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Full text of "The laughing man"



r\ 




In a tone of mingled pleasure and contempt she said, 
"Why, it is Gwynplaine!" 



THE 

LAUGHING 

MAN 



1 Nelson and Sons 




PQ 




1050937 



CONTENTS. 



Preliminary Chapter. Ursus ..... 7 
Another Preliminary Chapter. The Cornprachicos . 27 



PART I. 

BOOK THE FIRST. NIGHT NOT so BLACK AS MAN. 

I. Portland Bill 43 

II. Left Alone ........ 49 

III. Alone ......... 52 

IV. Questions ........ 58 

V. The Tree of Human Invention . . . -59 

VI. Struggle between Death and Night . . .64 
VII. The North Point of Portland . . . .70 

BOOK THE SECOND. THE HOOKER AT SEA. 

I. Superhuman Laws . . . . . -75 
II. Our First Rough Sketches Filled in . .78 

III. Troubled Men on the Troubled Sea . . .82 

IV. A Cloud Different from the Others enters on the 

Scene . . . . . - . .86 

V. Hardquanonne ....... 96 

VI. They Think that Help is at Wand . . .98 



ii CONTENTS. 

VII. Superhuman Horrors . ,99 

VIII. Nix et Nox .... .102 

IX. The Charge Confided to a Raging Sea . . ioc 

X. The Colossal Savage, the Storm . ,107 

XI. The Caskets no 

XII. Face to Face with the Rock . . . 113 

XIII. Face to Face with Night. . . .116 

XIV. Ortach 117 

XV. Portentosum Mare . . . . . .119 

XVI. The Problem Suddenly Works in Silence . 124 

XVII. The Last Resource 126 

XVIII. The Highest Resource ... .130 

BOOK THE THIRD. THE CHILD IN THE SHADOW. 



II. The Effect of Snow 
III. A Burden Makes a Rough Road Rougher 
IV. Another Form of Desert .... 
V. Misanthropy Plays Its Pranks . 
VI. The Awaking 


*;>" 
. 142 
. 146 
. 150 

- 154 
. 168 



PART II. 

BOOK THE FIRST. THE EVERLASTING PRESENCE OF 
THE PAST. MAN REFLECTS MAN. 

I. Lord Clancharlie . . . . . .175 

II. Lord David Dirry-Moir . . . . .186 

III. The Duchess Josiana ..... 191 

IV. The Leader of Fashion . . . . .199 
V. Queen Anne 205 

VI. Barkilphedro .211 

VII. Barkilphedro Gnaws His Way. . . .217 

VIII. Inferi ........ 222 

IX. Hate is as Strong as Love .... 233 



CONTENTS. ill 

X. The Flame which would be Seen if Man were 

Transparent . . . . . . .230 

XI. Barkilphedro in Ambuscade . . . .236 

XII. Scotland, Ireland, and England .... 240 



BOOK THE SECOND. GWYNPLAINE AND DEA. 

PI. Wherein we see the Face of Him of whom we 
have hitherto seen only the Acts . . . 429 
II. Dea 253 

III. " Oculos non Habet, et Videt " . . . .256 

IV. Well-matched Lovers . . . . . -257 
V. The Blue Sky through the Black Cloud . . 260 

VI. Ursus as Tutor, and Ursus as Guardian . . 263 
, VII. Blindness Gives Lessons in Clairvoyance . . 267 
I VIII. Not only Happiness, but Prosperity . . . 270 
IX. Absurdities which Folks without Taste call 

Poetry 275 

X. An Outsider's View of Men and Things . .280 
XI. Gwynplaine Thinks Justice, and Ursus Talks 

Truth 285 

^ XII. Ursus the Poet Drags on Ursus the Philosopher . 292 



BOOK THE THIRD. THE BEGINNING OF THE FISSURE. 

I. The Tadcaster Inn . . . . . .295 

II. Open-Air Eloquence ...... 298 

III. Where the Passer-by Reappears . . . 302 

IV. Contraries Fraternize in Hate .... 307 
V. The Wapentake 312 

VI. The Mouse Examined by the Cats . . .315 
VII. Why Should a Gold Piece Lower Itself by Mixing 

with a Heap of Pennies ? . . . .323 

VIII. Symptoms of Poisoning 328 

IX, Abyssus Abyssum Vocat 333 



CONTENTS. 

BOOK THE FOURTH. THE CELL OF TORTURE. 

I. The Temptation of St. Gwynplaine . 34 1 

II. From Gay to Grave . . 347 

III. Lex, Rex. Fex . 

IV. Trsns Spies the Police ... - 35" 

arful Place 360 

V I . The Kind of Magistracy under the Wigs of Former 

Days -362 

VII. Shuddering 3 6 5 

VIII. Lamentation 3^7 



BOOK THE FIFTH. THE SEA AND FATE ARE MOVED BY 
THE SAME BREATH. 

I. The Durability of Fragile Things . . .380 
II. The Waif Knows Its Own Course . . .389 

III. An Awakening 399 

IV. Fascination. ....... 402 

V. We Think We Remember; We Forget . 407 

BOOK THE SIXTH. URSUS UNDER DIFFERENT ASPECTS. 

I. What the Misanthrope said . . . .415 

II. What He did 418 

III. Complications 429 

IV. Mrenibus Surdis Campana Muta . . .432 
V. State Policy Deals with Little Matters as Well as 

with Great 437 

BOOK THE SEVENTH. THE TITANESS. 

I. The Awakening 447 

II. The Resemblance of a Palace to a Wood . . 449 

HI. Eve 453 

IV. Satan 45 g 

V. They Recognize, but do not Know, Each Other 468 



CONTENTS. v 

BOOK THE EIGHTH. THE CAPITOL AND THINGS AROUND IT. 

I. Analysis of Majestic Matters . . . .471 

II. Impartiality ....... 482 

III. The Old Hall 490 

IV. The Old Chamber 495 

V. Aristocratic Gossip ...... 499 

VI. The High and the Low 506 

VII. Storms of Men are Worse than Storms of Oceans 510 
VIII. He would be a Good Brother, were he not a Good 

Son. ........ 526 

BOOK THE NINTH. IN RUINS. 

I. It is through Excess of Greatness that Man 

reaches Excess of Misery . . . . 532 
II. The Dregs .... ... 535 

CONCLUSION. THE NIGHT AND THE SEA. 

I. A Watch-dog may be a Guardian Angel . -552 
II. Barkilphedro, having aimed at the Eagle, brings 

down the Dove . . . . . . 556 

III. Paradise Regained Below . . . . .562 

IV. Nay ; on High ! 568 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

A ROMANCE OF ENGLISH HISTORY. 



PRELIMINARY CHAPTER. 

URSUS. 
I. 

URSUS and Homo were fast friends. Ursus was a man, 
Homo a wolf. Their dispositions tallied. It was 
the man who had christened the wolf : probably he had also 
chosen his own name. Having found Ursus fit for himself, 
he had found Homo fit for the beast. Man and wolf turned 
their partnership to account at fairs, at village fetes, at the 
corners of streets where passers-by throng, and out of the 
need which people seem to feel everywhere to listen to idle 
gossip and to buy quack medicine. The wolf, gentle and 
courteously subordinate, diverted the crowd. It is a pleasant 
thing to behold the tameness of animals. Our greatest 
delight is to see all the varieties of domestication parade 
before us. This it is which collects so many folks on the 
road of royal processions. 

Ursus and Homo went about from cross-road to cross-road, 
from the High Street of Aberystwith to the High Street of 
Jedburgh, from country-side to country-side, from shire to 
shire, from town to town. One market exhausted, they went 
on to another. Ursus lived in a small van upon wheels, 
which Homo was civilized enough to draw by day and guard 
by night. On bad roads, up hills, and where there were too 
many ruts, or there was too much mud, the man buckled the 



8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

trace round his neck and pulled fraternally, side by side wita 
..id thus grown old together. They en- 
camped at haphazard on a common, in the glade of a wood, 
patch of grass where roads intersect, at the 
, at the gates of towns, in market-places, 
in public the borders of parks, before the entrances 

n the cart drew up on a fair green, when 
rossips ran up open-mouthed and the curious made a 
ie pair, Ursus harangued and Homo approved. 
:o, with a bowl in his mouth, politely made a collection 
:ig the audience. They gained their livelihood. The 
was lettered, likewise the man. The wolf had been 
.ed by the man, or had trained himself unassisted, to 
'Ifish arts, which swelled the receipts. " Above all 
:s, do not degenerate into a man," his friend would say 
to him. 

did the wolf bite: the man did now and then. At 
. to bite was the intent of Ursus. He was a misanthrope, 
and to italicize his misanthropy he had made himself a 
juggler. To live, also ; for the stomach has to be consulted. 
over, this juggler-misanthrope, whether to add to the 
complexity of his being or to perfect it, was a doctor. To be 
a do le : Ursus was a ventriloquist. You heard him 

speak without his moving his lips. He counterfeited, so as 
to deceive you, any one's accent or pronunciation. He imi- 
tated voices so exactly that you believed you heard the 
people themselves. All alone he simulated the murmur of a 
-id this gave him a right to the title of Engastri- 
-vhich he took. He reproduced all sorts of cries of 
>, as of the thrush, the wren, the pipit lark, otherwise 
gray cheeper, and the ring ousel, all travellers like 
so that at times when the fancy struck him, he 
i aware either of a public thoroughfare filled with 
iproar of men, or of a meadow loud with the voices of 
s at one time stormy as a multitude, at another fresh 
and serene as the dawn. Such gifts, although rare, exist. 
In the last century a man called Touzel, who imitated the 
mingled utterances of men and animals, and who counter- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 9 

feited all the cries of beasts, was attached to the person of 
Buffon to serve as a menagerie. 

Ursus was sagacious, contradictory, odd, and inclined to 
the singular expositions which we term fables. He had the 
appearance of believing in them, and this impudence was a 
part of his humour. He read people's hands, opened books 
at random and drew conclusions, told fortunes, taught that 
it is perilous to meet a black mare, still more perilous, as you 
start for a journey, to hear yourself accosted by one who 
knows not whither you are going; and he called himself a 
dealer in superstitions. He used to say: " There is one 
difference between me and the Archbishop of Canterbury: 
I avow what I am." Hence it was that the archbishop, 
justly indignant, had him one day before him; but Ursus 
cleverly disarmed his grace by reciting a sermon he had 
composed upon Christmas Day, which the delighted arch- 
bishop learnt by heart, and delivered from the pulpit as his 
own. In consideration thereof the archbishop pardoned 
Ursus. 

As a doctor, Ursus wrought cures by some means or other. 
He made use of aromatics; he was versed in simples; he 
made the most of the immense power which lies in a heap of 
neglected plants, such as the hazel, the catkin, the white 
alder, the white bryony, the mealy-tree, the traveller's joy, 
the buckthorn. He treated phthisis with the sundew; at 
opportune moments he would use the leaves of the spurge, 
which plucked at the bottom are a purgative and plucked at 
the top, an emetic. He cured sore throat by means of the 
vegetable excrescence called Jew's ear. He knew the rush 
which cures the ox and the mint which cures the horse. He 
was well acquainted with the beauties and virtues of the herb 
mandragora, which, as every one knows, is of both sexes. He 
had many recipes. He cured burns with the salamander 
wool, of which, according to Pliny, Nero had a napkin. 
Ursus possessed a retort and a flask; he effected transmuta- 
tions; he sold panaceas. It was said of him that he had 
once been for a short time in Bedlam; they had done him 
the honour to take him for a madman, but had set him tree 



xo THE LAUGHING MAN. 

that he was only a poet. This story was prob- 
ably not true; we have all to submit to some such legend 
about us. 

The fact is, Ursus was a bit of a savant, a man of taste, and 
an old Latin poet. He was learned in two forms; he 
i and he Pindarized. He could have vied in 
bombast with Rapin and Vida. He could have composed 
it tragedies in a style not less triumphant than that of 
or Bouhours. It followed from his familiarity with the 
rable rhythms and metres of the ancients, that he had 
peculiar figures of speech, and a whole family of classical 
metaphors. He would say of a mother followed by her two 
daughters, There is a dactyl ; ot a father preceded by his two 
sons, There is an anapast ; and of a little child walking 
between its grandmother and grandfather, There is an 
j imacer. So much knowledge could only end in starva- 
tion. The school of Salerno says, " Eat little and often." 
;s ate little and seldom, thus obeying one half the 
precept and disobeying the other; but this was the fault of 
the public, who did not always flock to him, and who did not 
often buy. 

Ursus was wont to say: " The expectoration of a sentence 
is a relief. The wolf is comforted by its howl, the sheep by 
ool, the forest by its finch, woman by her love, and the 
philosopher by his epiphonema." Ursus at a pinch com- 
posed comedies, which, in recital, he all but acted; this 
< d to sell the drugs. Among other works, he had com- 
posed an heroic pastoral in honour of Sir Hugh Middleton, 
08 brought a river to London. The river was lying 
peacefully in Hertfordshire, twenty miles from London: the 
! it came and took possession of it. He brought a brigade 
: hundred men, armed with shovels and pickaxes; set to 
.king up the ground, scooping it out in one place, raising 
it in another now thirty feet high, now twenty feet deep; 
wooden aqueducts high in air; and at different points 
constructed eight hundred bridges of stone, bricks, and 
timber. One fine morning the river entered London, which 
e* 



THE LAUGHING MAN. xi 

details into a fine Eclogue between the Thames and the New 
River, in which the former invited the latter to come to him, 
and offered her his bed, saying, " I am too old to please 
women, but I am rich enough to pay them " an ingenious 
and gallant conceit to indicate how Sir Hugh Middleton had 
completed the work at his own expense. 

Ursus was great in soliloquy. Of a disposition at once un- 
sociable and talkative, desiring to see no one, yet wishing to 
converse with some one, he got out of the difficulty by talking 
to himself. Any one who has lived a solitary life knows how 
deeply seated monologue is in one's nature. Speech im- 
prisoned frets to find a vent. To harangue space is an outlet. 
To speak out aloud when alone is as it were to have a dialogue 
with the divinity which is within. It was, as is well known, 
a custom of Socrates; he declaimed to himself. Luther did 
the same. Ursus took after those great men. He had the 
hermaphrodite faculty of being his own audience. He ques- 
tioned himself, answered himself, praised himself, blamed 
himself. You heard him in the street soliloquizing in his van. 
The passers-by, who have their own way of appreciating 
clever people, used to say: He is an idiot. As we have just 
observed, he abused himself at times; but there were times 
also when he rendered himself justice. One day, in one of 
these allocutions addressed to himself, he was heard to cry 
out, " I have studied vegetation in all its mysteries in the 
stalk, in the bud, in the sepal, in the stamen, in the carpel, in 
the ovule, in the spore, in the theca, and in the apothecium. 
I have thoroughly sifted chromatics, osmosy, and chymosy 
that is to say, the formation of colours, of smell, and of taste." 
There was something fatuous, doubtless, in this certificate 
which Ursus gave to Ursus; but let those who have not 
thoroughly sifted chromatics, osmosy, and chymosy cast the 
first stone at him. 

Fortunately Ursus had never gone into the Low Countries; 
there they would certainly have weighed him, to ascertain 
whether he was of the normal weight, above or below which 
a man is a sorcerer. In Holland this weight was sagely fixed 
by law. Nothing was simpler or more ingenious. It was a 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

,'iit you in a scale, and the evidence was. 

iusivc if you broke the equilibrium. Too heavy, you' 

hanged; too light, you were burned. To this day the 

scales in which sorcerers were weighed may be seen at Oude- 

r. but they are now used for weighing cheeses; how 

ion has degenerated ! Ursus would certainly have had 

> pluck with those scales. In his travels he kept 

>in Holland, and he did well. Indeed, we believe 

that he used never to leave the United Kingdom. 

However this may have been, he was very poor and morose, 
and having made the acquaintance of Homo in a wood, a 
taste for a wandering life had come over him. He had taken 
the wolf into partnership, and with him had gone forth on the 
highways, living in the open air the great life of chance. He 
had a great deal of industry and of reserve, and great skill in 
.-thing connected with healing operations, restoring the 
to health, and in working wonders peculiar to himself. 
He was considered a clever mountebank and a good doctor. 
As may be imagined, he passed for a wizard as well not 
much indeed; only a little, for it was unwholesome in those 
to be considered a friend of the devil. To tell the truth, 
.s, by his passion for pharmacy and his love of plants, laid 
himself open to suspicion, seeing that he often went to gather 
herbs in rough thickets where grew Lucifer's salads, and 
where, as has been proved by the Counsellor De 1' Ancre, there 
is a risk of meeting in the evening mist a man who comes out 
!0 earth, " blind of the right eye, barefooted, without a 
cloak, and a sword by his side." But for the matter of that, 
:s, although eccentric in manner and disposition, was too 
good a fellow to invoke or disperse hail, to make faces appear, 
to kill a man with the torment of excessive dancing, to sug- 
gest dreams fair or foul and full of terror, and to cause the 
birth of cocks with four wings. He had no such mischievous 
:ks. He was incapable of certain abominations, such as, 
instance, speaking German, Hebrew, or Greek, without 
,ving learned them, which is a sign of unpardonable wicked- 
jss, or of a natural infirmity proceeding from a morbid 
humour. If Ursus spoke Latin, it was because he knew it. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 13 

He would never have allowed himself to speak Syriac, which 
he did not know. Besides, it is asserted that Syriac is the 
language spoken in the midnight meetings at which uncanny 
people worship the devil. In medicine he justly preferred 
Galen to Cardan ; Cardan, although a learned man, being but 
an earthworm to Galen. 

To sum up, Ursus was not one of those persons who live in 
fear of the police. His van was long enough and wide enough 
to allow of his lying down in it on a box containing his not 
very sumptuous apparel. He owned a lantern, several wigs, 
and some utensils suspended from nails, among which were 
musical instruments. He possessed, besides, a bearskin with 
which he covered himself on his days of grand performance. 
He called this putting on full dress. He used to say, " I 
have two skins; this is the real one," pointing to the 
bearskin. 

The little house on wheels belonged to himself and to the 
wolf. Besides his house, his retort, and his wolf, he had a 
flute and a violoncello on which he played prettily. He con- 
cocted his own elixirs. His wits yielded him enough to sup 
on sometimes. In the top of his van was a hole, through 
which passed the pipe of a cast-iron stove; so close to his 
box as to scorch the wood of it. The stove had two com- 
partments ; in one of them Ursus cooked his chemicals, and 
in the other his potatoes. At night the wolf slept under the 
van, amicably secured by a chain. Homo's hair was black, 
that of Ursus, gray; Ursus was fifty, unless, indeed, he was 
sixty. He accepted his destiny, to such an extent that, as we 
have just seen, he ate potatoes, the trash on which at that 
time they fed pigs and convicts. He ate them indignant, but 
resigned. He was not tall he was long. He was bent and 
melancholy. The bowed frame of an old man is the settle- 
ment in the architecture of life. Nature had formed him for 
sadness. He found it difficult to smile, and he had never 
been able to weep, so that he was deprived of the consolation 
of tears as well as of the palliative of joy. An old man is a 
thinking ruin; and such a ruin was Ursus. He had the 
loquacity of a charlatan, the leanness of a prophet, the 



, 4 r; LAUGHING MAN. 

i charged mine: such was Ursus. In his youth 
he had been a philosopher in the house of a lord. 

is 1 80 years ago, when men were more like wolves 
1 hey are now. 
so very much though. 

II. 

o was no ordinary wolf. From his appetite for medlars 
and potatoes he might have been taken for a prairie wolf; 
from his dark hide, for a lycaon; and from his howl prolonged 
into a bark, for a dog of Chili. But no one has as yet observed 
the eyeball of a dog of Chili sufficiently to enable us to deter- 
mine whether he be not a fox, and Homo was a real wolf. He 

five feet long, which is a fine length for a wolf, even in 
Lithuania; he was very strong; he looked at you askance, 
which was not his fault; he had a soft tongue, with which he 
occasionally licked Ursus; he had a narrow brush of short 

:es on his backbone, and he was lean with the wholesome 
leanness of a forest life. Before he knew Ursus and had a 
carriage to draw, he thought nothing of doing his fifty miles a 
night. Ursus meeting him in a thicket near a stream of 
running water, had conceived a high opinion of him from 
seeing the skill and sagacity with which he fished out cray- 

and welcomed him as an honest and genuine Koupara 
wolf of the kind called crab-eater. 

a beast of burden, Ursus preferred Homo to a donkey. 

. ould have felt repugnance to having his hut drawn by an 
ass ; he thought too highly of the ass lor that. Moreover he 

bserved that the ass, a four-legged thinker little under- 
stood by men, has a habit of cocking his ears uneasily when 
philosophers talk nonsense. In life the ass is a third person 
between our thoughts and ourselves, and acts as a restraint. 
As a friend, Ursus preferred Homo to a dog, considering that 
the love of a wolf is more rare. 

Hence it was that Homo suflSced for Ursus. Homo was 
for Ursus more than a companion, he was an analogue. 
Ursus used to pat the wolf's empty ribs, saying: " I have 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 15 

found the second volume of myself ! " Again he said, 
" When I am dead, any one wishing to know me need 
jonly study Homo. I shall leave a true copy behind 
|me." 

The English law, not very lenient to beasts of the forest, 
imight have picked a quarrel with the wolf, and have put him 
to trouble for his assurance in going freely about the towns: 
but Homo took advantage of the immunity granted by a 
statute of Edward IV. to servants: "Every servant in 
attendance on his master is free to come and go." Besides, 
a certain relaxation of the law had resulted with regard to 
wolves, in consequence of its being the fashion of the ladies 
of the Court, under the later Stuarts, to have, instead of dogs, 
little wolves, called adives, about the size of cats, which were 
brought from Asia at great cost. 

Ursus had communicated to Homo a portion of his talents : 
such as to stand upright, to restrain his rage into sulkiness, to 
growl instead of howling, etc. ; and on his part, the wolf had 
taught the man what he knew to do without a roof, without 
bread and fire, to prefer hunger in the woods to slavery in a 
palace. 

The van, hut, and vehicle in one, which traversed so many 
different roads, without, however, leaving Great Britain, had 
four wheels, with shafts for the wolf and a splinter-bar for the 
man. The splinter-bar came into use when the roads were 
bad. The van was strong, although it was built of light 
boards like a dove-cot. In front there was a glass door with 
a little balcony used for orations, which had something of the 
character of the platform tempered by an air of the pulpit. 
At the back there was a door with a practicable panel. By 
lowering the three steps which turned on a hinge below the 
door, access was gained to the hut, which at night was 
securely fastened with bolt and lock. Rain and snow had 
fallen plentifully on it; it had been painted, but of what 
colour it was difficult to say, change of season being to vans 
what changes of reign are to courtiers. In front, outside, was 
a board, a kind of frontispiece, on which the following 
inscription might once have been deciphered ; it was in black 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

n on a white ground, but by degrees the characters had 
become confused and blurred: 

" By friction gold loses every year a fourteen hundredth 
of its bulk. This is what is called the Wear. Hence it 
\vs that on fourteen hundred millions of gold in circula- 
throughout the world, one million is lost annually. This 
on dissolves into dust, flies away, floats about, is reduced 
to atoms, charges, drugs, weighs down consciences, amalga- 
mates with the souls of the rich whom it renders proud, and 
with those of the poor whom it renders brutish." 

The inscription, rubbed and blotted by the rain and by the 

kindness of nature, was fortunately illegible, for it is possible 

that its philosophy concerning the inhalation of gold, at the 

time both enigmatical and lucid, might not have been 

to the taste of the sheriffs, the provost-marshals, and other 

vigs of the law. English legislation did not trifle in those 

. It did not take much to make a man a felon. The 

magistrates were ferocious by tradition, and cruelty was a 

matter of routine. The judges of assize increased and 

multiplied. Jeffreys had become a breed. 



III. 

.e interior of the van there were two other inscriptions. 
Above the box, on a whitewashed plank, a hand had written 
in ink as follows: 

" THE ONLY THINGS NECESSARY TO KNOW. 

" The Baron, peer of England, wears a cap with six pearls. 

The coronet begins with the rank of Viscount. The Viscount 

wears a coronet of which the pearls are without number. The 

Earl a coronet with the pearls upon points, mingled with 

strawberry leaves placed low between. The Marquis, one 

i pearls and leaves on the same level. The Duke, one 

with strawberry leaves alone no pearls. The Royal Duke, 

'-let of crosses and fleurs de lys. The Prince of Wales, 

crown like that of the King, but unclosed. 

" The Duke is a most high and most puissant prince, the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 17 

Marquis and Earl most noble and puissant lord, the Viscount 
noble and puissant lord, the Baron a trusty lord. The Duke 
is his Grace; the other Peers their Lordships. Most honour- 
able is higher than right honourable. 

" Lords who are peers are lords in their own right. Lords 
who are not peers are lords by courtesy: there are no real 
lords, excepting such as are peers. 

" The House of Lords is a chamber and a court, Concilium 
et Curia, legislature and court of justice. The Commons, 
who are the people, when ordered to the bar of the Lords, 
humbly present themselves bareheaded before the peers, who 
remain covered. The Commons send up their bills by forty 
members, who present the bill with three low bows. The 
Lords send their bills to the Commons by a mere clerk. In 
case of disagreement, the two Houses confer in the Painted 
Chamber, the Peers seated and covered, the Commons 
standing and bareheaded. 

" Peers go to parliament in their coaches in file; the 
Commons do not. Some peers go to Westminster in open 
four-wheeled chariots. The use of these and of coaches 
emblazoned with coats of arms and coronets is allowed only 
to peers, and forms a portion of their dignity. 

" Barons have the same rank as bishops. To be a baron 
peer of England, it is necessary to be in possession of a tenure 
from the king per Baroniam integram, by full barony. The 
full barony consists of thirteen knights' fees and one third 
part, each knight's fee being of the value of 20 sterling, 
which makes in all 400 marks. The head of a barony (Caput 
baronia) is a castle disposed by inheritance, as England her- 
self, that is to say, descending to daughters if there be no 
sons, and in that case going to the eldest daughter, cateris 
filiabus aliunde satis factis. * 

" Barons have the degree of lord: in Saxon, la ford ; 
dominus in high Latin ; Lordus in low Latin. The eldest and 
younger sons of viscounts and barons are the first esquires in 
the kingdom. The eldest sons of peers take precedence of 

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



1 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

hts of the garter. The younger sons do not. The eldest 
son of a viscount comes after all barons, and precedes all 
baronets. Every daughter of a peer is a Lady. Other 
English girls are plain Mistress. 

" All judges rank below peers. The Serjeant wears a 

lambskin tippet; the judge one of patchwork, de minuto 

. made up of a variety of little white furs, always 

; iting ermine. Ermine is reserved for peers and the king. 

" A lord never takes an oath, either to the crown or the 

His word suffices; he says, Upon my honour. 
" By a law of Edward the Sixth, peers have the privilege 
of committing manslaughter. A peer who kills a man 
without premeditation is not prosecuted. 
" The persons of peers are inviolable. 
" A peer cannot be held in durance, save in the Tower of 
London. 

" A writ of supplicavit cannot be granted against a peer. 
" A peer sent for by the king has the right to kill one or 

leer in the royal park. 

" A peer holds in his castle a baron's court of justice. 
"It is unworthy of a peer to walk the street in a cloak, 
followed by two footmen. He should only show himself 
attended by a great train of gentlemen of his household. 
11 A peer can be amerced only by his peers, and never to 
greater amount than five pounds, excepting in the case 
of a duke, who can be amerced ten. 

' A peer may retain six aliens born, any other Englishman 
but four. 

" A peer can have wine custom-free; an earl eight tuns. 
" A peer is alone exempt from presenting himself before 
the sheriff of the circuit. 

T cannot be assessed towards the militia. 
n it pleases a peer he raises a regiment and gives it 
to the king; thus have done their graces the Dukes of Athol, 
Hamilton, and Northumberland. 
4 A peer can hold only of a peer. 

" In a civil cause he can demand the adjournment of the 
case, if there be not at least one knight on the jury. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 19 

" A peer nominates his own chaplains. A baron appoints 
three chaplains; a viscount four; an earl and a marquis 
fivej a duke six. 

" A peer cannot be put to the rack, even for high treason. 
A peer cannot be branded on the hand. A peer is a clerk, 
though he knows not how to read. In law he knows. 

" A duke has a right to a canopy, <x cloth of state, in all 
places where the king is not present; a viscount may have 
one in his house ; a baron has a cover of assay, which may be 
held under his cup while he drinks. A baroness has the right 
to have her train borne by a man in the presence of a 
viscountess. 

" Eighty-six tables, with five hundred dishes, are served 
every day in the royal palace at each meal. 

" If a plebeian strike a lord, his hand is cut off. 

" A lord is very nearly a king. 

" The king is very nearly a god. 

" The earth is a lordship. 

" The English address God as my lord I " 

Opposite this writing was written a second one, in the same 
fashion, which ran thus: 

" SATISFACTION WHICH MUST SUFFICE THOSE WHO HAVE 
NOTHING. 

" Henry Auverquerque, Earl of Grantham, who sits in the 
House of Lords between the Earl of Jersey and the Earl of 
Greenwich, has a hundred thousand a year. To his lordship 
belongs the palace of Grantham Terrace, built all of marble 
and famous for what is called the labyrinth of passages a 
curiosity which contains the scarlet corridor in marble of 
Sarancolin, the brown corridor in lumachel of Astracan, the 
white corridor in marble of Lani, the black corridor in marble 
of Alabanda, the gray corridor in marble of Staremma, the 
yellow corridor in marble of Hesse, the green corridor in 
marble of the Tyrol, the red corridor, half cherry-spotted 
marble of Bohemia, half lumachel of Cordova, the blue 
corridor in turquin of Genoa, the violet in granite of Cata- 



20 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

Ionia, the mourning-hued corridor veined black and white in 
>f Murviedro, the pink corridor in cipolin of the Alps, 
arl corridor in lumachel of Nonetta, and the corridor 
of all colours, called the courtiers' corridor, in motley. 

" Richard Lowther, Viscount Lonsdale, owns Lowther in 
; norland, which has a magnificent approach, and a 
flight of entrance steps which seem to invite the ingress of 
kings. 

" Richard, Earl of Scarborough, Viscount and Baron 
Lumley of Lumley Castle, Viscount Lumley of Waterford in 
Ireland, and Lord Lieutenant and Vice- Admiral of the county 
rthumberland and of Durham, both city and county, 
owns the double castleward of old and new Sandbeck, where 
you admire a superb railing, in the form of a semicircle, sur- 
rounding the basin of a matchless fountain. He has, besides, 
his castle of Lumley. 

" Robert Darcy, Earl of Holderness, has his domain of 
Holdcrness, with baronial towers, and large gardens laid out 
in French fashion, where he drives in his coach-and-six, 
preceded by two outriders, as becomes a peer of England. 

" Charles Beauclerc, Duke of St. Albans, Earl of Burford, 
Baron Hedington, Grand Falconer of England, has an abode 
at Windsor, regal even by the side of the king's. 

" Charles Bodville Robartes, Baron Robartes of Truro, 
Viscount Bodmin and Earl of Radnor, owns Wimpole in 
Cambridgeshire, which is as three palaces in one, having 
three facades, one bowed and two triangular. The approach 
is by an avenue of trees four deep. ! 

" The most noble and most puissant Lord Philip, Baron 
Herbert of Cardiff, Earl of Montgomery and of Pembroke, 
Ross of Kendall, Parr, Fitzhugh, Marmion, St. Quentin, and 
Herbert of Shurland, Warden of the Stannaries in the 
counties of Cornwall and Devon, hereditary visitor of Jesus 
College, possesses the wonderful gardens at Wilton, where 
there are two sheaf-like fountains, finer than those of his 

Christian Majesty King Louis XIV. at Versailles. 
Charles Somerset, Duke of Somerset, owns Somerset 
douse on the Thames, which is equal to the Villa, Pamphili 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 21 

at Rome. On the chimney-piece are seen two porcelain 
vases of the dynasty of the Yuens, which are worth half a 
million in French money. 

" In Yorkshire, Arthur, Lord Ingram, Viscount Irwin, has 
Temple Newsam, which is entered under a triumphal arch 
and which has large wide roofs resembling Moorish terraces. 

" Robert, Lord Ferrers of Chartly, Bourchier, and 
Louvaine,has Staunton Harold in Leicestershire, of which the 
park is geometrically planned in the shape of a temple with 
a f a9ade, and in front of the piece of water is the great church 
with the square belfry, which belongs to his lordship. 

" In the county of Northampton, Charles Spencer, Earl of 
Sunderland, member of his Majesty's Privy Council, pos- 
sesses Althorp, at the entrance of which is a railing with 
four columns surmounted by groups in marble. 

" Laurence Hyde, Earl of Rochester, has, in Surrey, New 
Park, rendered magnificent by its sculptured pinnacles, its 
circular lawn belted by trees, and its woodland, at the 
extremity of which is a little mountain, artistically rounded, 
and surmounted by a large oak, which can be seen from afar. 

" Philip Stanhope, Earl of Chesterfield, possesses Bretby 
Hall in Derbyshire, with a splendid clock tower, falconries, 
warrens, and very fine sheets of water, long, square, and oval, 
one of which is shaped like a mirror, and has two jets, which 
throw the water to a great height. 

" Charles Cornwallis, Baron Cornwallis of Eye, owns 
Brdome Hall, a palace of the fourteenth century. 

" The most noble Algernon Capel, Viscount Maiden, Earl 
of Essex, has Cashiobury in Hertfordshire, a seat which has 
the shape of a capital H, and which rejoices sportsmen with 
its abundance of game. 

" Charles, Lord Ossulston, owns Darnley in Middlesex, 
approached by Italian gardens. 

" James Cecil, Earl of Salisbury 3 has, seven leagues from 
London, Hatfield House, with its four lordly pavilions, its 
belfry in the centre, and its grand courtyard of black and 
white slabs, like that of St. Germain. This palace, which has 
a frontage 272 feet in length, was built in the reign of James I. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

he Lord High Treasurer of England, the great-grand- 

: 1 1 carl. To be seen there is the bed of one 

of the Countesses of Salisbury: it is of inestimable value and 

made entirely of Brazilian wood, which is a panacea against 

ites of serpents, and which is called milhombres that is 

to say, a thousand men. On this bed is inscribed, Honi soit 

qui mal y pense. 

dward Rich, Earl of Warwick and Holland, is owner of 
vick Castle, where whole oaks are burnt in the fire- 
places. 

in the parish of Sevenoaks, Charles Sackville, Baron 
Buckhurst, Baron Cranfield, Earl of Dorset and Middlesex, is 
owner of Knowle, which is as large as a town and is composed 
of three palaces standing parallel one behind the other, like 
ranks of infantry. There are six covered flights of steps on 
th principal frontage, and a gate under a keep with four 
towers. 

" Thomas Thynne, Baron Thynne of Warminster, and 

>unt Weymouth, possesses Longleat, in which there are 

as many chimneys, cupolas, pinnacles, pepper-boxes 

pavilions, and turrets as at Chambord, in France, which 

belongs to the king. 

" Henry Howard, Earl of Suffolk, owns, twelve leagues 
from London, the palace of Audley End in Essex, which in 
grandeur and dignity scarcely yields the palm to the Escorial 
of the King of Spain. 

"In Bedfordshire, Wrest House and Park, which is a 
!-j district, enclosed by ditches, walls, woodlands, rivers, 
and hills, belongs to Henry, Marquis of Kent. 

" Hampton Court, in Herefordshire, with its strong 
embattled keep, and its gardens bounded by a piece of water 
which divides them from the forest, belongs to Thomas, Lord 
Coningsby. 

" Grimsthorp, in Lincolnshire, with its long facade inter- 
sected by turrets in pale, its park, its fish-ponds, its pheasant. 
ries, its sheepfolds, its lawns, its grounds planted with rows 
of trees, its groves, its walks, its shrubberies, its flower-beds 
and borders, formed in square and lozenge-shape, and 






THE LAUGHING MAN. 23 

resembling great carpets; its racecourses, and the majestic 
sweep for carriages to turn in at the entrance of the house 
belongs to Robert, Earl Lindsey, hereditary lord of the forest 
of Waltham. 

" Up Park, in Sussex, a square house, with two symmetri- 
cal belfried pavilions on each side of the great courtyard, 
belongs to the Right Honourable Forde, Baron Grey of 
Werke, Viscount Glendale and Earl of Tankerville. 

" Newnham Paddox, in Warwickshire, which has two 
quadrangular fish-ponds and a gabled archway with a large 
window of four panes, belongs to the Earl of Denbigh, who is 
also Count von Rheinfelden, in Germany. 

" Wytham Abbey, in Berkshire, with its French garden in 
which there are four curiously trimmed arbours, and its great 
embattled towers, supported by two bastions, belongs to 
Montague, Earl of Abingdon, who also owns Rycote, of which 
he is Baron, and the principal door of which bears the device 
Virtus ariete fortior. 

" William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, has six dwelling- 
places, of which Chatsworth (two storied, and of the finest 
order of Grecian architecture) is one. 

" The Viscount of Kinalmeaky, who is Earl of Cork, in 
Ireland, is owner of Burlington House, Piccadilly, with its 
extensive gardens, reaching to the fields outside London ; he 
is also owner of Chiswick, where there are nine magnificent 
lodges; he also owns Londesborough, which is a new house 
by the side of an old palace. 

" The Duke of Beaufort owns Chelsea, which contains two 
Gothic buildings, and a Florentine one; he has also Bad- 
minton, in Gloucestershire, a residence from which a number 
of avenues branch out like rays from a star. The most noble 
and puissant Prince Henry, Duke of Beaufort, is also Marquis 
and Earl of Worcester, Earl of Glamorgan, Viscount Gros- 
mont, and Baron Herbert of Chepstow, Ragland, and Gower, 
Baron Beaufort of Caldecott Castle, and Baron de Bottetourt. 

" John Holies, Duke of Newcastle, and Marquis of Clare, 
owns Bolsover, with its majestic square keeps; his also is 
in Nottinghamshire, where a round pyramid, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

made to imitate the Tower of Babel, stands in the centre of 
a basin of water. 

A'illiam, Earl of Craven, Viscount Uffington, and Baron 

i Hamstead Marshall, owns Combe Abbey in 

>hire, where is to be seen the finest water- jet in 

md ; and in Berkshire two baronies, Hamstead Marshall, 

,e facade of which are five Gothic lanterns sunk in the 

and Ashdown Park, which is a country seat situate at 

the point of intersection of cross-roads in a forest. 

innseus, Lord Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and 
Hunkervillc, Marquis of Corleone in Sicily, derives his title 
from the castle of Clancharlie, built in 912 by Edward the 
Elder, as a defence against the Danes. Besides Hunkerville 
House, in London, which is a palace, he has Corleone Lodge 
at Windsor, which is another, and eight castlewards, one at 
Burton-on-Trent, with a royalty on the carriage of plaster of 
Paris; then Grumdaith Humble, Moricambe, Trewardraith, 
Hell-Kesters (where there is a miraculous well), Phillinmore, 
with its turf bogs, Reculver, near the ancient city Vagniac, 
Vinecaunton, on the Moel-eulle Mountain; besides nineteen 
boroughs and villages with reeves, and the whole of Penneth 
chase, all of which bring his lordship ^40,000 a year. 

" The 172 peers enjoying their dignities under James II. 
possess among them altogether a revenue of ^1,272,000 
ing a year, which is the eleventh part of the revenue of 
England." 

In the margin, opposite the last name (that of Linnaeus, 
Lord Clancharlie), there was a note in the handwriting of 
s: Rebel ; in exile ; houses, lands, and chattels seques- 
trated. It is well. 

IV. 

URSUS admired Homo. One admires one's like. It is a law. 
To be always raging inwardly and grumbling outwardly 
was the normal condition of Ursus. He was the malcontent 
of creation. By nature he was a man ever in opposition. He 
took the world unkindly; he gave his satisfecit to no one and 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 25 

to nothing. The bee did not atone, by its honey-making, for 
its sting ; a full-blown rose did not absolve the sun for yellow 
fever and black vomit. It is probable that in secret Ursus 
criticized Providence a good deal. " Evidently," he would 
say, " the devil works by a spring, and the wrong that God 
does is having let go the trigger." He approved of none but 
princes, and he had his own peculiar way of expressing his 
approbation. One day, when James II. made a gift to the 
Virgin in a Catholic chapel in Ireland of a massive gold lamp, 
Ursus, passing that way with Homo, who was more indiffer- 
ent to such things, broke out in admiration before the crowd, 
and exclaimed, " It is certain that the blessed Virgin wants 
a lamp much more than these barefooted children there 
require shoes." 

Such proofs of his loyalty, and such evidences of his respect 
for established powers, probably contributed in no small 
degree to make the magistrates tolerate his vagabond life and 
his low alliance with a wolf. Sometimes of an evening, 
through the weakness of friendship, he allowed Homo to 
stretch his limbs and wander at liberty about the caravan. 
The wolf was incapable of an abuse of confidence, and be- 
haved in society, that is to say among men, with the discretion 
of a poodle. All the same, if bad-tempered officials had to 
be dealt with, difficulties might have arisen; so Ursus kept 
the honest wolf chained up as much as possible. 

From a political point of view, his writing about gold, not 
very intelligible in itself, and now become undecipherable, 
was but a smear, and gave no handle to the enemy. Even 
after the time of James II., and under the " respectable " 
reign of William and Mary, his caravan might have been seen 
peacefully going its rounds of the little English country towns. 
He travelled freely from one end of Great Britain to the 
other, selling his philtres and phials, and sustaining, with the 
assistance of his wolf, his quack mummeries; and he passed 
with ease through the meshes of the nets which the police at 
that period had spread all over England in order to sift 
wandering gangs, and especially to stop the progress of the 
Comprachicos. 



2 6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

This was right enough. Ursus belonged to no gang. Ursus 

:i Ursus, a tete-h-tete, into which the wolf gently 

thrust his nose. If Ursus could have had his way, he would 

been a Caribbee ; that being impossible, he preferred to 

lone. The solitary man is a modified savage, accepted 

;\ilization. He who wanders most is most alone; hence 

his continual change of place. To remain anywhere long 

suffocated liim with the sense of being tamed. He passed his 

n passing on his way. The sight of towns increased his 

taste for brambles, thickets, thorns, and holes in the rock. 

His home was the forest. He did not feel himself much out 

of his element in the murmur of crowded streets, which is like 

-,'h to the bluster of trees. The crowd to some extent 

ies our taste for the desert. What he disliked in his van 

its having a door and windows, and thus resembling a 

e. He would have realized his ideal, had he been able 

it a cave on four wheels and travel in a den. 

did not smile, as we have already said, but he used to 
laugh; sometimes, indeed frequently, a bitter laugh. There 

nsent in a smile, while a laugh is often a refusal. 

His great business was to hate the human race. He was 

implacable in that hate. Having made it clear that human 

-. a dreadful thing; having observed the superposition of 

. kings on the people, war on kings, the plague on war, 

famine on the plague, folly on everything; having proved a 

certain measure of chastisement in the mere fact of existence; 

ng recognized that death is a deliverance when they 

brought him a sick man he cured him; he had cordials and 

beverages to prolong the lives of the old. He put lame 

>les on their legs again, and hurled this sarcasm at them, 

ou are on your paws once more; may you walk long 

in this valley of tears ! " When he saw a poor man dying of 

hunger, he gave him all the pence he had about him, growling 

out, " Live on, you wretch ! eat I last a long time ! It is not 

I who would shorten your penal servitude." After which, 

he would rub his hands and say, " I do men all the harm 

I can." 

Through the little window at the back, passers-by could 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 27 

read on the ceiling of the van these words, written within, but 
visible from without, inscribed with charcoal, in big letters, 

URSUS, PHILOSOPHER. 



ANOTHER PRELIMINARY CHAPTER. 

THE COMPRACHICOS. 
I. 

WHO now knows the word Comprachicos, and who knows its 
meaning ? 

The Comprachicos, or Comprapequenos, were a hideous 
and nondescript association of wanderers, famous in the 
i/th century, forgotten in the i8th, unheard of in the i9th. 
The Comprachicos are like the " succession powder," an 
ancient social characteristic detail. They are part of old 
human ugliness. To the great eye of history, which sees 
everything collectively, the Comprachicos belong to the 
colossal fact of slavery. Joseph sold by his brethren is a 
chapter in their story. The Comprachicos have left their 
traces in the penal laws of Spain and England. You find 
here and there in the dark confusion of English laws the 
impress of this horrible truth, like the foot-print of a savage 
in a forest. 

Comprachicos, the same as Comprapequenos, is a compound 
Spanish word signifying Child-buyers. 

The Comprachicos traded in children. They bought and 
sold them. They did not steal them. The kidnapping of 
children is another branch of industry. And what did they 
make of these children ? 

Monsters. 

Why monsters? 

To laugh at. 

The populace must needs laugh, and kings too. The 
mountebank is wanted in the streets, the jester at the 
Louvre. The one is called a Clown, the other a Fool. 



28 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

The efforts of man to procure himself pleasure are at times 
worthy of the attention of the philosopher. 

.t are we sketching in these few preliminary pages ? A 
tor in the most terrible of books ; a book which might be 
entitled The farming of the unhappy by the happy. 



II. 

^ILD destined to be a plaything for men such a thing has 

cd ; such a thing exists even now. In simple and savage 
times such a thing constituted an especial trade. The i/th 
century, called the great century, was of those times. It 
was a century very Byzantine in tone. It combined corrupt 
simplicity with delicate ferocity a curious variety of civiliza- 
tion. A tiger with a simper. Madame de Sevigne minces on 
the subject of the fagot and the wheel. That century traded 

>d deal in children. Flattering historians have concealed 
the sore, but have divulged the remedy, Vincent de Paul. 
In order that a human toy should succeed, he must betaken 

. The dwarf must be fashioned when young. We play 
with childhood. But a 'well-formed child is not very 
amusing; a hunchback is better fun. 

Hence grew an art. There were trainers who took a man 
and made him an abortion; they took a face and made a 
muzzle; they stunted growth; they kneaded the features. 
The artificial production of teratological cases had its rules. 

is quite a science what one can imagine as the antithesis 
of orthopedy. Where God had put a look, their art put a 
squint; where God had made harmony, they made discord; 
where God had made the perfect picture, they re-established 

ketch ; and, in the eyes of connoisseurs, it was the sketch 
which was perfect. They debased animals as well; they 
invented piebald horses. Turenne rode a piebald horse. In 
pur own days do they not dye dogs blue and green ? Nature 
is our canvas. Man has always wished to add something to 
God's work. Man retouches creation, sometimes for better, 
sometimes for worse. The Court buffoon was nothing but 
an attempt to lead back man to the monkey. It was a 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 29 

progress the wrong way. A masterpiece in retrogression. At 
the same time they tried to make a man of the monkey. 
Barbara, Duchess of Cleveland and Countess of South- 
ampton, had a marmoset for a page. Frances Sutton, 
Baroness Dudley, eighth peeress in the bench of barons, had 
tea served by a baboon clad in cold brocade, which her lady- 
ship called My Black. Catherine Sedley, Countess of Dor- 
chester, used to go and take her seat in Parliament in a coach 
with armorial bearings, behind which stood, their muzzles 
stuck up in the air, three Cape monkeys in grand livery. A 
Duchess of Medina-Celi, whose toilet Cardinal Pole wit- 
nessed, had her stockings put on by an orang-outang. 
These monkeys raised in the scale were a counterpoise to men 
brutalized and bestialized. This promiscuousness of man 
and beast, desired by the great, was especially prominent in 
the case of the dwarf and the dog. The dwarf never quitted 
the dog, which was always bigger than himself. The dog 
was the pair of the dwarf; it was as if they were coupled with 
a collar. This juxtaposition is authenticated by a mass of 
domestic records notably by the portrait of Jeffrey 
Hudson, dwarf of Henrietta of France, daughter of Henri IV., 
and wife of Charles I. 

To degrade man tends to deform him. The suppression of 
his state was completed by disfigurement. Certain vivi- 
sectors of that period succeeded marvellously well in effacing 
from the human face the divine effigy. Doctor Conquest, 
member of the Amen Street College, and judicial visitor of 
the chemists' shops of London, wrote a book in Latin on this 
pseudo-surgery, the processes of which he describes. If we 
are to believe Justus of Carrickfergus, the inventor of this 
branch of surgery was a monk named Avonmore an Irish 
word signifying Great River. 

The dwarf of the Elector Palatine, Perkeo, whose effigy 
or ghost springs from a magical box in the cave of Heidel- 
berg, was a remarkable specimen of this science, very varied 
in its applications. It fashioned beings the law of whose 
existence was hideously simple : it permitted them to suffer, 
and commanded them to amuse. 



30 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

III. 

manufacture of monsters was practised on a large scale, 
and comprised various branches. 

The Sultan required them, so did the Pope; the one to 
guard his women, the other to say his prayers. These were 
of a peculiar land, incapable of reproduction. Scarcely 
human beings, they were useful to voluptuousness and to 
. >n. The seraglio and the Sistine Chapel utilized the 
same species of monsters; fierce in the former case, mild in 
the latter. 

They knew how to produce things in those days which are 
not produced now; they had talents which we lack, and it is 
not without reason that some good folk cry out that the 
decline has come. We no longer know how to sculpture 
living human flesh; this is consequent on the loss of the art 
of torture. Men were once virtuosi in that respect, but are 
so no longer; the art has become so simplified that it will 
soon disappear altogether. In cutting the limbs of living 
men, in opening their bellies and in dragging out their 
entrails, phenomena were grasped on the moment and dis- 
coveries made. We are obliged to renounce these experi- 
ments now, and are thus deprived of the progress which 
surgery made by aid of the executioner. 

The vivisection of former days was not limited to the manu- 
facture of phenomena for the market-place, of buffoons for 
the palace (a species of augmentative of the courtier), and 
eunuchs for sultans and popes. It abounded in varieties. 
One of its triumphs was the manufacture of cocks for the 
king of England. 

vas the custom, in the palace of the kings of England, to 
have a sort of watchman, who crowed like a cock. This 
watcher, awake while all others slept, ranged the palace, and 
raised from hour to hour the cry of the farmyard, repeating 
It as often as was necessary, and thus supplying a clock. 
This man, promoted to be cock, had in childhood undergone 
the operation of the pharynx, which was part of the art 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 31 

described by Dr. Conquest. Under Charles II. the salivation 
inseparable to the operation having disgusted the Duchess of 
Portsmouth, the appointment was indeed preserved, so that 
the splendour of the crown should not be tarnished, but they 
got an unmutilated man to represent the cock. A retired of- 
ficer was generally selected for this honourable employment. 
Under James II. the functionary was named William 
Sampson, Cock, and received for his crow ^9, 2S. 6d. annually. 

The memoirs of Catherine II. inform us that at St. Peters- 
burg, scarcely a hundred years since, whenever the czar or 
czarina was displeased with a Russian prince, he was forced 
to squat down in the great antechamber of the palace, and to 
remain in that posture a certain number of days, mewing like 
a cat, or clucking like a sitting hen, and pecking his food from 
the floor. 

These fashions have passed away; but not so much, 
perhaps, as one might imagine. Nowadays, courtiers 
slightly modify their intonation in clucking to please their 
masters. More than one picks up from the ground we will 
not say from the mud what he eats. 

It is very fortunate that kings cannot err. Hence their 
contradictions never perplex us. In approving always, one 
is sure to be always right which is pleasant. Louis XIV. 
would not have liked to see at Versailles either an officer 
acting the cock, or a prince acting the turkey. That which 
raised the royal and imperial dignity in England and Russia 
would have seemed to Louis the Great incompatible with the 
crown of St. Louis. We know what his displeasure was when 
Madame Henriette forgot herself so far as to see a hen in a 
dream which was, indeed, a grave breach of good manners 
in a lady of the court. When one is of the court, one should 
not dream of the courtyard. Bossuet, it may be remem- 
bered, was nearly as scandalized as Louis XIV, 



IV. 

THE commerce in children in the i/th century, as we have 
explained, was connected with a trade. The Comprachicos 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 
^ed in the commerce, and carried on the trade. They 
bought children, worked a little on the raw material, and re- 
sold them afterwards. 

The venders were of all kinds: from the wretched father, 
; ug rid of his family, to the master, utilizing his stud oi| 
slaves. The sale of men was a simple matter. In our own 
time we have had fighting to maintain this right. Re-j 
member that it is less than a century ago since the Elector of j 
Hesse sold his subjects to the King of England, who required 
men to be killed in America. Kings went to the Elector of 
Hesse as we go to the butcher to buy meat. The Elector 
had food for powder in stock, and hung up his subjects in his 
shop. Come buy; it is for sale. In England, under Jeffreys, 
after the tragical episode of Monmouth, there were many 
lords and gentlemen beheaded and quartered. Those who 
were executed left wives and daughters, widows and orphans, 
whom James II. gave to the queen, his wife. The queen sold 
these ladies to William Penn. Very likely the king had so 
much per cent, on the transaction. The extraordinary thing 
is, not that James II. should have sold the women, but that 
William Penn should have bought them. Penn's purchase 
is excused, or explained, by the fact that having a desert to 
sow with men, he needed women as farming implements. 

Her Gracious Majesty made a good business out of these 
ladies. The young sold dear. We may imagine, with the 
uneasy feeling which a complicated scandal arouses, that 
probably some old duchesses were thrown in cheap. 

The Comprachicos were also called the Cheylas, a Hindu 
word, which conveys the image of harrying a nest. 

For a long time the Comprachicos only partially concealed 
themselves. There is sometimes in the social order a favour- 
^hadow thrown over iniquitous trades, in which they 
thrive. In our own day we have seen an association of the 
kind in Spain, under the direction of the ruffian Ramon Selles, 
last from 1834 to 1866, and hold three provinces under terror 
for thirty years Valencia, Alicante, and Murcia. 

Under the Stuarts, the Comprachicos were by no means in 
bad odour at court. On occasions they were used for 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 33 

reasons of state. For James II. they were almost an instru- 
mentum regni. It was a time when families, which were 
refractory or in the way, were dismembered ; when a descent 
was cut short; when heirs were suddenly suppressed. At 
times one branch was defrauded to the profit of another. 
The Comprachicos had a genius for disfiguration which recom- 
mended them to state policy. To disfigure is better than to 
kill. There was, indeed, the Iron Mask, but that was a 
mighty measure. Europe could not be peopled with iron 
masks, while deformed tumblers ran about the streets with- 
out creating any surprise. Besides, the iron mask is re- 
movable j not so the mask of flesh. You are masked for 
ever by your own flesh what can be more ingenious ? The 
Comprachicos worked on man as the Chinese work on trees. 
They had their secrets, as we have said; they had tricks 
which are now lost arts. A sort of fantastic stunted thing 
left their hands; it was ridiculous and wonderful. They 
would touch up a little being with such skill that its father 
could not have known it. Et que meconnaitrait Vail mme de 
son plre, as Racine says in bad French. Sometimes they left 
the spine straight and remade the face. They unmarked a 
child as one might unmark a pocket-handkerchief. Prod- 
ucts, destined for tumblers, had their joints dislocated in a 
masterly manner you would have said they had been boned. 
Thus gymnasts were made. 

Not only did the Comprachicos take away his face from 
the child, they also took away his memory. At least they 
took away all they could of it; the child had no consciousness 
of the mutilation to which he had been subjected. This 
frightful surgery left its traces on his countenance, but not on 
his mind. The most he could recall was that one day he had 
been seized by men, that next he had fallen asleep, and then 
that he had been cured. Cured of what? He did not know. 
Of burnings by sulphur and incisions by the iron he remem- 
bered nothing. The Comprachicos deadened the little 
patient by means of a stupefying powder which was thought 
to be magical, and suppressed all pain. This powder has 
been known from time immemorial in China, and is still 

2 



V. 

good reason 






THE LAUGHING MAN. 35 

him the mark of God ; they put on him the mark of the king. 
Jacob Astley, knight and baronet, lord of Melton Constable, 
in the county of Norfolk, had in his family a child who had 
been sold, and upon whose forehead the dealer had imprinted 
a fleur-de-lis with a hot iron. In certain cases in which i t was 
held desirable to register for some reason the royal origin of 
the new position made for the child, they used such means. 
England has always done us the honour to utilize, for her 
personal service, the fleur-de-lis. 

The Comprachicos, allowing for the shade which divides a 
trade from a fanaticism, were analogous to the Stranglers of 
India. They lived among themselves in gangs, and to 
facilitate their progress, affected somewhat of the merry- 
andrew. They encamped here and there, but they were 
grave and religious, bearing no affinity to other nomads, and 
incapable of theft. The people for a long time wrongly con- 
founded them with the Moors of Spain and the Moors of 
China. The Moors of Spain were coiners, the Moors of China 
were thieves. There was nothing of the sort about the Com- 
prachicos ; they were honest folk. Whatever you may think 
of them, they were sometimes sincerely scrupulous. They 
pushed open a door, entered, bargained for a child, paid, and 
departed. All was done with propriety. 

They were of all countries. Under the name of Com- 
prachicos fraternized English, French, Castilians, Germans, 
Italians. A unity of idea, a unity of superstition, the pur- 
suit of the same calling, make such fusions. In this fraternity 
of vagabonds, those of the Mediterranean seaboard repre- 
sented the East, those of the Atlantic seaboard the West. 
Many Basques conversed with many Irishmen. The Basque 
and the Irishman understand each other they speak the old 
Punic jargon; add to this the intimate relations of Catholic 
Ireland with Catholic Spain relations such that they termi- 
nated by bringing to the gallows in London one almost King 
of Ireland, the Celtic Lord de Brany; from which resulted 
the conquest of the county of Leitrim. 

The Comprachicos were rather a fellowship than a tribe; 
rather a residuum than a fellowship. It was all the riffraff 



36 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

of the universe, having for their trade a crime. It was a sort 
iin people, all composed of rags. To recruit a man 
was to sew on a tatter. 

To wander was the Comprachicos' law of existence to 

appear and disappear. What is barely tolerated cannot take 

root. Even in the kingdoms where their business supplied 

the courts, and, on occasions, served as an auxiliary to the 

they were now and then suddenly ill-treated. 

:s made use of their art, and sent the artists to the 

These inconsistencies belong to the ebb and flow 

of royal caprice. " For such is our pleasure." 

rolling stone and a roving trade gather no moss. The 

Comprachicos were poor. They might have said what the 

lean and ragged witch observed, when she saw them setting 

:o the stake, " Le jeu n'en vaut pas la chandelle." It is 

ible, nay probable (their chiefs remaining unknown), 

that the wholesale contractors in the trade were rich. After 

the lapse of two centuries, it would be difficult to throw any 

light on this point. 

It was, as we have said, a fellowship. It had its laws, its 
oaths, its formulae it had almost its cabala. Any one now- 
s wishing to know all about the Comprachicos need 
only go into Biscaya or Galicia; there were many Basques 
ng them, and it is in those mountains that one hears their 
>ry. To this day the Comprachicos are spoken of at 
"zun, at Urbistondo, at Leso, at Astigarraga. Aguardate 
. que voy a llamar al Comprachicos Take care, child, or 
11 call the Comprachicos is the cry with which mothers 
frighten their children in that country. 
The Comprachicos, like the Zigeuner and the Gipsies, had 
ppointed places for periodical meetings. From time to time 
icir leaders conferred together. In the seventeenth century 
ley had four principal points of rendezvous : one in Spain- 
pass of Pancorbo; one in Germany the glade called 
Wicked Woman, near Diekirsch, where there are two 
matic bas-reliefs, representing a woman with a head and 
n without one; one in France the hill where was the 
sssal statue of Massue-la-Promesse in the old sacred wood 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 37 

of Borvo Tomona, near Bourbonne les Bains ; one in England 

; behind the garden wall of William Challoner, Squire of 
Gisborough in Cleveland, Yorkshire, behind the square tower 

i and the great wing which is entered by an arched door. 

VI. 

