Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/706

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the assistance of the Vilas, and may also become more or less of their kind and acquire various arts from them. Men thus sometimes obtain the mystic power of changing themselves at pleasure into an animal, as a horse or a wolf, and of doing much mischief. Wizards and medical practitioners, men and women, boast of their relationship and ascribe their skill to it. A dwarfish herdsman, about forty years old, living in a cave in Odvorci, is distinguished as a cheiromancist, and can tell from the lines of the hand what herbs are good for a patient. He asserts that the Vilas had him under instruction for seven years. A Bracara lives at Petersdorf, to whom suffering Mohammedans come from Bosnia and pay two golden ducats for a cure. He gets such prices because he professes to be able in serious cases to hold consultations with the Vilas.

Toma Miemkovic, of Pleternica, told me the following story of a woman changing into a wolf, vouching for its truth, because, as he pretended, he had himself seen the person in question. There lived a very rich man at Trapari, who possessed a great flock of sheep, over which he put two shepherds and six dogs. Every day a wolf appeared, ate up a sheep, and vanished, without any one being able to see it. The overseer raged, and the sheep kept disappearing till three fourths of them were gone. At last he became desperate, when he was told by some one that there was no real wolf, and was advised to get up early in the morning, put on all his clothes, from his shoes to his cap, wrong-side out, drive the sheep to the brook in the pasture, climb a tree and wait; by means of which he would be able to find out who the wolf was. He followed this counsel. About noon an old woman of the neighborhood came down with a pail on her head and drew water from the brook. Then she lay on the grass, turned three somersaults, changed into a wolf, seized the fattest wether—a four-year-old—and ate him, wool, entrails, hoofs, and all. The man was on the point of shooting her from the tree, but, as he knew her, thought it better to punish her well at home. After the wolf had eaten the sheep, it executed three more somersaults and turned back into the old woman. The overseer came down from the tree and chastised her well; and, when her sons heard what she had been doing, they cudgeled her so thoroughly that she could hardly bear to have anything touch her. From that time on she never changed into a wolf, or ate any more strange sheep.

The womanly nature of the Vilas appears in their insatiable revenge for scorn of their love. The following story corresponds with the legend of the youth who knew no fear. The outcome in the present case is the discomfiture of the rash man; for, instead of the usual ghost, Vilas appear as the spirits of revenge.

There was once a Magyar who was so handsome that one could