The Coffin Of Snakes





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

away.



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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