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CHAPTER V. MISANTHROPY PLAYS ITS PRANKS.
A strange and alarming grinding of teeth reached him through the darkness.
It was enough to drive one back: he advanced. To those to whom silence has become dreadful a howl is comforting.
That fierce growl reassured him; that threat was a promise. There was there a being alive and awake, though it might be a wild beast. He advanced in the direction whence came the snarl.
He turned the corner of a wall, and, behind in the vast sepulchral light made by the reflection of snow and sea, he saw a thing placed as if for shelter. It was a cart, unless it was a hovel. It had wheels--it was a carriage. It had a roof--it was a dwelling. From the roof arose a funnel, and out of the funnel smoke. This smoke was red, and seemed to imply a good fire in the interior. Behind, projecting hinges indicated a door, and in the centre of this door a square opening showed a light inside the caravan. He approached.
Whatever had growled perceived his approach, and became furious. It was no longer a growl which he had to meet; it was a roar. He heard a sharp sound, as of a chain violently pulled to its full length, and suddenly, under the door, between the hind wheels, two rows of sharp white teeth appeared. At the same time as the mouth between the wheels a head was put through the window.
"Peace there!" said the head.
The mouth was silent.
The head began again,--
"Is any one there?"
The child answered,--
"You? Who are you? whence do you come?"
"I am weary," said the child.
"What o'clock is it?"
"I am cold."
"What are you doing there?"
"I am hungry."
The head replied,--
"Every one cannot be as happy as a lord. Go away."
The head was withdrawn and the window closed.
The child bowed his forehead, drew the sleeping infant closer in his arms, and collected his strength to resume his journey. He had taken a few steps, and was hurrying away.
However, at the same time that the window closed the door had opened; a step had been let down; the voice which had spoken to the child cried out angrily from the inside of the van,--
"Well! why do you not enter?"
The child turned back.
"Come in," resumed the voice. "Who has sent me a fellow like this, who is hungry and cold, and who does not come in?"
The child, at once repulsed and invited, remained motionless.
The voice continued,--
"You are told to come in, you young rascal."
He made up his mind, and placed one foot on the lowest step.
There was a great growl under the van. He drew back. The gaping jaws appeared.
"Peace!" cried the voice of the man.
The jaws retreated, the growling ceased.
"Come up!" continued the man.
The child with difficulty climbed up the three steps. He was impeded by the infant, so benumbed, rolled up and enveloped in the jacket that nothing could be distinguished of her, and she was but a little shapeless mass.