Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/223

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

placed, the door was reclosed. The children were left alone.

From without, a voice, the voice of Ursus, said: "Say, you, boy, who have just eaten up my supper, are you already asleep?"

"No," replied the child.

"Well, if she cries, give her the rest of the milk."

The clanking of a chain was heard, and the sound of a man's footsteps, mingled with the soft patter of an animal's paws, died away in the distance. A few minutes after, both children were sound asleep. Such dreams as are prone to visit beings of that age floated from one to the other; beneath their closed eyelids there shone, perhaps, the light of the spheres. If the word "marriage" were not inappropriate to the situation, they were husband and wife after the fashion of the angels. Such innocence in such darkness, such purity in such an embrace, such foretastes of heaven, are possible only to childhood, and no immensity approaches the greatness of little children. The fearful perpetuity of the dead chained beyond life, the mighty animosity of the ocean to a wreck, the whiteness of the snow over buried bodies, do not equal in pathos two children's mouths meeting divinely in sleep,—a meeting which is not even a kiss: a betrothal perchance; perchance a catastrophe. The unknown overhangs this juxtaposition. It charms, it terrifies,—who knows which? It stays the pulse. Innocence is greater than virtue; innocence is holy ignorance. They slept; they were at peace; they were warm. The nakedness of their interlaced bodies imaged the virginity of their souls. They lay there, as it were, on the bosom of the infinite Father of all.