The Man Who Laughs
Part 7 out of 13
other idea, but the beloved one enters, and all that does not appertain
to her presence immediately fades away, without her dreaming that
perhaps she is effacing in us a world.
Let us mention a circumstance. In "Chaos Vanquished," the word
_monstruo_, addressed to Gwynplaine, displeased Dea. Sometimes, with the
smattering of Spanish which every one knew at the period, she took it
into her head to replace it by _quiero_, which signifies, "I wish it."
Ursus tolerated, although not without an expression of impatience, this
alteration in his text. He might have said to Dea, as in our day
Moessard said to Vissot, _Tu manques de respect au repertoire_.
"The Laughing Man."
Such was the form of Gwynplaine's fame. His name, Gwynplaine, little
known at any time, had disappeared under his nickname, as his face had
disappeared under its grin.
His popularity was like his visage--a mask.
His name, however, was to be read on a large placard in front of the
Green Box, which offered the crowd the following narrative composed by
"Here is to be seen Gwynplaine, deserted at the age of ten, on the night
of the 29th of January, 1690, by the villainous Comprachicos, on the
coast of Portland. The little boy has grown up, and is called now, THE
The existence of these mountebanks was as an existence of lepers in a
leper-house, and of the blessed in one of the Pleiades. There was every
day a sudden transition from the noisy exhibition outside, into the most
complete seclusion. Every evening they made their exit from this world.
They were like the dead, vanishing on condition of being reborn next
day. A comedian is a revolving light, appearing one moment, disappearing
the next, and existing for the public but as a phantom or a light, as
his life circles round. To exhibition succeeded isolation. When the
performance was finished, whilst the audience were dispersing, and their
murmur of satisfaction was dying away in the streets, the Green Box shut
up its platform, as a fortress does its drawbridge, and all
communication with mankind was cut off. On one side, the universe; on
the other, the caravan; and this caravan contained liberty, clear
consciences, courage, devotion, innocence, happiness, love--all the
Blindness having sight and deformity beloved sat side by side, hand
pressing hand, brow touching brow, and whispered to each other,
intoxicated with love.
The compartment in the middle served two purposes--for the public it was
a stage, for the actors a dining-room.
Ursus, ever delighting in comparisons, profited by the diversity of its
uses to liken the central compartment in the Green Box to the arradach
in an Abyssinian hut.
Ursus counted the receipts, then they supped. In love all is ideal. In
love, eating and drinking together affords opportunities for many sweet
promiscuous touches, by which a mouthful becomes a kiss. They drank ale
or wine from the same glass, as they might drink dew out of the same
lily. Two souls in love are as full of grace as two birds. Gwynplaine
waited on Dea, cut her bread, poured out her drink, approached her too
"Hum!" cried Ursus, and he turned away, his scolding melting into a
The wolf supped under the table, heedless of everything which did
actually not concern his bone.
Fibi and Vinos shared the repast, but gave little trouble. These
vagabonds, half wild and as uncouth as ever, spoke in the gipsy language
to each other.
At length Dea re-entered the women's apartment with Fibi and Vinos.
Ursus chained up Homo under the Green Box; Gwynplaine looked after the
horses, the lover becoming a groom, like a hero of Homer's or a paladin
of Charlemagne's. At midnight, all were asleep, except the wolf, who,
alive to his responsibility, now and then opened an eye. The next
morning they met again. They breakfasted together, generally on ham and
tea. Tea was introduced into England in 1678. Then Dea, after the
Spanish fashion, took a siesta, acting on the advice of Ursus, who
considered her delicate, and slept some hours, while Gwynplaine and
Ursus did all the little jobs of work, without and within, which their
wandering life made necessary. Gwynplaine rarely wandered away from the
Green Box, except on unfrequented roads and in solitary places. In
cities he went out only at night, disguised in a large, slouched hat, so
as not to exhibit his face in the street.
His face was to be seen uncovered only on the stage.
The Green Box had frequented cities but little. Gwynplaine at
twenty-four had never seen towns larger than the Cinque Ports. His
renown, however, was increasing. It began to rise above the populace,
and to percolate through higher ground. Amongst those who were fond of,
and ran after, strange foreign curiosities and prodigies, it was known
that there was somewhere in existence, leading a wandering life, now
here, now there, an extraordinary monster. They talked about him, they
sought him, they asked where he was. The laughing man was becoming
decidedly famous. A certain lustre was reflected on "Chaos Vanquished."
So much so, that, one day, Ursus, being ambitious, said,--
"We must go to London."
BOOK THE THIRD.
_THE BEGINNING OF THE FISSURE._
THE TADCASTER INN.
At that period London had but one bridge--London Bridge, with houses
built upon it. This bridge united London to Southwark, a suburb which
was paved with flint pebbles taken from the Thames, divided into small
streets and alleys, like the City, with a great number of buildings,
houses, dwellings, and wooden huts jammed together, a pell-mell mixture
of combustible matter, amidst which fire might take its pleasure, as
1666 had proved. Southwark was then pronounced Soudric, it is now
pronounced Sousouorc, or near it; indeed, an excellent way of
pronouncing English names is not to pronounce them. Thus, for
Southampton, say Stpntn.
It was the time when "Chatham" was pronounced _je t'aime_.
The Southwark of those days resembles the Southwark of to-day about as
much as Vaugirard resembles Marseilles. It was a village--it is a city.
Nevertheless, a considerable trade was carried on there. The long old
Cyclopean wall by the Thames was studded with rings, to which were
anchored the river barges.
This wall was called the Effroc Wall, or Effroc Stone. York, in Saxon
times, was called Effroc. The legend related that a Duke of Effroc had
been drowned at the foot of the wall. Certainly the water there was deep
enough to drown a duke. At low water it was six good fathoms. The
excellence of this little anchorage attracted sea vessels, and the old
Dutch tub, called the _Vograat_, came to anchor at the Effroc Stone. The
_Vograat_ made the crossing from London to Rotterdam, and from Rotterdam
to London, punctually once a week. Other barges started twice a day,
either for Deptford, Greenwich, or Gravesend, going down with one tide
and returning with the next. The voyage to Gravesend, though twenty
miles, was performed in six hours.
The _Vograat_ was of a model now no longer to be seen, except in naval
museums. It was almost a junk. At that time, while France copied Greece,
Holland copied China. The _Vograat_, a heavy hull with two masts, was
partitioned perpendicularly, so as to be water-tight, having a narrow
hold in the middle, and two decks, one fore and the other aft. The decks
were flush as in the iron turret-vessels of the present day, the
advantage of which is that in foul weather, the force of the wave is
diminished, and the inconvenience of which is that the crew is exposed
to the action of the sea, owing to there being no bulwarks. There was
nothing to save any one on board from falling over. Hence the frequent
falls overboard and the losses of men, which have caused the model to
fall into disuse. The _Vograat_ went to Holland direct, and did not even
call at Gravesend.
An old ridge of stones, rock as much as masonry, ran along the bottom of
the Effroc Stone, and being passable at all tides, was used as a passage
on board the ships moored to the wall. This wall was, at intervals,
furnished with steps. It marked the southern point of Southwark. An
embankment at the top allowed the passers-by to rest their elbows on the
Effroc Stone, as on the parapet of a quay. Thence they could look down
on the Thames; on the other side of the water London dwindled away into
Up the river from the Effroc Stone, at the bend of the Thames which is
nearly opposite St. James's Palace, behind Lambeth House, not far from
the walk then called Foxhall (Vauxhall, probably), there was, between a
pottery in which they made porcelain, and a glass-blower's, where they
made ornamental bottles, one of those large unenclosed spaces covered
with grass, called formerly in France _cultures_ and _mails_, and in
England bowling-greens. Of bowling-green, a green on which to roll a
ball, the French have made _boulingrin_. Folks have this green inside
their houses nowadays, only it is put on the table, is a cloth instead
of turf, and is called billiards.
It is difficult to see why, having boulevard (boule-vert), which is the
same word as bowling-green, the French should have adopted _boulingrin_.
It is surprising that a person so grave as the Dictionary should indulge
in useless luxuries.
The bowling-green of Southwark was called Tarrinzeau Field, because it
had belonged to the Barons Hastings, who are also Barons Tarrinzeau and
Mauchline. From the Lords Hastings the Tarrinzeau Field passed to the
Lords Tadcaster, who had made a speculation of it, just as, at a later
date, a Duke of Orleans made a speculation of the Palais Royal.
Tarrinzeau Field afterwards became waste ground and parochial property.
Tarrinzeau Field was a kind of permanent fair ground covered with
jugglers, athletes, mountebanks, and music on platforms; and always full
of "fools going to look at the devil," as Archbishop Sharp said. To look
at the devil means to go to the play.
Several inns, which harboured the public and sent them to these
outlandish exhibitions, were established in this place, which kept
holiday all the year round, and thereby prospered. These inns were
simply stalls, inhabited only during the day. In the evening the
tavern-keeper put into his pocket the key of the tavern and went away.
One only of these inns was a house, the only dwelling in the whole
bowling-green, the caravans of the fair ground having the power of
disappearing at any moment, considering the absence of any ties in the
vagabond life of all mountebanks.
Mountebanks have no roots to their lives.
This inn, called the Tadcaster, after the former owners of the ground,
was an inn rather than a tavern, an hotel rather than an inn, and had a
carriage entrance and a large yard.
The carriage entrance, opening from the court on the field, was the
legitimate door of the Tadcaster Inn, which had, beside it, a small
bastard door, by which people entered. To call it bastard is to mean
preferred. This lower door was the only one used, It opened into the
tavern, properly so called, which was a large taproom, full of tobacco
smoke, furnished with tables, and low in the ceiling. Over it was a
window on the first floor, to the iron bars of which was fastened and
hung the sign of the inn. The principal door was barred and bolted, and
always remained closed.