I THE laws against vagabonds have always been very rigorous 

I in England. England, in her Gothic legislation, seemed to be 

inspired with this principle, Homo errans fera errante pefor. 

j One of the special statutes classifies the man without a home 

as " more dangerous than the asp, dragon, lynx, or basilisk " 

\ (atrocior aspide, dracone, lynce, et basilica). For a long time 

/ England troubled herself as much concerning the gipsies, of 

whom she wished to be rid as about the wolves of which she 

had been cleared. In that the Englishman differed from the 

Irishman, who prayed to the saints for the health of the wolf, 

I and called him " my godfather." 

English law, nevertheless, in the same way as (we have just 
seen) it tolerated the wolf, tamed, domesticated, and become 
in some sort a dog, tolerated the regular vagabond, become in 
some sort a sub j ect. It did not trouble itself about either the 
mountebank or the travelling barber, or the quack doctor, or 
the peddler, or the open-air scholar, as long as they had a 
crade to live by. Further than this, and with these excep- 
tions, the description of freedom which exists in the wanderer 
terrified the law. A tramp was a possible public enemy. 
That modern thing, the lounger, was then unknown; that 
e.ncient thing, the vagrant, was alone understood. A sus- 
picious appearance, that indescribable something which all 
understand and none can define, was sufficient reason that 
society should take a man by the collar. " Where do you 
live? How do you get your living? " And if he could not 
answer, harsh penalties awaited him. Iron and fire were in 
the code: the law practised the cauterization of vagrancy. 

Hence, throughout English territory, a veritable " loi des 
suspects " was applicable to vagrants (who, it must be owned, 
readily became malefactors), and particularly to gipsies, 



3 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

whose expulsion has erroneously been compared to the 
ilsion of the Jews and the Moors from Spain, and the 
Protestants from France. As for us, we do not confound a 
battue with a persecution. 

The Comprachicos, we insist, had nothing in common with 
gipsies. The gipsies were a nation; the Comprachicos 
a compound of all nations the lees of a horrible vessel, 
full of filthy waters. The Comprachicos had not, like the 
gipsies, an idiom ot their ownj their jargon was a promiscu- 
ous collection of idioms* all languages were mixed together 
ieir language; they spoke a medley. Like the gipsies, 
they had come to be a people winding through the peoples; 
but their common tie was association, not race. At all epochs 
in history one finds in the vast liquid mass which constitutes 
humanity some of these streams of venomous men exuding 
>n around them. The gipsies were a tribe; the Com- 
prachicos a freemasonry a masonry having not a noble aim, 
but a hideous handicraft. Finally, their religions differ 
the gipsies were Pagans, the Comprachicos were Christians, 
and more than that, good Christians, as became an associa- 
tion which, although a mixture of all nations, owed its birth 
to Spain, a devout land. 

They were more than Christians, they were Catholics; they! 

more than Catholics, they were Romans, and so touchw 

in their faith, and so pure, that they refused to associate withji 

the Hungarian nomads of the comitate of Pesth, commanded! 

and led by an old man, having for sceptre a wand with ai 

silver ball, surmounted by the double-headed Austrian eagle! 

is true that these Hungarians were schismatics, to thcfe 

extent of celebrating the Assumption on the 29th August;, 

which is an abomination. 

In England, so long as the Stuarts reigned, the confedera- 

the Comprachicos was (for motives of which we have 

idy given you a glimpse) to a certain extent protected. 

ies II., a devout man, who persecuted the Jews and 

mpled out the gipsies, was a good prince to the Com- 

ncos We have seen why. The Comprachicos were 

the human wares in which he was dealer. They 

1 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 39 

excelled in disappearances. Disappearances are occasionally 
necessary for the good of the state. An inconvenient heir 
of tender age whom they took and handled lost his shape. 
This facilitated confiscation; the tranfer of titles to favour- 
ites was simplified. The Comprachicos were, moreover, very 
discreet and very taciturn. They bound themselves to 
silence, and kept their word, which is necessary in affairs of 
state. There was scarcely an example of their having 
betrayed the secrets of the king. This was, it is true, for 
their interest ; and if the king had lost confidence in them, 
they would have been in great danger. They were thus of use 
in a political point of view. Moreover these artists furnished 
singers for the Holy Father. The Comprachicos were useful 
for the Miserere of Allegri. They were particularly devoted 
to Mary. All this pleased the papistry of the Stuarts. 
James II. could not be hostile to holy men who pushed their 
devotion to the Virgin to the extent of manufacturing 
eunuchs. In 1688 there was a change of dynasty in England. 
Orange supplanted Stuart. William III. replaced James II. 

James II. went away to die in exile, miracles were per- 
formed on his tomb, and his relics cured the Bishop of Autun 
of fistula a w/orthy recompense of the Christian virtues of 
the prince. 

William, having neither the same ideas nor the same 
practices as James, was severe to the Comprachicos. He did 
his best to crush out the vermin. 

A statute of the early part of William and Mary's reign hit 
the association of child-buyers hard. It was as the blow of 
a club to the Comprachicos, who were from that time 
pulverized. By the terms of this statute those of the fellow- 
ship taken and duly convicted were to be branded with a red- 
hot iron, imprinting R. on the shoulder, signifying rogue; on 
the left hand T, signifying thief; and on the right hand M, 
signifying man-slayer. The chiefs, "supposed to be rich, 
although beggars in appearance," were to be punished in the 
collistrigium that is, the pillory and branded on the fore- 
head with a P, besides having their goods confiscated, and the 
trees in their woods rooted up. Those who did not inform 



40 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

against the Comprachicos were to be punished by confiscation 

and imprisonment for life, as for the crime of misprision. As 

men found among these men, they were to suffei 

xking-stool this is a tumbrel, the name of which i 
composed of the French word coquine, and the German stuhl 

-h law being endowed with a strange longevity, thi 
punishment still exists in English legislation for quarrelsom 
women. The cucking-stool is suspended over a river or 
pond, the woman seated on it. The chair is allowed to dro; 
into the water, and then pulled out. This dipping of th 
woman is repeated three times, " to cool her anger," say 
the commentator. Chamber layne. 






PART I. 



BOOK THE FIRST. 
NIGHT NOT SO BLACK AS MAN. 



CHAPTER I. 

PORTLAND BILL. 

AN obstinate north wind blew without ceasing over the main- 
land of Europe, and yet more roughly over England, during 
all the month of December, 1689, and all the month of 
January, 1690. Hence the disastrous cold weather, which 
caused that winter to be noted as " memorable to the poor," 
on the margin of the old Bible in the Presbyterian chapel of 
the Nonjurors in London. Thanks to the lasting qualities 
of the old monarchical parchment employed in official 
registers, long lists of poor persons, found dead of famine and 
cold, are still legible in many local repositories, particularly 
in the archives of the Liberty of the Clink, in the borough of 
Southwark, of Pie Powder Court (which signifies Dusty Feet 
Court), and in those of Whitechapel Court, held in the village 
of Stepney by the bailiff of the Lord of the Manor. The 
Thames was frozen over a thing which does not happen once 
in a century, as the ice forms on it with difficulty owing to the 
action of the sea. Coaches rolled over the frozen river, and 
a fair was held with booths, bear-baiting, and bull-baiting. 
An ox was roasted whole on the ice. This thick ice lasted two 
months. The hard year 1690 surpassed in severity even the 
famous winters at the beginning of the seventeenth century, 
so minutely observed by Dr. Gideon Delane the same who 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

was, in his quality of apothecary to King James, honoured by 
the city of London with a bust and a pedestal 

One evening, towards the close of one of the most bitter 
days of the month of January, 1690, something unusual was 
going on in one of the numerous inhospitable bights of the 
bay of Portland, which caused the sea-gulls and wild geese 
to scream and circle round its mouth, not daring to re-enter. 
In this creek, the most dangerous of all which line the bay 
during the continuance of certain winds, and consequently 
the most lonely convenient, by reason of its very danger, 
for ships in hiding a little vessel, almost touching the cliff, 
so deep was the water, was moored to a point of rock. We 
are wrong in saying, The night falls; we should say the night 
rises, for it is from the earth that obscurity comes. It was 
. ly night at the bottom of the cliff ; it was still day at top. 
ny one approaching the vessel's moorings would have rec- 
ognized a Biscayan hooker. 

The sun, concealed all day by the mist, had just set. 
There was beginning to be felt that deep and sombrous melan- 
choly which might be called anxiety for the absent sun. 
i no wind from the sea, the water of the creek was calm. 
This was, especially in winter, a lucky exception. Almost 
all the Portland creeks have sand-bars; and in heavy 
weather the sea becomes very rough, and, to pass in safety., 
much skill and practice are necessary. These little ports 
(ports more in appearance than fact') are of small advantage. 
They are hazardous to enter, fearful to leave. On this 

lins, for a wonder, there was no danger. 
The Biscay hooker is qf an ancient model, now fallen into 
disuse. This kind of hooker, which has done service even in 
the navy, was stoutly built in its hull a boat in size, a ship in 
igth. It figured in the Armada. Sometimes the war- 
hooker attained to a high tonnage; thus the Great Griffin, 
bearing a captain's flag, and commanded by Lopez de Medina, 
measured six hundred and fifty good tons, and carried forty 
guns. But the merchant and contraband hookers were very 
feeble specimens. Sea-folk held them at their true value, 
and esteemed the model a very sorry one. The rigging of the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 45 

hooker was made of hemp, sometimes with wire inside, which 
was probably intended as a means, however unscientific, of 
obtaining indications, in the case of magnetic tension. The 
lightness of this rigging did not exclude the use of heavy 
tackle, the cabrias of the Spanish galleon, and the cameli of 
the Roman triremes. The helm was very long, which gives 
the advantage of a long arm of leverage, but the disadvan- 
tage of a small arc of effort. Two wheels in two pulleys at the 
end of the rudder corrected this defect, and compensated, to 
some extent, for the loss of strength. The compass was well 
housed in a case perfectly square, and well balanced by its 
two copper frames placed horizontally, one in the other, on 
little bolts, as in Cardan's lamps. There was science and 
cunning in the construction of the hooker, but it was ignorant 
science and barbarous cunning. The hooker was primitive, 
just like the praam and the canoe; was kindred to the 
praam in stability, and to the canoe in swiftness ; and, like all 
vessels born of the instinct of the pirate and fisherman, it 
had remarkable sea qualities: it was equally well suited to 
landlocked and to open waters. Its system of sails, com- 
plicated in stays, and very peculiar, allowed of its navigating 
trimly in the close bays of Asturias (which are little more 
than enclosed basins, as Pasages, for instance), and also freely 
out at sea. It could sail round a lake, and sail round the 
world a strange craft with two objects, good for a pond and 
good for a storm. The hooker is among vessels what the 
wagtail is among birds one of the smallest and one of the 
boldest. The wagtail perching on a reed scarcely bends it, 
and, flying away, crosses the ocean. 

These Biscay hookers, even to the poorest, were gilt and 
painted. Tattooing is part of the genius of those charming 
people, savages to some degree. The sublime colouring of 
their mountains, variegated by snows and meadows, reveals 
to them the rugged spell which ornament possesses in itself. 
They are poverty-stricken and magnificent; they put coats- 
of-arms on their cottages; they have huge asses, which they 
bedizen with bells, and huge oxen, on which they put head- 
dresses of feathers. Their coaches, which you can hear 



46 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

prindinc the wheels two leagues off, are illuminated carved, 
and hung with nbbons. A cobbler has a bas-relief on his 
door: it is only St. Crispin and an old shoe, but it is in stone. 
They trim their leathern jackets with lace. They do not 
mend their rags, but they embroider them. Vivacity pro 
found and superb! The Basques are, like the Greeks, 
children of the sun; while the Valencian drapes himself, 
bare and sad, in his russet woollen rug, with a hole to pass 
his head through, the natives of Galicia and Biscay have 
ielight of fine linen shirts, bleached in the dew. Their 
thresholds and their windows teem with faces fair and fresh, 
laughing under garlands of maize; a joyous and proud 
serenity shines out in their ingenious arts, in their trades, in 
their customs, in the dress of their maidens, in their songs. 
The mountain, that colossal ruin, is all aglow in Biscay: the 
sun's rays go in and out of every break. The wild Jaizquivel 
is full of idylls. Biscay is Pyrenean grace as Savoy is Alpine 
grace. The dangerous bays the neighbours of St. 
Sebastian, Leso, and Fontarabia with storms, with clouds, 
spray flying over the capes, with the rages of the waves 
and the winds, with terror, with uproar, mingle boat-women 
crowned with roses. He who has seen the Basque country 
wishes to see it again. It is the blessed land. Two harvests 
a year; villages resonant and gay; a stately poverty; all 
Sunday the sound of guitars, dancing, castanets, love-making; 
houses clean and bright; storks in the belfries. 

Let us return to Portland that rugged mountain in the 
sea. 

The peninsula of Portland, looked at geometrically, pre- 
sents the appearance of a bird's head, of which the bill is 
turned towards the ocean, the back of the head towards 
Weymouth; the isthmus is its neck. 

Portland, greatly to the sacrifice of its wildness, exists now 
but for trade. The coasts of Portland were discovered by 
quarrymen and plasterers towards the middle of the seven- 
teenth century. Since that period what is called Roman 
cement has been made of the Portland stone a useful 
industry, enriching the district, and disfiguring the bay. Two 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 47 

hundred years ago these coasts were eaten away as a cliff; 
to-day, as a quarry. The pick bites meanly, the wave 
grandly; hence a diminution of beauty. To the magnifi- 
cent ravages of the ocean have succeeded the measured 
strokes of men. These measured strokes have worked away 
the creek where the Biscay hooker was moored. To find any 
vestige of the little anchorage, now destroyed, the eastern 
side of the peninsula should be searched, towards the point 
beyond Folly Pier and Dirdle Pier, beyond Wakeham even, 
between the place called Church Hope and the place called 
Southwell. 

The creek, walled in on all sides by precipices higher than 
its width, was minute by minute becoming more over- 
shadowed by evening. The misty gloom, usual at twilight, 
became thicker; it was like a growth of darkness at the 
bottom of a well.. The opening of the creek seaward, a 
narrow passage, traced on the almost night-black interior a 
pallid rift where the waves were moving. You must have 
been quite close to perceive the hooker moored to the rocks, 
and, as it were, hidden by the great cloaks of shadow. A 
plank thrown from on board on to a low and level projection 
of the cliff, the only point on which a landing could be made, 
placed the vessel in communication with the land. Dark 
figures were crossing and recrossing each other on this totter- 
ing gangway, and in the shadow some people were embarking. 

It was less cold in the creek than out at sea, thanks to the 
screen of rock rising over the north of the basin, which did 
not, however, prevent the people from shivering. They were 
hurrying. The effect of the twilight defined the forms as 
though they had been punched out with a tool. Certain 
indentations in their clothes were visible, and showed that 
they belonged to the class called in England The ragged. 

The twisting of the pathway could be distinguished 
vaguely in the relief of the cliff. A girl who lets her stay-lace 
hang down trailing over the back of an armchair, describes, 
without being conscious of it, most of the paths of cliffs and 
mountains. The pathway of this creek, full of knots and 
angles, almost perpendicular, and better adapted for goats 



4 g THE LAUGHING MAN. 

than men, terminated on the platform where the plank was 
,1. The pathways of cliffs ordinarily imply a not very 
inviting declivity; they offer themselves less as a road than 
as a fall; they sink rather than incline. This one prob- 
ably some ramification of a road on the plain above was 
disagreeable to look at, so vertical was it. From underneath 
you saw it gain by zigzag the higher layer of the cliff where it 
passed out through deep passages on to the high plateau by a 
cutting in the rock; and the passengers for whom the vessel 
was waiting in the creek must have come by this path. 

Excepting the movement of embarkation which was being 
made in the creek, a movement visibly scared and uneasy, all 
around was solitude; no step, no noise, no breath was heard. 
At the other side of the roads, at the entrance of Ringstead 
Bay, you could just perceive a flotilla of shark-fishing boats, 
which were evidently out of their reckoning. These polar 
boats had been driven from Danish into English waters by 
the whims of the sea. Northerly winds play these tricks on 
fishermen. They had just taken refuge in the anchorage of 
Portland a sign of bad weather expected and danger out at 
sea. They were engaged in casting anchor : the chief boat, 
placed in front after the old manner of Norwegian flotillas, 
all her rigging standing out in black, above the white level of 
the sea; and in front might be perceived the hook-iron, 
loaded with all kinds of hooks and harpoons, destined for the 
Greenland shark, the dogfish, and the spinous shark, as well 
as the nets to pick up the sunfish. 

Except a few other craft, all swept into the same corner, 
the eye met nothing living on the vast horizon of Portland 
not a house, not a ship. The coast in those days was not 
inhabited, and the roads, at that season, were not safe. 

Whatever may have been the appearance of the weather, 
the beings who were going to sail away in the Biscayan urea 
pressed on the hour of departure all the same. They formed 
a busy and confused group, in rapid movement on the shore. 
To distinguish one from another was difficult; impossible 
to tell whether they were old or young. The indistinctness 
of evening intermixed and blurred them ; the mask of 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 49 

shadow was over their faces. They were sketches in the 
night. There were eight of them, and there were seemingly 
among them one or two women, hard to recognize under the 
rags and tatters in which the group was attired clothes 
which were no longer man's or woman's. Rags have no sex. 

A smaller shadow, flitting to and fro among the larger ones, 
indicated either a dwarf or a child. 

It was a child. 

CHAPTER II. 

LEFT ALONE. 

THIS is what an observer close at hand might have noted. 

All wore long cloaks, torn and patched, but covering them, 
and at need concealing them up to the eyes; useful alike 
against the north wind and curiosity. They moved with 
ease under these cloaks. The greater number wore a hand- 
kerchief rolled round the head a sort of rudiment which 
marks the commencement of the turban in Spain. M This 
headdress was nothing unusual in England. At that time 
the South was in fashion in the North; perhaps this was con- 
nected with the fact that the North was beating the South. 
It conquered and admired. After the defeat of the Armada, 
Castilian was considered in the halls of Elizabeth to be elegant 
court talk. To speak English in the palace of the Queen of 
England was held almost an impropriety. Partially to adopt 
the manners of those upon whom we impose our laws is the 
habit of the conquering barbarian towards conquered civiliza- 
tion. The Tartar contemplates and imitates the Chinese. 
It was thus Castilian fashions penetrated into England; in 
return, English interests crept into Spain. 

One of the men in the group embarking appeared to be a 
chief. He had sandals on his feet, and was bedizened with 
gold lace tatters and a tinsel waistcoat, shining under his 
cloak like the belly of a fish. Another pulled down over his 
face a huge piece of felt, cut like a sombrero; this felt had no 
hole for a pipe, thus indicating the wearer to be a man of 
letters. 

On the principle that a man's vest is a child's cloak, the 



50 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

child was wrapped over his rags in a sailor's jacket, which 

descended to his knees. 

By his height you would have guessed him to be a boy of 
ten or eleven; his feet were bare. 

The crew of the hooker was composed of a captain and two 
sailors. 

The hooker had apparently come from Spain, and was 
about to return thither. She was beyond a doubt engaged 
in a stealthy service from one coast to the other. 

The persons embarking in her whispered among themselves. 

The whispering interchanged by these creatures was of 
composite sound now a word of Spanish, then of German, 
then of French, then of Gaelic, at times of Basque. It was 
either a patois or a slang. They appeared to be of all nations, 
and yet of the same band. 

The motley group appeared to be a company of comrades, 
perhaps a gang of accomplices. 

The crew was probably of their brotherhood. Community 
of object was visible in the embarkation. 

Had there been a little more light, and if you could have 
looked at them attentively, you might have perceived on 
these people rosaries and scapulars half hidden under their 
rags; one of the semi-women mingling in the group had a 
rosary almost equal for the size of its beads to that of a 
dervish, and easy to recognize for an Irish one made at 
Llanymthefry, which is also called Llanandriffy. 

You might also have observed, had it not been so dark, a 
figure of Our Lady and Child carved and gilt on the bow of 
the hooker. It was probably that of the Basque Notre 
Dame, a sort of Panagia of the old Cantabri. Under this 
-c, which occupied the position of a figurehead, was a 
lantern, which at this moment was not lighted an excess of 
caution which implied an extreme desire of concealment. 
This lantern was evidently for two purposes. When alight 
it burned before the Virgin, and at the same time illumined 
the sea a beacon doing duty as a taper. 

Under the bowsprit the cutwater, long, curved, and sharp, 
came out in front like the horn of a crescent. At the top of 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 51 

the cutwater, and at the feet of the Virgin, a kneeling angel, 
with folded wings, leaned her back against the stem, and 
looked through a spyglass at the horizon. The angel .was 
gilded like Our Lady. In the cutwater were holes and 
openings to let the waves pass through, which afforded an 
opportunity for gilding and arabesques. 

Under the figure of the Virgin was written, in gilt capitals, 
the word Matutina the name of the vessel, not to be read 
just now on account of the darkness. 

Amid the confusion of departure there were thrown down 
in disorder, at the foot of the cliff, the goods which the 
voyagers were to take with them, and which, by means of a 
plank serving as a bridge across, were being passed rapidly 
from the shore to the boat. Bags of biscuit, a cask of stock 
fish, a case of portable soup, three barrels one of fresh 
water, one of malt, one of tar four or five bottles of ale, an 
old portmanteau buckled up by straps, trunks, boxes, a ball 
of tow for torches and signals such was the lading. These 
ragged people had valises, which seemed to indicate a roving 
life. Wandering rascals are obliged to own something; at 
times they would prefer to fly away like birds, but they 
cannot do so without abandoning the means of earning a 
livelihood. They of necessity possess boxes of tools and 
instruments of labour, whatever their errant trade may be. 
Those of whom we speak were dragging their baggage with 
them, often an encumbrance. 

It could not have been easy to bring these movables to 
the bottom of the cliff. This, however, revealed the inten- 
tion of a definite departure. 

No time was lost; there was one continued passing to and 
fro from the shore to the vessel, and from the vessel to the 
shore; each one took his share of the work one carried a 
bag, another a chest. Those amidst the promiscuous com- 
pany who were possibly or probably women worked like the 
rest. They overloaded the child. 

It was doubtful if the child's father or mother were in the 
group; no sign of life was vouchsafed him. They made him 
work, nothing more. He appeared not a child in a family, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

but a slave in a tribe. He waited on every one, and no one 
spoke to him. 

-A-ever, he made haste, and, like the others of this mys- 
terious troop, he seemed to have but one thought to em- 
bark as quickly as possible. Did he know why ? probably not : 
he hurried mechanically because he saw the others hurry. 

The hooker was decked. The stowing of the lading in the 
hold was quickly finished, and the moment to put off arrived. 
The last case had been carried over the gangway, and nothing 
was left to embark but the men. The two obj ects among the 
group who seemed women were already on board; six, the 
child among them, were still on the low platform of the cliff. 
A movement of departure was made in the vesseh the captain 
seized the helm, a sailor took up an axe to cut the hawser 
to cut is an evidence of haste; when there is time it is un- 
knotted. 

" Andamos," said, in a low voice, he who appeared chief of 
the six, and who had the spangles on his tatters. The child 
rushed towards the plank in order to be the first to pass. As 
he placed his foot on it, two of the men hurried by, at the 
risk of throwing him into the water, got in before him, and 
passed on; the fourth drove him back with his fist and 
followed the third; the fifth, who was the chief, bounded 
into rather than entered the vessel, and, as he jumped in, 
kicked back the plank, which fell into the sea, a stroke of the 
hatchet cut the moorings, the helm was put up, the vessel 
left the shore, and the child remained on land. 

CHAPTER III. 

ALONE. 

child remained motionless on the rock, with his eyes 
1 no calling out, no appeal. Though this was un- 
expected by him, he spoke not a word. The same silence 
reigned in the vessel. No cry from the child to the men no 
farewell from the men to the child. There was on both sides 
a mute acceptance of the widening distance between them. 
It was like a separation of ghosts on the banks of the Styx. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 53 

The child, as if nailed to the rock, which the high tide was 
beginning to bathe, watched the departing bark. It seemed 
as if he realized his position. What did he realize ? Darkness. 

A moment later the hooker gained the neck of the crook 
and entered it. Against the clear sky the masthead was 
visible, rising above the split blocks between which the strait 
wound as between two walls. The truck wandered to the 
summit of the rocks, and appeared to run into them. Then 
it was seen no more all was over the bark had gained 
the sea. 

The child watched its disappearance he was astounded 
but dreamy. His stupefaction was complicated by a sense of 
the dark reality of existence. It seemed as if there were 
experience in this dawning being. Did he, perchance, 
already exercise judgment? Experience coming too early 
constructs, sometimes, in the obscure depths of a child's mind, 
some dangerous balance we know not what in which the 
poor little soul weighs God. 

Feeling himself innocent, he yielded. There was no com- 
plaint the irreproachable does not reproach. 

His rough expulsion drew from him no sign ; he suffered a 
sort of internal stiffening. The child did not bow under this 
sudden blow of fate, which seemed to put an end to his exist- 
ence ere it Had well Degun; he received the thunderstroke 
standing. 

It would have been evident to any one who could have seen 
his astonishment unmixed with dejection, that in the group 
which abandoned him there was nothing which loved him, 
nothing which he loved. 

Brooding, he forgot the cold. Suddenly the wave wetted 
his feet the tide was flowing ; a gust passed through his hair 
the north wind was rising. He shivered. There came 
over him, from head to foot, the shudder of awakening. 

He cast his eyes about him. 

He was alone. 

Up to this day there had never existed for him any other 
men than those who were now in the hooker. Those men 
had just stolen away. 



54 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Let us add what seems a strange thing to state. Those 
men, the only ones he knew, were unknown to him. 

He could not have said who they were. His childhood had 
been passed among them, without his having the conscious- 
ness of being of them. He was in juxtaposition to them, 
nothing more. 

He had just been forgotten by them. 
He had no money about him, no shoes to his feet, scarcely 
a garment to his body, not even a piece of bread in his pocket. 
It was winter it was night. It would be necessary to walk 
several leagues before a human habitation could be reached. 
He did not know where he was. 

He knew nothing, unless it was that those who had come 
with him to the brink of the sea had gone away without him. 
He felt himself put outside the pale of life. 
He felt that man failed him. 
He was ten years old. 

The child was in a desert, between depths where he saw 
the night rising and depths where he heard the waves 
murmur. 

He stretched his little thin arms and yawned. 
Then suddenly, as one who makes up his mind, bold, and 
throwing off his numbness with the agility of a squirrel, 
or perhaps of an acrobat he turned his back on the creek, 
and set himself to climb up the cliff. He escaladed the path, 
left it, returned to it, quick and venturous. He was hurrying 
landward, just as though he had a destination marked out; 
nevertheless he was going nowhere. 

He hastened without an object a fugitive before Fate. 
To climb is the function of a man; to clamber is that of an 
animal he did both. As the slopes of Portland face south- 
ward, there was scarcely any snow on the path; the intensity 
of cold had, however, frozen that snow into dust very trouble* 
some to the walker. The child freed himself of it. His man's 
jacket, which was too big for him, complicated matters, and 
got in his way. Now and then on an overhanging crag or in 
a declivity he came upon a little ice, which caused him to slip 
down. Then, after hanging some moments over the preci- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 55 

pice, he would catch hold of a dry branch or projecting stone. 
Once he came on a vein of slate, which suddenly gave way 
under him, letting him down with it. Crumbling slate is 
treacherous. For some seconds the child slid like a tile on a 
roof ; he rolled to the extreme edge of the decline ; a tuft of 
grass which he clutched at the right moment saved him. He 
was as mute in sight of the abyss as he had been in sight of 
the men; he gathered himself up and re-ascended silently. 
The slope was steep; so he had to tack in ascending. The 
precipice grew in the darkness; the vertical rock had no 
ending. It receded before the child in the distance of its 
height. As the child ascended, so seemed the summit to 
ascend. While he clambered he looked up at the dark 
entablature placed like a barrier between heaven and him. 
At last he reached the top. 

He jumped on the level ground, or rather landed, for he 
rose from the precipice. 

Scarcely was he on the cliff when he began to shiver. He 
felt in his face that bite of the night, the north wind. The 
bitter north-wester was blowing; he tightened his rough 
sailor's jacket about his chest. 

It was a good coat, called in ship language a sou-'wester, 
because that sort of stuff allows little of the south-westerly 
rain to penetrate. 

The child, having gained the tableland, stopped, placed his 
feet firmly on the frozen ground, and looked about him. 

Behind him was the sea; in front the land ; above, the sky 
but a sky without stars; an opaque mist masked the 
zenith. 

On reaching the summit of the rocky wall he found himself 
turned towards the land, and looked at it attentively. It lay 
before him as far as the sky-line, flat, frozen, and covered 
with snow. Some tufts of heather shivered in the wind. No 
- roads were visible nothing, not even a shepherd's cot. 
Here and there pale spiral vortices might be seen, which 
were whirls of fine snow, snatched from the ground by the 
wind and blown away. Successive undulations of ground, 
become suddenly misty, rolled themselves into the horizon, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 



other with foam. There is nothing so 
produced by this double whiteness. 

Certain lights of night are very clearly cut in their hard- 
nest; the sea was like steel, the cliff like ebony From the 
dght where the child was the bay of Portland appeared 
almost like a geographical map, pale, in a semicircle of hills 
There was something dreamlike in that nocturnal landscape 
a wan disc belted by a dark crescent. The moon some- 
times has a similar appearance. From cape to cape, along 
the whole coast, not a single spark indicating a hearth with a 
fire not a lighted window, not an inhabited house, was to b 
seen. As in heaven, so on earth no light. Not a lamp 
below, not a star above. Here and there came sudden risings 
in the great expanse of waters in the gulf, as the wind dis- 
arranged and wrinkled the vast sheet. The hooker was stil 
visible in the bay as she fled. 

It was a black triangle gliding over the livid waters.^ 
Far away the waste of waters stirred confusedly in the 
ominous clear-obscure of immensity. The Matutina was 
making quick way. She seemed to grow smaller every 
minute. Nothing appears so rapid as the flight of a vessel 
melting into the distance of ocean. 

Suddenly she lit the lantern at her prow. Probably the 
darkness falling round her made those on board uneasy, and 
the pilot thought it necessary to throw light on the waves. 
This luminous point, a spark seen from afar, clung like a 
corpse light to the high and long black form. You would 
have said it was a shroud raised up and moving in the middle 
of the sea, under which some one wandered with a star in 
his hand. 

A storm threatened in the air; the child took no account 
of it, but a sailor would have trembled. It was that moment 
of preliminary anxiety when it seems as though the elements 
are changing into persons, and one is ?bout to witness the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 57 

mysterious transfiguration of the wind into the wind-god. 
The sea becomes Ocean: its power reveals itself as Will: 
that which one takes for a thing is a soul. It will become 
visible ; hence the terror. The soul of man fears to be thus 
confronted with the soul of nature. 

Chaos was about to appear. The wind rolling back the 
fog, and making a stage of the clouds behind, set the scene 
for that fearful drama of wave and winter which is called a 
Snowstorm. Vessels putting back hove in sight. For some 
minutes past the roads had no longer been deserted. Every 
instant troubled barks hastening towards an anchorage ap- 
peared from behind the capes ; some were doubling Portland 
Bill, the others St. Alban's Head. From afar ships were 
running in. It was a race for refuge. Southwards the dark- 
ness thickened, and clouds, full of night, bordered on the sea. 
The weight of the tempest hanging overhead made a dreary 
lull on the waves. It certainly was no time to sail. Yet the 
hooker had sailed. 

She had made the south of the cape. She was already out 
of the gulf, and in the open sea. Suddenly there came a gust 
of wind. The Matutina, which was still clearly in sight, 
made all sail, as if resolved to profit by the hurricane. It 
was the nor'-wester, a wind sullen and angry. Its weight 
was felt instantly. The hooker, caught broadside on, 
staggered, but recovering held her course to sea. This indi- 
cated a flight rather than a voyage, less fear of sea than of 
land, and greater heed of pursuit from man than from wind. 

The hooker, passing through every degree of diminution, 
sank into the horizon. The little star which she carried into 
shadow paled. More and more the hooker became amal- 
gamated with the night, then disappeared. 

This time for good and all. 

At least the child seemed to understand it so: he ceased 
to look at the sea. His eyes turned back upon the plains, 
the wastes, the hills, towards the space where it might not be 
impossible to meet something living. 

Into this unknown he set out. 



5 g THE LAUGHING MAN. 

CHAPTER IV. 

QUESTIONS. 

WHAT kind of band was it which had left the child behind in 
its flight? 

re those fugitives Comprachicos ? 

We have already seen the account of the measures taken by 
William III. and passed by Parliament against the male- 
factors, male and female, called Comprachicos, otherwise 
Comprapequenos, otherwise Cheylas. 

There are laws which disperse. The law acting against 
the Comprachicos determined, not only the Comprachicos, 
but vagabonds of all sorts, on a general flight. 

It was the devil take the hindmost. The greater number 
of the Comprachicos returned to Spain many of them, as we 
have said, being Basques. 

The law for the protection of children had at first this 
strange result: it caused many children to be abandoned. 

The immediate effect of the penal statute was to produce 
a crowd of children, found or rather lost. Nothing is easier 
to understand. Every wandering gang containing a child 
was liable to suspicion. The mere fact of the child's presence 
was in itself a denunciation. 

" They are very likely Comprachicos." Such was the 
first idea of the sheriff, of the bailiff, of the constable. Hence 
arrest and inquiry. People simply unfortunate, reduced to 
ler and to beg, were seized with a terror of being taken for 
Comprachicos although they were nothing of the kind. But 
the weak have grave misgivings of possible errors in justice. 
Besides, these vagabond families are very easily scared. The 
accusation against the Comprachicos was that they traded in 
other people's children. But the promiscuousness caused 
by poverty and indigence is such that at times it might 
have been difficult for a father and mother to prove a child 
their own. 

How came you by this child ? how were they to prove that 
they held it from God ? The child became a peril they ^ot 



THE LAtJGHING MAN. 59 

<id of it. To fly unencumbered was easier; the parents 
resolved to lose it now in a wood, now on a strand, now 
down a well. 

Children were found drowned in cisterns. 

Let us add that, in imitation of England, all Europe hence- 
forth hunted down the Comprachicos. The impulse of 
pursuit was given. There is nothing like belling the cat. 
From this time forward the desire to seize them made rivalry 
and emulation among the police of all countries, and the 
alguazil was not less keenly watchful than the constable. 

One could still read, twenty-three years ago, on a stone of 
the gate of Otero, an untranslatable inscription the words 
of the code outraging propriety. In it, however, the shade 
of difference which existed between the buyers and the stealers 
of children is very strongly marked. Here is part of the 
inscription in somewhat rough Castilian, Aqui quedan las 
orejas de los Comprachicos, ylas bolsas de losrobaniftos, mientras 
que se van ettos al trabafo de mar. You see the confiscation of 
ears, etc., did not prevent the owners going to the galleys. 
Whence followed a general rout among all vagabonds. They 
started frightened; they arrived trembling. On every 
shore in Europe their furtive advent was watched. Impos- 
sible for such a band to embark with a child, since to dis- 
embark with one was dangerous. 

To lose the child was much simpler of accomplishment. 

And this child, of whom we have caught a glimpse in the 
shadow of the solitudes of Portland, by whom had he been 
cast away? 

To all appearance by Comprachicos. 

CHAPTER V. 

THE TREE OF HUMAN INVENTION. 

K!T might be about seven o'clock in the evening. The wind 
[ was now diminishing a sign, however, of a violent recurrence 
impending. The child was on the table-land at the extreme 
KBouth point of Portland. 

Portland is a peninsula; but the child did not know what 



60 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

a peninsula is, and was ignorant even of the name of Port- 
land. He knew but one thing, which is, that one can walk 
until one drops down. An idea is a guide ; he had no idea. 
They had brought him there and left him there. They and 
there these two enigmas represented his doom. They 
were humankind. There was the universe. For him in all 
creation there was absolutely no other basis to rest on but 
the little piece of ground where he placed his heel, ground 
hard and cold to his naked feet. In the great twilight world, 
open on all sides, what was there for the child ? Nothing. 

He walked towards this Nothing. Around him was the 
vastness of human desertion. 

He crossed the first plateau diagonally, then a second, 
then a third. At the extremity of each plateau the child 
came upon a break in the ground. The slope was sometimes 
steep, but always short; the high, bare plains of Portland 
resemble great flagstones overlapping each other. The south 
side seems to enter under the protruding slab, the north side 
rises over the next one; these made ascents, which the child 
stepped over nimbly. From time to time he stopped, and 
seemed to hold counsel with himself. The night was becom- 
ing very dark. His radius of sight was contracting. He 
now only saw a few steps before him. 

All of a sudden he stopped, listened for an instant, and 
with an almost imperceptible nod of satisfaction turned 
quickly and directed his steps towards an eminence of 
moderate height, which he dimly perceived on his right, at 
the point of the plain nearest the cliff. There was on the 
eminence a shape which in the mist looked like a tree. The 
child had just heard a noise in this direction, which was the 
noise neither of the wind nor of the sea, nor was it the cry of 
animals. He thought that some one was there, and in a few 
strides he was at the foot of the hillock. 

In truth, some one was there. 

That which had been indistinct on the top of the eminence 
was now visible. It was something like a great arm thrust 
straight out of the ground; at the upper extremity of the 
arm a sort of forefinger, supported from beneath by the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 61 

thumb, pointed out horizontally; the arm, the thumb, and 
the forefinger drew a square against the sky. At the point 
of juncture of this peculiar finger and this peculiar thumb 
there was a line, from which hung something black and 
shapeless. The line moving in the wind sounded like a 
chain. This was the noise the child had heard. Seen closely 
the line was that which the noise indicated, a chain a single 
chain cable. 

By that mysterious law of amalgamation which through- 
out nature causes appearances to exaggerate realities, the 
place, the hour, the mist, the mournful sea, the cloudy 
turmoils on the distant horizon, added to the effect of this 
figure, and made it seem enormous. 

The mass linked to the chain presented the appearance of a 
scabbard. It was swaddled like a child and long like a man. 
There was a round thing at its summit, about which the end 
of the chain was rolled. The scabbard was riven asunder at 
the lower end, and shreds of flesh hung out between the rents 

A feeble breeze stirred the chain, and that which hung to it 
swayed gently. The passive mass obeyed the vague motions 
of space. It was an object to inspire indescribable dread. 
Horror, which disproportions everything, blurred its dimen- 
sions while retaining its shape. It was a condensation of 
darkness, which had a defined form. Night was above and 
within the spectre; it was a prey of ghastly exaggeration. 
Twilight and moonrise, stars setting behind the cliff, floating 
things in space, the clouds, winds from all quarters, had 
ended by penetrating into the composition of this visible 
nothing. The species of log hanging in the wind partook 
of the impersonality diffused far over sea and sky, and the 
darkness completed this phase of the thing which had once 
been a man. 

It was that which is no longer. 

To be naught but a remainder! Such a thing is beyond 
the power of language to express. To exist no more, yet to 
persist; to be in the abyss, yet out of it; to reappear above 
death as if indissoluble - there is a certain amount of 
impossibility mixed with such reality. Thence comes the 



62 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

inexpressible. This being was it a being? This black 
witness was a remainder, and an awful remainder a re- 
mainder of what? Of nature first, and then of society. 
Naught, and yet total. 

The lawless inclemency of the weather held it at its will; 
the deep oblivion of solitude environed it; it was given up to 
unknown chances; it was without defence against the dark- 
ness, which did with it what it willed. It was for ever the 
patient; it submitted; the hurricane (that ghastly conflict 
of winds) was upon it, 

The spectre was given over to pillage. It underwent the 
horrible outrage of rotting in the open air; it was an outlaw 
of the tomb. There was no peace for it even in annihilation: 
in the summer it fell away into dust, in the winter into mud. 
Death should be veiled, the grave should have its reserve. 
Here was neither veil nor reserve, but cynically avowed 
putrefaction. It is effrontery in death to display its work; 
it offends all the calmness of shadow when it does its task 
outside its laboratory, the grave. 

This dead thing had been stripped. To strip one already 
stripped relentless act! His marrow was no longer in his 
bones ; his entrails were no longer in his body ; his voice no 
longer in his throat. A corpse is a pocket which death turns 
inside out and empties. If he ever had a Me, where was the 
Me ? There still, perchance, and this was fearful to think of. 
Something wandering about something in chains can one 
imagine a more mournful lineament in the darkness? 

Realities exist here below which serve as issues to the 
unknown, wliich seem to facilitate the egress of speculation, 
and at which hypothesis snatches. Conjecture has its com- 
pelle intrare. In passing by certain places and before cer- 
tain objects one cannot help stopping a prey to dreams 
into the realms of which the mind enters. In the invisible 
there are dark portals ajar. No one could have met this 
dead man without meditating. 

In the vastness of dispersion he was wearing silently away. 

5 had had blood winch had been drunk, skin which had 
been eaten, flesh which had been stolen. Nothing had passed 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 63 

him by without taking somewhat from him. December had 
borrowed cold of him; midnight, horror; the iron, rust ; the 
plague, miasma; the flowers, perfume. His slow disintegra- 
tion was a toll paid to all a toll of the corpse to the storm, 
to the rain, to the dew, to the reptiles, to the birds. All the 
dark hands of night had rifled the dead. 

He was, indeed, an inexpressibly strange tenant, a tenant 
of the darkness. He was on a plain and on a hill, and he was 
not. He was palpable, yet vanished. He was a shadow 
accruing to the night. After the disappearance of day into 
the vast of silent obscurity, he became in lugubrious accord 
with all around him. By his mere presence he increased the 
gloom of the tempest and the calm of stars. The unutterable 
which is in the desert was condensed in him. Waif of an 
unknown fate, he commingled with all the wild secrets of the 
night. There was in his mystery a vague reverberation of all 
enigmas. 

About him life seemed sinking to its lowest depths. 
Certainty and confidence appeared to diminish in his 
environs. The shiver of the brushwood and the grass, a 
desolate melancholy, an anxiety in which a conscience 
seemed to lurk, appropriated with tragic force the whole 
landscape to that black figure suspended by the chain. 
The presence of a spectre in the horizon is an aggravation of 
solitude. 

He was a Sign. Having unappeasable winds around him, 
he was implacable. Perpetual shuddering made him terrible. 
Fearful to say, he seemed to be a centre in space, with some- 
thing immense leaning on him. Who can tell? Perhaps 
that equity, half seen and set at defiance, which transcends 
human justice. There was in his unburied continuance the 
vengeance of men and his own vengeance. He was a testi- 
mony in the twilight and the waste. He was in himself a 
disquieting substance, since we tremble before the substance 
which is the ruined habitation of the soul. For dead matter 
to trouble us, it must once have been tenanted by spirit. 
He denounced the law of earth to the law of Heaven. Placed 
there by man, he there awaited God. Above him floated, 



$4 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

blended with all the vague distortions of the cloud and the 

t\ boundless dreams of shadow. 

Who could tell what sinister mysteries lurked behind this 
phantom? The illimitable, circumscribed by naught, not 
. nor roof, nor passer-by, was around the dead man. When 
the unchangeable broods over us when Heaven, the abyss, 
the life, grave, and eternity appear patent then it is we fee! 
that all is inaccessible, all is forbidden, all is sealed. When 
infinity opens to us, terrible indeed is the closing of the gate 
behind. 

CHAPTER VI. 

STRUGGLE BETWEEN DEATH AND - LIFE. 

THE child was before this thing, dumb, wondering, and with 
eyes fixed. 

To a man it would have been a gibbet; to the child it was 
an apparition. 

Where a man would have seen a corpse the child saw a 
spectre. 

Besides, he did not understand. 

The attractions of the obscure are manifold. There was 
one on the summit of that hiU. The child took a step, then 
another; he ascended, wishing all the while to descend; 
and approached, wishing all the while to retreat. 

Bold, yet trembling, he went close up to survey the spectre. 
When he got close under the gibbet, he looked up and 
examined it. 

The spectre was tarred; here and there it shone. The 

hild distinguished the face. It was coated over with pitch; 

and this mask, which appeared viscous and sticky, varied its 

aspect with the night shadows. The child saw the mouth, 

which was a hole; the nose, which was a hole; the eyes 

ich were holes. The body was wrapped, and apparently 

1 up, m coarse canvas, soaked in naphtha. The canvas 

mouldy and torn. A knee protruded through it. A 

closed the ribs-partly corpse, partly skeleton. The 

was the colour of earth; slugs, wandering over it, had 

d across it vague ribbons of silver. The canvas, glued 



66 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

They were hanged on the seaboard, coated over with pitch, 
and left swinging. Examples must be made in public, and 
tarred examples last longest. The tar was mercy: by 
renewing it they were spared making too many fresh ex- 
amples. They placed gibbets from point to point along the 
coast, as nowadays they do beacons. The hanged man did 
duty as a lantern. After his fashion, he guided his com- 
rades, the smugglers. The smugglers from far out at sea 
perceived the gibbets. There is one, first warning; another, 
second warning. It did not stop smuggling; but public 
order is made up of such things. The fashion lasted in 
England up to the beginning of this century. In 1822 three 
men were still to be seen hanging in front of l)over Castle. 
But, for that matter, the preserving process was employed 
not only with smugglers. England turned robbers, incen- 
diaries, and murderers to the same account. Jack Painter, 
who set fire to the government storehouses at Portsmouth, 
was hanged and tarred in 1776. L'Abb6 Coyer, who de- 
scribes him as Jean le Peintre, saw him again in 1777. Jack 
Painter was hanging above the ruin he had made, and was 
re-tarred from time to time. His corpse lasted I had 
almost said lived nearly fourteen years. It was still doing 
good service in 1788; in 1790, however, they were obliged to 
replace it by another. The Egyptians used to value the 
mummy of the king; a plebeian mummy can also, it appears, 
be of service. 

The wind, having great power on the hill, had swept it of 
all its snow. Herbage reappeared on it, interspersed here and 
there with a few thistles; the hill was covered by that close 
short grass which grows by the sea, and causes the tops of 
cliffs to resemble green cloth. Under the gibbet, on the very 
spot over which hung the feet of the executed criminal, was 
a long and thick tuft, uncommon on such poor soil. Corpses, 
crumbling there for centuries past, accounted for the beauty 
of the grass. Earth feeds on man. 

A dreary fascination held the child; he remained there 
open-mouthed. He only dropped his head a moment when 
a nettle, which felt like an insect, stung hia leg; then he 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 67 

looked up again he looked above him at the face which 
looked down on him. It appeared to regard him the more 
steadfastly because it had no eyes. It was a comprehensive 
glance, having an indescribable fixedness in which there were 
both light and darkness, and which emanated from the skull 
and teeth, as well as the empty arches of the brow. The 
whole head of a dead man seems to have vision, and this is 
awful. No eyeball, yet we feel that we are looked at. A 
horror of worms. 

Little by little the child himself was becoming an object of 
terror. He no longer moved. Torpor was coming over him. 
He did not perceive that he was losing consciousness he 
was becoming benumbed and lifeless. Winter was silently 
delivering him over to night. There is something of the 
traitor in winter. The child was all but a statue. The 
coldness of stone was penetrating his bones; darkness, that 
reptile, was crawling over him. The drowsiness resulting 
from snow creeps over a man like a dim tide. The child was 
being slowly invaded by a stagnation resembling that of the 
corpse. He was falling asleep. 

On the hand of sleep is the finger of death. The child felt 
himself seized by that hand. He was on the point of fall- 
ing under the gibbet. He no longer knew whether he was 
standing upright. 

The end always impending, no transition between to 
be and not to be, the return into the crucible, the slip 
possible every minute such is the precipice which is 
Creation. 

Another instant, the child and the dead, life in sketch and 
life in ruin, would be confounded in the same obliteration. 

The spectre appeared to understand, and not to wish it. 
Of a sudden it stirred. One would have said it was warn- 
ing the child, It was the wind beginning to blow again. 
Nothing stranger than this dead man in movement. 

The corpse at the end of the chain, pushed by the invisible 
gust, took an oblique attitude; rose to the left, then fell 
back, reascended to the right, and fell and rose with slow 
and mournful precision, A weird game of see-saw. It 



68 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

seemed as though one saw in the darkness the pendulum of 

the clock of Eternity. 

This continued for some time. The child felt himself 
waking up at the sight of the dead; through his increasing 
numbness he experienced a distinct sense of fear. 

The chain at every oscillation made a grinding sound, with 
hideous regularity. It appeared to take breath, and then to 
resume. This grinding was like the cry of a grasshopper. 

An approaching squall is heralded by sudden gusts of 
wind. All at once the breeze increased into a gale. The 
corpse emphasized its dismal oscillations. It no longer 
swung, it tossed ; the chain, which had been .grinding, now 
shrieked. It appeared that its shriek was heard. If it was 
an appeal, it was obeyed. From the depths of the horizon 
came the sound of a rushing noise. 

It was the noise of wings. 

An incident occurred, a stormy incident, peculiar to grave- 
yards and solitudes. It was the arrival of a flight of ravens. 
Black flying specks pricked the clouds, pierced through the 
mist, increased in size, came near, amalgamated, thickened, 
hastening towards the hill, uttering cries. It was like the 
approach of a Legion. The winged vermin of the darkness 
alighted on the gibbet ; the child, scared, drew back. 

Swarms obey words of command: the birds crowded on 
the gibbet; not one was on the corpse. They were talking 
among themselves. The croaking was frightful. The howl, 
the whistle and the roar, are signs of life; the croak is a 
satisfied acceptance of putrefaction. In it you can fancy you 
hear the tomb breaking silence. The croak is night-like in 
itself. 

The child was frozen even more by terror than by cold. 

Then the ravens held silence. One of them perched on the 
skeleton. This was a signal : they all precipitated themselves 
upon it. There was a cloud of wings, then all their feathers 
closed up, and the hanged man disappeared under a swarm 
of black blisters struggling in the obscurity. Just then the 
corpse moved. Was it the corpse? Was it the wind? It 
made a frightful bound. The hurricane, which was increas- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 69 

ing, came to its aid. The phantom fell into convulsions. 
The squall, already blowing with full lungs, laid hold of it, 
and moved it about in all directions. 

It became horrible; it began to struggle. An awful 
puppet, with a gibbet chain for a string. Some humorist of 
night must have seized the string and been playing with the 
mummy. It turned and leapt as if it would fain dislocate 
itself; the birds, frightened, flew off. It was like an explo- 
sion of all those unclean creatures. Then they returned, 
and a struggle began. 

The dead man seemed possessed with hideous vitality. 
The winds raised him as though they meant to carry him 
away. He seemed struggling and making efforts to escape, 
but his iron collar held him back. The birds adapted them- 
selves to all his movements, retreating, then striking again, 
scared but desperate. On one side a strange flight was 
attempted, on the other the pursuit of a chained man. The 
corpse, impelled by every spasm of the wind, had shocks, 
starts, fits of rage: it went, it came, it rose, it fell, driving 
back the scattered swarm. The dead man was a club, the 
swarms were dust. The fierce, assailing flock would not 
leave their hold, and grew stubborn ; the man, as if maddened 
by the cluster of beaks, redoubled his blind chastisement of 
space. It was like the blows of a stone held in a sling. At 
times the corpse was covered by talons and wings ; then it 
was free. There were disappearances of the horde, then 
sudden furious returns a frightful torment continuing after 
life was past. The birds seemed frenzied. The air-holes of 
hell must surely give passage to such swarms. Thrusting of 
claws, thrusting of beaks, croakings, rendings of shreds no 
longer flesh, creakings of the gibbet, shudderings of the 
skeleton, jingling of the chain, the voices of the storm and 
tumult what conflict more fearful ? A hobgoblin warring 
with devils ! A combat with a spectre ! 

At times the storm redoubling its violence, the hanged man 
revolved on his own pivot, turning every way at once towards 
the swarm, as if he wished to run after the birds ; his teeth 
seemed to try and bite them. The wind was for him, the 



70 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

chain against him. It was as if black deities were mixing 
themselves up in the fray. The hurricane was in the battle. 
As the dead man turned himself about, the flock of birds 
wound round" him spirally. It was a whirl in a whirlwind. 
A great roar was heard from below. It was the sea. 

The child saw this nightmare. Suddenly he trembled in 
all his limbs; a shiver thrilled his frame; he staggered, 
tottered, nearly fell, recovered himself, pressed both hand& 
to his forehead, as if he felt his forehead a support; then, 
haggard, his hair streaming in the wind, descending the hill 
with long strides, his eyes closed, himself almost a phantom, 
he took flight, leaving behind that torment in the night. 

CHAPTER VII. 

THE NORTH POINT OF PORTLAND. 

HE ran until he was breathless, at random, desperate, over 
the plain into the snow, into space. His flight warmed 
him. He needed it. Without the run and the fright he 
had died. 

When his breath failed him he stopped, but he dared not 
look back. He fancied that the birds would pursue him, 
that the dead man had undone his chain and was perhaps 
hurrying behind him, and no doubt the gibbet itself was 
descending the hill, running after the dead man; he feared to 
see these things if he turned his head. 

When he had somewhat recovered his breath he resumed 
his flight. 

To account for facte does not belong to childhood. He 
received impressions which, were magnified by terror, but he 
did not link them together in his mind, nor form any con- 
clusion on them. He was going on, no matter how or where ; 
he ran in agony and difiiculty as one in a dream. During 
the three hours or so since he had been deserted, his onward 
progress, still vague, had changed its purpose. At first it 
was a search; now it was a flight. He no longer felt hunger 
nor cold he felt fear. One instinct had given place to 
another. To escape was now his whole thought to escape 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 71 

from what? From everything. On all sides life seemed to 
enclose him like a horrible wall. If he could have fled from 
all things, he would have done so. But children know 
nothing of that breaking from prison which is called suicide. 
He was running. He ran on for an indefinite time ; but fear 
dies with lack of breath. 

All at once, as if seized by a sudden accession of energy and 
intelligence, he stopped. One would have said he was ashamed 
of running away. He drew himself up, stamped his foot, 
and, with head erect, looked round. There was no longer 
hill, nor gibbet, nor nights of crows. The fog had resumed 
possession of the horizon. The child pursued his-way: he 
now no longer ran but walked. To say that meeting with a 
corpse had made a man of him would be to limit the manifold 
and confused impression which possessed him. There was 
in his impression much more and much less. The gibbet, a 
mighty trouble in the rudiment of comprehension, nascent in 
his mind, still seemed to him an apparition ; but a trouble 
overcome is strength gained, and he felt himself stronger. 
Had he been of an age to probe self, he would have detected 
within him a thousand other germs of meditation; but the 
reflection of children is shapeless, and the utmost they feel is 
the bitter aftertaste of that which, obscure to them, the man 
later on calls indignation. Let us add that a child has the 
faculty of quickly accepting the conclusion of a sensation; 
the distant fading boundaries which amplify painful subjects 
escape him. A child is protected by the limit of feebleness 
against emotions which are too complex. He sees the fact, 
and little else beside. The difficulty of being satisfied by 
half -ideas does not exist for him. It is not until later that 
experience comes, with its brief, to conduct the lawsuit of 
life. Then he confronts groups of facts which have crossed 
his path; the understanding, cultivated and enlarged, draws 
comparisons; the memories of youth reappear under the 
passions, like the traces of a palimpsest under the erasure; 
these memories form the bases of logic, and that which was a 
vision in the child's brain becomes a syllogism in the man's. 
Experience is, however, various, and turns to good or evil 



72 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

according to natural disposition. With the good it ripens, 

with the bad it rots. 

The child had run quite a quarter of a league, and walked 
another quarter, when suddenly he felt the craving of hunger. 
A thought which altogether eclipsed the hideous apparition 
on the hill occurred to him forcibly that he must eat. 
Happily there is in man a brute which serves to lead him back 
to reality. 

But what to eat, where to eat, how to eat? 

He felt his pockets mechanically, well knowing that they 
were empty. Then he quickened his steps, without knowing 
whither he was going. He hastened towards a possible 
shelter. This faith in an inn is one of the convictions 
enrooted by God in man. To believe in a shelter is to 
believe in God. 

However, in that plain of snow there was nothing like a 
roof. The child went on, and the waste continued bare as 
far as eye could see. There had never been a human habita- 
tion on the tableland. It was at the foot of the cliff, in holes 
in the rocks, that, lacking wood to build themselves huts, had 
dwelt long ago the aboriginal inhabitants, who had slings for 
arms, dried cow-dung for firing, for a god the idol Heil stand- 
ing in a glade at Dorchester, and .for trade the fishing of that 
false gray coral which the Gauls called plin, and the Greeks 
isidis plocamos. 

The child found his way as best he could. Destiny is made 
up of cross-roads. An option of path is dangerous. This 
little being had an early choice of doubtful chances. 

He continued to advance, but although the muscles of his 
thighs seemed to be of steel, he began to tire. There were no 
tracks in the plain; or if there were any, the snow had 
obliterated them. Instinctively he inclined eastwards. 
Sharp stones had wounded his heels. Had it been daylight 
pink stains made by his blood might have been seen in the 
footprints he left in the snow. 

He recognized nothing. He was crossing the plain of Port- 

l from south to north, and it is probable that the band 

with which he had come, to avoid meeting any one, had 






THE LAUGHING MAN. 73 

crossed it from east to west; they had most likely sailed in 
some fisherman's or smuggler's boat, from a point on the 
coast of Uggescombe, such as St. Catherine's Cape or Swan- 
cry, to Portland to find the hooker which awaited them ; and 
they must have landed in one of the creeks of Weston, and 
re-embarked in one of those of Easton. That direction was 
intersected by the one the child was now following. It was 
impossible for him to recognize the road. 

On the plain of Portland there are, here and there, raised 
strips of land, abruptly ended by the shore and cut perpen- 
dicular to the sea. The wandering child reached one of 
these culminating points and stopped on it, hoping that a 
larger space might reveal further indications. He tried to 
see around him. Before him, in place of a horizon, was a 
vast livid opacity. He looked at this attentively, and under 
the fixedness of his glance it became less indistinct. At the 
base of a distant fold of land towards the east, in the depths 
of that opaque lividity (a moving and wan sort of precipice, 
which resembled a cliff of the night), crept and floated some 
vague black rents, some dim shreds of vapour. The pale 
opacity was fog, the black shreds were smoke. Where there 
is smoke there are men. The child turned his steps in that 
direction. 

He saw some distance off a descent, and at the foot of the 
descent, among shapeless conformations of rock, blurred by 
the mist, what seemed to be either a sandbank or a tongue 
of land, joining probably to the plains of the horizon the 
tableland he had just crossed. It was evident he must pass 
that way. 

He had, in fact, arrived at the Isthmus of Portland, a 
diluvian alluvium which is called Chess Hill. 

He began to descend the side of the plateau. 

The descent was difficult and rough. It was (with less of 
ruggedness, however) the reverse of the ascent he had made 
on leaving the creek. Every ascent is balanced by a decline. 
After having clambered up he crawled down. 

He leapt from one rock to another at the risk of a sprain, 
at the risk of falling into the vague depths below. To save 



74 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

himself when he slipped on the rock or on the ice, he caught 
hold of handfuls of weeds and furze, thick with thorns, and 
their points ran into his fingers. At times he came on an 
easier declivity, taking breath as he descended; then came 
on the precipice again, and each step necessitated an ex- 
pedient. In descending precipices, every movement solves 
a problem. One must be skilful under pain of death. These 
problems the child solved with an instinct which would have 
made him the admiration of apes and mountebanks. The 
descent was steep and long. Nevertheless he was coming to 
the end of it. 

Little by little it was drawing nearer the moment when he 
should land on the Isthmus, of which from time to time he 
caught a glimpse. At intervals, while he bounded or 
dropped from rock to rock, he pricked up his ears, his head 
erect, like a listening deer. He was hearkening to a diffused 
and faint uproar, far away to the left, like the deep note of a 
clarion. It was a commotion of winds, preceding that fearful 
north blast which is heard rushing from the pole, like an inroad 
of trumpets. At the same time the child felt now and then 
on his brow, on his eyes, on his cheeks, something which was 
like the palms of cold hands being placed on his face. These 
were large frozen flakes, sown at first softly in space, then 
eddying, and heralding a snowstorm. The child was covered 
with them. The snowstorm, which for the last hour had 
been on the sea, was beginning to gain the land. It was 
slowly invading the plains. It was entering obliquely, by 
the north-west, the tableland of Portland. 



