Page:A Book of Dartmoor.djvu/126

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90
DEAD MEN'S DUST

the corpse is covered with soil ; they fire pistols and guns after it as it goes to its grave. In Hamlet, at the funeral of Ophelia, the priest says:—

                       "For charitable prayers,
Shards, flints, and pebbles should be thrown on her."

Unquestionably it must have been customary in England thus to pelt a ghost that was suspected of the intention to wander. The stake driven through the suicide's body was a summary way of ensuring that his ghost should not be troublesome.

Those Finns who fired guns after a dead man had another expedient for holding him fast, if the first failed, and that was to nail him down in his coffin. The Arabs tie his legs together. The Wallachs drive a long nail through his skull; and this usage explains the many skulls that have been exhumed in Germany thus perforated.

The Californian Indians were wont to break the spine of the corpse so as to paralyse his lower limbs and make "walking" impossible. Spirit and body, to the unreasoning mind, are intimately associated. A hurt done to the body wounds the soul. Mrs. Crowe, in her Night Side of Nature, tells a story reversing this. A gentleman in Germany was dying. He expressed great desire to see his son, who was a ne'er-do-well, and was squandering his money in Paris. At that time the young man was sitting on a bench in the Bois-de-Boulogne, with a switch in his hand. Suddenly, he beheld his old father before him. Convinced that he saw a phantom, he raised