Nothing could be more melancholy than to see her sport about the room, and, so to speak, flit with the movements of a bird which is frightened by the daylight, or which has broken its wing. One felt that under other conditions of education and destiny, the gay and over-free mien of this young girl might have turned out sweet and charming. Never, even among animals, does the creature born to be a dove change into an osprey. This is only to be seen among men.
The most heart-breaking thing of all was, that this young girl had not come into the world to be homely. In her early childhood she must even have been pretty. The grace of her age was still struggling against the hideous, premature decrepitude of debauchery and poverty. The remains of beauty were dying away in that face of sixteen, like the pale sunlight which is extinguished under hideous clouds at dawn on a winter's day.
It is the essence of truth that it is never excessive. Why should it exaggerate? There is that which should be destroyed and that which should be simply illuminated and studied. How great is the force of benevolent and searching examination! We must not resort to the flame where only light is required.
It is not enough for us to prostrate ourselves under the tree which is Creation, and to contemplate its tremendous branches filled with stars. We have a duty to perform, to work upon the human soul, to defend the mystery against the miracle, to worship the incomprehensible while rejecting the absurd; to accept, in the inexplicable, only what is necessary; to dispel the superstitions that surround religion --to rid God of His Maggots.
In this world, which is so plainly the antechamber of another, there are no happy men. The true division of humanity is between those who live in light and those who live in darkness. Our aim must be to diminish the number of the latter and increase the number of the former. That is why we demand education and knowledge.
Superstition, bigotry and prejudice, ghosts though they are, cling tenaciously to life; they are shades armed with tooth and claw. They must be grappled with unceasingly, for it is a fateful part of human destiny that it is condemned to wage perpetual war against ghosts. A shade is not easily taken by the throat and destroyed.
Let us have compassion for those under chastisement. Alas, who are we ourselves? Who am I and who are you? Whence do we come and is it quite certain that we did nothing before we were born? This earth is not without some resemblance to a gaol. Who knows but that man is a victim of divine justice? Look closely at life. It is so constituted that one senses punishment everywhere.
Such is the remorseless progression of human society, shedding lives and souls as it goes on its way. It is an ocean into which men sink who have been cast out by the law and consigned, with help most cruelly withheld, to moral death. The sea is the pitiless social darkness into which the penal system casts those it has condemned, an unfathomable waste of misery. The human soul, lost in those depths, may become a corpse. Who shall revive it?
In each age men of genius undertake the ascent. From below, the world follows them with their eyes. These men go up the mountain, enter the clouds, disappear, reappear, People watch them, mark them. They walk by the side of precipices. They daringly pursue their road. See them aloft, see them in the distance; they are but black specks. On they go. The road is uneven, its difficulties constant. At each step a wall, at each step a trap. As they rise the cold increases. They must make their ladder, cut the ice and walk on it., hewing the steps in haste. A storm is raging. Nevertheless they go forward in their madness. The air becomes difficult to breath. The abyss yawns below them. Some fall. Others stop and retrace their steps; there is a sad weariness. The bold ones continue. They are eyed by the eagles; the lightning plays about them: the hurricane is furious. No matter, they persevere.