Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 22, 1911.djvu/36

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Presidential Address.

still more, when we deal cards, or pass the decanter, the way of the sun,—Custom (or rather Practice) survives, Belief, Again, the Lushai, the Hausa, and the Bushman believes that the marvellous incidents in his folk-tales might, and probably did, happen,—that men were changed into beasts, and beasts spoke and acted as men. The European child listens with delight to Cinderella or Beauty and the Beast, but he does not believe that a rat could become a coachman or a beast be a transformed prince. The Story survives the Belief.

But when Belief survives, though Customs may be changed and Stories forgotten, then "the case is altered." The survival is no mere dead relic then.

Let me tell you of an incident which happened within my own knowledge, and which could probably be paralleled in any county in England. On the 2ist January, 1879, a labouring man was sent with a horse and cart from Ranton Abbey in Staffordshire to Woodcote Hall, Shropshire, a distance of fourteen or fifteen miles. On the way he had to pass over a bridge which carries the high road over the Birmingham and Liverpool Canal. The canal runs through a deep cutting between spoil-banks planted with trees, the bridge is of peculiar construction, and the whole is a rather fine bit of engineering work by Telford. It is a picturesque spot with an eerie and uncanny reputation. Well, the man returned late at night with his empty cart and tired horse, when just as he reached the bridge a black Thing with white eyes sprang out of the trees and alighted on the horse's back. (A cat, did ye say? No, it wunna no cat.) The weary horse broke into a canter; the terrified man lashed at the intruder; but to his horror the whip went through the Thing, and fell from his hand to the ground. How he got rid of the invader he never knew, but at length, his horse "all of a lather," he reached the village of Woodseaves, and there told his tale, alarming one of his hearers, (whom I know well to this day), so much