Among the many gargoyles that frowned or leered from the roof of the new-built
cathedral of Vyones, two were pre-eminent above the rest by virtue of their
fine workmanship and their supreme grotesquery. These two had been wrought
by the stone-carver Blaise Reynard, a native of Vyones, who had lately
returned from a long sojourn in the cities of Provence, and had secured
employment on the cathedral when the three years' task of its construction
and ornamentation was well-nigh completed. In view of the wonderful artistry
shown by Reynard, it was regretted by Ambrosius, the archbishop, that it
had not been possible to commit the execution of all the gargoyles to this
delicate and accomplished workman; but other people, with less liberal
Ambrosius, were heard to express a different opinion.
This opinion, perhaps, was tinged by the personal dislike that had
been generally felt toward Reynard in Vyones even from his boyhood; and
which had been revived with some virulence on his return. Whether rightly
or unjustly, his very physiognomy had always marked him out for public
disfavor: he was inordinately dark, with hair and beard of a preternatural
bluish-black, and slanting, ill-matched eyes that gave him a sinister and
cunning air. His taciturn and saturnine ways were such as a superstitious
people would identify with necromantic knowledge or complicity; and there
were those who covertly accused him of being in league with Satan; though
the accusations were little more than vague, anonymous rumors, even to
the end, through lack of veritable evidence.
However, the people who suspected Reynard of diabolic affiliations
were wont for awhile to instance the two gargoyles as sufficient proof.
No man, they contended, who was so inspired by the Arch-Enemy, could have
carven anything so sheerly evil and malignant, could have embodied so consummately
in mere stone the living lineaments of the most demoniacal of all the deadly
The two gargoyles were perched on opposite corners of a high tower
of the cathedral. One was a snarling, murderous, cat-headed monster, with
retracted lips revealing formidable fangs, and eyes that glared intolerable
hatred from beneath ferine brows. This creature had the claws and wings
of a griffin, and seemed as if it were poised in readiness to swoop down
on the city of Vyones, like a harpy on its prey. Its companion was a horned
satyr, with the vans of some great bat such as might roam the nether caverns,
with sharp, clenching talons, and a look of Satanically brooding lust,
as if it were gloating above the helpless object of its unclean desire.
Both figures were complete, even to the hindquarters, and were not mere
conventional adjuncts of the roof. One would have expected them to start
at any moment from the stone in which they were mortised.
Ambrosius, a lover of art, had been openly delighted with these creations,
because of their high technical merit and their verisimilitude as works
of sculpture. But others, including many humbler dignitaries of the Church,
were more or less scandalized, and said that the workman had informed these
figures with the visible likeness of his own vices, to the glory of Belial
rather than of God, and had thus perpetrated a sort of blasphemy. Of course,
they admitted, a certain amount of grotesquery was requisite in gargoyles;
but in this case the allowable bounds had been egregiously overpassed.
However, with the completion of the cathedral, and in spite of all
this adverse criticism, the high-poised gargoyles of Blaise Reynard, like
all other details of the building, were soon taken for granted through
mere everyday familiarity; and eventually they were almost forgotten. The
scandal of opposition died down, and the stone-carver himself, though the
town-folk continued to eye him askance, was able to secure other work through
the favor of discriminating patrons. He remained in Vyones; and paid his
addresses, albeit without visible success, to a taverner's daughter, one
Nicolette Villom, of whom, it was said, he had long been enamored in his
own surly and reticent fashion.
But Reynard himself had not forgotten the gargoyles. Often, in passing
the superb pile of the cathedral, he would gaze up at them with a secret
satisfaction whose cause he could hardly have assigned or delimited. They
seemed to retain for him a rare and mystical meaning, to signalize an obscure
but pleasurable triumph.
