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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/87

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THE TREE OF HUMAN INVENTION.

should have its reserve. Here was neither veil nor reserve, but cynically avowed putrefaction. It is effrontery in death to display its work; it offends all the calmness of shadow when it does its task outside its laboratory, the grave.

This dead thing had been stripped. To strip one already stripped,—relentless act! His marrow was no longer in his bones; his entrails were no longer in his body; his voice was no longer in his throat. A corpse is a pocket which death turns inside out, and empties. If he ever was an I, where was that I? There still, perchance; and this was fearful to think of. Something wandering about something in chains,—can one imagine a more mournful lineament in the darkness?

Realities exist here below which serve as issues to the unknown, which seem to facilitate the egress of speculation, and at which hypothesis snatches. Conjecture has its compelle intrare. In passing by certain places and before certain objects one cannot help stopping,—a prey to dreams into the realms of which the mind enters. In the invisible there are dark portals ajar. No one could have met this dead man without meditating. In the vastness of dispersion he was wearing silently away. He had had blood which had been drunk, skin which had been eaten, flesh which had been stolen. Nothing had passed him by without taking somewhat from him. December had borrowed cold of him; midnight, horror; the iron, rust; the plague, miasma; the flowers, perfume. His slow disintegration was a toll paid to all,—a toll of the corpse to the storm, to the rain, to the dew, to the reptiles, to the birds. All the dark hands of night had rifled the dead. He was, indeed, an inexpressibly strange tenant,—a tenant of the darkness. He was on a plain and on a hill, and he was not; he was palpable, yet vanished; he was a shadow accruing to the