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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/191

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CHESIL.

guide, a footpath might have aided him; but there was none. By instinct he avoided the sharp ridge of rock, and kept as near the strand as possible. It was there that he met with the pitfalls. They were, multiplied before him under three forms,—the pitfall of water, the pitfall of snow, and the pitfall of sand. This last is the most dangerous of all, because the most deceptive. To know the peril we face is alarming; to be ignorant of it is terrible. The child was fighting against unknown dangers; he was groping his way through something which might perhaps prove to be his grave. But he did not hesitate. He went round the rocks, avoided the crevices, guessed at the pitfalls, and followed the twistings and turnings caused by such obstacles; yet he went on. Though unable to advance in a straight line, he walked with a firm tread. He patiently retraced his steps if necessary; he managed to tear himself in time from the horrid bird-lime of the quicksands; he shook the snow off him; more than once he entered the water up to the knees, and directly he left it his wet knees were frozen by the intense cold of the night; he walked rapidly in his stiffened garments, yet he took care to keep his sailor's coat dry and warm on his chest. He was still tormented by hunger.

The chances of the abyss are illimitable. Everything is possible in it, even salvation; an issue may be found, though it be invisible. How the child, wrapped in a smothering winding-sheet of snow, lost on a narrow elevation between two jaws of an abyss, managed to cross the isthmus is something he could not himself have explained. He slipped, climbed, rolled, searched, walked, persevered,—that is all; that, indeed, is the secret of all triumphs. At the end of less than half an hour he felt that the ground was rising. He had reached the other shore. Leaving Chesil, he had gained terra