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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/86

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

The scabbard was riven asunder at the lower end, and long shreds hung between the rents. A faint breeze stirred the chain, and that which was appended to it swayed gently to and fro.

It was altogether an object to inspire indescribable dread. Horror, which disproportions everything, increased its dimensions, without changing its shape. It was a condensation of darkness into a definite form. Twilight and moon-rise, stars setting behind the cliff, the clouds and winds, seemed to have entered into the composition of this visible nonentity. The sort of log hanging in the wind partook of the impersonality diffused over sea and sky, and the darkness completed this phase of the thing which had once been man. It was that no longer.

To be naught but a remainder!—such a thing it is beyond the power of language to express. To exist no more, yet to persist in existing; to be in the dread abyss, yet out of it; to reappear after death as if indissoluble,—all this makes it inexpressible. There is a certain amount of impossibility mixed with such a reality. This being,—was it a being? This black witness was a remainder, and an awful remainder. A remainder of what? Of Nature first, and then of society; zero, and yet total. The wild inclemency of the weather held it at its will; the deep oblivion of solitude environed it. It was given up to unknown chances; it was without defence against the darkness, which did with it what it willed. It was forever the patient; it submitted; the hurricane (that ghastly conflict of winds) was upon it. The spectre was given over to pillage. It underwent the horrible outrage of rotting in the open air; it was an outlaw of the tomb. There was no peace for it even in annihilation; in the summer it fell away into dust, in the winter into mud. Death should be veiled, the grave