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The Man Who Laughs by Victor Hugo

Part 13 out of 13

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of her neck. The sleeves covered her arms; the folds, her feet. The
branch-like tracery of blue veins, hot and swollen with fever, were
visible on her hands. She was shivering and rocking, rather than
reeling, to and fro, like a reed. The lantern threw up its glancing
light on her beautiful face. Her loosened hair floated over her
shoulders. No tears fell on her cheeks. In her eyes there was fire, and
darkness. She was pale, with that paleness which is like the
transparency of a divine life in an earthly face. Her fragile and
exquisite form was, as it were, blended and interfused with the folds of
her robe. She wavered like the flicker of a flame, while, at the same
time, she was dwindling into shadow. Her eyes, opened wide, were
resplendent. She was as one just freed from the sepulchre; a soul
standing in the dawn.

Ursus, whose back only was visible to Gwynplaine, raised his arms in
terror. "O my child! O heavens! she is delirious. Delirium is what I
feared worst of all. She must have no shock, for that might kill her;
yet nothing but a shock can prevent her going mad. Dead or mad! what a
situation. O God! what can I do? My child, lie down again."

Meanwhile, Dea spoke. Her voice was almost indistinct, as if a cloud
already interposed between her and earth.

"Father, you are wrong. I am not in the least delirious. I hear all you
say to me, distinctly. You tell me that there is a great crowd of
people, that they are waiting, and that I must play to-night. I am quite
willing. You see that I have my reason; but I do not know what to do,
since I am dead, and Gwynplaine is dead. I am coming all the same. I am
ready to play. Here I am; but Gwynplaine is no longer here."

"Come, my child," said Ursus, "do as I bid you. Lie down again."

"He is no longer here, no longer here. Oh! how dark it is!"

"Dark!" muttered Ursus. "This is the first time she has ever uttered
that word!"

Gwynplaine, with as little noise as he could help making as he crept,
mounted the step of the caravan, entered it, took from the nail the cape
and the esclavine, put the esclavine round his neck, and redescended
from the van, still concealed by the projection of the cabin, the
rigging, and the mast.

Dea continued murmuring. She moved her lips, and by degrees the murmur
became a melody. In broken pauses, and with the interrupted cadences of
delirium, her voice broke into the mysterious appeal she had so often
addressed to Gwynplaine in _Chaos Vanquished_. She sang, and her voice
was low and uncertain as the murmur of the bee,--

"Noche, quita te de alli.
El alba canta...."[23]

She stopped. "No, it is not true. I am not dead. What was I saying?
Alas! I am alive. I am alive. He is dead. I am below. He is above. He is
gone. I remain. I shall hear his voice no more, nor his footstep. God,
who had given us a little Paradise on earth, has taken it away.
Gwynplaine, it is over. I shall never feel you near me again. Never! And
his voice! I shall never hear his voice again. And she sang:--

"Es menester a cielos ir--
Deja, quiero,
A tu negro

"We must go to heaven.
Take off, I entreat thee,
Thy black cloak."

She stretched out her hand, as if she sought something in space on which
she might rest.

Gwynplaine, rising by the side of Ursus, who had suddenly become as
though petrified, knelt down before her.

"Never," said Dea, "never shall I hear him again."

She began, wandering, to sing again:--

"Deja, quiero,
A tu negro

Then she heard a voice--even the beloved voice--answering:--

"O ven! ama!
Eres alma,
Soy corazon."

"O come and love
Thou art the soul,
I am the heart."

And at the same instant Dea felt under her hand the head of Gwynplaine.
She uttered an indescribable cry.


A light, as of a star, shone over her pale face, and she tottered.
Gwynplaine received her in his arms.

"Alive!" cried Ursus.

Dea repeated "Gwynplaine;" and with her head bowed against Gwynplaine's
cheek, she whispered faintly,--

"You have come down to me again. I thank you, Gwynplaine."

And seated on his knee, she lifted up her head. Wrapt in his embrace,
she turned her sweet face towards him, and fixed on him those eyes so
full of light and shadow, as though she could see him.

"It is you," she said.