BOOK THE SECOND. 
THE HOOKER AT SEA, 



CHAPTER I. 

SUPERHUMAN LAWS. 

THE snowstorm is one of the mysteries of the ocean. It is 
the most obscure of things meteorological obscure in every 
sense of the word. It is a mixture of fog and storm; and 
even in our days we cannot well account for the phenomenon. 
Hence many disasters. 

We try to explain all things by the action'of wind and wave ; 
yet in the air there is a force which is not the wind, and in the 
waters a force which is not the wave. That force, both in 
the air and in the water, is effluvium. Air and water are two 
nearly identical liquid masses, entering into the composition 
of each other by condensation and dilatation, so that to 
breathe is to drink. Effluvium alone is fluid. The wind and 
the wave are only impulses; effluvium is a current. The 
wind is visible in clouds, the wave is visible in foam ; effluvium 
is invisible. From time to time, however, it says, " I am 
here." Its " I am here " is a clap of thunder. 

The snowstorm offers a problem analogous to the dry fog. 
If the solution of the callina of the Spaniards and the quobar 
of the Ethiopians be possible, assuredly that solution will be 
achieved by attentive observation of magnetic effluvium. 

Without effluvium a crowd of circumstances would remain 
enigmatic. Strictly speaking, the changes in the velocity of 



;6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

the wind, varying from 3 feet per second to 220 feet, would 
supply a reason for the variations of the waves rising from 
3 inches in a calm sea to 36 feet in a raging one. Strictly 
speaking, the horizontal direction of the winds, even in a 
squall, enables us to understand how it is that a wave 30 feet 
high can be 1,500 feet long. But why are the waves of the 
Pacific four times higher near America than near Asia; that 
is to say, higher in the East than in the West? Why is the 
contrary true of the Atlantic ? Why, under the Equator, are 
they highest in the middle of the sea? Wherefore these 
deviations in the swell of the ocean ? This is what magnetic 
effluvium, combined with terrestrial rotation, and sidereal 
attraction, can alone explain. 

Is not this mysterious complication needed to explain an 
oscillation of the wind veering, for instance, by the west from 
south-east to north-east, then suddenly returning in the same 
great curve from north-east to south-east, so as to make in 
thirty-six hours a prodigious circuit of 560 degrees ? Such 
was the preface to the snowstorm of March 17, 1867. 

The storm-waves of Australia reach a height of 80 feet; 
this fact is connected with the vicinity of the Pole. Storms 
in those latitudes result less from disorder of the winds than 
from submarine electrical discharges. In the year 1866 the 
transatlantic cable was disturbed at regular intervals in its 
working for two hours in the twenty-four from noon to two 
o'clock by a sort of intermittent fever. Certain composi- 
tions and decompositions of forces produce phenomena, and 
impose themselves on the calculations of the seaman under 
pain of shipwreck. The day that navigation, now a routine, 
shall become a mathematic; the day we shall, for instance, 
seek to know why it is that in our regions hot winds come 
sometimes from the north, and cold winds from the south; 
the day we shall understand that diminutions of tempera- 
ture are proportionate to oceanic depths; the day we realize 
that the globe is a vast loadstone polarized in immensity, 
with two axes an axis of rotation and an axis of effluvium 
intersecting each other at the centre of the earth, and that the 
magnetic poles turn round the geographical poles; when 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 77 

those who risk life will choose to risk it scientifically; when 
men shall navigate assured from studied uncertainty; when 
the captain shall be a meteorologist; when the pilot shall be 
a chemist; then will many catastrophes be avoided. The 
sea is magnetic as much as aquatic: an ocean of unknown 
forces floats in the ocean of the waves, or, one might say, on 
the surface. Only to behold in the sea a mass of water is not 
to see it at all: the sea is an ebb and flow of fluid, as much 
as a flux and reflux of liquid. It is, perhaps, complicated by 
attractions even more than by hurricanes; molecular ad- 
hesion, manifested among other phenomena by capillary 
attraction, although microscopic, takes in ocean its place in 
the grandeur of immensity; and the wave of effluvium 
sometimes aids, sometimes counteracts, the wave of the air 
and the wave of the waters. He who is ignorant of electric 
law is ignorant of hydraulic law; for the one intermixes with 
the other. It is true there is no study more difficult nor more 
obscure; it verges on empiricism, just as astronomy verges 
on astrology; and yet without this study there is no naviga- 
tion. Having said this much we will pass on. 

One of the most dangerous components of the sea is the 
snowstorm. The snowstorm is above all things magnetic. 
The pole produces it as it produces the aurora borealis. It 
is in the fog of the one as in the light of the other ; and in the 
flake of snow as in the streak of flame effluvium is visible. 

Storms are the nervous attacks and delirious frenzies of the 
sea. The sea has its ailments. Tempests may be compared 
to maladies. Some are mortal, others not; some may be 
escaped, others not. The snowstorm is supposed to be 
generally mortal. Jarabija, one of the pilots of Magellan, 
termed it " a cloud issuing from the devil's sore side." * 

The old Spanish navigators called this kind of squall la 
nevada, when it came with snow ; la helada, when it came with 
hail. According to them, bats fell from the sky, with the 
snow. 

Snowstorms are characteristic of polar latitudes; never- 
theless, at times they glide one might almost say tumble 
* Una Mube salida del malo lado del diablo. 



78 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

into our climates ; so much ruin is mingled with the chances 

of the air. 

The Matutina, as we have seen, plunged resolutely into the 
great hazard of the night, a hazard increased by the impend- 
ing storm. She had encountered its menace with a sort of 
tragic audacity; nevertheless, it must be remembered that 
she had received due warning. 

CHAPTER II. 

OUR FIRST ROUGH SKETCHES FILLED IN. 

WHILE the hooker was in the gulf of Portland, there was but 
little sea on ; the ocean, if gloomy, was almost still, and the sky 
was yet clear. The wind took little effect on the vessel ; the 
hooker hugged the cliff as closely as possible; it served as a 
screen to her. 

There were ten on board the little Biscayan felucca 
three men in crew, and seven passengers, of whom two were 
women. In the light of the open sea (which broadens 
twilight into day) all the figures on board were clearly visible. 
Besides they were not hiding now they were all at ease; 
each one reassumed his freedom of manner, spoke in his own 
note, showed his face; departure was to them a deliverance. 

The motley nature of the group shone out. The women 
were of no age. A wandering life produces premature old 
age, and indigence is made up of wrinkles. One of them 
was a Basque of the Dry-ports. The other, with the large 
rosary, was an Irishwoman. They wore that air of indiffer- 
ence common to the wretched. They had squatted down 
close to each other when they got on board, on chests at the 
foot of the mast. They talked to each other. Irish and 

asque are, as we have said, kindred languages. The 
Basque woman's hair was scented with onions and basil. 

le skipper of the hooker was a Basque of Guipuzcoa. One 

ailor was a Basque of the northern slope of the Pyrenees 

rther was of the southern slope that is to say, they were 

3 same nation, although the first was French and the 

ter Spanish, The Basques recognize no official country 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 79 

Mi madre se llama Montana, my mother is called the moun- 
tain, as Zalareus, the muleteer, used to say. Of the five men 
who were with the two women, one was a Frenchman of 
Languedoc, one a Frenchman of Provence, one a Genoese; 
one, an old man, he who wore the sombrero without a hole for 
a pipe, appeared to be a German. The fifth, the chief, was a 
Basque of the Landes from Biscarrosse. It was he who, just 
as the child was going on board the hooker, had, with a kick 
of his heel, cast the plank into the sea. This man, robust, 
agile, sudden in movement, covered, as may be remembered, 
with trimmings, slashings, and glistening tinsel, could not 
keep in his place; he stooped down, rose up, and continually 
passed to and fro from one end of the vessel to the other, as if 
debating uneasily on what had been done and what was 
going to happen. 

This chief of the band, the captain and the two men of the 
crew, all four Basques, spoke sometimes Basque, sometimes 
Spanish, sometimes French these three languages being 
common on both slopes of the Pyrenees. But generally 
speaking, excepting the women, all talked something like 
French, which was the foundation of their slang. The 
French language about this period began to be chosen by the 
peoples as something intermediate between the excess of 
consonants in the north and the excess of vowels in the 
south. In Europe, French was the language of commerce, 
and also of felony. It will be remembered that Gibby, a 
London thief, understood Cartouche. 

The hooker, a fine sailer, was making quick way ; still, ten 
persons, besides their baggage, were a heavy cargo for one of 
such light draught. 

The fact of the vessel's aiding the escape of a band did not 
necessarily imply that the crew were accomplices. It was 
sufficient that the captain of the vessel was a Vascongado, 
and that the chief of the band was another. Among that 
race mutual assistance is a duty which admits of no exception. 
A Basque, as we have said, is neither Spanish nor French; 
he is Basque, and always and everywhere he must succour a 
Basque. Such is Pyrenean fraternity. 



So THE LAUGHING MAN. 

All the time the hooker was in the gulf, the sky, although 
threatening, did not frown enough to cause the fugitives any 
uneasiness. They were flying, they were escaping, they 
were brutally gay. One laughed, another sang; the laugh 
was dry but free, the song was low but careless. 

The Languedocian cried, " Caoucagno / " " Cocagne " 
expresses the highest pitch of satisfaction in Narbonne. He 
was a longshore sailor, a native of the waterside village of 
Gruissan, on the southern side of the Clappe, a bargeman 
rather than a mariner, but accustomed to work the reaches of 
the inlet of Bages, and to draw the drag-net full of fish over 
the salt sands of St. Lucie. He was of the race who wear a 
red cap, make complicated signs of the cross after the Spanish 
fashion, drink wine out of goat-skins, eat scraped ham, kneel 
down to blaspheme, and implore their patron saint with 
threats " Great saint, grant me what I ask, or I'll throw 
a stone at thy head, ou te feg un pic." He might be, at need, 
a useful addition to the crew. 

The Proven9al in the caboose was blowing up a turf fire 
under an iron pot, and making broth. The broth was a kind 
of puchero, in which fish took the place of meat, and into 
which the Proven9al threw chick peas, little bits of bacon cut 
in squares, and pods of red pimento concessions made by 
the eaters of bouillabaisse to the eaters of otta podrida. One 
of the bags of provisions was beside him unpacked. He had 
lighted over his head an iron lantern, glazed with talc, which 
swung on a hook from the ceiling. By its side, OD another 
hook, swung the weather-cock halcyon. There was a popular 
belief in those days that a dead halcyon, hung by the beak, 
always turned its breast to the quarter whence the wind was 
blowing. While he made the broth, the Provenal put the 
neck of a gourd into his mouth, and now and then swallowed 
a draught of aguardiente. It was one of those gourds 
covered with wicker, broad and flat, with handles, which 
used to be hung to the side by a strap, and which were then 
called hip-gourds. Between each gulp he mumbled one of 
those country songs of which the subject is nothing at all: 
a hollow road, a hedge; you see in the meadow, through a 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 81 

gap in the bushes, the shadow of a horse and cart, elongated 
in the sunset', and from time to time, above the hedge, the 
end of a fork loaded with hay appears and disappears you 
want no more to make a song. 

A departure, according to the bent of one's mind, is a relief 
or a depression. All seemed lighter in spirits excepting the 
old man of the band, the man with the hat that had no pipe. 

This old man, who looked more German than anything else, 
although he had one of those unfathomable faces in which 
nationality is lost, was bald, and so grave that his baldness 
might have been a tonsure. Every time he passed before the 
Virgin on the prow, he raised his felt hat, so that you could 
see the swollen and senile veins of his skull. A sort of full 
gown, torn and threadbare, of brown Dorchester serge, but 
half hid his closely fitting coat, tight, compact, and hooked up 
to the neck like a cassock. His hands inclined to cross each 
other, and had the mechanical junction of habitual prayer. 
He had what might be called a wan countenance; for the 
countenance is above all things a reflection, and it is an error 
to believe that idea is colourless. That countenance was evi- 
dently the surface of a strange inner state, the result of a 
composition of contradictions, some tending to drift away in 
good, others in evil, and to an observer it was the revelation of 
one who was less and more than human capable of falling 
below the scale of the tiger, or of rising above that of man. 
Such chaotic souls exist. There was something inscrutable 
in that face. Its secret reached the abstract. You felt that 
the man had known the foretaste of evil which is the calcula- 
tion, and the after-taste which is the zero. In his impassi- 
bility, which was perhaps only on the surface, were imprinted 
two petrifactions the petrifaction of the heart proper to the 
hangman, and the petrifaction of the mind proper to the 
mandarin. One might have said (for the monstrous has its 
mode of being complete) that all things were possible to him, 
even emotion. In every savant there is something of the 
corpse, and this man was a savant. Only to see him you 
caught science imprinted in the gestures of his body and in 
the folds of his dress. His was a fossil face, the serious cast 



82 THE LAUGHING MAN 1 , 

of which was counteracted by that wrinkled mobility of the 
polyglot which verges on grimace. But a severe man withal ; 
nothing of the hypocrite, nothing of the cynic. A tragic 
dreamer. He was one of those whom crime leaves pensive; 
he had the brow of an incendiary tempered by the eyes of an 
archbishop. His sparse gray locks turned to white over his 
temples. The Christian was evident in him, complicated 
with the fatalism of the Turk. Chalkstones deformed his 
fingers, dissected by leanness. The stiffness of his tall frame 
was grotesque. He had his sea-legs, he walked slowly about 
the deck, not looking at any one, with an air decided and 
sinister. His eyeballs were vaguely filled with the fixed light 
of a soul studious of the darkness and afflicted by reappari- 
tions of conscience. 

From time to time the chief of the band, abrupt and alert, 
and making sudden turns about the vessel, came to him and 
whispered in his ear. The old man answered by a nod. It 
might have been the lightning consulting the night. 

CHAPTER III. 

TROUBLED MEN ON THE TROUBLED SEA. 

Two men on board the craft were absorbed in thought the 
old man, and the skipper of the hooker, who must not be 
mistaken for the chief of the band. The captain was occu- 
pied by the sea, the old man by the sky. The former did not 
b his eyes from the waters; the latter kept watch on the 
firmament. The skipper's anxiety was the state of the sea; 
the old man seemed to suspect the heavens. He scanned the 
tars through every break in the clouds, 
[t was the time when day still lingers, but some few stars 
Sin faintly to pierce the twilight. The horizon was singu- 
The mist upon it varied. Haze predominated on land, 
clouds at sea. 

The skipper, noting the rising billows, hauled all taut 

sfore he got outside Portland Bay. He would not delay so 

.g until he should pass the headland. He examined the 

rigging closely, and satisfied himself that the lower shrouds 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 83 

were well set up, and supported firmly the futtock-shi-ouds 
precautions of a man who means to carry on with a press of 
sail, at all risks. 

The hooker was not trimmed, being two feet by the head. 
This was her weak point. 

The captain passed every minute from the binnacle to the 
standard compass, taking the bearings of objects on shore. 
The Matutina had at first a soldier's wind which was not un- 
favourable, though she could not lie within five points of 
her course. The captain took the helm as often as possible, 
trusting no one but himself to prevent her from dropping to 
leeward, the effect of the rudder being influenced by the 
steerage- way. 

The difference between the true and apparent course being 
relative to the way on the vessel, the hooker seemed to lie 
closer to the wind than she did in reality. The breeze was 
not a-beam, nor was the hooker close-hauled ; but one cannot 
ascertain the true course made, except when the wind is 
abaft. When you perceive long streaks of clouds meeting in 
a point on the horizon, you may be sure that the wind is in 
that quarter; but this evening the wind was variable; the 
needle fluctuated; the captain distrusted the erratic move- 
ments of the vessel. He steered carefully but resolutely, 
luffed her up, watched her coming to, prevented her from 
yawing, and from running into the wind's eye: noted the lee- 
way, the little jerks of the helm: was observant of every roll 
and pitch of the vessel, of the difference in her speed, and of 
the variable gusts of wind. For fear of accidents, he was 
constantly on the lookout for squalls from off the land he 
was hugging, and above all he was cautious to keep her full ; 
the direction of the breeze indicated by the compass being un- 
certain from the small size of the instrument. The captain's 
eyes, frequently lowered, remarked every change in the waves. 

Once nevertheless he raised them towards the sky, and 
tried to make out the three stars of Orion's belt. These stars 
are called the three magi, and an old proverb of the ancient 
Spanish pilots declares that, " He who sees the three magi is 
not far from the Saviour." 



84 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

This glance of the captain's tallied with an aside growled 
out, at the other end of the vessel, by the old man. " We 
don't even see the pointers, nor the star Antares, red as he is. 
Not one is distinct." 

No care troubled the other fugitives. 

Still, when the first hilarity they felt in their escape had 
passed away, they could not help remembering that they were 
at sea in the month of January, and that the wind was frozen. 
It was impossible to establish themselves in the cabin. It 
was much too narrow and too much encumbered by bales and 
baggage. The baggage belonged to the passengers, the bales 
to the crew, for the hooker was no pleasure boat, and was 
engaged in smuggling. The passengers were obliged to settle 
themselves on deck, a condition to which these wanderers 
easily resigned themselves. Open-air habits make it simple 
for vagabonds to arrange themselves for the night. The 
open air (la belle etoile) is their friend, and the cold helps them 
to sleep sometimes to die. 

This night, as we have seen, there was no belle etoile. 

The Languedocian and the Genoese, while waiting for 
supper, rolled themselves up near the women, at the foot of 
the mast, in some tarpaulin which the sailors had thrown 
them. 

The old man remained at the bow motionless, and appar- 
ently insensible to the cold. 

The captain of the hooker, from the helm where he was 
standing, uttered a sort of guttural call somewhat like the 
cry of the American bird called the exclaimer; at his call the 
chief of the band drew near, and the captain addressed him 
thus, 

" Etcheco Jauna." These two words, which mean " tiller 
of the mountain," form with the old Cantabri a solemn 
preface to any subject which should command attention. 

Then the captain pointed the old man out to the chief, and 
ie dialogue continued in Spanish; it was not, indeed, a very 
correct dialect, being that of the mountains. Here are the 
questions and answers. 

" Etcheco jauna, que e3 este hombre? " 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 85 

" Un hombre." 

"Que lenguashabla?" 

" Todas." 

" Que cosas sabe? " 

" Todas." 

"Qualpais?" 

" Ningun, y todos." 

" Qualdios? " 

" Dios." 

" Como le llamas? " 

" El tonto." 

" Como dices que le llamas? ' 

" El sabio." 

" En vuestre tropa que esta? " 

" Esta lo que esta." 

"Elgefe?" 

" No." 

"Pues que esta?" 

" La alma."* 

The chief and the captain parted, each reverting to his 
own meditation, and a little while afterwards the Matutina 
left the gulf. 

Now came the great rolling of the open sex. The ocean in 
the spaces between the ioam was slimy in appearance. The 
waves, seen through the twilight in indistinct outline, some- 
what resembled plashes of gall. Here and there a wave 
floating flat showed cracks and stars, like a pane of glass 
broken by stones ; in the centre of these stars, in a revolving 
orifice, trembled a phosphorescence, like that feline reflection 
of vanished light which shines in the eyeballs of owls. 

* 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. 



86 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Proudly, like a bold swimmer, the Matutina crossed the 
dangerous Shambles shoal. This bank, a hidden obstruction 
at the entrance of Portland roads, is not a barrier ; it is an 
amphitheatre a circus of sand under the sea, its benches cut 
out by the circling of the waves an arena, round and sym- 
metrical, as high as a Jungfrau, only drowned a coliseum 
of the ocean, seen by the diver in the vision-like transparency 
which engulfs him, such is the Shambles shoal. There 
hydras fight, leviathans meet. There, says the legend, at the 
bottom of the gigantic shaft, are the wrecks of ships, seized 
and sunk by the huge spider Kraken, also called the fish- 
mountain. Such things lie in the fearful shadow of the sea. 

These spectral realities, unknown to man, are manifested 
at the surface by a slight shiver. 

In this nineteenth century, the Shambles bank is in ruins; 
the breakwater recently constructed has overthrown and 
mutilated, by the force of its surf, that high submarine archi- 
tecture, just as the jetty, built at the Croisic in 1760, changed, 
by a quarter of an hour, the course of the tides. And yet the 
tide is eternal. But eternity obeys man more than man 
imagines. 

CHAPTER IV. 

A CLOUD DIFFERENT FROM THE OTHERS ENTERS ON THE 
SCENE. 

THE old man whom the chief of the band had named first the 
Madman, then the Sage, now never left the forecastle. Since 
they crossed the Shambles shoal, his attention had been 
divided between the heavens and the waters. He looked 
down, he looked upwards, and above all watched the north- 
east 

The skipper gave the helm to a sailor, stepped over the 
after hatchway, crossed the gangway, and went on to the 
.orecastle. He approached the old man, but not in front. 
He stood a little behind, with elbows resting on his hips, with 
outstretched hands, the head on one aide, with open eyes and 

ched eyebrows, and a smile in the corners of his mouth an 
itudc of curiosity hesitating between mockery and respect. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 87 

The old man, either that it was his habit to talk to himself, 
or that hearing some one behind incited him to speech, began 
to soliloquize while he looked into space. 

" The meridian, from which the right ascension is calcu- 
lated, is marked in this century by four stars the Polar, 
Cassiopeia's Chair, Andromeda's Head, and the star Algenib, 
which is in Pegasus. But there is not one visible." 

These words followed each other mechanically, confused, 
and scarcely articulated, as if he did not care to pronounce 
them. They floated out of his mouth and dispersed. 
Soliloquy is the smoke exhaled by the inmost fires of the soul. 

The skipper broke in, " My lord ! " 

The old man, perhaps rather deaf as well as very thought- 
ful, went on, 

" Too few stars, and too much wind. The breeze con- 
tinually changes its direction and blows inshore ; thence it 
rises perpendicularly. This results from the land being 
warmer than the water. Its atmosphere is lighter. The 
cold and dense wind of the sea rushes in to replace it. From 
this cause, in the upper regions the wind blows towards the 
land from every quarter. It would be advisable to make long 
tacks between the true and apparent parallel. When the 
latitude by observation differs from the latitude by dead 
reckoning by not more than three minutes in thirty miles, or 
by four minutes in sixty miles, you are in the true course." 

The skipper bowed, but the old man saw him not. The 
latter, who wore what resembled an Oxford or Gottingen 
university gown, did not relax his haughty and rigid attitude. 
He observed the waters as a critic of waves and of men. He 
studied the billows, but almost as if he was about to demand 
his turn to speak amidst their turmoil, and teach them some- 
thing. There was in him both pedagogue and soothsayer. 
He seemed an oracle of the deep. 

He continued his soliloquy, which was perhaps intended to 
be heard. 

" We might strive if we had a wheel instead of a helm. 
With a speed of twelve miles an hour, a force of twenty pounds 
exerted on the wheel produce* three 



88 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

pounds' effect on the course. And more too For in some 
cases, with a double block and runner, they can get two 
more revolutions." 

The skipper bowed a second time, and said, " My lord! 

The old man's eye rested on him ; he had turned his head 
without moving his body. 

"Call me Doctor." 

" Master Doctor, I am the skipper." 

" Just so," said the doctor. 

The doctor, as henceforward we shall call him, appeared 
willing to converse. 

" Skipper, have you an English sextant? " 

" No." 

" Without an English sextant you cannot take an altitude 
at all." 

" The Basques,'" replied the captain, " took altitudes 
before there were any English." 

" Be careful you are not taken aback." 

" I keep her away when necessary." 

" Have you tried how many knots she is running? " 

" Yes." 

"When?" 

" Just now." 

"How?" 

" By the log." 

" Did you take the trouble to look at the triangle? " 

" Yes." 

" Did the sand run through the glass in exactly thirty 
seconds? " 

" Yes." 

" Are you sure that the sand has not worn the hole 
between the globes? " 

" Yes." 

" Have you proved the sand-glass by the oscillations of a 
bullet?" 

" Suspended by a rope yarn drawn out from the top of a 
coil of soaked hemp? Undoubtedly." 

" Have you waxed the yarn lest it should stretch? " 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 89 

" Yes." 

" Have you tested the log? " 

" I tested the sand-glass by the bullet, and checked the log 
by a round shot." 

" Of what size was the shot? " 

" One foot In diameter." 

" Heavy enough? " 

"It is an old round shot of our war hooker, La Casse de 
Par-Grand." 

" Which was in the Armada? " 

" Yes." 

" And which carried six hundred soldiers, fifty sailors, and 
twenty-five guns? " 

" Shipwreck knows it." 

" How did you compute the resistance of the water to the 
shot? " 

" By means of a German scale." 

" Have you taken into account the resistance of the rope 
supporting the shot to the waves ? " 

" Yes." 

" What was the result? " 

" The resistance of the water was 170 pounds." 

" That's to say she is running four French leagues an hour." 

" And three Dutch leagues." 

" But that is the difference merely of the vessel's way and 
the rate at which the sea is running ? " 

" Undoubtedly." 

" Whither are you steering? " 

" For a creek I know, between Loyola and St. Sebastian." 

" Make the latitude of the harbour's mouth as soon as 
possible." 

" Yes, as near as I can." 

" Beware of gusts and currents. The first cause the 
second." 

" Traidores." * 

" No abuse. The sea understands. Insult nothing. Rest 
satisfied with watching." 

* Traitors. 



po THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" I have watched, and I do watch. Just now the tide is 
running against the wind; by-and-by, when it turns, we 
shall be all right." 

" Have you a chart? " 
"No; not for this channel." 
" Then you sail by rule of thumb? " 
" Not at all. I have a compass." 
" The compass is one eye, the chart the other." 
" A man with one eye can see." 

" How do you compute the difference between the true 
and apparent course? " 

" I've got my standard compass, and I make a guess." 
" To guess is all very well. To know for certain is better.'* 
" Christopher guessed." 

" When there is a fog and the needle revolves treacher- 
ously, you can never tell on which side you should look out 
for squalls, and the end of it is that you know neither the 
true nor apparent day's work. An ass with his chart is 
better off than a wizard with his oracle." 

" There is no fog in the breeze yet, and I see no cause for 
alarm." 

" Ships are like flies in the spider's web of the sea." 
" Just now both winds and waves are tolerably favour- 
able. 

" Black specks quivering on the billows such are men on 
the ocean." 

" I dare say there will be nothing wrong to-night." 
" You may get into such a mess that you will find it hard 
to get out of it." 

" All goes well at present." 

The doctor's eyes were fixed on the north-east. The 
skipper continued, 

" Let us once reach the Gulf of Gascony, and I answer for 
our safety. Ah ! I should say I am at home there. I know 
it well, my Gulf of Gascony. It is a little basin, often very 
boisterous; but there, I know every sounding in it and the 
nature of the bottom mud opposite San Cipriano, shells 
opposite Cizarque, sand off Cape Penas, little pebbles off 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 91 

Boncaut de Mimizan, and I know the colour of every 
pebble." 

The skipper broke oS; the doctor was no longer listening. 

The doctor gazed at the north-east Over that icy face 
passed an extraordinary expression. All the agony of terror 
possible to a mask of stone was depicted there. From his 
mouth escaped this word, " Good! " 

His eyeballs, which had all at once become quite round like 
an owl's, were dilated with stupor on discovering a speck on 
the horizon. He added, 

" It is well. As for me, I am resigned/" 

The skipper looked at him. The doctor went on talking to 
himself, or to some one in the deep, 

" I say, Yes." 

Then he was silent, opened his eyes wider and wider with 
renewed attention on that which he was watching, and said, 

"It is coming from afar, but not the less surely will it 
come." 

The arc of the horizon which occupied the visual rays and 
thoughts of the doctor, being opposite to the west, was 
illuminated by the transcendent reflection of twilight, as it 
it were day. This arc, limited in extent, and surrounded by 
streaks of grayish vapour, was uniformly blue, but of a leaden 
rather than cerulean blue. The doctor, having completely 
returned to the contemplation of the sea, pointed to this 
atmospheric arc, and said, 

" Skipper, do you see? " 

"What?" 

" That." 

"What?" 

" Out there." 

"A blue spot? Yes." 

"What is it?" 

" A niche in heaven." 

" For those who go to heaven; for those who go elsewhere 
it is another affair." And he emphasized these enigmatical 
words with an appalling expression which was unseen in the 
darkness. 



92 THE LAUGHING MAN = 

A silence ensued. The skipper, remembering the two 
names given by the chief to this man, asked himself the 
question, 

" Is he a madman, or is he a sage? " 

The stiff and bony finger of the doctor remained im- 
movably pointing, like a sign-post, to the misty blue spot in 
the sky. 

The skipper looked at this spot. 

" In truth," he growled out, " it is not sky but clouds." 

" A blue cloud is worse than a black cloud," said the doctor; 
" and," he added, " it's a snow-cloud." 

" La nube de la nieve,' said the skipper, as if trying to 
understand the word better by translating it. 

" Do you know what a snow-cloud is? " asked the doctor. 

" No." 

" You'll know by-and-by." 

The skipper again turned his attention to the horizon. 

Continuing to observe the cloud, he muttered between his 
teeth, 

" One month of squalls, another of wet ; January with its 
gales, February with its rains that's all the winter we 
Asturians get. Our rain even is warm. We've no snow but 
on the mountains. Ay, ay; look out for the avalanche. The 
avalanche is no respecter of persons. The avalanche is a 
brute." 

" And the waterspout is a monster," said the doctor, 
adding, after a pause, " Here it comes." He continued, 
"Several winds are getting up together a strong wind 
from the west, and a gentle wind from the east." 

" That last is a deceitful one," said the skipper. 

The blue cloud was growing larger. 

" If the snow," said the doctor, " is appalling when it slips 
down the mountain, think what it is when it falls from the 
Pole!" 

His eye was glassy. The cloud seemed to spread over his 
face and simultaneously over the horizon. He continued, in 
muting tones, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 93 

" Every minute the fatal hour draws nearer. The will of 
Heaven is about to be manifested." 

The skipper asked himself again this question, " Is he 
a madman? " 

" Skipper," began the doctor, without taking his eyes off 
the cloud, " have you often crossed the Channel? " 

"This is the first time." 

The doctor, who was absorbed by the blue cloud, and who, 
as a sponge can take up but a definite quantity of water, had 
but a definite measure of anxiety, displayed no more emotion 
at this answer of the skipper than was expressed by a slight 
shrug of his shoulders. 

"How is that?" 

" Master Doctor, my usual cruise is to Ireland. I sail from 
Fontarabia to Black Harbour or to the Achill Islands. I go 
sometimes to Braich-y-Pwll, a point on the Welsh coast. 
But I always steer outside the Scilly Islands. I do not know 
this sea at all." 

" That's serious. Woe to him who is inexperienced on the 
ocean! One ought to be familiar with the Channel the 
Channel is the Sphinx. Look out for shoals." 

" We are in twenty-five fathoms here." 

" We ought to get into fifty-five fathoms to the west, and 
avoid even twenty fathoms to the east." 

" We'll sound as we get on." 

" The Channel is not an ordinary sea. The water rises 
fifty feet with the spring tides, and twenty-five with neap 
tides. Here we are in slack water. I thought you looked 
scared." 

" We'll sound to-night." 

" To sound you must heave to, and that you cannot do." 

"Why not?" 

" On account of the wind." 

" We'll try." 

" The squall is close on us." 

" We'll sound, Master Doctor." 

" You could not even bring to." 

" Trust in God." 



94 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" Take care what you say. Pronounce not lightly the 
awful name." 

" I will sound, I tell you." 

" Be sensible; you will have a gale of wind presently." 

" I say that I will try for soundings." 

" The resistance of the water will prevent the lead from 
sinking, and the line will break. Ah! so this is your first 
time in these waters? " 

" The first time." 

" Very well; in that case listen, skipper." 

The tone of the word " listen " was so commanding that 
the skipper made an obeisance. 

" Master Doctor, I am all attention." 

" Port your helm, and haul up on the starboard tack." 

" What do you mean? " 

" Steer your course to the west." 

"Caramba! " 

" Steer your course to the west." 

" Impossible." 

" As you will. What I tell you is for the others' sake. 
As for myself, I am indifferent." 

" But, Master Doctor, steer west? " 

" Yes, skipper." 

" The wind will be dead ahead." 

" Yes, skipper." 
' She'll pitch like the devil." 

" Moderate your language. Yes, skipper." 

" The vessel would be in irons." 

" Yes, skipper." 

" That means very likely the mast will go." 

" Possibly." 

" Do you wish me to steer west? " 

" Yes." 

" I cannot." 
1 In that case settle your reckoning with the sea." 

" The wind ought to change." 

" It will not change all night." 

" Why not ? " 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 95 

" Because it is a wind twelve hundred leagues in length." 

" Make headway against such a wind ! Impossible." 

" To the west, I tell you." 

"I'll try, but in spite of everything she will fall off." 

" That's the danger." 

" The wind sets us to the east." 

" Don't go to the east." 

"Why not?" 

" Skipper, do you know what is for us the word of death ? " 

" No." 

" Death is the east" 

" I'll steer west." 

This time the doctor, having turned right round, looked 
the skipper full in the face, and with his eyes resting on him, 
as though to implant the idea in his head, pronounced slowly, 
syllable by syllable, these words, 

" If to-night out at sea we hear the sound of a bell, the 
ship is lost." 

The skipper pondered in amaze. 

" What do you mean? " 

The doctor did not answer. His countenance, expressive 
for a moment, was now reserved. His eyes became vacuous. 
He did not appear to hear the skipper's wondering question. 
He was now attending to his own monologue. His lips let 
fall, as if mechanically, in a low murmuring tone, these 
words, 

" The time has come for sullied souls to purify themselves." 

The skipper made that expressive grimace which raises the 
chin towards the nose. 

" He is more madman than sage," he growled, and moved 
off. 

Nevertheless he steered west. 

But the wind and the sea were rising. 



96 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

CHAPTER V. 

HARDQUANONNE. 

THE mist was deformed by all sorts of inequalities, bulging 
out at once on every point of the horizon, as if invisible 
mouths were busy puffing out the bags of wind. The forma- 
tion of the clouds was becoming ominous. In the west, as 
in the east, the sky's depths were now invaded by the blue 
cloud: it advanced in the teeth of the wind. These contra- 
dictions are part of the wind's vagaries. 

The sea, which a moment before wore scales, now wore a 
skin such is the nature of that dragon. It was no longer a 
crocodile; it was a boa. The skin, lead-coloured and dirty, 
looked thick, and was crossed by Ixeavy wrinkles. Here and 
there, on its surface, bubbles of surge, like pustules, gathered 
and then burst. The foam was like a leprosy. It was at 
this moment that the hooker, still seen from afar by the 
child, lighted her signal. 

A quarter of an hour elapsed. 

The skipper looked for the doctor: he was no longer on 
deck. Directly the skipper had left him, the doctor had 
stooped his somewhat ungainly form under the hood, and had 
entered the cabin; there he had sat down near the stove, on 
a block. He had taken a shagreen ink-bottle and a cordwain 
pocket-book from his pocket; he had extracted from his 
pocket-book a parchment folded four times, old, stained, and 
yellow ; he had opened the sheet, taken a pen out of his ink- 
case, placed the pocket-book flat on his knee, and the parch- 
ment on the pocket-book; and by the rays of the lantern, 
which was lighting the cook, he set to writing on the back of 
the parchment. The roll of the waves inconvenienced him. 
He wrote thus for some time. 

As he wrote, the doctor remarked the gourd of aguardiente, 
which the Provengal tasted every time he added a grain of 
pimento to the puchero, as if he were consulting it in reference 
to the seasoning. The doctor noticed the gourd, not because 
it was a, bottle of brandy, but because of a name which was 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 97 

plaited in the wickerwork with red rushes on a background 
of white. There was light enough in the cabin to permit of 
his reading the name. 

The doctor paused, and spelled it in a low voice, 

" Hardquanonne." 

Then he addressed the cook. 

" I had not observed that gourd before; did it belong to 
Hardquanonne? " 

"Yes," the cook answered; "to our poor comrade, 
Hardquanonne. ' ' 

The doctor went on, 

" To Hardquanonne, the Fleming of Flanders? " 
. "Yes." 

" Who is in prison? " 

" Yes." 

" In the dungeon at Chatham? " 

"It is his gourd," replied the cook; " and he was my 
friend. I keep it in remembrance of him. When shall we 
see him again? It is the bottle he used to wear slung over 
his hip." 

The doctor took up his pen again, and continued labori- 
ously tracing somewhat straggling lines on the parchment. 
He was evidently anxious that his handwriting should be 
very legible ; and at length, notwithstanding the tremulous- 
ness of the vessel and the tremulousness of age, he finished 
what he wanted to write. 

It was time, for suddenly a sea struck the craft, a mighty 
rush of waters besieged the hooker, and they felt her break 
into that fearful dance in which ships lead off with the 
tempest. 

The doctor arose and approached the stove, meeting the 

ship's motion with his knees dexterously bent, dried as best 

he could, at the stove where the pot was boiling, the lines he 

' ( had written, refolded the parchment in the pocket-book, and 

\ replaced the pocket-book and the inkhorn in his pocket. 

The stove was not the least ingenious piece of interior 
economy in the hooker. It was j udiciously isolated. Mean- 
while the pot heaved the Provenfal was watching it. 

4 



9 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" Fish broth," said he. 

" For the fishes," repUed the doctor. Then he went on 
deck again. 

CHAPTER VI. 

THEY THINK THAT HELP IS AT HAND. 

THROUGH his growing preoccupation the doctor in some 
sort reviewed the situation ; and any one near to him might 
have heard these words drop from his lips, 

" Too much rolling, and not enough pitching." 

Then recalled to himself by the dark workings of his mind, 
he sank again into thought, as a miner into his shaft. His 
meditation in nowise interfered with his watch on the sea. 
The contemplation of the sea is in itself a reverie. 

The dark punishment of the waters, eternally tortured, 
was commencing. A lamentation arose from the whole main. 
Preparations, confused and melancholy, were forming in 
space. The doctor observed all before him, and lost no 
detail. There was, however, no sign of scrutiny in his face. 
One does not scrutinize hell. 

A vast commotion, yet half latent, but visible through the 
turmoils in space, increased and irritated, more and more, the 
winds, the vapours, the waves. Nothing is so logical and 
nothing appears so absurd as the ocean. Self-dispersion is 
the essence of its sovereignty, and is one of the elements of its 
redundance. The sea is ever for and against. It knots that 
it may unravel itself; one of its slopes attacks, the other 
relieves. No apparition is so wonderful as the waves. Who 
can paint the alternating hollows and promontories, the 
valleys, the melting bosoms, the sketches ? How render the 
thickets of foam, blendings of mountains and dreams ? The 
indescribable is everywhere there in the rending, in the 
frowning, in the anxiety, in the perpetual contradiction, in 
the chiaroscuro, in the pendants of the cloud, in the keys of 
the ever-open vault, in the disaggregation without rupture, 
in the funereal tumult caused by all that madness ! 

The wind had just set due north. Its violence was so 
favourable and BO uaef ul in driving them away from England 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 99 

that the captain of the Matutina had made up his mind to set 
all sail. The hooker slipped through the foam as at a gallop, 
the wind right aft, bounding from wave to wave in a gay 
frenzy. The fugitives were delighted, and laughed; they 
clapped their hands, applauded the surf, the sea, the wind, 
the sails, the swift progress, the flight, all unmindful of the 
future. The doctor appeared not to see them, and dreamt on. 

Every vestige of day had faded away. This was the 
moment when the child, watching from the distant cliff, lost 
sight of the hooker. Up to then his glance had remained 
fixed, and, as it were, leaning on the vessel. What part had 
that look in fate ? When the hooker was lost to sight in the 
distance, and when the child could no longer see aught, the 
child went north and the ship went south. 

All were plunged in darkness. 

CHAPTER VII. 

SUPERHUMAN HORRORS. 

ON their part it was with wild jubilee and delight that those 
on board the hooker saw the hostile land recede and lessen 
behind them. By degrees the dark ring of ocean rose higher, 
dwarfing in twilight Portland, Purbeck, Tineham, Kim- 
meridge, the Matravers, the long streaks of dim cliffs, and 
the coast dotted with lighthouses. 

England disappeared. The fugitives had now nothing 
round them but the sea. 

All at once night grew awful. 

There was no longer extent nor space; the sky became 
blackness, and closed in round the vessel. The snow began 
to fall slowly; a few flakes appeared. They might have 
been ghosts. Nothing else was visible in the course of the 
wind. They felt as if yielded up. A snare lurked in every 
possibility. 

It is in this cavernous darkness that in our climate the 
Polar waterspout makes its appearance. 

A great muddy cloud, like to the belly of a hydra, hung 
over ocean, and in places its lividity adhered to the waves. 



I0 o THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Some of these adherences resembled pouches with holes, 
pumping the sea, disgorging vapour, and refilling them- 
selves with water. Here and there these suctions drew up 
cones of foam on the sea. 

The boreal storm hurled itself on the hooker. The hooker 
rushed to meet it. The squall and the vessel met as though 
to insult each other. 

In the first mad shock not a sail was clewed up, not a jib 
lowered, not a reef taken in, so much is flight a delirium. 
The mast creaked and bent back as if in fear. 

Cyclones, in our northern hemisphere, circle from left to 
right, in the same direction as the hands of a watch, with a 
velocity which is sometimes as much as sixty miles an hour. 
Although she was entirely at the mercy of that whirling 
power, the hooker behaved as if she were out in moderate 
weather, without any further precaution than keeping her 
head on to the rollers, with the wind broad on the bow so as 
to avoid being pooped or caught broadside on. This semi- 
prudence would have availed her nothing in case of the 
wind's shifting and taking her aback. 

A deep rumbling was brewing up in the distance. The 
roar of the abyss, nothing can be compared to it. It is the 
great brutish howl of the universe. What we call matter, 
that unsearchable organism, that amalgamation of incom^ 
mensurable energies, in which can occasionally be detected 
an almost imperceptible degree of intention which makes us 
shudder, that blind, benighted cosmos, that enigmatical Pan, 
has a cry, a strange cry, prolonged, obstinate, and continuous, 
which is less than speech and more than thunder. That cry 
is the hurricane. Other voices, songs, melodies, clamours, 
tones, proceed from nests, from broods, from pairings, from 
nuptials, from homes. This one, a trumpet, comes out of 
the Naught, which is All. Other voices express the soul of 
the universe; this one expresses the monster. It is the howl 
of the formless. It is the inarticulate finding utterance in 
the indefinite. A thing it is full of pathos and terror. Those 
clamours converse above and beyond man. They rise, fall, 
undulate, determine waves of sound, form all sorts of wild 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 101 

surprises for the mind, now burst close to the ear with the 
importunity of a peal of trumpets, now assail us with the 
rumbling hoarseness of distance. Giddy uproar which 
resembles a language, and which, in fact, is a language. It 
is the effort which the world makes to speak. It is the 
lisping of the wonderful. In this wail is manifested vaguely 
all that the vast dark palpitation endures, suffers, accepts, 
rejects. For the most part it talks nonsense; it is like an 
access of chronic sickness, and rather an epilepsy diffused 
than a force employed ; we fancy that we are witnessing the 
descent of supreme evil into the infinite. At moments we 
seem to discern a reclamation of the elements, some vain 
effort of chaos to reassert itself over creation. At times it is 
a complaint. The void bewails and justifies itself. It is as 
the pleading of the world's cause. We can fancy that the 
universe is engaged in a lawsuit ; we listen we try to grasp 
the reasons given, the redoubtable for and against. Such a 
moaning of the shadows has the tenacity of a syllogism. 
Here is a vast trouble for thought. Here is the raison d'etre 
of mythologies and polytheisms. To the terror of those 
great murmurs are added superhuman outlines melting away 
as they appear Eumenides which are almost distinct, 
throats of Furies shaped in the clouds, Plutonian chimeras 
almost defined. No horrors equal those sobs, those laughs, 
jfchose tricks of tumult, those inscrutable questions and 
answers, those appeals to unknown aid. Man knows not 
what to become in the presence of that awful incantation. 
He bows under the enigma of those Draconian intonations. 
What v latent meaning have they? What do they signify? 
What do they threaten ? What do they implore ? It would 
seem as though all bonds were loosened. Vociferations from 
precipice to precipice, from air to water, from the wind to 
the wave, from the rain to the rock, from the zenith to the 
nadir, from the stars to the foam the abyss unmuzzled 
such is that tumult, complicated by some mysterious strife 
with evil consciences. 

The loquacity of night is not less lugubrious than its 
silence. One feels in it the anger of the unknown. 



XU2 THE LAUGHING MAN*. 

Night is a presence. Presence of what ? 

For that matter we must distinguish between night and the 
shadows. In the night there is the absolute; in the darkness 
the multiple. Grammar, logic as it is, admits of no singular 
for the shadows. The night is one, the shadows are many.* 

This mist of nocturnal mystery is the scattered, the fugi- 
tive, the crumbling, the fatal; one feels earth no longer, one 
feels the other reality. 

In the shadow, infinite and indefinite, lives something or 
some one ; but that which lives there forms part of our death. 
After our earthly passage, when that shadow shall be light 
for us, the life which is beyond our life shall seize us. Mean- 
while it appears to touch and try us. Obscurity is a 
pressure. Night is, as it were, a hand placed on our soul. 
At certain hideous and solemn hours we feel that which is 
beyond the wall of the tomb encroaching on us. 

Never does this proximity of the unknown seem more 
imminent than in storms at sea. The horrible combines with 
the fantastic. The possible interrupter of human actions, 
the old Cloud compeller, has it in his power to mould, in 
whatsoever shape he chooses, the inconsistent element, the 
limitless incoherence, the force diffused and undecided of 
aim. That mystery the tempest every instant accepts and 
executes some unknown changes of will, apparent or real. 

Poets have, in all ages, called this the caprice of the waves. 
But there is no such thing as caprice. The disconcerting 
enigmas which in nature we call caprice, and in human life 
chance, are splinters of a law revealed to us in glimpses. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

NIX ET NOX. 

THE characteristic of the snowstorm is its blackness. 
Nature's habitual aspect during a storm, the earth or sea 
black and the sky pale, is reversed; the sky is black, the 

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 
tor cUrknoaft it plural H*&r, 



fHE LAUGHING MAN, 103 

ocean white, foam below, darkness above; a horizon 
walled in with smoke; a zenith roofed with crape. The 
tempest resembles a cathedral hung with mourning, but no 
light in that cathedral: no phantom lights on the crests of 
the waves, no spark, no phosphorescence, naught but a 
huge shadow. The polar cyclone differs from the tropical 
cyclone, inasmuch as the one sets fire to every light, and the 
other extinguishes them all. The world is suddenly con- 
verted into the arched vault of a cave. Out of the night falls 
a dust of pale spots, which hesitate between sky and sea. 
These spots, which are flakes of snow, slip, wander, and flow. 
It is like the tears of a winding-sheet putting themselves into 
lifelike motion. A mad wind mingles with this dissemina- 
tion. Blackness crumbling into whiteness, the furious into 
the obscure, all the tumult of which the sepulchre is capable, 
a whirlwind under a catafalque such is the snowstorm. 
Underneath trembles the ocean, forming and re-forming over 
portentous unknown depths. 

In the polar wind, which is electrical, the flakes turn 
suddenly into hailstones, and the air becomes filled with 
projectiles; the water crackles, shot with grape. 

No thunderstrokes : the lightning of boreal storms is silent. 
What is sometimes said of the cat, " it swears," may be 
applied to this lightning. It is a menace proceeding from 
a mouth half open and strangely inexorable. The snow- 
storm is a storm blind and dumb; when it has passed, the 
ships also are often blind and the sailors dumb. 

To escape from such an abyss is difficult. 

It would be wrong, however, to believe shipwreck to be 
absolutely inevitable. The Danish fishermen of Disco and 
the Balesin; the seekers of black whales; Hearn steering 
towards Behring Strait, to discover the mouth of Copper- 
m:ne River; Hudson, Mackenzie, Vancouver, Ross, Dumont 
D'Urville, all underwent at the Pole Itself the wildest 
hurricanes, and escaped out of them. 

It was into this description of tempest that the hooker had 
entered, triumphant and in full sail frenzy against frenzy. 
When Montgomery, escaping from Rouen, threw his galley, 



104 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

with all the force of its oars, against the chain barring the 

Seine at La Bouille, he showed similar effrontery. 

The Matutina sailed on fast; she bent so much under her 
sails that at moments she made a fearful angle with the sea 
of fifteen degrees; but her good bellied keel adhered to the 
water as if glued to it. The keel resisted the grasp of 
the hurricane. The lantern at the prow cast its light 
ahead. 

The cloud, full of winds, dragging its tumour over the deep, 
cramped and eat more and more into the sea round the 
hooker. Not a gull, not a sea-mew, nothing but snow. The 
expanse of the field of waves was becoming contracted and 
terrible ; only three or four gigantic ones were visible. 

Now and then a tremendous flash of lightning of a red 
copper colour broke out behind the obscure superposition 
of the horizon and the zenith; that sudden release of 
vermilion flame revealed the horror of the clouds; that 
abrupt conflagration of the depths, to which for an instant 
the first tiers of clouds and the distant boundaries of the 
celestial chaos seemed to adhere, placed the abyss in per- 
spective. On this ground of fire the snow-flakes showed 
black they might have been compared to dark butterflies 
flying about in a furnace then all was extinguished. 

The first explosion over, the squall, still pursuing the 
hooker, began to roar in thorough bass. This phase of 
grumbling is a perilous diminution of uproar. Nothing is so 
terrifying as this monologue of the storm. This gloomy 
recitative appears to serve as a moment of rest to the 
mysterious combating forces, and indicates a species of 
patrol kept in the unknown. 

The hooker held wildly on her course. Her two mainsails 
especially were doing fearful work. The sky and sea were as 
of ink with jets of foam running higher than the mast. 
Every instant masses of water r,wept the deck like a deluge, 
and at each roll of the vessel the hawse-holes, now to star- 
board, now 'o larboard, became as so many open mouths 
vomiting back the foam into the sea. The women had taken 
refuge in the cabin, but the men remained on deck; the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 105 

blinding snow eddied round, the spitting surge mingled with 
it. All was fury. 

At that moment the chief of the band, standing abaft on 
the stern frames, holding on with one hand to the shrouds, 
and with the other taking off the kerchief he wore round his 
head and waving it in the light of the lantern, gay and 
arrogant, with pride in his face, and his hair in wild disorder, 
intoxicated by all the darkness, cried out, 

"Wearefreel" 

" Free, free, free," echoed the fugitives, and the band, 
seizing hold of the rigging, rose up on deck. 

" Hurrah! " shouted the chief. 

And the band shouted in the storm, 

"Hurrah!" 

Just as this clamour was dying away in the tempest, a 
loud solemn voice rose from the other end of the vessel, 
saying, 

"Silence!" 

All turned their heads. The darkness was thick, and the 
doctor was leaning against the mast so that he seemed part 
of it, and they could not see him. 

The voice spoke again, 

"Listen!" 

All were silent. 

Then did they distinctly hear through the darkness the toll 
( of a bell. 

CHAPTER IX. 

THE CHARGE CONFIDED TO A RAGING SEA. 

THE skipper, at the helm, burst out laughing, 

" A bell ! that's good. We are on the larboard tack. 
What does the bell prove? Why, that we have land to 
starboard." 

The firm and measured voice of the doctor replied, 

" You have not land to starboard." 

" But we have," shouted the skipper. 

"No! " 

" But that bell tolls from the land." 



106 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" That bell," said the doctor, " tolls from the sea." 

A shudder passed over these daring men. The haggard 
faces of the two women appeared above the companion like 
two hobgoblins conjured up. The doctor took a step forward, 
separating his tall form from the mast. From the depth of 
the night's darkness came the toll of the bell. 

The doctor resumed, 

" There is in the midst of the sea, halfway between Port- 
land and the Channel Islands, a buoy, placed there as a 
caution; that buoy is moored by chains to the shoal, and 
floats on the top of the water. On the buoy is fixed an Iron 
trestle, and across the trestle a bell is hung. In bad weather 
heavy seas toss the buoy, and the bell rings. * That is the 
bell you hear." 

The doctor paused to allow an extra violent gust of wind 
to pass over, waited until the sound of the bell reasserted 
itself, and then went on, > 

" To hear that bell in a storm, when the nor'-wester is 
blowing, is to be lost. Wherefore? For this reason : if you 
hear the bell, it is because the wind brings it to you. But 
the wind is nor'-westerly, and the breakers of Aurigny lie 
east. You hear the bell only because you are between the 
buoy and the breakers. It is on those breakers the wind is 
driving you. You are on the wrong side of the buoy. If you 
were on the right side, you would be out at sea on a safe 
course, and you would not hear the bell. The wind would 
not convey the sound to you. You would pass close to the 
buoy without knowing it. We are out of our course. That 
bell is shipwreck sounding the tocsin. Now, look outl " 

As the doctor spoke, the bell, soothed by a lull of the 
storm, rang slowly stroke by stroke, and its intermitting 
toll seemed to testify to the truth of the old man's words. 
It was as the knell of the abyss. 

All listened breathless, now to the voice, now to the bell. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 107 

CHAPTER X. 

THE COLOSSAL SAVAGE, THE STORM. 

IN the meantime the skipper had caught up his speaking- 
trumpet. 

" Strike every sail, my lads; let go the sheets, man the 
down-hauls, lower ties and brails. Let us steer to the west, 
let us regain the high sea; head for the buoy, steer for the 
bell there's an offing down there. We've yet a chance." 

" Try," said the doctor. 

Let us remark here, by the way, that this ringing buoy, a 
kind of bell tower on the deep, was removed in 1802. There 
are yet alive very old mariners who remember hearing it. 
It forewarned, but rather too late. 

The orders of the skipper were obeyed. The Languedocian 
made a third sailor. All bore a hand. Not satisfied with 
brailing up, they furled the sails, lashed the earrings, 
secured the clew-lines, bunt-lines, and leech-lines, and 
clapped preventer-shrouds on the block straps, which thus 
might serve as back-stays. They fished the mast. They 
battened down the ports and bulls'-eyes, which is a method 
of walling up a ship. These evolutions, though executed in 
a lubberly fashion, were, nevertheless, thoroughly effective. 
The hooker was stripped to bare poles. But in proportion 
as the vessel, stowing every stitch of canvas, became more 
helpless, the havoc of both winds and waves increased. The 
seas ran mountains high. The hurricane, like an executioner 
hastening to his victim, began to dismember the craft. 
There came, in the twinkling of an eye, a dreadful crash: 
the top-sails were blown from the bolt-ropes, the chess-trees 
were hewn asunder, the deck was swept clear, the shrouds 
were carried away, the mast went by the board, all the 
lumber of the wreck was flying in shivers. The main 
shrouds gave out although they were turned in, and 
stoppered to four fathoms. 

The magnetic currents common to snowstorms hastened 
the destruction of the rigging, It broke as much from the 



io8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

effect of effluvium as the violence of the wind. Most 6f the 
chain gear, fouled in the blocks, ceased to work. Forward 
the bows, aft the quarters, quivered under the terrific 
shocks. One wave washed overboard the compass and its 
binnacle. A second carried away the boat, which, like a 
box slung under a carriage, had been, in accordance with the 
quaint Asturian custom, lashed to the bowsprit. A third 
breaker wrenched off the spritsail yard. A fourth swept 
away the figurehead and signal light. The rudder only 
was left. 

To replace the ship's bow lantern they set fire to, and 
suspended at the stem, a large block of wood covered with 
oakum and tar. 

The mast, broken in two, all bristling with quivering 
splinters, ropes, blocks, and yards, cumbered the deck. In 
falling it had stove in a plank of the starboard gunwale. 
The skipper, still firm at the helm, shouted, 

" While we can steer we have yet a chance. The lower 
planks hold good. Axes, axes I Overboard with the mast 1 
Clear the decks! " 

Both crew and passengers worked with the excitement of 
despair. A few strokes of the hatchets, and it was done. 
They pushed the mast over the side. The deck was cleared. 

" Now," continued the skipper, " take a rope's end and 
lash me to the helm." To the tiller they bound him. 

While they were fastening him he laughed, and shouted, 

" Blow, old hurdy-gurdy, bellow. I've seen your equal 
off Cape Machichaco." 

And when secured he clutched the helm with that strange 
hilarity which danger awakens. 

" All goes well, my lads. Long live our Lady of Buglose I 
Let us steer west." 

An enormous wave came down abeam, and fell on the 
vessel's quarter. There is always in storms a tiger-like wave, 
a billow fierce and decisive, which, attaining a certain height, 
creeps horizontally over the surface of the waters for a time, 
then rises, roars, rages, and falling on the distressed vessel 
tears it limb from limb. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 109 

A cloud of foam covered the entire poop of the Matutina. 

There was heard above the confusion of darkness and 
waters a crash. 

When the spray cleared off, when the stern again rose in 
view, the skipper and the helm had disappeared. Both had 
been swept away. 

The helm and the man they had but just secured to it had 
passed with the wave into the hissing turmoil of the hurricane. 

The chief of the band, gazing intently into the darkness, 
shouted, 

" Te burlas de nosotros ? " 

To this defiant exclamation there followed another cry, 

" Let go the anchor. Save the skipper." 

They rushed to the capstan and let go the anchor. 

Hookers carry but one. In this case the anchor reached 
the bottom, but only to be lost. The bottom was of the 
hardest rock. The billows were raging with resistless force. 
The cable snapped like a thread. 

The anchor lay at the bottom of the sea. At the cut- 
water there remained but the cable end protruding from the 
hawse-hole. 

From this moment the hooker became a wreck. The 
Matutina was irrevocably disabled. The vessel, just before 
in full sail, and almost formidable in her speed, was now 
helpless. All her evolutions were uncertain and executed at 
random. She yielded passively and like a log to the capri- 
cious fury of the waves. That in a few minutes there should 
be in place of an eagle a useless cripple, such a transforma- 
tion is to be witnessed only at sea. 

The howling of the wind became more and more frightful. 
A hurricane has terrible lungs ; it makes unceasingly mourn- 
ful additions to darkness, which cannot be intensified. The 
bell on the sea rang despairingly, as if tolled by a weird hand. 

The Matutina drifted like a cork at the mercy of the waves. 
She sailed no longer she merely floated. Every moment she 
seemed about to turn over on her back, like a dead fish. The 
good condition and perfectly water-tight state of the hull 
alone saved her from thia disaster. Below the water-line 



IIO THE LAUGHING MAN. 

not a plank had started. There was not a cranny, chink, 
nor crack; and she had not made a single drop of water in 
the hold. This was lucky, as the pump, being out of order, 
was useless. 

The hooker pitched and roared frightfully in the seething 
billows. The vessel had throes as of sickness, and seemed to 
be trying to belch forth the unhappy crew. 

Helpless they clung to the standing rigging, to the tran- 
soms, to the shank painters, to the gaskets, to the broken 
planks, the protruding nails of which tore their hands, to the 
warped riders, and to all the rugged projections of the stumps 
of the masts. From time to time they listened. The toll of 
the bell came over the waters fainter and fainter; one would 
have thought that it also was in distress. Its ringing was no 
more than an intermittent rattle. Then this rattle died 
away. Where were they? At what distance from the 
buoy? The sound of the bell had frightened them; its 
silence terrified them. The north-wester drove them for- 
ward $n perhaps a fatal course. They felt themselves 
wafted on by maddened and ever-recurring gusts of wind. 
The wreck sped forward in the darkness. There is nothing 
more fearful than being hurried forward blindfold. They 
felt the abyss before them, over them, under them. It waS 
no longer a run, it was a rush. 

