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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/169

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THE PROBLEM SUDDENLY WORKS IN SILENCE.

sions of the meteoric cloud was again dark. Pale outlines were fused in vague mist, and the gloom of infinite space closed in around the vessel. Walls of inky blackness surrounded the "Matutina," and with the grim deliberation of an encroaching iceberg were slowly but surely closing in around her. In the zenith nothing was visible; a lid of fog seemed to be closing down upon the vessel. It was as if the hooker were at the bottom of an unfathomable abyss. The sea was like a puddle of molten lead. No movement was perceptible in the waters,—ominous immobility! The ocean is never less tame than when it is still as a pool. All was silence, stillness, darkness. Perchance the silence of inanimate objects is taciturnity. The deck was horizontal, with an insensible slope to the sides. A few broken planks were sliding about. The block on which they had lighted the tow steeped in tar, in place of the signal-light which had been washed away, no longer swung at the prow, and no longer let fall burning drops into the sea. What little breeze remained in the clouds was noiseless. The snow fell thickly, softly, and almost perpendicularly. No sound of breakers could be heard. The quiet of midnight was over all.

This profound peace succeeding such terrific tempests and frenzied efforts was, for these poor creatures so long tossed about, an unspeakable comfort; it was as though the punishment of the rack had ceased. It seemed an assurance that they would be saved. They regained confidence. All that had been fury was now tranquillity. It appeared to them a pledge of peace. Their wretched hearts swelled with hope. They were able to let go the end of rope or beam to which they had clung, to rise, straighten themselves up, stand erect, and move about. They felt inexpressibly relieved. There are in the depths of darkness such phases of paradise, preparations for