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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/94

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

was warning the child. The wind was beginning to blow again. Nothing stranger than this dead man in motion could be conceived of. The corpse at the end of the chain, swayed by the invisible gust, assumed an oblique position; rose on the left, then fell back; reascended on the right, and then fell and rose with slow and mournful precision. A weird game of see-saw; it seemed as though one saw in the darkness the pendulum of the clock of Eternity.

This continued some time. The child felt himself waking up at the sight; for even through his increasing numbness he experienced a keen sensation of fear. The chain with every oscillation made a creaking sound, with hideous regularity. It seemed to take breath, and then to resume. This creaking was like the cry of a grasshopper. An approaching squall is heralded by sudden gusts of wind; all at once the breeze increased into a gale. The corpse quickened its dismal oscillations; it no longer swung, it tossed. The chain, which had been creaking, now shrieked; it seemed as if its shriek was heard. If it was a call, it was obeyed. From the depths of the horizon came a rushing sound: it was the sound of wings.

An incident now occurred, one of the weird incidents peculiar to graveyards and solitudes. It was the arrival of a flock of ravens. Black flying specks pricked the clouds, pierced the mist, increased in size, came nearer, all hastening towards the hill and uttering shrill cries. It was like the approach of a Legion. The winged vermin of darkness alighted on the gibbet; the child drew back in terror. The birds crowded on the gibbet; not one was on the corpse. They were talking among themselves; the croaking was frightful. The howl, the whistle, and the roar are signs of life; the croak is a pleased announcement of putrefaction; in it you can