It was thus necessary to cross the tavern to enter the courtyard.
At the Tadcaster Inn there was a landlord and a boy. The landlord was
called Master Nicless, the boy Govicum. Master Nicless--Nicholas,
doubtless, which the English habit of contraction had made Nicless, was
a miserly widower, and one who respected and feared the laws. As to his
appearance, he had bushy eyebrows and hairy hands. The boy, aged
fourteen, who poured out drink, and answered to the name of Govicum,
wore a merry face and an apron. His hair was cropped close, a sign of
He slept on the ground floor, in a nook in which they formerly kept a
dog. This nook had for window a bull's-eye looking on the bowling-green.
One very cold and windy evening, on which there was every reason why
folks should hasten on their way along the street, a man, who was
walking in Tarrinzeau Field close under the walls of the tavern, stopped
suddenly. It was during the last months of winter between 1704 and 1705.
This man, whose dress indicated a sailor, was of good mien and fine
figure, things imperative to courtiers, and not forbidden to common
Why did he stop? To listen. What to? To a voice apparently speaking in
the court on the other side of the wall, a voice a little weakened by
age, but so powerful notwithstanding that it reached the passer-by in
the street. At the same time might be heard in the enclosure, from which
the voice came, the hubbub of a crowd.
This voice said,--
"Men and women of London, here I am! I cordially wish you joy of being
English. You are a great people. I say more: you are a great populace.
Your fisticuffs are even better than your sword thrusts. You have an
appetite. You are the nation which eats other nations--a magnificent
function! This suction of the world makes England preeminent. As
politicians and philosophers, in the management of colonies,
populations, and industry, and in the desire to do others any harm which
may turn to your own good, you stand alone. The hour will come when two
boards will be put up on earth--inscribed on one side, Men; on the
other, Englishmen. I mention this to your glory, I, who am neither
English nor human, having the honour to be a bear. Still more--I am a
doctor. That follows. Gentlemen, I teach. What? Two kinds of
things--things which I know, and things which I do not. I sell my drugs
and I sell my ideas. Approach and listen. Science invites you. Open your
ear; if it is small, it will hold but little truth; if large, a great
deal of folly will find its way in. Now, then, attention! I teach the
Pseudoxia Epidemica. I have a comrade who will make you laugh, but I can
make you think. We live in the same box, laughter being of quite as old
a family as thought. When people asked Democritus, 'How do you know?' he
answered, 'I laugh.' And if I am asked, 'Why do you laugh?' I shall
answer, 'I know.' However, I am not laughing. I am the rectifier of
popular errors. I take upon myself the task of cleaning your intellects.
They require it. Heaven permits people to deceive themselves, and to be
deceived. It is useless to be absurdly modest. I frankly avow that I
believe in Providence, even where it is wrong. Only when I see
filth--errors are filth--I sweep them away. How am I sure of what I
know? That concerns only myself. Every one catches wisdom as he can.
Lactantius asked questions of, and received answers from, a bronze head
of Virgil. Sylvester II. conversed with birds. Did the birds speak? Did
the Pope twitter? That is a question. The dead child of the Rabbi
Elcazer talked to Saint Augustine. Between ourselves, I doubt all these
facts except the last. The dead child might perhaps talk, because under
its tongue it had a gold plate, on which were engraved divers
constellations. Thus he deceived people. The fact explains itself. You
see my moderation. I separate the true from the false. See! here are
other errors in which, no doubt, you partake, poor ignorant folks that
you are, and from which I wish to free you. Dioscorides believed that
there was a god in the henbane; Chrysippus in the cynopaste; Josephus in
the root bauras; Homer in the plant moly. They were all wrong. The
spirits in herbs are not gods but devils. I have tested this fact. It is
not true that the serpent which tempted Eve had a human face, as Cadmus
relates. Garcias de Horto, Cadamosto, and John Hugo, Archbishop of
Treves, deny that it is sufficient to saw down a tree to catch an
elephant. I incline to their opinion. Citizens, the efforts of Lucifer
are the cause of all false impressions. Under the reign of such a prince
it is natural that meteors of error and of perdition should arise. My
friends, Claudius Pulcher did not die because the fowls refused to come
out of the fowl house. The fact is, that Lucifer, having foreseen the
death of Claudius Pulcher, took care to prevent the birds feeding. That
Beelzebub gave the Emperor Vespasian the virtue of curing the lame and
giving sight to the blind, by his touch, was an act praiseworthy in
itself, but of which the motive was culpable. Gentlemen, distrust those
false doctors, who sell the root of the bryony and the white snake, and
who make washes with honey and the blood of a cock. See clearly through
that which is false. It is not quite true that Orion was the result of a
natural function of Jupiter. The truth is that it was Mercury who
produced this star in that way. It is not true that Adam had a navel.
When St. George killed the dragon he had not the daughter of a saint
standing by his side. St. Jerome had not a clock on the chimney-piece of
his study; first, because living in a cave, he had no study; secondly,
because he had no chimney-piece; thirdly, because clocks were not yet
invented. Let us put these things right. Put them right. O gentlefolks,
who listen to me, if any one tells you that a lizard will be born in
your head if you smell the herb valerian; that the rotting carcase of
the ox changes into bees, and that of the horse into hornets; that a man
weighs more when dead than when alive; that the blood of the he-goat
dissolves emeralds; that a caterpillar, a fly, and a spider, seen on the
same tree, announces famine, war, and pestilence; that the falling
sickness is to be cured by a worm found in the head of a buck--do not
believe him. These things are errors. But now listen to truths. The skin
of a sea-calf is a safeguard against thunder. The toad feeds upon earth,
which causes a stone to come into his head. The rose of Jericho blooms
on Christmas Eve. Serpents cannot endure the shadow of the ash tree. The
elephant has no joints, and sleeps resting upright against a tree. Make
a toad sit upon a cock's egg, and he will hatch a scorpion which will
become a salamander. A blind person will recover sight by putting one
hand on the left side of the altar and the other on his eyes. Virginity
does not hinder maternity. Honest people, lay these truths to heart.
Above all, you can believe in Providence in either of two ways, either
as thirst believes in the orange, or as the ass believes in the whip.
Now I am going to introduce you to my family."
Here a violent gust of wind shook the window-frames and shutters of the
inn, which stood detached. It was like a prolonged murmur of the sky.
The orator paused a moment, and then resumed.
"An interruption; very good. Speak, north wind. Gentlemen, I am not
angry. The wind is loquacious, like all solitary creatures. There is no
one to keep him company up there, so he jabbers. I resume the thread of
my discourse. Here you see associated artists. We are four--_a lupo
principium_. I begin by my friend, who is a wolf. He does not conceal
it. See him! He is educated, grave, and sagacious. Providence, perhaps,
entertained for a moment the idea of making him a doctor of the
university; but for that one must be rather stupid, and that he is not.
I may add that he has no prejudices, and is not aristocratic. He chats
sometimes with bitches; he who, by right, should consort only with
she-wolves. His heirs, if he have any, will no doubt gracefully combine
the yap of their mother with the howl of their father. Because he does
howl. He howls in sympathy with men. He barks as well, in condescension
to civilization--a magnanimous concession. Homo is a dog made perfect.
Let us venerate the dog. The dog--curious animal! sweats with its tongue
and smiles with its tail. Gentlemen, Homo equals in wisdom, and
surpasses in cordiality, the hairless wolf of Mexico, the wonderful
xoloitzeniski. I may add that he is humble. He has the modesty of a wolf
who is useful to men. He is helpful and charitable, and says nothing
about it. His left paw knows not the good which his right paw does.
These are his merits. Of the other, my second friend, I have but one
word to say. He is a monster. You will admire him. He was formerly
abandoned by pirates on the shores of the wild ocean. This third one is
blind. Is she an exception? No, we are all blind. The miser is blind; he
sees gold, and he does not see riches. The prodigal is blind; he sees
the beginning, and does not see the end. The coquette is blind; she does
not see her wrinkles. The learned man is blind; he does not see his own
ignorance. The honest man is blind; he does not see the thief. The thief
is blind; he does not see God. God is blind; the day that he created the
world He did not see the devil manage to creep into it. I myself am
blind; I speak, and do not see that you are deaf. This blind girl who
accompanies us is a mysterious priestess. Vesta has confided to her her
torch. She has in her character depths as soft as a division in the wool
of a sheep. I believe her to be a king's daughter, though I do not
assert it as a fact. A laudable distrust is the attribute of wisdom. For
my own part, I reason and I doctor, I think and I heal. _Chirurgus sum_.
I cure fevers, miasmas, and plagues. Almost all our melancholy and
sufferings are issues, which if carefully treated relieve us quietly
from other evils which might be worse. All the same I do not recommend
you to have an anthrax, otherwise called carbuncle. It is a stupid
malady, and serves no good end. One dies of it--that is all. I am
neither uncultivated nor rustic. I honour eloquence and poetry, and live
in an innocent union with these goddesses. I conclude by a piece of
advice. Ladies and gentlemen, on the sunny side of your dispositions,
cultivate virtue, modesty, honesty, probity, justice, and love. Each one
here below may thus have his little pot of flowers on his window-sill.
My lords and gentlemen, I have spoken. The play is about to begin."
The man who was apparently a sailor, and who had been listening outside,
entered the lower room of the inn, crossed it, paid the necessary
entrance money, reached the courtyard which was full of people, saw at
the bottom of it a caravan on wheels, wide open, and on the platform an
old man dressed in a bearskin, a young man looking like a mask, a blind
girl, and a wolf.
