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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/536

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

in time with a palm that has been blessed, he gradually yields to a weird fascination, his eyes dilate, his voice grows feeble, and before morning dawns his body lies stiff and stark in death, while his soul has flown to join in the giddy whirl of les lustrions.

Fireflies, known as feu-follets, called by country people fi-follets, are also considered to be lost souls, whose goblin lights lure the unwary to destruction; a sad prerogative possessed by fireflies in common with other lights of the century less brilliant, perhaps, but whose seductions are quite as much to be dreaded. A simple charm will curb the malicious designs of these airy, glittering imps. If the object of their persecution can retain sufficient presence of mind to thrust either a needle or a sharp knife into the nearest fence, the fi-follet is obliged to stop short in his course. One of two things must then happen: either the fi-follet will impale himself upon the sharp instrument, and thus find deliverance; or else he will exhaust himself in frantic efforts to pass through the eye of the needle, an attempt which proves quite as difficult to the fantastic spirit as to the most substantial of mortals; this gives the traveler time to seek the shelter of a dwelling.

The Lutin is a tricky spirit, delighting in mischief. How often may it happen that, on entering his stable in the morning, the habitant finds his best horses exhausted! One must be stupid indeed not to guess that this is a trick played by Lutin, who enjoys a ride at other people's expense, and is not at all likely to spare the animals of which he takes possession. A remedy for this imposition exists. Lutin is most orderly in all his ways and methods, and is forced to leave everything in its place exactly as he found it. To prevent the horses from being taken out, it is only necessary to scatter a quart of bran before the stable door. The imp will be obliged to step on the bran, the grains of which will naturally become disarranged by the pressure of his footsteps. In scrupulous fulfillment of his obligation, he must replace them one by one; the night passes in the fulfillment of this tedious task, and, when once morning dawns, farewell to Lutin's hope of a gallop.

The early French missionaries ascribed a very diabolical character to the sorcery practiced by the Indians, and many traditional beliefs held by the French Canadians can be traced directly to the influence of these heathens. It is said that the taking of Canada by the English was predicted by an Indian witch many years before the event actually happened. The French believed that several different descriptions of sorcerers existed among the savages, and that various degrees of magic were practiced among them. It was always agreed that savage magic could exercise no power over a baptized Christian except when that person happened to be in a state of mortal sin. One kind of Indian wizard