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Gwynplaine did not see the wrinkle. Those children's mouths had not eaten. That man was a father, that woman a mother, and behind them, their families might be prophesied to be going to ruin. This face, already marked by vice, was on the threshold of crime, and the reasons were plain ; ignorance and indigence. That other one showed an imprint of original goodness, obliterated by social pressure, and turned to hate. On the face of this old woman he saw famine. On that of the girl prostitution. The same fact against which the girl had the resource of her youth, the sadder for that!
In this mass there were arms but no tools ; the workers asked but for work, but the work was wanting. Sometimes a soldier came and seated himself by the workmen, sometimes a pensioner; and Gwynplaine perceived that spectre, war. Here Gwynplaine read want of work, man-farming, 'servitude. On certain brows he saw an indescribable ebbing back towards animalism, and that slow return of man to beast, produced on those below by the dark pressure of the happiness of those above.
There was an aperture in all this gloom for Gwynplaine. He and Dea had a loop-hole of happiness; all the rest was damnation. Gwynplaine felt above him the thoughtless trampling of the powerful, the rich, the magnificent, the great, the elect of chance. Below he distinguished a mass of the pale faces of the disinherited. He saw himself and Dea, with their little happiness, which was so immense, between two worlds. That which was above went and came, free, joyous, dancing, grinding under foot; on high was the world which walks, below the world which is walked upon.
It is a fatal circumstance, and indicating a profound social evil, that light should crush the shadow !
Gwynplaine thoroughly grasped this dark evil.
What! a destiny so reptile! Shall a man drag himself along in this manner-with such adherence to dust and corruption, with such vicious tastes, such an abdication of right, or such abjectness that one feels inclined to crush him under foot? Of what butterfly is, then, this earthly life the grub?
What! in that crowd which hungers and ignores, everywhere, and, above all, the query of crime and shame ; the inflexibility of the law producing laxity of conscience, is there no child that attains to maturity unstunted; no virgin who grows up but for sin; no rose that blooms, but for the slime of the snail ?
His eyes sought everywhere, with the curiosity of interest, the depths of this obscurity, where died away so many useless efforts, and where struggled so much weariness, families devoured by society,
morals tortured by laws, wounds gangrened by penalties, poverty gnawed by taxes, wrecked intelligence swallowed up by ignorance ; rafts in distress covered with the hungry, with feuds, with dearth, with death-rattles, with cries, with disappearances.
He felt the vague oppression of that keen, universal suffering. He saw a vision of the foaming wave of misery dashing over the crowd of humanity.
He was safe in port, and watching the wreck around him. Sometimes he took his disfigured head in his hands and dreamed.
“What folly to be happy! How one dreams !” arose in his mind. Absurd notions crossed his brain.
Because formerly he had succoured an infant, he felt within him a desire to succour the whole world. The mists of reverie sometimes obscured his individuality, and he lost his ideas of proportion so far as to ask himself the question, “What can be done for the poor?” Sometimes he was so absorbed in his subject as to express it aloud. Then Ursus shrugged his shoulders and looked at him fixedly. Gwynplaine continuing his reverie.
“Oh! were I powerful, would I not aid the wretched? But what am I?-An atom. What can I do ?-Nothing."
He was mistaken. He could do much for the wretched. He could make them laugh ; and, as we have said, to make people laugh is to make them forget. What a benefactor on earth is he who bestows forgetfulness !
URSUS THE POET DRAGS ON URSUS THE PHILOSOPHER.
Then Dea entered. He looked at her, and saw none but her. This is love. One may be carried away for a moment by the importunity of some thought. The one woman beloved arrivés, and all that belongs not to her presence speedily fades away, without her dreaming that she effaces in us a world.
We will relate a circumstance. In “Chaos Vanquished," a word, monstro, addressed to Gwynplaine, displeased Dea. Sometimes, with the smattering of Spanish everyone knew at that period, she took it into her head to replace it by quiero, which signifies, I will it. Ursus tolerated, not without some impatience, this alteration in his text. Hewould have liked to say to Dea, as in our day, Moessard to Vissot, Tu manques de respect au repertoire (you are wanting in respect to the repertory).