"Gracious heaven!" he cried, "what delightful people!"
WHERE THE PASSER-BY REAPPEARS.
The Green Box, as we have just seen, had arrived in London. It was
established at Southwark. Ursus had been tempted by the bowling-green,
which had one great recommendation, that it was always fair-day there,
even in winter.
The dome of St. Paul's was a delight to Ursus.
London, take it all in all, has some good in it. It was a brave thing to
dedicate a cathedral to St. Paul. The real cathedral saint is St. Peter.
St. Paul is suspected of imagination, and in matters ecclesiastical
imagination means heresy. St. Paul is a saint only with extenuating
circumstances. He entered heaven only by the artists' door.
A cathedral is a sign. St. Peter is the sign of Rome, the city of the
dogma; St. Paul that of London, the city of schism.
Ursus, whose philosophy had arms so long that it embraced everything,
was a man who appreciated these shades of difference, and his attraction
towards London arose, perhaps, from a certain taste of his for St. Paul.
The yard of the Tadcaster Inn had taken the fancy of Ursus. It might
have been ordered for the Green Box. It was a theatre ready-made. It was
square, with three sides built round, and a wall forming the fourth.
Against this wall was placed the Green Box, which they were able to draw
into the yard, owing to the height of the gate. A large wooden balcony,
roofed over, and supported on posts, on which the rooms of the first
story opened, ran round the three fronts of the interior facade of the
house, making two right angles. The windows of the ground floor made
boxes, the pavement of the court the pit, and the balcony the gallery.
The Green Box, reared against the wall, was thus in front of a theatre.
It was very like the Globe, where they played "Othello," "King Lear,"
and "The Tempest."
In a corner behind the Green Box was a stable.
Ursus had made his arrangements with the tavern keeper, Master Nicless,
who, owing to his respect for the law, would not admit the wolf without
charging him extra.
The placard, "Gwynplaine, the Laughing Man," taken from its nail in the
Green Box, was hung up close to the sign of the inn. The sitting-room of
the tavern had, as we have seen, an inside door which opened into the
court. By the side of the door was constructed off-hand, by means of an
empty barrel, a box for the money-taker, who was sometimes Fibi and
sometimes Vinos. This was managed much as at present. Pay and pass in.
Under the placard announcing the Laughing Man was a piece of wood,
painted white, hung on two nails, on which was written in charcoal in
large letters the title of Ursus's grand piece, "Chaos Vanquished."
In the centre of the balcony, precisely opposite the Green Box, and in a
compartment having for entrance a window reaching to the ground, there
had been partitioned off a space "for the nobility." It was large enough
to hold, in two rows, ten spectators.
"We are in London," said Ursus. "We must be prepared for the gentry."
He had furnished this box with the best chairs in the inn, and had
placed in the centre a grand arm-chair of yellow Utrecht velvet, with a
cherry-coloured pattern, in case some alderman's wife should come.
They began their performances. The crowd immediately flocked to them,
but the compartment for the nobility remained empty. With that exception
their success became so great that no mountebank memory could recall its
parallel. All Southwark ran in crowds to admire the Laughing Man.
The merry-andrews and mountebanks of Tarrinzeau Field were aghast at
Gwynplaine. The effect he caused was as that of a sparrow-hawk flapping
his wings in a cage of goldfinches, and feeding in their seed-trough.
Gwynplaine ate up their public.
Besides the small fry, the swallowers of swords and the grimace makers,
real performances took place on the green. There was a circus of women,
ringing from morning till night with a magnificent peal of all sorts of
instruments--psalteries, drums, rebecks, micamons, timbrels, reeds,
dulcimers, gongs, chevrettes, bagpipes, German horns, English
eschaqueils, pipes, flutes, and flageolets.
In a large round tent were some tumblers, who could not have equalled
our present climbers of the Pyrenees--Dulma, Bordenave, and
Meylonga--who from the peak of Pierrefitte descend to the plateau of
Limacon, an almost perpendicular height. There was a travelling
menagerie, where was to be seen a performing tiger, who, lashed by the
keeper, snapped at the whip and tried to swallow the lash. Even this
comedian of jaws and claws was eclipsed in success.
Curiosity, applause, receipts, crowds, the Laughing Man monopolized
everything. It happened in the twinkling of an eye. Nothing was thought
of but the Green Box.
"'Chaos Vanquished' is 'Chaos Victor,'" said Ursus, appropriating half
Gwynplaine's success, and taking the wind out of his sails, as they say
at sea. That success was prodigious. Still it remained local. Fame does
not cross the sea easily. It took a hundred and thirty years for the
name of Shakespeare to penetrate from England into France. The sea is a
wall; and if Voltaire--a thing which he very much regretted when it was
too late--had not thrown a bridge over to Shakespeare, Shakespeare might
still be in England, on the other side of the wall, a captive in insular
The glory of Gwynplaine had not passed London Bridge. It was not great
enough yet to re-echo throughout the city. At least not at first. But
Southwark ought to have sufficed to satisfy the ambition of a clown.
"The money bag grows palpably bigger."
They played "Ursus Rursus" and "Chaos Vanquished."
Between the acts Ursus exhibited his power as an engastrimist, and
executed marvels of ventriloquism. He imitated every cry which occurred
in the audience--a song, a cry, enough to startle, so exact the
imitation, the singer or the crier himself; and now and then he copied
the hubbub of the public, and whistled as if there were a crowd of
people within him. These were remarkable talents. Besides this he
harangued like Cicero, as we have just seen, sold his drugs, attended
sickness, and even healed the sick.
Southwark was enthralled.
Ursus was satisfied with the applause of Southwark, but by no means
"They are the ancient Trinobantes," he said.
Then he added, "I must not mistake them, for delicacy of taste, for the
Atrobates, who people Berkshire, or the Belgians, who inhabited
Somersetshire, nor for the Parisians, who founded York."
At every performance the yard of the inn, transformed into a pit, was
filled with a ragged and enthusiastic audience. It was composed of
watermen, chairmen, coachmen, and bargemen, and sailors, just ashore,
spending their wages in feasting and women. In it there were felons,
ruffians, and blackguards, who were soldiers condemned for some crime
against discipline to wear their red coats, which were lined with black,
inside out, and from thence the name of blackguard, which the French
turn into _blagueurs_. All these flowed from the street into the
theatre, and poured back from the theatre into the tap. The emptying of
tankards did not decrease their success.
Amidst what it is usual to call the scum, there was one taller than the
rest, bigger, stronger, less poverty-stricken, broader in the shoulders;
dressed like the common people, but not ragged.
Admiring and applauding everything to the skies, clearing his way with
his fists, wearing a disordered periwig, swearing, shouting, joking,
never dirty, and, at need, ready to blacken an eye or pay for a bottle.
This frequenter was the passer-by whose cheer of enthusiasm has been
This connoisseur was suddenly fascinated, and had adopted the Laughing
Man. He did not come every evening, but when he came he led the
public--applause grew into acclamation--success rose not to the roof,
for there was none, but to the clouds, for there were plenty of them.
Which clouds (seeing that there was no roof) sometimes wept over the
masterpiece of Ursus.
His enthusiasm caused Ursus to remark this man, and Gwynplaine to
They had a great friend in this unknown visitor.
Ursus and Gwynplaine wanted to know him; at least, to know who he was.
One evening Ursus was in the side scene, which was the kitchen-door of
the Green Box, seeing Master Nicless standing by him, showed him this
man in the crowd, and asked him,--
"Do you know that man?"
"Of course I do."
"Who is he?"
"What is his name?" said Gwynplaine, interrupting.
"Tom-Jim-Jack," replied the inn-keeper.
Then as he redescended the steps at the back of the Green Box, to enter
the inn, Master Nicless let fall this profound reflection, so deep as to
"What a pity that he should not be a lord. He would make a famous
Otherwise, although established in the tavern, the group in the Green
Box had in no way altered their manner of living, and held to their
isolated habits. Except a few words exchanged now and then with the
tavern-keeper, they held no communication with any of those who were
living, either permanently or temporarily, in the inn; and continued to
keep to themselves.
Since they had been at Southwark, Gwynplaine had made it his habit,
after the performance and the supper of both family and horses--when
Ursus and Dea had gone to bed in their respective compartments--to
breathe a little the fresh air of the bowling-green, between eleven
o'clock and midnight.
A certain vagrancy in our spirits impels us to take walks at night, and
to saunter under the stars. There is a mysterious expectation in youth.
Therefore it is that we are prone to wander out in the night, without an
At that hour there was no one in the fair-ground, except, perhaps, some
reeling drunkard, making staggering shadows in dark corners. The empty
taverns were shut up, and the lower room in the Tadcaster Inn was dark,
except where, in some corner, a solitary candle lighted a last reveller.
An indistinct glow gleamed through the window-shutters of the
half-closed tavern, as Gwynplaine, pensive, content, and dreaming, happy
in a haze of divine joy, passed backwards and forwards in front of the
Of what was he thinking? Of Dea--of nothing--of everything--of the
He never wandered far from the Green Box, being held, as by a thread, to
Dea. A few steps away from it was far enough for him.
Then he returned, found the whole Green Box asleep, and went to bed
CONTRARIES FRATERNIZE IN HATE.
Success is hateful, especially to those whom it overthrows. It is rare
that the eaten adore the eaters.
The Laughing Man had decidedly made a hit. The mountebanks around were
indignant. A theatrical success is a syphon--it pumps in the crowd and
creates emptiness all round. The shop opposite is done for. The
increased receipts of the Green Box caused a corresponding decrease in
the receipts of the surrounding shows. Those entertainments, popular up
to that time, suddenly collapsed. It was like a low-water mark, showing
inversely, but in perfect concordance, the rise here, the fall there.
