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   Chapter 7 THE GRAVEYARD

The Hollow Needle; Further adventures of Arsene Lupin By Maurice Leblanc Characters: 10995

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

When the Children were not going on an expedition, they played about in the Realms of Light; and this was a great treat for them, for the gardens and the country around the temple were as wonderful as the halls and galleries of silver and gold.

The leaves of some of the plants were so broad and strong that they were able to lie down on them; and, when a breath of wind stirred the leaves, the Children swung as in a hammock. It was always summer there and never a moment was darkened by the night; but the hours were known by their different colours; there were pink, white, blue, lilac, green and yellow hours; and, according to their hues, the flowers, the fruits, the birds, the butterflies and the scents changed, causing Tyltyl and Mytyl a constant surprise. They had all the toys that they could wish for. When they were tired of playing, they stretched themselves out on the backs of the lizards, which were as long and wide as little boats, and quickly, quickly raced round the garden-paths, over the sand which was as white and as good to eat as sugar. When they were thirsty, Water shook her tresses into the cup of the enormous flowers; and the Children drank straight out of the lilies, tulips and morning-glories. If they were hungry, they picked radiant fruits which revealed the taste of Light to them and which had juice that shone like the rays of the sun.

There was also, in a clump of bushes, a white marble pond which possessed a magic power: its clear waters reflected not the faces, but the souls of those who looked into it.

"It's a ridiculous invention," said the Cat, who steadily refused to go near the pond.

You, my dear little readers, who know her thoughts as well as I do, will not be surprised at her refusal. And you will also understand why our faithful Tyl? was not afraid to go and quench his thirst there: he need not fear to reveal his thoughts, for he was the only creature whose soul never altered. The dear Dog had no feelings but those of love and kindness and devotion.

When Tyltyl bent over the magic mirror, he almost always saw the picture of a splendid Blue Bird, for the constant wish to find him filled his mind entirely. Then he would run to Light and entreat her:

"Tell me where he is!... You know everything: tell me where to find him!"

But she replied, in a tone of mystery:

"I cannot tell you anything. You must find him for yourself." And, kissing him, she added, "Cheer up; you are getting nearer to him at each trial."

Now there came a day on which she said to him:

"I have received a message from the Fairy Bérylune telling me that the Blue Bird is probably hidden in the graveyard.... It appears that one of the Dead in the graveyard is keeping him in his tomb...."

"What shall we do?" asked Tyltyl.

"It is very simple: at midnight you will turn the diamond and you shall see the Dead come out of the ground."

At these words, Milk, Water, Bread and Sugar began to yell and scream and chatter their teeth.

"Don't mind them," said Light to Tyltyl, in a whisper. "They are afraid of the Dead."

"I'm not afraid of them!" said Fire, frisking about. "Time was when I used to burn them; that was much more amusing than nowadays."

"Oh, I feel I am going to turn," wailed Milk.

"I'm not afraid," said the Dog, trembling in every limb, "but if you run away.... I shall run away too ... and with the greatest pleasure...."

The Cat sat pulling at her whiskers:

"I know what's what," she said, in her usual mysterious way.

"Be quiet," said Light. "The Fairy gave strict orders. You are all to stay with me, at the gate of the graveyard; the Children are to go in alone."

Tyltyl felt anything but pleased. He asked:

"Aren't you coming with us?"

"No," said Light. "The time for that has not arrived. Light cannot yet enter among the Dead. Besides, there is nothing to fear. I shall not be far away; and those who love me and whom I love always find me again...."

She had not finished speaking, when everything around the Children changed. The wonderful temple, the dazzling flowers, the splendid gardens vanished to make way for a poor little country cemetery, which lay in the soft moonlight. Near the Children were a number of graves, grassy mounds, wooden crosses and tombstones. Tyltyl and Mytyl were seized with terror and hugged each other:

"I am frightened!" said Mytyl.

"I am never frightened," stammered Tyltyl, who was shaking with fear, but did not like to say so.

"I say," asked Mytyl, "are the Dead wicked?"

"Why, no," said Tyltyl, "they're not alive!..."

"Have you ever seen one?"

"Yes, once, long ago, when I was very young...."

"What was it like?"

"Quite white, very still and very cold; and it didn't talk...."

"Are we going to see them?"

Tyltyl shuddered at this question and made an unsuccessful effort to steady his voice as he answered:

"Why, of course, Light said so!"

"Where are the Dead?" asked Mytyl.

Tyltyl cast a frightened look around him, for the Children had not dared to stir since they were alone:

"The Dead are here," he said, "under the grass or under those big stones."

"Are those the doors of their houses?" asked Mytyl, pointing to the tombstones.


"Do they go out when it's fine?"

"They can only go out at night."


"Because they are in their night-shirts."

"Do they go out also when it rains?"

