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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/207

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ANOTHER KIND OF DESERT.

experienced on the plain. Now he had entered into the midst of life, and yet remained alone. This was the height of misery. He had understood the pitiless desert, but the unrelenting town was too much to bear. The hour, the strokes of which he had just counted, had been another blow. It seemed to be a declaration of indifference, and as if Eternity were saying, "What does it matter to me?" He stopped, and it is probable that in that miserable minute he asked himself whether it would not be better to lie down there and die; but the little girl leaned her head against his shoulder, and fell asleep again. This blind confidence drove him on once more. He whom all supports were failing felt that he was himself a basis of support. Irresistible summons of duty! Neither such ideas nor such a situation belonged to his age. It is probable that he did not well understand them; it was merely a matter of instinct. He set out in the direction of Johnstone Row. But now he no longer walked; he dragged himself along. He left St. Mary's Street to the left, made zig-zags through lanes, and at the end of a winding passage found himself in a rather wide, open space. It was a piece of unimproved land,—probably the spot where Chesterfield Place now stands. The houses ended there. He perceived the sea on his right, and scarcely anything more of the town on his left.

What would become of him? Here was the country again! To the east great inclined planes of snow indicated the wide slopes of Radipole. Should he continue his journey; should he advance and re-enter the solitude; or should he turn back and re-enter the town. How was he to choose between the mute plain and the deaf city? The poor little despairing wanderer cast a piteous glance around him.

Suddenly he heard an ominous sound.