Theatres experience the effect of tides: they rise in one only on
condition of falling in another. The swarming foreigners who exhibited
their talents and their trumpetings on the neighbouring platforms,
seeing themselves ruined by the Laughing Man, were despairing, yet
dazzled. All the grimacers, all the clowns, all the merry-andrews envied
Gwynplaine. How happy he must be with the snout of a wild beast! The
buffoon mothers and dancers on the tight-rope, with pretty children,
looked at them in anger, and pointing out Gwynplaine, would say, "What a
pity you have not a face like that!" Some beat their babes savagely for
being pretty. More than one, had she known the secret, would have
fashioned her son's face in the Gwynplaine style. The head of an angel,
which brings no money in, is not as good as that of a lucrative devil.
One day the mother of a little child who was a marvel of beauty, and who
acted a cupid, exclaimed,--
"Our children are failures! They only succeeded with Gwynplaine." And
shaking her fist at her son, she added, "If I only knew your father,
wouldn't he catch it!"
Gwynplaine was the goose with the golden eggs! What a marvellous
phenomenon! There was an uproar through all the caravans. The
mountebanks, enthusiastic and exasperated, looked at Gwynplaine and
gnashed their teeth. Admiring anger is called envy. Then it howls! They
tried to disturb "Chaos Vanquished;" made a cabal, hissed, scolded,
shouted! This was an excuse for Ursus to make out-of-door harangues to
the populace, and for his friend Tom-Jim-Jack to use his fists to
re-establish order. His pugilistic marks of friendship brought him still
more under the notice and regard of Ursus and Gwynplaine. At a distance,
however, for the group in the Green Box sufficed to themselves, and held
aloof from the rest of the world, and because Tom-Jim-Jack, this leader
of the mob, seemed a sort of supreme bully, without a tie, without a
friend; a smasher of windows, a manager of men, now here, now gone,
hail-fellow-well-met with every one, companion of none.
This raging envy against Gwynplaine did not give in for a few friendly
hits from Tom-Jim-Jack. The outcries having miscarried, the mountebanks
of Tarrinzeau Field fell back on a petition. They addressed to the
authorities. This is the usual course. Against an unpleasant success we
first try to stir up the crowd and then we petition the magistrate.
With the merry-andrews the reverends allied themselves. The Laughing Man
had inflicted a blow on the preachers. There were empty places not only
in the caravans, but in the churches. The congregations in the churches
of the five parishes in Southwark had dwindled away. People left before
the sermon to go to Gwynplaine. "Chaos Vanquished," the Green Box, the
Laughing Man, all the abominations of Baal, eclipsed the eloquence of
the pulpit. The voice crying in the desert, _vox clamantis in deserto_,
is discontented, and is prone to call for the aid of the authorities.
The clergy of the five parishes complained to the Bishop of London, who
complained to her Majesty.
The complaint of the merry-andrews was based on religion. They declared
it to be insulted. They described Gwynplaine as a sorcerer, and Ursus as
an atheist. The reverend gentlemen invoked social order. Setting
orthodoxy aside they took action on the fact that Acts of Parliament
were violated. It was clever. Because it was the period of Mr. Locke,
who had died but six months previously--28th October, 1704--and when
scepticism, which Bolingbroke had imbibed from Voltaire, was taking
root. Later on Wesley came and restored the Bible, as Loyola restored
Thus the Green Box was battered on both sides; by the merry-andrews, in
the name of the Pentateuch, and by chaplains in the name of the police.
In the name of Heaven and of the inspectors of nuisances. The Green Box
was denounced by the priests as an obstruction, and by the jugglers as
Had they any pretext? Was there any excuse? Yes. What was the crime?
This: there was the wolf. A dog was allowable; a wolf forbidden. In
England the wolf is an outlaw. England admits the dog which barks, but
not the dog which howls--a shade of difference between the yard and the
The rectors and vicars of the five parishes of Southwark called
attention in their petitions to numerous parliamentary and royal
statutes putting the wolf beyond the protection of the law. They moved
for something like the imprisonment of Gwynplaine and the execution of
the wolf, or at any rate for their banishment. The question was one of
public importance, the danger to persons passing, etc. And on this
point, they appealed to the Faculty. They cited the opinion of the
Eighty physicians of London, a learned body which dates from Henry
VIII., which has a seal like that of the State, which can raise sick
people to the dignity of being amenable to their jurisdiction, which has
the right to imprison those who infringe its law and contravene its
ordinances, and which, amongst other useful regulations for the health
of the citizens, put beyond doubt this fact acquired by science; that if
a wolf sees a man first, the man becomes hoarse for life. Besides, he
may be bitten.
Homo, then, was a pretext.
Ursus heard of these designs through the inn-keeper. He was uneasy. He
was afraid of two claws--the police and the justices. To be afraid of
the magistracy, it is sufficient to be afraid, there is no need to be
guilty. Ursus had no desire for contact with sheriffs, provosts,
bailiffs, and coroners. His eagerness to make their acquaintance
amounted to nil. His curiosity to see the magistrates was about as great
as the hare's to see the greyhound.
He began to regret that he had come to London. "'Better' is the enemy of
'good,'" murmured he apart. "I thought the proverb was ill-considered. I
was wrong. Stupid truths are true truths."
Against the coalition of powers--merry-andrews taking in hand the cause
of religion, and chaplains, indignant in the name of medicine--the poor
Green Box, suspected of sorcery in Gwynplaine and of hydrophobia in
Homo, had only one thing in its favour (but a thing of great power in
England), municipal inactivity. It is to the local authorities letting
things take their own course that Englishmen owe their liberty. Liberty
in England behaves very much as the sea around England. It is a tide.
Little by little manners surmount the law. A cruel system of legislation
drowned under the wave of custom; a savage code of laws still visible
through the transparency of universal liberty: such is England.
The Laughing Man, "Chaos Vanquished," and Homo might have mountebanks,
preachers, bishops, the House of Commons, the House of Lords, her
Majesty, London, and the whole of England against them, and remain
undisturbed so long as Southwark permitted.
The Green Box was the favourite amusement of the suburb, and the local
authorities seemed disinclined to interfere. In England, indifference is
protection. So long as the sheriff of the county of Surrey, to the
jurisdiction of which Southwark belongs, did not move in the matter,
Ursus breathed freely, and Homo could sleep on his wolf's ears.
So long as the hatred which it excited did not occasion acts of
violence, it increased success. The Green Box was none the worse for it,
for the time. On the contrary, hints were scattered that it contained
something mysterious. Hence the Laughing Man became more and more
popular. The public follow with gusto the scent of anything contraband.
To be suspected is a recommendation. The people adopt by instinct that
at which the finger is pointed. The thing which is denounced is like the
savour of forbidden fruit; we rush to eat it. Besides, applause which
irritates some one, especially if that some one is in authority, is
sweet. To perform, whilst passing a pleasant evening, both an act of
kindness to the oppressed and of opposition to the oppressor is
agreeable. You are protecting at the same time that you are being
amused. So the theatrical caravans on the bowling-green continued to
howl and to cabal against the Laughing Man. Nothing could be better
calculated to enhance his success. The shouts of one's enemies are
useful and give point and vitality to one's triumph. A friend wearies
sooner in praise than an enemy in abuse. To abuse does not hurt. Enemies
are ignorant of this fact. They cannot help insulting us, and this
constitutes their use. They cannot hold their tongues, and thus keep the
The crowds which flocked to "Chaos Vanquished" increased daily.
Ursus kept what Master Nicless had said of intriguers and complaints in
high places to himself, and did not tell Gwynplaine, lest it should
trouble the ease of his acting by creating anxiety. If evil was to come,
he would be sure to know it soon enough.
Once, however, he thought it his duty to derogate from this prudence,
for prudence' sake, thinking that it might be well to make Gwynplaine
uneasy. It is true that this idea arose from a circumstance much graver,
in the opinion of Ursus, than the cabals of the fair or of the church.
Gwynplaine, as he picked up a farthing which had fallen when counting
the receipts, had, in the presence of the innkeeper, drawn a contrast
between the farthing, representing the misery of the people, and the
die, representing, under the figure of Anne, the parasitical
magnificence of the throne--an ill-sounding speech. This observation was
repeated by Master Nicless, and had such a run that it reached to Ursus
through Fibi and Vinos. It put Ursus into a fever. Seditious words, lese
Majeste. He took Gwynplaine severely to task. "Watch over your
abominable jaws. There is a rule for the great--to do nothing; and a
rule for the small--to say nothing. The poor man has but one friend,
silence. He should only pronounce one syllable: 'Yes.' To confess and to
consent is all the right he has. 'Yes,' to the judge; 'yes,' to the
king. Great people, if it pleases them to do so, beat us. I have
received blows from them. It is their prerogative; and they lose nothing
of their greatness by breaking our bones. The ossifrage is a species of
eagle. Let us venerate the sceptre, which is the first of staves.
