story…

“He was growing old.  And, one day when he was lying at our feet, my wife was talking to him.  She was saying to him:  ‘Ah, my poor Pan Perdu, you are starting to get old!  It’s a pity that we don’t have any offspring from you!’

“Two days later, the maid comes running, crying out:  ‘Monsieur, Madame, come quickly to the kennel!’

“We ran, and what do you think we saw?  A bitch was suckling three puppies, while Pan Perdu looked on.  Yes, my dear friend, it happened just like that.  And, I assure you, Pan Perdu was smiling.

“I kept one of these puppies that looked like him.  I called him Pan Panet.  He’s the one on all our illustrated cards…  You know, those cards that are sold everywhere, on which one sees the poet Mistral and his dog…”

To be continued.

A certain number of executions for bestiality took place in the duchies of Lorraine, Bassigny and Barrois.  One day, at Hattonchatel, a man from Aviller was burnt at the stake with five animals.  The whole was reduced to ashes, which were thrown to the wind.  At Pont-a-Mousson, in 1490, another individual, from Bruyeres, was burnt with three cows.

Sometimes, as we have said, the animals were strangled before being placed on the pyre.  The Court ordered this for two mares, in 1705.  Without this precaution, there was a great chance of the pyre being disturbed by their desperate movements.

One thing, extremely difficult to believe, is that natural intercourse of both sexes with “infidels”, such as Turks and Jews, were put into the category of acts of bestiality, because religion considered them to be animals.  Not by their nature, but because of their beliefs.

At the beginning of the XXth Century, similar crimes were still being prosecuted in France, if they had been committed in a public place.  They then entered into the category of public indecency, cited in Article 330 of the Penal Code.  Judicial publications related a few isolated cases, from time to time.

The result of this study is that the Middle Ages did not have the monopoly on such spectacles.  We have seen that they were prolonged into the XVIIIth Century, up to and including the French Revolution, and even beyond.

A pig covered with fleurs-de-lis, decorated with a Knight of the Dagger cross and carrying the inscription Louis XVI, was found in an emigrated person’s castle and shot at La Bassee, district of Lille.

By judgement of 27 Brumaire Year II (17 November 1792), the revolutionary tribunal had condemned to death the invalid Saint-Prix, as well as his dog, trained by its master to bark in a certain way, when strangers arrived, and bite whomever he wanted.

The official minutes of the execution of the poor dog, dated 28 Brumaire (18 November) were transmitted to Fouquier-Tinville.  These minutes had been drawn up, in virtue of the judgement rendered by the revolutionary tribunal, which condemned Prix, known as Saint-Prix, to death.  The judgement also said that Saint-Prix’ dog was to be killed by a blow to the head.

The same thing happened, in 1845, before the Troyes criminal court.  An individual, having hunted with a greyhound, in violation of prefectoral decision, the court condemned him to a fine of fifty francs, and ordered that his dog be killed, whenever it would please the King’s Procurer.  Luckily for the animal, the Paris court of appeal, by decision of 22 January 1846, reformed the sentence, stating that destruction, authorised by the law of 3 May 1844, only concerned inanimated objects.

Until the beginning of the XXth Century, animals appeared before courts and were condemned just as severely as men.

“From Interlaken to the New York Herald:  We remember the murder followed by theft committed last December on the person of M. Marger.  The case has shown the preponderant role played by a dog in this sensational affair.  The Delemont court has just rendered its decision.  The two accused, Scherrer father and son, were given the maximum sentence of prison for life.  As for the dog, whose complicity had drawn the court’s attention, it was condemned to death.  L’Eclair, 4 May 1906.”

We could ask how a custom like the execution of murderous animals was able to persist for so long.  The Middle Ages considered animals as moral and perfectible beings.  It is therefore understandable that they were made responsable for their acts.  After having assimilated them to men in legends, poetry and artistic monuments, they placed them on the same level of jurisprudence.

However, we must not believe that these men assimilated themselves to animals.  The cases against beasts were made because a man had suffered damages.  Justice was uniquely preoccupied with the human creature.  Any violence committed against it must be punished, whoever the author was.  That seems to be the principle of the legislation of former times.

Perhaps our ancestors were wrong to too clearly separate material facts from moral guilt.  Although, it can be said in their defence that the law was still at its beginnings, and that all the formalities with which justice was surrounded, showed their respect for this justice and for the human person.

