Excerpt from “The Laughing Man” ~~Always a mask~~

picture-laughingman-hugoRaising his eyes, they met those of the boy, just awakened, who was listening. Ursus addressed him abruptly,–
“What are you laughing about?”
The boy answered,–
“I am not laughing.”
Ursus felt a kind of shock, looked at him fixedly for a few minutes, and said,–
“Then you are frightful.”
The interior of the caravan, on the previous night, had been so dark that Ursus had not yet seen the boy’s face. The broad daylight revealed it. He placed the palms of his hands on the two shoulders of the boy, and, examining his countenance more and more piercingly, exclaimed,–
“Do not laugh any more!”
“I am not laughing,” said the child.
Ursus was seized with a shudder from head to foot.
“You do laugh, I tell you.”
Then seizing the child with a grasp which would have been one of fury had it not been one of pity, he asked him: roughly,–
“Who did that to you?”
The child replied,–
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“How long have you had that laugh?”
“I have always been thus,” said the child.
Ursus turned towards the chest, saying in a low voice,–
“I thought that work was out of date.”
He took from the top of it, very softly, so as not to awaken the infant, the book which he had placed there for a pillow.
“Let us see Conquest,” he murmured.
It was a bundle of paper in folio, bound in soft parchment. He turned the pages with his thumb, stopped at a certain one, opened the book wide on the stove, and read,–
“‘_De Denasatis_,’ it is here.”
And he continued,–
“_Bucca fissa usque ad aures, genezivis denudatis, nasoque murdridato,
masca eris, et ridebis semper_.”
“There it is for certain.”
Then he replaced the book on one of the shelves, growling.
“It might not be wholesome to inquire too deeply into a case of the kind. We will remain on the surface. Laugh away, my boy!”

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1 Comment

Filed under Fiction, Literature

One response to “Excerpt from “The Laughing Man” ~~Always a mask~~

  1. Victor Hugo was born in Besançon, France on 26 February 1802, and died in Paris on 22 May 1885, aged 83 years. ‘The Laughing Man’ was published in 1869, which was one of his many literary works.
    The little boy, as an infant, had been sold to a group called “Comprachicos”, who abandoned him as they fled authorities. They were criminals who mutilate and disfigure children, who are then forced to beg for alms or who are exhibited as carnival freaks.

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