He would have said, if asked for the reason for his satisfaction,
that he was proud of a skilful piece of handiwork. He would not have said,
and perhaps would not even have known, that in one of the gargoyles he
had imprisoned all his festering rancor, all his answering spleen and hatred
toward the people of Vyones, who had always hated him; and had set the
image of this rancor to peer venomously down for ever from a lofty place.
And perhaps he would not even have dreamt that in the second gargoyle he
had somehow expressed his own dour and satyr-like passion for the girl
Nicolette — a passion that had brought him back to the detested city of
his youth after years of wandering; a passion singularly tenacious of one
object, and differing in this regard from the ordinary lusts of a nature
so brutal as Reynard's.
Always to the stone-cutter, even more than to those who had criticized
and abhorred his productions, the gargoyles were alive, they possessed
a vitality and a sentiency of their own. And most of all did they seem
to live when the summer drew to an end and the autumn rains had gathered
upon Vyones. Then, when the full cathedral gutters poured above the streets,
one might have thought that the actual spittle of a foul maelevolence,
the very slaver of an impure lust, had somehow been mingled with the water
that ran in rills from the mouths of the gargoyles.
At that time, in the year of our Lord, 1138, Vyones was the principal
town of the province of Averoigne. On two sides the great, shadow-haunted
forest, a place of equivocal legends, of loups-garous and phantoms, approached
to the very walls and flung its umbrage upon them at early forenoon and
evening. On the other sides there lay cultivated fields, and gentle streams
that meandered among willows or poplars, and roads that ran through an
open plain to the high chateaux of noble lords and to regions beyond Averoigne.
The town itself was prosperous, and had never shared in the ill-fame
of the bordering forest. It had long been sanctified by the presence of
two nunneries and a monastery; and now, with the completion of the long-planned
cathedral, it was thought that Vyones would have henceforward the additional
protection of a more august holiness; that demon and stryge and incubus
would keep their distance from its heaven-favored purlieus with a more
meticulous caution than before.
Of course, as in all mediaeval towns, there had been occasional instances
of alleged sorcery or demoniacal possession; and, once or twice, the perilous
temptations of succubi had made their inroads on the pious virtue of Vyones.
But this was nothing more than might be expected, in a world where the
Devil and his works were always more or less rampant. No one could possibly
have anticipated the reign of infernal horrors that was to make hideous
the latter months of autumn, following the cathedral's erection.
To make the matter even more inexplicable, and more blasphemously
dreadful than it would otherwise have been, the first of these horrors
occurred in the neighborhood of the cathedral itself and almost beneath
its sheltering shadow.
Two men, a respectable clothier named Guillaume Maspier and an equally
reputable cooper, one Gerome Mazzal, were returning to their lodgings in
the late hours of a November eve, after imbibing both the red and white
wines of the countryside in more than one tavern. According to Maspier,
who alone survived to tell the tale, they were passing along a street that
skirted the cathedral square, and could see the bulk of the great building
against the stars, when a flying monster, black as the soot of Abaddon,
had descended upon them from the heavens and assailed Gerome Mazzal, beating
him down with its heavily flapping wings and seizing him with its inch-long
teeth and talons.
Maspier was unable to describe the creature with minuteness, for
he had seen it but dimly and partially in the unlit street; and moreover,
the fate of his companion, who had fallen to the cobblestones with the
black devil snarling and tearing at his throat, had not induced Maspier
to linger in that vicinity. He had betaken himself from the scene with
all the celerity of which he was capable, and had stopped only at the house
of a priest, many streets away, where he had related his adventure between
shudderings and hiccuppings.
Armed with holy water and aspergillus, and accompanied by many of
the towns-people carrying torches, staves and halberds, the priest was
led by Maspier to the place of the horror; and there they had found the
body of Mazzal, with fearfully mangled face, and throat and bosom lined
with bloody lacerations. The demoniac assailant had flown, and it was not
seen or encountered again that night; but those who had beheld its work
returned aghast to their homes, feeling that a creature of nethermost hell
had come to visit the city, and perchance to abide therein.