Others only want to see these executions as examples destined to impress the multitude.  They say that it is to make people abhor homicide that this crime was so severely punished, even when animals were the guilty ones.  Did the sight of the gibbet inspire horror of the crime?  It is doubtful.  Particularly when the victim was an animal.

Cases against animals were nothing more than a symbol destined to give a feeling of justice among a population which knew only the law of the most powerful, and of that law, only the law of intimidation and violence.  But what about the symbolism of the ecclesiastic courts with their maledictions and excommunications?

These cases helped the country people to console themselves for the loss of their harvests, by inspiring them with the hope that this bad thing would not occur again.  They also gave them an elevated idea of justice, which did not permit itself to punish even rats, without following all of the formalities prescribed by law.

All of these trials, rather bizarre in appearance, carried a good part of symbolism, and probably had no other object than to glorify universal justice by looking to impress the population by an unquestionable authority and judgement.

Respect, and perhaps also credulous superstition, made the people accept without protest all of these condemnations, in these times of barbary, even though some of them were sometimes a bit excessive.

The report on the expedition to kill the Gevaudan beast reads as follows:

“The year one thousand seven hundred and sixty-five, the nineteenth day of the present month of September, We, Francois Antoine (de Beauterne, Knight of the Royal and military Order of Saint Louis, King’s Arquebus Bearer, Lieutenant of His Majesty’s Hunts) having by his Orders gone to the two Generalities of Auvergne and Gevaudan in order to destroy the ferocious beast which was there devouring the Inhabitants, We being transported with Mr de la Coste, General Gamekeeper, Pelissier and Begnault and Dumoulin, Gamekeepers of the Royal Captainery of Saint-Germain, Messrs Lacour and Reinehard, Horseguards of His Serene Highness My Lord the Duke of Orleans, first Prince of the blood;  Mr Lesteur, Lamoncy and Bonnet, Gamekeepers of His Serene Highness My Lord the Duke of Penthievre, to the Royal Abbey of the Chazes in Auvergne, having been informed that the Wolves were there wreaking a lot of havoc, which made Us send on the eighteenth Messrs Pelissier and Lacour, Gamekeepers with their Bloodhounds and La Feuille, whipper-in of the Bloodhounds of the King’s Wolfhunters to scout the Woods of the Reserve of the Ladies of the Royal Abbey of the Chazes; and the next day the nineteenth of the said month, they sent to avert Us by Mr Bonnet, that they had seen a very big Wolf and that they had good information also in the said Wood of a She-wolf with fairly big Cubs, which made Us immediately leave to pass the night at the said place of the Chazes in Auvergne, distant from Besset by nearly three leagues, and the next day twentieth of the said month, the said three Bloodhound Whippers-in and the Hound Whipper-in named Berry having reported that they had turned the big Wolf, the She-wolf and the Cubs into the Pommieres Woods dependant of the said reserve, We transported ourself with all the Gamekeepers and forty shooters Inhabitants of the town of Langeac and from the nearby Parishes, where after being placed so as to surround the said Wood, the said Bloodhound Whippers-in and the Wolfhunter hounds having started to walk the said Wood, We, Francois Antoine (and above-mentioned names) being placed in a passage, there came to Us by a track at a distance of fifty paces, this big Wolf presenting its right side and turning its head to look at me and immediately I fired from behind with my Duck gun, charged with five lots of powder, thirty-five Wolf pellets and a calibre bullet of which the effort of the shot pushed me back two paces;  but the said Wolf fell immediately having received the bullet in its right eye, and all of the said pellets in the right side close to the shoulder, and as I was calling the slaughter, it got up again and came in my direction in turning and without giving me the time to recharge my said arm, I called for help to Mr Reinehard, placed near me, who found it stopped ten paces from me and fired at his rear with his carabine, which made it run away about twenty-five full paces where it fell completely dead.

“We, Francois Antoine (and the above-mentioned names) and we Jacques de la Font, with all the Gamekeepers above-mentioned declared, having examined this Wolf to have recognized that it was thirty-two inches high after death, five feet seven and a half inches long, that the thickness of its body was three feet and that the teeth, the two jaws and the paws of this animal appeared most extraordinary;  the said Wolf weighed 130 pounds.

