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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/65

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45
PORTLAND BILL.

shadow. The misty gloom, usual at twilight, became thicker; it was like the growth of darkness at the bottom of a well. The opening of the creek seaward, a narrow passage, traced on the almost night-black interior a pallid rift where the waves were moving. You must have been quite close to perceive the hooker moored to the rocks, and, as it were, hidden by the great mantle of shadow. A plank extending to a low and level projection of the cliff, the only point on which a landing could be made, placed the vessel in communication with the land. Dark figures were passing and repassing one another on this tottering gangway, and in the shadow beyond several persons could be dimly discerned standing on the deck.

It was less cold in the creek than out at sea, thanks to the screen of rock rising to the north of the basin, which did not, however, prevent the people from shivering. They were hurrying. The effect of the twilight defined the forms as though they had been punched out with a tool. Certain indentations in their clothes were visible, and showed that they belonged to the class called in England, "The ragged." The windings of the pathway could be vaguely distinguished on the side of the cliff. This pathway, full of curves and angles, almost perpendicular, and better adapted for goats than men, terminated at the platform where the plank was placed. The pathways of cliffs ordinarily imply a not very inviting declivity; they plunge downward rather than slope. This one—probably some ramification of a road on the plain above—was disagreeable to look at, so steep was it. From below you saw it attain by a series of zig-zags the summit of the cliff where it passed out on to the high plateau through a cut in the rock; and the passengers for whom the vessel was waiting must have come by this path.