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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/366

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

what is it that you call seeing? For my own part, I cannot see; I know! It seems that to see means to hide."

"What do you mean?" said Gwynplaine.

Dea answered: "To see is a thing which conceals the true."

"No," said Gwynplaine.

"But, yes," replied Dea, "since you say you are ugly."

She reflected a moment, and then exclaimed fondly, "Oh, you story-teller!"

Gwynplaine felt the joy of having confessed and of not being believed. Both his conscience and his love were consoled.

Dea was now sixteen, and Gwynplaine nearly twenty-five. A sort of holy childhood had continued in their love. Thus it sometimes happens that the belated nightingale prolongs her nocturnal song till dawn. Their caresses went no further than pressing hands, or lips brushing a naked arm. Soft, half articulate whispers sufficed them.

Twenty-four and sixteen! So it happened that Ursus, who did not lose sight of the ill-turn he intended to do them, said,—

"One of these days you must choose a religion."

"Wherefore?" inquired Gwynplaine.

"That you may marry."

"That is done already," said Dea.

Dea did not understand that they could be more man and wife than they were already. This chimerical and virginal content, this chaste union of souls, this celibacy taken for marriage, was not displeasing to Ursus. He had said what he had said because he thought it necessary; but the medical knowledge he possessed convinced him that Dea, if not too young, was too fragile and delicate for what he called "Hymen in flesh and