“We declare by the present Report, signed by our hand, to have never seen any other Wolf which could compare with this animal, which is why We have judged that it could well be the cruel Beast, or devouring Wolf, which has so much wreaked havoc and so as to be able to let it be better known, We have had the said Wolf opened by Mr Boulanger, Expert Surgeon of the town of Saugues who has made his report in presence of Messrs Antoine Father and Son, Mr de la Font, all of the undersigned Gamekeepers, the two Bloodhound Whippers-in from the King’s Wolfhunters, Mr Torrent, priest of Ventuejol, Mr Jean-Joseph Vernet and his Brother of the town of Saugues, Mr Torrent, of Laveze, parish of Ventuejol, and Mr Mouton, of the parish of Greze, and on this, Mr Torrent, Priest of the parish of Ventuejol and Guillaume Gavier, Consul of the said Parish, firstly presented themselves to us, bringing Jean-Pierre Lourd, aged fifteen years, and Marie Trincard, aged eleven years, who both declared to us after having examined the said Wolf, that it was the same beast which had attacked them and wounded the said Marie Trincard, on 21 June last, as it is declared by the present Report made by Us, consequently and neither of them knowing how to write, Father Torrent and Mr Gavier, Consul, signed for them at the bottom of the present Report;  secondly, Mr Bertrand-Louis Dumont, Priest of the Parish of Paulhac and Mr Ducros, Consul of the said Parish, brought to Us Marie-Jeanne Valex and Therese Valex, her sister, who declared that they had been attacked on 11 August last by the said Beast, following this and as it is declared by the Report consequently made, these two sisters after having well examined the said Wolf have declared that it was the same Beast which had attacked them and have recognized the Bayonette cut shown to them and that the Beast had received on the right shoulder, to which interrogation she answered that she could not declare where she had wounded it;  also presented were Guillaume Bergounhoux and his Brother Jean Bergounhoux the eldest, aged seventeen and eighteen years, and his Younger brother of fifteen years who both declared to have been attacked by the said Beast, on 9 August last and aided by Pierre Mercier, Sworn Keeper of Baron du Besset, all of whom after also carefully examining the said Wolf, have declared to have well and totally recognized it as the same beast which had attacked them, as well as Marie-Jeanne Mercier, aged eleven years, also attacked at the same time and who was defended by Pierre Vidal, who has declared that the said Wolf is the same Beast which had attacked the said Marie-Jeanne Mercier, all of them not knowing how to write, the said Mr Dumont, Priest and the said Mr Ducros, have signed at the bottom of the present Report;  which examination made as well as time permitted.  We have judged that it was proper to send the said Wolf in a post vehicule by Mr Antoine de Beauterne, our son accompanied by Mr Lacoste, General Gamekeeper to Mr de Ballainvilliers, Intendant of the Province of Auvergne, to dispose of it as he will judge necessary.

“And having left Mr Lachenay, Keeper of My Lord the Duke of Penthievre, Prince of the Blood, at Besset, to inform us of what would happen in this canton, after the information given to him by Mr de la Font, who had been willing to do it, he must be included in the service of the King, as if he had been present on the hunt which took place at the Wood of the Reserve of the Ladies of the Royal Abbey of the Chazes in Auvergne;  as a supplement the Priest of Ventuejol presented to me Marie-Anne Camifolle, aged about twenty years, Jean Fontanier aged abour fifteen years and Jacques Ollier aged twelve years his Parishioners, from Combret, who said all unanimously that they recognized this Beast as the same as the one which appeared the 21 June last;  and have also declared that they do not know how to sign, and We affirm as true the present Report the days and years as above.

“Signed:

“Antoine de BEAUTERNE, LACOSTE, PELISSIER, RENAUD and MOULIN;  LAFONT, REINEHARD, LAFLEUR, LECTEUR, DUMONT, priest of Paulhac, TORRENT, priest of Ventuejol, LACOUR, BONNET, BERTONNIER, LAFEUILLE, MAUSSON, CLERNET, BIGON, LAMADE, SAUVETON, surgeon, BOULANGER, surgeon, TORRENT, BIGOT, consul, DUCROS,  consul, GAVIER.”

That Mr de Beauterne is a hunter, not a writer, seems rather obvious from this long and laborious report.

Tomorrow, we shall have a look at the autopsy reports, mercifully shorter, before continuing with the exploits of the Beast, who was still very much alive.

In the autumn of 1764, the inhabitants of the region of Gevaudan, in the southern part of the French province of Auvergne, between Margeride and Aubrac, were beginning to panic.  Frightfully mutilated bodies were being found all over the countryside.  It had started in July.