Gwynplaine covered her sobs with kisses. There are words which are at
once words, cries, and sobs, in which all ecstasy and all grief are
mingled and burst forth together. They have no meaning, and yet tell

"Yes, it is! It is I, Gwynplaine, of whom you are the soul. Do you hear
me? I, of whom you are the child, the wife, the star, the breath of
life; I, to whom you are eternity. It is I. I am here. I hold you in my
arms. I am alive. I am yours. Oh, when I think that in a moment all
would have been over--one minute more, but for Homo! I will tell you
everything. How near is despair to joy! Dea, we live! Dea, forgive me.
Yes--yours for ever. You are right. Touch my forehead. Make sure that it
is I. If you only knew--but nothing can separate us now. I rise out of
hell, and ascend into heaven. Am I not with you? You said that I
descended. Not so; I reascend. Once more with you! For ever! I tell you
for ever! Together! We are together! Who would have believed it? We have
found each other again. All our troubles are past. Before us now there
is nothing but enchantment. We will renew our happy life, and we will
shut the door so fast that misfortune shall never enter again. I will
tell you all. You will be astonished. The vessel has sailed. No one can
prevent that now. We are on our voyage, and at liberty. We are going to
Holland. We will marry. I have no fear about gaining a livelihood. What
can hinder it? There is nothing to fear. I adore you!"

"Not so quick!" stammered Ursus.

Dea, trembling, and with the rapture of an angelic touch, passed her
hand over Gwynplaine's profile. He overheard her say to herself, "It is
thus that gods are made."

Then she touched his clothes.

"The esclavine," she said, "the cape. Nothing changed; all as it was

Ursus, stupefied, delighted, smiling, drowned in tears, looked at them,
and addressed an aside to himself.

"I don't understand it in the least. I am a stupid idiot--I, who saw him
carried to the grave! I cry and I laugh. That is all I know. I am as
great a fool as if I were in love myself. But that is just what I am. I
am in love with them both. Old fool! Too much emotion--too much emotion.
It is what I was afraid of. No; it is that I wished for. Gwynplaine, be
careful of her. Yes, let them kiss; it is no affair of mine. I am but a
spectator. What I feel is droll. I am the parasite of their happiness,
and I am nourished by it."

Whilst Ursus was talking to himself, Gwynplaine exclaimed,--

"Dea, you are too beautiful! I don't know where my wits were gone these
last few days. Truly, there is but you on earth. I see you again, but as
yet I can hardly believe it. In this ship! But tell me, how did it all
happen? To what a state have they reduced you! But where is the Green
Box? They have robbed you. They have driven you away. It is infamous.
Oh, I will avenge you--I will avenge you, Dea! They shall answer for it.
I am a peer of England."

Ursus, as if stricken by a planet full in his breast, drew back, and
looked at Gwynplaine attentively.

"It is clear that he is not dead; but can he have gone mad?" and he
listened to him doubtfully.

Gwynplaine resumed.

"Be easy, Dea; I will carry my complaint to the House of Lords."

Ursus looked at him again, and struck his forehead with the tip of his
forefinger. Then making up his mind,--

"It is all one to me," he said. "It will be all right, all the same. Be
as mad as you like, my Gwynplaine. It is one of the rights of man. As
for me, I am happy. But how came all this about?"

The vessel continued to sail smoothly and fast. The night grew darker
and darker. The mists, which came inland from the ocean, were invading
the zenith, from which no wind blew them away. Only a few large stars
were visible, and they disappeared one after another, so that soon there
were none at all, and the whole sky was dark, infinite, and soft. The
river broadened until the banks on each side were nothing but two thin
brown lines mingling with the gloom. Out of all this shadow rose a
profound peace. Gwynplaine, half seated, held Dea in his embrace. They
spoke, they cried, they babbled, they murmured in a mad dialogue of joy!
How are we to paint thee, O joy!

"My life!"

"My heaven!"

"My love!"

"My whole happiness!"


"Dea, I am drunk. Let me kiss your feet."

"Is it you, then, for certain?"

"I have so much to say to you now that I do not know where to begin."

"One kiss!"

"O my wife!"

"Gwynplaine, do not tell me that I am beautiful. It is you who are

"I have found you again. I hold you to my heart. This is true. You are
mine. I do not dream. Is it possible? Yes, it is. I recover possession
of life. If you only knew! I have met with all sorts of adventures.

"Gwynplaine, I love you!"

And Ursus murmured,--

"Mine is the joy of a grandfather."

Homo, having come from under the van, was going from one to the other
discreetly, exacting no attention, licking them left and right--now
Ursus's thick shoes, now Gwynplaine's cape, now Dea's dress, now the
mattress. This was his way of giving his blessing.

They had passed Chatham and the mouth of the Medway. They were
approaching the sea. The shadowy serenity of the atmosphere was such
that the passage down the Thames was being made without trouble: no
manoeuvre was needful, nor was any sailor called on deck. At the other
end of the vessel the skipper, still alone, was steering. There was
only this man aft. At the bow the lantern lighted up the happy group of
beings who, from the depths of misery, had suddenly been raised to
happiness by a meeting so unhoped for.



