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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/74

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

about his chest. It was a good coat, called in ship-language a "sou'-wester," because made of a sort of stuff that allows little of the south-westerly rain to penetrate.

The child, having gained the table-land, stopped, planted his feet firmly on the frozen ground and looked about him. Behind him was the sea; in front the land; above, the sky,—but a sky without stars; an opaque mist hid the zenith. On reaching the summit of the rocky wall he found himself facing the interior, and he gazed at it attentively. It stretched before him far as the eye could reach, flat, frozen, and covered with snow. A few tufts of heather shivered in the wind. No roads were visible,—no dwelling, not even a shepherd's cot. Here and there, pale, spiral vortices might be seen, which were whirls of fine snow, snatched from the ground by the wind and blown away. Successive undulations of ground suddenly became misty and disappeared from view. The great dull plains were lost in the white fog. A deep silence reigned, far-reaching as infinity, hushed as the tomb.

The child turned again towards the sea. The sea, like the land, was white,—the one with snow, the other with foam. There is nothing so melancholy as the light produced by this double whiteness. The sea was like steel, the cliff like ebony. From the height where the child was, the bay of Portland appeared almost like a geographical map in a semicircle of hills. There was something dreamlike in that nocturnal landscape,—a wan disk belted by a dark crescent; the moon sometimes has a similar appearance. From cape to cape, along the whole coast, not a single spark indicated a hearth with a fire; not a lighted window, not an inhabited house, was to be seen. On earth as in heaven there was no light,—not a lamp below, not a star above. Here and there came sudden elevations in the broad ex-