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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/337

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THE FACE OF GWYNPLAINE.

the chief executioner came to see him, and Gwynplaine made him laugh. People who saw Gwynplaine were obliged to hold their sides; he spoke, and they rolled on the ground. He was as far removed from sadness as pole is from pole: spleen at the one, Gwynplaine at the other. Consequently on fair-grounds and village-greens he speedily gained the enviable appellation of "that horrible man."

It was Gwynplaine's laugh that so excited the mirth of others; yet he did not laugh himself. His face laughed; his thoughts did not. The extraordinary face which chance, or a special and weird industry, had fashioned for him laughed of itself; Gwynplaine had nothing to do with it. The exterior did not depend on the interior. The laugh which he himself had not placed on brow and eyelids and mouth, he was powerless to remove. It had been stamped indelibly on his face; it was automatic, and the more irresistible because it seemed petrified. No one could escape the powerful effect of this grimace. Two convulsions of the face are infectious,—laughing and yawning. By reason of the mysterious operation to which Gwynplaine had probably been subjected in his infancy, every part of his face contributed to that grin; his whole physiognomy led to that result, as a wheel centres in the hub. All his emotions augmented this strange expression; or, to speak more correctly, aggravated it. Any astonishment which might seize him, any suffering which he might feel, any anger which might take possession of him, any pity which might move him, only increased this hilarity of his muscles. If he wept he laughed; and whatever Gwynplaine was, whatever he wished to be, whatever he thought, the moment that he raised his head the crowd (if crowd there was) had before them one impersonation,—an overwhelming burst of laughter. It was