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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/398

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

The existence of these mountebanks resembled the life of lepers in a leper-house as well as of the blessed in one of the Pleiades. Every day there was a sudden transition from the noisy exhibition outside to the most complete seclusion. Every evening they made their exit from the world. They were like the dead, vanishing on condition of being re-born next day. A comedian is a sort of revolving light, appearing one moment, disappearing the next, and existing for the public only as a phantom, as his life circles round. To exhibition succeeded isolation. As soon as the performance was finished, and even while the spectators were dispersing, and their murmur of satisfaction was still heard in the streets, the Green Box drew in its platform, as a fortress does its drawbridge, and all communication with mankind was cut off. On one side, the universe; on the other, the van; but the van contained liberty, clear consciences, courage, devotion, innocence, happiness, love,—all the heavenly constellations. Clear-sighted blindness and fondly beloved deformity sat side by side,—hand pressing hand, brow touching brow,—and whispered to each other, intoxicated with love.

The compartment in the middle of the van served two purposes,—for the public it was a stage; for the actors, a dining-room. Ursus, ever delighting in comparisons, profited by this diversity of uses to liken the central compartment in the Green Box to the arradach in an Abyssinian hut. Ursus counted the receipts, then they supped.

Love idealizes everything. When persons are in love, eating and drinking together afford opportunities for many sweet promiscuous touches, by which a mouthful becomes a kiss. The two drank ale or wine from the same glass, as they might drink dew out of the same