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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/340

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

member that they had in those times means of putting patients to sleep, and of suppressing all suffering; only then it was called magic, while now it is called anæsthesia.

Besides this face, those who had brought him up had given him the resources of a gymnast and an athlete. His joints had been skilfully dislocated, and trained to bend the wrong way; so that they could move backward and forward with equal ease, like the hinges of a door. In preparing him for the profession of mountebank nothing had been neglected. His hair had been dyed ochre colour once for all,—a secret which has been rediscovered at the present day. Pretty women avail themselves of it, and that which was formerly considered ugly is now considered an embellishment. Gwynplaine's hair had probably been dyed with some corrosive preparation, for it was very woolly and rough to the touch. The yellow bristles, a mane rather than a head of hair, covered and concealed a lofty brow, evidently made to contain thought. The operation, whatever it had been, which had deprived his features of harmony, and put all their flesh awry, had had no effect on the contour of the head. The facial angle was powerful and symmetrical. Behind his laugh there was a soul, dreaming, as all souls dream. Besides, this laugh was quite a talent to Gwynplaine. He could not prevent it, so he turned it to account. He earned his living by it.

Gwynplaine, as you have probably already guessed, was the child abandoned one winter evening on the coast of Portland, and subsequently sheltered by Ursus at Weymouth.