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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/195

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THE EFFECT OF SNOW.

impulse which urged him to fly and an instinct which commanded him to remain, he perceived in the snow at his feet, a few steps before him, a sort of undulation of the dimensions of a human body, a little eminence, low, long, and narrow, like the mound over a grave,—a sepulchre in a white church-yard. At the same time the voice cried out again. It was from beneath the undulation that it proceeded. The child crouched down beside the undulation, and with both his hands began to clear it away. Beneath the snow which he removed the lines of a human form soon became visible, and suddenly in the hollow he had made a pale face appeared.

The cry had not proceeded from this face, for the eyes were shut, and the mouth, though open, was full of snow. The form remained motionless; it stirred not under the benumbed hands of the child. He shuddered when he touched it. It was a woman's form. Her dishevelled hair was mingled with the snow; she was dead.

Again the child set to work to brush away the snow. The neck of the dead woman appeared; then her shoulders, clothed in rags. Suddenly he felt something move feebly under his touch. It was something small that was buried, and that stirred. The child swiftly cleared away the snow, revealing a wretched little body—thin, and icy cold, but still alive—lying naked on the dead woman's naked breast. It was a little girl.

It had been swaddled up, but in rags so scanty that in its struggles it had freed itself from its tatters. Its attenuated limbs, which yet contained a little warmth, and its feeble breath, had somewhat melted the snow. A nurse would have said that the baby was live or six months old; but perhaps it might be a year old, for growth, in poverty, suffers deplorable drawbacks, which