Suddenly Dea, disengaging herself from Gwynplaine's embrace, arose. She
pressed both her hands against her heart, as if to still its throbbings.

"What is wrong with me?" said she. "There is something the matter. Joy
is suffocating. No, it is nothing! That is lucky. Your reappearance, O
my Gwynplaine, has given me a blow--a blow of happiness. All this heaven
of joy which you have put into my heart has intoxicated me. You being
absent, I felt myself dying. The true life which was leaving me you have
brought back. I felt as if something was being torn away within me. It
is the shadows that have been torn away, and I feel life dawn in my
brain--a glowing life, a life of fever and delight. This life which you
have just given me is wonderful. It is so heavenly that it makes me
suffer somewhat. It seems as though my soul is enlarged, and can
scarcely be contained in my body. This life of seraphim, this plenitude,
flows into my brain and penetrates it. I feel like a beating of wings
within my breast. I feel strangely, but happy. Gwynplaine, you have been
my resurrection."

She flushed, became pale, then flushed again, and fell.

"Alas!" said Ursus, "you have killed her."

Gwynplaine stretched his arms towards Dea. Extremity of anguish coming
upon extremity of ecstasy, what a shock! He would himself have fallen,
had he not had to support her.

"Dea!" he cried, shuddering, "what is the matter?"

"Nothing," said she--"I love you!"

She lay in his arms, lifeless, like a piece of linen; her hands were
hanging down helplessly.

Gwynplaine and Ursus placed Dea on the mattress. She said, feebly,--

"I cannot breathe lying down."

They lifted her up.

Ursus said,--

"Fetch a pillow."

She replied,--

"What for? I have Gwynplaine!"

She laid her head on Gwynplaine's shoulder, who was sitting behind, and
supporting her, his eyes wild with grief.

"Oh," said she, "how happy I am!"

Ursus took her wrist, and counted the pulsation of the artery. He did
not shake his head. He said nothing, nor expressed his thought except by
the rapid movement of his eyelids, which were opening and closing
convulsively, as if to prevent a flood of tears from bursting out.

"What is the matter?" asked Gwynplaine.

Ursus placed his ear against Dea's left side.

Gwynplaine repeated his question eagerly, fearful of the answer.

Ursus looked at Gwynplaine, then at Dea. He was livid. He said,--

"We ought to be parallel with Canterbury. The distance from here to
Gravesend cannot be very great. We shall have fine weather all night. We
need fear no attack at sea, because the fleets are all on the coast of
Spain. We shall have a good passage."

Dea, bent, and growing paler and paler, clutched her robe convulsively.
She heaved a sigh of inexpressible sadness, and murmured,--

"I know what this is. I am dying!"

Gwynplaine rose in terror. Ursus held Dea.

"Die! You die! No; it shall not be! You cannot die! Die now! Die at
once! It is impossible! God is not ferociously cruel--to give you and to
take you back in the same moment. No; such a thing cannot be. It would
make one doubt in Him. Then, indeed, would everything be a snare--the
earth, the sky, the cradles of infants, the human heart, love, the
stars. God would be a traitor and man a dupe. There would be nothing in
which to believe. It would be an insult to the creation. Everything
would be an abyss. You know not what you say, Dea. You shall live! I
command you to live! You must obey me! I am your husband and your
master; I forbid you to leave me! O heavens! O wretched Man! No, it
cannot be--I to remain in the world after you! Why, it is as monstrous
as that there should be no sun! Dea! Dea! recover! It is but a moment
of passing pain. One feels a shudder at times, and thinks no more about
it. It is absolutely necessary that you should get well and cease to
suffer. _You_ die! What have I done to you? The very thought of it
drives me mad. We belong to each other, and we love each other. You have
no reason for going! It would be unjust! Have I committed crimes?
Besides, you have forgiven me. Oh, you would not make me desperate--have
me become a villain, a madman, drive me to perdition? Dea, I entreat
you! I conjure you! I supplicate you! Do not die!"

And clenching his hands in his hair, agonized with fear, stifled with
tears, he threw himself at her feet.

"My Gwynplaine," said Dea, "it is no fault of mine."

There then rose to her lips a red froth, which Ursus wiped away with the
fold of her robe, before Gwynplaine, who was prostrate at her feet,
could see it.

Gwynplaine took her feet in his hands, and implored her in all kinds of
confused words.

