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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/316

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

their elbows on the table, and those with their paws under it, and the insolent who give and the idiots who accept, and fling it all back in the face of Providence! In the mean time let us vent our wrath on Josiana.

Thus mused Barkilphedro; such were the ravings of his soul. It is the habit of the envious man to absolve himself of public wrongs with his own personal grievances. All the wilder forms of hateful passions racked the mind of this ferocious being. In the corners of old maps of the world published in the fifteenth century are big vacant spaces, without shape or name, on which are written these three words: "Hic sunt leones." There is a similar corner in the human soul. Passions rage and growl somewhere within us, and we truly may say of the dark side of our souls that "there are lions here."

Is this chain of reasoning absolutely absurd? Does it lack a certain amount of justice? We must confess it does not. It is fearful to think that the judgment within us is not justice. Judgment is relative; justice is absolute. Think of the difference between a judge and a just man. Wicked men lead conscience astray with authority. There are gymnastics of untruth. A sophist is a forger, and this forger sometimes brutalizes good sense. A certain very supple, very implacable, and very agile logic is at the service of evil, and excels in stabbing truth in the dark. These are blows aimed by the devil at Providence.

The worst of it was that Barkilphedro had a presentiment of failure. He was undertaking a difficult task, and he was afraid that, after all, the evil achieved might not be proportionate to the work. To be as full of corrosion as he was; to possess a will of steel; to be imbued with such an intense hatred and wild longing for the catastrophe,—and yet to burn nothing, to decapitate nothing, to exterminate nothing! To possess