Respect is prudence, and mediocrity is safety. To insult the king is to
put oneself in the same danger as a girl rashly paring the nails of a
lion. They tell me that you have been prattling about the farthing,
which is the same thing as the liard, and that you have found fault with
the august medallion, for which they sell us at market the eighth part
of a salt herring. Take care; let us be serious. Consider the existence
of pains and penalties. Suck in these legislative truths. You are in a
country in which the man who cuts down a tree three years old is quietly
taken off to the gallows. As to swearers, their feet are put into the
stocks. The drunkard is shut up in a barrel with the bottom out, so that
he can walk, with a hole in the top, through which his head is passed,
and with two in the bung for his hands, so that he cannot lie down. He
who strikes another one in Westminster Hall is imprisoned for life and
has his goods confiscated. Whoever strikes any one in the king's palace
has his hand struck off. A fillip on the nose chances to bleed, and,
behold! you are maimed for life. He who is convicted of heresy in the
bishop's court is burnt alive. It was for no great matter that Cuthbert
Simpson was quartered on a turnstile. Three years since, in 1702, which
is not long ago, you see, they placed in the pillory a scoundrel, called
Daniel Defoe, who had had the audacity to print the names of the Members
of Parliament who had spoken on the previous evening. He who commits
high treason is disembowelled alive, and they tear out his heart and
buffet his cheeks with it. Impress on yourself notions of right and
justice. Never allow yourself to speak a word, and at the first cause of
anxiety, run for it. Such is the bravery which I counsel and which I
practise. In the way of temerity, imitate the birds; in the way of
talking, imitate the fishes. England has one admirable point in her
favour, that her legislation is very mild."
His admonition over, Ursus remained uneasy for some time. Gwynplaine not
at all. The intrepidity of youth arises from want of experience.
However, it seemed that Gwynplaine had good reason for his easy mind,
for the weeks flowed on peacefully, and no bad consequences seemed to
have resulted from his observations about the queen.
Ursus, we know, lacked apathy, and, like a roebuck on the watch, kept a
lookout in every direction. One day, a short time after his sermon to
Gwynplaine, as he was looking out from the window in the wall which
commanded the field, he became suddenly pale.
"In the field."
"Do you see that passer-by?"
"The man in black?"
"Who has a kind of mace in his hand?"
"Well, Gwynplaine, that man is a wapentake."
"What is a wapentake?"
"He is the bailiff of the hundred."
"What is the bailiff of the hundred?"
"He is the _proepositus hundredi_."
"And what is the _proepositus hundredi_?"
"He is a terrible officer."
"What has he got in his hand?"
"The iron weapon."
"What is the iron weapon?"
"A thing made of iron."
"What does he do with that?"
"First of all, he swears upon it. It is for that reason that he is
called the wapentake."
"Then he touches you with it."
"With the iron weapon."
"The wapentake touches you with the iron weapon?"
"What does that mean?"
"That means, follow me."
"And must you follow?"
"How should I know?"
"But he tells you where he is going to take you?"
"How is that?"
"He says nothing, and you say nothing."
"He touches you with the iron weapon. All is over then. You must go."
"Wherever he likes, Gwynplaine."
"And if you resist?"
"You are hanged."
Ursus looked out of the window again, and drawing a long breath, said,--
"Thank God! He has passed. He was not coming here."
Ursus was perhaps unreasonably alarmed about the indiscreet remark, and
the consequences likely to result from the unconsidered words of
Master Nicless, who had heard them, had no interest in compromising the
poor inhabitants of the Green Box. He was amassing, at the same time as
the Laughing Man, a nice little fortune. "Chaos Vanquished" had
succeeded in two ways. While it made art triumph on the stage, it made
drunkenness prosper in the tavern.
THE MOUSE EXAMINED BY THE CATS.
Ursus was soon afterwards startled by another alarming circumstance.
This time it was he himself who was concerned. He was summoned to
Bishopsgate before a commission composed of three disagreeable
countenances. They belonged to three doctors, called overseers. One was
a Doctor of Theology, delegated by the Dean of Westminster; another, a
Doctor of Medicine, delegated by the College of Surgeons; the third, a
Doctor in History and Civil Law, delegated by Gresham College. These
three experts _in omni re scibili_ had the censorship of everything said
in public throughout the bounds of the hundred and thirty parishes of
London, the seventy-three of Middlesex, and, by extension, the five of
Such theological jurisdictions still subsist in England, and do good
service. In December, 1868, by sentence of the Court of Arches,
confirmed by the decision of the Privy Council, the Reverend Mackonochie
was censured, besides being condemned in costs, for having placed
lighted candles on a table. The liturgy allows no jokes.
Ursus, then, one fine day received from the delegated doctors an order
to appear before them, which was, luckily, given into his own hands, and
which he was therefore enabled to keep secret. Without saying a word, he
obeyed the citation, shuddering at the thought that he might be
considered culpable to the extent of having the appearance of being
suspected of a certain amount of rashness. He who had so recommended
silence to others had here a rough lesson. _Garrule, sana te ipsum_.
The three doctors, delegated and appointed overseers, sat at
Bishopsgate, at the end of a room on the ground floor, in three
armchairs covered with black leather, with three busts of Minos, AEacus,
and Rhadamanthus, in the wall above their heads, a table before them,
and at their feet a form for the accused.
Ursus, introduced by a tipstaff, of placid but severe expression,
entered, perceived the doctors, and immediately in his own mind, gave to
each of them the name of the judge of the infernal regions represented
by the bust placed above his head. Minos, the president, the
representative of theology, made him a sign to sit down on the form.
Ursus made a proper bow--that is to say, bowed to the ground; and
knowing that bears are charmed by honey, and doctors by Latin, he said,
keeping his body still bent respectfully,--
"_Tres faciunt capitulum_!"
Then, with head inclined (for modesty disarms) he sat down on the form.
Each of the three doctors had before him a bundle of papers, of which he
was turning the leaves.
"You speak in public?"
"Yes," replied Ursus.
"By what right?"
"I am a philosopher."
"That gives no right."
"I am also a mountebank," said Ursus.
"That is a different thing."
Ursus breathed again, but with humility.
"As a mountebank, you may speak; as a philosopher, you must keep
"I will try," said Ursus.
Then he thought to himself.
"I may speak, but I must be silent. How complicated."
He was much alarmed.
The same overseer continued,--
"You say things which do not sound right. You insult religion. You deny
the most evident truths. You propagate revolting errors. For instance,
you have said that the fact of virginity excludes the possibility of
Ursus lifted his eyes meekly, "I did not say that. I said that the fact
of maternity excludes the possibility of virginity."
Minos was thoughtful, and mumbled, "True, that is the contrary."
It was really the same thing. But Ursus had parried the first blow.
Minos, meditating on the answer just given by Ursus, sank into the
depths of his own imbecility, and kept silent.
The overseer of history, or, as Ursus called him, Rhadamanthus, covered
the retreat of Minos by this interpolation, "Accused! your audacity and
your errors are of two sorts. You have denied that the battle of
Pharsalia would have been lost because Brutus and Cassius had met a
"I said," murmured Ursus "that there was something in the fact that
Caesar was the better captain."
The man of history passed, without transition, to mythology.
"You have excused the infamous acts of Actaeon."
"I think," said Ursus, insinuatingly, "that a man is not dishonoured by
having seen a naked woman."
"Then you are wrong," said the judge severely. Rhadamanthus returned to
"Apropos of the accidents which happened to the cavalry of Mithridates,
you have contested the virtues of herbs and plants. You have denied that
a herb like the securiduca, could make the shoes of horses fall off."
"Pardon me," replied Ursus. "I said that the power existed only in the
herb sferra cavallo. I never denied the virtue of any herb," and he
added, in a low voice, "nor of any woman."
By this extraneous addition to his answer Ursus proved to himself that,
anxious as he was, he was not disheartened. Ursus was a compound of
terror and presence of mind.
"To continue," resumed Rhadamanthus; "you have declared that it was
folly in Scipio, when he wished to open the gates of Carthage, to use as
a key the herb aethiopis, because the herb aethiopis has not the
property of breaking locks."
"I merely said that he would have done better to have used the herb
"That is a matter of opinion," murmured Rhadamanthus, touched in his
turn. And the man of history was silent.
The theologian, Minos, having returned to consciousness, questioned
Ursus anew. He had had time to consult his notes.
"You have classed orpiment amongst the products of arsenic, and you have
said that it is a poison. The Bible denies this."
"The Bible denies, but arsenic affirms it," sighed Ursus.
The man whom Ursus called AEacus, and who was the envy of medicine, had
not yet spoken, but now looking down on Ursus, with proudly half-closed
eyes, he said,--
"The answer is not without some show of reason."
Ursus thanked him with his most cringing smile. Minos frowned
frightfully. "I resume," said Minos. "You have said that it is false
that the basilisk is the king of serpents, under the name of
"Very reverend sir," said Ursus, "so little did I desire to insult the
basilisk that I have given out as certain that it has a man's head."
"Be it so," replied Minos severely; "but you added that Poerius had seen
one with the head of a falcon. Can you prove it?"
"Not easily," said Ursus.
Here he had lost a little ground.
Minos, seizing the advantage, pushed it.
"You have said that a converted Jew has not a nice smell."
"Yes. But I added that a Christian who becomes a Jew has a nasty one."
Minos lost his eyes over the accusing documents.
"You have affirmed and propagated things which are impossible. You have
said that Elien had seen an elephant write sentences."
"Nay, very reverend gentleman! I simply said that Oppian had heard a
hippopotamus discuss a philosophical problem."
"You have declared that it is not true that a dish made of beech-wood
will become covered of itself with all the viands that one can desire."
"I said, that if it has this virtue, it must be that you received it
from the devil."
"That I received it!"
"No, most reverend sir. I, nobody, everybody!"
Aside, Ursus thought, "I don't know what I am saying."
But his outward confusion, though extreme, was not distinctly visible.
Ursus struggled with it.
"All this," Minos began again, "implies a certain belief in the devil."
Ursus held his own.
"Very reverend sir, I am not an unbeliever with regard to the devil.
Belief in the devil is the reverse side of faith in God. The one proves
the other. He who does not believe a little in the devil, does not
believe much in God. He who believes in the sun must believe in the
shadow. The devil is the night of God. What is night? The proof of day."
Ursus here extemporized a fathomless combination of philosophy and
religion. Minos remained pensive, and relapsed into silence.
