Page:Stories by Foreign Authors (French II).djvu/121

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busily engaged about the fire, while numbers more were hurrying towards it in every direction. Having landed, we soon found out that, as is generally the case on such occasions, the greatest part of them by screams and useless gestures impeded the assistance that might yet have been afforded. A few only were occupied with the door, which, however, they had vainly tried to break open with the half of a fir-tree stem torn off the roof, while the fire appeared to be devouring slowly the inside of the hut, which had no vent or opening of any kind. On approaching nearer, a loud groaning and whining was distinctly heard within. We listened for a moment; another voice arose, a sharp, mocking tone, which at last broke out into a yell of fiendish laughter. Then hard blows were repeatedly given—then again the same wailing and whimpering, the same mocking rejoinder.

Salaun and the remainder drew back in horror, and a few words, spoken half aloud, showed that they were in no doubt as to whom the old villain had to deal with, and that, in their opinion, no human help could avail to deliver him from the grasp of the spirits whom he had served all his life long.

It was in vain that I requested Salaun to join me in an attempt to break open the door.

"This fire is not kindled by mortal hands, and we poor sinners can never put it out."