"I tell you, I will not have it! _You_ die? I have no strength left to
bear it. Die? Yes; but both of us together--not otherwise. _You_ die, my
Dea? I will never consent to it! My divinity, my love! Do you understand
that I am with you? I swear that you shall live! Oh, but you cannot have
thought what would become of me after you were gone. If you had an idea
of the necessity which you are to me, you would see that it is
absolutely impossible! Dea! you see I have but you! The most
extraordinary things have happened to me. You will hardly believe that I
have just explored the whole of life in a few hours! I have found out
one thing--that there is nothing in it! You exist! if you did not, the
universe would have no meaning. Stay with me! Have pity on me! Since you
love me, live on! If I have just found you again, it is to keep you.
Wait a little longer; you cannot leave me like this, now that we have
been together but a few minutes! Do not be impatient! O Heaven, how I
suffer! You are not angry with me, are you? You know that I could not
help going when the wapentake came for me. You will breathe more easily
presently, you will see. Dea, all has been put right. We are going to be
happy. Do not drive me to despair, Dea! I have done nothing to you."

These words were not spoken, but sobbed out. They rose from his
breast--now in a lament which might have attracted the dove, now in a
roar which might have made lions recoil.

Dea answered him in a voice growing weaker and weaker, and pausing at
nearly every word.

"Alas! it is of no use, my beloved. I see that you are doing all you
can. An hour ago I wanted to die; now I do not. Gwynplaine--my adored
Gwynplaine--how happy we have been! God placed you in my life, and He
takes me out of yours. You see, I am going. You will remember the Green
Box, won't you, and poor blind little Dea? You will remember my song? Do
not forget the sound of my voice, and the way in which I said, 'I love
you!' I will come back and tell it to you again, in the night while you
are asleep. Yes, we found each other again; but it was too much joy. It
was to end at once. It is decreed that I am to go first. I love my
father, Ursus, and my brother, Homo, very dearly. You are all so good.
There is no air here. Open the window. My Gwynplaine, I did not tell
you, but I was jealous of a woman who came one day. You do not even know
of whom I speak. Is it not so? Cover my arms; I am rather cold. And Fibi
and Vinos, where are they? One comes to love everybody. One feels a
friendship for all those who have been mixed up in one's happiness. We
have a kindly feeling towards them for having been present in our joys.
Why has it all passed away? I have not clearly understood what has
happened during the last two days. Now I am dying. Leave me in my dress.
When I put it on I foresaw that it would be my shroud. I wish to keep it
on. Gwynplaine's kisses are upon it. Oh, what would I not have given to
have lived on! What a happy life we led in our poor caravan! How we
sang! How I listened to the applause! What joy it was never to be
separated from each other! It seemed to me that I was living in a cloud
with you; I knew one day from another, although I was blind. I knew that
it was morning, because I heard Gwynplaine; I felt that it was night,
because I dreamed of Gwynplaine. I felt that I was wrapped up in
something which was his soul. We adored each other so sweetly. It is all
fading away; and there will be no more songs. Alas that I cannot live
on! You will think of me, my beloved!"

Her voice was growing fainter. The ominous waning, which was death, was
stealing away her breath. She folded her thumbs within her fingers--a
sign that her last moments were approaching. It seemed as though the
first uncertain words of an angel just created were blended with the
last failing accents of the dying girl.

She murmured,--

"You will think of me, won't you? It would be very sad to be dead, and
to be remembered by no one. I have been wayward at times; I beg pardon
of you all. I am sure that, if God had so willed it, we might yet have
been happy, my Gwynplaine; for we take up but very little room, and we
might have earned our bread together in another land. But God has willed
it otherwise. I cannot make out in the least why I am dying. I never
complained of being blind, so that I cannot have offended any one. I
should never have asked for anything, but always to be blind as I was,
by your side. Oh, how sad it is to have to part!"

Her words were more and more inarticulate, evaporating into each other,
as if they were being blown away. She had become almost inaudible.

"Gwynplaine," she resumed, "you will think of me, won't you? I shall
crave it when I am dead."

And she added,--

"Oh, keep me with you!"

Then, after a pause, she said,--

"Come to me as soon as you can. I shall be very unhappy without you,
even in heaven. Do not leave me long alone, my sweet Gwynplaine! My
paradise was here; above there is only heaven! Oh! I cannot breathe! My
beloved! My beloved! My beloved!"

"Mercy!" cried Gwynplaine.

"Farewell!" murmured Dea.

And he pressed his mouth to her beautiful icy hands. For a moment it
seemed as if she had ceased to breathe. Then she raised herself on her
elbows, and an intense splendour flashed across her eyes, and through an
ineffable smile her voice rang out clearly.