Ursus breathed afresh.
A sharp onslaught now took place. AEacus, the medical delegate, who had
disdainfully protected Ursus against the theologian, now turned suddenly
from auxiliary into assailant. He placed his closed fist on his bundle
of papers, which was large and heavy. Ursus received this apostrophe
full in the breast,--
"It is proved that crystal is sublimated ice, and that the diamond is
sublimated crystal. It is averred that ice becomes crystal in a thousand
years, and crystal diamond in a thousand ages. You have denied this."
"Nay," replied Ursus, with sadness, "I only said that in a thousand
years ice had time to melt, and that a thousand ages were difficult to
The examination went on; questions and answers clashed like swords.
"You have denied that plants can talk."
"Not at all. But to do so they must grow under a gibbet."
"Do you own that the mandragora cries?"
"No; but it sings."
"You have denied that the fourth finger of the left hand has a cordial
"I only said that to sneeze to the left was a bad sign."
"You have spoken rashly and disrespectfully of the phoenix."
"Learned judge, I merely said that when he wrote that the brain of the
phoenix was a delicate morsel, but that it produced headache, Plutarch
was a little out of his reckoning, inasmuch as the phoenix never
"A detestable speech! The cinnamalker which makes its nest with sticks
of cinnamon, the rhintacus that Parysatis used in the manufacture of his
poisons, the manucodiatas which is the bird of paradise, and the
semenda, which has a threefold beak, have been mistaken for the phoenix;
but the phoenix has existed."
"I do not deny it."
"You are a stupid ass."
"I desire to be thought no better."
"You have confessed that the elder tree cures the quinsy, but you added
that it was not because it has in its root a fairy excrescence."
"I said it was because Judas hung himself on an elder tree."
"A plausible opinion," growled the theologian, glad to strike his little
blow at AEacus.
Arrogance repulsed soon turns to anger. AEacus was enraged.
"Wandering mountebank! you wander as much in mind as with your feet.
Your tendencies are out of the way and suspicious. You approach the
bounds of sorcery. You have dealings with unknown animals. You speak to
the populace of things that exist but for you alone, and the nature of
which is unknown, such as the hoemorrhoues."
"The hoemorrhoues is a viper which was seen by Tremellius."
This repartee produced a certain disorder in the irritated science of
Ursus added, "The existence of the hoemorrhoues is quite as true as that
of the odoriferous hyena, and of the civet described by Castellus."
AEacus got out of the difficulty by charging home.
"Here are your own words, and very diabolical words they are. Listen."
With his eyes on his notes, AEacus read,--
"Two plants, the thalagssigle and the aglaphotis, are luminous in the
evening, flowers by day, stars by night;" and looking steadily at Ursus,
"What have you to say to that?"
"Every plant is a lamp. Its perfume is its light." AEacus turned over
"You have denied that the vesicles of the otter are equivalent to
"I merely said that perhaps it may be necessary to receive the teaching
of AEtius on this point with some reserve."
AEacus became furious.
"You practise medicine?"
"I practise medicine," sighed Ursus timidly.
"On living things?"
"Rather than on dead ones," said Ursus.
Ursus defended himself stoutly, but dully; an admirable mixture, in
which meekness predominated. He spoke with such gentleness that Doctor
AEacus felt that he must insult him.
"What are you murmuring there?" said he rudely.
Ursus was amazed, and restricted himself to saying,--
"Murmurings are for the young, and moans for the aged. Alas, I moan!"
"Be assured of this--if you attend a sick person, and he dies, you will
be punished by death."
Ursus hazarded a question.
"And if he gets well?"
"In that case," said the doctor, softening his voice, "you will be
punished by death."
"There is little difference," said Ursus.
The doctor replied,--
"If death ensues, we punish gross ignorance; if recovery, we punish
presumption. The gibbet in either case."
"I was ignorant of the circumstance," murmured Ursus. "I thank you for
teaching me. One does not know all the beauties of the law."
"Take care of yourself."
"Religiously," said Ursus.
"We know what you are about."
"As for me," thought Ursus, "that is more than I always know myself."
"We could send you to prison."
"I see that perfectly, gentlemen."
"You cannot deny your infractions nor your encroachments."
"My philosophy asks pardon."
"Great audacity has been attributed to you."
"That is quite a mistake."
"It is said that you have cured the sick."
"I am the victim of calumny."
The three pairs of eyebrows which were so horribly fixed on Ursus
contracted. The three wise faces drew near to each other, and whispered.
Ursus had the vision of a vague fool's cap sketched out above those
three empowered heads. The low and requisite whispering of the trio was
of some minutes' duration, during which time Ursus felt all the ice and
all the scorch of agony. At length Minos, who was president, turned to
him and said angrily,--
Ursus felt something like Jonas when he was leaving the belly of the
"You are discharged."
Ursus said to himself,--
"They won't catch me at this again. Good-bye, medicine!"
And he added in his innermost heart,--
"From henceforth I will carefully allow them to die."
Bent double, he bowed everywhere; to the doctors, to the busts, the
tables, the walls, and retiring backwards through the door, disappeared
almost as a shadow melting into air.
He left the hall slowly, like an innocent man, and rushed from the
street rapidly, like a guilty one. The officers of justice are so
singular and obscure in their ways that even when acquitted one flies
As he fled he mumbled,--
"I am well out of it. I am the savant untamed; they the savants
civilized. Doctors cavil at the learned. False science is the excrement
of the true, and is employed to the destruction of philosophers.
Philosophers, as they produce sophists, produce their own scourge. Of
the dung of the thrush is born the mistletoe, with which is made
birdlime, with which the thrush is captured. _Turdus sibi malum cacat_."
We do not represent Ursus as a refined man. He was imprudent enough to
use words which expressed his thoughts. He had no more taste than
When Ursus returned to the Green Box, he told Master Nicless that he
had been delayed by following a pretty woman, and let not a word escape
him concerning his adventure.
Except in the evening when he said in a low voice to Homo,--
"See here, I have vanquished the three heads of Cerberus."
WHY SHOULD A GOLD PIECE LOWER ITSELF BY MIXING WITH A HEAP OF PENNIES?
An event happened.
The Tadcaster Inn became more and more a furnace of joy and laughter.
Never was there more resonant gaiety. The landlord and his boy were
become insufficient to draw the ale, stout, and porter. In the evening
in the lower room, with its windows all aglow, there was not a vacant
table. They sang, they shouted; the great old hearth, vaulted like an
oven, with its iron bars piled with coals, shone out brightly. It was
like a house of fire and noise.
In the yard--that is to say, in the theatre--the crowd was greater
Crowds as great as the suburb of Southwark could supply so thronged the
performances of "Chaos Vanquished" that directly the curtain was
raised--that is to say, the platform of the Green Box was lowered--every
place was filled. The windows were alive with spectators, the balcony
was crammed. Not a single paving-stone in the paved yard was to be seen.
It seemed paved with faces.
Only the compartment for the nobility remained empty.
There was thus a space in the centre of the balcony, a black hole,
called in metaphorical slang, an oven. No one there. Crowds everywhere
except in that one spot.
One evening it was occupied.
It was on a Saturday, a day on which the English make all haste to amuse
themselves before the _ennui_ of Sunday. The hall was full.
We say _hall_. Shakespeare for a long time had to use the yard of an inn
for a theatre, and he called it _hall_.
Just as the curtain rose on the prologue of "Chaos Vanquished," with
Ursus, Homo, and Gwynplaine on the stage, Ursus, from habit, cast a
look at the audience, and felt a sensation.
The compartment for the nobility was occupied. A lady was sitting alone
in the middle of the box, on the Utrecht velvet arm-chair. She was
alone, and she filled the box. Certain beings seem to give out light.
This lady, like Dea, had a light in herself, but a light of a different
Dea was pale, this lady was pink. Dea was the twilight, this lady,
Aurora. Dea was beautiful, this lady was superb. Dea was innocence,
candour, fairness, alabaster--this woman was of the purple, and one felt
that she did not fear the blush. Her irradiation overflowed the box, she
sat in the midst of it, immovable, in the spreading majesty of an idol.
Amidst the sordid crowd she shone out grandly, as with the radiance of a
carbuncle. She inundated it with so much light that she drowned it in
shadow, and all the mean faces in it underwent eclipse. Her splendour
blotted out all else.
Every eye was turned towards her.
Tom-Jim-Jack was in the crowd. He was lost like the rest in the nimbus
of this dazzling creature.
The lady at first absorbed the whole attention of the public, who had
crowded to the performance, thus somewhat diminishing the opening
effects of "Chaos Vanquished."
Whatever might be the air of dreamland about her, for those who were
near she was a woman; perchance too much a woman.
She was tall and amply formed, and showed as much as possible of her
magnificent person. She wore heavy earrings of pearls, with which were
mixed those whimsical jewels called "keys of England." Her upper dress
was of Indian muslin, embroidered all over with gold--a great luxury,
because those muslin dresses then cost six hundred crowns. A large
diamond brooch closed her chemise, the which she wore so as to display
her shoulders and bosom, in the immodest fashion of the time; the
chemisette was made of that lawn of which Anne of Austria had sheets so
fine that they could be passed through a ring. She wore what seemed like
a cuirass of rubies--some uncut, but polished, and precious stones were
sewn all over the body of her dress. Then, her eyebrows were blackened
with Indian ink; and her arms, elbows, shoulders, chin, and nostrils,
with the top of her eyelids, the lobes of her ears, the palms of her
hands, the tips of her fingers, were tinted with a glowing and
provoking touch of colour. Above all, she wore an expression of
implacable determination to be beautiful. This reached the point of
ferocity. She was like a panther, with the power of turning cat at will,
and caressing. One of her eyes was blue, the other black.
