Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/140

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.


CHAPTER VIII.


NIX ET NOX.


THE chief characteristic of the snow-storm is its blackness. Nature's habitual aspect during a storm, the earth or sea black and the sky pale, is reversed: the sky is black, the ocean white; foam below, darkness above,—an horizon walled in with smoke; a zenith roofed with crape. The tempest resembles a cathedral hung with mourning; but there is no light in that cathedral,—no phantom lights on the crests of the waves, no spark, no phosphorescence, naught but a dense shadow. The polar cyclone differs from the tropical cyclone, inasmuch as the one sets fire to every light, and the other extinguishes them all. The world is suddenly converted into a vaulted cave. Out of the night falls a dust of pale spots, which hesitate between sky and sea. These spots, which are flakes of snow, slip, wander, and float. It is like the tears of a winding-sheet putting themselves into life-like motion. A mad wind mingles with this dissemination. Blackness crumbling into whiteness, the furious into the obscure, all the tumult of which the sepulchre is capable, a whirlwind under a catafalque,—such is the snow-storm. Underneath trembles the ocean, forming and reforming over portentous depths. In the polar wind, which is electrical, the flakes turn suddenly into hailstones, and the air becomes filled with projectiles; the water crackles, shot with grape. There are no thunder-claps; the light-