Consternation was rife on the morrow, when the story became generally
known; and rites of exorcism against the invading demon were performed
by the clergy in all public places and before thresholds. But the sprinkling
of holy water and the mumbling of the stated forms were futile; for the
evil spirit was still abroad, and its malignity was proved once more, on
the night following the ghastly death of Gerome Mazzal.
This time, it claimed two victims, burghers of high probity and some
consequence, on whom it descended in a narrow alley, slaying one of them
instantaneously, and dragging down the other from behind as he sought to
flee. The shrill cries of the helpless men, and the guttural growling of
the demon, were heard by people in the houses along the alley; and some,
who were hardy enough to peer from their windows, had seen the departure
of the infamous assailant, blotting out the autumn stars with the sable
and misshapen foulness of its wings, and hovering in execrable menace above
After this, few people would venture abroad at night, unless in case
of dire and exigent need; and those who did venture went in armed companies
and were all furnished with flambeaux, thinking thus to frighten away the
demon, which they adjudged a creature of darkness that would abhor the
light and shrink therefrom, through the nature of its kind. But the boldness
of this fiend was beyond measure; for it proceeded to attack more than
one company of worthy citizens, disregarding the flaring torches that were
thrust in its face, or putting them out with th stenchful wind of its wide
Evidently it was a spirit of homicidal hate, for all the people on
whom it seized were grievously mangled or torn to numberless shreds by
its teeth and talons. Those who saw it, and survived, were wont to describe
it variously and with much ambiguity; but all agreed in attributing to
it the head of a ferocious animal and the wings of a monstrous bird. Some,
the most learned in demonology, were fain to identify it with Modo, the
spirit of murder; and others took it for one of the great lieutenants of
Satan, perhaps Amaimon or Alastor, gone mad with exasperation at the impregnable
supremacy of Christ in the holy city of Vyones.
The terror that soon prevailed, beneath the widening scope of these
Satanical incursions and depredations, was beyond all belief — a clotted,
seething, devil-ridden gloom of superstitious obsession, not to be hinted
at in modern language. Even by daylight, the Gothic wings of nightmare
seemed to brood in underparting oppression above the city; and fear was
everywhere, like the foul contagion of some epidemic plague. The inhabitants
went their way in prayer and trembling; and the archbishop himself, as
well as the subordinate clergy, confessed an inability to cope with the
ever-growing horror. An emissary was sent to Rome, to procure water that
had been specially sanctified by the Pope. This alone it was thought, would
be efficacious enough to drive away the dreadful visitant.
In the meantime, the horror waxed, and mounted to its culmination.
One eve, toward the middle of November, the abbot of the local monastery
of Cordeliers, who had gone forth to administer extreme unction to a dying
friend, was seized by the black devil just as he approached the threshold
of his destination, and was slain in the same atrocious manner as the other
To this doubly infamous deed, a scarce-believable blasphemy was soon
added. On the very next night, while the torn body of the abbot lay on
a rich catafalque in the cathedral, and masses were being said and tapers
burnt, the demon invaded the high nave through the open door, extinguished
all the candles with one flap of its sooty wings, and dragged down no less
than three of the officiating priests to an unholy death in the darkness.
Every one now felt that a truly formidable assault was being made
by the powers of Evil on the Christian probity of Vyones. In the condition
of abject terror, of extreme disorder and demoralization that followed
upon this new atrocity, there was a deplorable outbreak of human crime,
of murder and rapine and thievery, together with covert manifestations
of Satanism, and celebrations of the Black Mass attended by many neophytes.
Then, in the midst of all this pandemoniacal fear and confusion,
it was rumored that a second devil had been seen in Vyones; that the murderous
fiend was accompanied by a spirit of equal deformity and darkness, whose
intentions were those of lechery, and which molested none but women. This
creature had frightened several dames and demoiselles and maid-servants
into a veritable hysteria by peering through their bedroom windows; and
had sidled lasciviously, with uncouth mows and grimaces, and grotesque
flappings of its bat-shaped wings, toward others who had occasion to fare
from house to house across the nocturnal streets.
