Saturday, 24/02/2024 - 10:41

Chapter VI. Ursus as Tutor, and Ursus as Guardian

15:12 | 05/10/2019

Ursus added, –

“Some of these days I will play them a nasty trick. I will marry them.”

Ursus taught Gwynplaine the theory of love. He said to him, –

“Do you know how the Almighty lights the fire called love? He places the woman underneath, the devil between, and the man at the top. A match – that is to say, a look – and behold, it is all on fire.”

“A look is unnecessary,” answered Gwynplaine, thinking of Dea.

And Ursus replied, –

“Booby! Do souls require mortal eyes to see each other?”

Ursus was a good fellow at times. Gwynplaine, sometimes madly in love with Dea, became melancholy, and made use of the presence of Ursus as a guard on himself. One day Ursus said to him, –

“Bah! do not put yourself out. When in love, the cock shows himself.”

“But the eagle conceals himself,” replied Gwynplaine.

At other times Ursus would say to himself, apart, –

“It is wise to put spokes in the wheels of the Cytherean car. They love each other too much. This may have its disadvantages. Let us avoid a fire. Let us moderate these hearts.”

Then Ursus had recourse to warnings of this nature, speaking to Gwynplaine when Dea slept, and to Dea when Gwynplaine’s back was turned: –

“Dea, you must not be so fond of Gwynplaine. To live in the life of another is perilous. Egoism is a good root of happiness. Men escape from women. And then Gwynplaine might end by becoming infatuated with you. His success is so great! You have no idea how great his success is!”

“Gwynplaine, disproportions are no good. So much ugliness on one side and so much beauty on another ought to compel reflection. Temper your ardour, my boy. Do not become too enthusiastic about Dea. Do you seriously consider that you are made for her? Just think of your deformity and her perfection! See the distance between her and yourself. She has everything, this Dea. What a white skin! What hair! Lips like strawberries! And her foot! her hand! Those shoulders, with their exquisite curve! Her expression is sublime. She walks diffusing light; and in speaking, the grave tone of her voice is charming. But for all this, to think that she is a woman! She would not be such a fool as to be an angel. She is absolute beauty. Repeat all this to yourself, to calm your ardour.”

These speeches redoubled the love of Gwynplaine and Dea, and Ursus was astonished at his want of success, just as one who should say, “It is singular that with all the oil I throw on fire I cannot extinguish it.”

Did he, then, desire to extinguish their love, or to cool it even?

Certainly not. He would have been well punished had he succeeded. At the bottom of his heart this love, which was flame for them and warmth for him, was his delight.

But it is natural to grate a little against that which charms us; men call it wisdom.

Ursus had been, in his relations with Gwynplaine and Dea, almost a father and a mother. Grumbling all the while, he had brought them up; grumbling all the while, he had nourished them. His adoption of them had made the hut roll more heavily, and he had been oftener compelled to harness himself by Homo’s side to help to draw it.

We may observe, however, that after the first few years, when Gwynplaine was nearly grown up, and Ursus had grown quite old, Gwynplaine had taken his turn, and drawn Ursus.

Ursus, seeing that Gwynplaine was becoming a man, had cast the horoscope of his deformity. “It has made your fortune!” he had told him.

This family of an old man and two children, with a wolf, had become, as they wandered, a group more and more intimately united. There errant life had not hindered education. “To wander is to grow,” Ursus said. Gwynplaine was evidently made to exhibit at fairs. Ursus had cultivated in him feats of dexterity, and had encrusted him as much as possible with all he himself possessed of science and wisdom.

Ursus, contemplating the perplexing mask of Gwynplaine’s face, often growled, –

“He has begun well.” It was for this reason that he had perfected him with every ornament of philosophy and wisdom.

He repeated constantly to Gwynplaine, –

“Be a philosopher. To be wise is to be invulnerable. You see what I am, I have never shed a tears. This is the result of my wisdom. Do you think that occasion for tears has been wanting, had I felt disposed to weep?”

Ursus, in one of his monologues in the hearing of the wolf, said, –

“I have taught Gwynplaine everything, Latin included. I have taught Dea nothing, music included.”

He had taught them both to sing. He had himself a pretty talent for playing on the oaten reed, a little flute of that period. He played on it agreeably, as also on the chiffonie, a sort of beggar’s hurdy-gurdy, mentioned in the Chronicle of Bertrand Duguesclin as the “truant instrument,” which started the symphony. These instruments attracted the crowd. Ursus would show them the chiffonie, and say, “It is called organistrum in Latin.”

He had taught Dea and Gwynplaine to sing, according to the method of Orpheus and of Egide Binchois. Frequently he interrupted the lessons with cries of enthusiasm, such as “Orpheus, musician of Greece! Binchois, musician of Picardy!”

These branches of careful culture did not occupy the children so as to prevent their adoring each other. They had mingled their hearts together as they grew up, as two saplings planted near mingle their branches as they become trees.

“No matter,” said Ursus. “I will marry them.”

Then he grumbled to himself, –

“They are quite tiresome with their love.”

The past – their little past, at least – had no existence for Dea and Gwynplaine. They knew only what Ursus had told them of it. They called Ursus father. The only remembrance which Gwynplaine had of his infancy was as of a passage of demons over his cradle. He had an impression of having been trodden in the darkness under deformed feet. Was this intentional or not? He was ignorant on this point. That which he remembered clearly and to the slightest detail were his tragical adventures when deserted at Portland. The finding of Dea made that dismal night a radiant date for him.

The memory of Dea, even more than that of Gwynplaine, was lost in clouds. In so young a child all remembrance melts away. She recollected her mother as something cold. Had she ever seen the sun? Perhaps so. She made efforts to pierce into the blank which was her past life.

“The sun! – what was it?”

She had some vague memory of a thing luminous and warm, of which Gwynplaine had taken the place.

They spoke to each other in low tones. It is certain that cooing is the most important thing in the world. Dea often said to Gwynplaine, –

“Light means that you are speaking.”

Once, no longer containing himself, as he saw through a muslin sleeve the arm of Dea, Gwynplaine brushed its transparency with his lips – ideal kiss of a deformed mouth! Dea felt a deep delight; she blushed like a rose. This kiss from a monster made Aurora gleam on that beautiful brow full of night. However, Gwynplaine sighed with a kind of terror, and as the neckerchief of Dea gaped, he could not refrain from looking at the whiteness visible through that glimpse of Paradise.

Dea pulled up her sleeve, and stretching towards Gwynplaine her naked arm, said, –


Gwynplaine fled.

The next day the game was renewed, with variations.

It was a heavenly subsidence into that sweet abyss called love.

At such things heaven smiles philosophically.




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