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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/99

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STRUGGLE BETWEEN DEATH AND NIGHT.

fancy you hear the grave speak. The child was even more overcome with terror than with cold.

Then the ravens were silent. Finally one of them flew down upon the skeleton. This was the signal: they all precipitated themselves upon it. There was a cloud of wings, then their ranks closed up, and the skeleton disappeared under a swarm of black objects struggling in the darkness. Just then the corpse moved. Was it the corpse, or was it the wind? It made a frightful bound. The hurricane, which was increasing, came to its aid. The skeleton fell into convulsions. The squall, already blowing fiercely, seized hold of it, and dashed it about in all directions. It became horrible; it began to struggle,—an awful puppet, with a gallows' chain for a string. It seemed as if some one had seized the string, and was playing with the mummy; it leaped about as if it would fain dislocate itself. The birds frightened, flew off; it was as if an explosion had scattered the unclean creatures. Then they returned and a fresh struggle began.

The dead man seemed endowed with hideous vitality. The winds lifted him as though they meant to carry him away. He seemed to be struggling and to be making efforts to escape, but his iron collar held him fast. The birds adapted themselves to all his movements, retreating, then striking again,—scared but desperate. The corpse, moved by every gust of the wind, had shocks, starts, fits of rage: it went, it came, it rose, it fell, driving back the scattered swarm. The fierce, assailing flock would not let go their hold, and grew stubborn; the spectre, as if maddened by their attacks, redoubled its blind chastisement of space. At times the corpse was covered by talons and wings; then it was free. There were disappearances of the horde; then sudden furious returns. The birds seemed frenzied. Thrust-