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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/103

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THE NORTH POINT OF PORTLAND.

the man's. Experience is varied, however, and leads to good or evil according to natural disposition.

The child had run quite a quarter of a league, and walked another quarter, when suddenly he felt the cravings of hunger. A thought which altogether eclipsed the hideous apparition on the hill occurred to him,—that he must eat. Happily there are in man brute instincts which serve to lead him back to reality. But what to eat, where to eat, how to eat? He felt in his pockets mechanically, well knowing that they were empty. Then he quickened his pace, without knowing whither he was going. He was hastening towards a possible shelter. This faith in a shelter is one of the convictions rooted by God in man; to believe in a shelter is to believe in God.

On that snow-clad plain, however, there was nothing resembling a roof. Yet the child went on, and the waste continued bare as far as eye could reach. There had never been a human habitation on the table-land. It was at the foot of the cliff, in holes in the rocks, that the aboriginal inhabitants had dwelt long ago,—men who had slings for weapons, dried cow-dung for fuel, for a god the idol Heil standing in a glade at Dorchester, and for a trade the fishing of that grey coral which the Gauls called plin, and the Greeks Isidis plocamos. The child made his way along as best he could. Destiny is made up of cross-roads; an option of path is sometimes dangerous. This little creature had an early choice of doubtful chances. He continued to advance, but although the muscles of his thighs seemed to be of steel, he began to tire. There were no tracks in the plain, or if there were any the snow had obliterated them. Instinctively he directed his course eastwards. Sharp stones had wounded his heels; had it been daylight, blood-stains might have been seen in the