Gwynplaine, as well as Ursus, contemplated her.
The Green Box somewhat resembled a phantasmagoria in its
representations. "Chaos Vanquished" was rather a dream than a piece; it
generally produced on the audience the effect of a vision. Now, this
effect was reflected on the actors. The house took the performers by
surprise, and they were thunderstruck in their turn. It was a rebound of
The woman watched them, and they watched her.
At the distance at which they were placed, and in that luminous mist
which is the half-light of a theatre, details were lost and it was like
a hallucination. Of course it was a woman, but was it not a chimera as
well? The penetration of her light into their obscurity stupefied them.
It was like the appearance of an unknown planet. It came from a world of
the happy. Her irradiation amplified her figure. The lady was covered
with nocturnal glitterings, like a milky way. Her precious stones were
stars. The diamond brooch was perhaps a pleiad. The splendid beauty of
her bosom seemed supernatural. They felt, as they looked upon the
star-like creature, the momentary but thrilling approach of the regions
of felicity. It was out of the heights of a Paradise that she leant
towards their mean-looking Green Box, and revealed to the gaze of its
wretched audience her expression of inexorable serenity. As she
satisfied her unbounded curiosity, she fed at the same time the
curiosity of the public.
It was the Zenith permitting the Abyss to look at it.
Ursus, Gwynplaine, Vinos, Fibi, the crowd, every one had succumbed to
her dazzling beauty, except Dea, ignorant in her darkness.
An apparition was indeed before them; but none of the ideas usually
evoked by the word were realized in the lady's appearance.
There was nothing about her diaphanous, nothing undecided, nothing
floating, no mist. She was an apparition; rose-coloured and fresh, and
full of health. Yet, under the optical condition in which Ursus and
Gwynplaine were placed, she looked like a vision. There are fleshy
phantoms, called vampires. Such a queen as she, though a spirit to the
crowd, consumes twelve hundred thousand a year, to keep her health.
Behind the lady, in the shadow, her page was to be perceived, _el mozo_,
a little child-like man, fair and pretty, with a serious face. A very
young and very grave servant was the fashion at that period. This page
was dressed from top to toe in scarlet velvet, and had on his skull-cap,
which was embroidered with gold, a bunch of curled feathers. This was
the sign of a high class of service, and indicated attendance on a very
The lackey is part of the lord, and it was impossible not to remark, in
the shadow of his mistress, the train-bearing page. Memory often takes
notes unconsciously; and, without Gwynplaine's suspecting it, the round
cheeks, the serious mien, the embroidered and plumed cap of the lady's
page left some trace on his mind. The page, however, did nothing to call
attention to himself. To do so is to be wanting in respect. He held
himself aloof and passive at the back of the box, retiring as far as the
closed door permitted.
Notwithstanding the presence of her train-bearer, the lady was not the
less alone in the compartment, since a valet counts for nothing.
However powerful a diversion had been produced by this person, who
produced the effect of a personage, the _denouement_ of "Chaos
Vanquished" was more powerful still. The impression which it made was,
as usual, irresistible. Perhaps, even, there occurred in the hall, on
account of the radiant spectator (for sometimes the spectator is part of
the spectacle), an increase of electricity. The contagion of
Gwynplaine's laugh was more triumphant than ever. The whole audience
fell into an indescribable epilepsy of hilarity, through which could be
distinguished the sonorous and magisterial ha! ha! of Tom-Jim-Jack.
Only the unknown lady looked at the performance with the immobility of a
statue, and with her eyes, like those of a phantom, she laughed not. A
spectre, but sun-born.
The performance over, the platform drawn up, and the family reassembled
in the Green Box, Ursus opened and emptied on the supper-table the bag
of receipts. From a heap of pennies there slid suddenly forth a Spanish
gold onza. "Hers!" cried Ursus.
The onza amidst the pence covered with verdigris was a type of the lady
amidst the crowd.
"She has paid an onza for her seat," cried Ursus with enthusiasm.
Just then, the hotel-keeper entered the Green Box, and, passing his arm
out of the window at the back of it, opened the loophole in the wall of
which we have already spoken, which gave a view over the field, and
which was level with the window; then he made a silent sign to Ursus to
look out. A carriage, swarming with plumed footmen carrying torches and
magnificently appointed, was driving off at a fast trot.
Ursus took the piece of gold between his forefinger and thumb
respectfully, and, showing it to Master Nicless, said,--
"She is a goddess."
Then his eyes falling on the carriage which was about to turn the corner
of the field, and on the imperial of which the footmen's torches lighted
up a golden coronet, with eight strawberry leaves, he exclaimed,--
"She is more. She is a duchess."
The carriage disappeared: The rumbling of its wheels died away in the
Ursus remained some moments in an ecstasy, holding the gold piece
between his finger and thumb, as in a monstrance, elevating it as the
priest elevates the host.
Then he placed it on the table, and, as he contemplated it, began to
talk of "Madam."
The innkeeper replied,--
"She was a duchess." Yes. They knew her title. But her name? Of that
they were ignorant. Master Nicless had been close to the carriage, and
seen the coat of arms and the footmen covered with lace. The coachman
had a wig on which might have belonged to a Lord Chancellor. The
carriage was of that rare design called, in Spain, _cochetumbon_, a
splendid build, with a top like a tomb, which makes a magnificent
support for a coronet. The page was a man in miniature, so small that he
could sit on the step of the carriage outside the door. The duty of
those pretty creatures was to bear the trains of their mistresses. They
also bore their messages. And did you remark the plumed cap of the
page? How grand it was! You pay a fine if you wear those plumes without
the right of doing so. Master Nicless had seen the lady, too, quite
close. A kind of queen. Such wealth gives beauty. The skin is whiter,
the eye more proud, the gait more noble, and grace more insolent.
Nothing can equal the elegant impertinence of hands which never work.
Master Nicless told the story of all the magnificence, of the white skin
with the blue veins, the neck, the shoulders, the arms, the touch of
paint everywhere, the pearl earrings, the head-dress powdered with gold;
the profusion of stones, the rubies, the diamonds.
"Less brilliant than her eyes," murmured Ursus.
Gwynplaine said nothing.
"And do you know," said the tavern-keeper, "the most wonderful thing of
"What?" said Ursus.
"I saw her get into her carriage."
"She did not get in alone."
"Some one got in with her."
"The king," said Ursus.
"In the first place," said Master Nicless, "there is no king at present.
We are not living under a king. Guess who got into the carriage with the
"Jupiter," said Ursus.
The hotel-keeper replied,--
Gwynplaine, who had not said a word, broke silence.
"Tom-Jim-Jack!" he cried.
There was a pause of astonishment, during which the low voice of Dea was
heard to say,--
"Cannot this woman be prevented coming."
SYMPTOMS OF POISONING.
The "apparition" did not return. It did not reappear in the theatre, but
it reappeared to the memory of Gwynplaine. Gwynplaine was, to a certain
degree, troubled. It seemed to him that for the first time in his life
he had seen a woman.
He made that first stumble, a strange dream. We should beware of the
nature of the reveries that fasten on us. Reverie has in it the mystery
and subtlety of an odour. It is to thought what perfume is to the
tuberose. It is at times the exudation of a venomous idea, and it
penetrates like a vapour. You may poison yourself with reveries, as with
flowers. An intoxicating suicide, exquisite and malignant. The suicide
of the soul is evil thought. In it is the poison. Reverie attracts,
cajoles, lures, entwines, and then makes you its accomplice. It makes
you bear your half in the trickeries which it plays on conscience. It
charms; then it corrupts you. We may say of reverie as of play, one
begins by being a dupe, and ends by being a cheat.
He had never before seen Woman. He had seen the shadow in the women of
the populace, and he had seen the soul in Dea.
He had just seen the reality.
A warm and living skin, under which one felt the circulation of
passionate blood; an outline with the precision of marble and the
undulation of the wave; a high and impassive mien, mingling refusal with
attraction, and summing itself up in its own glory; hair of the colour
of the reflection from a furnace; a gallantry of adornment producing in
herself and in others a tremor of voluptuousness, the half-revealed
nudity betraying a disdainful desire to be coveted at a distance by the
crowd; an ineradicable coquetry; the charm of impenetrability,
temptation seasoned by the glimpse of perdition, a promise to the senses
and a menace to the mind; a double anxiety, the one desire, the other
fear. He had just seen these things. He had just seen Woman.
He had seen more and less than a woman; he had seen a female.
And at the same time an Olympian. The female of a god.
The mystery of sex had just been revealed to him.
And where? On inaccessible heights--at an infinite distance.
O mocking destiny! The soul, that celestial essence, he possessed; he
held it in his hand. It was Dea. Sex, that terrestrial embodiment, he
perceived in the heights of heaven. It was that woman.
"More than a goddess," Ursus had said.
What a precipice! Even dreams dissolved before such a perpendicular
height to escalade.
Was he going to commit the folly of dreaming about the unknown beauty?
He debated with himself.
He recalled all that Ursus had said of high stations which are almost
royal. The philosopher's disquisitions, which had hitherto seemed so
useless, now became landmarks for his thoughts. A very thin layer of
forgetfulness often lies over our memory, through which at times we
catch a glimpse of all beneath it. His fancy ran on that august world,
the peerage, to which the lady belonged, and which was so inexorably
placed above the inferior world, the common people, of which he was one.
