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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/201

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A BURDEN MAKES A ROUGH ROAD ROUGHER.

chimneys, the reverse of a silhouette,—a city painted in white on a black horizon, something like what we call nowadays a negative proof. Roofs! dwellings! shelter! He had arrived somewhere at last; he felt the ineffable encouragement of hope. The watch of a ship which has wandered from her course feels some such emotion when he cries, "Land ho!" He quickened his pace. He would soon be among living creatures; there was no longer anything to fear. There glowed within him a sudden warmth,—security; his terrible ordeal was nearly over; thenceforward there would be neither night nor winter nor tempest. It seemed to him that he had left all such misery behind him. The infant was no longer a burden; he almost ran. His eyes were fixed on the roofs: there was life there; he never took his eyes off them. A dead man might gaze thus on what was visible through the half-open cover of his sepulchre. There were the chimneys of which he had seen the smoke; no smoke arose from them now.

It was not long before the boy reached the houses. He came to the outskirts of a town,—an open street. At that period the barring of streets at night had been nearly abandoned. The street began by two houses. In those two houses neither candle nor lamp was visible; nor in the whole street, nor in the whole town, as far as eye could reach. The house to the right was a roof rather than a house; nothing could be more squalid. The walls were of mud, the roof was of straw, and there was more thatch than wall. An immense nettle, springing from the bottom of the wall, reached up to the roof. The hovel had but one door, which was like that of a dog-kennel, and a window which was but a hole. Both were shut up; but at the side an inhabited pig-sty told that the house also was inhabited. The house on the left was large, high, and built entirely