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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/205

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173
ANOTHER KIND OF DESERT.

of Weymouth. The village has absorbed the city. It was the bridge which did the work. Bridges are strange instruments of suction, which absorb a population, and often swell one river-bank at the expense of its opposite neighbour.

The boy went to the bridge, which at that period was a covered wooden structure. He crossed it. Thanks to its roofing, there was no snow on the planks; his bare feet had a moment's comfort as they crossed them. Having passed over the bridge, he was in Melcombe Regis. There were fewer wooden houses than stone ones there. He was no longer in the village, he was in the city. The bridge opened on a rather fine street called St. Thomas's Street; he entered it. Here and there were high carved gables and shop-fronts. He set to knocking at the doors again: he had no strength left to call or shout.

At Melcombe Regis, as at Weymouth, no one was stirring. The doors were all carefully locked and barred; the windows were covered with shutters. Every precaution had been taken to avoid being aroused by disagreeable surprises. The little wanderer was suffering the indefinable depression caused by a sleeping town. Sleep has gloomy associates beyond this life: the decomposed thoughts of the sleepers float above them in a mist and combine with the possible, which perhaps has also the power of thought, as it floats in space. Hence comes bewilderment. Dreams, which may be compared to clouds, interpose their folds and their transparencies over that star, the mind. Above those closed eyelids, where vision has taken the place of sight, a sepulchral disintegration of outlines and appearances dilates itself into impalpability. Mysterious and diffused existences amalgamate themselves with life in sleep, that counterpart of death. Even he who sleeps not, feels a medium full of sinister