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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/101

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CHAPTER VII.


THE NORTH POINT OF PORTLAND.


THE child ran until he was breathless, at random, desperate, over the plain into the snow, into space. His flight warmed him. He needed it. Without the run and the fright he would have died. When his breath failed him, he stopped, but he dared not look back. He fancied that the birds would pursue him, that the dead man had undone his chain and was perhaps hurrying after him, that possibly the very gibbet itself was descending the hill, running after the dead man; he feared that he should see these things if he turned his head. When he had somewhat recovered his breath, he resumed his flight.

To account for facts does not belong to childhood. This child had received impressions which were magnified by terror, but he did not link them together in his mind, nor form any conclusion on them. He was going on, no matter how or where; he ran in agony and difficulty as one in a dream. During the three hours or so since he had been deserted, his onward progress, still vague, had changed in character. At first it was a search; now it was a flight. He was no longer conscious of hunger or cold; he felt only fear. One instinct had given place to another. To escape was now his one desire,—to escape. From what? From everything. On all sides life seemed to enclose him like a horrible wall. If he could have fled from everything, he would