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Page:Weird Tales volume 30 number 01.djvu/99

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97
THE OCEAN OGRE

them they were free of each other. Perresson held his arm and groaned.

"There's no blood on it," he bellowed, "and it's as cold as ice."

I could only stand and stare. Is Gervais mad, or has he mastered some monstrous system of healing?

June 21. — Roland Perresson is dead. I disposed of the body this morning. It was white and rigid, and I noticed an extraordinary discoloration above the wound on his wrist. From the elbow down, his arm was a bright green. I cannot explain it. Blood-poisoning, perhaps; but I will stand little more from Gervais. His presence has become odious to me. Something walked again tonight. It bent above my bed and I heard it gulp. We have become so few, we are mentally drawn together for protection against an alien evil. We are not certain what it is, but we must do something.

June 22. — This morning after a half-hearted gesture at making my rounds I retired to the ship's library. It was fairly cool there and I thought I could get away from myself for a bit, although there is no breaking from this ship and sea and sky. But now I wish I hadn't. I picked up an old water-stained parchment volume, called The Islands of France, a ridiculous miscellany of witchcraft and spirits. I chuckled to myself as I indolently nicked the pages until my interest was finally arrested by the childish awe and belief in the following:

"There lies a beautiful island called Gautier off the southwest tip of France. You may walk from heavy 'Druid' depths of the forest to the brilliant blue glare of the ocean, where the fishermen spread out their nets of bright blue cord to dry, and fisherwomen make out at low tide to gather mussels, sold in the shell for two cents a quart. If you ask them what is the next land they reply, 'L'Amerique est la-bas — America is over there. They are a naïve folk, few of them ever having been away from the island. They will gladly tell you about the old legends of the island, and what's more, believe them. There was the unfortunate Suzanne, the young girl, cruel or unfaithful to her lover, who was changed into a big black dog or female wolf. Unless she repented or a miracle restored her to her natural shape, she was doomed to lope, howling through the black naked woods, longing for death, until killed. Only a special bullet, properly blessed, could kill her, which made it difficult:

"There were also the beak-faced hunchbacks, that lived in the sea. These deformed people made periodical raids on the good villagers. If they were displeased they had the unpleasant habit of dragging corpses through the streets with loud cries. And it didn't take much to displease them, although no one could remember their ever having perpetrated bodily harm.

"There were the 'slacks' or noisy drones. Spirits of those that had met a violent death, they wandered through the night, repeating the cries of agony with which they had died, often from age to age. The old fisherwomen even yet hear them howling on long winter nights.

"There were, and according to the belief of many still are, sorcerers and sorceresses; they are looked upon as outsiders, feared, hated and never touched. It is a form of our ancient and respectable belief in witchcraft. If you meet one in your path, to avoid destruction you must immediately make the sign of the cross, seize a piece of earth, and hold it above your head, because between two pieces of earth, the ground under your feet and the piece held in a quivering hand above your head, no evil spirit can harm you.