However, strange to say, there were no authentic instances in which
the chastity of any woman had suffered actual harm from this noisome incubus.
Many were approached by it, and were terrified immoderately by the hideousness
and lustfulness of its demeanor; but no one was ever touched. Even in that
time of horror, both spiritual and corporeal, there were those who made
a ribald jest of this singular abstention on the part of the demon, and
said it was seeking throughout Vyones for some one whom it had not yet
The lodgings of Blaise Reynard were separated only by the length
of a dark and crooked alley from the tavern kept by Jean Villom, the father
of Nicolette. In this tavern, Reynard had been wont to spend his evenings;
though his suit was frowned upon by Jean Villom, and had received but scant
encouragement from the girl herself. However, because of his well-filled
purse and his almost illimitable capacity for wine, Reynard was tolerated.
He came early each night, with the falling of darkness, and would sit in
silence hour after hour, staring with hot and sullen eyes at Nicolette,
and gulping joylessly the potent vintages of Averoigne. Apart from their
desire to retain his custom, the people of the tavern were a little afraid
of him, on account of his dubious an semi-sorcerous reputation, and also
because of his surly temper. They did not wish to antagonize him more than
Like everyone else in Vyones, Reynard had felt the suffocating burden
of superstitious terror during those nights when the fiendish marauder
was hovering above the town and might descend on the luckless wayfarer
at any moment, in any locality. Nothing less urgent and imperative than
the obsession of his half-bestial longing for Nicolette could have induced
him to traverse after dark the length of the winding alley to the tavern
The autumn nights had been moonless. Now, on the evening that followed
the desecration of the cathedral itself by the murderous devil, a new-born
crescent was lowering its fragile, sanguine-colored horn beyond the house-tops
as Reynard went forth from his lodgings at the accustomed hour. He lost
sight of its comforting beam in the high-walled and narrow alley, and shivered
with dread as he hastened onward through shadows that were dissipated only
by the rare and timid ray from some lofty window. It seemed to him, at
each turn and angle, that the gloom was curded by the unclean umbrage of
Satanic wings, and might reveal in another instant the gleaming of abhorrent
eyes ignited by the everlasting coals of the Pit. When he came forth at
the alley's end, he saw with a start of fresh panic that the crescent moon
was blotted out by a cloud that had the semblance of uncouthly arched and
He reached the tavern with a sense of supreme relief, for he had
begun to feel a distinct intuition that someone or something was following
him, unheard and invisible — a presence that seemed to load the dusk with
prodigious menace. He entered, and closed the door behind him very quickly,
as if he were shutting it in the face of a dread pursuer.
There were few people in the tavern that evening. The girl Nicolette
was serving wine to a mercer's assistant, one Raoul Coupain, a personable
youth and a newcomer in the neighborhood, and she was laughing with what
Reynard considered unseemly gayety at the broad jests and amorous sallies
of this Raoul. Jean Villom was discussing in a low voice the latest enormities
and was drinking fully as much liquor as his customers.
Glowering with jealousy at the presence of Raoul Coupain, whom he
suspected of being a favored rival, Reynard seated himself in silence and
stared malignly at the flirtatious couple. No one seemed to have noticed
his entrance; for Villom went on talking to his cronies without pause or
interruption, and Nicolette and her companion were equally oblivious. To
his jealous rage, Reynard soon added the resentment of one who feels that
he is being deliberately ignored. He began to pound on the table with his
heavy fists, to attract attention.
Villom, who had been sitting all the while his back turned, now called
out to Nicolette without even troubling to face around on his stool, telling
her to serve Reynard. Giving a backward smile at Coupain, she came slowly
and with open reluctance to the stone-carver's table.
