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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/382

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

and believed that a calker is as superior to an actor as a lord is to a calker. Gwynplaine was, therefore, like all comedians, applauded and kept at a distance. Truly, success in this world is a crime, and must be bitterly expiated. He who obtains the medal has to take its reverse side as well.

For Gwynplaine there was no reverse side. In one sense, both sides of his medal pleased him. He was satisfied with the applause, and content with the isolation. In applause, he was rich; in isolation, happy. To be rich, to one of his low estate, means to be no longer wretchedly poor, to have neither holes in his clothes nor cold at his hearth, nor emptiness in his stomach. It is to eat when hungry, and drink when thirsty. It is to have everything needful, including a penny for a beggar. This paltry wealth, enough for liberty, Gwynplaine now possessed. So far as his soul was concerned, he was opulent. He had love. What more could he want? Nothing.

You may think that, had the offer been made to him to cure his disfigurement, he would have jumped at it. But he would have refused it emphatically. What! to throw off his mask and have his former face restored, to be the creature he had perchance been created, handsome and charming? No, he would not have consented to it. For what would he have to support Dea upon? what would have become of the poor child, the sweet blind girl who loved him? Without his disfigurement, making him a clown without parallel, he would have been a common mountebank, like any other; a common athlete, a picker up of pence from the chinks in the pavement, and Dea would, perhaps, not have had bread to eat. It was with deep and tender pride that he felt himself the protector of the helpless and heavenly creature. Night, solitude, nakedness, weakness, ignorance,