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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/153

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THE CASKETS.

surmounted with a brazier enclosed by an iron railing,—a head of hair flaming in the wind. The only improvement made in this lighthouse since the twelfth century was a pair of forge-bellows worked by a pendulum and a stone weight, which had been added to the light-chamber in 1610.

The fate of the sea-birds that chanced to fly against these old lighthouses was more tragic than those of our days. The birds dashed against them, attracted by the light, and fell into the brazier, where they could be seen struggling like black spirits in a hell; at times they would fall back again between the railings upon the rock, smoking, lame, blind, like half-burnt flies out of a lamp.

To a full-rigged ship in good trim, answering readily to the pilot's handling, the Caskets Light is useful; it cries, "Look out!" It warns her of the shoal. To a disabled ship it is simply terrible. The hull, paralyzed and inert, with no defence against the fury of the storm or the mad heaving of the waves,—a fish without fins, a bird without wings,—can but go where the wind wills. The lighthouse reveals the end, points out the spot where it is doomed to disappear, and casts a ghastly light upon the place of burial. In short, it is but a funeral torch to illumine the yawning chasm, to warn against the inevitable. What more tragic mockery!