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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/377

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ABSURDITIES WHICH FOLKS CALL POETRY.

a voice broken but inwrapt in a gravity both wild and tender. It was the human voice responding to the voice of the stars. Gwynplaine, still in obscurity, his head under Dea's hand, kneeling on the vanquished bear and wolf, sang:—

"O ven! ama!
Eres alma,
Soy corazon."[1]

Suddenly from the shadow a glare of light fell full upon Gwynplaine. Then, through the darkness, the monster was fully exposed.

The excitement of the crowd was indescribable. Shrieks of laughter resounded. Mirth is created by startling surprises, and nothing could be more unexpected than this termination. Never was there a sensation comparable to that produced by the ray of light falling on that mask, at once so ludicrous and terrible in its aspect. They laughed on account of his laugh. Everywhere: above, below, behind, in front, at the uttermost distance,—men, women, old grey-heads, rosy-faced children; the good, the wicked, the gay, the sad, everybody. And even in the streets, the passers-by who could see nothing, hearing the laughter, laughed also. The laughter ended in a wild clapping of hands and stamping of feet. The curtain dropped, Gwynplaine was recalled with frenzy. Hence an immense success. Have you seen "Chaos Vanquished"? Gwynplaine became the rage. The listless came to laugh, the melancholy came to laugh, evil consciences came to laugh,—a laugh so irrisistible that it seemed almost an epidemic. There is one epidemic from which men do not fly, and that is the contagion of joy.

Gwynplaine's successes, it must be admitted, had not extended beyond the lower classes. A great crowd

  1. O, come, and love! thou art soul, I am heart.