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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/79

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panse of water, as the wind disturbed and wrinkled the vast sheet. The hooker was still visible in the bay, looking like a black triangle gliding over the water. The "Matutina" was making rapid headway; she seemed to grow smaller every minute. Nothing can compare in rapidity with the flight of a vessel disappearing in the distance. Suddenly she lighted the lantern at her prow. Probably the darkness closing in around her made those on board uneasy, and the pilot thought it necessary to throw light on the waves. This luminous point, a spark seen from afar, clung like a spectral light to the tall black form.

There was a storm in the air; the child took no notice of it, but a sailor would have trembled. It was one of those moments when it seems as if the elements were changing into persons, and that one was about to witness the mysterious transformation of the wind into the windgod. The sea becomes Ocean; its power reveals itself as Will: hence the terror. The soul of man fears to be thus confronted with the soul of Nature. Chaos was about to appear. The wind rolled back the fog, and making a stage of the clouds behind set the scene for that fearful drama of wave and winter, which is called a snow-storm. Vessels putting back hove in sight. For some minutes past the roads had no longer been deserted; every moment anxious barks hastening towards an anchorage appeared from behind the capes; some were doubling Portland Bill, the others St. Alban's Head. From afar ships were running in. It was a race for life. Southwards the darkness had thickened, and clouds full of menace bordered the sea. The weight of the tempest hanging overhead made a dreary lull on the waves. It certainly was no time to set sail.

Yet the hooker had sailed. She was steering due south. She was already out of the gulf, and in the