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THE FOOTPRINTS OF SATAN
ONCE UPON A TIME—ON THE NIGHT OF THE 8th
February 1855, to be exact—the Devil visited England. At least that was the
widely accepted theory, and to this day the theory has not been disproved. It
must have been His Satanic Majesty, for his peculiar tracks—the marks of
hooves—were found in the snow the following morning in and around a number of
towns in the south of Devon. Moreover, they were seen in such physically
inaccessible places as on the tops of high walls enclosing private gardens and
on the steep roofs of houses, and it was apparent that the visitant possessed
the power of passing through solid substances.
You don’t believe me? I refer you to the
account (quoted elsewhere in this book) published in the issue for the 16th
February 1855, of that most conservative and realistic of newspapers, The Times.
I refer you also to various reports and articles appearing in issues of the
Illustrated London News between the 24th February and the 17th March of that
year. This is fact—not fiction. . . .
Even The Times, in cautious language, touches
on the possibility that the impressions in the snow may have been the marks of
Satan himself; and in the minds of hundreds of Devonshire folk, and perhaps
thousands of other Britons, the marks of Satan they were.
A short while ago, in the year of the Big
Snow, it appeared that he again visited the land, this time descending upon the
outskirts of the small country town of Winchingham. Again he left his own
peculiar tracks in the snow, corresponding to those of almost a century ago;
again they were seen not only in the private gardens of inoffensive citizens,
but also in such apparently physically inaccessible places as on the tops of the
enclosing walls and on the steep roof of a house; and yet again it seemed that
the visitant possessed the power of passing through solid substance.
But this time his motives were not so obscure,
and an investigation of the phenomenon was undertaken by a sceptical—and
intelligent—C.I.D. officer attached to the Winchshire County Constabulary, one
Detective-Inspector Lancelot Carolus Smith.
The investigation was crowned with success—
and yet . . . yet, at the end of it, Lancelot Carolus was left in unnaturally
sober and meditative mood, left wondering whether, in terms of the Absolute, the
Dispenser of Evil had not in truth been there and left his mark among the
habitations of men. For, if Evil directs a medium or works through a channel,
would you say it was the channel acting of itself? Or would you say it was the
Overlord of the Lost manifesting himself?