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CHAPTER III.


"OCULOS NON HABET, ET VIDET."


ONLY one woman on earth saw Gwynplaine. That was the blind girl. She had heard what Gwynplaine had done for her, from Ursus, to whom the lad had described his rough journey from Portland to Weymouth, and the many sufferings which he had endured after he was deserted by the gang. She knew that when she was an infant lying upon her dead mother's breast, sucking a corpse, a child very little larger than herself had found her; that this being, exiled and as it were crushed by the refusal of the world to aid him, had heard her cry; that though all the world was deaf to him, he had not been deaf to her; that this child, alone, weak, cast off, without any resting-place here below, dragging himself over the waste, exhausted by fatigue, had accepted from the hands of night a heavy burden,—another child; that he, who had nothing to expect of Fate, had charged himself with another destiny; that naked, in anguish and distress, he had made himself a Providence; that when Heaven failed, he had opened his heart; that though lost himself, he had saved her; that having neither roof-tree nor shelter he had been an asylum; that he had made himself mother and nurse; that he who was thus alone in the world had responded to desertion by adoption; that lost in the darkness he had set an example; that as if not sufficiently burdened already he had added to his load another's misery; that in this world, which seemed to contain no hope for him, he had found a duty; that where every one else would have hesitated, he had advanced; that where every one else would have drawn back, he had consented; that he had put his hand into the very jaws of the grave and drawn her, Dea, out; that himself half naked, he had given her his rags, because she was cold; that famished, he had thought of giving her food and drink; that for one poor little creature, another little creature had combated death; that he had fought it under every form,—under the form of winter and snow, under the form of solitude, under the form of terror, under the form of cold, hunger, and thirst, under the form of whirlwind; and that for her, Dea, this Titan of ten years had bravely battled with the elements. She knew that as a child he had done all this, and that now as a man he was strength to her weakness, riches to her poverty, healing to her sickness, and sight to her blindness. She was fully conscious of his devotion, self-abnegation, and courage. Moral heroism possesses an even more potent charm than physical heroism; and in the abstraction in which thought lives, when unlighted by the sun, Dea clearly perceived these heroic virtues. In the environment of dark objects set in motion, which was the sole impression the realities of life made upon her; in the uneasy quietude of a creature necessarily passive, yet ever on the watch for possible danger; in the sensation of being ever defenceless, which is the life of the blind,—Dea felt Gwynplaine ever beside her: Gwynplaine, never indifferent, never cold, never gloomy, but always sympathetic, sweet-tempered, and helpful. Dea fairly trembled with happiness and gratitude; her anxiety changed into ecstasy, and with her mind's eye she gazed up from the depths of her abyss to the glad light of his goodness in the zenith.

Kindness is the sunshine of the spiritual world; so it is little wonder that Gwynplaine quite dazzled poor Dea. To the crowd, which has too many heads to have a thought, and too many eyes to have a clear vision,—to the crowd who, superficial themselves, judge only by the surface, Gwynplaine was a clown, a merry-andrew, a mountebank, a grotesque creature, very little more or less than a beast. The crowd knew only the face. For Dea, Gwynplaine was the saviour who had gathered her up in his arms in the tomb, and borne her out of it; the consoler who made life tolerable; the liberator, whose hand guided her through that labyrinth called blindness. Gwynplaine was her brother, friend, guide, support; the personification of heavenly power, the husband, winged and resplendent. Where the multitude saw the monster, Dea recognized the archangel. This was because Dea, being blind, could see the soul.