“ The grinning man.”
His name, Gwynplaine, scarcely known at any time, had disappeared under this nickname, as his face had under his grin.
His popularity was like his visage—a mask.
His name, however, could be read on a large placard in front of the Green Box, which offered to the crowd this narrative composed by Ursus :
Here you may see Gwynplaine abandoned at the age of ten years, on the night of the 29th of January, 1690, by the villanous Comprachicos, on the borders of the sea at Portland. The little boy has grown up, and is called now,
THE GRINNING MAN.
The existence of these mountebanks was as an existence of lepers in a leper-house, and of the blessed in one of the Pleiades. It was every day a quick transition from an outside and noisy exhibition, to the most complete seclusion. Every evening they made their exit from this world. They were like the dead who vanished on condition of being reborn next day. A comedian is a revolving light, appearing for one moment, disappearing the next, and existing for the public but as a phantom or a light, according as he is absent or in their presence, as his life circles round. To the exhibition succeeded claustration. When the performance was finished, whilst the audience dispersed, and the hearty rounds of satisfaction of the crowd was lost in the distant streets, the Green Box shut up its platform, like a fortress its drawbridge, and all communication with human beings was cut off. On one side the universe, on the other this caravan; and this caravan contained liberty, clear consciences, courage, devotion, innocence, happiness, love-all the constellations.
The seeing blindness and the deformed beloved sat side by side, -hand pressing hand, temple touching temple,-and exalted above earth, talking in a low voice.
This compartment in the middle served two purposes-for the public it was a theatre, for the actors an eating room.
Ursus, always delighted to make a comparison, profited by this diversity of destination 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. To eat and drink together when one loves admits of all sorts of sweet promiscuous touches, made by stealth, 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 an agape
have the grace of two birds. Gwynplaine waited on Dea, cut her bread, poured out her drink, and got too close.
“Hum!” cried Ursus, and he turned away, his scolding finishing in a smile, notwithstanding his efforts.
The wolf supped under the table, inattentive to every thing which did not concern his bone.
Fibi and Vinos shared the repast, but gave little trouble. These
vagabonds, half savage, remained bewildered, and 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 having become a groom, as if he had been a hero of Homer's, or a paladin of Charlemagne's. At midnight all slept, the wolf excepted, who, from time to time, alive to his responsibility, opened an eye. The next day, in the morning, they met again. They breakfasted together, generally on ham or tea. Tea was introduced into England in 1698. Then Dea, after the Spanish fashion, took a siesta, according to the advice of Ursus, who
considered her delicate, and slept some hours, whilst Gwynplaine and Ursus did all the little jobs of work, without and within, which their wandering life made necessary. It was rare that Gwynplaine wandered out of the Green Box, except in desert places and solitary wastes. In cities he only went out at night, concealed by a large slouched hat, so as not to exhibit his face in the street.
They could only see the uncovered face in the theatre.
The Green Box had little frequented the cities. Gwynplaine at twenty-four had never seen larger towns than the Cinque Ports. His renown, however, was increasing. It began to rise above the populace, and to percolate in a higher sphere. Amongst the admirers of, and runners after strange foreign curiosities and prodigies, it was known that there existed somewhere, leading a wandering life, sometimes here, sometimes there, an extraordinary monster. They talked about him, they sought him, they asked where is he? The grinning 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.”
PART II.-BOOK THE THIRD.
The Beginning of the Fiszurr.
THE TADCASTER INN.
LONDON at this period had but one bridge-London-bridge, with houses built on 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, jammed together, and having, like the city, a great quantity of buildings, houses, dwellings, and huts of wood, a pell-mell mixture of combustibles, where fire might take its pleasure-1666 had proved it.
Southwark was then pronounced Soudric, now it is pronounced Sousouorc, or near it; indeed, an excellent way of pronouncing English names, is not to pronounce them. Thus, for Southampton, say, Stpntn. This was the time when “Chatham
was pronounced je t'aime.