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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/225

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193
THE AWAKING.

on its hinges, the steps were let down. Ursus was returning. He ascended the steps, his extinguished lantern in his hand. At the same time the patter of four paws was heard on the steps. It was Homo, following Ursus, who had also returned to his home.

The frightened boy gave a sudden start as the wolf opened his mouth, disclosing two rows of glistening white teeth. The animal stopped when he had got half way up the steps, and placed both fore-paws inside the van, leaning on the threshold, like a preacher with his elbows on the edge of the pulpit. He sniffed at the chest from afar, not being in the habit of finding it occupied as it then was. At last he made up his mind to enter. The boy, seeing the wolf in the van, jumped out of the bear-skin, and placed himself in front of the infant, who was sleeping as soundly as ever.

Ursus had just hung the lantern up on the nail in the ceiling. Silently, and with mechanical deliberation, he unbuckled the belt which held his case, and replaced it on the shelf. He looked at nothing, and seemed to see nothing. His eyes were glassy. Something had evidently moved him deeply. His thoughts at length found vent, as usual, in a rapid flow of words.

"Better off, doubtless! Dead! stone dead!" he soliloquized.

He bent down, and put a shovelful of turf-mould into the stove; and as he poked the peat, he growled out:

"I had great trouble in finding her. She was buried under two feet of snow. Had it not been for Homo, who sees as clearly with his nose as Christopher Columbus did with his mind, I should still be there, digging at the avalanche, and playing hide-and-seek with Death. Diogenes took his lantern and sought for a man; I took my lantern and sought for a woman. He found a sarcasm; I found mourning. How cold she