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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/154

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CHAPTER XII.


FACE TO FACE WITH THE ROCK.


THE wretched people on board the "Matutina" soon understood the derisive character of this warning. The sight of the lighthouse raised their spirits at first, then overwhelmed them with despair. Nothing could be done, nothing attempted. What has been said of kings, we may say of the waves,—we are their people, we are their prey. All their raving must be borne.

The nor'-wester was driving the hooker on the Caskets. They were nearing them; escape was impossible. They were drifting rapidly towards the reef; they felt that they were getting into shallow waters; the lead, if they could have thrown it to any purpose, would not have shown more than three or four fathoms. They heard the dull sound of the waves being sucked within the submarine caves of the steep rock. They made out, near the lighthouse, a deep cut between two granite walls,—the narrow passage leading into the ugly, wild-looking little harbour, supposed to be full of the skeletons of men and carcasses of ships. It looked like the mouth of a cave, rather than the entrance of a port. They could hear the crackling of the flames high up within the iron grating. A ghastly purple illuminated the storm; the collision of the rain and hail disturbed the mist. The black cloud and the red flame fought, serpent against serpent; live ashes, reft by the wind, flew from the fire, and the sudden assaults of the sparks