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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/160

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CHAPTER XIV.


ORTACH.


DANGER was imminent again. After the Caskets comes Ortach. The storm is no artist; brutal and all-powerful, it never varies its appliances. The darkness is inexhaustible; its snares and perfidies never come to an end. As for man, he soon comes to the end of his resources. Man exhausts his strength, the abyss never. The shipwrecked men turned towards the chief, their hope. He could only shrug his shoulders. Dismal contempt of helplessness.

The Ortach, a single huge rock, rises in a straight line eighty feet above the angry beating of the waves. Waves and ships break against it. An immovable cube, it plunges its rectilinear planes into the numberless serpentine curves of the sea. At night it looks like an enormous block resting on the folds of a huge black sheet. In time of storm it awaits the stroke of the axe,—that is, the thunderbolt. But there is never a thunderbolt during a snow-storm. True, the ship has a bandage over her eyes; she is like one prepared for the scaffold. As for the lightning-bolt which puts one quickly out of one's misery, that is not to be hoped for.

The "Matutina," little better now than a log upon the waters, drifted towards this rock, as she had drifted towards the other. The poor wretches on board, who had for a moment believed themselves saved, relapsed into misery. The destruction they thought they had