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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/157

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FACE TO FACE WITH THE ROCK.

decomposed that changes in direction can be easily effected, or at least are possible even in the most violent collisions. The whole secret of avoiding shipwreck, is to try and pass from the secant to the tangent. Such was the service the beam rendered to the hooker; it had done the work of an oar, had taken the place of a rudder. But the manœuvre once performed could not be repeated. The beam was overboard; the shock of the collision had wrenched it out of the men's hands, and it was lost in the waves. To loosen another beam would have been to dismember the hull.

The hurricane swept the "Matutina" on. The light paled in the distance, faded, and disappeared. There was something mournful in its extinction. Layers of mist gradually sank down upon the now uncertain light; its rays died in the waste of waters; the flame floated, struggled, sank, and lost its form. It might have been a drowning creature. The brazier dwindled to the snuff of a candle; then naught remained save a faint uncertain glimmer. It was like the quenching of light in the pit of night.

The bell which had threatened was dumb; the lighthouse which had threatened had melted away. And yet it was more awful now that they had ceased to threaten. One was a voice, the other a torch. There was something human about them. They were gone, and naught remained but the mighty deep.