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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/192

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

firma. The bridge which now unites Sandford Castle with Smallmouth Sands did not then exist. It is probable that in his gropings he had re-ascended as far as Wyke Regis, where there was then a tongue of sand, a natural road crossing East Fleet.

The isthmus lay behind the child now; but he found himself still face to face with the tempest, with the cold, and with the night. Before him stretched the plain, shrouded in impenetrable gloom. He examined the ground, seeking a footpath. Suddenly he bent down: he had discovered in the snow something that looked like a track. It was indeed a track,—the imprint of a foot. The print was clearly cut in the whiteness of the snow, which rendered it distinctly visible. He examined it. It was a naked foot; too small for that of a man, too large for that of a child. It was probably the foot of a woman. Beyond that mark was another, then another and another. The footprints followed one another at the distance of a step, and struck across the plain to the right. They were still fresh, and but slighty covered with snow. A woman had just passed that way. This woman was walking in the direction where the child had seen the smoke. With his eyes fixed on the footprints, he set to work to follow them.