Suddenly, through the appalling density of the snow- 
storm, there loomed a red light. 

"A lighthouse I " cried the crew. 

CHAPTER XI. 

THE CASKETS. 

IT was indeed the Caskets light. 

A lighthouse of the nineteenth century is a high cylinder 
of masonry, surmounted by scientifically constructed 
machinery for throwing light. The Caskets lighthouse in 
particular is a triple white tower, bearing three light-rooms. 
These three chambers revolve on clockwork wheels, with 
uch precision that the mna on watch who teea them from 



THE LAUGHING MAN. in 

sea can invariably take ten steps during their irradiation, 
and twenty-five during their eclipse. Everything is based 
on the focal plan, and on the rotation of the octagon drum, 
formed of eight wide simple lenses in range, having above 
and below it two series of dioptric rings; an algebraic gear, 
secured from the effects of the beating o winds and waves 
by glass a millimetre thick, yet sometimes broken by the sea- 
eagles, which dash themselves like great moths against these 
gigantic lanterns. The building which encloses and sustains 
this mechanism, and in which it is set, is also mathematically 
constructed. Everything about it is plain, exact, bare, 
precise, correct. A lighthouse is a mathematical figure. 

In the seventeenth century a lighthouse was a sort of 
plume of the land on the seashore. The architecture of a 
lighthouse tower was magnificent and extravagant. It was 
covered with balconies, balusters, lodges, alcoves, weather- 
cocks. Nothing but masks, statues, foliage, volutes, reliefs, 
figures large and small, medallions with inscriptions. Pax 
in betto, said the Eddystone lighthouse. We may as well 
observe, by the way, that this declaration of peace did not 
always disarm the ocean. Winstanley repeated it on a 
lighthouse which he constructed at his own expense, on a 
wild spot near Plymouth. The tower ~being finished, he 
shut himself up in it to have it tried by the tempest. The 
storm came, and carried off the lighthouse and Winstanley 
in it. Such excessive adornment gave too great a hold to 
the hurricane, as generals too brilliantly equipped in battle 
draw the enemy's fire. Besides whimsical designs in stone, 
they were loaded with whimsical designs in iron, copper, 
and wood. The ironwork was in relief, the woodwork stood 
out. On the sides of the lighthouse there jutted out, cling- 
ing to the walls among the arabesques, engines of every 
description, useful and useless, windlasses, tackles, pulleys, 
counterpoises, ladders, cranes, grapnels. On the pinnacle 
around the light delicately-wrought ironwork held great 
iron chandeliers, in which were placed pieces of rope steeped 
in resin; wicks which burned doggedly, and which no wind 
extinguished; and from top to bottom the tower was covered 



tu THE LAUGHING MAN. 

by a complication of sea-standards, banderoles, banners, 
flags, pennons, colours which rose from stage to stage, from 
story to story, a medley of all hues, all shapes, all heraldic 
devices, all signals, all confusion, up to the light chamber, 
making, in the storm, a gay riot of tatters about the blaze. 
That insolent light on the brink of the abyss showed like a 
defiance, and inspired shipwrecked men with a spirit of daring. 
But the Caskets light was not after this fashion. 

It was, at that period, merely an old barbarous lighthouse, 
such as Henry I. had built it after the loss of the White Ship 
a flaming pile of wood under an iron trellis, a brazier 
behind a railing, a head of hair flaming in the wind. 

The only improvement made in this lighthouse since the 
twelfth century was a pair of forge-bellows worked by an 
indented pendulum and a stone weight, which had been 
added to the light chamber in 1610. 

The fate of the sea-birds who chanced to fly against these 
old lighthouses was more tragic than those of our days. The 
birds dashed against them, attracted by the light, and fell 
into the brazier, where they could be seen struggling like 
black spirits in a hell, and at times they would fall back 
again between the railings upon the rock, red hot, smoking, 
lame, blind, like half-burnt flies out of a lamp. 

To a full-rigged ship in good trim, answering readily to the 
pilot's handling, the Caskets light is useful; it cries, "Look 
out; " it warns her of the shoal. To a disabled ship it is 
simply terrible. The hull, paralyzed and inert, without 
resistance, without defence against the impulse of the storm 
or the mad heaving of the waves, a fish without fins, a bird 
without wings, can but go where the wind wills. The light- 
house shows the end points out the spot where it is doomed 
to disappear throws light upon the burial. It is the torch 
of the sepulchre. 

To light up the inexorable chasm, to warn against the 
inevitable, what more tragic mockery I 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 113 

CHAPTER XII. 

FACE TO FACE WITH THE ROCK. 

THE wretched people in distress on board the Matutina under- 
stood at once the mysterious derision which mocked their 
shipwreck. The appearance of the lighthouse raised their 
spirits at first, then overwhelmed them. Nothing could be 
done, nothing attempted. What has been said of kings, we 
may say of the waves we are their people, weare their 
prey. All that they rave must be borne. The nor'-wester 
was driving the hooker on the Caskets. They were near- 
ing them; no evasion was possible. They drifted rapidly 
towards the reef; they felt that they were getting into 
shallow waters ; the lead, if they could have thrown it to any 
purpose, would not have shown more than three or four 
fathoms. The shipwrecked people heard the dull sound of the 
waves being sucked within the submarine caves of the steep 
rock. They made out, under the lighthouse, like a dark 
cutting between two plates of granite, the narrow passage 
of the ugly wild-looking little harbour, supposed to be full of 
the skeletons of men and carcasses of ships. It looked like 
the mouth of a cavern, rather than the entrance of a port. 
They could hear the crackling of the pile on high within the 
iron grating. A ghastly purple illuminated the storm ; the 
collision of the rain and hail disturbed the mist. The black 
cloud and the red flame fought, serpent against serpent; 
live ashes, reft by the wind, flew from the fire, and the 
sudden assaults of the sparks seemed to drive the snow- 
flakes before them. The breakers, blurred at first in out- 
line, now stood out in bold relief, a medley of rocks with 
peaks, crests, and vertebrae. The angles were formed by 
strongly marked red lines, and the inclined planes in blood- 
like streams of light. As they neared it, the outline of the 
reefs increased and rose sinister. 

One of the women, the Irishwoman, told her beads wildly. 

In place of the skipper, who was the pilot, remained the 
chief, who was the captain. The Basques all know the 



1 14 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

mountain and the sea. They are bold on the precipice, and 

inventive in catastrophes. 

They neared the cliff. They were about to strike. Sud- 
denly they were so close to the great north rock of the 
Caskets that it shut out the lighthouse from them. They 
saw nothing but the rock and the red light behind it. The 
huge rock looming in the mist was like a gigantic black 
woman with a hood of fire. 

That ill-famed rock is called the Biblet. It faces the 
north side the reef, which on the south is faced by another 
ridge, L'Etacq-aux-giulmets. The chief looked at the 
Biblet, and shouted, 

" A man with a will to take a rope to the rock ! Who can 
swim? " 

No answer. 

No one on board knew how to swim, not even the sailors 
an ignorance not uncommon among seafaring people. 

A beam nearly free of its lashings was swinging loose. The 
chief clasped it with both hands, crying, " Help me." 

They unlashed the beam. They had now at their dis- 
posal the very thing they wanted. From the defensive, 
they assumed the offensive. 

It was a longish beam of heart of oak, sound and strong, 
useful either as a support or as an engine of attack a lever 
for a burden, a ram against a tower. 

" Ready! " shouted the chief. 

All six, getting foothold on the stump of the mast, threw 
their weight on the spar projecting over the side, straight as 
a lance towards a projection of the cliff. 

It was a dangerous manoeuvre. To strike at a mountain 
is audacity indeed. The six men might well have been 
thrown into the water by the shock. 

There is variety in struggles with storms. After the 
lurricane, the shoal; after the wind, the rock. First the 
intangible, then the immovable, to be encountered. 

Some minutes passed, such minutes as whiten men's hair. 

The rock and the vessel were about to come in collision. 
The rock, like a culprit, awaited the blow. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 1x5 

A resistless wave rushed in; it ended the respite. It 
caught the vessel underneath, raised it, and swayed it for 
an instant as the sling swings its projectile. 

" Steady 1 " cried the chief ; " it is only a rock, and we are 
men." 

The beam was couched, the six men were one with it, its 
sharp bolts tore their arm-pits, but they did not feel them. 

The wave dashed the hooker against the rock. 

Then came the shock. 

It came under the shapeless cloud of foam which always 
hides such catastrophes. 

When this cloud fell back into the sea, when the waves 
rolled back from the rock, the six men were tossing about the 
deck, but the Matutina was floating alongside the rock 
clear of it. The beam had stood and turned the vessel ; the 
sea was running so fast that in a few seconds she had left 
the Caskets behind. 

Such things sometimes occur. It was a straight stroke of 
the bowsprit that saved Wood of Largo at the mouth of the 
Tay. In the wild neighbourhood of Cape Winterton, and 
under the command of Captain Hamilton, it was the 
appliance of such a lever against the dangerous rock, 
Branodu-um, that saved the Royal Mary from shipwreck, 
although she was but a Scotch built frigate. The force of 
the waves can be so abruptly discomposed that changes of 
direction can be easily managed, or at least are possible even 
in the most violent collisions. There is a brute in the 
tempest. The hurricane is a bull, and can be turned. 

The whole secret of avoiding shipwreck is to try and pass 
from the secant to the tangent. 

Such was the service rendered by the beam to the vessel. 
It had done the work of an oar, had taken the place of a 
rudder. But the manoeuvre once performed could not be 
repeated. The beam was overboard ; the shock of the 
collision had wrenched it out of the men's hands, and it was 
lost in the waves. To loosen another beam would have been 
to dislocate the hull. 

The hurricane carried, off the Matutina. Presently the 



u6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Caskets showed as a harmless encumbrance on the horizon. 
Nothing looks more out of countenance than a reef of rocks 
under such circumstances. There are in nature, in its 
obscure aspects, in which the visible blends with the in- 
visible, certain motionless, surly profiles, which seem to 
express that a prey has escaped. 

Thus glowered the Caskest while the Matutina fled. 

The lighthouse paled in distance, faded, and dis- 
appeared. 

There was something mournful in its extinction. Layers 
ot mist sank down upon the now uncertain light. Its rays 
died in the waste of waters; the flame floated, struggled, sank, 
and lost its form. It might have been a drowning creature. 
The brasier dwindled to the snuff of a candle ; then nothing 
more but a weak, uncertain flutter. Around it spread a 
circle of extravasated glimmer; it was like the quenching of 
light in the pit of night. 

The bell which had threatened was dumb. The light- 
house which had threatened had melted away. And yet it 
was more awful now that they had ceased to threaten. One 
was a voice, the other a torch. There was something human 
about them. 

They were gone, and nought remained but the abyss. 

CHAPTER XIII. 

FACE TO FACE WITH NIGHT. 

AGAIN was the hooker running with the shadow into im- 
measurable darkness. 

The Matutina, escaped from the Caskets, sank and rose 
from billow to billow. A respite, but in chaos. 

Spun round by the wind, tossed by all the thousand 
motions of the wave, she reflected every mad oscillation of 
the sea. She scarcely pitched at all a terrible symptom of 
a ship's distress. Wrecks merely roll. Pitching is a con- 
vulsion of the strife. The helm alone can turn a vessel to 
the wind. 

In storms, and more especially in the meteors of BUOW, sea 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 117 

and night end by melting into amalgamation, resolvitig into 
nothing but a smoke. Mists, whirlwinds, gales, motion in 
all directions, no basis, no shelter, no stop. Constant re~ 
commencement, one gulf succeeding another. No horizon 
visible; intense blackness for background. Through all 
these the hooker drifted. 

To have got free of the Caskets, to have eluded the rock, 
v/as a victory for the shipwrecked men ; but it was a victory 
which left them in stupor. They had raised no cheer: at 
sea such an imprudence is not repeated twice. To throw 
down a challenge where they could not cast the lead, would 
have been too serious a jest. 

The repulse of the rock was an impossibility achieved. 
They were petrified by it. By degrees, however, they began 
to hope again. Such are the insubmergable mirages of the 
soul ! There is no distress so complete but that even in the 
most critical moments the inexplicable sunrise of hope is 
seen in its depths. These poor wretches were ready to ac- 
knowledge to themselves that they were saved. It was on 
their lips. 

But suddenly something terrible appeared to them in the 
darkness. 

On the port bow arose, standing stark, cut out on the back- 
ground of mist, a tall, opaque mass, vertical, right-angled, a 
tower of the abyss. They watched it open-mouthed. 

The storm was driving them towards it. 

They knew not what it was. It was the Ortach rock. 

CHAPTER XIV. 

ORTACH. 

THE reef reappeared. After the Caskets comes Ortach. The 
storm is no artist; brutal and all-powerful, it never varies 
its appliances. The darkness is inexhaustible. Its snares 
and perfidies never come to an end. As for man, he soon 
conies to the bottom of his resources. Man expends his 
strength, the abyss never. 

The shipwrecked men turned towards the chief, their 



u8 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

hope. He could only shrug his shoulders. Dismal contempt 

of helplessness. 

A pavement in the midst of the ocean such is the Ortach 
rock. The Ortach, all of a piece, rises up in a straight line 
to eighty feet above the angry beating of the waves. Waves 
and ships break against it. An immovable cube, it plunges 
its rectilinear planes apeak into the numberless serpentine 
curves of the sea. 

At night it stands an enormous block resting on the folds 
of a huge black sheet. In time of storm it awaits the stroke 
of the axe, which is the thunder-clap. 

But there is never a thunder-clap during the snowstorm. 
True, the ship has the bandage round her eyes; darkness is 
knotted about her ; she is like one prepared to be led to the 
scaffold. As for the thunderbolt, which makes quick ending, 
it is not to be hoped for. 

The Matutina, nothing better than a log upon the waters, 
drifted towards this rock as she had drifted towards the 
other. The poor wretches on board, who had for a moment 
believed themselves saved, relapsed into their agony. The 
destruction they had left behind faced them again. The reef 
reappeared from the bottom of the sea. Nothing had been 
gained. 

The Caskets are a figuring iron * with a thousand com- 
partments. The Ortach is a wall. To be wrecked on the 
Caskets is to be cut into ribbons; to strike on the Ortach is 
to be crushed into powder. 

Nevertheless, there was one chance. 

On a straight frontage such as that of the Ortach neither 
the wave nor the cannon ball can ricochet. The operation 
is simple: first the flux, then the reflux; a wave advances, a 
billow returns. 

In such cases the question of life and death is balanced 
thus: if the wave carries the vessel on the rock, she breaks 
oa it and is lost; if the billow retires before the ship has 
touched, she is carried back, she is saved. 

It was a moment of great anxiety; those on board saw 
* Gaufrifr, the iron with which a pattern is traced on stuff. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 119 

through the gloom the great decisive wave bearing down on 
them. How far was it going to drag them? If the wave 
broke upon the ship, they were carried on the rock and 
dashed to pieces. If it passed under the ship .... 

The wave did pass under. 

They breathed again. 

But what of the recoil? What would the surf do with 
them? The surf carried them back. A few minutes later 
the Matutina was free of the breakers. The Ortach faded 
from their view, as the Caskets had done. It was their 
second victory. For the second time the hooker had verged 
on destruction, and had drawn back in time. 

CHAPTER XV. 

PORTENTOSUM MARE. 

MEANWHILE a thickening mist had descended on the drifting 
wretches. They were ignorant of their whereabouts, they 
could scarcely see a cable's length around. Despite a furious 
storm of hail which forced them to bend down their heads, 
the women had obstinately refused to go below again. No 
one, however hopeless, but wishes, if shipwreck be inevitable, 
to meet it in the open air. When so near death, a ceiling 
above one's head seems like the first outline of a coffin. 

They were now in a short and chopping sea. A turgid 
sea indicates its constraint. Even in a fog the entrance into 
a strait may be known by the boiling-like appearance of the 
waves. And thus it was, for they were unconsciously coast- 
ing Aurigny. Between the west of Ortach and the Caskets and 
the east of Aurigny the sea is hemmed in and cramped, and 
the uneasy position determines locally the condition of 
storms. The sea suffers like others, and when it suffers it is 
irritable. That channel is a thing to fear. 

The Matutina was in it. 

Imagine under the sea a tortoise shell as big as Hyde 
Park or the Champs Elysees, of which every striature is a 
shallow, and every embossment a reef. Such is the western 
ftj^roacli of Auriga,/, a The e& cover* and conceals this ship- 



120 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

wrecking apparatus. On this conglomeration of submarine 
breakers the cloven waves leap and foam in calm weather, 
a chopping sea; in storms, a chaos. 

The shipwrecked men observed this new complication 
without endeavouring to explain it to themselves. Suddenly 
they understood it. A pale vista broadened in the zenith; 
a wan tinge overspread the sea; the livid light revealed on the 
port side a long shoal stretching eastward, towards which 
the power of the rushing wind was driving the vessel. The 
shoal was Aurigny. 

What was that shoal? They shuddered. They would 
have shuddered even more had a voice answered them 
Aurigny. 

No isle so well defended against man's approach as Aurigny. 
Below and above water it is protected by a savage guard, 
of which Ortach is the outpost. To the west, Burhou, 
Sauteriaux, Anfroque, Niangle, Fond du Croc, Les Ju- 
melles, La Grosse, La Clanque, Les Eguillons, Le Vrac, La 
Fosse-Maliere ; to the east, Sauquet, Hommeau Floreau, La 
Brinebetais, La Queslingue, Croquelihou, La Fourche, Le Saut, 
Noire Pute, Coupie, Orbue. These are hydra-monsters of the 
species reef. 

One of these reefs is called Le But, the goal, as if to imply 
that every voyage ends there. 

This obstruction of rocks, simplified by night and sea, 
appeared to the shipwrecked men in the shape of a single 
dark band, a sort of black blot on the horizon. 

Shipwreck is the ideal of helplessness ; to be near land, and 
unable to reach it; to float, yet not to be able to do so in any 
desired direction ; to rest the foot on what seems firm and is 
fragile; to be full of life, when o'ershadowed by death; to 
be the prisoner of space; to be walled in between sky and 
ocean; to have the infinite overhead like a dungeon; to be 
encompassed by the eluding elements of wind and waves; 
and to be seized, bound, paralyzed such a load of misfor- 
tune stupefies and crushes us. We imagine that in it we 
catch a glimpse of the sneer of the opponent who is beyond 
our reach. That which holds you fast is that which releases 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 121 

the birds and sets the fishes free. It appears nothing, and is 
everything. We are dependent on the air which is ruffled by 
our mouths ; we are dependent on the water which we catch 
in the hollow of our hands. Draw a glassful from the storm, 
and it is but a cup of bitterness a mouthful is nausea, a 
waveful is extermination. The grain of sand in the desert, 
the foam-flake on the sea, are fearful symptoms. Omnipotence 
takes no care to hide its atom, it changes weakness into 
strength, fills naught with all ; and it is with the infinitely little 
that the infinitely great crushes you. It is with its drops 
the ocean dissolves you. You feel you are a plaything. 

A plaything ghastly epithet ! 

The Matutina was a little above Aurigny, which was not an 
unfavourable position; but she was drifting towards its 
northern point, which was fatal. As a bent bow discharges 
its arrow, the nor'-wester was shooting the vessel towards the 
northern cape. Off that point, a little beyond the harbour 
of Corbelets, is that which the seamen of the Norman archi- 
pelago call a " singe." 

The " singe," or race, is a furious kind of current. A 
wreath of funnels in the shallows produces in the waves a 
wreath of whirlpools. You escape one to fall into another. 
A ship caught hold of by the race, winds round and round 
until some sharp rock cleaves her hull ; then the shattered 
vessel stops, her stern rises from the waves, the stem 
completes the revolution in the abyss, the stern sinks in, 
and all is sucked down. A circle of foam broadens and 
floats, and nothing more is seen on the surface of the waves 
but a few bubbles here and there rising from the smothered 
breathings below. 

The three most dangerous races in the whole Channel are 
one close to the well-known Girdler Sands, one at Jersey 
between the Pignonnet and the Point of Noirmont, and the 
race of Aurigny. 

Had a local pilot been on board the Matutina, he could 
have warned them of their fresh peril. In place of a pilot, they 
had their instinct. In situations of extreme danger men are 
endowed with second sight. High contortions of foam were 



I22 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

flying along the coast in the frenzied raid of the wind. It 
was the spitting of the race. Many a bark has been swamped 
In that snare. Without knowing what awaited them, they 
approached the spot with horror. 

How to double that cape? There were no means of 
doing it. 

Just as they had seen, first the Caskets, then Ortach, rise 
before them, they now saw the point of Aurigny, all of steep 
rock. It was like a number of giants, rising up one after 
another a series of frightful duels. 

Charybdis and Scylla are but two; the Caskets, Ortach, 
and Aurigny are three. 

The phenomenon of the horizon being invaded by the 
rocks was thus repeated with the grand monotony of the 
abyss. The battles of the ocean have the same sublime 
tautology as the combats of Homer. 

Each wave, as they neared it, added twenty cubits to the 
cape, awfully magnified by the mist; the fast decreasing 
distance seemed more inevitable they were touching the 
skirts of the racel The first fold which seized them would 
drag them in another wave surmounted, and all would 
be over. 

Suddenly the hooker was driven back, as by the blow of a 
Titan's fist. The wave reared up under the vessel and fell 
back, throwing the waif back in its mane of foam. The 
Matutina, thus impelled, drifted away from Aurigny. 

She was again on the open sea. 

Whence had come the succour? From the wind. The 
breath of the storm had changed its direction. 

The wave had played with them; now it was the wind's 
turn. They had saved themselves from the Caskets. Off 
Ortach it was the wave which had been their friend. Now 
it was the wind. The wind had suddenly veered from north 
to south. The sou'-wester had succeeded the nor'-wester. 

The current is the wind in the waters; the wind is the 
current in the air. These two forces had just counteracted 
each other, and it had been the wind's will to snatch its prey 
from the current. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 123 

The sudden fantasies of ocean are uncertain. They are, 
perhaps, an embodiment of the perpetual, when at their 
mercy man must neither hope nor despair. They do and 
they undo. The ocean amuses itself. Every shade of wild, 
untamed ferocity is phased in the vastness of that cunning 
sea, which Jean Bart used to call the " great brute." To its 
claws and their gashings succeed soft intervals of velvet 
paws. Sometimes the storm hurries on a wreck, at others it 
works out the problem with care; it might almost be said 
that it caresses it. The sea can afford to take its time, as 
men in their agonies find out. 

We must own that occasionally these lulls of the torture 
announce deliverance. Such cases are rare. However this 
may be, men in extreme peril are quick to believe in rescue; 
the slightest pause in the storm's threats is sufficient; they 
tell themselves that they are out of danger. After believing 
themselves buried, they declare their resurrection; they 
feverishly embrace what they do not yet possess; it is clear 
that the bad luck has turned; they declare themselves satis- 
fied; they are saved ; they cry quits with God. They should 
not be in so great a hurry to give receipts to the Unknown. 

The sou'-wester set in with a whirlwind. Shipwrecked men 
have never any but rough helpers. The Matutina was 
dragged rapidly out to sea by the remnant of her rigging 
like a dead woman trailed by the hair. It was like the 
enfranchisement granted by Tiberius, at the price of 
violation. 

The wind treated with brutality those whom it saved ; it 
rendered service with fury; it was help without pity. 

The wreck was breaking up under the severity of its 
deliverers. 

Hailstones, big and hard enough to charge a blunderbuss, 
smote the vessel; at every rotation of the waves these hail- 
stones rolled about the deck like marbles. The hooker, 
whose deck was almost flush with the water, was being 
beaten out of shape by the rolling masses of water and its 
sheets of spray. On board it each man was for himself. 

They clung on as best they could. As each sea swept over 



I24 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

them, it was with a sense of surprise they saw that all were 

still there. Several had their faces torn by splinters. 

Happily despair has stout hands. In terror a child's hand 
has the grasp of a giant. Agony makes a vice of a woman's 
fingers. A girl in her fright can almost bury her rose- 
coloured fingers in a piece of iron. With hooked fingers they 
hung on somehow, as the waves dashed on and passed off 
them; but every wave brought them the fear of being swept 
away. 

Suddenly they were relieved. 

CHAPTER XVI. 

THE PROBLEM SUDDENLY WORKS IN SILENCE. 

THE hurricane had just stopped short. There was no longer 
in the air sou' -wester or nor'-wester. The fierce clarions of 
space were mute. The whole of the waterspout had poured 
from the sky without any warning of diminution, as if it had 
slided perpendicularly into a gulf beneath. None knew what 
had become of it; flakes replaced the hailstones, the snow 
began to fall slowly. No more swsll : the sea flattened down. 

Such sudden cessations are peculiar to snowstorms. The 
electric effluvium exhausted, all becomes still, even the wave, 
which in ordinary storms often remains agitated for a long 
time. In snowstorms it is not so. No prolonged anger in 
the deep. Like a tired-out worker it becomes drowsy 
directly, thus almost giving the lie to the laws of statics, but 
not astonishing old seamen, who know that the sea is full 
of unforeseen surprises. 

The same phenomenon takes place, although very rarely, 
in ordinary storms. Thus, in our time, on the occasion of 
the memorable hurricane of July 2/th, 1867, at Jersey the 
wind, after fourteen hours' fury, suddenly relapsed into a 
dead calm. 

In a few minutes the hooker was floating in sleeping waters. 

At the same time (for the last phase of these storms 
resembles the first) they could distinguish nothing; all that 
had been made visible in the convulsions of the meteoric 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 125 

cloud was again dark. Pale outlines were fused in vague 
mist, and the gloom of infinite space closed about the vessel. 
The wall of night that circular occlusion, that interior of a 
cylinder the diameter of which was lessening minute by 
minute enveloped the Matutina, and, with the sinister 
deliberation of an encroaching iceberg, was drawing in 
dangerously. In the zenith nothing a lid of fog closing 
down. It was as if the hooker were at the bottom of the well 
of the abyss. 

In that well the sea was a puddle of liquid lead. No stir 
in the waters ominous immobility 1 The ocean is never 
less tamed than when it is still as a pool. 

All was silence, stillness, blindness. 

Perchance the silence of inanimate objects is taciturnity. 

The last ripples glided along the hull. The deck was 
horizontal, with an insensible slope to the sides. Some 
broken planks were shifting about irresolutely. The block 
on which they had lighted the tow steeped in tar, in place 
of the signal light which had been swept, away, swung no 
longer at the prow, and no longer let fall burning drops into 
the sea. What little breeze remained in the clouds was 
noiseless. The snow fell thickly, softly, with scarce a slant. 
No foam of breakers could be heard. The peace of shadows 
was over all. 

This repose succeeding all the past exasperations and 
paroxysms was, for the poor creatures so long tossed about, 
an unspeakable gomfort. It was as though the punishment 
of the rack had ceased. They caught a glimpse about them 
and above them of something which seemed like a consent 
that they should be saved. They regained confidence. All 
that had been fury was now tranquillity. It appeared to 
them a pledge of peace. Their wretched hearts dilated. 
They were able to let go the end of rope or beam to which 
they had clung, to rise, hold themselves up, stand, walk, 
move about. They felt inexpressibly calmed. There are in 
the depths of darkness such phases of paradise, preparations 
for other things. It was clear that they were delivered out 
of the storm, out of the foam, out of the wind, out of the 






126 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

Uproar. Henceforth all the chances were in their favour. 
In three or four hours it would be sunrise. They would be 
seen by some passing ship; they would be rescued. The 
worst was over; they were re-entering life. The important 
feat was to have been able to keep afloat until the cessation 
of the tempest. They said to themselves, "It is all over 
this time." 

Suddenly they found that all was indeed over. 

One of the sailors, the northern Basque, Galdeazun by 
name, went down into the hold to look for a rope, then came 
above again and said, 

" The hold is full." 

" Of what? " asked the chief. 

" Of water," answered the sailor. 

The chief cried out, 

" What does that mean? " 

" It means," replied Galdeazun, " that in half an hour we 
shall founder." 

CHAPTER XVII. 

THE LAST RESOURCE. 

THERE was a hole in the keel. A leak had been sprung. 
When it happened no one could have said. Was it when 
they touched the Caskets ? Was it off Ortach ? Was it when 
they were whirled about the shallows west of Aurigny ? It 
was most probable that they had touched some rock there. 
They had struck against some hidden buttress which they 
had not felt in the midst of the convulsive fury of the wind 
which was tossing them. In tetanus who would feel a prick ? 

The other sailor, the southern Basque, whose name was 
Ave Maria, went down into the hold, too, came on deck 
again, and said, 

" There are two varas of water in the hold." 

About six feet. 

Ave Maria added, " In less than forty minutes we shall 
sink." 

Where was the leak? They couldn't find it. It was 
hidden by the water which wa filling up the hold. The 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 127 

vessel had a hole in her hull somewhere under the water-line, 
quite forward in the keel. Impossible to find it impossible 
to check it. They had a wound which they could not stanch. 
The water, however, was not rising very fast. 

The chief called out, 

" We must work the pump." 

Galdeazun replied, " We have no pump left." 

" Then," said the chief, " we must make for land." 

"Where is the land? " 

" I don't know." 

" Nor I." 

" But it must be somewhere." 

" True enough." 

" Let some one steer for it." 

" We have no pilot." 

" Stand to the tiller yourself." 

" We have lost the tiller." 

" Let's rig one out of the first beam we can lay hands on. 
Nails a hammer quick some tools." 

" The carpenter's box is overboard, we have no tools." 

" We'll steer all the same, no matter where." 

" The rudder is lost." 

" Where is the boat? We'll get in and row." 

" The boat is lost." 

" We'll row the wreck." 

" We have lost the oars." 

" We'll sail." 

" We have lost the sails and the mast." 

" We'll rig one up "/ith a pole and a tarpaulin for sail 
Let's get clear of this and trust in the wind." 

" There is no wind." 

The wind, indeed, had left them, the storm had fled; and 
its departure, which they had believed to mean safety, 
meant, in fact, destruction. Had the sou'-wester continued 
it might have driven them wildly on some shore might have 
beaten the leak in speed might, perhaps, have carried them 
to some propitious sandbank, and cast them on it before the 
hooker foundered. The swiftness of the storm, bearing them 



128 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

away, might have enabled them to reach land ; but no more 
wind, no more hope. They were going to die because the 
hurricane was over. 

The end was near! 

Wind, hail, the hurricane, the whirlwind these are wild 
combatants that may be overcome; the storm can be taken 
in the weak point of its armour; there are resources against 
the violence which continually lays itself open, is off its 
guard, and often hits wide. But nothing is to be done 
against a calm ; it offers nothing to the grasp of which you 
can lay hold. 

The winds are a charge of Cossacks: stand your ground 
and they disperse. Calms are the pincers of the 
executioner. 

The water, deliberate and sure, irrepressible and heavy, 
rose in the hold, and as it rose the vessel sank it was 
happening slowly. 

Those on board the wreck of the Matutina felt that most 
hopeless of catastrophes an inert catastrophe undermining 
them. The still and sinister certainty of their fate petrified 
them. No stir in the air, no movement on the sea. The 
motionless is the inexorable. Absorption was sucking them 
down silently. Through the depths of the dumb waters 
without anger, without passion, not willing, not knowing, 
not caring the fatal centre of the globe was attracting 
them downwards. Horror in repose amalgamating them 
with itself. It was no longer the wide open mouth of the sea, 
the double jaw of the wind and the wave, vicious in its threat, 
the grin of the waterspout, the foaming appetite of the 
breakers it was as if the wretched beings had under them 
the black yawn of the infinite. 

They felt themselves sinking into Death's peaceful depths. 
The height between the vessel and the water was lessening 
that was all. They could calculate her disappearance to the 
moment. It was the exact reverse of submersion by the 
rising tide. The water was not rising towards them; they 
were sinking towards it. They were digging their own 
grave. Their owa weight was their eextoa. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 129 

They were being executed, not by the law of man, but by 
the law of things. 

The snow was falling, and as the wreck was now motion- 
less, this white lint made a cloth over the deck and covered 
the vessel as with a winding-sheet. 

The hold was becoming fuller and deeper no means of 
getting at the leak. They struck a light and fixed three or 
four torches in holes as best they could. Galdeazun brought 
some old leathern buckets, and they tried to bale the hold 
out, standing in a row to pass them from hand to hand ; but 
the buckets were past use, the leather of some was un- 
stitched, there were holes in the bottoms of the others, and 
the buckets emptied themselves on the way. The difference 
in quantity between the water which was making its way in 
and that which they returned to the sea was ludicrous for a 
ton that entered a glassful was baled out; they did not 
improve their condition. It was like the expenditure of a 
miser, trying to exhaust a million, halfpenny by halfpenny. 

The chief said, " Let us lighten the wreck." 

During the storm they had lashed together the few chests 
which were on deck. These remained tied to the stump of 
the mast. They undid the lashings and rolled the chests 
overboard through a breach in the gunwale. One of these 
trunks belonged to the Basque woman, who could not repress 
a sigh. 

"Oh, my new cloak lined with scarlet 1 Oh, my poor 
stockings of birchen-bark lace ! Oh, my silver ear-rings to 
wear at mass on May Day ! " 

The deck cleared, there remained the cabin to be seen to. 
It was greatly encumbered; in it were, as may be remem- 
bered, the luggage belonging to the passengers, and the bales 
belonging to the sailors. They took the luggage, and threw 
it over the gunwale. They carried up the bales and cast 
them into the sea. 

Thus they emptied the cabin. The lantern, the cap, the 
barrels, the sacks, the bales, and the water-butts, the pot of 
soup, all went over into the waves. 

They unscrewed the nuts of the iron stove, long since 

5 



x 3 o THE LAUGHING MAN. 

extinguished: they pulled it out, hoisted it on deck, dragged 

it to the side, and threw it out of the vessel. 

They cast overboard everything they could pull out of the 
deck chains, shrouds, and torn rigging. 

From time to time the chief took a torch, and throwing its 
light on the figures painted on the prow to show the draught 
of water, looked to see how deep the wreck had settled down. 

CHAPTER XVIII. 

THE HIGHEST RESOURCE. 

THE wreck being lightened, was sinking more slowly, but 
none the less surely. 

The hopelessness of their situation was without resource 
without mitigation ; they had exhausted their last expedient. 

'* Is there anything else we can throw overboard? " 

The doctor, whom every one had forgotten, rose from the 
companion, and said, 

" Yes." 

" What? " asked the chief. 

The doctor answered, " Our Crime." 

They shuddered, and all cried out, 

" Amen." 

The doctor standing up, pale, raised his hand to heaven, 
saying, 

" Kneel down." 

They wavered to waver is the preface to kneeling down. 

The doctor went on, 

" Let us throw our crimes into the sea, they weigh us 
down; it is they that are sinking the ship. Let us think no 
more of safety let us think of salvation. Our last crime, 
above all, the crime which we committed, or rather com- 
pleted, just now O wretched beings who are listening to me 

it is that which is overwhelming us. For those who leave 
intended murder behind them, it is an Impious insolence to 
tempt the abyss. He who sins against a child, sins against 
God. True, we were obliged to put to sea, but it was certain 
perdition. The storm, warned by the shadow of our crime, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 131 

came on. It is well. Regret nothing, however. There, not 
far off in the darkness, are the sands of Vauville and Cape la 
Hogue. It is France. There was but one possible shelter for 
us, which was Spain. France is no less dangerous to us than 
England. Our deliverance from the sea would have led but 
to the gibbet. Hanged or drowned we had no alternative. 
God has chosen for us ; let us give Him thanks. He has 
vouchsafed us the grave which cleanses. Brethren, the in- 
evitable hand is in it. Remember that it was we who just 
now did our best to send on high that child, and that at this 
very moment, now as I speak, there is perhaps, above our 
heads, a soul accusing us before a Judge whose eye is on us. 
Let us make the best use of this last respite ; let us make an 
effort, if we still may, to repair, as far as we are able, the evil 
that we have wrought. If the child survives us, let us come 
to his aid; if he is dead, let us seek his forgiveness. Let us 
cast our crime from us. Let us ease our consciences of its 
weight. Let us strive that our souls be not swallowed up 
before God, for that is the awful shipwreck. Bodies go to 
the fishes, souls to the devils. Have pity on yourselves. 
Kneel down, I tell you. Repentance is the bark which never 
sinks. You have lost your compass 1 You are wrong I You 
still have prayer." 

The wolves became lambs such transformations occur in 
last agonies; tigers lick the crucifix; when the dark portal 
opens ajar, belief is difficult, unbelief impossible. However 
imperfect may be the different sketches of religion essayed by 
man, even when his belief is shapeless, even when the outline 
of the dogma is not in harmony with the lineaments of the 
eternity he foresees, there comes in his last hour a trembling 
of the soul. There is something which will begin when life 
is over; this thought impresses the last pang. 

A man's dying agony is the expiration of a term. In that 
fatal second he feels weighing on him a diffused responsibility. 
That which has been complicates that which is to be. The 
past returns and enters into the future. What is known 
becomes as much an abyss as the unknown. And the two 
chasms, the one which is full by his faults, the other of bis 



1 3 2 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

anticipations, mingle their reverberations. It is this con- 
fusion of- the two gulfs which terrifies the dying man. 

They had spent their last grain of hope on the direction of 
life ; hence they turned in the other. Their only remaining 
chance was in its dark shadow. They understood it. It 
came on them as a lugubrious flash, followed by the relapse 
of horror. That which is intelligible to the dying man is as 
what is perceived in the lightning. Everything, then noth- 
ing ; you see, then all is blindness. After death the eye will 
reopen, and that which was a flash will become a sun. 

They cried out to the doctor, 

" Thou, thou, there is no one but thee. We will obey thee, 
what must we do? Speak." 

The doctor answered, 

" The question is how to pass over the unknown precipice 
and reach the other bank of life, which is beyond the tomb. 
Being the one who knows the most, my danger is greater 
than yours. You do well to leave the choice of the bridge 
to him whose burden is the heaviest." 

He added, 

" Knowledge is a weight added to conscience." 

He continued, 

" How much time have we still? " 

Galdeazun looked at the water-mark, and answered, 

" A little more than a quarter of an hour." 

" Good," said the doctor. 

The low hood of the companion on which he leant his 
elbows made a sort of table; the doctor took from his 
pocket his inkhorn and pen, and his pocket-book out of 
which he drew a parchment, the same one on the back of 
which he had written, a few hours before, some twenty 
cramped and crooked lines. 

" A light," he said. 

The snow, falling like the spray of a cataract, had extin- 
guished the torches one after another; there was but one left, 
Ave Maria took it out of the place where it had been stuck, 
and holding it in his hand, came and stood by the doctor's 
side. J 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 133 

The doctor replaced his pocket-book in his pocket, put 
down the pen and inkhorn on the hood of the companion, 
unfolded the parchment, and said, 

" Listen." 

Then in the midst of the sea, on the failing bridge (a sort 
of shuddering flooring of the tomb), the doctor began a 
solemn reading, to which all the shadows seemed to listen. 
The doomed men bowed their heads around him. The 
flaming of the torch intensified their pallor. What the 
doctor read was written in English. Now and then, when 
one of those woebegone looks seemed to ask an explanation* 
the doctor would stop, to repeat whether in French, or 
Spanish, Basque, or Italian the passage he had just read. 
Stifled sobs and hollow beatings of the breast were heard. 
The wreck was sinking more and more. 

The reading over, the doctor placed the parchment flat on 
the companion, seized his pen, and on a clear margin which 
he had carefully left at the bottom of what he had written, he 
signed himself, GERNADUS GEESTEMUNDE: Doctor. 

Then, turning towards the others, he said, 

" Come, and sign." 

The Basque woman approached, took the pen, and signed 
herself, ASUNCION. 

She handed the pen to the Irish woman, who, not knowing 
how to write, made a cross. 

The doctor, by the side of this cross, wrote, BARBARA 
FERMOY, of Tyrrif Island, in the Hebrides. 

Then he handed the pen to the chief of the band. 

The chief signed, GAIZDORRA: Captal. 

The Genoese signed himself under the chief's name, 

GlANGIRATE. 

The Languedocian signed, JACQUES QUARTOURZE: alias, 
the Narbonnais. 

The Provencal signed, LUC-PIERRE CAPGAROUPE, of the 
Galleys of Mahon. 

Under these signatures the doctor added a note: 

"Of the crew of three men, the skipper having been washed 
overboard by a sea, but two remain, and they have signed." 



I 3 4 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

The two sailors affixed their names underneath the note. 
The northern Basque signed himself, GALDEAZUN. 

The southern Basque signed, AVE MARIA: Robber. 

Then the doctor said, 

" Capgaroupe." 

" Here," said the Proven9al. 

" Have you Hardquanonne's flask? " 

" Yes." 

" Give it me." 

Capgaroupe drank off the last mouthful of brandy, and 
handed the flask to the doctor. 

The water was rising in the hold; the wreck was sinking 
deeper and deeper into the sea. The sloping edges of the 
ship were covered by a thin gnawing wave, which was rising. 
All were crowded on the centre of the deck. 

The doctor dried the ink on the signatures by the heat of 
the torch, and folding the parchment into a narrower com- 
pass than the diameter of the neck, put it into the flask. 
He called for the cork. 

" I don't know where it is," said Capgaroupe. 

" Here is a piece of rope," said Jacques Quartourze. 

The doctor corked the flask with a bit of rope, and asked 
for some tar. Galdeazun went forward, extinguished the 
signal light with a piece of tow, took the vessel in which it 
was contained from the stern, and brought it, half full of 
burning tar, to the doctor. 

The flask holding the parchment which they had all 
signed was corked and tarred over. 

" It is done," said the doctor. 

And from out all their mouths, vaguely stammered in 
every language, came the dismal utterances of the cata- 
combs. 

" Ainsi soit-il! " 

"Meaculpa! " 

" Asi seal " 

"Aro rail " 

"Amen! " 

It was as though the sombre voices of Babel were scattered 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 135 

through the shadows as Heaven uttered its awful refusal to 
hear them. 

The doctor turned away from his companions in crime and 
distress, and took a few steps towards the gunwale. Reaching 
the side, he looked into space, and said, in a deep voice, 

"Bist du bei mir?" * 

Perchance he was addressing some phantom. 

The wreck was sinking. 

Behind the doctor all the others were in a dream. Prayer 
mastered them by main force. They did Dot bow, they were 
bent. There was something involuntary in their condition; 
they wavered as a sail flaps when the breeze fails. And the 
haggard group took by degrees, with clasping of hands and 
prostration of foreheads, attitudes various, yet of humilia- 
tion. Some strange reflection of the deep seemed to soften 
their villainous features. 

The doctor returned towards them. Whatever had been 
his past, the old man was great in the presence of the 
catastrophe. 

The deep reserve of nature which enveloped him pre- 
occupied without disconcerting him. He was not one to be 
taken unawares. Over him was the calm of a silent horror: 
on his countenance the majesty of God's will comprehended. 

This old and thoughtful outlaw unconsciously assumed the 
air of a pontiff. 

He said, 

" Attend to me." 

He contemplated for a moment the waste of water, and 
added, 

" Now we are going to die." 

Then he took the torch from the hands of Ave Maria, and 
waved it. 

A spark broke from it and flew into the night. 

Then the doctor cast the torch into the sea. 

The torch was extinguished : all light disappeared. 
Nothing left but the huge, unfathomable shadow. It was 
like the filling up of the grave. 

* Art them HROT me ? 



i 3 6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

In the darkness the doctor was heard saying, 

" Let us pray." 

All knelt down. 

It was no longer on the snow, but in the water, that they 
knelt. 

They had but a few minutes more. 

The doctor alone remained standing. 

The flakes of snow falling on him had sprinkled him with 
white tears, and made him visible on the background of 
darkness. He might have been the speaking statue of the 
shadow. 

The doctor made the sign of the cross and raised his voice, 
while beneath his feet he felt that almost imperceptible 
oscillation which prefaces the moment in which a wreck is 
about to founder. He said, 

" Pater noster qui es in ccelis." 

The Proven9al repeated in French, 

" Notre Pere qui 6tes aux cieux." 

The Irishwoman repeated in Gaelic, understood by the 
Basque woman, 

" AT nathair ata ar neamh." 

The doctor continued, 

" Sanctificetur nomen tuum." 

" Que votre nom soit sanctifie," said the Proven9al. 

" Naomhthar hainm," said the Irishwoman. 

" Adveniat regnum tuum," continued the doctor 

" Que votre regne arrive," said the Proven9al. 

" Tigeadh do rioghachd," said the Irishwoman. 

As they knelt, the waters had risen to their shoulders. 
The doctor went on, 

" Fiat voluntas tua." 

" Que votre volonte soit faite," stammered the Proven9al. 

And the Irishwoman and Basque woman cried, 

" Deuntar do thoil ar an Hhalamb." 

" Sicut in ccelo, sicut in terra," said the doctor. 

No voice answered him. 

He looked down. All their heads were under water. They 
had let themselves be drowned on their knees. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 13? 

The doctor took in his right hand the flask which he had 
placed on the companion, and raised it above his head. 

The wreck was going down. As he sank, the doctor 
murmured the rest of the prayer. 

For an instant his shoulders were above water, then his 
head, then nothing remained but his arm holding up the 
flask, as if he were showing it to the Infinite. 

His arm disappeared; there was no greater fold on the 
deep sea than there would have been on a tun of oil. The 
snow continued falling. 

One thing floated, and was carried by the waves into the 
darkness. It was the tarred flask, kept afloat by its osier 
cover. 



BOOK THE THIRD. 
THB CHILD IN THE SHADOW. 



CHAPTER I. 

CHESIL. 

THE storm was no less severe on land than on sea. The same 
wild enfranchisement of the elements had taken place 
around the abandoned child. The weak and innocent become 
their sport in the expenditure of the unreasoning rage of their 
blind forces. Shadows discern not, and things inanimate 
have not the clemency they are supposed to possess. 

On the land there was but little wind. There was an 
inexplicable dumbness in the cold. There was no hail. The 
thickness of the falling snow was fearful. 

Hailstones strike, harass, bruise, stun, crush. Snow- 
flakes do worse: soft and inexorable, the snowflake does its 
work in silence; touch it, and it melts. It is pure, even as 
the hypocrite is candid. It is by white particles slowly 
heaped upon each other that the flake becomes an avalanche 
and the knave a criminal. 

The child continued to advance into the mist. The fog 
presents but a soft obstacle; hence its danger. It yields, 
and yet persists. Mist, like snow, is full of treachery. The 
child, strange wrestler at war with all these risks, had suc- 
ceeded in reaching the bottom of the descent, and had 
gained Chesil. Without knowing it he was on an isthmus, 
with the ocean on each side; so that he could not lose his 
way in the fog, in the snow, or in the darkness, without falling 
into the deep waters of the gulf on the right hand, or into 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 139 

the raging billows of the high sea on the left. He was 
travelling on, in ignorance, between these two abysses. 

The Isthmus of Portland was at this period singularly 
sharp and rugged. Nothing remains at this date of its past 
configuration. Since the idea of manufacturing Portland 
stone into Roman cement was first seized, the whole rock has 
been subjected to an alteration which has completely changed 
its original appearance. Calcareous lias, slate, and trap are 
still to be found there, rising from layers of conglomerate, like 
teeth from a gum; but the pickaxe has broken up and 
levelled those bristling, rugged peaks which were once the 
fearful perches of the ossifrage. The summits exist no longer 
where the labbes and the skua gulls used to flock together, 
soaring, like the envious, to sully high places. In vain 
might you seek the tall monolith called Godolphin, an old 
British word, signifying " white eagle." In summer you 
may still gather on those surfaces, pierced and perforated like 
a sponge, rosemary, pennyroyal, wild hyssop, and sea-fennel 
which when infused makes a good cordial, and that herb full 
of knots, which grows in the sand and from which they 
make matting ; but you no longer find gray amber, or black 
tin, or that triple species of slate one sort green, one blue, 
and the third the colour of sage-leaves. The foxes, the 
badgers, the otters, and the martens have taken themselves 
off; on the cliffs of Portland, as well as at the extremity of 
Cornwall, where there were at one time chamois, none 
remain. They still fish in some inlets for plaice and pil- 
chards; but the scared salmon no longer ascend the Wey, 
between Michaelmas and Christmas, to spawn. No more are 
seen there, as during the reign of Elizabeth, those old un- 
known birds as large as hawks, who could cut an apple ia two, 
but ate only the pips. You never meet those crows with 
yellow beaks, called Cornish choughs in English, pyrrocorax 
in Latin, who, in their mischief, would drop burning twigs on 
thatched roofs. Nor that magic bird, the fulmar, a wanderer 
from the Scottish archipelago, dropping from his bill an oil 
which the islanders used to burn in their lamps. Nor do you 
ever find in the evening, in the plash of the ebbing tide, that 
ancient, legendary neitse, with the feet of a hog and the bleat 
of a call The tide no longer throws up the whiskered seal, 
with its curled ears and sharp jaws, dragging itself along on 
its nailless paws. On that Portland nowadays so changed 



T4 o THE LAUGHING MAN. 

as scarcely to be recognized the absence of forests pre- 
cluded nightingales; but now the falcon, the swan, and the 
wild goose have fled. The sheep of Portland, nowadays, 
are fat and have fine wool; the few scattered ewes, which 
nibbled the salt grass there two centuries ago, were small and 
tough and coarse in the fleece, as became Celtic flocks 
brought there by garlic-eating shepherds, who lived ,to a 
hundred, and who, at the distance of half a mile, could pierce 
a cuirass with their yard-long arrows. Uncultivated land 
makes coarse wool. The Chesil of to-day resembles in no 
particular the Chesil of the past, so much has it been dis- 
turbed by man and by those furious winds which gnaw the 
very stones. 

At present this tongue of land bears a railway, terminating 
in a pretty square of houses, called Chesilton, and there is a 
Portland station. Railway carriages roll where seals used to 
crawl. 

The Isthmus of Portland two hundred years ago was a 
back of sand, with a vertebral spine of rock. 

The child' s danger changed its form. What he had had to fear 
in the descent was falling to the bottom of the precipice ; in 
the isthmus, it was falling into the holes. After dealing with 
the precipice, he must deal with the pitfalls. Everything on 
the sea-shore is a trap the rock is slippery, the strand is 
quicksand. Resting-places are but snares. It is walking on 
ice which may suddenly crack and yawn with a fissure, 
through which you disappear. The ocean has false stages 
below, like a well-arranged theatre. 

The long backbone of granite, from which fall away both 
slopes of the isthmus, is awkward of access. It is difficult to 
find there what, in scene-shifters' language, are termed 
practicables. Man has no hospitality to hope for from the 
ocean ; from the rock no more than from the wave. The sea 
is provident for the bird and the fish alone. Isthmuses are 
especially naked and nigged; the wave, which wears and 
mines them on either side, reduces them to the simplest form. 
Everywhere there were sharp relief ridges, cuttings, frightful 
fragments of torn stone, yawning with many points, like the 
jaws of a shark; breaknecks of wet moss, rapid slopes of rock 
ending in the sea. Whosoever undertakes to pass over an 
isthmus meets at every step misshapen blocks, as large as 
houses, in the forms of shin-bones, shoulder-blades, and 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 141 

thigh-bones, the 3 hideous anatomy of dismembered rocks. 
It is not without reason that these stria of the sea-shore are 
called cdtes.* 

The wayfarer must get out as he best can from the con- 
fusion of these ruins. It is like journeying over the bones 
of an enormous skeleton. 

Put a child to this labour of Hercules. 

Broad daylight might have aided him. It was night. A 
guide was necessary. He was alone. All the vigour of man- 
hood would not have been too much. He had but the feeble 
strength of a child. In default of a guide, a footpath might 
have aided him; there was none. 

By instinct he avoided the sharp ridge of the rocks, and 
kept to the strand as much as possible. It was there that 
he met with the pitfalls. They were multiplied before him 
under three forms: the pitfall of water, the pitfall of snow, 
and the pitfall of sand. This last is the most dangerous of 
all, because the most illusory. To know the peril we face is 
alarming; to be ignorant of it is terrible. The child was 
fighting against unknown dangers. He was groping his way 
through something which might, perhaps, be the grave. 

He did not hesitate. He went round the rocks, avoided 
the crevices, guessed at the pitfalls, obeyed the twistings and 
turnings caused by such obstacles, yet he went on. Though 
unable to advance in a straight line, he walked with a firm 
step. When necessary, he drew back with energy. He knew 
how to tear himself in time from the horrid bird-lime of the 
quicksands. He shook the snow from about him. He 
entered the water more than once up to the knees. Directly 
that he left it, his wet knees were frozen by the intense cold 
of the night. He walked rapidly in his stiffened garments; 
yet he took care to keep his sailor's coat dry and warm on 
his chest. He was still tormented by hunger. 

The chances of the abyss are illimitable. Everything is 
possible in it, even salvation. The issue may be found, 
though it be invisible. How the child, wrapped in a 
smothering winding-sheet of snow, lost on a narrow eleva- 
tion between two jaws of an abyss, managed to cross the 
isthmus is what he could not himself have explained. He 
had slipped, climbed, rolled, searched, walked, persevered, 
that is all. Such is the secret of all triumphs. At the end 
* C5tes, coasts, costa, ribs. 



i 4 2 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

of somewhat less than half an hour he felt that the ground 
was rising. He had reached the other shore. Leaving 
Chesil, he had gained terra firma. 

The bridge which now unites Sandford Castle with Small- 
mouth Sands did not then exist. It is probable that in his 
intelligent groping he had reascended as far as Wyke Regis, 
where there was then a tongue of sand, a natural road 
crossing East Fleet. 

He was saved from the isthmus; but he found himself 
again face to face with the tempest, with the cold, with the 
night* 

Before him once more lay the plain, shapeless in the 
density of impenetrable shadow. He examined the ground, 
seeking a footpath. Suddenly he bent down. He had dis- 
covered, in the snow, something which seemed to him a track. 

It was indeed a track the print of a foot. The print was 
cut out clearly in the whiteness of the snow, which rendered 
it distinctly visible. He examined it. It was a naked footf 
too small for that of a man, too large for that of a child. 

It was probably the foot of a woman. Beyond that mark 
was another, then another, then another. The footprints 
followed each other at the distance of a step, and struck 
across the plain to the right. They were still fresh, and 
slightly covered with little snow. A woman had just passed 
that way. 

This woman was walking in the direction in which the 
child had seen the smoke. With his eyes fixed on the foot- 
prints, he set himself to follow them. 

CHAPTER II. 

THE EFFECT OF SNOW. 

HE journeyed some time along this course. Unfortunately 
the footprints were becoming less and less distinct. Dense 
and fearful was the falling of the snow. It was the time 
when the hooker was so distressed by the snow-storm at sea. 

The child, in distress like the vessel, but after another 
fashion, had, in the inextricable intersection of shadows 
which rose up before him, no resource but the footsteps in 
the snow, and he held to it as the thread of a labyrinth. 

Suddenly, whether the mow had filled them up or for some 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 143 

other reason, the footsteps ceased. All became even, level, 
Smooth, without a stain, without a detail. There was now 
nothing but a white cloth drawn over the earth and a black 
one over the sky. It seemed as if the foot-passenger had 
flown away. The child, in despair, bent down and searched ; 
but in vain. 

As he arose he had a sensation of hearing some indistinct 
sound, but he could not be sure of it. It resembled a voice, 
a breath, a shadow. It was more human than animal ; more 
sepulchral than living. It was a sound, but the sound of a 
dream. 

He looked, but saw nothing. 

Solitude, wide, naked and livid, was before him. He 
listened. That which he had thought he heard had faded 
away. Perhaps it had been but fancy. He still listened. 
All was silent. 

There was illusion in the mist. 

He went on his way again. He walked forward at random, 
with nothing henceforth to guide him. 

As he moved away the noise began again. This time he 
could doubt it no longer. It was a groan, almost a sob. 

He turned. He searched the darkness of space with his 
eyes. He saw nothing. The sound arose once more. If 
limbo could cry out, it would cry in such a tone. 

Nothing so penetrating, so piercing, so feeble as the voice 
for it was a voice. It arose from a soul. There was 
palpitation in the murmur. Nevertheless, it seemed uttered 
almost unconsciously. It was an appeal of suffering, not 
knowing that it suffered or that it appealed. 

The cry perhaps a first breath, perhaps a last sigh 
was equally distant from the rattle which closes life and the 
wail with which it commences. It breathed, it was stifled, 
it wept, a gloomy supplication from the depths of night. 
The child fixed his attention everywhere, far, near, on high, 
below. There was no one. There was nothing. He listened. 
The voice arose again. He perceived it distinctly. The 
sound somewhat resembled the bleating of a lamb. 

Then he was frightened, and thought of flight. 

The groan again. This was the fourth time. It was 
strangely miserable and plaintive. One felt that after that 
last effort, more mechanical than voluntary, the cry would 
probably be extinguished. It was an expiring exclamation, 



I44 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

instinctively appealing to the amount of aid held in suspense 
in space. It was some muttering of agony, addressed to a 
possible Providence. 

The child approached in the direction from whence the 
sound came. 

Still he saw nothing. 
He advanced again, watchfully. 

The complaint continued. Inarticulate and confused as 
it was, it had become clear almost vibrating. The child 
was near the voice ; but where was it ? 

He was close to a complaint. The trembling of a cry 
passed by his side into space. A human moan floated away 
into the darkness. This was what he had met. Such at 
least was his impression, dim as the dense mist in which he 
was lost. 

Whilst he hesitated between an instinct which urged him 
to fly and an instinct which commanded him to remain, he 
perceived in the snow at his feet, a few steps before him, a 
sort of undulation of the dimensions of a human body a 
little eminence, low, long, and narrow, like the mould over a 
grave a sepulchre in a white churchyard. 

At the same time the voice cried out. It was from beneath 
the undulation that it proceeded. The child bent down, 
crouching before the undulation, and with both his hands 
began to clear it away. 

Beneath the snow which he removed a form grew under his 
hands; and suddenly in the hollow he had made there 
appeared a pale face. 

The cry had not proceeded from that face. Its eyes were 
shut, and the mouth open but full of snow. 

It remained motionless ; it stirred not under the hands of 
the child. The child, whose fingers were numbed with frost, 
shuddered when he touched its coldness. It was that of a 
woman. Her dishevelled hair was mingled with the snow. 
The woman was dead. 

Again the child set himself to sweep away the snow. The 
neck of the dead woman appeared; then her shoulders, 
clothed in rags. Suddenly he felt something move feebly 
under his touch. It was something small that was buried, 
and which stirred. The child swiftly cleared away the snow, 
discovering a wretched little body thin, wan with cold, still 
alive, lying naked on the dead woman's naked breast. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 145 

It was a little girl. 

It had been swaddled up, but in rags so scanty that in its 
struggles it had freed itself from its tatters, tinder it its 
attenuated limbs, and above it its breath, had somewhat 
melted the snow. A nurse would have said that it was five 
or six months old, but perhaps it might be a year, for growth, 
in poverty, suffers heart-breaking reductions which some- 
times even produce rachitis. When its face was exposed to 
the air it gave a cry, the continuation of its sobs of distress. 
For the mother not to have heard that sob, proved her 
irrevocably dead. 

The child took the infant in his arms. The stiffened body 
of the mother was a fearful sight ; a spectral light proceeded 
from her face. The mouth, apart and without breath, 
seemed to form in the indistinct language of shadows her 
answer to the questions put to the dead by the invisible. 
The ghastly reflection of the icy plains was on that counten- 
ance. There was the youthful forehead under the brown 
hair, the almost indignant knitting of the eyebrows, the 
pinched nostrils, the closed eyelids, the lashes glued together 
by the rime, and from the corners of the eyes to the corners 
of the mouth a deep channel of tears. The snow lighted up 
the corpse. Winter and the tomb are not adverse. The 
corpse is the icicle of man. The nakedness of her breasts was 
pathetic. They had fulfilled their purpose. On them was a 
sublime blight of the life infused into one being by another 
from whom life has fled, and maternal majesty was there 
instead of virginal purity. At the point of one of the nipples 
was a white pearl. It was a drop of milk frozen. 

