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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/198

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CHAPTER III.


A BURDEN MAKES A ROUGH ROAD ROUGHER.


IT was little more than four hours since the hooker sailed from the creek of Portland, leaving the boy on the shore. During the long hours since he had been deserted, and had been journeying onwards, he had met but three persons of that human society into which he was, perchance, about to enter,—a man (the man on the hill), a woman (the woman in the snow), and the little girl whom he was carrying in his arms. He was exhausted by fatigue and hunger, yet advanced more resolutely than ever, though with less strength and an added burden. He was now almost naked. The few rags which remained upon him, hardened by the frost, were sharp as glass, and cut his skin. He was colder, but the infant was warmer. That which he lost was not thrown away, but was gained by her. He found that the poor infant enjoyed the comfort, which to her was a renewal of life. He continued to advance. From time to time, still holding his burden securely, he bent down, and taking a handful of snow rubbed his feet with it, to prevent their being frost-bitten. At other times, his throat feeling as if it were on fire, he put a little snow in his mouth and sucked it; this for a moment assuaged his thirst, but later changed it into fever,—a relief which proved only an aggravation.

The storm had become appalling in its violence. Deluges of snow are possible; this was one. The tem-