Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/193

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THE child followed in this track for some time; but unfortunately the footprints became more and more indistinct, for the snow was falling thick and fast. It was at the very same time that the hooker was encountering the furious snow-storm at sea. The child, in distress like the vessel, but in a different fashion, had, in the inextricable confusion of shadows that rose up before him, no guide but the footsteps in the snow, and he held to it as the thread of the labyrinth.

Suddenly, whether the snow had filled them up entirely, or for some other reason, the footsteps ceased. All became even, level, smooth, without a stain, without an irregularity. There was now nothing but a white mantle drawn over the earth, and a black one over the sky. It seemed as if the pedestrian must have flown away. The child, in despair, bent down and searched; but in vain. As he arose he fancied that he heard some indistinct sound, but he could not be sure of it. It resembled a voice, a breath, a shadow; it was more human than animal, more sepulchral than living. It was not a sound, but rather the shadow of a sound. He looked, but saw nothing. Solitude, wide and naked, stretched before him. He listened: that which he had thought he heard had faded away. Perhaps it had been only fancy. He still listened: all