Let us explain at once. On the plains over which the 
deserted boy was passing in his turn a beggar woman, 
nursing her infant and searching for a refuge, had lost her way 
a few hours before. Benumbed with cold she had sunk under 
the tempest, and could not rise again. The falling snow had 
covered her. So long as she was able she had clasped her 
little girl to her bosom, and thus died. 

The infant had tried to suck the marble breast. Blind 
trust, inspired by nature, for it seems that it is pos- 
sible ior a woman to suckle her child even after her 
last sigh. 

But the lips of the infant had been unable to find the 
breast, where the drop of milk, stolen by death, had frozen, 



I4 6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

whilst under the snow the child, more accustomed to the 

cradle than the tomb, had wailed. 

The deserted child had heard the cry of the dying child. 

He disinterred it. 

He took it in his arms. 

When she felt herself in his arms she ceased crying. The 
faces of the two children touched each other, and the purple 
lips of the infant sought the cheek of the boy, as it had been 
a breast. The little girl had nearly reached the moment 
when the congealed blood stops the action of the heart. Her 
mother had touched her with the chill of her own death a 
corpse communicates death; its numbness is infectious. Pier 
feet, hands, arms, knees, seemed paralyzed by cold. The boy 
felt the terrible chill. He had on him a garment dry and 
warm his pilot jacket. He placed the infant on the breast 
of the corpse, took off his jacket, wrapped the infant in it, 
took it up again in his arms, and now, almost naked, under 
the blast of the north wind which covered him with eddies of 
snow-flakes, carrying the infant, he pursued his journey. 

The little one having succeeded in finding the boy's cheek, 
again applied her lips to it, and, soothed by the warmth, she 
slept. First kiss of those two souls in the darkness. 

The mother lay there, her back to the snow, her face to the 
night; but perhaps at the moment when the little boy 
stripped himself to clothe the little girl, the mother saw him 
from the depths of infinity. 

CHAPTER III. 

A BURDEN MAKES A ROUGH ROAD ROUGHER. 

IT was little more than four hours since the hooker had sailed 

from the creek of Portland, leaving the boy on the shore. 

During the long hours since he had been deserted, and had 

Jen journeying onwards, he had met but three persons of 

b human society into which he was, perchance, about to 

enter a man, the man on the hill; a woman, the woman 

in the snow; and the little girl whom he was carrying in 

his arms. 

He was exhausted by fatigue and hunger, yet advanced 
J resolutely than ever, with less strength and an added 
ten. He was now almost naked. The few rags which 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 147 

remained to him, hardened by the frost, were sharp as glass, 
and cut his skin. He became colder, but the infant was 
warmer. That which he lost was not thrown away, but was 
gained by her. He found out that the poor infant enjoyed 
the comfort which was to her the renewal of life. He con- 
tinued to advance. 

From time to time, still holding her securely, he bent down, 
and taking a handful of snow he rubbed his feet with it, to 
prevent their being frost-bitten. At other times, his throat 
feeling as if it were on fire, he put a little snow in his mouth 
and sucked itj this for a moment assuaged his thirst, but 
changed it into fever a relief which was an aggravation. 

The storm had become shapeless from its violence. Del- 
uges of snow are possible. This was one. The paroxysm 
scourged the shore at the same time that it uptore the 
depths of ocean. This was, perhaps, the moment when the 
distracted hooker was going to pieces in the battle of the 
breakers. 

He travelled under this north wind, still towards the east, 
over wide surfaces of snow. He knew not how the hours 
had passed. For a long time he had ceased to see the smoke. 
Such indications are soon effaced in the night; besides, it was 
past the hour when fires are put out. Or he had, perhaps, 
made a mistake, and it was possible that neither town nor 
village existed in the direction in which he was travelling. 
Doubting, he yet persevered. 

Two or three times the little infant cried. Then he 
adopted in his gait a rocking movement, and the child was 
soothed and silenced. She ended by falling into a sound 
sleep. Shivering himself, he felt her warm. He frequently 
tightened the folds of the jacket round the babe's neck, so 
that the frost should not get in through any opening, and 
that no melted snow should drop between the garment and 
the child. 

The plain was unequal. In the declivities into which it 
sloped the snow, driven by the wind into the dips of the 
ground, was so deep, in comparison with a child so small, 
that it almost engulfed him, and he had to struggle through 
it half buried. He walked on, working away the snow with 
his knees. 

Having cleared the ravine, he reached the high lands swept 
by the winds, where the snow lay thin. Then he found the 



14$ THE LAUGHING MAN. 

surface a chert of ice. The little girl's lukewarm br 
playing on hi* lace, wanned it for a moment, then lia; 
and froze in h hair, stinening it into icicles. 

He felt the approach of another danger. He could not 
aflordtofalL He knew that if he did so he should never rise 
again, He was overcome by fatigue, and the weight of the 
dftrift^ would, as with the dead woman, have held him to 
the ground, and the ice glued him alive to the earth. 

bad tripped upon the dope* of precipices, and had 
recovered himself; he had stumbled into holes, and had got 
out again* Thenceforward the slightest fall would be death; 
a false step opened for him a tomb. He must not slip. He 
bad not strength to rise even to his knees. .Now every- 
thing was slippery; everywhere there was rime and frozen 
snow. The bttle creature whom he carried made his progress 
iUy difficult She was not only a burden, which his 
ness and exhaustion made excessive, but was also an 
embarrassment She occupied both his arms, and to 
who walks over ice both arms are a natural and necessary 
balancing power. 

He was obliged to do without this balance. 

He did without it and advanced, bending under his 
burden, not knowing what would become of him. 

This little infant was the drop causing the cup of distress 
/ernow, 

advanced, reeling at every step, as if on a spring board, 

and accomplishing, without spectators, miracles of equilib- 

Let us repeat that he was, perhaps, followed on this 

path of pain by eyes unsleeping in the distances of the 

hadow-4he eyes of the mother and the eyes of God. He 

staggered, sli pped, recovered himself, took care of the ir > 

and, gathering the jacket about her, he covered up her head} 

staggered again, advanced, slipped, then drew himself 

The cowardly wind drove against him. Apparently, he made 

mttcb more way than was necessary. He was, to all appear, 

ace, on the plains where Bincleaves Farm was afterwards 

iUMished, between what are now called Spring Gardem 

WA toe Parsonage House, Homesteads and cottages 

occupy the place of waste lands. Sometimes km than 4 

entury separates a steppe from a city, 

ly a -tell having occurred in the icy blast which was 
- - .'...'.-.>...-:.:,' . ..,,' <...-....,< .,:..,,., -,,:....,.. 



axe MAX. 

n negative 

i ship which 

.oil when 
10 1 " 

A: length, then, ' ad. Ho \ 

amid> 

plowed within him t'. 
'.i he \\.. 

thenceforward thoro would no longer bo 
nor ti o him th 

chances behind him. The infa-. 

ran. 

His eves \\ere t:\ed Q 

He never look his e\ es fcd man mi 

thus on N- through the half -opened '. 

his sepulchre. There were the chimneys of which tie 
seen the 

\o smoke ATOM from them now. He wt 
lie reached the houses. 1 le 
\ an open 
disuse. 

I In- two houses. In 
neither caudle nor Lamp j nor in I 

: nor in the whole town, so far as eve could n 
The house to ihe right WM a roof rather than a h. 
nothiii;; could be more mean. The walls were oi mn 
nun' \\as oi straw, and there was more thatch than wall. A 

nettle, springing from the bottom of the wall. re.. 
the roof. The hovel had but one door, which was like 
of a dog-kennel: and a \\uulow. which was but a hole. All 
-lint up. At the side an inhabit e told t ha 

;e was also inhabited. 
The house on the left was large, high. b\r 

-. with a slated root". It was also closed. 1 
rich man's home, opposite to that of the pair. 

The bov did not h Cached the 

;on. The double . [oor of Oil 



I5 o THE LAUGHING MAN, 

with large nails, was of the land that leads one to expect that 
behind it there is a stout armoury of bolts and locks. An 
iron knocker was attached to it. He raised the knocker with 
some difficulty, for his benumbed hands were stumps rather 
than hands. He knocked once. 

No answer. 

He struck again, and two knocks. 

No movement was heard in the house. 

He knocked a third time. 

There was no sound. He saw that they were all asleep, 
and did not care to get up. 

Then he turned to the hovel. He picked up a pebble from 
the snow, and knocked against the low door. 

There was no answer. 

He raised himself on tiptoe, and knocked with his pebble 
against the pane too softly to break the glass, but loud 
enough to be heard. 

No voice was heard ; no step moved ; no candle was lighted. 

He saw that there, as well, they did not care to awake. 

The house of stone and the thatched hovel were equally 
deaf to the wretched. 

The boy decided on pushing on further, and penetrating 
the strait of houses which stretched away in front of him, 
so dark that it seemed more like a gulf between two cliffs 
than the entrance to a town. 

CHAPTER IV. 

ANOTHER FORM OF DESERT. 

IT was Weymouth which he had just entered. Weymouth 
then was not the respectable and fine Weymouth of to-day. 
Ancient Weymouth did not present, like the present one, 
an irreproachable rectangular quay, with an inn and a statue 
in honour of George III. This resulted from the fact that 
George III. had not yet been born. For the same reason 
they had not yet designed on the slope of the green hill 
towards the east, fashioned flat on the soil by cutting away 
the turf and leaving the bare chalk to the view, the white 
horse, an acre long, bearing the lang upon his back, and 
always turning, in honour of George III., his tail to the city. 
These honours, however, were deserved. George III., having 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 151 

lost in his old age the intellect he had never possessed in his 
youth, was not responsible for the calamities of his reign, 
He was an innocent,, Why not erect statues to him ? 

Weymouth, a hundred and eighty years ago, was about as 
symmetrical as a game of spillikins in confusion. In legends 
it is said that Astaroth travelled over the world, carrying on 
her back a wallet which contained everything, even good 
women in their houses. A pell-mell of sheds thrown from 
her devil's bag would give an idea of that irregular Wey- 
mouth the good women in the sheds included. The Music 
Hall remains as a specimen of those buildings. A confusion 
of wooden dens, carved and eaten by worms (which carve in 
another fashion) shapeless, overhanging buildings, some 
with pillars, leaning one against the other for support against 
the sea wind, and leaving between them awkward spaces of 
narrow and winding channels, lanes, and passages, often 
flooded by the equinoctial tides; a heap of old grandmother 
houses, crowded round a grandfather church such was 
Weymouth; a sort of old Norman village thrown up on the 
coast of England. 

The traveller who entered the tavern, now replaced by the 
hotel, instead of paying royally his twenty-five francs for a 
fried sole and a bottle of wine, had to suffer the humiliation 
of eating a pennyworth of soup made of fish which soup, 
by-the-bye, was very good. Wretched fare 1 

The deserted child, canying the foundling, passed through 
the first street, then the second, then the third. He raised 
his eyes, seeking in the higher stories and in the roofs a 
lighted window-pane; but all were closed and dark. At 
intervals he knocked at the doors. No one answered. 
Nothing makes the heart so like a stone as being warm 
between sheets. The noise and the shaking had at length 
awakened the infant. He knew this because he felt her suck 
his cheek. She did not cry, believing him her mother. 

He was about to turn and wander long, perhaps, in the 
intersections of the Scrambridge lanes, where there were then 
more cultivated plots than dwellings, more thorn hedges 
than houses; but fortunately he struck into a passage which 
exists to this day near Trinity schools. This passage led him 
to a water-brink, where there was a roughly built quay with 
a parapet, and to the right he made out a bridge. It was 
the bridge over the Wey, connecting Weymouth with Mel- 



, S2 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

combe Regis, and under the arches of which the Backwater 

joins the harbour. 

Weymouth, a hamlet, was then the suburb of Melcombe 
Regis, a city and port. Now Melcombe Regis is a parish of 
Weymouth. The village has absorbed the city. It was the 
bridge which did the work. Bridges are strange vehicles of 
suction, which inhale the population, and sometimes swell 
one river-bank at the expense of its opposite neighbour. 

The boy went to the bridge, which at that period was a 
covered timber structure. He crossed it. Thanks to its 
roofing, there was no snow on the planks. His bare feet had 
a moment's comfort as they crossed them. Having passed 
over the bridge, he was in Melcombe Regis. ^ There were 
fewer wooden houses than stone ones there. He was no 
longer in the village ; he was in the city. 

The bridge opened on a rather fine street called St. 
Thomas's Street. He entered it. Here and there were 
high carved gables and shop-fronts. He set to knocking 
at the doors again: he had no strength left to call or 
shout. 

At Melcombe Regis, as at Weymouth, no one was stirring. 
The doors were all carefully double-locked, The windows 
were covered by their shutters, as the eyes by their lids. 
Every precaution had been taken to avoid being roused by 
disagreeable surprises. The little wanderer was suffering the 
indefinable depression made by a sleeping town. Its silence, 
as of a paralyzed ants' nest, makes the head swim. All its 
lethargies mingle their nightmares, its slumbers are a crowd, 
and from its human bodies lying prone there arises a vapour 
of dreams. Sleep has gloomy associates beyond this life: 
the decomposed thoughts of the sleepers float above them in 
a mist which is both of death and of life, and combine with 
the possible, which has also, perhaps, the power of thought, 
as it floats in space. Hence arise entanglements. Dreams, 
those clouds, interpose their folds and their transparencies 
over that star, the mind. Above those closed eyelids, where 
vision has taken the place of sight, a sepulchral disintegration 
of outlines and appearances dilates itself into impalpability. 
Mysterious, diffused existences amalgamate themselves with 
life on that border of death, which sleep is. Those larvae and 
souls mingle in the air. Even he who sleeps not feels a 
medium press upon him full of sinister life. The surround- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 153 

ing chimera, in which he suspects a reality, impedes him. 
The waking man, wending his way amidst the sleep phantoms 
of others, unconsciously pushes back passing shadows, has, 
or imagines that he has, a vague fear of adverse contact with 
the invisible, and feels at every moment the obscure pressure 
of a hostile encounter which immediately dissolves. There 
is something o the effect of a forest in the nocturnal diffusion 
of dreams. 

This is what is called being afraid without reason. 

What a man feels a child feels still more. 

The uneasiness of nocturnal fear, increased by the spectral 
houses, increased the weight of the sad burden under which 
be was struggling. 

He entered Conycar Lane, and perceived at the end of that 
passage the Backwater, which he took for the ocean. He no 
longer knew in what direction the sea lay. He retraced his 
steps, struck to the left by Maiden Street, and returned as 
far as St. Alban's Row. 

There, by chance and without selection, he knocked vio- 
lently at any house that he happened to pass. His blows, 
on which he was expending bis last energies, were jerky and 
without aim ; now ceasing altogether for a time, now renewed 
as if in irritation. It was the violence of his fever striking 
against the doors. 

One voice answered. ' 

That of Time. 

Three o'clock tolled slowly behind him from the old belfry 
of St. Nicholas. 

Then all sank into silence again. 

That no inhabitant should have opened a lattice may 
appear surprising. Nevertheless that silence is in a great 
measure to be explained. We must remember that in 
January 1690 they were just over a somewhat severe 
outbreak of the plague in London, and that the fear of 
receiving sick vagabonds caused a diminution of hospitality 
everywhere. People would not even open, their windows for 
fear of inhaling the poison. 

The child felt the coldness of men more terribly than the 
coldness of night. The coldness of men is intentional. He 
felt a tightening on his sinking heart which he had not known 
on the open plains. Now he had entered into the midst of 
life, and remained alone. This was the summit of misery. 



i 54 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

The pitiless desert he had understood; the unrelenting town 

was too much to bear. 

The hour, the strokes of which he had just counted, had 
been another blow. Nothing is so freezing in certain situa- 
tions as the voice of the hour. It is a declaration of indiffer- 
ence. It is Eternity saying, " What does it matter to me? " 

He stopped, and it is not certain that, in that miserable 
minute, he did not ask himself whether it would not be easier 
to lie down there and die. However, the little infant leaned 
her head against his shoulder, and fell asleep again. 

This blind confidence set him onwards again. He whom 
all supports were failing felt that he was himself a basis of 
support. Irresistible summons of duty! 

Neither such ideas nor such a situation belonged to his age. 
It is probable that he did not understand them. It was a 
matter of instinct. He did what he chanced to do. 

He set out again in the direction of Johnstone Row. But 
now he no longer walked; he dragged himself along. He 
left St. Mary's Street to the left, made zigzags through lanes, 
and at the end of a winding passage found himself in a rather 
wide open space. It was a piece of waste land not built 
upon probably the spot where Chesterfield Place now 
stands. The houses ended there. He perceived the sea to 
the right, and scarcely anything more of the town to his left. 

What was to become of him ? Here was the country again. 
To the east great inclined planes of snow marked out the 
wide slopes of Radipole. Should he continue this journey? 
Should he advance and re-enter the solitudes? Should he 
return and re-enter the streets ? What was he to do between 
those two silences the mute plain and the deaf city? 
Which of the two refusals should he choose ? 

There is the anchor of mercy. There is also the look of 
piteousness. It was that look which the poor little despair- 
ing wanderer threw around him. 

All at once he heard a menace. 

CHAPTER V. 

MISANTHROPY PLAYS ITS PRANKS. 

A STRANGE and alarming grinding of teeth reached him 
through the darkness. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 155 

, It was enough to drive one back: he advanced. To those 
to whom silence has become dreadful a howl is comforting. 
That fierce growl reassured him ; that threat was a promise. 
There was there a being alive and awake, though it might be 
a wild beast. He advanced in the direction whence came the 
Bnarl. 

He turned the corner of a wall, and, behind in the vast 
sepulchral light made by the reflection of snow and sea, he 
saw a thing placed as if for shelter. It was a cart, unless it 
was a hovel. It had wheels it was a carriage. It had a 
roof it was a dwelling. From the roof arose a funnel, and 
out of the funnel smoke. This smoke was red, and seemed 
to imply a good fire in the interior. Behind, projecting 
hinges indicated a door, and in the centre of this door a 
square opening showed a light inside the caravan. He 
approached. 

Whatever had growled perceived his approach, and 
became furious. It was no longer a growl which he had to 
meet ; it was a roar. He heard a sharp sound, as of a chain 
violently pulled to its full length, and suddenly, under the 
door, between the hind wheels, two rows of sharp white teeth 
appeared. At the same time as the mouth between the 
wheels a head was put through the window. 
" Peace there! " said the head. 
The mouth was silent. 
The head began again, 
" Is any one there? " 
The child answered, 
' Yes." 
'Who?" 
I." 

' You ? Who are you ? whence do you come ? ' 
' I am weary," said the child. 
4 What o'clock is it?" 
' I am cold." 

' What are you doing there ? " 
' I am hungry." 
The head replied, 

" Every one cannot be as happy as a lord. Go away." 
The head was withdrawn and the window closed. 
The child bowed his forehead, drew the sleeping infant 
closer in his arms, and collected his strength to resume hia 



I5 6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

journey. He had taken a few steps, and was hurrying 

away. 

However, at the same time that the window closed the door 
had opened ; a step had been let down ; the voice which had 
spoken to the child cried out angrily from the inside of the 
van, 

" Well! why do you not enter? " 

The child turned back. 

" Come in," resumed the voice. " Who has sent me a 
fellow like this, who is hungry and cold, and who does not 
come in ? " 

The child, at once repulsed and invited, remained motion- 
less. 

The voice continued, 

" You are told to come in, you young rascal." 

He made up his mind, and placed one foot on the lowest 
step. 

There was a great growl under the van. He drew back. 
The gaping jaws appeared. 

" Peace I " cried the voice of the man. 

The jaws retreated, the growling ceased. 

" Come upl " continued the man. 

The child with difficulty climbed up the three steps. He 
was impeded by the infant, so benumbed, rolled up and 
enveloped in the jacket that nothing could be distinguished 
of her, and she was but a little shapeless mass. 

He passed over the three steps; and having reached the 
threshold, stopped. 

No candle was burning* in the caravan, probably from the 
economy of want. The hut was lighted only by a red tinge, 
arising from the opening at the top of the stove, in which 
sparkled a peat fire. On the stove were smoking a porringer 
and a saucepan, containing to all appearance something tq 
eat. The savoury odour was perceptible. The hut wag 
furnished with a chest, a stool, and an unlighted lantern 
which hung from the ceiling. Besides, to the partition werq 
attached some boards on brackets and some hooks, from 
which hung a variety of things. On the boards and nails 
were rows of glasses, coppers, an alembic, a vessel rather like 
those used for graining wax, which are called granulators; 
and a confusion of strange objects of which the child under- 
stood nothing, and which were utensils for cooking and 



THE LAUGHING MAN. r 57 

chemistry. The caravan was oblong in shape, the stove 
being in front. It was not even a little room ; it was scarcely 
a big box. There was more light outside from the snow than 
inside from the stove. Everything in the caravan was 
indistinct and misty. Nevertheless, a reflection of the fire on 
the ceiling enabled the spectator to read in large letters, 

URSUS, PHILOSOPHER. 

The child, in fact, was entering the house of Homo and 
Ursus. The one he had just heard growling, the other 
speaking. 

The child having reached the threshold, perceived near the 
stove a man, tall, smooth, thin and old, dressed in gray, 
whose head, as he stood, reached the roof. The man could 
not have raised himself on tiptoe. The caravan was just 
his size. 

" Come in! " said the man, who was Ursus. 

The child entered. 

" Put down your bundle." 

The child placed his burden carefully on the top of the 
chest, for fear of awakening and terrifying it. 

The man continued, 

" How gently you put it down! You could not be more 
careful were it a case of relics. Is it that you are afraid of 
tearing a hole in your rags? Worthless vagabond! in the 
streets at this hour ! Who are you ? Answer ! But no. I 
forbid you to answer. There! You are cold. Warm 
yourself as quick as you can," and he shoved him by the 
shoulders in front of the fire. 

" How wet you are ! You're frozen through ! A nice state 
to come into a house! Come, take off those rags, you 
villain! " and as with one hand, and with feverish haste, he 
dragged off the boy's rags which tore into shreds, with the 
other he took down from a nail a man's shirt, and one of 
those knitted jackets which are up to this day called kiss- 
ine-quicks. 

" Here are clothes." 

He chose out of a heap a woollen rag, and chafed before the 
fire the limbs of the exhausted and bewildered child, who at 
that moment, warm and naked, felt as if he were seeing and 
touching heaven. The limbs having been rubbed, he next 
wiped the boy's feet. 



I5 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" Come, you limb ; you have nothing frost-bitten 1 I was a 
fool to fancy you had something frozen, hind legs or fore 
paws. You will not lose the use of them this time. Dress 
yourself ! " 

The child put on the shirt, and the man slipped the knitted 
jacket over it. 

" Now " 

The man kicked the stool forward and made the little boy 
sit down, again shoving him by the shoulders; then he 
pointed with his finger to the porringer which was smoking 
upon the stove. What the child saw in the porringer was 
again heaven to him namely, a potato and a bit of bacon. 

" You are hungry; eat I " 

The man took from the shelf a crust of hard bread and an 
iron fork, and handed them to the child. 

The boy hesitated. 

" Perhaps you expect me to lay the cloth," said the man, 
and he placed the porringer on the child's lap. 

" Gobble that up." 

Hunger overcame astonishment. The child began to eat. 
The poor boy devoured rather than ate. The glad sound of 
the crunching of bread filled the hut. The man grumbled, 

" Not so quick, you horrid glutton 1 Isn't he a greedy 
scoundrel? When such scum are hungry, they eat in a 
revolting fashion. You should see a lord sup. In my time 
I have seen dukes eat. They don't eat ; that's noble. 
They drink, however. Come, you pig, stuff yourself 1 " 

The absence of ears, which is the concomitant of a hungry 
stomach, caused the child to take little heed of these violent 
epithets, tempered as they were by charity of action involv- 
ing a contradiction resulting in his benefit. For the moment 
he was absorbed by two exigencies and by two ecstasies 
food and warmth. 

Ursus continued his imprecations, muttering to himself, 

" I have seen King James supping in proprid persona in 
the Banqueting House, where are to be admired the paintings 
of the famous Rubens. His Majesty touched nothing. This 
beggar here browses: browses, a word derived from brute. 
What put it into my head to come to this Weymouth seven 
times devoted to the infernal deities? I have sold nothing 
since morning. I have harangued the snow. I have played 
the flute to the hurricane. I have not pocketed a farthing; 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 
and now, to-night, beggars drop in. Horrid place! 



160 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

"Well, who goes there? " said the man. " Here is an- 
other of them. When is this to end ? Who is there ? To 
arms! Corporal, call out the guard I Another bang 1 What 
have you brought me, thief I Don't you see it is thirsty? 
Come! the little one must have a drink. So now I shall 
not have even the milk! " 

He took down from the things lying in disorder on the 
shelf a bandage of linen, a sponge and a phial, muttering 
savagely, " What an infernal place! " 

Then he looked at the little infant. ' 'Tis a girl I one can 
tell that by her scream, and she is drenched as well." He 
dragged away, as he had done from the boy, the tatters in 
which she was knotted up rather than dressed, -and swathed 
her in a rag, which, though of coarse linen, was clean and dry. 
This rough and sudden dressing made the infant angry. 

" She mews relentlessly," said he. 

He bit off a long piece of sponge, tore from the roll a square 
piece of linen, drew from it a bit of thread, took the saucepan 
containing the milk from the stove, filled the phial with milk, 
drove down the sponge halfway into its neck, covered the 
sponge with linen, tied this cork in with the thread, applied 
his cheeks to the phial to be sure that it was not too hot, and 
seized under his left arm the bewildered bundle which was 
still crying. "Come! take your supper, creature! Let me 
suckle you," and he put the neck of the bottle to its mouth. 

The little infant drank greedily. 

He held the phial at the necessary incline, grumbling, 
" They are all the same, the cowards! When they have all 
they want they are silent." 

The child had drunk so ravenously, and had seized so 
eagerly this breast offered by a cross-grained providence, that 
she was taken with a fit of coughing. 

"You are going to choke!" growled Ursus. "A fine 
gobbler this one, tool " 

He drew away the sponge which she was sucking, allowed 
the cough to subside, and then replaced the phial to her 
lips, saying, " Suck, you little wretch! " 

In the meantime the boy had laid down his fork. Seeing 
the infant drink had made him forget to eat. The moment 
before, while he ate, the expression in his face was satisfac- 
tion ; now it was gratitude. He watched the infant's 
renewal of life; the completion of the resurrection begun by 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 161 

himself filled his eyes with an ineffable brilliancy. Ursus 
went on muttering angry words between his teeth. The 
little boy now and then lifted towards Ursus his eyes moist 
with the unspeakable emotion which the poor little being 
felt, but was unable to express Ursus addressed him 
furiously. 

"Well, will you eat?" 

" And you? " said the child, trembling all over, and with 
tears in his eyes. " You will have nothingl " 

" Will you be kind enough to eat it all up, you cub ? There 
is not too much for you, since there was not enough for me." 

The child took up his fork, but did not eat. 

" Eat," shouted Ursus. " What has it got to do with me? 
Who speaks of me? Wretched little barefooted clerk of 
Penniless Parish, I tell you, eat it all up I You are here to 
eat, drink, and sleep eat, or I will kick you out, both of you." 

The boy, under this menace, began to eat again. He had 
not much trouble in finishing what was left in the porringer. 
Ursus muttered, " This building is badly joined. The cold 
comes in by the window pane." A pane had indeed been 
broken in front, either by a jolt of the caravan or by a stone 
thrown by some mischievous boy. Ursus had placed a star 
of paper over the fracture, which had become unpasted. 
The blast entered there. 

He was half seated on the chest. The infant in his arms, 
and at the same time on his lap, was sucking rapturously at 
the bottle, in the happy somnolency of cherubim before their 
Creator, and infants at their mothers' breast. 

"She is drunk," said Ursus; and he continued, "After 
this, preach sermons on temperance! " 

The wind tore from the pane the Blaster of paper, which' 
flew across the hut; but this was nothing to the children, who 
were entering life anew. Whilst the little girl drank, and the 
little boy ate, Ursus grumbled, 

" Drunkenness begins in the infant in swaddling clothes. 
What useful trouble Bishop Tillotson gives himself, thunder- 
ing against excessive drinking. What an odious draught of 
wind 1 And then my stove is old. It allows puffs of smoke 
to escape enough to give you trichiasis. One has the incon- 
venience of cold, and the inconvenience of fire. One cannot 
see clearly. That being over there abuses my hospitality. 
Well, I have not been able to distinguish the animal's face 

6 



162 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

yet. Comfort is wanting here. By Jove I I am a great 
admirer of exquisite banquets in well closed rooms. I have 
missed my vocation. I was born to be a sensualist. The 
greatest of stoics was Philoxenus, who wished to possess the 
neck of a crane, so as to be longer in tasting the pleasures of 
the table. Receipts to-day, naught. Nothing sold all day. 
Inhabitants, servants, and tradesmen, here is the doctor, 
here are the drugs. You are losing your time, old friend. 
Pack up your physic. Every one is well down here. It's a 
cursed town, where every one is well 1 The skies alone have 
diarrhoea what snow! Anaxagoras taught that the snow 
was black; and he was right, cold being blackness. Ice is 
night. What a hurricane ! I can fancy the delight of those 
at sea. The hurricane is the passage of demons. It is the 
row of the tempest fiends galloping and rolling head over heels 
above our bone-boxes. In the cloud this one has a tail, that 
one has horns, another a flame for a tongue, another claws to 
its wings, another a lord chancellor's paunch, another an 
academician's pate. You may observe a form in every 
sound. To every fresh wind a fresh demon. The ear hears, 
the eye sees, the crash is a face. Zounds 1 There are folks at 
sea that is certain. My friends, get through the storm as 
best you can. I have enough to do to get through life. 
Come now, do I keep an inn, or do I not? Why should I 
trade with these travellers ? The universal distress sends its 
spatterings even as far as my poverty. Into my cabin fall 
hideous drops of the far-spreading mud of mankind. I am 
given up to the voracity of travellers. I am a prey the prey 
of those dying of hunger. Winter, night, a pasteboard hut 
an unfortunate friend below and without, the storm, 
potato, a fire as big as my fist, parasites, the wind penetratin 
through every cranny, not a halfpenny, and bundles whici 
set to howling. I open them and find beggars inside. I 
this fair? Besides, the laws are violated. Ah! vagabon 
with your vagabond child! Mischievous pick-pocket, evil 
minded abortion, so you walk the streets after curfew? I 
our good king only knew it, would he not have you thrown 
into the bottom of a ditch, just to teach you better? My 
gentleman walks out at night with my lady, and with the 
glass at fifteen degrees of frost, bare-headed and bare-footed 
Understand that such things are forbidden. There are rule: 
regulations, you lawless wretches. Vagabonds ar< 



THE IvAUGHING MAN. 163 

punished, honest folks who have houses are guarded and 
protected. Kings are the fathers of their people. I have my 
own house. You would have been whipped in the public 
street had you chanced to have been met, and quite right, too. 
There must be order in an established city. For my own 
part, I did wrong not to denounce you to the constable. But 
I am such a fool 1 I understand what is right and do what is 
wrong. O the ruffian! to come here in such a state I I 
did not see the snow upon them when they came in; it had 
melted, and here's my whole house swamped. I have an 
inundation in my home. I shall have to burn an incredible 
amount of coals to dry up this lake coals at twelve farthings 
the miners' standard I How am I going to manage to fit 
three into this caravan ? Now it is over ; I enter the nursery ; 
I am going to have in my house the weaning of the future 
beggardom of England. I shall have for employment, office, 
and function, to fashion the miscarried fortunes of that colos- 
sal prostitute, Misery, to bring to perfection future gallows' 
birds, and to give young thieves the forms of philosophy. 
The tongue of the wolf is the warning of God. And to think 
that if I had not been eaten up by creatures of this kind for 
the last thirty years, I should be rich ; Homo would be fat ; I 
should have a medicine - chest full of rarities; as many 
surgical instruments as Doctor Linacre, surgeon to King 
Henry VIII.; divers animals of all kinds; Egyptian 
mummies, and similar curiosities; I should be a member of 
the College of Physicians, and have the right of using the 
library, built in 1652 by the celebrated Hervey, and of study- 
ing in the lantern of that dome, whence you can see the whole 
of London. I could continue my observations of solar 
obfuscation, and prove that a caligenous vapour arises from 
the planet. Such was the opinion of John Kepler, who was 
born the year before the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and 
who was mathematician to the emperor. The sun is a 
chimney which sometimes smokes; so does my stove. My 
stove is no better than the sun. Yes, I should have made my 
fortune ; my part would have been a different one I should 
not be the insignificant fellow I am. I should not degrade 
science in the highways, for the crowd is not worthy of the 
doctrine, the crowd being nothing better than a confused 
mixture of all sorts of ages, sexes, humours, and conditions, 
that wise men of all periods have not hesitated to despise, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

and whose extravagance and passion the most moderate men 
in their justice detest. Oh, I am weary of existence ! After 
all, one does not live long ! The human life is soon done with. 
But no it is long. At intervals, that we should not become 
too discouraged, that we may have the stupidity to consent 
to bear our being, and not profit by the magnificent oppor- 
tunities to hang ourselves which cords and nails afford, 
nature puts on an air of taking a little care of man not 
to-night, though. The rogue causes the wheat to spring up, 
ripens the grape, gives her song to the nightingale. From 
time to time a ray of morning or a glass of gin, and that is 
what we call happiness! It is a narrow border of good 
round a huge winding-sheet of evil. We have a destiny 
of which the devil has woven the stuff and God has sewn 
the hem. In the meantime, you have eaten my supper, you 
thief! " 

In the meantime the infant whom he was holding all the 
time in his arms very tenderly whilst he was vituperating, 
shut its eyes languidly; a sign of repletion. Ursus examined 
the phial, and grumbled, 

" She has drunk it all up, the impudent creature! " 

He arose, and sustaining the infant with his left arm, with 
his right he raised the lid of the chest and drew from beneath 
it a bear-skin the one he called, as will be remembered, his 
real skin. Whilst he was doing this he heard the other child 
eating, and looked at him sideways. 

" It will be something to do if, henceforth, I have to feed 
that growing glutton. It will be a worm gnawing at the 
vitals of my industry." 

He spread out, still with one arm, the bear-skin, on the 
chest, working his elbow and managing his movements so as 
not to disturb the sleep into which the infant was just 
sinking. 

Then he laid her down on the fur, on the side next the fire. 
Having done so, he placed the phial on the stove, and 
exclaimed, 

" I'm thirsty, if you like I " 

He looked into the pot. There were a few good mouthfuls 
of milk left in it; he raised it to his lips. Just as he was 
about to drink, his eye fell on the little girl. He replaced the 
pot on the stove, took the phial, uncorked it, poured into it 
all the milk that remained, which was just sufficient to fill it. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 165 

replaced the sponge and the linen rag over it, and tied it 
round the neck of the bottle. 

" All the same, I'm hungry and thirsty," he observed. 

And he added, 

" When one cannot eat bread, one must drink water." 

Behind the stove there was a jug with the spout off. He 
took it and handed it to the boy. 

"Will you drink?" 

The child drank, and then went on eating. 

Ursus seized the pitcher again, and conveyed it to his 
mouth. Tht temperature of the water which it con- 
tained had been unequally modified by the proximity of 
the stove. 

He swallowed some mouthfuls and made a grimace. 

" Water 1 pretending to be pure, thou resemblest false 
friends. Thou art warm at the top and cold at bottom." 

In the meantime the boy had finished his supper. The 
porringer was more than empty; it was cleaned out. He 
picked up and ate pensively a few crumbs caught in the folds 
of the knitted jacket on his lap. 

Ursus turned towards him. 

" That is not all. Now, a word with you. The mouth is 
not made only for eating ; it is made for speaking. Now that 
you are warmed and stuffed, you beast, take care of yourself. 
You are going to answer my questions. Whence do you 
come? " 

The child replied, 

" I do not know." 

" How do you mean? you don't know? " 

" I was abandoned this evening on the sea-shore." 

" You little scamp 1 what's your name ? He is so good for 
nothing that his relations desert him." 

" I have no relations." 

" Give in a little to my tastes, and observe that I do not 
like those who sing to a tune of fibs. Thou must have 
relatives since you have a sister." 

" It is not my sister." I 

" It is not your sister? " 

" No." 

"Who is it then?" 

" It is a baby that I found." 

" Found? " 



166 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" Yes." 

' What! did you pick her up? " 
Yes." 

Where? If you lie I will exterminate you." 
On the breast of a woman who was dead in the snow." 
When?" 
An hour ago." 
Where?" 
A league from here." 

The arched brow of Ursus knitted and took that pointed 
shape which characterizes emotion on the b*>w of a phi- 
losopher. 

" Dead 1 Lucky for her 1 We must leave her in the snow. 
She is well off there. In which direction? " 

" In the direction of the sea." 

" Did you cross the bridge? " 

" Yes." 

Ursus opened the window at the back and examined the 
view. 

The weather had not improved. The snow was falling 
thickly and mournfully. 

He shut the window. 

He went to the broken glass ; he filled the hole with a rag ; 
he heaped the stove with peat; he spread out as far as he 
could the bear-skin on the chest; took a large book which he 
had in a corner, placed it under the skin for a pillow, and laid 
the head of the sleeping infant on it. 

Then he turned to the boy. 

" Lie down there." 

The boy obeyed, and stretched himself at full length by 
the side of the infant. 

Ursus rolled the bear-skin over the two children, and tucked 
it under their feet. 

He took down from a shelf, and tied round his waist, a 
linen belt with a large pocket containing, no doubt, a case of 
instruments and bottles of restoratives. 

Then he took the lantern from where it hung to the ceiling 
and lighted it. It was a dark lantern. When lighted it still 
left the children in shadow. 

Ursus half opened the door, and said, 

" I am going out; do not be afraid. I shall return. Go 
to sleep." 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 167, 

Then letting down, the steps, he called Homo. He was 
answered by a loving growl. 

Ursus, holding the lantern in his hand, descended. The 
steps were replaced, the door was reclosed. The children 
remained alone. 

From without, a voice, the voice of Ursus, said, 

" You, boy, who have just eaten up my supper, are you 
already asleep? " 

"No," replied the child. 

" Well, if she cries, give her the rest of the milk." 

The clinking of a chain being undone was heard, and the 
sound of a man's footsteps, mingled with that of the pads of 
an animal, died off in the distance. A few minutes after, 
both children slept profoundly. 

The little boy and girl, lying naked side by side, were 
joined through the silent hours, in the seraphic promiscuous- 
ness of the shadows; such dreams as were possible to their 
age floated from one to the other ; beneath their closed eyelids 
there shone, perhaps, a starlight ; if the word marriage were 
not inappropriate to the situation, they were husband and 
wife after the fashion of the angels. Such innocence in such 
darkness, such purity in such an embrace; such foretastes of 
heaven are possible only to childhood, and no immensity 
approaches the greatness of little children. Of all gulfs this 
is the deepest. The fearful perpetuity of the dead chained 
beyond life, the mighty animosity of the ocean to a wreck, 
the whiteness of the snow over buried bodies, do not equal in 
pathos two children's mouths meeting divinely in sleep,* 
and the meeting of which is not even a kiss. A betrothal 
perchance, perchance a catastrophe. The unknown weighs 
down upon their juxtaposition. It charms, it terrifies; who 
knows which? It stays the pulse. Innocence is higher 
than virtue. Innocence is holy ignorance. They slept. 
They were in peace. They were warm. The nakedness of 
their bodies, embraced each in each, amalgamated with the 
virginity of their souls. They were there as in the nest of 
the abyss. 

* " Their lips -were four red roses on a stem, 

Which in their summer beauty kissed each other." 

Shakespeare. 



168 THE LAUGHINP MAN. 

CHAPTER VI. 

THE AWAKING. 

THE beginning of day is sinister. A sad pale light penetrated 
the hut. It was the frozen dawn. That wan light which 
throws into relief the mournful reality of objects which are 
blurred into spectral forms by the night, did not awake the 
children, so soundly were they sleeping. The caravan was 
warm. Their breathings alternated like two peaceful waves. 
There was no longer a hurricane without. The light of 
dawn was slowly taking possession of the horizon. The con- 
stellations were being extinguished, like candles blown out 
one after the other. Only a few large stars resisted. The 
deep-toned song of the Infinite was coming from the sea. 

The fire in the stove was not quite out. The twilight 
broke, little by little, into daylight. The Boy slept less 
heavily than the girl. At length, a ray brighter than the 
others broke through the pane, and he opened his eyes. The 
sleep of childhood ends in forgetfulness. He lay in a state 
of semi-stupor, without knowing where he was or what was 
near him, without making an effort to remember, gazing at 
the ceiling, and setting himself an aimless task as he gazed 
dreamily at the letters of the inscription " Ursus, Philoso- 
pher " which, being unable to read, he examined without 
the power of deciphering. 

The sound of the key turning in the lock caused him to 
turn his head. 

The door turned on its hinges, the steps were let down. 
Ursus was returning. He ascended the steps, his ex- 
tinguished lantern in his hand. At the same time the 
pattering of four paws fell upon the steps. It was Homo, 
following Ursus, who had also returned to his home. 

The boy awoke with somewhat of a start. The wolf, 
having probably an appetite, gave him a morning yawn, 
showing two rows of very white teeth. He stopped when he 
had got halfway up the steps, and placed both forepaws 
within the caravc>n, leaning on the threshold, like a preacher 
with his elbows on the edge of the pulpit. He sniffed the 
chest from afar, not being in the habit of finding it occupied 
as it then was. His wolfine form, framed by the doorway, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 169 

was designed in black against the light of morning. He 
made up his mind, and entered. The boy, seeing the wolf in 
the caravan, got out of the bear-skin, and, standing up, 
placed himself in front of the little infant, who was sleeping 
more soundly than ever. 

Ursus had just hung the lantern up on a nail in the ceiling. 
Silently, and with mechanical deliberation, he unbuckled the 
belt in which was his case, and replaced it on the shelf. He 
looked at nothing, and seemed to see nothing. His eyes 
were glassy. Something was moving him deeply in his mind. 
His thoughts at length found breath, as usual, in a rapid 
outflow of words. He exclaimed, 

" Happy, doubtless I Dead! stone dead 1 " 

He bent down, and put a shovelful of turf mould into the 
stove; and as he poked the peat he growled out, 

" I had a deal of trouble to find her. The mischief of the 
unknown had buried her under two feet of snow. Had it not 
been for Homo, who sees as clearly with his nose as 
Christopher Columbus did with his mind, I should be still 
there, scratching at the avalanche, and playing hide and seek 
with Death. Diogenes took his lantern and sought for a 
man ; I took my lantern and sought for a woman. He found 
a sarcasm, and I found mourning. How cold she was ! I 
touched her hand a stone I What silence in her eyes ! How 
can any one be such a fool as to die and leave a child behind ? 
It will not be convenient to pack three into this box. A 
pretty family I have now! A boy and a girl! " 

Whilst Ursus was speaking, Homo sidled up close to the 
stove. The hand of the sleeping infant was hanging down 
between the stove and the chest. The wolf set to licking it. 
He licked it so softly that he did not awake the little infant. 

Ursus turned round. 

" Well done, Homo. I shall be father, and you shall be 
.uncle." 

Then he betook himself again to arranging the fire with 
philosophical care, without interrupting his aside. 

" Adoption! It is settled; Homo is willing." 

He drew himself up. 

" I should like to know who is responsible for that woman's 
death? Is it man? or ... ." 

He raised his eyes, but looked beyond the ceiling, and his 
lips murmured, 



I7 o THE LAUGHING MAN. 

"Is it Thou?" 

Then his brow dropped, as if under a burden, und 
continued, 

" The night took the trouble to kill the woman.' 

Raising 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." 

Ursua 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 morel " 

" 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." 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 171 

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! " 

Just then the little girl awoke. Her good-day was a cry. 

" Come, nurse, give her the breast," said Ursus. 

The infant sat up. Ursus taking the phial from the stove 
gave it to her to suck. 

Then the sun arose. He was level with the horizon. His 
red rays gleamed through the glass, and struck against the 
face of the infant, which was turned towards him. Her 
eyeballs, fixed on the sun, reflected his purple orbit like two 
mirrors. The eyeballs were immovable, the eyelids also. 

" See! " said Ursus. " She is blind." 



PART II. 



BOOK THE FIRST. 

THE EVERLASTING PRESENCE OF THE 
PAST: MAN REFLECTS MAN. 



CHAPTER I. 

LORD CLANCHARLIE. 



THERE was, in those days, an old tradition. 

That tradition was Lord Linnaeus Clancharlie. 

Linnaeus Baron Clancharlie, a contemporary of Cromwell, 
was one of the peers of England few in number, be it said 
who accepted the republic. The reason of his acceptance of 
it might, indeed, for want of a better, be found in the fact 
that for the time being the republic was triumphant. It 
was a matter of course that Lord Clancharlie should adhere 
to the republic, as long as the republic had the upper hand; 
but after the close of the revolution and the fall of the 
parliamentary government, Lord Clancharlie had persisted 
in his fidelity to it. It would have been easy for the noble 
patrician to re-enter the reconstituted upper house, repent- 
ance being ever well received on restorations, and Charles II. 
being a kind prince enough to those who returned to their 
allegiance to him ; but Lord Clancharlie had failed to under- 
stand what was due to events. While the nation over- 
whelmed with acclamation the king come to retake posses- 
sion of England, while unanimity was recording its verdict, 
while the people were bowing their salutation to the 
monarchy, while the dynasty was rising anew amidst a 
glorious and triumphant recantation, at the moment when 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

the past was becoming the future, and the future becoming 
the past, that nobleman remained refractory. He turned his 
head away from all that joy, and voluntarily exiled himself. 
While he could have been a peer, he preferred being an out- 
law. Years had thus passed away. He had grown old in 
his fidelity to the dead republic, and was therefore crowned 
with the ridicule which is the natural reward of such folly. 

He had retired into Switzerland, and dwelt in a sort of 
lofty ruin on the banks of the Lake of Geneva. He had 
chosen his dwelling in the most rugged nook of the lake, 
between Chillon, where is the dungeon of Bonnivard, and 
Vevay, where is Ludlow's tomb. The rugged Alps, filled 
with twilight, winds, and clouds, were around him; and he 
lived there, hidden in the great shadows that fall from the 
mountains. He was rarely met by any passer-by. The man 
was out of his country, almost out of his century. At that 
time, to those who understood and were posted- in the affairs 
of the period, no resistance to established things was justifi- 
able. England was happy; a restoration is as the reconcilia- 
tion of husband and wife, prince and nation, return to each 
other, no state can be more graceful or more pleasant. 
Great Britain beamed with joy; to have a king at all was a 
good deal but furthermore, the king was a charming one. 
Charles II. was amiable a man of pleasure, yet able to 
govern ; and great, if not after the fashion of Louis XIV, 
He was essentially a gentleman. Charles II. was admired 
by his subjects. He had made war in Hanover for reasons 
best known to himself; at least, no one else knew them. He 
had sold Dunkirk to France, a manoeuvre of state policy. 
The Whig peers, concerning whom Chamberlain says, " The 
cursed republic infected with its stinking breath several of 
the high nobility," had had the good sense to bow to the 
inevitable, to conform to the times, and to resume their seats 
in the House of Lords. To do so, it sufficed that they should 
take the oath of allegiance to the king. When these facts 
were considered the glorious reign, the excellent king, 
august princes given back by divine mercy to the people's 
love; when it was remembered that persons of such con- 
sideration as Monk, and, later on, Jeffreys, had rallied round 
the throne; that they had been properly rewarded for their 
loyalty and zeal by the most splendid appointments and the 
most lucrative offices; that Lord Clancharlie could not be 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 177 

ignorant of this, and that it only depended on himself to be 
seated by their side, glorious in his honours; that England 
had, thanks to her king, risen again to the summit of pros- 
perity; that London was all banquets and carousals; that 
everybody was rich and enthusiastic, that the court was 
gallant, gay, and magnificent; ii oy chance, far from these 
splendours, in some melancholy, indescribable half-light, like 
nightfall, that old man, clad in the same garb as the common 
people, was observed pale, absent-minded, bent towards the 
grave, standing on the shore of the lake, scarce heeding the 
storm and the winter, walking as though at random, his eye 
fixed, his white hair tossed by the wind of the shadow, silent, 
pensive, solitary, who could forbear to smile ? 

It was the sketch of a madman. 

Thinking of Lord Clancharlie, of what he might have been 
and what he was, a smile was indulgent; some laughed out 
aloud, others could not restrain their anger. It is easy to 
understand that men of sense were much shocked by the 
insolence implied by his isolation. 

One extenuating circumstance : Lord Clancharlie had never 
had any brains. Every one agreed on that point. 



n. 

It is disagreeable to see one's fellows practise obstinacy. 
Imitations of Regulus are not popular, and public opinion 
holds them in some derision. Stubborn people are like 
reproaches, and we have a right to laugh at them. 

Besides, to sum up, are these perversities, these rugged 
notches, virtues ? Is there not in these excessive advertise- 
ments of self-abnegation and of honour a good deal of 
ostentation ? It is all parade more than anything else. Why 
such exaggeration of solitude and exile ? to carry nothing to 
extremes is the wise man's maxim. Be in opposition if you 
choose, blame if you will, but decently, and crying out all the 
while " Long live the King." The true virtue is common 
sense what falls ought to fall, what succeeds ought to 
succeed. Providence acts advisedly, it crowns him who 
deserves the crown; do you pretend to know better than 
Providence ? When matters are settled when one rule has 
replaced another when success is the scale in which truth 
and falsehood are weighed, in one side the catastrophe, in 



I7 8 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

the other the triumph; then doubt is no longer possible, the 

honest man rallies to the winning side, and although it may 

happen to serve his fortune and his family, he does not allow 

himself to be influenced by that consideration, but thinking 

only of the public weal, holds out his hand heartily to the 

conqueror. 

What would become of the state if no one consented to 
serve it? Would not everything come to a standstill? To 
keep his place is the duty of a good citizen. Learn to 
sacrifice your secret preferences. Appointments must be 
filled, and some one must necessarily sacrifice himself. To 
be faithful to public functions is true fidelity. The retire- 
ment of public officials would paralyse the state. What I 
banish yourself! how weak! As an. example? what 
vanity I As a defiance ? what audacity 1 What do you set 
yourself up to be, I wonder? Learn that we are just as good 
as you. If we chose we too could be intractable and untame- 
able, and do worse things than you ; but we prefer to be 
sensible people. Because I am a Trimalcion, you think that 
I could not be a Cato ! What nonsense I 



in. 

Never was a situation more clearly defined or more decisive 
than that of 1660. Never had a course of conduct been more 
plainly indicated to a well-ordered mind. England was out 
of Cromwell's grasp. Under the republic many irregularities 
had been committed. British preponderance had been 
created. With the aid of the Thirty Years' War, Germany 
had been overcome; with the aid of the Fronde, France had 
been humiliated; with the aid of the Duke of Braganza, the 
power of Spain had been lessened. Cromwell had tamed 
Mazarin; in signing treaties the Protector of England wrote 
his name above that of the King of France. The United 
Provinces had been put under a fine of eight millions ; Algiers 
and Tunis had been attacked; Jamaica conquered; Lisbon 
humbled; French rivalry encouraged in Barcelona, and 
Masaniello in Naples; Portugal had been made fast to 
England ; the seas had been swept of Barbary pirates from 
Gibraltar to Crete; maritime domination had been founded 
under two forms, Victory and Commerce. On the loth of 
August, 1653, the man of thirty-three victories, the old 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 179 

admirai who called himself the sailors' grandfather, Martin 
Happertz van Tromp, who had beaten the Spanish, had been 
destroyed by the English fleet. The Atlantic had been cleared 
of the Spanish navy, the Pacific of the Dutch, the Mediter- 
ranean of the Venetian, and by the patent of navigation, 
England had taken possession of the sea-coast of the world. 
By the ocean she commanded the world; at sea the Dutch 
flag humbly saluted the British flag. France, in the person 
of the Ambassador Mancini, bent the knee to Oliver Crom- 
well; and Cromwell played with Calais and Dunkirk as with 
two shuttlecocks on a battledore. The Continent had been 
taught to tremble, peace had been dictated, war declared, 
the British Ensign raised on every pinnacle. By itself the 
Protector's regiment of Ironsides weighed In the fears of 
Europe against an army. Cromwell used to say, " / wish the 
Republic of England to be respected,as was respected the Republic 
of Rome. 1 * No longer were delusions held sacred; speech 
was free, the press was free. In the public street men said 
what they listed; they printed what they pleased without 
control or censorship. The equilibrium of thrones had been 
destroyed. The whole order of European monarchy, in 
which the Stuarts formed a link, had been overturned. But 
at last England had emerged from this odious order of things, 
and had won its pardon. 

The indulgent Charles II. had granted the declaration of 
Breda. He had conceded to England oblivion of the period 
in which the son of the Huntingdon brewer placed his foot on 
the neck of Louis XIV. England said its mea culpa, and 
breathed again. The cup of joy was, as we have just said, 
full ; gibbets for the regicides adding to the universal delight. 
A restoration is a smile; but a few gibbets are not out of 
place, and satisfaction is due to the conscience of the public. 
To be good subjects was thenceforth the people's sole ambi- 
tion. The spirit of lawlessness had been expelled. Royalty 
was reconstituted. Men had recovered from the follies of 
politics. They mocked at revolution, they jeered at the 
republic, and as to those times when such strange words as 
Right, Liberty, Progress, had been in the mouth why, they 
laughed at such bombast I Admirable was the return to 
common sense. England had been in a dream. What joy 
to be quit of such errors 1 Was ever anything so mad? 
we be if every one had hi* Hghta? 



lgo THE LAUGHING MAN. 

every one's having a hand in the government? Can you 
imagine a city ruled by its citizens? Why, the citizens are 
the team, and the team cannot be driver. To put to the vote 
is to throw to the winds. Would you have states driven like 
clouds ? Disorder cannot build up order. With chaos for an 
architect, the edifice would be a Babel. And, besides, what 
tyranny is this pretended liberty! As for me, I wish to 
enjoy myself; not to govern. It is a bore to have to vote; 
I want to dance. A prince is a providence, and takes care of 
us all. Truly the king is generous to take so much trouble for 
our sakes. Besides, he is to the manner born. He knows 
what it is. It's his business. Peace, War, Legislation, 
Finance what have the people to do with such things? Of 
course the people have to pay; of course the people have to 
serve; but that should suffice them. They have a place in 
policy; from them come two essential things, the army and 
the budget. To be liable to contribute, and to" be liable to 
serve ; is not that enough ? What more should they want ? 
They are the military and the financial arm. A magnificent 
role. The king reigns for them, and they must reward him 
accordingly. Taxation and the civil list are the salaries paid 
by the peoples and earned by the prince. The people give 
their blood and their money, in return for which they are led. 
To wish to lead themselves 1 what an absurd ideal They 
require a guide; being ignorant, they are blind. Has not 
the blind man his dog? Only the people have a lion, the 
king, who consents to act the dog. How kind of him! 
But why ar? the people ignorant? because it is good for 
them. Ignorance is the guardian of Virtue. Where there is 
no perspective there is no ambition. The ignorant man is in 
useful darkness, which, suppressing sight, suppresses covet- 
ousness: whence innocence. He who reads, thinks; who 
thinks, reasons. But not to reason is duty; and happiness 
as well. These truths are incontestable ; society is based on 
them. 

Thus had sound social doctrines been re-established in 
England ; thus had the nation been reinstated. At the same 
time a correct taste in literature was reviving. Shakespeare 
was despised, Dryden admired. " Dryden is the greatest poet 
of England, and of the century,*' said Atterbury, the translator 
of " Achitophel." It was about the time when M. Huet, 
Bishop of Avranchea, wrote to Saumaiao, who had done the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 181 

author of " Paradise Lost " the honour to refute and abuse 
him, " How can you trouble yourself about so mean a thing as 
that Milton ? " Everything was falling into its proper place: 
Dry den above, Shakespeare below; Charles II. on the throne, 
Cromwell on the gibbet. England was raising herself out of 
the shame and the excesses of the past. It is a great happi- 
ness for nations to be led back by monarchy to good order in 
the state and good taste in letters. 

That such benefits should be misunderstood is difficult to 
believe. To turn the cold shoulder to Charles II., to reward 
with ingratitude the magnanimity which he displayed in 
ascending the throne was not such conduct abominable? 
Lord Linnaeus Clancharlie had inflicted this vexation upon 
honest men. To sulk at his country's happiness, alack, what 
aberration 1 

We know that in 1650 Parliament had drawn up this form 
of declaration: " / promise to remain faithful to the republic, 
without king, sovereign, or lord.'' Under pretext of having 
taken this monstrous oath, Lord Clancharlie was living out of 
the kingdom, and, in the face of the general joy, thought that 
he had the right to be sad. He had a morose esteem for that 
which was no more, and was absurdly attached to things 
which had been. 

To excuse him was impossible. The kindest-hearted 
abandoned him ; his friends had long done him the honour to 
believe that he had entered the republican ranks only to 
observe the more closely the flaws in the republican armour, 
and to smite it the more surely, when the day should come, 
for the sacred cause of the king. These lurkings in ambush 
for the convenient hour to strike the enemy a death-blow in 
the back are attributes to loyalty. Such a line of conduct 
had been expected of Lord Clancharlie, so strong was the 
wish to judge him favourably; but, in the face of his strange 
persistence in republicanism, people were obliged to lower 
their estimate. Evidently Lord Clancharlie was confirmed 
in his convictions that is to say, an idiot I 

The explanation given by the indulgent, wavered between 
puerile stubbornness and senile obstinacy. 

The severe and the just went further; they blighted the 
name of the renegade. Folly has its rights, but it has also 
its limits. A man may be a brute, but he has no right to be a 
rebel. And, after all, what was this Lord Clancharlie? A 



,82 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

ten He had fled his camp, the aristocracy, for that ol 
the enemy, the people. This faithful man was a traitor. It 
is true that he was a traitor to the stronger, and faithful to 
the weaker; it is true that the camp repudiated by him was 
the conquering camp, and the camp adopted by him, the 
conquered ; it is true that by his treason he lost everything 
his political privileges and his domestic hearth, his title and 
his country. He gained nothing but ridicule, he attained no 
benefit but exile. But what does all this prove? that he 
was a fool. Granted. 

Plainly a dupe and traitor in one. Let a man be as great 
a fool as he likes, so that he does not set a bad example. 
Fools need only be civil, and in consideration thereof they 
may aim at being the basis of monarchies. The narrowness 
of Clancharlie's mind was incomprehensible. His eyes were 
still dazzled by the phantasmagoria of the revolution. He 
had allowed himself to be taken in by the republic yes ; and 
cast out. He was an affront to his country. The attitude 
he assumed was downright felony. Absence was an insult. 
He held aloof from the public joy as from the plague. In his 
voluntary banishment he found some indescribable refuge 
from the national rejoicing. He treated loyalty as a con- 
tagion? over the widespread gladness at the revival of the 
monarchy, denounced by him as a lazaretto, he was the black 
flag. What I could he look thus askance at order recon- 
stituted, a nation exalted, and a religion restored? Over 
such serenity why cast his shadow? Take umbrage at 
England's contentment I Must he be the one blot in the 
clear blue sky I Be as a threat I Protest against a nation's 
willl refuse his Yes to the universal consent 1 It would be 
disgusting, if it were not the part of a fool. Clancharlie 
could not have taken into account the fact that it did not 
matter if one had taken the wrong turn with Cromwell, as 
long as one found one's way back into the right path with 
Monk. 

