Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/307

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

definite object. An animosity diffused over all creation is exhausting, like every solitary pleasure. Hate without an object is like a shooting-match without a target; what lends interest to the game is a heart to be pierced. One cannot hate solely for the honour of it; some seasoning is necessary,—a man, a woman, somebody, to destroy.

This service of making the game interesting, of offering an aim, of adding a zest to hatred by fixing it on an object, of amusing the hunter by the sight of his living prey, of giving the watcher the hope of the smoking and boiling blood about to flow, of amusing the bird-catcher by the credulity of the uselessly winged lark, of being a victim unwittingly reared for murder by a master-mind,—all this exquisite and horrible service, of which the person rendering it is unconscious, Josiana rendered Barkilphedro. Thought is a projectile. Barkilphedro had, from the very first, aimed at Josiana the evil intentions which were in his mind. An intention and a carbine are alike. Barkilphedro aimed at Josiana, directing all his secret malice against the duchess. That astonishes you! What has the bird done at which you fire? You want to eat it, you say; and so it was with Barkilphedro.

Josiana could not be wounded in the heart; the spot where that enigma lies is hard to wound. But she could be wounded in the head; that is, in her pride. It was there that she deemed herself strong, and that she was really very weak. Barkilphedro had found this out. If Josiana had been able to read his mind clearly, if she had been able to distinguish what lay in ambush behind his smile, that proud woman would have trembled. Fortunately for the tranquillity of her sleep, she was in complete ignorance of the man's real character.