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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/136

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CHAPTER VII.


SUPERHUMAN HORRORS.


IT was with wild rejoicing and delight that those on board the hooker saw the hostile land recede and lessen behind them. By degrees the dark ring of ocean rose higher, dwarfing in the twilight Portland, Purbeck, Tineham, Kimmeridge, the Matravers, the long lines of dim cliffs, and the coast dotted with lighthouses. England disappeared. The fugitives had now nothing around them but the sea.

All at once the darkness became frightful. There was no longer space; the sky became as black as ink, and closed in round the vessel. The snow began to fall slowly, only a few flakes at first. They might have been ghosts. Nothing else was visible. A snare lurked in every possibility.

It is in this cavernous darkness that in our climate the Polar water-spout makes its appearance. A great muddy cloud, resembling the belly of a hydra, hung over the ocean, its livid base adhering to the waves in some places. Some of these adherences resembled pouches with holes, pumping up the sea, disgorging vapour, and refilling themselves with water. Here and there these suctions raised cones of foam on the sea.

The boreal storm hurled itself on the hooker; the hooker rushed to meet it. The squall and the vessel met as though to insult each other. In the first mad shock not a sail was reefed, not a jib lowered; the mast