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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/70

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

It was doubtful if the child's father or mother were in the group, for no sign of interest was vouchsafed him. They made him work; but that was all. He appeared not a child in a family, but a slave in a tribe. He waited on every one, and no one even spoke to him. Still he laboured diligently, and like all the other members of this strange party he seemed to have but one thought,—to embark as quickly as possible. Did he know why? Probably not; he hurried mechanically because he saw the others hurry.

The stowing of the cargo in the hold was soon finished, and the moment to put off arrived. The last case had been carried over the gangway, and nothing was left on shore but the men. The two persons in the group who seemed to be women were already on board; six persons, the child among them, were still on the low platform of the cliff. Preparations for immediate departure were apparent on the vessel; the captain seized the helm, a sailor took up an axe to cut the hawser: to cut is an evidence of haste; when there is time it is unknotted.

"Andamos," said, in a low voice, he who appeared to be chief of the six, and who had the spangles on his tattered clothes. The child rushed towards the plank in order to be the first aboard. As he placed his foot on it, two of the men hurried by, at the risk of throwing him into the water, got in before him, and passed on; the fourth drove him back with his fist, and followed the third; the fifth, who was the chief, bounded into rather than sprang aboard the vessel, and as he jumped in kicked the plank, which fell into the sea; a stroke of the hatchet cut the moorings, the helm was put up, the vessel left the shore, and the child remained on land.