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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/164

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

That which holds you fast is that which releases the birds and sets the fishes free. It seems nothing, and is everything. We are dependent on the air which is ruffled by our mouths; we are dependent on the water which we catch in the hollow of our hands. Draw a glassful from the storm, and it is but a cup of bitterness; a mouthful is nausea, a waveful is extermination. The grain of sand in the desert, the foam-flake on the sea, are fearful symptoms. Omnipotence takes no care to hide its atom; it changes weakness into strength; and it is with the infinitely little that the infinitely great crushes you. It is with its drops that the ocean overwhelms you. You feel you are a plaything. A plaything: ghastly epithet!

The "Matutina" was a little above Alderney, which was not an unfavourable position; but she was drifting towards its northern point, which was fatal. As a bent bow discharges its arrow, the nor'-wester was shooting the vessel towards the northern cape. Off that point, a little beyond the harbour of Corbelets, is that which the seamen of the Norman archipelago call a "singe,"—that is, a current. The "singe" is a furious kind of current. A wreath of funnels in the shallows produces a wreath of whirlpools on the surface. You escape one only to fall into another. A ship caught hold of by the "singe" whirls round and round until some sharp rock cleaves her hull; then the shattered vessel stops, her stern rises from the waves, the bow completes the revolution in the abyss, the stern sinks in, and the entire wreck is sucked down. The circle of foam broadens, and nothing is seen on the surface of the waves but a few bubbles here and there.

The three most dangerous currents in the whole Channel are—one close to the well-known Girdler Sands; one at Jersey between the Pignonnet and the Point of Noirmont; and that of Alderney.