And was he even one of the people? Was not he, the mountebank, below the
lowest of the low? For the first time since he had arrived at the age of
reflection, he felt his heart vaguely contracted by a sense of his
baseness, and of that which we nowadays call abasement. The paintings
and the catalogues of Ursus, his lyrical inventories, his dithyrambics
of castles, parks, fountains, and colonnades, his catalogues of riches
and of power, revived in the memory of Gwynplaine in the relief of
reality mingled with mist. He was possessed with the image of this
zenith. That a man should be a lord!--it seemed chimerical. It was so,
however. Incredible thing! There were lords! But were they of flesh and
blood, like ourselves? It seemed doubtful. He felt that he lay at the
bottom of all darkness, encompassed by a wall, while he could just
perceive in the far distance above his head, through the mouth of the
pit, a dazzling confusion of azure, of figures, and of rays, which was
Olympus. In the midst of this glory the duchess shone out resplendent.
He felt for this woman a strange, inexpressible longing, combined with a
conviction of the impossibility of attainment. This poignant
contradiction returned to his mind again and again, notwithstanding
every effort. He saw near to him, even within his reach, in close and
tangible reality, the soul; and in the unattainable--in the depths of
the ideal--the flesh. None of these thoughts attained to certain shape.
They were as a vapour within him, changing every instant its form, and
floating away. But the darkness which the vapour caused was intense.
He did not form even in his dreams any hope of reaching the heights
where the duchess dwelt. Luckily for him.
The vibration of such ladders of fancy, if ever we put our foot upon
them, may render our brains dizzy for ever. Intending to scale Olympus,
we reach Bedlam; any distinct feeling of actual desire would have
terrified him. He entertained none of that nature.
Besides, was he likely ever to see the lady again? Most probably not. To
fall in love with a passing light on the horizon, madness cannot reach
to that pitch. To make loving eyes at a star even, is not
incomprehensible. It is seen again, it reappears, it is fixed in the
sky. But can any one be enamoured of a flash of lightning?
Dreams flowed and ebbed within him. The majestic and gallant idol at the
back of the box had cast a light over his diffused ideas, then faded
away. He thought, yet thought not of it; turned to other
things--returned to it. It rocked about in his brain--nothing more. It
broke his sleep for several nights. Sleeplessness is as full of dreams
It is almost impossible to express in their exact limits the abstract
evolutions of the brain. The inconvenience of words is that they are
more marked in form than ideas. All ideas have indistinct boundary
lines, words have not. A certain diffused phase of the soul ever escapes
words. Expression has its frontiers, thought has none.
The depths of our secret souls are so vast that Gwynplaine's dreams
scarcely touched Dea. Dea reigned sacred in the centre of his soul;
nothing could approach her.
Still (for such contradictions make up the soul of man) there was a
conflict within him. Was he conscious of it? Scarcely.
In his heart of hearts he felt a collision of desires. We all have our
weak points. Its nature would have been clear to Ursus; but to
Gwynplaine it was not.
Two instincts--one the ideal, the other sexual--were struggling within
him. Such contests occur between the angels of light and darkness on the
edge of the abyss.
At length the angel of darkness was overthrown. One day Gwynplaine
suddenly thought no more of the unknown woman.
The struggle between two principles--the duel between his earthly and
his heavenly nature--had taken place within his soul, and at such a
depth that he had understood it but dimly. One thing was certain, that
he had never for one moment ceased to adore Dea.
He had been attacked by a violent disorder, his blood had been fevered;
but it was over. Dea alone remained.
Gwynplaine would have been much astonished had any one told him that Dea
had ever been, even for a moment, in danger; and in a week or two the
phantom which had threatened the hearts of both their souls faded away.
Within Gwynplaine nothing remained but the heart, which was the hearth,
and the love, which was its fire.
Besides, we have just said that "the duchess" did not return.
Ursus thought it all very natural. "The lady with the gold piece" is a
phenomenon. She enters, pays, and vanishes. It would be too much joy
were she to return.
As to Dea, she made no allusion to the woman who had come and passed
away. She listened, perhaps, and was sufficiently enlightened by the
sighs of Ursus, and now and then by some significant exclamation, such
"_One does not get ounces of gold every day!_"
She spoke no more of the "woman." This showed deep instinct. The soul
takes obscure precautions, in the secrets of which it is not always
admitted itself. To keep silence about any one seems to keep them afar
off. One fears that questions may call them back. We put silence between
us, as if we were shutting a door.
So the incident fell into oblivion.
Was it ever anything? Had it ever occurred? Could it be said that a
shadow had floated between Gwynplaine and Dea? Dea did not know of it,
nor Gwynplaine either. No; nothing had occurred. The duchess herself was
blurred in the distant perspective like an illusion. It had been but a
momentary dream passing over Gwynplaine, out of which he had awakened.
When it fades away, a reverie, like a mist, leaves no trace behind; and
when the cloud has passed on, love shines out as brightly in the heart
as the sun in the sky.
ABYSSUS ABYSSUM VOCAT.
Another face, disappeared--Tom-Jim-Jack's. Suddenly he ceased to
frequent the Tadcaster Inn.
Persons so situated as to be able to observe other phases of fashionable
life in London, might have seen that about this time the _Weekly
Gazette_, between two extracts from parish registers, announced the
departure of Lord David Dirry-Moir, by order of her Majesty, to take
command of his frigate in the white squadron then cruising off the coast
Ursus, perceiving that Tom-Jim-Jack did not return, was troubled by his
absence. He had not seen Tom-Jim-Jack since the day on which he had
driven off in the same carriage with the lady of the gold piece. It was,
indeed, an enigma who this Tom-Jim-Jack could be, who carried off
duchesses under his arm. What an interesting investigation! What
questions to propound! What things to be said. Therefore Ursus said not
Ursus, who had had experience, knew the smart caused by rash curiosity.
Curiosity ought always to be proportioned to the curious. By listening,
we risk our ear; by watching, we risk our eye. Prudent people neither
hear nor see. Tom-Jim-Jack had got into a princely carriage. The
tavern-keeper had seen him. It appeared so extraordinary that the sailor
should sit by the lady that it made Ursus circumspect. The caprices of
those in high life ought to be sacred to the lower orders. The reptiles
called the poor had best squat in their holes when they see anything out
of the way. Quiescence is a power. Shut your eyes, if you have not the
luck to be blind; stop up your ears, if you have not the good fortune to
be deaf; paralyze your tongue, if you have not the perfection of being
mute. The great do what they like, the little what they can. Let the
unknown pass unnoticed. Do not importune mythology. Do not interrogate
appearances. Have a profound respect for idols. Do not let us direct our
gossiping towards the lessenings or increasings which take place in
superior regions, of the motives of which we are ignorant. Such things
are mostly optical delusions to us inferior creatures. Metamorphoses are
the business of the gods: the transformations and the contingent
disorders of great persons who float above us are clouds impossible to
comprehend and perilous to study. Too much attention irritates the
Olympians engaged in their gyrations of amusement or fancy; and a
thunderbolt may teach you that the bull you are too curiously examining
is Jupiter. Do not lift the folds of the stone-coloured mantles of those
terrible powers. Indifference is intelligence. Do not stir, and you will
be safe. Feign death, and they will not kill you. Therein lies the
wisdom of the insect. Ursus practised it.
The tavern-keeper, who was puzzled as well, questioned Ursus one day.
"Do you observe that Tom-Jim-Jack never comes here now!"
"Indeed!" said Ursus. "I have not remarked it."
Master Nicless made an observation in an undertone, no doubt touching
the intimacy between the ducal carriage and Tom-Jim-Jack--a remark
which, as it might have been irreverent and dangerous, Ursus took care
not to hear.
Still Ursus was too much of an artist not to regret Tom-Jim-Jack. He
felt some disappointment. He told his feeling to Homo, of whose
discretion alone he felt certain. He whispered into the ear of the wolf,
"Since Tom-Jim-Jack ceased to come, I feel a blank as a man, and a chill
as a poet." This pouring out of his heart to a friend relieved Ursus.
His lips were sealed before Gwynplaine, who, however, made no allusion
to Tom-Jim-Jack. The fact was that Tom-Jim-Jack's presence or absence
mattered not to Gwynplaine, absorbed as he was in Dea.
Forgetfulness fell more and more on Gwynplaine. As for Dea, she had not
even suspected the existence of a vague trouble. At the same time, no
more cabals or complaints against the Laughing Man were spoken of. Hate
seemed to have let go its hold. All was tranquil in and around the Green
Box. No more opposition from strollers, merry-andrews, nor priests; no
more grumbling outside. Their success was unclouded. Destiny allows of
such sudden serenity. The brilliant happiness of Gwynplaine and Dea was
for the present absolutely cloudless. Little by little it had risen to a
degree which admitted of no increase. There is one word which expresses
the situation--apogee. Happiness, like the sea, has its high tide. The
worst thing for the perfectly happy is that it recedes.
There are two ways of being inaccessible: being too high and being too
low. At least as much, perhaps, as the first is the second to be
desired. More surely than the eagle escapes the arrow, the animalcule
escapes being crushed. This security of insignificance, if it had ever
existed on earth, was enjoyed by Gwynplaine and Dea, and never before
had it been so complete. They lived on, daily more and more ecstatically
wrapt in each other. The heart saturates itself with love as with a
divine salt that preserves it, and from this arises the incorruptible
constancy of those who have loved each other from the dawn of their
lives, and the affection which keeps its freshness in old age. There is
such a thing as the embalmment of the heart. It is of Daphnis and Chloe
that Philemon and Baucis are made. The old age of which we speak,
evening resembling morning, was evidently reserved for Gwynplaine and
Dea. In the meantime they were young.
Ursus looked on this love as a doctor examines his case. He had what was
in those days termed a hippocratical expression of face. He fixed his
sagacious eyes on Dea, fragile and pale, and growled out, "It is lucky
that she is happy." At other times he said, "She is lucky for her
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