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The Coffin Of Snakes


Source: Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land

No one knew how it was that Lizon gained the love of Julienne, at L'Anse
Creuse (near Detroit), for she was a girl of sweet and pious disposition,
the daughter of a God-fearing farmer, while Lizon was a dark, ill-favored
wretch, who had come among the people nobody knew whence, and lived on
the profits of a tap-room where the vilest liquor was sold, and where
gaming, fighting, and carousing were of nightly occurrence. Perhaps they
were right in saying that it was witchcraft. He impudently laid siege to
her heart, and when she showed signs of yielding he told her and her
friends that he had no intention of marrying her, because he did not
believe in religion.

Yet Julienne deserted her comfortable home and went to live with this
disreputable scamp in his disreputable tavern, to the scandal of the
community, and especially of the priest, who found Lizon's power for evil
greater than his own for good, for as the tavern gained in hangers-on the
church lost worshippers. One Sunday morning Julienne surprised the people
by appearing in church and publicly asking pardon for her wrong-doing. It
was the first time she had appeared there since her flight, and she was
as one who had roused from a trance or fever-sleep. Her father gladly
took her home again, and all went well until New-Year's eve, when the
young men called d'Ignolee made the rounds of the settlement to sing and
beg meat for the poor--a custom descended from the Druids. They came to
the house of Julienne's father and received his welcome and his goods,
but their song was interrupted by a cry of distress--Lizon was among the
maskers, and Julienne was gone. A crowd of villagers ran to the cabaret
and rescued the girl from the room into which the fellow had thrust her,
but it was too late--she had lost her reason. Cursing and striking and
blaspheming, Lizon was at last confronted by the priest, who told him he
had gone too far; that he had been a plague to the people and an enemy to
the church. He then pronounced against him the edict of excommunication,
and told him that even in his grave he should not rest; that the church,
abandoned by so many victims of his wiles and tyrannies, should be swept

The priest left the place forthwith, and the morals of the village fell
lower and lower. Everything was against it, too. Blight and storm and
insect pest ravaged the fields and orchards, as if nature had engaged to
make an expression of the iniquity of the place. Suddenly death came upon
Lizon. A pit was dug near his tavern and he was placed in a coffin, but
as the box was lowered it was felt to grow lighter, while there poured

from it a swarm of fat and filthy snakes. The fog that overspread the
earth that morning seemed to blow by in human forms, the grave rolled
like a wave after it had been covered, and after darkness fell a blue
will-o'-the-wisp danced over it. A storm set in, heaping the billows on
shore until the church was undermined, and with a crash it fell into the
seething flood. But the curse had passed, and when a new chapel was built
the old evils had deserted L'Anse Crease.

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