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A short story by Charles M. Skinner

The Coffin Of Snakes

Title:     The Coffin Of Snakes
Author: Charles M. Skinner [More Titles by Skinner]

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.

[The end]
Charles M. Skinner's short story: Coffin Of Snakes