Page:A Book of Dartmoor.djvu/302

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dreaded going near this tarn—she lived at Shaugh—fearing lest she should hear the voice calling her by name.

The idea of mysterious voices is a very old one. The schoolboy will recall the words of Virgil in the first Georgic:

"Vox . . . per lucos vulgo exaudita silentes Ingens."

The "wisht hounds" that sweep overhead in the dark barking are brentgeese going north or returning south. They have given occasion to many stories of strange voices in the sky.

In Ceylon the devil-bird has been the source of much superstitious terror.

A friend who has long lived in Ceylon says: "Never shall I forget when first I heard it. I was at dinner, when suddenly the wildest, most agonised shrieks pierced my ear. I was under the impression that a woman was being murdered outside my house. I snatched up a cudgel and ran forth to her aid, but saw no one." The natives regard this cry of the mysterious devil-bird with the utmost fear. They believe that to hear it is a sure presage of death; and they are not wrong. When they have heard it, they pine to death, killed by their own conviction that life is impossible.

Autenrieth, professor and physician at Tübingen, in 1822 published a treatise on Aërial Voices, in which he collected a number of strange accounts of mysterious sounds heard in the sky, and which he