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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/142

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

clouds and the distant boundaries of celestial chaos seemed to adhere plainly revealed the horrors of their immediate surroundings. Against this fiery background, the snow-flakes looked so black that they reminded one of dark butterflies darting about in a furnace; then, everything was once more veiled in gloom. The first explosion over, the squall, still in mad pursuit of the hooker, began a savage, continuous roar. Nothing could be more appalling than this sort of monologue of the tempest. The gloomy recitative seems intended to serve as a momentary rest for the contending forces,—a sort of truce maintained in the mighty deep.

The hooker held wildly on her course. Her two mainsails especially were doing wonderful work. The sky and sea were like ink compared with the jets of foam running higher than the mast. Every instant masses of water swept the deck like a deluge, and at each roll of the vessel the hawse-holes—now to starboard, now to larboard—became so many open mouths vomiting back foam into the sea. The women had taken refuge in the cabin, but the men remained on deck; the blinding snow eddied round, the surge mingling with it.

At that moment the chief of the band, standing abaft and holding with one hand to the shrouds, and with the other taking off the kerchief he wore round his head and waving it in the light of the lantern, gay and arrogant, with pride in his face, and his hair in wild disorder, cried out,—

"We are free!"

"Free, free, free!" echoed the fugitives, and the band, seizing hold of the rigging, rose up on deck.

"Hurrah!" shouted the chief.

And the band shouted in the storm, "Hurrah!"

Just as this clamour was dying away in the tempest