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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/102

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

have done so. But children know nothing of that breaking from prison which is called suicide. He was running; he ran on for an indefinite time. But fear dies with lack of breath.

All at once, as if seized by a sudden accession of energy and intelligence, he stopped. One would have said he was ashamed of running away. He drew himself up, stamped his foot, and with head erect looked round him. There was no hill, no gibbet, no flying crows visible now. The fog had resumed possession of the horizon. The child continued his way; but now he no longer ran, but walked. To say that this meeting with a corpse had made a man of him was not far from the truth. The gibbet which had so terrified him still seemed to him an apparition; but terror overcome is strength gained, and he felt himself stronger. Had he been of an age to probe self, he would have discovered a thousand other germs of meditation; but the reflection of children is shapeless, and the most they feel is the bitter aftertaste of that which, obscure to them, the man later on calls indignation. Let us add that a child has the faculty of promptly accepting the conclusions of a sensation; the distant boundaries which amplify painful subjects escape him. A child is protected by the very limit of his understanding from emotions which are too complex. He sees the fact, and little else. The difficulty of being satisfied with half-formed ideas does not exist so far as he is concerned. It is not until later that experience comes, with its brief, to conduct the lawsuit of life. Then he confronts groups of facts which have crossed his path; the understanding, cultivated and enlarged, draws comparisons; the memories of youth reappear like the traces of a palimpsest after erasure; these memories form the bases of logic, and that which was a vision in the child's brain becomes a syllogism in