Decapitated, shredded, dismembered, the bodies seemed to have been attacked by a strong, wily, supernatural, bloodthirsty creature.  For more than two years, this “Gevaudan Beast” would terrorise the region, killing over one hundred people.  But did the beast really exist?

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Professor Puech of Montpellier looked into the story, which was still well-remembered in the region where it happened.  While on holiday, one summer, in a village of Lozere, he heard it mentioned frequently, accompanied by retrospective shudderings of horror.

Songs and images have passed down the story.  One engraving at the French National Library carries an explanatory text, which I have translated:

“It is written in a letter, dated 1 November 1764, and sent from Marvejols, in the province of Gevaudan, that for the last two months, it appears that a ferocious beast has been spreading consternation all over the countryside around Langogne and the Menoire forest.  It has already devoured about twenty people, above all children and particularly girls.  Hardly a day goes by without being marked by some new disasters.  The fear that it inspires is stopping the woodsmen from going into the forests, which is making wood rare and very expensive.

“It was only eight days ago that this frightening animal was actually seen.  It is a lot taller than a wolf:  its front is low and its paws are armed with claws.  It has reddish fur, a very big, long head ending in a greyhound muzzle, the ears are small and straight like horns; the breast wide and slightly grey; the back striped with black and an enormous mouth, armed with teeth so sharp that it has separated several heads from their bodies like a razor would.  It walks rather slowly and runs in bounds.  It is extremely agile and fast;  in a very short space of time, it is two or three leagues away.  It stands on its hind legs and throws itself on its prey, which it always attacks at the neck, from behind or on the side.  It is afraid of cattle, which make it flee.

“Alarm is universal in the canton;  public prayers have just been offered up;  four hundred peasants were assembled to give chase to this ferocious animal;  but it hasn’t yet been caught.”

The first appearance of the beast had been noted the preceding June.  A shepherd girl, who had been guarding her herd during the day in the countryside near Langogne, returned at night with her blouse all torn;  she said that she had been attacked by a monstrous animal, which had made her dogs run away in fright, and from which her cattle had luckily saved her.  It was generally believed to have been a wolf, and the girl’s apparent exaggeration was put down to her terror.

Several weeks passed with nothing happening, then suddenly, reports of its activity came from everywhere at once.  Horribly mutilated bodies, mainly women, little girls and young boys, were discovered in the fields.

The local peasants organized hunts.  Prodded by public opinion, the government sent a detachment of dragoons, which camped at, and around, Saint-Chely.

The peasants had their lords leading them, and the best hunters of the region joined in.  Wolf hunters from as far away as Normandy rushed to hunt the beast.  But it defied bullets and poisons, and appeared to be invulnerable.  Its victims were multiplying, while it remained elusive and seemed to be in several places at once.

One day, they thought that they had wounded it.   It ran away limping, but they couldn’t find it again.  Another time, at dusk, they had tracked it into a wood, where they fired on it from all sides.  They thought that it must have been mortally wounded, as it limped into a thicket, and were sure that they would find it the next day.  The search, executed at dawn by two hundred men, came up empty.

Terrified, no-one wanted to venture outside.  Field work was suspended.

As human efforts had been of no avail, people demanded God’s intervention.  The Bishop of Meude ordered that special prayers be said all over his diocese.  Nothing happened.

The situation was brought to the king’s attention.  Compassionate, and possibly a bit miffed that an animal had eluded nearly twenty thousand men who were out to get it, the king gave the order to his First Bearer of the Arquebus, Antoine de Beauterne, to leave immediately for Gevaudan, with his gamekeepers, his whippers-in and his bloodhounds, and to bring the animal’s body back to Paris, without fail.

It must be pointed out that the failure of the peasants was not due to their incompetence, but to their lack of means.  Guns, which were rare and expensive, belonged to the lord.  Most peasants had none.  On top of this, they were forbidden to kill animals themselves.  Wolves could only be killed by wolf hunters.  Therefore, it is easier to understand why the king sent his best troups.

After several scouting forays, the little troup managed to track down the fantastic beast and the First Bearer of the Arquebus gave it the coup de grace.  Some children, who had had contact with it, said that they recognized it.  It was stuffed at Clermont and sent to Fontainebleau.

In 1912, Dr Cabanes brought to light the report of the expedition.  We shall examine it tomorrow, because this is not the end of the story.

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