Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/127

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99
A DIFFERENT CLOUD ENTERS ON THE SCENE.

where it is another affair,"—and the doctor emphasized these enigmatical words with an appalling expression which was unseen in the darkness.

A silence ensued. The captain, remembering the two names given by the chief to this man, asked himself the question: "Is he a madman, or is he a sage?"

The stiff and bony finger of the doctor continued to point, like a sign-post, to the dark spot in the sky.

The captain looked at this spot. "In truth," he growled out, "it is not sky, but clouds."

"A blue cloud is worse than a black cloud, "said the doctor; "and it's a snow-cloud," he added.

"La nube de la nieve," said the captain, as if trying to understand the word better by translating it.

"Do you know what a snow-cloud is?" asked the doctor.

"No."

"You'll know by-and-by."

The captain again turned his attention to the horizon. Continuing to observe the cloud, he muttered between his teeth:—

"One month of squalls, another of wet; January with its gales, February with its rains,—that's all the winter we Asturians get. Our rain even is warm. We've no snow but on the mountains. Ay, ay, look out for the avalanche. The avalanche is no respecter of persons; the avalanche is a brute."

"And the water-spout is a monster," said the doctor, adding, after a pause, "here it comes." He continued: "Several winds are getting together,—a strong wind from the west, and a gentle wind from the east."

"That last is a deceitful one," said the captain.

The blue cloud was growing larger. "If the snow," said the doctor, "is appalling when it slips down the mountain, think what it is when it falls from the Pole!" His eye was glassy. The cloud seemed to spread over