She was small and buxom, with reddish-gold hair that curled luxuriantly
above the short, delicious oval of her face; and she was gowned in a tight-fitting
dress of apple-green that revealed the firm, seductive outlines of her
hips and bosom. Her air was disdainful and a little cold, for she did not
like Reynard and had taken small pains at any time to conceal her aversion.
But to Reynard she was lovelier and more desirable than ever, and he felt
a savage impulse to seize her in his arms and carry her bodily away from
the tavern before the eyes of Raoul Coupain and her father.
"Bring me a pitcher of La Frenaie," he ordered gruffly, in a voice
that betrayed his mingled resentment and desire.
Tossing her head lightly and scornfully, with more glances at Coupain,
the girl obeyed. She placed the fierey, blood-dark wine before Reynard
without speaking, and then went back to resume her bantering with the mercer's
Reynard began to drink, and the potent vintage merely served to inflame
his smoldering enmity and passion. His eyes became venomous, his curling
lips malignant as those of the gargoyles he had carved on the new cathedral.
A baleful, primordial anger, like the rage of some morose and thwarted
faun, burned within him with its slow red fire; but he strove to repress
it, and sat silent and motionless, except for the frequent filling and
emptying of his wine-cup.
Raoul Coupain had also consumed a liberal quantity of wine. As a
result, he soon became bolder in his love-making, and strove to kiss the
hand of Nicolette, who had now seated herself on the bench beside him.
The hand was playfully with-held; and then, after its owner had cuffed
Raoul very lightly and briskly, was granted to the claimant in a fashion
that struck Reynard as being no less than wanton.
Snarling inarticulately, with a mad impulse to rush forward and slay
the successful rival with his bare hands, he started to his feet and stepped
toward the playful pair. His movement was noted by one of the men in the
far corner, who spoke warningly to Villom. The tavern-keeper arose, lurching
a little from his potations, and came warily across the room with his eyes
on Reynard, ready to interfere in case of violence.
Reynard paused with momentary irresolution, and then went on, half
insane with a mounting hatred for them all. He longed to kill Villom and
Coupain, to kill the hateful cronies who sat staring from the corner, and
then, above their throttled corpses, to ravage with fierce kisses and vehement
caresses the shrinking lips and body of Nicolette.
Seeing the approach of the stone-carver, and knowing his evil temper
and dark jealousy, Coupain also rose to his feet and plucked stealthily
beneath his cloak at the hilt of a little dagger which he carried. In the
meanwhile, Jean Villom had interposed his burly bulk between the rivals.
For the sake of the tavern's good repute, he wished to prevent the possible
"Back to your table, stone-cutter," he roared belligerently at Reynard.
Being unarmed, and seeing himself outnumbered, Reynard paused again,
though his anger still simmered within him like the contents of a sorcerer's
cauldron. With ruddy points of murderous flame in his hollow, slitted eyes,
he glared at the three people before him, and saw beyond them, with instictive
rather than conscious awareness, the leaded panes of the tavern window,
in whose glass the room was dimly reflected with its glowing tapers, its
glimmering tableware, the heads of Coupain and Villom and the girl Nicolette,
and his own shadowy face among them.
Strangely, and, it would seem, inconsequntly, he remembered at that
moment the dark, ambiguous cloud he had seen across the moon, and the insistent
feeling of obscure pursuit while he had traversed the alley.
Then, as he still gazed irresolutely at the group before him, and
its vague reflection in the glass beyond, there came a thunderous crash,
and the panes of the window with their pictured scene were shattered inward
in a score of fragments. Ere the litter of falling glass had reached the
tavern floor, a swart and monstrous form flew into the room, with a beating
of heavy vans that caused the tapers to flare troublously, and the shadows
to dance like a sabbat of misshapen devils. The thing hovered for a moment,
and seemed to tower in a great darkness higher than the ceiling above the
heads of Reynard and the others as they turned toward it. They saw the
malignant burning of its eyes, like coals in the depth of Tartarean pits,
and the curling of its hateful lips on the bared teeth that were longer
and sharper than serpent-fangs.