"Light!" she cried. "I see!"

And she expired. She fell back rigid and motionless on the mattress.

"Dead!" said Ursus.

And the poor old man, as if crushed by his despair, bowed his bald head
and buried his swollen face in the folds of the gown which covered Dea's
feet. He lay there in a swoon.

Then Gwynplaine became awful. He arose, lifted his eyes, and gazed into
the vast gloom above him. Seen by none on earth, but looked down upon,
perhaps, as he stood in the darkness, by some invisible presence, he
stretched his hands on high, and said,--

"I come!"

And he strode across the deck, towards the side of the vessel, as if
beckoned by a vision.

A few paces off was the abyss. He walked slowly, never casting down his
eyes. A smile came upon his face, such as Dea's had just worn. He
advanced straight before him, as if watching something. In his eyes was
a light like the reflection of a soul perceived from afar off. He cried
out, "Yes!" At every step he was approaching nearer to the side of the
vessel. His gait was rigid, his arms were lifted up, his head was thrown
back, his eyeballs were fixed. His movement was ghost-like. He advanced
without haste and without hesitation, with fatal precision, as though
there were before him no yawning gulf and open grave. He murmured, "Be
easy. I follow you. I understand the sign that you are making me." His
eyes were fixed upon a certain spot in the sky, where the shadow was
deepest. The smile was still upon his face. The sky was perfectly black;
there was no star visible in it, and yet he evidently saw one. He
crossed the deck. A few stiff and ominous steps, and he had reached the
very edge.

"I come," said he; "Dea, behold, I come!"

One step more; there was no bulwark; the void was before him; he strode
into it. He fell. The night was thick and dull, the water deep. It
swallowed him up. He disappeared calmly and silently. None saw nor heard
him. The ship sailed on, and the river flowed.

Shortly afterwards the ship reached the sea.

When Ursus returned to consciousness, he found that Gwynplaine was no
longer with him, and he saw Homo by the edge of the deck baying in the
shadow and looking down upon the water.


[Footnote 1: As much as to say, the other daughters are provided for as
best may be. (Note by Ursus on the margin of the wall.)]

[Footnote 2: _Una nube salida del malo lado del diablo_.]

[Footnote 3: Tiller of the mountain, who is that man?--A man.

What tongue does he speak?--All.

What things does he know?--All.

What is his country?--None and all.

Who is his God?--God.

What do you call him?--The madman.

What do you say you call him?--The wise man.

In your band, what is he?--He is what he is.

The chief?--No.

Then what is he?--The soul.]

[Footnote 4: Traitors.]

[Footnote 5: The above is a very inefficient and rather absurd
translation of the French. It turns upon the fact that in the French
language the word for darkness is plural--_tenebres_.--TRANSLATOR.]

[Footnote 6: Transcriber's note: The original text refers to "vitres
epaisses", thick panes, without specific dimensions. Glass only a
millimetre thick would have been rather flimsy.]

[Footnote 7: _Gaufrier_, the iron with which a pattern is traced on

[Footnote 8: Art thou near me?]

[Footnote 9: Cotes, coasts, costa, ribs.]

[Footnote 10:
"Their lips were four red roses on a stem,
Which in their summer beauty kissed each other."

[Footnote 11: Regina Saba coram rege crura denudavit.--_Schicklardus in
Proemio Tarich Jersici, F_. 65.]

[Footnote 12: Book I., p. 196.]

[Footnote 13: Pray! weep! Reason is born of the word. Song creates

[Footnote 14: Night, away! the dawn sings hallali.]

[Footnote 15: Thou must go to heaven and smile, thou that weepest.]

[Footnote 16: Break the yoke; throw off, monster, thy dark clothing.]

[Footnote 17: O come and love! thou art soul, I am heart.]

[Footnote 18: The Fenian, Burke.]

[Footnote 19: The life and the limbs of subjects depend on the king.
Chamberlayne, Part 2, chap. iv., p. 76.]

[Footnote 20: This fashion of sleeping partly undrest came from Italy,
and was derived from the Romans. "_Sub clara nuda lacerna_," says

[Footnote 21: The author is apparently mistaken. The Chamberlains of the
Exchequer divided the wooden laths into tallies, which were given out
when disbursing coin, and checked or tallied when accounting for it. It
was in burning the old tallies in an oven that the Houses of Parliament
were destroyed by fire.--TRANSLATOR.]

[Footnote 22: Villiers called James I., "_Votre cochonnerie_."]

[Footnote 23: "Depart, O night! sings the dawn."]

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