^ Take Monk's case. He commands the republican army. 
Charles II., having been informed of his honesty, writes to 
him. Monk, who combines virtue with tact, dissimulates at 
first, then suddenly at the head of his troops dissolves the 
rebel parliament, and re-establishes the king on the throne. 
Monk is created Duke of Albemarle, has the honour of having 
saved society, becomes very rich, sheds a glory over his own 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 183 

time, is created Knight of the Garter, and has the prospect of 
being buried in Westminster Abbey. Such glory is the 
reward of British fidelity 1 

Lord Clancharlie could never rise to a sense of duty thus 
carried out. He had the infatuation and obstinacy of an 
exile. He contented himself with hollow phrases. He was 
tongue-tied by pride. The words conscience and dignity 
are but words, after all. One must penetrate to the depths. 
These depths Lord Clancharlie had not reached. His " eye 
was single," and before committing an act he wished to 
observe it so closely as to be able to judge it by more senses 
than one. Hence arose absurd disgust to the facts examined. 
No man can be a statesman who gives way to such over- 
strained delicacy. Excess of conscientiousness degenerates 
into infirmity. Scruple is one-handed when a sceptre is to be 
seized, and a eunuch when fortune is to be wedded. Dis- 
trust scruples ; they drag you too far. Unreasonable fidelity 
is like a ladder leading into a cavern one step down, 
another, then another, and there you are in the dark. The 
clever reascend; fools remain in it. Conscience must not 
be allowed to practise such austerity. If it be, it will fall 
until, from transition to transition, it at length reaches the 
deep gloom of political prudery. Then one is lost. Thus it 
was with Lord Clancharlie. 

Principles terminate in a precipice. 

He was walking, his hands behind him, along the shores of 
the Lake of Geneva. A fine way of getting on I 

In London they sometimes spoke of the exile. He was 
accused before the tribunal of public opinion. They pleaded 
for and against him. The cause having been heard, he was 
acquitted on the ground of stupidity. 

Many zealous friends of the former republic had given their 
adherence to the Stuarts. For this they deserve praise. 
They naturally calumniated him a little. The obstinate are 
repulsive to the compliant. Men of sense, in favour and good 
places at Court, weary of his disagreeable attitude, took 
pleasure in saying, " // he has not rallied to the throne, it is 
because he has not been sufficiently paid," etc. " He wanted 
the chancellorship which the king has given to Hyde." One of 
his old friends went so far as to whisper, " He told me so him- 
self." Remote as was the solitude of Linnaeus Clancharlie, 
something of this talk would reach him through the outlaws 



,8 4 THE LAUGHING*- MAN. 

he met, such as old regicides like Andrew Brcmghton, who 
lived at Lausanne. Clancharlie confined himself to an 
imperceptible shrug of the shoulders, a sign of profound 
deterioration. On one occasion he added to the shrug these 
few words, murmured in a low voice, " I pity those who 
believe such things." 

IV. 

Charles II., good man ! despised him. The happiness of 
England under Charles II. was more than happiness, it was 
enchantment. A restoration is like an old oil painting, 
blackened by time, and revarnished. All the past re- 
appeared, good old manners returned, beautiful women 
reigned and governed. Evelyn notices it. We read in his 
journal, " Luxury, profaneness, contempt of God. I saw the 
king on Sunday evening with his courtesans, Portsmouth, 
Cleveland, Mazarin, and two or three others, all nearly naked, 
in the gaming-room." We feel that there is ill-nature in this 
description, for Evelyn was a grumbling Puritan, tainted with 
republican reveries. He did not appreciate the profitable 
example given by kings in those grand Babylonian gaieties, 
which, after all, maintain luxury. He did not understand 
the utility of vice. Here is a maxim : Do not extirpate vice, 
if you want to have charming women ; if you do you are like 
idiots who destroy the chrysalis whilst they delight in the 
butterfly. 

Charles II., as we have said, scarcely remembered that a 
rebel called Clancharlie existed; but James II. was more 
heedful. Charles II. governed gently, it was his way; we 
may add, that he did not govern the worse on that account. 
A sailor sometimes makes on a rope intended to baffle the 
wind, a slack knot which he leaves to the wind to tighten. 
Such is the stupidity of the storm and of the people. 

The slack knot very soon becomes a tight one. So did the 
government of Charles II. 

Under James II. the throttling began; a necessary 
throttling of what remained of the revolution. James II. 
had a laudable ambition to be an efficient king. The reign of 
Charles II. was, in his opinion, but a sketch of restoration. 
James wished for a still more complete return to order. He 
had, in 1660, deplored that they had confined themselves to 
the hanging of ten regicidea, He was a more genuine recon- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 185 

structor of authority. He infused vigour into serious 
principles. He installed true justice, which is superior to 
sentimental declamations, and attends, above all things, to 
the interests of society. In his protecting severities we 
recognize the father of the state. He entrusted the hand of 
justice to Jeffreys, and its sword to Kirke. That useful 
Colonel, one day, hung and rehung the same man, a re- 
publican, asking him each time, " Will you renounce the 
republic? " The villain, having each time said " No," was 
dispatched. " / hanged him four times" said Kirke, with 
satisfaction. The renewal of executions is a great sign of 
power in the executive authority. Lady Lisle, who, though 
she had sent her son to fight against Monmouth, had con- 
cealed two rebels in her house, was executed ; another rebel, 
having been honourable enough to declare that an Anabaptist 
female had given him shelter, was pardoned, and the woman 
was burned alive. Kirke, on another occasion, gave a town 
to understand that he knew its principles to be republican, by 
hanging nineteen burgesses. These reprisals were certainly 
legitimate, for it must be remembered that, under Cromwell, 
they cut off the noses and ears of the stone saints in the 
churches. James II., who had had the sense to choose 
Jeffreys and Kirke, was a prince imbued with true religion; 
he practised mortification in the ugliness of his mistresses; 
he listened to le Pere la Colombiere, a preacher almost as 
unctuous as le Pere Cheminais, but with more fire, who had 
the glory of being, during the first part of his life, the coun- 
sellor of James II., and, during the latter, the inspirer of Mary 
Alcock. It was, thanks to this strong religious nourishment, 
that, later on, James II. was enabled to bear exile with 
dignity, and to exhibit, in his retirement at Saint Germain, 
the spectacle of a king rising superior to adversity, calmly 
touching for king's evil, and conversing with Jesuits. 

It will be readily understood that such a king would 
trouble himself to a certain extent about such a rebel as Lord 
Linnaeus Clancharlie. Hereditary peerages have a certain 
hold on the future, and It was evident that if any precautions 
were necessary with regard to that lord, James II. was not 
the man to hesitate. 



,86 THE LAUGHINO MAN, 

CHAPTER II. 

LORD DAVID DIRRY-MOIR. 



Lord Linnaeus Clancharlie had not always been old and 
proscribed; he had had his phase of youth, and passion. We 
know from Harrison and Pride that Cromwell, when young, 
loved women and pleasure, a taste which, at times (another 
reading of the text " Woman "), betrays a seditious man. 
Distrust the loosely-clasped girdle. Male prceoinctam 
juvenem cavete. Lord Clancharlie, like Cromwell, had had 
his wild hours and his irregularities. He was known to have 
had a natural child, a son. This son was born in England in 
the last days of the republic, just as his father was going into 
exile. Hence he had never seen his father. This bastard of 
Lord Clanchaiiie had grown up as page at the court of 
Charles II. He was styled Lord David Dirry-Moir: he was 
a lord by courtesy, his mother being a woman of quality. 
The mother, while Lord Clancharlie was becoming an owl in 
Switzerland, made up her mind, being a beauty, to give over 
sulking, and was forgiven that Goth, her first lover, by one 
undeniably polished and at the same time a royalist, for it 
was the king himself. 

She had been but a short time the mistress of Charles II., 
sufficiently long however to have made his Majesty who 
was delighted to have won so pretty a woman from the 
republic bestow on the little Lord David, the son of his 
conquest, the office of keeper of the stick, which made that 
bastard officer, boarded at the king's expense, by a natural 
revulsion of feeling, an ardent adherent of the Stuarts. Lord 
David was for some time one of the hundred and seventy 
wearing the great sword, while afterwards, entering the corps 
of pensioners, he became one of the forty who bear the gilded 
halberd. He had, besides being one of the noble company 
instituted by Henry VIII. as a bodyguard, the privilege of 
laying the dishes on the king's table. Thus it was that whilst 
his father was growing gray in exile, Lord David prospered 
under Charles II. 

After which he prospered under James II. 

The king is dead. Long live the king I It is the non deficit 
alter, aureus. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 187 

It was on the accession of the Duke of York that he 
obtained permission to call himself Lord David Dirry-Moir, 
from an estate which his mother, who hafd just died, had left 
him, in that great forest of Scotland, where is found the krag, 
a bird which scoops out a nest with its beak in the trunk of 
the oak. 

II. 

James IL was a king, and affected to be a general. He loved 
to surround himself with young officers. He showed himself 
frequently in public on horseback, in a helmet and cuirass, 
with a huge projecting wig hanging below the helmet and 
over the cuirass a sort of equestrian statue of imbecile war. 
He took a fancy to the graceful mien of the young Lord David. 
He liked the royalist for being the son of a republican. The 
repudiation of a father does not damage the foundation of a 
court fortune. The king made Lord David gentleman of the 
bedchamber, at a salary of a thousand a year. 

It was a fine promotion. A gentleman of the bedchamber 
sleeps near the king every night, on a bed which is made up 
for him. There are twelve gentlemen who relieve each other. 

Lord David, whilst he held that post, was also head of the 
king's granary, giving out corn for the horses and receiving a 
salary of ^260. Under him were the five coachmen of the 
king, the five postilions of the king, the five grooms of the 
king, the twelve footmen of the king, and the four chair- 
bearers of the king. He had the management of the race- 
horses which the king kept at Newmarket, and which cost his 
Majesty 600 a year. He worked his will on the king's 
wardrobe, from which the Knights of the Garter are furnished 
with their robes of ceremony. He was saluted to the ground 
by the usher of the Black Rod, who belongs to the king. That 
usher, under James II. , was the knight of Duppa. Mr. 
Baker, who was clerk of the crown, and Mr. Brown, who was 
clerk of the Parliament, kotowed to Lord David. The court 
of England, which is magnificent, is a model of hospitality. 
Lord David presided, as one of the twelve, at banquets and 
receptions. He had the glory of standing behind the king on 
offertory days, when the king give to the church the golden 
byzantium ; on collar-days, when the king wears the collar of 
his order; on communion days, when no one takes the 
sacrament excepting the king and the princes. It was he 



1 88 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

who, on Holy Thursday, introduced into his Majesty's 
presence the twelve poor men to whom the king gives as 
many silver pence* as the years of his age, and as many 
shillings as the years of his reign. The duty devolved on him 
when the king was ill, to call to the assistance of his Majesty 
the two grooms of the almonry, who are priests, and to 
prevent the approach of doctors without permission from the 
council of state. Besides, he was lieutenant-colonel of the 
Scotch regiment of Guards, the one which plays the Scottish 
march. As such, he made several campaigns, and with 
glory, for he was a gallant soldier. He was a brave lord, 
well-made, handsome, generous, and majestic in look and in 
manner. His person was like his quality. He was tall in 
stature as well as high in birth. 

At one time he stood a chance of being made groom of the 
stole, which would have given him the privilege of putting 
the king's shirt on his Majesty: but to hold that office it was 
necessary to be either prince or peer. Now, to create a 
peer is a serious thing; it is to create a peerage, and that 
makes many people jealous. It is a favour; a favour which 
gives the king one friend and a hundred enemies, without 
taking into account that the one friend becomes ungrateful. 
James II., from policy, was indisposed to create peerages, but 
he transferred them freely. The transfer of a peerage pro^ 
duces no sensation. It is simply the continuation of a name. 
The order is little affected by it. 

The goodwill of royalty had no objection to raise Lord 
David Dirry-Moir to the Upper House so long as it could do 
so by means of a substituted peerage. Nothing would have 
pleased his majesty better than to transform Lord David 
Dirry-Moir, lord by courtesy, into a lord by right. 

in. 

The opportunity occurred. 

One day it was announced that several things had hap- 
pened to the old exile, Lord Clancharlie, the most important 
of which was that he was dead. Death does just this much 
good to folks: it causes a little talk about them. People 
related what they knew, or what they thought they knew, of 
the last years of Lord Linnaeus. What they said was prob- 
ably legend and conjecture. If these random tales were to 



TEJE LAUGHING MAN. 189 

be credited, Lord Clancharlie must have had his republican- 
ism intensified towards the end of his life, to the extent of 
marrying (strange obstinacy of the exile!) Ann Bradshaw, 
the daughter of a regicide ; they were precise about the name. 
She had also died, it was said, but in giving birth to a boy. 
If these details should prove to be correct, his child would of 
course be the legitimate and rightful heir of Lord Clancharlie. 
These reports, however, were extremely vague in form, and 
were rumours rather than facts. Circumstances which 
happened in Switzerland, in those days, were as remote from 
the England of that period as those which take place in China 
from the England of to-day. Lord Clancharlie must have 
been fifty-nine at the time of his marriage, they said, and 
sixty at the birth of his son, and must have died shortly 
after, leaving his infant orphaned both of father and mother. 
This was possible, perhaps, but improbable. They added 
that the child was beautiful as the day, just as we read in 
all the fairy tales. King James put an end to these rumours, 
evidently without foundation, by declaring, one fine morning, 
Lord David Dirry-Moir sole and positive heir in default of 
legitimate issue, and by his royal pleasure, of Lord Linnaeus 
Clancharlie, his natural father, the absence of all other issue 
and descent being established, patents of which grant were 
registered in the House of Lords. By these patents the king 
instituted Lord David Dirry-Moir in the titles, rights, and 
prerogatives of the late Lord Linnaeus Clancharlie, on the sole 
condition that Lord David should wed, when she attained a 
marriageable age, a girl who was, at that time, a mere infant 
a few months old, and whom the king had, in her cradle, 
created a duchess, no one knew exactly why; or, rather, 
every one knew why. This little infant was called the Duchess 
Josiana. 

The English fashion then ran on Spanish names. One of 
Charles II. 's bastards was called Carlos, Earl of Plymouth. 
It is likely that Josiana was a contraction for Josefa-y-Ana. 
Josiana, however, may have been a name the feminine of 
Josias. One of Henry VIII. 's gentlemen was called Josias du 
Passage. 

It was to this little duchess that the king granted the 
peerage of Clancharlie. She was a peeress till there should be 
a peer; the peer should be her husband. The peerage was 
founded on a double castleward, the barony of Clancharlie 



J9 o THE LAUGHIKS 

and the barony of Hunkerville; besides, the barons of Clan- 
charlie were, in recompense of an anciynt feat of arms, and 
by royal licence, Marquises of Corleone, in Sicily. 

Peers of England cannot bear foreign titles; there are, 
nevertheless, exceptions; thus Henry Arundal, Baron 
Arundel of Wardour, was, as well as Lord Clifford, a Count 
of the Holy Roman Empire, of which Lord Cowper is a prince. 
The Duke of Hamilton is Duke of Chatelherault, in France; 
Basil Fielding, Earl of Denbigh, is Count of Hapsburg, of 
Lauffenberg, and of Rheinfelden, in Germany. The Duke of 
Marlborough was Prince of Mindelheim, in Suabia, just as the 
Duke of Wellington was Prince of Waterloo, in Belgium. 
The same Lord Wellington was a Spanish Duke of Ciudad 
Rodrigo, and Portuguese Count of Vimiera. 

There were in England, and there are still, lands both 
noble and common. The lands of the Lords of Clancharlie 
were all noble. These lands, burghs, bailiwicks, fiefs, rents, 
freeholds, and domains, adherent to the peerage of Clan- 
charlie- Hunkerville, belonged provisionally to Lady' Josiana, 
and the king declared that, once married to Josiana, Lord 
David Dirry-Moir should be Baron Clancharlie. 

Besides the Clancharlie inheritance, Lady Josiana had her 
own fortune. She possossed great wealth, much of which 
was derived from the gifts of Madame sans queue to the Duke 
of York. Madame sans queue is short for Madame. Henri' 
etta of England, Duchess of Orleans, the lady of highest rank 
in France after the queen, was thus called. 

IV. 

Having prospered under Charles and: James, Lord David 
prospered under William. His Jacobite jeeling did not 
reach to the extent of following James into exile. While he 
continued to love his legitimate king, he had the good sense 
to serve the usurper; he was, moreover, although sometimes 
disposed to rebel against discipline, an excellent officer. He 
passed from the land to the sea forces, and distinguished him- 
self in the White Squadron. He rose in it to be what was 
then called captain of a light frigate. Altogether he made a 
very fine fellow, carrying to a great extent the elegancies of 
vice: a bit of a poet, like every one else; a good servant of 
the state, a good servant to the prince; assiduous at feasts, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 191 

at galas, at ladies' receptions, at ceremonies, and In battle; 
servile in a gentlemanlike way ; very haughty ; with eyesight 
dull or keen, according to the object examined; inclined to 
integrity; obsequious or arrogant, as occasion required; 
frank and sincere on first acquaintance, with the power of 
assuming the mask afterwards ; very observant of the smiles 
and frowns of the royal humour; careless before a sword's 
point; always ready to risk his life on a sign from his Majesty 
with heroism and complacency, capable of any insult but of 
no impoliteness ; a man of courtesy and etiquette, proud of 
kneeling at great regal ceremonies ; of a gay valour; a courtier 
on the surface, a paladin below; quite young at forty-five. 
Lord David sang French songs, an elegant gaiety which had 
delighted Charles II. He loved eloquence and fine language. 
He greatly admired those celebrated discourses which are 
called the funeral orations of Bossuet. 

From his mother he had inherited almost enough to live on, 
about /i 0,000 a year. He managed to get on with it by 
running into debt. In magnificence, extravagance, and 
novelty he was without a rival. Directly he was copied he 
changed his fashion. On horseback he wore loose boots of 
cow-hide, which turned over,, with spurs. He had hats like 
nobody else's, unheard-of lace, and bands of which he alone 
had the pattern. 

CHAPTER III. 

THE DUCHESS JOSIANA. 

TOWARDS 1705, although Lady Josiana was twenty-three and 
Lord David forty- four, the wedding had not yet taken place, 
and that for the best reasons in the world. Did they hate 
each other? Far from it; but what cannot escape from you 
inspires you with no haste to obtain it. Josiana wanted to 
remain free, David to remain young. To have no tie until 
as late as possible appeared to him to be a prolongation of 
youth. Middle-aged young men abounded in those rakish 
times. They grew gray as young fops. The wig was an 
accomplice: later on, powder became the auxiliary. At 
fifty-five Lord Charles Gerrard, Baron Gerrard, one of the 
Gerrards of Bromley, filled London with his successes. The 
young and pretty Duchess of Buckingham, Countess of 
Coventry, made a fool of herself for love of the handsome 



I92 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Thomas Bellasys, Viscount Fauconberg, who was sixty-seven. 
People quoted the famous verses of Corneille, the septua- 
genarian, to a girl of twenty" Marquise, si mon visage." 
Women, too, had their successes in the autumn of life. 
Witness Ninon and Marion. Such were the models of the day. 

Josiana and David carried on a flirtation of a particular 
shade. They did not love, they pleased, each other. To be 
at each other's side sufficed them. Why hasten the Con- 
clusion ? The novels of those days carried lovers and engaged 
couples to that kind of stage which was the most becoming. 
Besides, Josiana, while she knew herself to be a bastard, felt 
herself a princess, and carried her authority over him with a 
high tone in all their arrangements. She had a fancy for 
Lord David. Lord David was handsome, but that was over 
and above the bargain. She considered him to be fashion- 
able. 

To be fashionable Is everything. Caliban, fashionable and 
magnificent, would distance Ariel, poor. Lord David was 
handsome, so much the better. The danger in being hand- 
some is being insipid; and that he was not. He betted, 
boxed, ran into debt. Josiana thought great things of his 
horses, his dogs, his losses at play, his mistresses. Lord 
David, on his side, bowed down before the fascinations of the 
Duchess Josiana a maiden without spot or scruple, haughty, 
inaccessible, and audacious. He addressed sonnets to her, 
which Josiana sometimes read. In these sonnets he declared 
that to possess Josiana would be to rise to the stars, which 
did not prevent his always putting the ascent off to the 
following year. He waited in the antechamber outside 
Josiana's heart; and this suited the convenience of both. 
At court all admired the good taste of this delay. Lady 
Josiana said, " It is a bore that I should be obliged to marry 
Lord David; I, who would desire nothing better than to be 
in love with him I " 

Josiana was "the flesh." Nothing could be more re- 
splendent. She was very tall too tall. Her hair was of 
that tinge which might be called red gold. She was plump, 
fresh, strong, and rosy, with immense boldness and wit. She 
had eyes which were too intelligible. She had neither lovers 
nor chastity. She walled herself round with pride. Men I 
oh, fie ! a god only would be worthy of her, or a monster. If 
virtue consists in the protection of an inaccessible position, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 193 

Josiana possessed all possible virtue, but without any 
innocence. She disdained intrigues ; but she would not have 
been displeased had she been supposed to have engaged in 
some, provided that the objects were uncommon, and pro- 
portioned to the merits of one so highly placed. She thought 
little of her reputation, but much of her glory. To appear 
yielding, and to be unapproachable, is perfection. Josiana 
felt herself majestic and material. Hers was a cumbrous 
beauty. She usurped rather than charmed. She trod upon 
hearts. She was earthly. She would have been as much 
astonished at being proved to have a soul in her bosom as 
wings on her back. She discoursed on Locke; she was 
polite; she was suspected of knowing Arabic. 

To be " the flesh " and to be woman are two different 
things. Where a woman is vulnerable, on the side of pity, 
for instance, which so readily turns to love, Josiana was not. 
Not that she was unfeeling. The ancient comparison of flesh 
to marble is absolutely false. The beauty of flesh consists in 
not being marble: its beauty is to palpitate, to tremble, to 
blush, to bleed, to have firmness without hardness, to be 
white without being cold, to have its sensations and its 
infirmities ; its beauty is to be life, and marble is death. 

Flesh, when it attains a certain degree of beauty, has al- 
most a claim to the right of nudity; it conceals itself in its 
own dazzling charms as in a veil. He who might have looked 
upon Josiana nude would have perceived her outlines only 
through a surrounding glory. She would have shown herself 
without hesitation to a satyr or a eunuch. She had the self- 
possession of a goddess. To have made her nudity a 
torment, ever eluding a pursuing Tantalus, would have been 
an amusement to her. 

The king had made her a duchess, and Jupiter a Nereid a 
double irradiation of which the strange brightness of this 
creature was composed. In admiring her you felt yourself 
becoming a pagan and a lackey. Her origin had been 
bastardy and the ocean. She appeared to have emerged from 
the foam. From the stream had risen the first jet of her 
destiny; but the spring was royal. In her there was some- 
thing of the wave, of chance, of the patrician, and of the 
tempest. She was well read and accomplished. Never had 
a passion approached her, yet she had sounded them all- 
She had a disgust for realizations, and at the same time a 



I94 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

taste for them. If she had stabbed herself, it would, like 
Lucretia, not have been until afterwards. She was a virgin 
stained with every defilement in its visionary stage. $ 
was a possible Astarte in a real Diana. She was, in the 
insolence of high birth, tempting and inaccessible. Never- 
theless, she might find it amusing to plan a fall for herself. 
She dwelt in a halo of glory, half wishing to descend from it, 
and perhaps feeling curious to know what a fall was like. 
She was a little too heavy for her cloud. To err is a diver- 
sion. Princely unconstraint has the privilege of experiment, 
and what is frailty in a plebeian is only frolic in a duchess. 
Josiana was in everything in birth, in beauty, in irony, in 
brilliancy almost a queen. She had felt a moment's 
enthusiasm for Louis de Bouffles, who used to break horse- 
shoes between his fingers. She regretted that Hercules was 
dead. She lived in some undefined expectation of a voluptu- 
ous and supreme ideal. 

Morally, Josiana brought to one's mind the line 

" Un beau torse de femme en hydre se termine." 

Hers was a noble neck, a splendid bosom, heaving harmoni- 
ously over a royal heart, a glance full of life and light, a 
countenance pure and haughty, and who knows ? below the 
surface was there not, in a semi-transparent and misty depth, 
an undulating, supernatural prolongation, perchance de- 
formed and dragon-like a proud virtue ending in vice in 
the depth of dreams. 

II. 

With all that she was a prude. 

It was the fashion. 

Remember Elizabeth. 

Elizabeth was of a type that prevailed in England for 
three centuries the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth. 
Elizabeth was more than English she was Anglican. Hence 
the deep respect of the Episcopalian Church for that queen 
a respect resetted by the Church of Rome, which counter- 
balanced it with a dash of excommunication. In the mouth 
of Sixtus V., when anathematizing Elizabeth, malediction 
turned to madrigal. " Un gran cervello di principessa," he 
ays. Mary Stuart, less concerned with the church and 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 195 

more with the woman part of the question, had little respect 
for her sister Elizabeth, and wrote to her as queen to queen 
and coquette to prude: " Your disinclination to marriage 
arises from your not wishing to lose the liberty of being made 
love to." Mary Stuart played with the fan, Elizabeth with 
the axe. An uneven match. They were rivals, besides, in 
literature. Mary Stuart composed French verses ; Elizabeth 
translated Horace. The ugly Elizabeth decreed herself 
beautiful ; liked quatrains and acrostics ; had the keys of 
towns presented to her by cupids; bit her lips after the 
Italian fashion, rolled her eyes after the Spanish; had in her 
wardrobe three thousand dresses and costumes, of which 
several were for the character of Minerva and Amphitrite; 
esteemed the Irish for the width of their shoulders ; covered 
her farthingale with braids and spangles; loved roses; 
cursed, swore, and stamped; struck her maids of honour 
with her clenched fists; used to send Dudley to the devil; 
beat Burleigh, the Chancellor, who would cry poor old fool 1 
spat on Matthew ; collared Hatton ; boxed the ears of Essex ; 
showed her legs to Bassompierre ; and was a virgin. 

What she did for Bassompierre the Queen of Sheba had 
done for Solomon ; * consequently she was right, Holy Writ 
having created the precedent. That which is biblical may 
well be Anglican. Biblical precedent goes so far as to speak 
of a child who was called Ebnehaquem or Melilechet that 
is to say, the Wise Man's son. 

Why object to such manners? Cynicism is at least as 
good as hypocrisy. 

Nowadays England, whose Loyola is named Wesley, casts 
down her eyes a little at the remembrance of that past age. 
She is vexed at the memory, yet proud of it. 

These fine ladies, moreover, knew Latin. From the 
1 6th century this had been accounted a feminine accomplish- 
ment. Lady Jane Grey had carried fashion to the point of 
knowing Hebrew. The Duchess Josiana Latinized. Then 
(another fine thing) she was secretly a Catholic; after the 
manner of her uncle, Charles II., rather than her father, 
James II. James II. had lost his crown for his Catholicism, 
and Josiana did not care to risk her peerage. Thus it was 
that while a Catholic amongst her intimate friends and the 

* Regina Saba coram rege crura denudavit. Schicklardus in Prcemio 
Tarich Jersici, F. 65. 



196 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

refined of both sexes, she was outwardly a Protestant for the 

benefit of the riffraff. 

This is the pleasant view to take of religion. You en]oy 
all the good things belonging to the official Episcopalian 
church, and later on you die, like Grotius, in the odour of 
Catholicity, having the glory of a mass being said for you by 
le Pere Petau. 

Although plump and healthy, Josiana was, we repeat, a 
perfect prude. 

At times her sleepy and voluptuous way of dragging out 
the end of her phrases was like the creeping of a tiger's paws 
in the jungle. 

The advantage of prudes is that they disorganize the 
human race. They deprive it of the honour of their ad- 
herence. Beyond all, keep the human species at a distance. 
This is a point of the greatest importance. 

When one has not got Olympus, one must take the Hotel 
de Rambouillet. Juno resolves herself into Araminta. A 
pretension to divinity not admitted creates affectation. In 
default of thunderclaps there is impertinence. The temple 
shrivels into the boudoir. Not having the power to be a 
goddess, she is an idol. 

There is besides, in prudery, a certain pedantry which is 
pleasing to women. The coquette and the pedant are neigh- 
bours. Their kinship is visible in the fop. The subtile is 
derived from the sensual. Gluttony affects delicacy, a 
grimace of disgust conceals cupidity. And then woman feels 
her weak point guarded by all that casuistry of gallantry 
which takes the place of scruples in prudes. It is a line of 
circumvallation with a ditch. Every prude puts on an air of 
repugnance. It is a protection. She will consent, but she 
disdains for the present. 

Josiana had an uneasy conscience. She felt such a leaning 
towards immodesty that she was a prude. The recoils of 
pride in the direction opposed to our vices lead us to those 
of a contrary nature. It was the excessive effort to be chaste 
which made her a prude. To be too much on the defensive 
points to a secret desire for attack; the shy woman is not 
strait-laced. She shut herself up in the arrogance of the 
exceptional circumstances of her rank, meditating, perhaps, 
all the while, some sudden lapse from it. 

It was the dawn of the eighteenth century. England was a 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 197 

sketch of what France was during the regency. Walpole and 
Dubois are not unlike. Marlborough was fighting against 
his former king, James II., to whom it was said he had sold 
his sister, Miss Churchill. Bolingbroke was in his meridian, 
and Richelieu in his dawn. Gallantry found its convenience 
in a certain medley of ranks. Men were equalized by the 
same vices as they were later on, perhaps, by the same ideas. 
Degradation of rai.k, an aristocratic prelude, began what 
the revolution was to complete. It was not very far off the 
time when Jelyotte was seen publicly sitting, in broad day- 
light, on the bed of the Marquise d'Epinay. It is true (for 
manners re-echo each other) that in the sixteenth century 
Smeton's nightcap had been found under Anne Boleyn's 
pillow. 

If the word woman signifies fault, as I forget what Council 
decided, never was woman so womanlike as then. Never, 
covering her frailty by her charms, and her weakness by her 
omnipotence, has she claimed absolution more imperiously. 
In making the forbidden the permitted fruit, Eve fell; in 
making the permitted the forbidden fruit, she triumphs. 
That is the climax. In the eighteenth century the wife bolts 
out her husband. She shuts herself up in Eden with Satan. 
Adam is left outside. 

in. 

All Josiana's instincts impelled her to yield herself gallantly 
rather than to give herself legally. To surrender on the 
score of gallantry implies learning, recalls Menalcas and 
Amaryllis, and is almost a literary act. Mademoiselle de 
Scudery, putting aside the attraction of ugliness for ugliness' 
sake, had no other motive for yielding to Pelisson. 

The maiden a sovereign, the wife a subject, such was the 
old English notion. Josiana was deferring the hour of this 
subjection as long as she could. She must eventually marry 
Lord David, since such was the royal pleasure. It was a 
necessity, doubtless ; but what a pity I Josiana appreciated 
Lord David, and showed him off. There was between them 
a tacit agreement neither to conclude nor to break off the 
engagement. They eluded each other. This method of 
making love, one step in advance and two back, is expressed 
in the dances of the period, the minuet and the gavotte. 

It is unbecoming to be married fades one's ribbons and 



Z9 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

makes one look old. An espousal is a dreary absorption of 
brilliancy. A woman handed over to you by a notary, how 
commonplace I The brutality of mariiage creates definite 
situations; suppresses the will; kills choice; has a syntax, 
like grammar; replaces inspiration by orthography; makes 
a dictation of love ; disperses all Life's mysteries ; diminishes 
the rights both of sovereign and subject; by a turn of the 
scale destroys the charming equilibrium ci the sexes, the one 
robust in bodily strength, the other all-powerful in feminine 
weakness strength on one side, beauty on the other; makes 
one a master and the other a servant, while without marriage 
one is a slave, the other a queen. 

To make Love prosaically decent, how gross 1 to deprive it 
of all impropriety, how dull 1 

Lord David was ripening. Forty; 'tis a marked period. 
He did not perceive this, and in truth he looked no more than 
thirty. He considered it more amusing to desire Josiana 
than to possess her. He possessed others. He had 
mistresses. On the other hand, Josiana had dreams. 

The Duchess Josiana had a peculiarity, less rare than 
it is supposed. One of her eyes was blue and the other 
black. Her pupils were made for love and hate, for 
happiness and misery. Night and day were mingled in her 
look. 

Her ambition was this to show herself capable of im- 
possibilities. One day she said to Swift, " You people fancy 
that you know what scorn is." " You people " meant the 
human race. 

She was a skin-deep Papist. Her Catholicism did not ex- 
ceed the amount necessary for fashion. She would have been 
a Puseyite in the present day. She wore great dresses of 
velvet, satin, or moire, some composed of fifteen or sixteen 
yards of material, with embroideries of gold and silver; and 
round her waist many knots of pearls, alternating with other 
precious stones. She was extravagant in gold lace. Some- 
times she wore an embroidered cloth jacket like a bachelor. 
She rode on a man's saddle, notwithstanding the invention 
of side-saddles, introduced into England in the fourteenth 
century by Anne, wife of Richard II. She washed her face, 
arms, shoulders, and neck, in sugar-candy, diluted in white of 
egg, after the fashion of Castile. There came over her face, 
after any one had spoken wittily in her presence, a reflective 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 199 

smile of singular grace. She was free from malice, and 
rather good-natured than otherwise. 

CHAPTER IV. 

THE LEADER OF FASHION. 

JOSIANA was bored. The fact is so natural as to be scarcely 
worth mentioning. 

Lord David held the position of judge in the gay life of 
London. He was looked up to by the nobility and gentry. 
Let us register a glory of Lord David's. He was daring 
enough to wear his own hair. The reaction against the wig 
was beginning. Just as in 1824 Eugene Deveria was the first 
to allow his beard to grow, so in 1702 Prince Devereux was 
the first to risk wearing his own hair in public disguised by 
artful curling. For to risk one's hair was almost to risk one's 
head. The indignation was universal. Nevertheless Prince 
Devereux was Viscount Hereford, and a peer of England. 
He was insulted, and the deed was well worth the insult. In 
the hottest part of the row Lord David suddenly appeared 
without his wig and in his own hair. Such conduct shakes 
the foundations of society. Lord David was insulted even 
more than Viscount Hereford. He held his ground. Prince 
Devereux was the first, Lord David Dirry-Moir the second. 
It is sometimes more difficult to be second than first. It 
requires less genius, but more courage. The first, intoxicated 
by the novelty, may ignore the danger ; the second sees the 
abyss, and rushes into it. Lord David flung himself into the 
abyss of no longer wearing a wig. Later on these lords found 
imitators. Following these two revolutionists, men found 
sufficient audacity to wear their own hair, and powder was 
introduced as an extenuating circumstance. 

In order to establish, before we pass on, an important 
period of history, we should remark that the first blow in 
the war of wigs was really struck by a Queen, Christina of 
Sweden, who wore man's clothes, and had appeared in 1680, 
in her hair of golden brown, powdered, and brushed up from 
her head. She had, besides, says Misson, a slight beard. 
The Pope, on his part, by a bull of March 1694, had some- 
what let down the wig, by taking it from the heads of bishops 
and priests, and in ordering churchmen to let their hair grow. 



2 oo THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Lord David, then, did not wear a wig, and did wear cow- 
hide boots. Such great things made him a mark for public 
admiration. There was not a club of which he was not the 
leader, not a boxing match in which he was net desired as 
referee. The referee is the arbitrator. 

He had drawn up the rules of several clubs in high life. He 
founded several resorts of fashionable society, of which one, 
the Lady Guinea, was still in existence in Pall Mall in 1772. 
The Lady Guinea was a club in which all the youth of the 
peerage congregated. They gamed there. The lowest stake 
allowed was a rouleau of fifty guineas, and there was never 
less than 20,000 guineas on the table. By the side of each 
player was a little stand on which to place his cup of tea, 
and a gilt bowl in which to put the rouleaux of guinea^. The 
players, like servants when cleaning knives, wore leather 
sleeves to save their lace, breastplates of leather to protect 
their ruffles, shades on their brows to shelter their eyes from 
the great glare of the lamps, and, to keep their cuils in order, 
broad-brimmed hats covered with flowers. They were 
masked to conceal their excitement, especially when playing 
the game of quinze. All, moreover, had their coats turned 
the wrong way, for luck. Lord David was a member of the 
Beefsteak Club, the Surly Club, and of the Splitfarthing 
Club, of the Cross Club, the Scratchpenny Club, of the Sealed 
Knot, a Royalist Club, and of the Martinus Scribblerus, 
founded by Swift, to take the place of the Rota, founded by 
Milton. 

Though handsome, he belonged to the Ugly Club. This 
club was dedicated to deformity. The members agreed to 
fight, not about a beautiful woman, but about an ugly man. 
The hall of the club was adorned by hideous portraits 
Thersites, Triboulet, Duns, Hudibras, Scarron; over the 
chimney was JEsop, between two men, each blind of an eye, 
Codes and Camoens (Codes being blind of the left, Camoens 
of the right eye), so arranged that the two profiles without 
eyes were turned to each other. The day that the beautiful 
Mrs. Visart caught the small pox the Ugly Club toasted her. 
This club was still in existence in the beginning of the nine- 
teenth century, and Mirabeau was elected an honorary 
member. 

Since the restoration of Charles II. revolutionary clubs 
had been abolished. The tavern in the little street by Moor- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 201 

fields, where the Calf's Head Club was held, had been pulled 
down; It was so called because on the 3oth of January, the 
day on which the blood of Charles I. flowed on the scaffold, 
the members had drunk red wine out of the skull of a calf to 
the health of Cromwell. To the republican clubs had suc- 
ceeded monarchical clubs. In them people amused them- 
selves with decency. 

****** 

There was the Hell-fire Club, where they played at being 
impious. It was a joust of sacrilege. Hell was at auction 
there to the highest bidder In blasphemy. 

There was the Butting Club, so called from Its members 
butting folks with their heads. They found some street 
porter with a wide chest and a stupid countenance. They 
offered him, and compelled him, if necessary, to accept a pot 
of porter, in return for which he was to allow them to butt 
him with their heads four times in the chest, and on this they 
betted. One day a man, a great brute of a Welshman named 
Gogangerdd, expired at the third butt, This looked serious. 
An inquest was held, and the jury returned the following 
verdict: " Died of an inflation of the heart, caused by 
excessive drinking." Gogangerdd had certainly drunk the 
contents of the pot of porter. 

There was the Fun Club. Fun is like cant, like humour, a 
word which is untranslatable. Fun is to farce what pepper 
is to salt. To get into a house and break a valuable mirror, 
slash the family portraits, poison the dog, put the cat in the 
aviary, is called " cutting a bit of fun." To give bad news 
which is untrue, whereby people put on mourning by mistake, 
is fun. It was fun to cut a square hole in the Holbein at 
Hampton Court. Fun would have been proud to have 
broken the arm of the Venus of Milo. Under James II. a 
young millionaire lord who had during the night set fire to a 
thatched cottage a feat which made all London burst with 
laughter was proclaimed the King of Fun. The poor devils 
in the cottage were saved in their night clothes. The members 
of the Fun Club, all of the highest aristocracy, used to run 
about London during the hours when the citizens were asleep, 
pulling the hinges from the shutters, cutting off the pipes of 
pumps, filling up cisterns, digging up cultivated plots of 
. ground, putting out lamps, sawing through the beams which 
supported houses, breaking the window panes, especially in 






202 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

the poor quarters of the town. It was the rich who acted thus 
towards the poor. For this reason no complaint was possible. 
That was the best of the joke. These manners have not 
altogether disappeared. In many places in England and in 
English possessions at Guernsey, for instance your house 
is now and then somewhat damaged during the night, or a 
fence is broken, or the knocker twisted off your door. If it 
were poor people who did these things, they would be sent to 
jail; but they are done by pleasant young gentlemen. 

The most fashionable of the clubs was presided over by an 
emperor, who wore a crescent on his forehead, and was called 
the Grand Mohawk. The Mohawk surpassed the Fun. Do 
evil for evil's sake was the programme. The Mohawk Club 
had one great object to injure. To fulfil this duty all 
means were held good. In becoming a Mohawk the 
members took an oath to be hurtful. To injure at any price, 
no matter when, no matter whom, no matter where, was a 
matter of duty. Every member of the Mohawk Club was 
bound to possess an accomplishment. One was " a dancing 
master; " that is to say he made the rustics frisk about by 
pricking the calves of their legs with the point of his sword. 
Others knew how to make a man sweat; that is to say, a 
circle of gentlemen with drawn rapiers would surround a poor 
wretch, so that it was impossible for him not to turn his back 
upon some one. The gentleman behind him chastised him 
for this by a prick of his sword, which made him spring 
round ; another prick in the back warned the fellow that one 
of noble blood was behind him, and so on, each one wounding 
him in his turn. When the man, closed round by the circle 
of swords and covered with blood, had turned and danced 
about enough, they ordered their servants to beat him with 
sticks, to change the course of his ideas. Others " hit the 
lion " that is, they gaily stopped a passenger, broke his nose 
with a blow of the fist, and then shoved both thumbs into his 
eyes. If his eyes were gouged out, he was paid for them. 

Such were towards the beginning of the eighteenth century, 
the pastimes of the rich idlers of London. The idlers of Paris 
had theirs. M. de Charolais was firing his gun at a citizen 
standing on his own threshold. In all times youth has had 
its amusements. 

Lord David Dirry-Moir brought into all these institutions 
his magnificent and liberal spirit. Just like any one else, he 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 203 

would gaily set fire to a cot of woodwork and thatch, and just 
scorch those within; but he would rebuild their houses in 
stone. He insulted two ladies. One was unmarried he 
gave her a portion; the other was married he had her 
husband appointed chaplain. 

Cockfighting owed him some praiseworthy improvements. 
It was marvellous to see Lord David dress a cock for the pit. 
Cocks lay hold of each other by the feathers, as men by the 
hair. Lord David, therefore, made his cock as bald as 
possible. With a pair of scissors he cut off all the feathers 
from the tail and from the head to the shoulders, and all 
those on the neck. So much less for the enemy's beak, he 
used to say. Then he extended the cock's wings, and cut 
each feather, one after another, to a point, and thus the wings 
were furnished with darts. So much for the enemy's eyes, 
he would say. Then he scraped its claws with a penknife, 
sharpened its nails, fitted it with spurs of sharp steel, spat on 
its head, spat on its neck, anointed it with spittle, as they 
used to rub oil over athletes ; then set it down in the pit, a 
redoubtable champion, exclaiming, " That's how to make a 
cock an eagle, and a bird of the poultry yard a bird of the 
mountain." 

Lord David attended prize-fights, and was their living law. 
On occasions of great performances it was he who had the 
stakes driven in and ropes stretched, and who fixed the 
number of feet for the ring. When he was a second, he 
followed his man step by step, a bottle in one hand, a sponge 
in the other, crying out to him to hit hard, suggesting strata- 
gems, advising him as he fought, wiping 'away the blood, 
raising him when overthrown, placing him on his knee, 
putting the mouth of the bottle between his teeth, and from 
his own mouth, filled with water, blowing a fine rain into his 
eyes and ears a thing which reanimates even a dying man. 
If he was referee, he saw that there was no foul play, pre- 
vented any one, whosoever he might be, from assisting the 
combatants, excepting the seconds, declare the man beaten 
who did not fairly face his opponent, watched that the time 
between the rounds did not exceed half a minute, prevented 
butting, and declared whoever resorted to it beaten, and 
forbade a man's being hit when down. All this science, how- 
ever, did not render him a pedant, nor destroy his ease of 
manner in society. 



20 4 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

When he was referee, rough, pimple-faced, unshorn friends 
of either combatant never dared to come to the aid of their 
failing man, nor, in order to upset the chances of the betting, 
jumped over the barrier, entered the ring, broke the ropes, 
pulled down the stakes, and violently interposed in the battle. 
Lord David was one of the few referees whom they dared not 
thrash. 

No one could train like him. The pugilist whose trainer he 
consented to become was sure to win. Lord David would 
choose a Hercules massive as a rock, tall as a tower and 
make him his child. The problem was to turn that human 
rock from a defensive to an offensive state. In this he 
excelled. Having once adopted the Cyclops, he never left 
him. He became his nurse; he measured out his wine, 
weighed his meat, and counted his hours of sleep. It was 
he who invented the athlete's admirable rulers, afterwards 
reproduced by Morley. In the mornings, a raw egg and a 
glass of sherry; at twelve, some slices of a leg of mutton, 
almost raw, with tea; at four, toast and tea; in the evening, 
pale ale and toast; after which he undressed his man, rubbed 
him, and put him to bed. In the street he never allowed him 
to leave his sight, keeping him out of every danger runaway 
horses, the wheels of carriages, drunken soldiers, pretty girls. 
He watched over his virtue. This maternal solicitude con- 
tinually brought some new perfection into the pupil's educa- 
tion. He taught him the blow with the fist which breaks the 
teeth, and the twist of the thumb which gouges out the eye. 
What could be more touching ? 

Thus he was preparing himself for public life to which he 
was to be called later on. It is no easy matter to become an 
accomplished gentleman. 

Lord David Dirry-Moir was passionately fond of open-air 
exhibitions, of shows, of circuses with wild beasts, of the 
caravans of mountebanks, of clowns, tumblers, merrymen, 
open-air farces, and the wonders of a fair. The true noble is 
he who smacks of the people. Therefore it was that Lord 
David frequented the taverns and low haunts of London and 
the Cinque Porte. In order to be able at need, and without 
compromising his rank in the white squadron, to be cheek-by- 
jowl with a topman or a calker, he used to wear a sailor's 
jacket when he went into the slums. For such disguise his 
not wearing a wig was convenient: for even under Louis 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 205 

XIV. the people kept to their hair like the lion to his mane. 
This gave him great freedom of action. The low people 
whom Lord David used to meet in the stews, and with whom 
he mixed, held him in high esteem, without ever dreaming 
that he was a lord. They called him Tom- Jim- Jack. Under 
this name he was famous and very popular amongst the dregs 
of the people. He played the blackguard in a masterly style : 
when necessary, he used his fists. This phase of his fashion- 
able life was highly appreciated by Lady Josiana. 

CHAPTER V. 

QUEEN ANNE. 
I. 

ABOVE this couple there was Anne, Queen of England. An 
ordinary woman was Queen Anne. She was gay, kindly, 
august to a certain extent. No quality of hers attained to 
virtue, none to vice. Her stoutness was bloated, her fun 
heavy, her good-nature stupid. She was stubborn and 
weak. As a wife she was faithless and faithful, having 
favourites to whom she gave up her heart, and a husband for 
whom she kept her bed. As a Christian she was a heretic 
and a bigot. She had one beauty the well-developed neck 
of a Niobe. The rest of her person was indifferently formed. 
She was a clumsy coquette and a chaste one. Her skin was 
white and fine ; she displayed a great deal of it. It was she 
who introduced the fashion of necklaces of large pearls 
clasped round the throat. She had a narrow forehead, 
sensual lips, fleshy cheeks, large eyes, short sight. Her 
short sight extended to her mind. Beyond a burst of 
merriment now and then, almost as ponderous as her anger, 
she lived in a sort of taciturn grumble and a grumbling 
silence. Words escaped from her which had to be guessed 
at. She was a mixture of a good woman and a mischievous 
devil. She liked surprises, which is extremely woman-like. 
Anne was a pattern just sketched roughly of the universal 
Eve. To that sketch had fallen that chance, the throne. 
She drank. Her husband was a Dane, thoroughbred. A 
Tory, she governed by the Whigs like a woman, like a mad 
woman. She had fits of rage. She was violent, a brawler. 
Nobody more awkward than Anne in directing affairs of 
state. She allowed events to fall about as they might 



206 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

chance. Her whole policy was cracked. She excelled In 
bringing about great catastrophes from little causes. When 
a whim of authority took hold of her, she called it giving a 
stir with the poker. She would say with an air of profound 
thought, " No peer may keep his hat on before the king 
except De Courcy, Baron Kingsale, an Irish peer; " or, " It 
would be an injustice were my husband not to be Lord High 
Admiral, since my father was." And she made George of 
Denmark High Admiral of England and of all her Majesty's 
plantations. She was perpetually perspiring bad humour; 
she did not explain her thought, she exuded it. There was 
something of the Sphinx in this goose. 

She rather liked fun, teasing, and practical jokes. Could 
she have made Apollo a hunchback, it would have delighted 
her. But she would have left him a god. Good-natured, 
her ideal was to allow none to despair, and to worry all. She 
had often a rough word in her mouth; a little more, and she 
would have sworn like Elizabeth. From time to time she 
would take from a man's pocket, which she wore in her skirt, 
a little round box, of chased silver, on which was her portrait, 
in profile, between the two letters Q. A. ; she would open this 
box, and take from it, on her finger, a little pomade, with 
which she reddened her lips, and, having coloured her mouth, 
would laugh. She was greedily fond of the flat Zealand 
gingerbread cakes. She was proud of being fat. 

More of a Puritan than anything else, she would, neverthe- 
less, have liked to devote herself to stage plays. She had an 
absurd academy of music, copied after that of France. In 
1700 a Frenchman, named Foretroche, wanted to build a 
royal circus at Paris, at a cost of 400,000 francs, which scheme 
was opposed by D'Argenson. This Forteroche passed into 
England, and proposed to Queen Anne, who was Immediately 
charmed by the idea, to build in London a theatre with 
machinery, with a fourth under-stage finer than that of the 
King of France. Like Louis XIV., she liked to be driven at a 
gallop. Her teams and relays would sometimes do the 
distance between London and Windsor in less than an hour 
and a quarter. 

ii. 

^ In Anne's time no meeting was allowed without the permis- 
sion of two justices of the peace. The assembly of twelve 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 207 

persons, were it only to eat oysters and drink porter, was a 
felony. Under her reign, otherwise relatively mild, pressing 
for the fleet was carried on with extreme violence a gloomy 
evidence that the Englishman is a subject rather than a 
citizen. For centuries England suffered under that process 
of tyranny which gave the lie to all the old charters of 
freedom, and out of which France especially gathered a cause 
of triumph and indignation. What in some degree diminishes 
the triumph is, that while sailors were pressed in England, 
soldiers were pressed in France. In every great town of 
France, any able-bodied man, going through the streets on 
his business, was liable to be shoved by the crimps into a 
house called the oven. There he was shut up with others in 
the same plight; those fit for service were picked out, and 
the recruiters sold them to the officers. In 1695 there were 
thirty of these ovens in Paris. 

The laws against Ireland, emanating from Queen Anne, 
were atrocious. Anne was born in 1664, two years before 
the great fire of London, on which the astrologers (there were 
some left, and Louis XIV. was born with the assistance of an 
astrologer, and swaddled in a horoscope) predicted that, being 
the elder sister of fire, she would be queen. And so she was, 
thanks to astrology and the revolution of 1688. She had the 
humiliation of having only Gilbert, Archbishop of Canter- 
bury, for godfather. To be godchild of the Pope was no 
longer possible in England. A mere primate is but a poor 
sort of godfather. Anne had to put up with one, however. 
It was her own fault. Why was she a Protestant? 

Denmark had paid for her virginity (virginitas empta, as 
the old charters expressed it) by a dowry of ^6,250 a year, 
secured on the bailiwick of Wardinburg and the island of 
Fehmarn. Anne followed, without conviction, and by 
routine, the traditions of William. The English under that 
royalty born of a revolution possessed as much liberty as 
they could lay hands on between the Tower of London, into 
which they put orators, and the pillory, into which they put 
writers. Anne spoke a little Danish in her private chats 
with her husband, and a little French in her private chats 
with Bolingbroke. Wretched gibberish; but the height of 
English fashion, especially at court, was to talk French. 
There was never a bon mot but in French. Anne paid a deal 
of attention to her coins, especially to copper coins, which 



20 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

are the low and popular ones; she wanted to cut a great 
figure on them. Six farthings were struck during her reign. 
On the back of the first three she had merely a throne struck, 
on the back of the fourth she ordered a triumphal chariot, 
and on the back of the sixth a goddess holding a sword in one 
hand and an olive branch in the other, with the scroll, Bella 
et pace. Her father, James II., was candid and cruel; she 
was brutal. 

At the same time she was mild at bottom. A contradic- 
tion which only appears such. A fit of anger metamorphosed 
her. Heat sugar and it will boil. 

Anne was popular. England liked feminine rulers. Why ? 
France excludes them. There is a reason at once. Perhaps 
there is no other. With English historians Elizabeth em- 
bodies grandeur, Anne good-nature. As they will. Be it so. 
But there is nothing delicate in the reigns of these women. 
The lines are heavy. It is gross grandeur and gross good-.. 
nature. As to their Immaculate virtue, England is tenacious 
of it, and we are not going to oppose the idea. Elizabeth 
was a virgin tempered by Essex; Anne, a wife complicated 
by Bolingbroke. 

III. 

One idiotic habit of the people is to attribute to the king 
what they do themselves. They fight. Whose the glory? 
The king's. They pay. Whose the generosity? The 
king's. Then the people love him for being so rich. The 
king receives a crown from the poor, and returns them a 
farthing. How generous he is I The colossus which is the 
pedestal contemplates the pigmy which is the statue. How 
great is this myrmidon 1 he is on my back. A dwarf has an 
excellent way of being taller than a giant : it is to perch him- 
self on his shoulders. But that the giant should allow it, 
there is the wonder ; and that he should admire the height of 
the dwarf, there is the folly. Simplicity of mankind 1 The 
equestrian statue, reserved for kings alone, is an excellent 
figure of royalty: the horse is the people. Only that the 
horse becomes transfigured by degrees. It begins in an ass ; 
it ends in a lion. Then it throws its rider, and you have 1642 
in England and 1789 in France; and sometimes it devours 
him, and you have in England 1649, and in France 1793. 
That the lion should relapse into the donkey is astonishing; 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 209 

but it is so. This was occurring in England. It had re- 
sumed the pack-saddle, idolatry of the crown. Queen Anne, 
as we have just observed, was popular. What was she doing 
to be so ? Nothing. Nothing ! that is all that is asked of 
the sovereign of England. He receives for that nothing 
^1,250,000 a year. In 1705, England which had had but 
thirteen men of war under Elizabeth, and thirty-six under 
James I., counted a hundred and fifty in her fleet. The English 
had three armies, 5 ,000 men in Catalonia ; 1 0,000 in Portugal ; 
50,000 in Flanders; and besides, was paying 1,666,666 a 
year to monarchical and diplomatic Europe, a sort of 
prostitute the English people has always had in keeping. 
Parliament having voted a patriotic loan of thirty-four 
million francs of annuities, there had been a crush at the 
Exchequer to subscribe it. England was sending a squadron 
to the East Indies, and a squadron to the West of Spain under 
Admiral Leake, without mentioning the reserve of four 
hundred sail, under Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovel. England 
had lately annexed Scotland. It was the interval between 
Hochstadt and Ramillies, and the first of these victories was 
foretelling the second. England, in its cast of the net at 
Hochstadt, had made prisoners of twenty-seven battalions 
and four regiments of dragoons, and deprived France of one 
hundred leagues of country France drawing back dismayed 
from the Danube to the Rhine. England was stretching her 
hand out towards Sardinia and the Balearic Islands. She 
was bringing into her ports in triumph ten Spanish line-of- 
battle ships, and many a galleon laden with gold. Hudson 
Bay and Straits were already half given over by Louis XIV. 
It was felt that he was about to give up his hold over Acadia, 
St. Christopher, and Newfoundland, and that he would be 
but too happy if England would only tolerate the King of 
France fishing for cod at Cape Breton. England was about 
to impose upon him the shame of demolishing himself the 
fortifications of Dunkirk. Meanwhile, she had taken 
Gibraltar, and was taking Barcelona. What great things 
accomplished ! How was it possible to refuse Anne admira- 
tion for taking the trouble of living at the period ? 

From a certain point of view, the reign of Anne appears a 
reflection of the reign of Louis XIV. Anne, for a moment 
even with that king in the race which is called history, bears 
to him the vague resemblance of a reflection. Like him, she 



2IO THE LAUGHING MAN. 

plays at a great reign; she has her monuments, her arts, her 
victories, her captains, her men of letters, her privy purse to 
pension celebrities, her gallery of chefs-d'oeuvre, side by side 
with those of his Majesty. Her court, too, was a cortege, 
with the features of a triumph, an order and a march. It 
was a miniature copy of all the great men of Versailles, not 
giants themselves. In it there is enough to deceive the eye; 
add God save the Queen, which might have been taken from 
Lulli, and the ensemble becomes an illusion. Not a person- 
age is missing. Christopher Wren is a very passable Man- 
sard; Somers is as good as Lamoignon; Anne has a Racine 
in Dryden, a Boileau in Pope, a Colbert in Godolphin, a 
Louvois in Pembroke, and a Turenne in Marlborough. 
Heighten the wigs and lower the foreheads. The whole is 
solemn and pompous, and the Windsor of the time has a 
faded resemblance to Marly. Still the whole wae effeminate, 
and Anne's Pere Tellier was called Sarah Jennings. How- 
ever, there is an outline of incipient irony, which fifty years 
later was to turn to philosophy, in the literature of the age, 
and the Protestant Tartuffe is unmasked by Swift just in the 
same way as the Catholic Tartuffe is denounced by Moliere, 
Although the England of the period quarrels and fights 
France, she imitates her and draws enlightenment from her; 
and the light on the fa9ade of England is French light. It is 
a pity that Anne's reign lasted but twelve years, or the 
English would not hesitate to call it the century of Anne, as 
we say the century of Louis XIV. Anne appeared in 1702, 
as Louis XIV. declined. It is one of the curiosities of history, 
that the rise of that pale planet coincides with the setting of 
the planet of purple, and that at the moment in which France 
had the king Sun, England should have had the queen Moon. 

A detail to be noted. Louis XIV., although they made 
war with him, was greatly admired in England. " He is the 
kind of king they want in France," said the English. The 
love of the English for their own liberty is mingled with a 
certain acceptance of servitude for others. That favourable 
regard of the chains which bind their neighbours sometimes 
attains to enthusiasm for the despot next door. 

To sum up, Anne rendered her people hureux, as the French 
translator of Beeverell's book repeats three times, with 
graceful reiteration at the sixth and ninth page of his dedica- 
tion and the third of his preface. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 211 

IV, 

Queen Anne bore a little grudge to the Duchess Josiana, 
for two reasons. Firstly, because she thought the Duchess 
Josiana handsome. Secondly, because she thought the 
Duchess Josiana's betrothed handsome. Two reasons for 
jealousy are sufficient for a woman. One is sufficient for a 
queen. Let us add that she bore her a grudge for being her 
sister. Anne did not like women to be pretty. She con- 
sidered it against good morals. As for herself, she was ugly. 
Not from choice, however. A part of her religion she derived 
from that ugliness. Josiana, beautiful and philosophical, 
was a cause of vexation to the queen. To an ugly queen, a 
pretty duchess is not an agreeable sister. 

There was another grievance, Josiana's " improper " birth. 
Anne was the daughter of Anne Hyde, a simple gentlewoman, 
legitimately, but vexatiously, married by James II. when 
Duke of York. Anne, having this inferior blood in her veins, 
felt herself but half royal, and Josiana, having come into the 
world quite irregularly, drew closer attention to the incorrect- 
ness, less great, but really existing, in the birth of the queen. 
The daughter of misalliance looked without love upon the 
daughter of bastardy, so near her. It was an unpleasant 
resemblance. Josiana had a right to say to Anne, " My 
mother was at least as good as yours." At court no one said 
so, but they evidently thought it. This was a bore for her 
royal Majesty. Why this Josiana? What had put it into 
her head to be born ? What good was a Josiana ? Certain 
relationships are detrimental. Nevertheless, Anne smiled on 
Josiana. Perhaps she might even have liked her, had she 
not been her sister. 

CHAPTER VI. 

BARKILPHEDRO. 

IT is useful to know what people do, and a certain surveil- 
lance is wise. Josiana had Lord David watched by a little 
creature of hers, in whom she reposed confidence, and whose 
name was Barkilphedro. 

Lord David had Josiana discreetly observed by a creature 
of his, of whom he was sure, and whose name was Barkih 
phedro. 