Behind it now, another shadowy flying monster came in through the
broken window with a loud flapping of its ribbed and pointed wings. There
was something lascivious in the very motion of its flight, even as homicidal
hatred and malignity were manifest in the flight of the other. Its satyr-like
face was twisted in a horrible, never-changing leer, and its lustful eyes
were fixed on Nicolette as it hung in air beside the first intruder.
Reynard, as well as the other men, was petrified by a feeling of
astonishment and consternation so extreme as almost to preclude terror.
Voiceless and motionless, they beheld the demoniac intrusion; and the consternation
of Reynard, in particular, was mingled with an element of unspeakable surprise,
together with a dreadful recognizance. But the girl Nicolette, with a mad
scream of horror, turned and started to flee across the room.
As if her cry had been the one provocation needed, the two demons
swooped upon their victims. One, with a ferocious slash of its outstretched
claws, tore open the throat of Jean Villom, who fell with a gurgling, blood-choked
groan; and then, in the same fashion, it assailed Raoul Coupain. The other,
in the meanwhile, had pursued and overtaken the fleeing girl, and had seized
in its bestial forearms, with the ribbed wings enfolding her like
a hellish drapery.
The room was filled by a moaning whirlwind, by a chaos of wild cries
and tossing, struggling shadows. Reynard heard the guttural snarling of
the murderous monster, muffled by the body of Coupain, whom it was tearing
with its teeth; and he heard the lubricous laughter of the incubus, above
the shrieks of the hysterically frightened girl. Then the grotesquely flaring
tapers went out in a gust of swirling air, and Reynard received a violent
blow in the darkness — the blow of some rushing object, perhaps of a passing
wing, that was hard and heavy as stone. He fell, and became insensible.
Dully and confusedly, with much effort, Reynard struggled back to
consciousness. For a brief interim, he could not remember where he was
nor what had happened. He was troubled by the painful throbbing of his
head, by the humming of agitated voices about him, by the glaring of many
lights and the thronging of many faces when he opened his eyes; and above
all, by the sense of nameless but grievous calamity and uttermost horror
that weighed him down from the first dawning of sentiency.
Memory returned to him, laggard and reluctant; and with it, a full
awareness of his surroundings and situation. He was lying on the tavern
floor, and his own warm, sticky blood was rilling across his face from
the wound on his aching head. The long room was half filled with people
of the neighborhood, bearing torches and knives and halberds, who had entered
and were peering at the corpses of Villom and Coupain, which lay amid pools
of wine-diluted blood and the wreckage of the shattered furniture and tableware.
Nicolette, with her green gown in shreds, and her body crushed by
the embraces of the demon, was moaning feebly while women crowded about
her with ineffectual cries and questions which she could not even hear
or understand. The two cronies of Villom, horribly clawed and mangled,
were dead beside their over-turned table.
Stupefied with horror, and still dizzy from the blow that had laid
him unconscious, Reynard staggered to his feet, and found himself surrounded
at once by inquiring faces and voices. Some of the people were a little
suspicious of him, since he was the sole survivor in the tavern, and bore
an ill repute, but his replies to their questions soon convinced them that
the new crime was wholly the work of the same demons that had plagued Vyones
in so monstrous a fashion for weeks past.
Reynard, however, was unable to tell them all that he had seen, or
to confess the ultimate sources of his fear and stupefaction. The secret
of that which he knew was locked in the seething pit of his tortured and
Somehow, he left the ravaged inn, he pushed his way through the gathering
crowd with its terror-muted murmurs, and found himself alone on the midnight
streets. Heedless of his own possible peril, and scarcely knowing where
he went, he wandered through Vyones for many hours; and somewhile in his
wanderings, he came to his own workshop. With no assignable reason for
the act, he entered, and re-emerged with a heavy hammer, which he carried
with him during his subsequent peregrinations. Then, driven by his awful
and unremissive torture, he went on till the pale dawn had touched the
spires and the house-tops with a ghostly glimmering.
