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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/317

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THE FLAME SEEN IF MAN WERE TRANSPARENT.

such powers of devastation, such voracious animosity; to have been created (for there is a creator, whether God or devil), Barkilphedro,—and to inflict perhaps after all only a tap of the finger! Could this be possible? Could it be that Barkilphedro would miss his aim? To be a lever powerful enough to heave great masses of rock, and when sprung to the utmost power, to succeed only in giving an affected woman a bump in the forehead; to accomplish the task of Sisyphus, and crush only an ant; to sweat all over with hate, and for nothing,—would not this be humiliating, when he felt himself a murderous engine capable of reducing the world to powder! To put into movement all the wheels within wheels, to work in the darkness all the mechanism of a Marly machine, and perhaps only succeed in pinching the tip of a little rosy finger! He must turn huge blocks of marble over and over, perchance with no other result than ruffling the smooth surface of the court a little! Providence has a way of expending its forces grandly. The movement of a mountain often only displaces a mole-hill!

Besides, when the court is the arena, nothing is more dangerous than to aim at your enemy and miss him. In the first place, it unmasks you and irritates him; but besides and above all, it displeases the master. Kings do not like the unskilful. Let us have no contusions, no ugly gashes; kill anybody, but give no one a bloody nose. He who kills is clever; he who wounds is awkward. Kings do not like to see their servants lamed; they are displeased if you chip a porcelain jar on their chimney-piece, or a courtier in their cortége. The court must be kept neat; break and replace,—that does not matter. Besides, all this agrees perfectly with the taste of princes for scandal. Speak evil, do none; or if you do, let it be in grand style. Stab, do not scratch,