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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/84

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CHAPTER V.


THE TREE OF HUMAN INVENTION.


IT was about seven o'clock in the evening. The wind was diminishing,—a sign, however, of a violent recurrence later on. The child was on the table-land at the extreme south end of Portland.

Portland is a peninsula; but the child did not know what a peninsula was, and had never even heard the name of Portland. He knew only one thing; that was that one could walk until one drops. An idea is a guide; but he had no idea. They had brought him there, and left him there. They and there. These two enigmas represented his doom. They were humankind; there was the universe. For him in all creation there was absolutely no basis to rest upon but the little piece of hard, frozen ground where he set his naked feet. In the great twilight world, open on all sides, what was there for him? Nothing. Around him was the vastness of human desertion.

The child crossed the first plateau diagonally, then a second, then a third. At the end of each plateau the child came to a break in the ground. The slope was sometimes steep, but always short; the high, bare plains of Portland resemble great flagstones overlapping one another. The south side seems to enter under the protruding slab, the north side laps over the next one; this made ascents, which the child stepped over nimbly. From time to time he stopped, and seemed