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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/200

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

in the case of the dead woman, have held him to the ground, while the ice would have glued him alive to the earth. He had tripped on the sides of precipices, and had recovered himself; he had stumbled into holes, and got out again,—but now the slightest fall would be death; a false step would prove fatal. He must not slip; yet everything was slippery; everywhere there was rime and frozen snow. The little creature whom he carried made his progress fearfully difficult; she was not only a burden which his weariness and exhaustion made excessive, but was also an encumbrance in that she occupied both his arms,—and to him who walks over ice, arms serve as a natural and necessary balancing-pole. The boy was obliged to do without this balance-pole. He did do without it and advanced, bending under his burden, not knowing what would become of him. The infant that he carried was the drop causing the cup of distress to overflow; yet he advanced, reeling at every step, and accomplishing, without spectators, miracles of equilibrium.

Without spectators? We repeat that unseen eyes perhaps watched him on this perilous path,—the eyes of the mother and the eyes of God!

The boy staggered, slipped, recovered himself, tightened his hold on the infant, and drawing the jacket closer about her covered her head with it, and staggered on again. He was, to all appearance, on the plains where Bincleaves Farm was afterwards established, between what are now called Spring Gardens and the Parsonage House. Homesteads and cottages now stand upon what was then a barren waste. Sometimes less than a century changes a steppe into a city.

Suddenly, a lull having occurred in the icy blast which was blinding him, the boy perceived, at a short distance in front of him, a cluster of roofs and of