"When it rains, they stay at home."

"Is it nice in their homes?"

"They say it's very cramped."

"Have they any little children?"

"Why, yes, they have all those who die."

"And what do they live on?"

Tyltyl stopped to think, before answering. As Mytyl's big brother, he felt it his duty to know everything; but her questions often puzzled him. Then he reflected that, as the Dead live under ground, they can hardly eat anything that is above it; and so he answered very positively:

"They eat roots!"

Mytyl was quite satisfied and returned to the great question that was occupying her little mind:

"Shall we see them?" she asked.

"Of course," said Tyltyl, "we see everything when I turn the diamond."

"And what will they say?"

Tyltyl began to grow impatient:

"They will say nothing, as they don't talk."

"Why don't they talk?" asked Mytyl.

"Because they have nothing to say," said Tyltyl, more cross and perplexed than ever.

"Why have they nothing to say?"

This time, the little big brother lost all patience. He shrugged his shoulders, gave Mytyl a push and shouted angrily:

"You're a nuisance!..."

Mytyl was greatly upset and confused. She sucked her thumb and resolved to hold her tongue for ever after, as she had been so badly treated! But a breath of wind made the leaves of the trees whisper and suddenly recalled the Children to their fears and their sense of loneliness. They hugged each other tight and began to talk again, so as not to hear the horrible silence:

"When will you turn the diamond?" asked Mytyl.

"You heard Light say that I was to wait until midnight, because that disturbs them less; it is when they come out to take the air...."

"Isn't it midnight yet...."

Tyltyl turned round, saw the church clock and hardly had the strength to answer, for the hands were just upon the hour:

"Listen," he stammered, "listen.... It is just going to strike.... There!... Do you hear?..."

And the clock struck twelve.

Then Mytyl, frightened out of her life, began to stamp her feet and utter piercing screams:

"I want to go away!... I want to go away!..."

Tyltyl, though stiff with fright, was able to say:

"Not now.... I am going to turn the diamond...."

"No, no, no!" cried Mytyl. "I am so frightened, little brother!... Don't do it!... I want to go away!..."

Tyltyl vainly tried to lift his hand: he could not reach the diamond with Mytyl clinging to him, hanging with all her weight on her brother's arm and screaming at the top of her voice:

"I don't want to see the Dead!... They will be awful!... I can't possibly!... I am much too frightened!..."

Poor Tyltyl was quite as much terrified as Mytyl, but at each trial, his will and courage were becoming greater; he was learning to master himself; and nothing could induce him to fail in his mission. The eleventh stroke rang out.

"The hour is passing!" he exclaimed. "It is time!"

And releasing himself resolutely from Mytyl's arms, he turned the diamond....

A moment of terrible silence followed for the poor little children. Then they saw the crosses totter, the mounds open, the slabs rise up....

Mytyl hid her face against Tyltyl's chest:

"They're coming out!" she cried. "They're there!... They're there!..."

The agony was more than the plucky little fellow could endure. He shut his eyes and only kept himself from fainting by leaning against a tree beside him. He remained like that for a minute that seemed to him like a century, not daring to move, not daring to breathe. Then he heard birds singing; a warm and scented breeze fanned his face; and, on his hands, on his neck, he felt the soft heat of the balmy summer sun. Now quite reassured, but unable to believe in so great a miracle, he opened his eyes and at once began to shout with happiness and admiration.

From all the open tombs came thousands of splendid flowers. They spread everywhere, on the paths, on the trees, on the grass; and they went up and up until it seemed that they would touch the sky. They were great full-blown roses, showing their hearts, wonderful golden hearts from which came the hot, bright rays which had wrapped Tyltyl in that summer warmth. Round the roses, birds sang and bees buzzed gaily.

"I can't believe it! It's not possible!" said Tyltyl. "What has become of the tombs and the stone crosses?"

Dazzled and bewildered, the two children walked hand in hand through the graveyard, of which not a trace remained, for there was nothing but a wonderful garden on every side. They were as glad and happy as could be, after their terrible fright. They had thought that ugly skeletons would rise from the earth and run after them, pulling horrid faces; they had imagined all sorts of awful things. And now, in the presence of the truth, they saw that all that they had been told was a great big story and that Death does not exist. They saw that there are no Dead and that Life goes on always, always, but under fresh forms. The fading rose sheds its pollen, which gives birth to other roses, and its scattered petals scent the air. The fruits come when the blossoms fall from the trees; and the dingy, hairy caterpillar turns into a brilliant butterfly. Nothing perishes ... there are only changes....

Beautiful birds circled all round Tyltyl and Mytyl. There were no blue ones among them, but the two Children were so glad of their discovery that they asked for nothing more. Astonished and delighted, they kept on repeating:

"There are no Dead!... There are no Dead!..."

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