Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/85

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
61
THE TREE OF HUMAN INVENTION.

to hold counsel with himself. The night was becoming very dark; his radius of sight was contracting. He could now see only a few steps before him. Suddenly he stopped and listened for an instant; then with an almost imperceptible nod of satisfaction he turned quickly and directed his steps towards an eminence of moderate height, which he dimly perceived on his right, at the end of the plain nearest the cliff. There was on the eminence a shape which in the mist looked like a tree. The child had just heard a noise in this direction, which was neither the noise of the wind nor of the sea; nor was it the cry of an animal. He thought that some one was there, and a few strides brought him to the foot of the hillock.

Some one was there. That which had been indistinct on the top of the eminence was now plainly visible. It looked something like a great arm thrust straight out of the ground; at the upper extremity of the arm a sort of forefinger, supported from beneath by the thumb, pointed out horizontally; the arm, the thumb, and the forefinger formed a triangle against the sky. At the point of juncture of this peculiar finger and this peculiar thumb there was a line, from which hung something black and shapeless. The line moving in the wind sounded like a chain.

This was the noise the child had heard. Seen closely, the line proved to be that which the sound indicated,—a chain; a single chain cable. By that mysterious law which throughout Nature causes appearances to exaggerate realities, the place, the hour, the mist, the mournful sea, the angry clouds on the distant horizon, added to the effect of this figure, and made it seem enormous. The mass appended to the chain presented the appearance of a huge scabbard. There was a round knot at the top, about which the end of the chain was fastened.