Each evening, as he applied the maquillage, Auguste would hold a
debate with himself. The seals, no matter what they were obliged to
do, always remained seals. The horse remained a horse, the table a
table. Whereas Auguste, while remaining a man, had to become something
more: he had to assume the powers of a very special being with a very
special gift. He had to make people laugh. It was not difficult to
make people weep, not even to make them laugh; he had found this out
long a go, before he had even dreamed of joining the circus. Auguste,
however, had greater aspirations--he wanted to endow his spectators
with a joy which would prove imperishable. It was this obsession which
had originally prompted him to sit at the foot of the ladder and feign
ecstasy. It was by sheer accident that he had fallen into the
semblance of trance--he had forgotten what it was he was supposed to
do next. When he came to, somewhat bewildered and extremely
apprehensive, he found himself being applauded wildly. The following
evening he repeated the experiment, deliberately this time, praying
that the senseless, raucous laughter which he so easily evoked would
give way to that joy supreme which he longed to communicate. But each
night, despite his almost devout efforts, the same delirious applause
awaited him.
The more successful it was, this little skit at the foot of the
ladder, the more wistful Auguste became. Each night the laughter
become more jarring to his ears. Finally it became unbearable. One
night the laughter suddenly changed to jeers and cat-calls, followed
by hats, refuse and more solid objects too. Auguste has failed to
"come back." For thirty minutes the audience had waited; then it had
grown uneasy, then suspicious, with the tension finally snapping in an
explosive outburst of derision. When August came to in his dressing
room he was astounded to find a physician bending over him. His face
and head were a mass of cuts and bruises. The blood had coagulated
over the paint, distorting his image beyond recognition. He looked
like something which had been abandoned on the butcher's block.
His contract abruptly terminated, Auguste fled from the world he knew.
Having no desire to resume his life as a clown, he took to wandering.
He drifted unknown, unrecognized, among the millions whom he had
taught to laugh. There was no resentment in his heart, only a deep
sadness. It was a constant fight to keep back the tears. At first he
accepted this new condition of the heart. It was nothing more, he told
himself, than a malaise created by the sudden interruption of a
lifelong routine. But when months had gone by he gradually came to
realize that he was mourning the loss of something which had been
taken from him--not the power to make people laugh, ah no! that he no
longer cared about--something else, something deeper than that,
something which was uniquely his own. Then one day it dawned on him
that it was long, long ago since he had known the state of bliss.
Henry Miller

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