2I2 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

Queen Anne, on her part, kept herself secretly informed of 
the actions and conduct of the Duchess Josiana, her bastard 
sister, and of Lord David, her future brother-in-law by the 
left hand, by a creature of hers, on whom she counted fully, 
and whose name was Barkilphedro. 

This Barkilphedro had his fingers on that keyboard 
Josiana, Lord David, a queen. A man between two women. 
What modulations possible I What amalgamation of souls I 

Barkilphedro had not always held the magnificent position 
of whispering into three ears. 

He was an old servant of the Duke of York. He had tried 
to be a churchman but had failed. The Duke of York, an 
English and a Roman prince, compounded of royal Popery 
and legal Anglicanism, had his Catholic house and his . 
Protestant house, and might have pushed Barkilphedro in 
one or the other hierarchy; but he did not judge him to be 
Catholic enough to make him almoner, or Protestant enough 
to make him chaplain. So that between two religions, 
Barkilphedro found himself with his soul on the ground. 

Not a bad posture, either, for certain reptile souls. 

Certain ways are impracticable, except by crawling flat on 
the belly. 

An obscure but fattening servitude had long made up 
Barkilphedro's whole existence. Service is something; but 
he wanted power besides. He was, perhaps, about to reach 
it when James II. fell. He had to begin all over again. 
Nothing to do under William III., a sullen prince, and ex- 
ercising in his mode of reigning a prudery which he believed 
to be probity. Barkilphedro, when his protector, James II., 
was dethroned, did not lapse all at once into rags. There is 
a something which survives deposed princes, and which feeds 
and sustains their parasites. The remains of the exhaustible 
sap causes leaves to live on for two or three days on the 
branches of the uprooted tree; then, all at once, the leaf 
yellows and dries up: and thus it is with the courtier. 

Thanks to that embalming which is called legitimacy, the 
prince himself, although fallen and cast away, lasts and keeps 
preserved; it is not so with the courtier, much more dead 
than the king. The king, beyond there, is a mummy; the 
courtier, here, is a phantom. To be the shadow of a shadow 
is leanness indeed. Hence Barkilphedro became famished. 
Then he took up the character of a man of letters. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 213 

But he was thrust back even from the kitchens. Some- 
times he knew not where to sleep. " Who will give me 
shelter?" he would ask. He struggled on. All that is 
interesting in patience in distress he possessed. He had, 
besides, the talent of the termite knowing how to bore a 
hole from the bottom to the top. By dint of making use of 
the name of James II., of old memories, of fables of fidelity, 
of touching stories, he pierced as far as the Duchess Josiana's 
heart. 

Josiana took a liking to this man of poverty and wit, an 
interesting combination. She presented him to Lord Dirry- 
Moir, gave him a shelter in the servants' hall among her 
domestics, retained him in her household, was kind to him, 
and sometimes even spoke to him. Barkilphedro felt neither 
hunger nor cold again. Josiana addressed him in the second 
person ; it was the fashion for great ladies to do so to men of 
letters, who allowed it. The Marquise de Mailly received 
Roy, whom she had never seen before, in bed, and said to 
him, " C'est toi qui as fait 1'Annee galantel Bonjour." 
Later on, the men of letters returned the custom. The day 
came when Fabre d' Eglantine said to the Duchesse de 
Rohan, " N'est-tu pas la Chabot? " 

For Barkilphedro to be " thee'd " and " thou'd " was a 
success; he was overjoyed by it. He had aspired to this 
contemptuous familiarity. "'Lady Josiana thees-and-thous 
me," he would say to himself. And he would rub his hands. 
He profited by this theeing-and-thouing to make further way. 
He became a sort of constant attendant in Josiana's private 
rooms; in no way troublesome; unperceived; the duchess 
would almost have changed her shift before him. All this, 
however, was precarious. Barkilphedro was aiming at a 
position. A duchess was half- way; an underground passage 
which did not lead to the queen was having bored for 
nothing. 

One day Barkilphedro said to Josiana, 

" Would your Grace like to make my fortune? '" 

" What dost thou want? " 

" An appointment." 

" An appointment? for theel " 

" Yes, madam." 

" What an idea! thou to ask for an appointment I thou, 
who art good for nothing." 



2I4 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" That's just the reason." 

Josiana burst out laughing. 

" Among the offices to which thou art unsuited, which dost 
thou desire? " 

" That of cork drawer of the bottles of the ocean." 

Josiana's laugh redoubled. 

" What meanest thou? Thou art fooling." 

" No, madam." 

" To amuse myself, I shall answer you seriously," said the 
duchess. " What dost thou wish to be? Repeat it." 

" Uncorker of the bottles of the ocean." 

" Everything is possible at court. Is there an appoint- 
ment of that kind? " 

" Yes, madam." 

" This is news to me. Go on." 

" There is such an appointment." 

" Swear it on the soul which thou dost not possess." 

" I swear it." 

" I do not believe thee." 

" Thank you, madam." 

" Then thou wishest? Begin again." 

" To uncork the bottles of the ocean." 

" That is a situation which can give little trouble. It is 
like grooming a bronze horse." 

"Very nearly." 

" Nothing to do. Well 'tis a situation to suit thee. Thou 
art good for that much." 

" You see I am good for something." 

"Come! thou art talking nonsense. Is there such an 
appointment? " 

Barkilphedro assumed an attitude of deferential gravity. 
" Madam, you had an august father, James II., the king, 
and you have an illustrious brother-in-law, George of 
Denmark, Duke of Cumberland; your father was, and your 
brother is, Lord High Admiral of England " 

" Is what thou tellest me fresh news ? I know all that as 
well as thou." 

" But here is what your Grace does not know. In the sea 
there are three kinds of things : those at the bottom, lagan ; 
those which float, flotsam ; those which the sea throws up 
on the shore, jetsam." 

"And then?" 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 215 

" These three things lagan, flotsam, and jetsam belong 
to the Lord High Admiral." 

"And then?" 

" Your Grace understands." 

" No." 

" All that is in the sea, all that sinks, all that floats, all that 
is cast ashore all belongs to the Admiral of England." 

"Everything! Really? And then?" 

" Except the sturgeon, which belongs to the king." 

" I should have thought," said Josiana, " all that would 
have belonged to Neptune." 

" Neptune is a fool. He has given up everything. He 
has allowed the English to take everything." 

" Finish what thou wert saying." 

" ' Prizes^ of the sea ' is the name given to such, treasure 
trove" 

" Be it so." 

"It is boundless: there is always something floating, 
something being cast up. It is the contribution of the sea 
the tax which the ocean pays to England." 
With all my heart. But pray conclude." 
Your Grace understands that in this way the ocean 
creates a department." 
Where? " 

At the Admiralty." 
What department?" 
The Sea Prize Department." 
Well?" 

The department is subdivided into three offices Lagan, 
Flotsam, and Jetsam and in each there is an officer." 

" And then? " 

" A ship at sea writes to give notice on any subject to those 
on land that it is sailing in such a latitude; that it has 
met a sea monster; that it is in sight of shore; that it is in 
distress; that it is about to founder; that it is lost, etc. 
The captain takes a bottle, puts into it a bit of paper on 
which he has written the information, corks up the flask, and 
casts it into the sea. If the bottle goes to the bottom, it is 
in the department of the lagan officer; if it floats, it is in the 
department of the flotsam officer; if it be thrown upon shore, 
it concerns the jetsam officer." 

" And wouldst thou like to be the jetsam officer? *' 



az6 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

" Precisely so." 

" And that is what thou callest uncorking the bottles oi 

the ocean ? " 

" Since there is such an appointment." 

" Why dost thou wish for the last-named place in preference 
to both the others ? " 

" Because it is vacant just now." 

" In what does the appointment consist? '" 

" Madam, in 1598 a tarred bottle, picked up by a man, 
conger-fishing on the strand of Epidium Promontorium, was 
brought to Queen Elizabeth; and a parchment drawn out of 
it gave information to England that Holland had taken, 
without saying anything about it, an unknown country, 
Nova Zembla; that the capture had taken place in June, 
1596; that in that country people were eaten b^ bears; and 
that the manner of passing the winter was described on a 
paper enclosed in a musket-case hanging in the chimney of 
the wooden house built in the island, and left by the 
Dutchmen, who were all dead: and that the chimney was 
built of a barrel with the end knocked out, sunk into the 
roof." 

" I don't understand much of thy rigmarole." 

" Be it so. Elizabeth understood. A country the more 
for Holland was a country the less for England. The bottle 
which had given the information was held to be of importance ; 
and thenceforward an order was issued that anybody who 
should find a sealed bottle on the sea-shore should take it to 
the Lord High Admiral of England, under pain of the 
gallows. The admiral entrusts the opening of such bottles 
to an officer, who presents the contents to the queen, if there 
be reason for so doing." 

" Are many such bottles brought to the Admiralty? '" 

" But few. But it's all the same. The appointment 
exists. There is for the office a room and lodgings at the 
Admiralty." 

" And for that way of doing nothing, how is one paid? " 

" One hundred guineas a year." 

" And thou wouldst trouble me for that much? " 

" It is enough to live upon." 

" Like a beggar." 

'* As it becomes one of my sort." 

"One hundred guineas! It's a bagatelle." 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 217 

" What keeps you for a minute, keeps us for a year. 
That's the advantage of the poor." 

" Thou shalt have the place." 

A week afterwards, thanks to Josiana's exertions, thanks 
to the influence of Lord David Dirry-Moir, Barkilphedro 
safe thenceforward, drawn out of his precarious existence, 
lodged, and boarded, with a salary of a hundred guineas 
was installed at the Admiralty. 

CHAPTER VII. 

BARKILPHEDRO GNAWS HIS WAY. 

THERE is one thing the most pressing of all : to be ungratef uL 

Barkilphedro was not wanting therein. 

Having received so many benefits from Josiana, he had 
naturally but one thought to revenge himself on her. 
When we add that Josiana was beautiful, great, young, rich, 
powerful, illustrious, while Barkilphedro was ugly, little, old, 
poor, dependent, obscure, he must necessarily revenge him- 
self for all this as well. 

When a man is made out of night, how is he to forgive so 
many beams of light? 

Barkilphedro was an Irishman who had denied Ireland 
a bad species. 

Barkilphedro had but one thing in his favour that he had 
a very big belly. A big belly passes for a sign of kind- 
heartedness. But his belly was but an addition to Barkil- 
phedro 's hypocrisy; for the man was full of malice. 

What was Barkilphedro 's age? None. The age neces- 
sary for his project of the moment. He was old in his 
wrinkles and gray hairs, young in the activity of his mind. 
He was active and ponderous; a sort of hippopotamus- 
monkey. A royalist, certainly; a republican who knows? 
a Catholic, perhaps; a Protestant, without doubt. For 
Stuart, probably; for Brunswick, evidently. To be For 
is a power only on the condition of being at the same time 
Against. Barkilphedro practised this wisdom. 

The appointment of drawer of the bottles of the ocean was 
not as absurd as Barkilphedro had appeared to make out. 
The complaints, which would in these times be termed decla- 
mations, of Garcia Fernandez in his " Chart-Book of the 



2i8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Sea," against the robbery of jetsam, called right of wreck, 
and against the pillage of wreck by the inhabitants of the 
coast, had created a sensation in England, and had obtained 
for the shipwrecked this reform that their goods, chattels, 
aud property, instead of being stolen by the country- people, 
were confiscated by the Lord High Admiral. All the dfbris 
of the sea cast upon the English shore merchandise, broken 
hulls of ships, bales, chests, etc. belonged to the Lord High 
Admiral ; but and here was revealed the importance of the 
place asked for by Barkilphedro the floating receptacles 
containing messages and declarations awakened particularly 
the attention of the Admiralty. Shipwrecks are one of 
England's gravest cares. Navigation being her life, ship- 
wreck is her anxiety. England is kept in perpetual care by 
the sea. The little glass bottle thrown to the waves by the 
doomed ship, contains final intelligence, precioils from every 
point of view. Intelligence concerning the ship, intelligence 
concerning the crew, intelligence concerning the place, the 
time, the manner of loss, intelligence concerning the winds 
which have broken up the vessel, intelligence concerning the 
currents which bore the floating flask ashore. The situation 
filled by Barkilphedro has been abolished more than a 
century, but it had its real utility. The last holder was 
William Hussey, of Doddington, in Lincolnshire. The man 
who held it was a sort of guardian of the things of the sea. 
All the closed and sealed-up vessels, bottles, flasks, jars, 
thrown upon the English coast by the tide were brought to 
him. He alone had the right to open them ; he was first in 
the secrets of their contents; he put them in order, and 
ticketed them with his signature. The expression " loger 
un papier au greffe," still used in the Channel Islands, is 
thence derived. However, one precaution was certainly 
taken. Not one of these bottles could be unsealed except 
in the presence of two jurors of the Admiralty sworn to 
secrecy, who signed, conjointly with the holder of the 
jetsam office, the official report of the opening. But these 
jurors being held to secrecy, there resulted for Barkilphedro 
a certain discretionary latitude; it depended upon him, to 
a certain extent, to suppress a fact or bring it to light. 

These fragile floating messages were far from being what 
Barkilphedro had told Josiana, rare and insignificant. Some 
times they reached land with little delay; at others, after 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 219 

many years. That depended on the winds and the currents. 
The fashion of casting bottles on the surface of the sea has 
somewhat passed away, like that of vowing offerings, but in 
those religious times, those who were about to die were glad 
thus to send their last thought to God and to men, and at 
times these messages from the sea were plentiful at the 
Admiralty. A parchment preserved in the hall at Audlyene 
(ancient spelling), with notes by the Earl of Suffolk, Grand 
Treasurer of England under James I., bears witness that in 
the one year, 1615, fifty-two flasks, bladders, and tarred 
vessels, containing mention of sinking ships, were brought 
and registered in the records of the Lord High Admiral. 

Court appointments are the drop of oil in the widow's 
cruse, they ever increase. Thus it is that the porter has 
become chancellor, and the groom, constable. The special 
officer charged with the appointment desired and obtained 
by Barkilphedro was invariably a confidential man. 
Elizabeth had wished that it should be so. At court, to 
speak of confidence is to speak of intrigue, and to speak of 
intrigue is to speak of advancement. This functionary had 
come to be a personage of some consideration. He was a 
clerk, and ranked directly after the two grooms of the 
almonry. He had the right of entrance into the palace, but 
we must add, what was called the humble entrance humilis 
intro'itus and even into the bed-chamber. For it was the 
custom that he should inform the monarch, on occasions of 
sufficient importance, of the objects found, which were often 
very curious: the wills of men in despair, farewells cast to 
fatherland, revelations of falsified logs, bills of lading, and 
crimes committed at sea, legacies to the crown, etc., that he 
should maintain his records in communication with the 
court, and should account, from time to time, to the king or 
queen, concerning the opening of these ill-omened bottles. 
It was the black cabinet of the ocean. 

Elizabeth, who was always glad of an opportunity of 
speaking Latin, used to ask Tonfield, of Coley in Berkshire, 
jetsam officer of her day, when he brought her one of these 
papers cast up by the sea, " Quid mihi scribit Neptunus? " 
(What does Neptune write me?) 

The way had been eaten, the insect had succeeded. 
Barkilphedro approached the queen. 

This was all he wanted. 



220 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

To make his fortune ? 

No. 

To unmake that of others ? 

A greater happiness. 

To hurt is to enjoy. 

To have within one the desire of injuring, vague but implac- 
able, and never to lose sight of it, is not given to all. 

Barkilphedro possessed that fixity of intention. 

As the bulldog holds on with his jaws, so did his thought. 

To feel himself inexorable gave him a depth of gloomy 
satisfaction. As long as he had a prey under his teeth, or 
in his soul, a certainty of evil-doing, he wanted nothing. 

He was happy, shivering in the cold which his neighbour 
was suffering. To be malignant is an opulence. Such a 
man is believed to be poor, and, in truth, is so; but he has 
all his riches in malice, and prefers having them so. Every- 
thing is in what contents one. To do a bad turn, which is 
the same as a good turn, is better than money. Bad for 
him who endures, good for him who does it. Catesby, the 
colleague of Guy Fawkes, in the Popish powder plot, said: 
"To see Parliament blown upside down, I wouldn't miss it 
for a million sterling.'* 

What was Barkilphedro? That meanest and most 
terrible of things an envious man. 

Envy is a thing ever easily placed at court. 

Courts abound in impertinent people, in idlers, in rich 
loungers hungering for gossip, in those who seek for needles 
in trusses of hay, in triflers, in banterers bantered, in witty 
ninnies, who cannot do without converse with an envious 
man. 

What a refreshing thing is the evil spoken to you of others. 

Envy is good stuff to make a spy. There is a profound 
analogy between that natural passion, envy, and that social 
function, espionage. The spy hunts on others' account, 
like the dog. The envious man hunts on his own, like the 
cat. 

A fierce Myself, such is the envious man. 

He had other qualities. Barkilphedro was discreet, 
secret, concrete. He kept in everything and racked himself 
with his hate. Enormous baseness implies enormous vanity. 
He was liked by those whom he amused, and hated by all 
others; but he felt that he was disdained by those who hated 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 221 

him, and despised by those who liked him. He restrained 
himself. All his gall simmered noiselessly in his hostile 
resignation. He was indignant, as if rogues had the right 
to be so. He was the furies' silent prey. To swallow every- 
thing was his talent. There were deaf wraths within him, 
frenzies of interior rage, black and brooding flames unseen; 
he was a smoke-consuming man of passion. The surface 
was smiling. He was kind, prompt, easy, amiable, obliging. 
Never mind to whom, never mind where, he bowed. For a 
breath of wind he inclined to the earth. What a source of 
fortune to have a reed for a spine! Such concealed and 
venomous beings are not so rare as is believed. We live 
surrounded by ill-omened crawling things. Wherefore the 
malevolent? A keen question I The dreamer constantly 
proposes it to himself, and the thinker never resolves it. 
Hence the sad eye of the philosophers ever fixed upon that 
mountain of darkness which is destiny, and from the top of 
which the colossal spectre of evil casts handfuls of serpents 
over the earth. 

Barkilphedro's body was obese and his face lean. A fat 
bust and a bony countenance. His nails were channelled 
and short, his fingers knotted, his thumbs flat, his hair 
coarse, his temples wide apart, and his forehead a murderer's, 
broad and low. The littleness of his eye was hidden under 
his bushy eyebrows. His nose, long, sharp, and flabby, 
nearly met his mouth. Barkilphedro, properly attired as 
an emperor, would have somewhat resembled Domitian. 
His face of muddy yellow might have been modelled in 
slimy paste his immovable cheeks were like putty ; he had 
all kinds of ugly refractory wrinkles ; the angle of his jaw was 
massive, his chin heavy, his ear underbred. In repose, and 
seen in profile, his upper lip was raised at an acute angle, 
showing two teeth. Those teeth seemed to look at you. 
The teeth can look, just as the eye can bite. 

Patience, temperance, continence, reserve, self-control, 
amenity, deference, gentleness, politeness, sobriety, chastity, 
completed and finished Barkilphedro. He culumniated those 
virtues by their possession. 

In a short time Barkilphedro took a foothold at court. 



222 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

INFERI. 

THERE are two ways of making a footing at court. In the 
clouds, and you are august; in the mud, and you are 
powerful. 

In the first case, you belong to Olympus. 

In the second case, you belong to the private closet. 

He who belongs to Olympus has but the thunderbolt, he 
who is of the private closet has the police. 

The private closet contains all the instruments of govern- 
ment, and sometimes, for it is a traitor, its chastisement. 
Heliogabalus goes there to die. Then it is called the latrines. 

Generally it is less tragic. It is there that Alberoni 
admires Vendome. Royal personages willingly make it 
their place of audience. It takes the place of the throne. 
Louis XIV. receives the Duchess of Burgundy there. Philip 
V. is shoulder to shoulder there with the queen. The priest 
penetrates into it. The private closet is sometimes a branch 
of the confessional. Therefore it is that at court there are 
underground fortunes not always the least. If, under 
Louis XL, you would be great, be Pierre de Rohan, Marshal 
of France ; if you would be influential, be Olivier le Daim, 
the barber; if you would, under Mary de Medicis, be glorious, 
be Sillery, the Chancellor; if you would be a person of con- 
sideration, be La Hannon, the maid; if you would, under 
Louis XV., be illustrious, be Choiseul, the minister; if you 
would be formidable, be Lebel, the valet. Given, Louis XIV., 
Bontemps, who makes his bed, is more powerful than 
Louvois, who raises his armies, and Turenne, who gains his 
victories. From Richelieu, take Pere Joseph, and you have 
Richelieu nearly empty. There is the mystery the less, 
lis Eminence in scarlet is magnificent; his Eminence in gray 
3 terrible. What power in being a worm ! All the Narvaez 
amalgamated with all the O'Donnells do less work than one 
Sor Patrocinio. 

Of course the condition of this power is littleness. If you 
would remain powerful, remain petty. Be Nothingness. 
The serpent in repose, twisted into a circle, is a figure at the 
same time of the infinite and of naught. 

One of these viper-like fortunes had fallen to Barkilphedro. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 223 

He had crawled where he wanted. 

Flat beasts can get in everywhere. Louis XIV. had bugs 
in his bed and Jesuits in his policy. 

The incompatibility is nil. 

In this world everything is a clock. To gravitate is to 
oscillate. One pole is attracted to the other. Francis I. 
is attracted by Triboulet ; Louis XIV. is attracted by Lebel. 
There exists a deep affinity between extreme elevation and 
extreme debasement. 

It is abasement which directs. Nothing is easier of com- 
prehension. It is he who is below who pulls the strings. 
No position more convenient. He is the eye, and has the 
ear. He is the eye of the government ; he has the ear of the 
king. To have the eye of the king is to draw and shut, at 
one's whim, the bolt of the royal conscience, and to throw into 
that conscience whatever one wishes. The mind of the king 
is his cupboard ; if he be a rag-picker, it is his basket. The 
ears of kings belong not to kings, and therefore it is that, on 
the whole, the poor devils are not altogether responsible 
for their actions. He who does not possess his own thought 
does not possess his own deed. A king obeys what? Any 
evil spirit buzzing from outside in his ear; a noisome fly of 
the abyss. 

This buzzing commands. A reign is a dictation. 

The loud voice is the sovereign; the low voice, 
sovereignty. Those who know how to distinguish, in a 
reign, this low voice, and to hear what it whispers to the 
loud, are the real historians. 

CHAPTER IX. 

HATE IS AS STRONG AS LOVE, 

QUEEN ANNE had several of these low voices about her. 
Barkilphedro was one. 

Besides the queen, he secretly worked, influenced, and 
plotted upon Lady Josiana and Lord David. As we have 
said, he whispered in three ears, one more than Dangeau. 
Dangeau whispered in but two, in the days when, thrusting 
himself between Louis XIV., in love with Henrietta, his 
sister-in-law, and Henrietta, in love with Louis XIV., her 
brother-in-law, he being Louis's secretary, without the 



224 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

knowledge of Henrietta, and Henrietta's without the 
knowledge of Louis, he wrote the questions and answers of 
both the love-making marionettes. 

Barkilphedro was so cheerful, so accepting, so incapable 
of taking up the defence of anybody, possessing so little 
devotion at bottom, so ugly, so mischievous, that it was 
quite natural that a regal personage should come to be unable 
to do without him. Once Anne had tasted Barkilphedro 
she would have no other flatterer. He flattered her as they 
flattered Louis the Great, by stinging her neighbours. 
" The king being ignorant," says Madame de Montchevreuil, 
" one is obliged to mock at the savants." 

To poison the sting, from time to time, is the acme of art. 
Nero loves to see Locusta at work. 

Royal palaces are very easily entered; these madrepores 
have a way in soon guessed at, contrived, examined, and 
scooped out at need by the gnawing thing which is called 
the courtier. A pretext to enter is sufficient. Barkilphedro, 
having found this pretext, his position with the queen soon 
became the same as that with the Duchess Josiana that of 
an indispensable domestic animal. A witticism risked one 
day by him immediately led to his perfect understanding of 
the queen and how to estimate exactly her kindness of heart. 
The queen was greatly attached to her Lord Steward, 
William Cavendish, Duke of Devonshire, who was a great 
fool. This lord, who had obtained every Oxford degree and 
did not know how to spell, one fine morning committed the 
folly of dying. To die is a very imprudent thing at court, 
for there is then no further restraint in speaking of you. 
The queen, in the presence of Barkilphedro, lamented the 
event, finally exclaiming, with a sigh, 

" It is a pity that so many virtues should have been borne 
and served by so poor an intellect." 

" Dieu veuille avoir son anel " whispered Barkilphedro, 
in a low voice, and in French. 

The queen smiled. Barkilphedro noted the smile. His 
conclusion was that biting pleased. Free licence had been 
given to his spite. From that day he thrust his curiosity 
everywhere, and his malignity with it. He was given his 
way, so much was he feared. He who can make the king 
laugh makes the others tremble. He was a powerful buffoon. 
Every day he worked his way forward underground. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 225 

people 



22 6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

gate of London, which was entered by the Harwich road, 
and on which was displayed a statue of Charles II., with a 
painted angel on his head, and beneath his feet a carved lion 
and unicorn. From Hunkerville House, in an easterly wind, 
you heard the peals of St. Marylebone. Corleone Lodge was 
a Florentine palace of brick and stone, with a marble 
colonnade, built on pilework, at Windsor, at the head of 
the wooden bridge, and having one of the finest courts in 
England. 

In the latter palace, near Windsor Castle, Josiana was 
within the queen's reach. Nevertheless, Josiana liked it. 

Scarcely anything in appearance, everything in the root, 
such was the influence of Barkilphedro over the queen. 
There is nothing more difficult than to drag up these bad 
grasses of the court they take a deep root, and offer no hold 
above the surface. To root out a Roquelaure, a Triboulet, 
or a Brummel, is almost impossible. 

From day to day, and more and more, did the queen take 
Barkilphedro into her good graces. Sarah Jennings is 
famous; Barkilphedro is unknown. His existence remains 
ignored. The name of Barkilphedro has not reached as far 
as history. All the moles are not caught by the mole- 
trapper. 

Barkilphedro, once a candidate for orders, had studied a 
little of everything. Skimming all things leaves naught for 
result. One may be victim of the omnis res scibilis. Having 
the vessel of the Danaides in one's head is the misfortune of 
a whole race of learned men, who may be termed the sterile. 
What Barkilphedro had put into his brain had left it empty. 

The mind, like nature, abhors vacuum. Into emptiness 
nature puts love; the mind often puts hate. Hate occupies. 

Hate for hate's sake exists. Art for art's sake exists in 
nature more than is believed. A man hates he must do 
something. Gratuitous hate formidable wordl It means 
hate which is itself its own payment. The bear lives by 
icking his claws. Not indefinitely, of course. The claws 
must be revictualled something must be put under them. 

Hate indistinct is sweet, and suffices for a time; but one 
must end by having an object. An animosity diffused over 
creation is exhausting, like every solitary pleasure. Hate 

ithout an object is like a shooting-match without a target. 
What lends interest to the game is a heart to be pierced. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 227 

One cannot hate solely for honour; some seasoning is 
necessary a man, a woman, somebody, to destroy. This 
service of making the game interesting; of offering an end; 
of throwing passion into hate by fixing it on an object; of 
of amusing the hunter by the sight of his living prey; 
giving the watcher the hope of the smoking and boiling 
blood about to flow; of amusing the bird-catcher by the 
credulity of the uselessly- winged lark; of being a victim, 
unknowingly reared for murder by a master-mind all this 
exquisite and horrible service, of which the person rendering 
it is unconscious, Josiana rendered Barkilphedro. 

Thought is a projectile. Barkilphedro had, from the first 
day, begun to aim at Josiana the evil intentions which were 
in his mind. An intention and a carbine are alike. 
Barkilphedro aimed at Josiana, directing against the duchess 
all his secret malice. That astonishes you 1 What has the 
bird done at which you fire ? You want to eat it, you say. 
And so it was with Barkilphedro. 

Josiana could not be struck in the heart the spot where 
the enigma lies is hard to wound; but she could be struck in 
the head that is, in her pride. It was there that she thought 
herself strong, and that she was weak. 

Barkilphedro had found it out. If Josiana had been able 
to see clearly through the night of Barkilphedro, if she had 
been able to distinguish what lay in ambush behind his 
smile, that proud woman, so highly situated, would have 
trembled. Fortunately for the tranquillity of her sleep, she 
was in complete ignorance of what was in the man. 

The unexpected spreads, one knows not whence. The 
profound depths of life are dangerous. There is no small 
hate. Hate is always enormous. It preserves its stature 
in the smallest being, and remains a monster. An elephant 
hated by a worm is in danger. 

Even before he struck, Barkilphedro felt, with joy, the 
foretaste of the evil action which he was about to com- 
mit. He did not as yet know what he was going to do to 
Josiana; but he had made up his mind to do something. 
To have come to this decision was a great step taken. 
To crush Josiana utterly would have been too great a 
triumph. He did not hope for so much; but to humiliate 
her, lessen her, bring her grief, redden her proud eyes with 
tears of rage what a success 1 He counted on it. Tenacious, 



22 g THE LAUGHING MAN. 

diligent, faithful to the torment of his neighbour, not to be 
torn from his purpose, nature had not formed him for 
nothing. He well understood how to find the flaw in 
Josiana's golden armour, and how to make the blood of that 
Olympian flow. 

What benefit, we ask again, would accrue to him in so 
doing? An immense benefit doing evil to one who had 
done good to him. What is an envious man? An un- 
grateful one. He hates the light which lights and warms 
him. Zoilus hated that benefit to man, Homer, To inflict 
on Josiana what would nowadays be called vivisection to 
place her, all convulsed, on his anatomical table ; to dissect 
her alive, at his leisure, in some surgery ; to cut her up, as an 
amateur, while she should scream this dream delighted 
Barkilphedro 1 

To arrive at this result it was necessary to suffer somewhat 
himself; he did so willingly. We may pinch ourselves with 
our own pincers. The knife as it shuts cuts our fingers. What 
does it matter? That he should partake of Josiana's torture 
was a matter of little moment. The executioner handling 
the red-hot iron, when about to brand a prisoner, takes no 
heed of a little burn. Because another suffers much, he 
suffers nothing. To see the victim's writhings takes all pain 
from the inflicter. 

Do harm, whatever happens. 

To plan evil for others is mingled with an acceptance of 
some hazy responsibility. We risk ourselves in the danger 
which we impel towards another, because the chain of events 
sometimes, of course, brings unexpected accidents. This 
does not stop the man who is truly malicious. He feels as 
much joy as the patient suffers agony. He is tickled by the 
laceration of the victim. The malicious man blooms in 
hideous joy. Pain reflects itself on him in a sense of 
welfare. The Duke of Alva used to warm his hands at the 
stake. The pile was torture, the reflection of it pleasure. 
That such transpositions should be possible makes one 
shudder. Our dark side is unfathomable. Supplice exquis 

ixquisite torture) the expression is in Bodin * has per- 
haps this terrible triple sense: search for the torture; suffer- 
ing of the tortured; delight of the torturer. 

Ambition, appetite all such words signify some one 
* Book I., p. 196. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 229 

sacrificed to some one satiated. It Is sad that hope should 
be wicked. Is it that the outpourings of our wishes flow 
naturally to the direction to which we most incline that of 
evil? One of the hardest labours of the just man is to 
expunge from his soul a malevolence which it is difficult to 
efface. Almost all our desires, when examined, contain 
what we dare not avow. 

In the completely wicked man this exists In hideous 
perfection. So much the worse for others, signifies so much 
the better for himself. The shadows of the caverns of man's 
mind. 

Josiana, in a plenitude of security the fruit of ignorant 
pride, had a contempt for all danger. The feminine faculty 
of disdain is extraordinary. Josiana's disdain, unreasoning, 
involuntary, and confident. Barkilphedro was to her so 
contemptible that she would have been astonished had any 
one remarked to her that such a creature existed. She went, 
and came, and laughed before this man who was looking at 
her with evil eyes. Thoughtful, he bided his time. 

In proportion as he waited, his determination to cast a 
despair into this woman's life augmented. Inexorable high 
tide of malice. 

In the meantime he gave himself excellent reasons for his 
determination. It must not be thought that scoundrels are 
deficient in self-esteem. They enter into details with them- 
selves in their lofty monologues, and they take matters with 
a high hand. How? This Josiana had bestowed charity 
on him! She had thrown some crumbs of her enormous 
wealth to him, as to a beggar. She had nailed and riveted 
him to an office which was unworthy him. Yes; that he, 
Barkilphedro, almost a clergyman, of varied and profound 
talent, a learned man, with the material in him for a bishop, 
should have for employ the registration of nasty patience- 
trying shards, that he should have to pass his life in the 
garret of a register-office, gravely uncorking stupid bottles, 
incrusted with all the nastiness of the sea, deciphering musty 
parchments, like filthy conjuring-books, dirty wills, and 
other illegible stuff of the kind, was the fault of this Josiana. 
Worst of all, this creature " thee'd " and " thou'd " him! 
And he should not revenge himself he should not punish 
such conduct I Well, in that case there would no longer be 
justice on earth 1 



230 THE LAUGHING MAN. 



CHAPTER X. 

THE FLAME WHICH WOULD BE SEEN IF MAN WERE 
TRANSPARENT. 

WHAT! this woman, this extravagant thing, this libidinous 
dreamer, a virgin until the opportunity occurred, this bit of 
flesh as yet unfreed, this bold creature under a princess's 
coronet; this Diana by pride, as yet untaken by the first 
comer, just because chance had so willed it; this bastard of 
a low-lived king who had not the intellect to keep his place; 
this duchess by a lucky hit, who, being a fine lady, played 
the goddess, and who, had she been poor, would have been 
a prostitute; this lady, more or less, this robber of a pro- 
scribed man's goods, this overbearing strumpet, because one 
day he, Barkilphedro, had not money enough to buy his 
dinner, and to get a lodging she had had the impudence to 
seat him in her house at the corner of a table, and to put him 
up in some hole in her intolerable palace. Where? never 
mind where. Perhaps in the barn, perhaps In the cellar; 
what does it matter? A little better than her valets, a little 
worse than her horses. She had abused his distress his, 
Barkilphedro's in hastening to do him treacherous good; a 
thing which the rich do in order to humiliate the poor, and 
to tie them, like curs led by a string. Besides, what did the 
service she rendered him cost her? A service Is worth what 
it costs. She had spare rooms In her house. She came to 
Barkilphedro's aid! A great thing, indeed. Had she eaten 
a spoonful the less of turtle soup for it? had she deprived 
herself of anything in the hateful overflowing of her super- 
fluous luxuries? No. She had added to it a vanity, a 
luxury, a good action like a ring on her finger, the relief of a 
man of wit, the patronization of a clergyman. She could 
give herself airs; say, " I lavish kindness; I fill the mouths 
of men of letters; I am his benefactress. How lucky the 
wretch was to find me outl What a patroness of the arts I 
All for having set up a truckle bed in a wretched garre fc 
in the roof. As for the place in the Admiralty, Barkilphedro 
owed it to Josiana; by Jove, a pretty appointment! Josiana 
Kad made Barkilphedro what he was. She had created him. 
Be it so. Yes, created nothing less than nothing. For 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 231 

in his absurd situation, he felt borne down, tongue-tied, 
disfigured. What did he owe Josiana? The thanks due 
from a hunchback to the mother who bore him deformed. 
Behold your privileged ones, your folks overwhelmed with 
fortune, your parvenus, your favourites of that horrid step- 
mother Fortune 1 And that man of talent, Barkilphedro, 
was obliged to stand on staircases, to bow to footmen, to 
climb to the top of the house at night, to be courteous, 
assiduous, pleasant, respectful, and to have ever on his 
muzzle a respectful grimace 1 Was not it enough to make 
him gnash his teeth with ragel And all the while she was 
putting pearls round her neck, and making amorous poses 
to her fool, Lord David Dirry-Moir; the hussy 1 

Never let any one do you a service. They will abuse the 
advantage it gives them. Never allow yourself to be taken 
in the act of inanition. They would relieve you. Because 
he was starving, this woman had found it a sufficient pretext 
to give him bread. From that moment he was her servant; 
a craving of the stomach, and there i a chain for life! To 
be obliged is to be sold. The happy, the powerful, make use 
of the moment you stretch out your hand to place a penny in 
it, and at the crisis of your weakness make you a slave, and 
a slave of the worst kind, the slave of an act of charity a 
slave forced to love the enslaver. What infamy 1 what want 
of delicacy! what an assault on your self-respect \ Then all 
is over. You are sentenced for life to consider this man 
good, that woman beautiful; to remain in the back rows; 
to approve, to applaud, to admire, to worship, to prostrate 
yourself, to blister your knees by long genuflections, to sugar 
your words when you are gnawing your lips with anger, 
when you are biting down your cries of fury, and when you 
have within you more savage turbulence and more bitter 
foam than the ocean! 

It is thus that the rich make prisoners of the poor. 

This slime of a good action performed towards you bedaubs 
and bespatters you with mud for ever. 

An alms is irremediable. Gratitude is paralysis. A 
benefit is a sticky and repugnant adherence which deprives 
you of free movement. Those odious, opulent, and spoiled 
creatures whose pity has thus injured you are well aware of 
this. It is done you are their creature. They have bought 
you and how ? By a bone taken from their dog and cast to 



232 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

you. They have flung that bone at your head. You nave 
been stoned as much as benefited. It is all one. Have you 
gnawed the bone yes or no? You have had your place in 
the dog-kennel as well. Then be thankful be ever thank- 
ful. Adore your masters. Kneel on indefinitely. A bene- 
fit implies an understood inferiority accepted by you. It 
means that you feel them to be gods and yourself a poor 
deviL Your diminution augments them. Your bent form 
makes theirs more upright. In the tones of their voices 
there is an impertinent inflexion. Their family matters 
their marriages, their baptisms, their child-bearings, their 
progeny all concern you. A wolf cub is born to them. 
Well, you have to compose a sonnet, You are a poet be- 
cause you are low. Isn't it enough to make the stars fall! 
A little more, and they would make you wear their old shoes. 

" Who have you got there, my dear? How ugly he ist 
Who is that man?" 

" I do not know. A sort of scholar, whom I feed." 

Thus converse these idiots, without even lowering their 
voice. You hear, and remain mechanically amiable. If 
you are ill, your masters will send for the doctor not their 
own. Occasionally they may even inquire after you. Being 
of a different species from you, and at an inaccessible height 
above you, they are affable. Their height makes them easy. 
They know that equality is impossible. By force of disdain 
they are polite. At table they give you a little nod. Some- 
times they absolutely know how your name is spelt! They 
only show that they are your protectors by walking uncon- 
sciously over all the delicacy and susceptibility you possess. 
They treat you with good-nature. Is all this to be borne? 

No doubt he was eager to punish Josiana. He must teach 
her with whom she had to deal ! 

O my rich gentry, because you cannot eat up everything, 
because opulence produces indigestion seeing that your 
stomachs are no bigger than ours, because it is, after all, 
better to distribute the remainder than to throw it away, 
you exalt a morsel flung to the poor into an act of magnifi- 
cence. Oh, you give us bread, you give us shelter, you 
give us clothes, you give us employment, and you push 
audacity, folly, cruelty, stupidity, and absurdity to the 
pitch of believing that we are grateful I The bread is the 
bread of servitude, the shelter is a footman's bedroom, the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 233 

clothes are a livery, the employment Is ridiculous, paid for, 
It is true, but brutalizing. 

Oh, you believe in the right to humiliate us with lodging 
and nourishment, and you imagine that we are your debtors, 
and you count on our gratitude ! Very well; we will eat up 
your substance, we will devour you alive and gnaw your 
heart-strings with our teeth. 

This Josianal Was it not absurd? What merit had she? 
She had accomplished the wonderful work of coming into 
the world as a testimony of the folly of her father and the 
shame of her mother. She had done us the favour to exist, 
and for her kindness in becoming a public scandal they paid 
her millions; she had estates and castles, warrens, parks, 
lakes, forests, and I know not what besides, and with all that 
she was making a fool of herself, and verses were addressed 
to her I And Barkilphedro, who had studied and laboured 
and taken pains, and stuffed his eyes and his brain with 
great books, who had grown mouldy in old works and in 
tcience, who was full of wit, who could command armies, 
tvho could, if he would, write tragedies like Otway and 
Dryden, who was made to be an emperor Barkilphedro had 
been reduced to permit this nobody to prevent him from 
dying of hunger. Could the usurpation of the rich, the 
hateful elect of chance, go further? They put on the 
semblance of being generous to us, of protecting us, and of 
smiling on us, and we would drink their blood and lick our 
lips after itl That this low woman of the court should have 
the odious power of being a benefactress, and that a man so 
superior should be condemned to pick up such bribes falling 
from such a hand, what a frightful iniquity I And what social 
system is this which has for its base disproportion and in- 
justice? Would it not be best to take it by the four corners, 
and to throw pell-mell to the ceiling the damask tablecloth, 
and the festival, and the orgies, and the tippling and drunken- 
ness, and the guests, and those with their elbows on the table, 
and those with their paws under it, and the insolent who give 
and the idiots who accept, and to spit it all back again in the 
face of Providence, and fling all the earth to the heavens? 
In the meantime let us stick our claws into Josiana. 

Thus dreamed Barkilphedro. Such were the ragings of his 
soul. It is the habit of the envious man to absolve himself, 
amalgamating with his personal grievance the public wrongs. 



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236 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

The noble beast feels the bite, and expends his mighty 
anger against the atom. An encounter with a tiger would 
weary him less; see how the actors exchange their parts. 
The lion, humiliated, feels the sting of the insect; and the 
flea can say, " I have in my veins the blood of a lion." 

However, these reflections but half appeased the cravings 
of Barkilphedro's pride. Consolations, palliations at most. 
To vex is one thing; to torment would be infinitely better. 
Barkilphedro had a thought which returned to him without 
ceasing: his success might not go beyond just irritating the 
epidermis of Josiana. What could he hope for morehe so 
obscure against her so radiant ? A scratch is worth but little 
to him who longs to see the crimson blood of his flayed victim, 
and to hear her cries as she lies before him more, than naked, 
without even that garment the skin I With such a craving, 
how sad to be powerless 1 

Alas, there is nothing perfect 1 

However, he resigned himself. Not being able to do 
better, he only dreamed half his dream. To play a treacherous 
trick is an object after all. 

What a man is he who revenges himself for a benefit 
received I Barkilphedro was a giant among such men. 
Usually, ingratitude is forgetfulness. With this man, 
patented hi wickedness, it was fury. The vulgar ingrate is 
full of ashes j what was within Barkilphedro? A furnace 
a furnace walled round by hate, silence, and rancour, await- 
ing Josiana for fuel. Never had a man abhorred a woman 
to such a point without reason. How terrible! She was 
his dream, his preoccupation, his ennui, his rage. 

Perhaps he was a little in love with her. 

CHAPTER XI. 

BARKILPHEDRO IN AMBUSCADE. 

To find the vulnerable spot In Josiana, and to strike her 
there, was, for all the causes we have just mentioned, the 
imperturbable determination of Barkilphedro. The wish 
is sufficient; the power is required. How was he to set 
about it? There was the question. 

Vulgar vagabonds set the scene of any wickedness they 
I to commit with care. They do not feel themselves 



THE LAUGHING MABf. 237 

strong enough to seize the opportunity as it pa sses, to take 
possession of it by fair means or foul, and to constrain it to 
serve them. Deep scoundrels disdain preliminary combina- 
tionSc They start from their villainies alone, merely arming 
themselves all round, prepared to avail themselves of various 
chances which may occur, and then, like Barkilphedro, await 
the opportunity. They know that a ready-made scheme 
runs the risk of fitting ill into the event which may present 
itself. It is not thus that a man makes himself master of 
possibilities and guides them as one pleases. You can come 
to no previous arrangement with destiny. To-morrow will 
not obey you, There is a certain want of discipline in chance. 

Therefore they watch for it, and summon it suddenly, 
authoritatively, on the spot. No plan, no sketch, no rough 
model j no ready-made shoe ill-fitting the unexpected. They 
plunge headlong into the dark. To turn to immediate and 
rapid profit any circumstance that can aid him is the quality 
which distinguishes the able scoundrel, and elevates the 
villain into the demon. To strike suddenly at fortune, that 
is true genius. 

The true scoundrel strikes you from a sling with the first 
stone he can pick up. Clever malefactors count on the un- 
expected, that senseless accomplice of so many crimes. 
They grasp the incident and leap on it; there is no better 
Ars Poetica for this species of talent. Meanwhile be sure 
with whom you have to deal. Survey the ground. 

With Barkilphedro the ground was Queen Anne. Barkil- 
phedro approached the queen, and so close that sometimes 
he fancied he heard the monologues of her Majesty. Some- 
times he was present unheeded at conversations between the 
sisters. Neither did they forbid his sliding in a word. He 
profited by this to lessen himself a way of inspiring con 
fidence. Thus one day in the garden at Hampton Court, 
being behind the duchess, who was behind the queen, he 
heard Anne, following the fashion, awkwardly enunciating 
sentiments. 

" Animals are happy," said the queen. " They run no 
risk of going to hell." 

" They are there already," replied Joslana. 

This answer, which bluntly substituted philosophy for 
religion, displeased the queen. If, perchance, there was 
depth in the observation, Anne felt shocked. 



a 3 g THE LAUGHING MAN. 

!y dear," said she to Josiana, " we talk of hell like a 
couple of fools. Ask Barkilphedro all about it. He ought to 
know such things." 

" As a devil? " said Josiana. 

" As a beast,'* replied Barkilphedro, with a bow. 

" Madam," said the queen to Josiana, "he is cleverer 
than we." 

For a man like Barkilphedro to approach the queen was 
to obtain a hold on her. He could say, " I hold her." Now, 
he wanted a means of taking advantage of his power for his 
own benefit. He had his foothold in the court To be 
settled there was a fine thing. No chance could now escape 
him. More than once he had made the queen smile malici- 
ously. This was having a licence to shoot. But was there 
any preserved game ? Did this licence to shoot permit him 
to break the wing or the leg of one like the sister of her 
Majesty? The first point to make clear was, did the queen 
love her sister? One false step would lose all. Barkil- 
phedro watched. 

Before he plays the player looks at the cards. What 
trumps has he? Barkilphedro began by examining the age 
of the two women. Josiana, twenty-three; Anne, forty- 
one. So far so good. He held trumps. The moment that 
a woman ceases to count by springs, and begins to count by 
winters, she becomes cross. A dull rancour possesses her 
against the time of which she carries the proofs., Fresh- 
blown beauties, perfumes for others, are to such a one but 
thorns. Of the roses she feels but the prick. It seems as if all 
the freshness is stolen from her, and that beauty decreases 
in her because it increases in others. 

To profit by this secret ill-humour, to dive into the wrinkle 
on the face of this woman of forty, who was a queen, seemed 
a good game for Barkilphedro. 

Knvy excels in exciting jealousy, as a rat draws the 
crocodile from its hole. 

Barkilphedro fixed his wise gaze on Anne. He saw into 
the queen as one sees into a stagnant pool. The marsh has 
transparency. In dirty water we see vices, in muddy 
water we see stupidity; Anne was muddy water. 

Embryos of sentiments and larvae of ideas moved in her 

* brain. They were not distinct; they had scarcely any 

line. But they were realities, however shapeless. The 



LAUGHING MAN. 239 

queen thought ^J&fc ; tte queen desired that. To decide 
what was the dtf^iculiy. The confused transformations 
which work in stagnant water are difficult to study. The 
queen, habitually obscure, sometimes made sudden and 
stupid revelations. It was on these that it was necessary to 
seize. He must take advantage of them on the moment. 
How did the queen feel towards the Duchess Josiana ? Did 
she wish her good or evil ? 

Here was the problem. Barkilphedro set himself to solve 
it. This problem solved, he might go further. 

Divers chances served Barkilphedro his tenacity at the 
watch above all. 

Anne was, on her husband's side, slightly related to the 
new Queen of Prussia, wife of the king with the hundred 
chamberlains. She had her portrait painted on enamel, after 
the process of Turquet of Mayerne. This Queen of Prussia 
had also a younger illegitimate sister, the Baroness Drika. 
One day, in the presence of Barkilphedro, Anne asked the 
Russian ambassador some question about this Drika. 
"" They say she is rich ? " 
' Very rich." 
' She has palaces ? " 

1 More magnificent than those of her sister, the queen." 
' Whom will she marry? " 
' A great lord, the Count Gormo." 
1 Pretty? " 
' Charming.** 
' Is she young? " 
' Very young." 

' As beautiful as the queen ? " 
The ambassador lowered his voice, and replied, 
* More beautiful." 

1 That is insolent," murmured Barkilphedro. 
The queen was silent; then she exclaimed, 
" Those bastards! " 
Barkilphedro noticed the plural. 

Another time, when the queen was leaving the chapel, 
Barkilphedro kept pretty close to her Majesty, behind the 
two grooms of the almonry. Lord David Dirry-Moir, cross- 
ing the ranks of women, made a sensation by his handsome 
appearance. As he passed there was an explosion of feminine 
exclamations. 




24 o THE LAUGHIK6 

"How elegant! HowgaUantI VhatV^L'oble airi 
handsome I " 

" How disagreeable! " grumbled the cfueen. 

Barkilphedro overheard this ; it decided him. 

He could hurt the duchess without displeasing the queen. 
The first problem was solved; but now the second presented 
itself. 

What could he do to harm the duchess? What means 
did his wretched appointment offer to attain so difficult an 
object? 

Evidently none. 

CHAPTER XII. 

SCOTLAND, IRELAND, AND ENGLAND. 

LET us note a circumstance. Josiana had le tour, 

This is easy to understand when we reflect that she was, 
although illegitimate, the queen's sister that is to say, a 
princely personage. 

To have le tour what does it mean ? 

Viscount St. John, otherwise Bolingbroke, wrote as follows 
to Thomas Lennard, Earl of Sussex : 

" Two things mark the great in England, they have l& 
tour; in France, le pour." 

When the King of France travelled, the courier of the court 
stopped at the halting-place in the evening, and assigned 
lodgings to his Majesty's suite. 

Amongst the gentlemen some had an immense privilege. 
" They have le pour," says the Journal Historique for the year 
1694, page 6; " which means that the courier who marks the 
billets puts ' pour ' before their names as, ' Pour M. le 
Prince de Soubise; * instead of which, when he marks the 
lodging of one who is not royal, he does not put pour, but 
simply the name as, ' Le Due de Gesvres, le Due de 
Mazarin.' ' This pour on a door indicated a prince or a 
favourite. A favourite is worse than a prince. The king 
granted le pour, like a blue ribbon or a peerage. 

Avoir le tour in England was less glorious but more real. 

!t was a sign of intimate communication with the sovereign, 

fVhoever might be, by birth or favour, in a position to receive 

direct communications from majesty, had in the wall of their 

bedchamber a shaft in, which was adjusted a bell. The bell 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 241 

sounded, th'e shaft opened, a royal missive appeared on a gold 
plate or on a cushion of velvet, and the shaft closed. This 
was intimate and solemn, the mysterious in the familiar. 
The shaft was used for no other purpose. The sound of the 
bell announced a royal message. No one saw who brought 
It. It was of course merely the page of the king or the queen. 
Leicester avait le tour under Elizabeth; Buckingham under 
James I. Josiana had it under Anne, though not much in 
favour. Never was a privilege more envied. 

This privilege entailed additional servility. The recipient 
was more of a servant. At court that which elevates, de- 
grades, Avoir le tour was said in French; this circumstance 
of English etiquette having, probably, been borrowed from 
some old French folly. 

Lady Josiana, a virgin peeress as Elizabeth had been a 
virgin queen, led sometimes in the City, and sometimes in 
the country, according to the season an almost princely life, 
SJid kept nearly a court, at which Lord David was courtier, 
with many others. 

Not being married, Lord David and Lady Josiana could 
show themselves together in public without exciting ridicule, 
and they did so frequently. They often went to plays and 
racecourses in the same carriage, and sat together in the same 
box. They were chilled by the impending marriage, which 
was not only permitted to them, but imposed upon them; 
but they felt an attraction for each other's society. The 
privacy permitted to the engaged has a frontier easily passed. 
From this they abstained ; that which is easy is in bad taste. 

The best pugilistic encounters then took place at Lambeth, 
a parish in which the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury has a 
palace though the air there is unhealthy, and a rich library 
open at certain hours to decent people. 

One evening in winter there was in a meadow there, the 
gates of which were locked, a fight, at which Josiana, escorted 
by Lord David, was present. She had asked, 

" Are women admitted? " 

And David had responded, 

" Sunt fcemince magnates I " 

Liberal translation, " Not shopkeepers." Literal transla- 
tion, " Great ladies exist. A duchess goes everywhere 1 " 

This is why Lady Josiana saw a boxing match. 

Lady Josiana made only this concession to propriety she 



242 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

dressed as a man, a very common custom at that perlocL 
Women seldom travelled otherwise. Out of every six 
persons who travelled by the coach from Windsor, it was rare 
that there were not one or two amongst them who were 
women in male attire; a certain sign of high birth. 

Lord David, being in company with a woman, could not 
take any part in the match himself, and merely assisted as one 
of the audience. 

Lady Josiana betrayed her quality in one way; she had an 
opera-glass, then used by gentlemen only. 

This encounter in the noble science was presided over by 
Lord Germaine, great-grandfather, or grand-uncle, of that 
Lord Germaine who, towards the end of the eighteenth 
century, was colonel, ran away in a battle, was afterwards 
made Minister of War, and only escaped from the bolts of 
the enemy, to fall by a worse fate, shot through and through 
by the sarcasm of Sheridan. 

' Many gentlemen were betting. Harry Bellew, of Carleton, 
who had claims to the extinct peerage of Bella-aqua, with 
Henry, Lord Hyde, member of Parliament for the borough 
of Dunhivid, which is also called Launceston; the Honour- 
able Peregrine Bertie, member for the borough of Truro, with 
Sir Thomas Colpepper, member for Maidstone; the Laird of 
Lamyrbau, which is on the borders of Lothian, with Samuel 
Trefusis, of the borough of Penryn; Sir Bartholomew Grace- 
dieu, of the borough of Saint Ives, with the Honourable 
Charles Bodville, who was called Lord Robartes, and who 
was Gustos Rotulorum of the county of Cornwall; besides 
many others. 

Of the two combatants, one was an Irishman, named after 
his native mountain in Tipperary, Phelem-ghe-Madone, and 
the other a Scot, named Helmsgail. 

They represented the national pride of each country. 
Ireland and Scotland were about to set to ; Erin was going 
to fisticuff Gajothel. So that the bets amounted to over 
forty "thousand guineas, besides the stakes. 

The two champions were naked, excepting short breeches 
buckled over the hips, and spiked boots laced as high as the 
ankles. 

Helmsgail, the Scot, was a youth scarcely nineteen, but he 
had already had his forehead sewn up, for which reason they 
laid 2\ to i on him. The month before he had broken the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 243 

ribs and gouged out the eyes of a pugilist named Sixmiles- 
*vater. This explained the enthusiasm he created. He had 
won his backers twelve thousand pounds. Besides having 
his forehead sewn up Helmsgail's jaw had been broken. He 
was neatly made and active. He was about the height of a 
small woman, upright, thick-set, and of a stature low and 
threatening. And nothing had been lost of the advantages 
given him by nature; not a muscle which was not trained to 
its object, pugilism. His firm chest was compact, and brown 
and shining like brass. He smiled, and three teeth which he 
had lost added to his smile. 

His adversary was tall and overgrown that is to say, 
weak. 

He was a man of forty years of age, six feet high, with the 
chest of a hippopotamus, and a mild expression of face. The 
blow of his fist would break in the deck of a vessel, but he did 
not know how to use it. 

The Irishman, Phelem-ghe-Madone, was all surface, and 
seemed to have entered the ring to receive rather than to 
give blows. Only it was felt that he would take a deal of 
punishment. Like underdone beef, tough to chew, and im- 
possible to swallow. He was what was termed, in local slang, 
raw meat. He squinted. He seemed resigned. 

The two men had passed the preceding night In the same 
bed, and had slept together. They had each drunk port wine 
from the same glass, to the three-inch mark. 

Each had his group of seconds men of savage expression, 
threatening the umpires when it suited their side. Amongst 
Helmsgail's supporters was to be seen John Gromane, cele- 
brated for having carried an ox on his back; and one called 
John Bray, who had once carried on his back ten bushels of 
flour, at fifteen pecks to the bushel, besides the miller himself, 
and had walked over two hundred paces under the weight. 
On the side of Phelem-ghe-Madone, Lord Hyde had brought 
from Launceston a certain Kilter, who lived at Green Castle, 
and could throw a stone weighing twenty pounds to a greater 
height than the highest tower of the castle. 

These three men, Kilter, Bray, and Gromane, were Cornish- 
nen by birth, and did honour to their county. 

The other seconds were brutal fellows, with broad backs, 
bowed legs, knotted fists, dull faces ; ragged, fearing nothing, 
nearly ail jail-birds. 



244 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Many of them understood admirably how to make the 
police drunk. Each profession should have its peculiar 
talents. 

The field chosen was farther off than the bear garden, 
where they formerly baited bears, bulls, and dogs; it was 
beyond the line of the farthest houses, by the side of the 
ruins of the Priory of Saint Mary Overy, dismantled by 
Henry VIII. The wind was northerly, and biting; a small 
rain fell, which was instantly frozen into ice. Some gentle- 
men present were evidently fathers of families, recognized as 
such by their putting up their umbrellas. 

On the side of Phelem-ghe-Madone was Colonel Moncreif, 
as umpire; and Kilter, as second, to support him on his 
knee. 

On the side of Helmsgail, the Honourable Pughe Beau- 
maris was umpire, with Lord Desertum, from Kilcarry, as 
bottle-holder, to support him on his knee. 

The two combatants stood for a few seconds motionless in 
the ring, whilst the watches were being compared. They 
then approached each other and shook hands. 

Phelem-ghe-Madone said to Helmsgail, 

" I should prefer going home." 

Helmsgail answered, handsomely, 

" The gentlemen must not be disappointed, on any 
account." 

Naked as they were, they ,felt the cold. Phelem-ghe- 
Madone shook. His teeth chattered. 

Dr. Eleanor Sharpe, nephew of the Archbishop of York, 
cried out to them, 

" Set to, boys; it will warm you." 

Those friendly words thawed them. 

They set to. 

But neither one nor the other was angry. There were 
three ineffectual rounds. The Rev. Doctor Gumdraith, one 
of the forty Fellows of All Souls' College, cried, 

" Spirit them up with gin." 

But the two umpires and the two seconds adhered to the 
rule. Yet It was exceedingly cold. 

First blood was claimed. 

They were again set face to face. 

They looked at each other, approached, stretched their 
arms, touched each other's fists, and then drew back. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 245 

All at once, Helmsgail, the little man, sprang forward. 
The real fight had begun.. 

Phelem-ghe-Madone was struck in the face, between the 
eyes. His whole face streamed with blood. The crowd 
cried, 

" Helmsgail has tapped his claret 1 " 

There was applause. Phelem-ghe-Madone, turning his 
arms like the sails of a windmill, struck out at random. 

The Honourable Peregrine Bertie said, " Blinded; " but he 
was not blind yet. 

Then Helmsgail heard on all sides these encouraging 
words, 

" Bung up his peepers I " 

On the whole, the two champions were really well matched; 
and, notwithstanding the unfavourable weather, it was seen 
that the fight would be a success. 

The great giant, Phelem-ghe-Madone, had to bear the 
inconveniences of his advantages; he moved heavily. His 
arms were massive as clubs; but his chest was a mass. His 
little opponent ran, struck, sprang, gnashed his teeth; re- 
doubling vigour by quickness, from knowledge of the science. 

On the one side was the primitive blow of the fist savage, 
uncultivated, in a state of ignorance; on the other side, the 
civilized blow of the fist. Helmsgail fought as much with his 
nerves as with his muscles, and with as much intention as 
force. Phelem-ghe-Madone was a kind of sluggish mauler 
somewhat mauled himself, to begin with. It was art against 
nature. It was cultivated ferocity against barbarism. 