By a half-conscious compulsion, his steps had led him to the square
before the cathedral. Ignoring the amazed verger, who had just opened the
doors, he entered and sought a stairway that wound tortuously upward to
the tower on which his own gargoyles were ensconced.
In the chill and livid light of sunless morning, he emerged on the
roof; and leaning perilously from the verge, he examined the carven figures.
He felt no surprise, only the hideous confirmation of a fear too ghastly
to be named, when he saw that the teeth and claws of the malign, cat-headed
griffin were stained with darkening blood; and that shreds of apple-green
cloth were hanging from the talons of the lustful, bat-winged satyr.
It seemed to Reynard, in the dim ashen light, that a look of unspeakable
triumph, of intolerable irony, was imprinted on the face of this latter
creature. He stared at it with fearful and agonizing fascination, while
impotent rage, abhorrence, and repentance deeper than that of the damned
arose within him in a smothering flood. He was hardly aware that he had
raised the iron hammer and had struck wildly at the satyr's horned profile,
till he heard the sullen, angry clang of impact, and found that he was
tottering on the edge of the roof to retain his balance.
The furious blow had merely chipped the features of the gargoyle,
and had not wiped away the malignant lust and exultation. Again Reynard
raised the heavy hammer.
It fell on empty air; for, even as he struck, the stone-carver felt
himself lifted and drawn backward by something that sank into his flesh
like many separate knives. He staggered helplessly, his feet slipped, and
then he was lying on the granite verge, with his head and shoulders over
the dark, deserted street.
Half swooning, and sick with pain, he saw above him the other gargoyle,
the claws of whose right foreleg were firmly embedded in his shoulder.
They tore deeper, as if with a dreadful clenching. The monster seemed to
tower like some fabulous beast above its prey; and he felt himself slipping
dizzily across the cathedral gutter, with the gargoyle twisting and turning
as if to resume its normal position over the gulf. Its slow, inexorable
movement seemed to be part of his vertigo. The very tower was tilting and
revolving beneath him in some unnatural nightmare fashion.
Dimly, in a daze of fear and agony, Reynard saw the remorseless tiger-face
bending toward him with its horrid teeth laid bare in an eternal rictus
of diabolic hate. Somehow, he had retained the hammer. With an instinctive
impulse to defend himself, he struck at the gargoyle, whose cruel features
seemed to approach him like something seen in the ultimate madness and
distortion of delirium.
Even as he struck, the vertiginous turning movement continued, and
he felt the talons dragging him outward on empty air. In his cramped, recumbent
position, the blow fell short of the hateful face and came down with a
dull clangor on the foreleg whose curving talons were fixed in his shoulder
like meat-hooks. The clangor ended in a sharp cracking sound; and the leaning
gargoyle vanished from Reynard's vision as he fell. He saw nothing more,
except the dark mass of the cathedral tower, that seemed to soar away from
him and to rush upward unbelievably in the livid, starless heavens to which
the belated sun had not yet risen.
It was the archbishop Ambrosius, on his way to early Mass, who found
the shattered body of Reynard lying face downward in the square. Ambrosius
crossed himself in startled horror at the sight; and the, when he saw the
object that was still clinging to Reynard's shoulder, he repeated the gesture
with a more than pious promptness.
He bent down to examine the thing. With the infallible memory of
a true art-lover, he recognized it at once. Then, through the same clearness
of recollection, he saw that the stone foreleg, whose claws were so deeply
buried in Reynard's flesh, had somehow undergone a most unnatural alteration.
The paw, as he remembered it, should have been slightly bent and relaxed;
but now it was stiffly outthrust and elongated, as if, like the paw of
a living limb, it had reached for something, or had dragged a heavy burden
with its ferine talons.