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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/378

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

means a crowd of nobodies. "Chaos Vanquished" could be seen for a penny. Fashionable people never go where the price of admission is a penny.

Ursus had a very exalted opinion of this work, which he had brooded over a long time. "It is very much in the style of one Shakspeare," he said modestly. The juxtaposition of Dea added to the indescribable effect produced by Gwynplaine. Her white face by the side of the gnome, represented what might have been called divine astonishment. The audience regarded Dea with a sort of mysterious anxiety. She had in her aspect the dignity of a virgin and of a priestess. They saw that she was blind, and yet felt that she could see. She seemed to stand on the threshold of the supernatural. The light that beamed on her seemed half earthly and half heavenly. She had come to work on earth, and to work as heaven works, in the radiance of morning. She found a hydra, and created a soul. She seemed like a creative power, satisfied, but astonished at the result of her creation; and the audience fancied that they could see in the divine surprise of her face wonder at the result she had achieved. They felt that she loved this monster. Did she know that he was one? Yes, since she touched him; no, since she accepted him. Without going too deep, for spectators do not like the fatigue of seeking below the surface, something more was understood than was perceived. And this strange spectacle had the transparency of an avatar.

As for Dea, what she felt cannot be expressed in human words; she knew that she was in the midst of a crowd, and yet knew not what a crowd was. She heard a murmur, that was all. For her the crowd was but a breath. Generations are passing breaths. Man respires, aspires, and expires. In the crowd Dea felt utterly alone, and shuddered as one shudders on the edge of a