It was clear that the barbarian would be beaten, but not 
very quickly. Hence the interest. 

A little man against a big one, and the chances are in 
favour of the little one. The cat has the best of it with a 
dog. Goliaths are always vanquished by Davids. 

A hail of exclamations followed the combatants. 

"Bravo, Helmsgail I Good! Well done, Highlander! 
Now, Phelem I " 

And the friends of Helmsgail repeated their benevolent 
exhortation, 

" Bung up his peepers ! " 

Helmsgail did better. Rapidly bending down and back 
again, with the undulation of a serpent, he struck Phelem- 
ghe-Madone in the sternum. The Colossus staggered. 



24 6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" Foul blow! " cried Viscount Barnard. 
Phelem-ghe-Madone sank down on the knee of his second, 

saying, 

" I am beginning to get warm. 

Lord Desertum consulted the umpires, and said, 

" Five minutes before time is called." 

Phelem-ghe-Madone was becoming weaker. Kilter wiped 
the blood from his face and the sweat from his body with a 
flannel, and placed the neck of a bottle to his mouth. They 
had come to the eleventh round. Phelem, besides the scar 
on his forehead, had his breast disfigured by blows, his belly 
swollen, and the fore part of the head scarified. Helmsgail 
was untouched. 

A kind of tumult arose amongst the gentlemen. 

Lord Barnard repeated, " Foul blow." 

" Bets void! " said the Laird of Lamyrbau. 

" I claim my stake! " replied Sir Thomas Colpepper. 

And the honourable member for the borough of Saint 
Ives, Sir Bartholomew Gracedieu, added, " Give me 
back my five hundred guineas, and I will go. Stop the 
fight." 

Phelem arose, staggering like a drunken man, and said, 

" Let us go on fighting, on one condition that I also shall 
have the right to give one foul blow." 

They cried " Agreed ! " from all parts of the ring. Helms- 
gail shrugged his shoulders. Five minutes elapsed, and they 
set to again. 

The fighting, which was agony to Phelem, was play to 
Helmsgail. Such are the triumphs of science. 

The little man found means of putting the big one into 
chancery that is to say, Helmsgail suddenly took under his 
left arm, which was bent like a steel crescent, the huge head 
of Phelem-ghe-Madone, and held it there under his armpits, 
the neck bent and twisted, whilst Helmsgail's right fist fell 
again and again like a hammer on a nail, only from below and 
striking upwards, thus smashing his opponent's face at his 
ease. When Phelem, released at length, lifted his head, he 
had no longer a face. 

That which had been a nose, eyes, and a mouth now 
looked only like a black sponge, soaked in blood. He spat, 
and on the ground lay four of his teeth. 

Then he fell. Kilter received him on his knee. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 247 

Helmsgail was hardly touched: he had some insignificant 
bruises and a scratch on his collar bone. 

No one was cold now. They laid sixteen and a quarter to 
one on Helmsgail. 

Harry Carleton cried out, 

" It is all over with Phelem-ghe-Madone. I will lay my 
peerage of Bella-aqua, and my title of Lord Bellew, against 
the Archbishop of Canterbury's old wig, on Helmsgail." 

" Give me your muzzle," said Kilter to Phelem-ghe- 
Madone. And stuffing the bloody flannel into the bottle, he 
washed him all over with gin. The mouth reappeared, and 
he opened one eyelid. His temples seemed fractured. 
' " One round more, my friend," said Kilter; and he added, 
," for the honour of the low town." 

I The Welsh and the Irish understand each other, still Phelem 
made no sign of having any power of understanding left. 

Phelem arose, supported by Kilter. It was the twenty- 
fifth round. From the way in which this Cyclops, for he had 
but one eye, placed himself in position, it was evident that 
this was the last round, for no one doubted his defeat. He 
placed his guard below his chin, with the awkwardness of a 
failing man. 

Helmsgail, with a skin hardly sweating, cried out, 

"I'll back myself, a thousand to one." 

Helmsgail, raising his arm, struck out; and, what was 
fctrange, both fell. A ghastly chuckle was heard. It was 
Phelem-ghe-Madone's expression of delight. While receiv- 
ing the terrible blow given him by Helmsgail on the skull, he 
had given him a foul blow on the navel. 

Helmsgail, lying on his back, rattled in his throat. 

The spectators looked at him as he lay on the ground, and 
said," Paid back I " All clapped their hands, even those who 
had lost. Phelem-ghe-Madone had given foul blow for foul 
blow, and had only asserted his right. 

They carried Helmsgail off on a hand-barrow. The 
opinion was that he would not recover. 

Lord Robartes exclaimed, " I win twelve hundred guineas." 

Phelem-ghe-Madone was evidently maimed for life. 

As she left, Josiana took the arm of Lord David, an act 
which was tolerated amongst people " engaged." She said 
to him, 

" It is very fine, but " 



248 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

"But what?" 

" 1 thought it would have driven away my spleen. It has 
not." 

Lord David stopped, looked at Josiana, shut his mouth, 
and inflated his cheeks, whilst he nodded his head, which 
signified attention, and said to the duchess, 

" For spleen there is but one remedy." 

" What is it? " 

" Gwynplaine." 

The duchess asked, 

" And who is Gwynplaine? " 



BOOK THE SECOND. 
GWYNPLAINE AND DEA. 



CHAPTER I. 

WHEREIN WE SEE THE FACE OF HIM OF WHOM WE 
HAVE HITHERTO SEEN ONLY THE ACTS. 

NATURE had been prodigal of her kindness to Gwynplaine. 
She had bestowed on him a mouth opening to his ears, ears 
folding over to his eyes, a shapeless nose to support the spec- 
tacles of the grimace maker, and a face that no one could look 
upon without laughing. 

We have just said that nature had loaded Gwynplaine with 
her gifts. But was it nature ? Had she not been assisted ? 

Two slits for eyes, a hiatus for a mouth, a snub protuber- 
ance with two holes for nostrils, a flattened face, all having 
for the result an appearance of laughter; it is certain that 
nature never produces such perfection single-handed. 

But is laughter a synonym of joy? 

If, in the presence of this mountebank for he was one 
the first impression of gaiety wore off, and the man were ob- 
served with attention, traces of art were to be recognized. 
Such a face could never have been created by chance; it must 
have resulted from intention. Such perfect completeness is 
not in nature. Man can do nothing to create beauty, but 
everything to produce ugliness. A Hottentot profile can- 
not be changed into a Roman outline, but out of a Grecian 
nose you may make a Calmuck's. It only requires to ob- 
literate the root of the nose and to flatten the nostrils. The 
dog Latin of the Middle Ages had a reason for its creation of 



25 o THE LAUGHING MAN. 

erb denasare. Had Gwynplaine when a child been so 
worthy of attention that his face had been subjected to trans- 
mutation ? Why not ? Needed there a greater motive than 
the speculation of his future exhibition? According to all 
appearance, industrious manipulators of children had worked 
upon his face. It seemed evident that a mysterious and 
probably occult science, which was to surgery what alchemy 
was to chemistry, had chiselled his flesh, evidently at a very 
tender age, and manufactured his countenance with pre- 
meditation. That science, clever with the knife, skilled in 
obtusions and ligatures, had enlarged the mouth, cut away 
the lips, laid bare the gums, distended the ears, cut the 
cartilages, displaced the eyelids and the cheeks, enlarged the 
zygomatic muscle, pressed the scars and cicatrices to a level, 
turned back the skin over the lesions whilst the face was thus 
stretched, from all which resulted that powerful and profound 
piece of sculpture, the mask, Gwynplaine. 

Man is not born thus. 

However it may have been, the manipulation of Gwyn- 
plaine had succeeded admirably. Gwynplaine was a gift of 
Providence to dispel the sadness of man. 

Of what providence ? Is there a providence of demons as 
well as of God ? We put the question without answering it. 

Gwynplaine was a mountebank. He showed himself on 
the platform. No such effect had ever before been produced. 
Hypochondriacs were cured by the sight of him alone. He 
was avoided by folks in mourning, because they were com- 
pelled to laugh when they saw him, without regard to their 
decent gravity. One day the executioner came, and Gwyn- 
plaine made him laugh. Every one who saw Gwynplaine 
held his sides; he spoke, and they rolled on the ground. 
as removed from sadness as is pole from pole. Spleen 
at the one; Gwynplaine at the other. 

Thus he rose rapidly in the fair ground and at the cross 
roads to the very satisfactory renown of a horrible man. 

:t was Gwynplaine's laugh which created the laughter of 

others, yet he did not laugh himself. His face laughed; his 

thoughts did not. The extraordinary face which chance or 

a special and weird industry had fashioned for him, laughed 

lone. Gwynplaine had nothing to do with it. The outside 

d not depend on the interior. The laugh which he had not 
placed, himself, on his brow, on his eyelids, on his mouth, he 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 251 

could not remove. It had been stamped for ever on his face, 
it was automatic, and the more irresistible because it seemed 
petrified. No one could escape from this rictus. Two con- 
vulsions of the face are infectious; laughing and yawning. 
By virtue of the mysterious operation to which Gwynplaine 
had probably been subjected in his infancy, every part of his 
face contributed to that rictus; his whole physiognomy led 
to that result, as a wheel centres in the nave. All his emotions, 
whatever they might have been, augmented his strange face 
of joy, or to speak more correctly, aggravated it. Any 
astonishment which might seize him, any suffering which he 
might feel, any anger which might take possession of him, 
any pity which might move him, would only increase this 
hilarity of his muscles. If he wept, he laughed; and what- 
ever Gwynplaine was, whatever he wished to be, whatever 
he thought, the moment that he raised his head, the crowd, 
if crowd there was, had before them one impersonation : an 
overwhelming burst of laughter. 

It was like a head of Medusa, but Medusa hilarious. All 
feeling or thought in the mind of the spectator was suddenly 
put to flight by the unexpected apparition, and laughter was 
inevitable. Antique art formerly placed on the outsides of 
the Greek theatre a joyous brazen face, called comedy. It 
laughed and occasioned laughter, but remained pensive. All 
parody which borders on folly, all irony which borders on 
wisdom, were condensed and amalgamated in that face. The 
burden of care, of disillusion, anxiety, and grief were ex- 
pressed in its impassive countenance, and resulted in a 
lugubrious sum of mirth. One corner of the mouth was 
raised, in mockery of the human race ; the other side, in blas- 
phemy of the gods. Men confronted that model of the ideal 
sarcasm and exemplification of the irony which each one 
possesses within him; and the crowd, continually renewed 
round its fixed laugh, died away with delight before its 
sepulchral immobility of mirth. 

One might almost have said that Gwynplaine was that 
dark, dead mask of ancient comedy adjusted to the body of 
a living man. That infernal head of implacable hilarity he 
supported on his neck. What a weight for the shoulders of 
a man an everlasting laugh ! 

An everlasting laugh ! 

Let us understand each other; we will explain. The 



25 2 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Manichseans believed the absolute occasionally gives way, and 
that God Himself sometimes abdicates for a time. So also 
of the will. We do not admit that it can ever be utterly 
powerless. The whole of existence resembles a letter modi- 
fied in the postscript. For Gwynplaine the postscript was 
this: by the force of his will, and by concentrating all his 
attention, and on condition that no emotion should come to 
distract and turn away the fixedness of his effort, he could 
manage to suspend the everlasting rictus of his face, and to 
throw over it a kind of tragic veil, and then the spectator 
laughed no longer; he shuddered. 

This exertion Gwynplaine scarcely ever made. It was 
a terrible effort, and an insupportable tension. -Moreover, it 
happened that on the slightest distraction, or the slightest 
emotion, the laugh, driven back for a moment, returned like 
a tide with an impulse which was irresistible in proportion to 
the force of the adverse emotion. 

With this exception, Gwynplaine's laugh was everlasting. 

On seeing Gwynplaine, all laughed. When they had laughed 
they turned away their heads. Women especially shrank 
from him with horror. The man was frightful. The joy- 
ous convulsion of laughter was as a tribute paid; they sub- 
mitted to it gladly, but almost mechanically. Besides, when 
once the novelty of the laugh had passed over, Gwynplaine 
was intolerable for a woman to see, and impossible to con- 
template. But he was tall, well made, and agile, and no 
way deformed, excepting in his face. 

This led to the presumption that Gwynplaine was rather 
a creation of art than a work of nature. Gwynplaine, beauti- 
ful in figure, had probably been beautiful in face. At his 
birth he had no doubt resembled other infants. They had 
left the body intact, and retouched only the face. 

Gwynplaine had been made to order at least, that was 
probable. They had left him his teeth; teeth are necessary 
to a laugh. The death's head retains them. The operation 
performed on him must have been frightful. That he had 
no remembrance of it was no proof that it had not taken 
place. Surgical sculpture of the kind could never have suc- 
ceeded except on a very young child, and consequently on 

e having little consciousness of what happened to him, and 
who might easily take a wound for a sickness. Besides, we 
must remember that they had in those times means of putting 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 25.3 

patients to sleep, and of suppressing all suffering ; only then 
it was called magic, while now it is called anaesthesia. 

Besides this face, those who had brought him up had given 
him the resources of a gymnast and an athlete. His arti- 
culations usefully displaced and fashioned to bending the 
wrong way, had received the education of a clown, and could, 
like the hinges of a door, move backwards and forwards. In 
appropriating him to the profession of mountebank nothing 
had been neglected. His hair had been dyed with ochre once 
for all ; a secret which has been rediscovered at the present 
day. Pretty women use it, and that which was formerly 
considered ugly is now considered an embellishment. Gwyn- 
plaine had yellow hair. His hair having probably been 
dyed with some corrosive preparation, had left it woolly and 
rough to the touch. Its yellow bristles, rather a mane than 
a head of hair, covered and concealed a lofty brow, evidently 
made to contain thought. The operation, whatever it had 
been, which had deprived his features of harmony, and put 
all their flesh into disorder, had had no effect on the bony 
structure of his head. The facial angle was powerful and 
surprisingly grand. Behind his laugh there was a soul, 
dreaming, as all our souls dream. 

However, his laugh was to Gwynplaine quite a talent. He 
could do nothing with it, so he turned it to account. By 
means of it he gained his living. 

Gwynplaine, as you have doubtless already guessed, was 
the child abandoned one winter evening on the coast of Port- 
land, and received into a poor caravan at Weymouth. 

CHAPTER II. 

DEA. 

THAT boy was at this time a man. Fifteen years had 
elapsed. It was in 1705. Gwynplaine was in his twenty- 
fifth year. 

Ursus had kept the two children with him. They were a 
group of wanderers. Ursus and Homo had aged. Ursus had 
become quite bald. The wolf was growing gray. The age of 
wolves is not ascertained like that of dogs. According to 
Moliere, there are wolves which live to eighty, amongst others 
the little koupara, and the rank wolf, the Canis nubilus of Say. 






THE LAUGHING MAN. 

The little girl found on the dead woman was now a tall 
creature of sixteen, with brown hair, slight, fragile, almost 
trembling from delicacy, and almost inspiring fear lest she 
should break; admirably beautiful, her eyes full of light, yet 
blind. That fatal winter night which threw down the beggar 
woman and her infant in the snow had struck a double blow. 
It had killed the mother and blinded the child. Gutta 
serena had for ever paralysed the eyes of the girl, now become 
woman in her turn. On her face, through which the light 
of day never passed, the depressed corners of the mouth 
indicated the bitterness of the privation. Her eyes, large 
and clear, had a strange quality: extinguished for ever to 
her, to others they were brilliant. They were mysterious 
torches lighting only the outside. They gave light but 
possessed it not. These sightless eyes were resplendent. 
A captive of shadow, she lighted up the dull place she 
inhabited. From the depth of her incurable darkness, from 
behind the black wall called blindness, she flung her rays. 
She saw not the sun without, but her soul was perceptible 
from within. 

In her dead look there was a celestial earnestness. She 
was the night, and from the irremediable darkness with which 
she was amalgamated she came out a star. 

Ursus, with his mania for Latin names, had christened her 
Dea. He had taken his wolf into consultation. He had 
said to him, " You represent man, I represent the beasts. 
We are of the lower world; this little one shall represent the 
world on high. Such feebleness is all-powerful. In this 
manner the universe shall be complete in our hut in its 
three orders human, animal, and Divine." The wolf 
made no objection. Therefore the foundling was called 
Dea. 

As to Gwynplaine, Ursus had not had the trouble of in- 
venting a name for him. The morning of the day on which 
5 had realized the disfigurement of the little boy and the 
lindness of the infant he had asked him, " Boy, what is 
your name? "and the boy had answered, " They call me 
jynplaine." " Be Gwynplaine, then," said Ursus. 
tea assisted Gwynplaine in his performances. If human 
' could be summed up, it might have been summed up 
Gwynplaine and Dea. Each seemed born in a compart- 
tne sepulchre; Gwynplaine in the horrible, Dea in 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 255 

the darkness. Their existences were shadowed by two 
different kinds of darkness, taken from the two formidable 
sides of night. Dea had that shadow in her, Gwynplaine had 
it on him. There was a phantom in Dea, a spectre in 
Gwynplaine. Dea was sunk in the mournful, Gwynplaine 
in something worse. There was for Gwynplaine, who could 
see, a heartrending possibility that existed not for Dea, who 
was blind; he could compare himself with other men. Now, 
in a situation such as that of Gwynplaine, admitting that he 
should seek to examine it, to compare himself with others 
was to understand himself no more. To have, like Dea, 
empty sight from which the world is absent, is a supreme 
distress, yet less than to be an enigma to oneself ; to feel that 
something is wanting here as well, and that something, one- 
self; to see the universe and not to see oneself. Dea had a 
veil over her, the night; Gwynplaine a mask, his face. In- 
expressible fact, it was by his own flesh that Gwynplaine was 
masked J What his visage had been, he knew not. His face 
had vanished. They had affixed to him a false self. He had 
for a face, a disappearance. His head lived, his face was 
dead. He never remembered to have seen it. Mankind was 
for Gwynplaine, as for Dea, an exterior fact. It was far-off. 
She was alone, he was alone. The isolation of Dea was 
funereal, she saw nothing; that of Gwynplaine sinister, he 
saw all things. For Dea creation never passed the bounds 
of touch and hearing.; reality was bounded, limited, short, 
immediately lost, Nothing was infinite to her but darkness. 
For Gwynplaine to live was to have the crowd for ever before 
him and outside him. Dea was the proscribed from light, 
Gwynplaine the banned of life. They were beyond the pale 
of hope, and had reached the depth of possible calamity; 
they had sunk into It, both of them. An observer who had 
watched them would have felt his reverie melt into im- 
measurable pity. What must they not have suffered 1 The 
decree of misfortune weighed visibly on these human 
creatures, and never had fate encompassed two beings who 
had done nothing to deserve it, and more clearly turned 
destiny into torture, and life into hell. 

They were in a Paradise. 

They were in love. 

Gwynplaine adored Dea. Dea idolized Gwynplaine. 

" How beautiful you are! " she would say to him. 



2 5 6 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 



CHAPTER III. 

" OCULOS NON HABET, ET VIDET." 

ONLY one woman on earth saw Gwynplaine. It was the 
blind girl. She had learned what Gwynplaine had done for 
her, from Ursus, to whom he had related his rough journey 
from Portland to Weymouth, and the many sufferings which 
he had endured when deserted by the gang. She knew that 
when an infant dying upon her dead mother, suckling a 
corpse, a being scarcely bigger than herself had taken her up ; 
that this being, exiled, and, as it were, buried under the 
refusal of the universe to aid him, had heard her cry; that 
all the world being deaf to him, he had not been deaf to her; 
that the child, alone, weak, cast off, without resting-place 
here below, dragging himself over the waste, exhausted by 
fatigue, crushed, had accepted from the hands of night a 
burden, another child; that he, who had nothing to expect 
in that obscure distribution which we call fate, had charged 
himself with a destiny; that naked, in anguish and distress, 
he had made himself a Providence; that when Heaven had 
closed he had opened his heart; that, himself lost, he had 
saved; that having neither roof -tree nor shelter, he had been 
an asylum; that he had made himself mother and nurse; 
that he who was alone in the world had responded to deser- 
tion by adoption; that lost in the darkness he had given an 
example; that, as if not already sufficiently burdened, he 
had added to his load another's misery; that in this world, 
which seemed to contain nothing for him, he had found a 
duty; that where every one else would have hesitated, he had 
advanced; that where every one else would have drawn back, 
he consented; that he had put his hand into the jaws of the 
grave and drawn out her Dea. That, himself half naked, 
he had given her his rags, because she was cold; that 
famished, he had thought of giving her food and drink; that 
for one little creature, another little creature had combated 
death; that he had fought it under every form; under the 
form of winter and snow, under the form of solitude, under 
the form of terror, under the form of cold, hunger, and 
thirst, under the form of whirlwind, and that for her, Dea, 
this Titan of ten had given battle to the immensity of night. 
She knew that as a child he had done this, and that now as a 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 257 

man, he was strength to her weakness, riches to her poverty, 
healing to her sickness, and sight to her blindness. Through 
the mist of the unknown by which she felt herself encom- 
passed, she distinguished clearly his devotion, his abnegation, 
his courage. Heroism in immaterial regions has an outline ; 
she distinguished this sublime outline. In the inexpressible 
abstraction in which thought lives unlighted by the sun, Dea 
perceived this mysterious lineament of virtue. In the sur- 
rounding of dark things put in motion, which was the only 
impression made on her by reality; in the uneasy stagnation 
of a creature, always passive, yet always on the watch for 
possible evil; In the sensation of being ever defenceless, 
which is the life of the blind she felt Gwynplaine above her; 
Gwynplaine never cold, never absent, never obscured; 
Gwynplaine sympathetic, helpful, and sweet-tempered. 
Dea quivered with certainty and gratitude, her anxiety 
changed into ecstasy, and with her shadowy eyes she con- 
templated on the zenith from the depth of her abyss the rich 
light of his goodness. In the ideal, kindness is the sun ; and 
Gwynplaine dazzled Dea. 

To the crowd, which has too many heads to have a thought, 
and too many eyes to have a sight to the crowd who, 
superficial themselves, judge only of the surface, Gwynplaine 
was a clown, a merry-andrew, a mountebank, a creature 
grotesque, a little more and a little less than a beast. The 
crowd knew only the face. 

For Dea, Gwynplaine was the saviour, who had gathered 
her into his arms in the tomb, and borne her out of it; the 
consoler, who made life tolerable; the liberator, whose hand, 
holding her own, guided her through that labyrinth called 
blindness. Gwynplaine was her brother, friend, guide, 
support ; the personification of heavenly power ; the husband, 
winged and resplendent. Where the multitude saw the 
monster, Dea recognized the archangel. It was that Dea, 
blind, perceived his soul. 

CHAPTER IV. 

WELL-MATCHED LOVERS. 

URSUS being a philosopher understood. He approved of the 
fascination of Dea. He said, The blind see the invisible. He 

9 



25 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

said, Conscience is vision. Then., looking at Gwynplaine, he 

murmured, Semi-monster, but demi-god. 

Gwynplaine, on the other hand, was madly in love with 
Dea. 

There is the invisible eye, the spirit, and the visible eye, the 
pupil. He saw her with the visible eye. Dea was dazzled by 
the ideal; Gwynplaine, by the real. Gwynplaine was not 
ugly; he was frightful. He saw his contrast before him: in 
proportion as he was terrible, Dea was sweet. He was 
horror; she was grace. Dea was his dream. She seemed a 
vision scarcely embodied. There was in her whole person, 
in her Grecian form, in her fine and supple figure, swaying like 
a reed; in her shoulders, on which might have been invisible 
wings ; in the modest curves which indicated her sex, to the 
soul rather than to the senses ; in her fairness, which 
amounted almost to transparency; in the august and 
reserved serenity of her look, divinely shut out from earth; 
in the sacred innocence of her smile she was almost an angel, 
and yet just a woman. 

Gwynplaine, we have said, compared himself and com- 
pared Dea. 

His existence, such as it was, was the result of a double and 
unheard-of choice. It was the point of intersection of two 
rays one from below and one from above a black and a 
white ray. To the same crumb, perhaps pecked at at once 
by the beaks of evil and good, one gave the bite, the other the 
kiss. Gwynplaine was this crumb an atom, wounded and 
caressed. Gwynplaine was the product of fatality combined 
with Providence. Misfortune had placed its finger on him; 
happiness as well. Two extreme destinies composed his 
strange lot. He had on him an anathema and a benediction. 
He was the elect, cursed. Who was he? He knew not. 
When he looked at himself, he saw one he knew not; but 
this unknown was a monster. Gwynplaine lived as it were 
beheaded, with a face which did not belong to him. This 
face was frightful, so frightful that it was absurd. It caused 
as much fear as laughter. It was a hell-concocted absurdity, 
.t was the shipwreck of a human face into the mask of an 
animal. Never had been seen so total an ecJ ipse of humanity 
in a human face; never parody more complete; never had 
apparition more frightful grinned in nightmare; never had 
everything repulsive to woman been more hideously amal- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 259 

gamated in a man. The unfortunate heart, masked and 
calumniated by the face, seemed for ever condemned to 
solitude under it, as under a tombstone. 

Yet no! Where unknown malice had done its worst, 
invisible goodness had lent its aid. In the poor fallen one, 
suddenly raised up, by the side of the repulsive, it had placed 
the attractive; on the barren shoal it had set the loadstone; 
it had caused a soul to fly with swift wings towards the 
deserted one; it had sent the dove to console the creature 
whom the thunderbolt had overwhelmed, and had made 
beauty adore deformity. For this to be possible it was 
necessary that beauty should not see the disfigurement. For 
this good fortune, misfortune was required. Providence had 
made Dea blind. 

Gwynplaine vaguely felt himself the object of a redemp- 
tion. Why had he been persecuted? He knew not. Why 
redeemed ? He knew not. All he knew was that a halo had 
encircled his brand. When Gwynplaine had been old 
enough to understand, Ursus had read and explained to him 
the text of Doctor Conquest de Denasatis, and in another 
folio, Hugo Plagon, the passage, Nares habens mutilas ; but 
Ursus had prudently abstained from " hypotheses," and had 
been reserved in his opinion of what it might mean. Supposi- 
tions were possible. The probability of violence inflicted on 
Gwynplaine when an infant was hinted at, but for Gwyn- 
plaine the result was the only evidence. His destiny was to 
live under a stigma. Why this stigma? There was no 
answer. 

Silence and solitude were around Gwynplaine. All was un- 
certain in the conjectures which could be fitted to the tragical 
reality; excepting the terrible fact, nothing was certain. In 
his discouragement Dea intervened a sort of celestial inter- 
position between him and despair. He perceived, melted 
and inspirited by the sweetness of the beautiful girl who 
turned to him, that, horrible as he was, a beautified wonder 
affected his monstrous visage. Having been fashioned to 
create dread, he was the object of a miraculous exception, 
that it was admired and adored in the ideal by the light; 
and, monster that he was, he felt himself the contemplation 
of a star. 

Gwynplaine and Dea were united, and these two suffering 
hearts adored each other. One nest and two birds that was 



2 <5o THE LAUGHING MAN. 

their story. They had begun to feel a universal law to 

please, to seek, and to find each other. 

Thus hatred had made a mistake. The persecutors of 
Gwynplaine, whoever they might have been the deadly 
enigma, from wherever it came had missed their aim. They 
had intended to drive him to desperation; they had suc- 
ceeded in driving him into enchantment. They had affianced 
him beforehand to a healing wound. They had predestined 
him for consolation by an infliction. The pincers of the 
executioner had softly changed into the delicately-moulded 
hand of a girl. Gwynplaine was horrible artificially horrible 
made horrible by the hand of man. They -had hoped to 
exile him for ever: first, from his family, if his family existed, 
and then from humanity. When an infant, they had made 
him a ruin; of this ruin Nature had repossessed herself, as 
she does of all ruins. This solitude Nature had consoled, as 
she consoles all solitudes. Nature comes to the succour of 
the deserted; where all is lacking, she gives back her whole 
self. She flourishes and grows green amid ruins; she has 
ivy for the stones and love for man. 

Profound generosity of the shadows 1 

CHAPTER V. 

THE BLUE SKY THROUGH THE BLACK CLOUD. 

THUS lived these unfortunate creatures together Dea, re- 
lying; Gwynplaine, accepted. These orphans were all in 
all to each other, the feeble and the deformed. The widowed 
were betrothed. An inexpressible thanksgiving arose out of 
their distress. They were grateful. To whom? To the 
obscure immensity. Be grateful in your own hearts. That 
suffices. Thanksgiving has wings, and flies to its right desti- 
nation. Your prayer knows its way better than you can. 

How many men have believed that they prayed to Jupiter, 
when they prayed to Jehovah I How many believers in 
amulets are listened to by the Almighty 1 How many atheists 
there are who know not that, in the simple fact of being good 
and sad, they pray to God I 

Gwynplaine and Dea were grateful. Deformity is expul- 
sion. Blindness is a precipice. The expelled one had been 
adopted ; the precipice was habitable. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 261 

Gwynplaine had seen a brilliant light descending on him, 
in an arrangement of destiny which seemed to put, in the 
perspective of a dream, a white cloud of beauty having the 
form of a woman, a radiant vision in which there was a heart; 
and the phantom, almost a cloud and yet a woman, clasped 
him; and the apparition embraced him; and the heart 
desired him. Gwynplaine was no longer deformed. He was 
beloved. The rose demanded the caterpillar in marriage, 
feeling that within the caterpillar there was a divine butterfly. 
Gwynplaine the rejected was chosen. To have one's desire 
Is everything. Gwynplaine had his, Dea hers. 

The abjection of the disfigured man was exalted and dilated 
into intoxication, into delight, into belief; and a hand was 
stretched out towards the melancholy hesitation of the blind 
girl, to guide her in her darkness. 

It was the penetration of two misfortunes into the ideal 
which absorbed them. The rejected found a refuge in each 
other. Two blanks, combining, filled each other up. They 
held together by what they lacked : in that in which one was 
poor, the other was rich. The misfortune of the one made 
the treasure of the other. Had Dea not been blind, would 
she have chosen Gwynplaine? Had Gwynplaine not been 
disfigured, would he have preferred Dea? She would prob- 
ably have rejected the deformed, as he would have passed 
by the infirm. What happiness for Dea that Gwynplaine 
was hideous I What good fortune for Gwynplaine that Dea 
was blind! Apart from their providential matching, they 
were impossible to each other. A mighty want of each other 
was at the bottom of their loves. Gwynplaine saved Dea. 
Dea saved Gwynplaine. Apposition of misery produced 
adherence. It was the embrace of those swallowed in the 
abyss ; none closer, none more hopeless, none more exquisite. 

Gwynplaine had a thought " What should I be without 
her? " Dea had a thought " What should I be without 
him?" The exile of each made a country for both. The two 
incurable fatalities, the stigmata of Gwynplaine and the 
blindness of Dea, j oined them together in contentment. They 
sufficed to each other. They imagined nothing beyond each 
other. To speak to one another was a delight, to approach 
was beatitude; by force of reciprocal intuition they became 
united in the same reverie, and thought the same thoughts. 
In Gwynplaine's tread Dea believed that she heard the step 



262 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

of one deified. They tightened their mutual grasp in a sort 
of sidereal chiaroscuro, full of perfumes, of gleams, of music, 
of the luminous architecture of dreams. They belonged to 
each other; they knew themselves to be for ever united in the 
same joy and the same ecstasy ; and nothing could be stranger 
than this construction of an Eden by two of the damned. 

They were inexpressibly happy. In their hell they had 
created heaven. Such was thy power, O Love 1 Dea heard 
Gwynplaine's laugh; Gwynplaine saw Dea's smile. Thus 
ideal felicity was found, the perfect joy of life was realized, 
the mysterious problem of happiness was solved; and by 
whom ? By two outcasts. 

For Gwynplaine, Dea was splendour. For Dea, Gwyn- 
plaine was presence. Presence is that profound mystery 
which renders the invisible world divine, and from which 
results that other mystery confidence. In religions this is 
the only thing which is irreducible; but this irreducible thing 
suffices. The great motive power is not seen; it is felt. 

Gwynplaine was the religion of Dea. Sometimes, lost in her 
sense of love towards him, she knelt, like a beautiful priestess 
before a gnome in a pagoda, made happy by her adoration. 

Imagine to yourself an abyss, and in its centre an oasis of 
light, and In this oasis two creatures shut out of life, dazzling 
each other. No purity could be compared to their loves. 
Dea was ignorant what a kiss might be, though perhaps she 
desired it; because blindness, especially in a woman, has its 
dreams, and though trembling at the approaches of the un- 
known, does not fear them all. As to Gwynplaine, his 
sensitive youth made him pensive. The more delirious he 
felt, the more timid he became. He might have dared any- 
thing with this companion of his early youth, with this 
creature as innocent of fault as of the light, with this blind 
girl who saw but one thing that she adored him! But he 
would have thought it a theft to take what she might have 
given; so he resigned himself with a melancholy satisfaction 
to love angelically, and the conviction of his deformity re- 
solved Itself into a proud purity. 

These Chappy creatures dwelt in the ideal. They were 
spouses in it at distances as opposite as the spheres. They 
exchanged in its firmament the deep effluvium which is in 
infinity attraction, and on earth the sexes. Their kisses were 
the kisses of souls. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 263 

They had always lived a common life. They knew them- 
selves only in each other's society. The infancy of Dea had 
coincided with the youth of Gwynplaine. They had grown 
up side by side. For a long time they had slept in the same 
bed, for the hut was not a large bedchamber. They lay on 
the chest, Ursus on the floor ; that was the arrangement. One 
fine day, whilst Dea was still very little, Gwynplaine felt 
himself grown up, and it was in the youth that shame arose. 
He said to Ursus, " I will also sleep on the floor." And at 
night he stretched himself, with the old man, on the bear skin. 
Then Dea wept. She cried for her bed-fellow; but Gwyn- 
plaine, become restless because he had begun to love, decided 
to remain where he was. From that time he always slept by 
the side of Ursus on the planks. In the summer, when the 
nights were fine, he slept outside with Homo. 

When thirteen, Dea had not yet become resigned to the 
arrangement. Often in the evening she said, " Gwynplaine, 
come close to me; that will put me to sleep." A man lying 
by her side was a necessity to her innocent slumbers. 

Nudity is to see that one is naked. She ignored nudity. 
It was the ingenuousness of Arcadia or Otaheite. Dea 
untaught made Gwynplaine wild. Sometimes it happened 
that Dea, when almost reaching youth, combed her long hair 
as she sat on her bed her chemise unfastened and falling 
off revealed indications of a feminine outline, and a vague 
commencement of Eve and would call Gwynplaine. 
Gwynplaine blushed, lowered his eyes, and knew not what 
to do in presence of this innocent creature. Stammering, 
he turned his head, feared, and fled. The Daphnis of dark- 
ness took flight before the Chloe of shadow. 

Such was the idyll blooming in a tragedy. 

Ursus said to them, 

" Old brutes, adore each other! ' 

CHAPTER VI. 

URSUS AS TUTOR, AND URSUS AS GUARDIAN. 

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, 



264 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" 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 1 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, 

" Bahl 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, speak- 
ing to Gwynplaine when Dea slept, and to Dea when Gwyn- 
plaine'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 I 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 con- 
sider that you are made for her? Just think of your 
deformity and her perfection 1 See the distance between 
her and yourself. She has everything, this Dea. What a 
white skint What hair! Lips like strawberries I And her 
foot I her hand 1 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 1 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." 



THE LAUGHING MAN, 265 

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 educa- 
tion. " 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, 



266 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" I have taught Gwynplalne 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 instru- 
ment," 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 I Binchois, musician of 
Picardyl" 

These branches of careful culture did not occupy the chil- 
dren 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 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 267 

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 trans- 
parency with his lips ideal kiss of a deformed mouth t 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 Gwyn- 
plaine her naked arm, said, 

" Again I " 

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. 

CHAPTER VII. 

BLINDNESS GIVES LESSONS IN CLAIRVOYANCE. 

AT times Gwynplaine reproached himself. He made his 
happiness a case of conscience. He fancied that to allow a 
woman who could not see him to love him was to deceive her. 

What would she have said could she have suddenly ob- 
tained her sight? How she would have felt repulsed by 
what had previously attracted hert How she would have 
recoiled from her frightful loadstone! What a cry I What 
covering of her facet What a flight! A bitter scruple 
harassed him. He told himself that such a monster as he 
had no right to love. He was a hydra idolized by a staio It 
was his duty to enlighten the blind star, 

One day he said to Dea, 

" You know that I am very ugly." 

" I know that you are sublime," she answered. 

He resumed, 

" When you hear all the world laugh, they laugh at me 
because I am horrible," 



268 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" I love you," said Dea. 

After a silence, she added, 

" I was in death; you brought me to life. When you are 
here, heaven is by my side. Give me your hand, that I may 
touch heaven." 

Their hands met and grasped each other. They spoke no 
more, but were silent in the plenitude of love. 

Ursus, who was crabbed, had overheard this. The next 
day, when the three were together, he said, 

" For that matter, Dea is ugly also." 

The word produced no effect. Dea and Gwynplaine were 
not listening. Absorbed in each other, they rarely heeded 
such exclamations of Ursus. Their depth was a dead loss. 

This time, however, the precaution of Ursus, " Dea is also 
ugly," indicated in this learned man a certain knowledge of 
women. It is certain that Gwynplaine, in his loyalty, had 
been guilty of an imprudence. To have said, 7 am ugly, to 
any other blind girl than Dea might have been dangerous. 
To be blind, and in love, is to be twofold blind. In such a 
situation dreams are dreamt. Illusion is the food of 
dreams. Take illusion from love, and you take from it its 
aliment. It is compounded of every enthusiasm, of both 
physical and moral admiration. 

Moreover, you should never tell a woman a word difficult 
to understand. She will dream about it, and she often dreams 
falsely. An enigma in a reverie spoils it. The shock caused 
by the fall of a careless word displaces that against which it 
strikes. At times it happens, without our knowing why, 
that because we have received the obscure blow of a chance 
word the heart empties itself insensibly of love. He who 
loves perceives a decline in his happiness. Nothing is to be 
feared more than this slow exudation from the fissure in the 
vase. 

Happily, Dea was not formed of such clay. The stuff of 
which other women are made had not been used in her 
construction. She had a rare nature. The frame, but not 
the heart, was fragile. A divine perseverance in love was in 
the heart of her being. 

The whole disturbance which the word used by Gwyn- 
plaine had produced in her ended in her saying one day, 
"To be ugly what is it ? It is to do wrong. Gwyn- 
plaine only does good. He is handsome." 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 269 

Then, under the form of Interrogation so iamiliar to 
children and to the blind, she resumed, 

" To see what is it that you call seeing ? For my own 
part, I cannot see; I know. It seems that to see means to 
hide." 

" What do you mean? " said Gwynplaine. 

Dea answered, 

" To see is a thing which conceals the true." 

" No," said Gwynplaine. 

" But yes," replied Dea, " since you say you are ugly." 

She reflected a moment, and then said, " Story-teller 1 " 

Gwynplaine felt the joy of having confessed and of not 
being believed. Both his conscience and his love were 
consoled. 

Thus they had reached, Dea sixteen, Gwynplaine nearly 
twenty-five. They were not, as it would now be expressed, 
" more advanced " than the first day. Less even ; for it may 
be remembered that on their wedding night she was nine 
months and he ten years old. A sort of holy childhood had 
continued in their love. Thus it sometimes happens that 
the belated nightingale prolongs her nocturnal song till dawn. 

Their caresses went no further than pressing hands, or lips 
brushing a naked arm. Soft, half-articulate whispers suf- 
ficed them. 

Twenty-four and sixteen I So it happened that Ursus, who 
did not lose sight of the ill turn he intended to do them, 
said, 

" One of these days you must choose a religion." 

" Wherefore ? " inquired Gwynplaine. 

" That you may marry." 

" That is already done," said Dea. 

Dea did not understand that they could be more man and 
wife than they were already. 

At bottom, this chimerical and virginal content, this 
Innocent union of souls, this celibacy taken for marriage, was 
not displeasing to Ursus. 

Besides, were they not already married? If the indis- 
soluble existed anywhere, was it not in their union ? Gwyn- 
plaine and Deal They were creatures worthy of the love 
they mutually felt, flung by misfortune into each other's 
arms. And as if they were not enough in this first link, love 
had survened on misfortune, and had attached them, united 



27 o THE LAUGHING MAN. 

and bound them together. What power could ever break 
that iron chain, bound with knots of flowers? They were 
indeed bound together. 

Dea had beauty, Gwynplaine had sight. Each brought a 
dowry. They were more than coupled they were paired; 
separated solely by the sacred interposition of innocence. 

Though dream as Gwynplaine would, however, and absorb 
all meaner passions as he could in the contemplation of Dea 
and before the tribunal of conscience, he was a man. Fatal 
laws are not to be eluded. He underwent, like everything 
else in nature, the obscure fermentations willed by the 
Creator. At times, therefore, he looked at the women who 
were in the crowd, but he immediately felt that the look was 
a sin, and hastened to retire, repentant, into his own soul. 

Let us add that he met with no encouragement. On the 
face of every woman who looked upon him he saw aver- 
sion antipathy, repugnance, and rejection. It was clear 
that no other than Dea was possible for him. This aided his 
repentance. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

NOT ONLY HAPPINESS, BUT PROSPERITY 

WHAT true things are told in stories ! The burnt scar of the 
invisible fiend who has touched you is remorse for a wicked 
thought. In Gwynplaine evil thoughts never ripened, and 
he had therefore no remorse. Sometimes he felt regret. 
Vague mists of conscience. 
What was this? 
Nothing. 

Their happiness was complete so complete that they 
were no longer even poor. 

From 1689 to 1704 a great change had taken place. 

t happened sometimes, in the year 1704, that as night fell 

on some^little village on the coast, a great, heavy van, drawn 

by a pair of stout horses, made its entry. It was like the 

11 of a vessel reversed the keel for a roof, the deck for a 

floor, placed on four wheels. The wheels were all of the same 

ze, and high as wagon wheels. Wheels, pole, and van 

e all painted green, with a rhythmical gradation of shades, 

ich ranged from bottle green for the wheels to apple green 

the roofing. This green colour had succeeded in drawing 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 271 

attention to the carriage, which was known, in all the fair 
grounds as The Green Box. The Green Box had but two 
windows, one at each extremity, and at the back a door with 
steps to let down. On the roof, from a tube painted green 
like the rest, smoke arose. This moving house was always 
varnished and washed afresh. In front, on a ledge fastened 
to the van, with the window for a door, behind the horses 
and by the side of an old man who held the reins and directed 
the team, two gipsy women, dressed as goddesses, sounded 
their trumpets. The astonishment with which the villagers 
regarded this machine was overwhelming. 

This was the old establishment of Ursus, its proportions 
augmented by success, and improved from a wretched booth 
into a theatre. A kind of animal, between dog and wolf, was 
chained under the van. This was Homo. The old coachman 
who drove the horses was the philosopher himself. 

Whence came this improvement from the miserable hut to 
the Olympic caravan? 

From this Gwynplaine had become famous. 

It was with a correct scent of what would succeed amongst 
men that Ursus had said to Gwynplaine, 

" They made your fortune." 

Ursus, it may be remembered, had made Gwynplaine his 
pupil. Unknown people had worked upon his face; he, on 
the other hand, had worked on his mind, and behind this 
well-executed mask he had placed all that he could of 
thought. So soon as the growth of the child had rendered 
him fitted for it, he had brought him out on the stage that 
is, he had produced him in front of the van. 

The effect of his appearance had been surprising. The 
passers-by were immediately struck with wonder. Never 
had anything been seen to be compared to this extraordinary 
mimic of laughter. They were ignorant how the miracle of 
infectious hilarity had been obtained. Some believed it to 
be natural, others declared it to be artificial, and as con- 
jecture was added to reality, everywhere, at every cross-road 
on the journey, in all the grounds of fairs and ftes, the 
crowd ran after Gwynplaine. Thanks to this great attrac- 
tion, there had come into the poor purse of the wandering 
group, first a rain of farthings, then of heavy pennies, and 
finally of shillings. The curiosity of one place exhausted, 
they passed on to another. Rolling does not enrich a stone, 



272 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

but it enriches a caravan; and year by }^ear, from city to 
city, with the increased growth of Gwynplaine's persoa and 
of his ugliness, the fortune predicted by Ursus had come. 

" What a good turn they did you there, my boy!" said 
Ursus. 

This " fortune " had allowed Ursus, who was the adminis- 
trator of Gwynplaine's success, to have the chariot of his 
dreams constructed that is to say, a caravan large enough 
to carry a theatre, and to sow science and art in the high- 
ways. Moreover, Ursus had been able to add to the group 
composed of himself, Homo, Gwynplaine, and Dea, two 
horses and two women, who were the goddesses Of the troupe, 
as we have just said, and its servants. A mythological 
frontispiece was, in those days, of service to a caravan of 
mountebanks. 

" We are a wandering temple," said Ursus. 

These two gipsies, picked up by the philosopher from 
amongst the vagabondage of cities and suburbs, were ugly 
and young, and were called, by order of Ursus, the one 
Phoebe, and the other Venus. 

For these read Fibi and Vinos, that we may conform to 
English pronunciation. 

Phoebe cooked; Venus scrubbed the temple. 

Moreover, on days of performance they dressed Dea. 

Mountebanks have their public life as well as princes, and 
on these occasions Dea was arrayed, like Fibi and Vinos, in a 
Florentine petticoat of flowered stuff, and a woman's jacket 
without sleeves, leaving the arms bare. Ursus and Gwyn- 
plaine wore men's jackets, and, like sailors on board a man-of- 
war, great loose trousers. Gwynplaine had, besides, for his 
work and for his feats of strength, round his neck and over 
shoulders, an esclavine of leather. He took charge of the 
horses. Ursus and Homo took charge of each other. 

Dea, being used to the Green Box, came and went in the 

tenor of the wheeled house, with almost as much ease and 
certainty as those who saw. 

The eye which could penetrate within this structure and its 

nal arrangements might have perceived in a corner, 

to the planks, and immovable on its four wheels, the 

I hut of Ursus, placed on half-pay, allowed to rust, and 
om thenceforth dispensed the labour of rolling as Ursus 
was relieved from the labour of drawing it. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 



2/4 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

turned away from it with horror. It was, perhaps, for some 

such pious invention, that Solon kicked out Thespis. 

For all that Thespis has lasted much longer than is gener- 
ally believed. The travelling theatre is still in existence. It 
was on those stages on wheels that in the sixteenth and seven- 
teenth centuries, they performed in England the ballets and 
dances of Amner and Pilkington; in France, the pastorals 
of Gilbert Colin ; in Flanders, at the annual fairs, the double 
choruses of Clement, called Non Papa? in Germany, the 
" Adam and Eve " of Theiles; and, in Italy, the Venetian 
exhibitions of Animuccia and of Cafossis, the " Silvae " of 
Gesualdo, the ' Prince of Venosa," the " Satyr " of Laura 
Guidiccioni, the " Despair of Philene," the " Death of 
Ugolina," by Vincent Galileo, father of the astronomer, which 
Vincent Galileo sang his own music, and accompanied himself 
on his viol de gamba ; as well as all the first attempts of the 
Italian opera which, from 1580, substituted free inspiration 
for the madrigal style. 

The chariot, of the colour of hope, which carried Ursus, 
Gwynplaine, and their fortunes, and in front of which Fibi 
and Vinos trumpeted like figures of Fame, played its part of 
this grand Bohemian and literary brotherhood. Thespis 
would no more have disowned Ursus than Congrio would 
have disowned Gwynplaine, 

Arrived at open spaces in 'towns or villages, Ursus, in the 
intervals between the too-tooing of Fibi and Vinos, gave 
instructive revelations as to the trumpetings. 

" This symphony is Gregorian," he would exclaim. 
" Citizens and townsmen, the Gregorian form of worship, 
this great progress, is opposed In Italy to the Ambrosial 
ritual, and in Spain to the Mozarabic ceremonial, and has 
achieved its triumph over them with difficulty." 

After which the Green Box drew up in some place chosen 
by Ursus, and evening having fallen, and the panel stage 
having been let down, the theatre opened, and the perform- 
ance began. 

The scene of the Green Box represented a landscape 
painted by Ursus ; and as he did not know how to paint, it 
represented a cavern just as well as a landscape. The 
curtain, which we call drop nowadays, was a checked silk, 
with squares of contrasted colours. 

The public stood without, in the street, la the fair, forming 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 375 

a semicircle round the stage, exposed to the sun and the 
showers ; an arrangement which made rain less desirable 
for theatres in those days than now* When they could, they 
acted in an inn yard, on which occasions the windows of the 
different stories made rows of boxes for the spectators. The 
theatre was thus more enclosed, and the audience a more 
paying one. Ursus was in everything in the piece, in the 
company, in the kitchen, in the orchestra. Vinos beat the 
drum, and handled the sticks with great dexterity. Fibi 
played on the morache, a kind of guitar. The wolf had been 
promoted to be a utility gentleman, and played, as occasion 
required, his little parts. Often when they appeared side 
by side on the stage Ursus in his tightly-laced bear's skin, 
Homo with his wolf's skin fitting still better no one could 
tell which was the beast. This nattered Ursus^ 

CHAPTER IX. 

ABSURDITIES WHICH FOLKS WITHOUT TASTE CALL POETRY. 

THE pieces written by Ursus were Interludes a kind of com- 
position out of fashion nowadays. One of these pieces, 
which has not come down to us, was entitled " Ursus Rursus." 
It is probable that he played the principal part himself. A 
pretended exit, followed by a reappearance, was apparently 
its praiseworthy and sober subject. The titles of the inter- 
ludes of Ursus were sometimes Latin, as we have seen, and 
the poetry frequently Spanish. The Spanish verses written 
by Ursus were rhymed, as was nearly all the Castilian poetry 
of that period. This did not puzzle the people. Spanish 
was then a familiar languages and the English sailors spoke 
Castilian even as the Roman sailors spoke Carthaginian (see 
Plautus). Moreover, at a theatrical representation, as at 
mass, Latin, or any other language unknown to the audience, 
is by no means a subject of care with them. They get out 
of the dilemma by adapting to the sounds familiar words. 
Our old Gallic France was particularly prone to this manner 
of being devout, At church, under cover of an Immolatus, 
the faithful chanted, " I will make merry; " and under a 
Sanctus, " Kiss me, sweet." 

The Council of Trent was required to put an end to these 
familiarities. 



27 5 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Ursus had composed expressly for Gwynpla!*** an Inter- 
lude, with which he was well pleased. It was his best work. 
He had thrown his whole soul into it. To give the sum of 
all one's talents in the production is the greatest triumph 
that any one can achieve. The toad which produces a toad 
achieves a grand success. You doubt it? Try, then, to 
do as much. 

Ursus had carefully polished this Interlude. This bear's 
cub was entitled " Chaos Vanquished." Here it was: A 
night scene. When the curtain drew up, the crowd, massed 
around the Green Box, saw nothing but blackness. In this 
blackness three confused forms moved in the reptile state 
a wolf, a bear, and a man. The wolf acted the wolf; Ursus, 
the bear; Gwynplaine, the man. The wolf and the bear 
represented the ferocious forces of Nature unreasoning 
hunger and savage ignorance. Both rushed on Gwynplaine. 
It was chaos combating man. No face could be distin- 
guished. Gwynplaine fought infolded in a winding-sheet, 
and his face was covered by his thickly-falling locks. All 
else was shadow. The bear growled, the wolf gnashed his 
teeth, the man cried out. The man was down; the beasts 
overwhelmed him. He cried for aid and succour; he hurled 
to the unknown an agonized appeal. He gave a death- 
rattle. To witness this agony of the prostrate man, now 
scarcely distinguishable from the brutes, was appalling. 
The crowd looked on breathless; in one minute more the 
wild beasts would triumph, and chaos reabsorb man. A 
struggle cries howlings ; then, all at once, silence. 

A song in the shadows. A breath had passed, and they 
heard a voice. Mysterious music floated, accompanying this 
chant of the invisible ; and suddenly, none knowing whence 
or how, a white apparition arose. This apparition was a 
light; this light was a woman; this woman was a spirit. 
Dea calm, fair, beautiful, formidable in her serenity and 
sweetness appeared in the centre of a luminous mist. A 
profile of brightness in a dawn! She was a voice a voice 
light, deep, indescribable. She sang in the new-born light 
she, invisible, made visible. They thought that they heard 
the hymn of an angel or the song of a bird. At this appari- 
tion the man, starting up in his ecstasy, struck the beasts 
with his fists, and overthrew them. 

Then the vision, gliding along in a manner difficult to 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 277 

understand, and therefore the more admired, sang these 
words in Spanish sufficiently pure for the English sailors who 
were present: 

"Ora! llora! 
De palabra 
Nace razon. 
De luz el son." * 

Then looking down, as if she saw a gulf beneath, she went 
on, 

" Noche, quita te de alii ! 
El alba canta hallali." f 

As she sang, the man raised himself by degrees ; instead 
of lying he was now kneeling, his hands elevated towards the 
vision, his knees resting on the beasts, which lay motionless, 
and as if thunder-stricken. 

She continued, turning towards him, 

" Es menester a cielos ir, 
Y tu que llorabas reir." J 

And approaching him with the majesty of a star, she 
added, 

' Gebra barzon ; 

Deja, monstruo. 

A tu negro 

Caparazon." 

And she put her hand on his brow. Then another voice arose, 
deeper, and consequently still sweeter a voice broken and 
enwrapt with a gravity both tender and wild. It was the 
human chant responding to the chant of the stars. Gwn- 
plaine, still in obscurity, his head under Dea's hand, and 
kneeling on the vanquished bear and wolf, sang, 

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

And suddenly from the shadow a ray of light fell full upon 
Gwynplaine. Then, through the darkness, was the monster 
full exposed. 

To describe the commotion of the crowd is impossible. 

* Pray I weep I Reason i* born of the word. Song creates light. 

f Night, away ! the dawn sings hallali. 

j Thou must go to heaven and smile, thou that weepest. 

Break the yoke j throw off, monster, thy dark clothing. 

|j O come and love ! thou art soul, I am heart. 



278 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

A sun of laughter rising, such was the effect. Laughter 
springs from unexpected causes, and nothing could be more 
unexpected than this termination. Never was sensation 
comparable to that produced by the ray of light striking on 
that mask, at once ludicrous and terrible. They laughed 
all around his laugh. Everywhere above, below, behind, 
before, at the uttermost distance; men, women, old gray- 
heads, rosy-faced children; the good, the wicked, the gay, 
the sad, everybody. And even in the streets, the passers-by 
who could see nothing, hearing the laughter, laughed also. 
The laughter ended in clapping of hands and stamping of 
feet. The curtain dropped: Gwynplaine was recalled with 
frenzy. Hence an immense success. Have you seen " Chaos 
Vanquished ? " Gwynplaine was run after. The listless 
came to laugh, the melancholy came to laugh, evil con- 
sciences came to laugh a laugh so irresistible that it seemed 
almost an epidemic. But there is a pestilence from which 
men do not fly, and that is the contagion of joy. The suc- 
cess, it must be admitted, did not rise higher than the 
populace. A great crowd means a crowd of nobodies. 
" Chaos Vanquished " could be seen for a penny. Fashion- 
able people never go where the price of admission is a penny. 

Ursus thought a good deal of his work, which he had 
brooded over for a long time. " It is in the style of one 
Shakespeare," he said modestly. 

The juxtaposition of Dea added to the indescribable 
effect produced by Gwynplaine. Her white face by the side 
of the gnome represented what might have been called 
divine astonishment. The audience regarded Dea with a 
sort of mysterious anxiety. She had in her aspect the 
dignity of a virgin and of a priestess, not knowing man and 
knowing God. They saw that she was blind, and felt that 
she could see. She seemed to stand on the threshold of the 
supernatural. The light that beamed on her seemed half 
earthly and half heavenly. She had come to work on earth, 
and to work as heaven works, in the radiance of morning. 
Finding a hydra, she formed a soul. She seemed like a 
creative power, satisfied but astonished at the result of her 
creation ; and the audience fancied that they could see in the 
divine surprise of that face desire of the cause and wonder at 
the result. They felt that she loved this monster. Did she 
know that he was one? Yes? since she touched him. No? 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 279 

since she accepted him. This depth of night and this glory 
of day united, formed In the mind of the spectator a chiaro- 
scuro in which appeared endless perspectives. How much 
divinity exists In the germ, in what manner the penetration 
of the soul into matter is accomplished, how the solar ray is 
an umbilical cord, how the disfigured is transfigured, how the 
deformed becomes heavenly all these glimpses of mysteries 
added an almost cosmical emotion to the convulsive hilarity 
produced by Gwynplaine. Without going too deep for 
spectators do not like the fatigue of seeking below the sur- 
face something more was understood than was perceived. 
And this strange spectacle had the transparency of an 
avatar. 

As to Dea, what she felt cannot be expressed by human 
words. She knew that she was in the midst of a crowd, and 
knew not what a crowd was. She heard a murmur, that was 
all. For her the crowd was but a breath. Generations are 
passing breaths. Man respires, aspires, and expires. In 
that crowd Dea felt herself alone, and shuddering as one 
hanging over a precipice. Suddenly, in this trouble of 
innocence in distress, prompt to accuse the unknown, in her 
dread of a possible fall, Dea, serene notwithstanding, and 
superior to the vague agonies of peril, but inwardly shudder- 
ing at her isolation, found confidence and support. She had 
seized her thread of safety in the universe of shadows; she 
put her hand on the powerful head of Gwynplaine. 

Joy unspeakable 1 she placed her rosy fingers on his forest 
of crisp hair. Wool when touched gives an impression of 
softness. Dea touched a lamb which she knew to be a lion. 
Her whole heart poured out an ineffable love. She felt out of 
danger she had found her saviour. The public believed that 
they saw the contrary. To the spectators the being loved 
was Gwynplaine, and the saviour was Dea. What matters ? 
thought Ursus, to whom the heart of Dea was visible. And 
Dea, reassured, consoled and delighted, adored the angel 
whilst the people contemplated the monster, and endured, 
fascinated herself as well, though in the opposite sense, that 
dread Promethean laugh. 

True love is never weary. Being all soul it cannot cool. 
A brazier comes to be full of cinders; not so a star. Her 
exquisite impressions were renewed every evening for Dea, 
and she was ready to weep with tenderness whilst the 



280 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

audience was in convulsions of laughter. Those around her 

were but joyful; she was happy. 

The sensation of gaiety due to the sudden shock caused by 
the rictus of Gwynplaine was evidently not intended by 
Ursus. He would have preferred more smiles and less laugh- 
ter, and more of a literary triumph. But success consoles. 
He reconciled himself every evening to his excessive triumph, 
as he counted how many shillings the piles of farthings 
made, and how many pounds the piles of shillings; and 
besides, he said, after all, when the laugh had passed, 
" Chaos Vanquished " would be found in the depths of their 
minds, and something of it would remain there. 

Perhaps he was not altogether wrong : the foundations of 
a work settle down in the mind of the public. The truth is, 
that the populace, attentive to the wolf, the bear, to the man, 
then to the music, to the howlings governed by harmony, to 
the night dissipated by dawn, to the chant releasing the light, 
accepted with a confused, dull sympathy, and with a cer- 
tain emotional respect, the dramatic poem of " Chaos 
Vanquished," the victory of spirit over matter, ending with 
the joy of man* 

Such were the vulgar pleasures of the people. 

They sufficed them. The people had not the means of 
going to the noble matches of the gentry, and could not, like 
lords and gentlemen, bet a thousand guineas on Helmsgail 
against Phelem-ghe-madone. 

CHAPTER X. 

AN OUTSIDER'S VIEW OF MEN AND THINGS. 
MAN has a notion of revenging himself on that which pleases 
him. Hence the contempt felt for the comedian. 

This being charms me, diverts, distracts, teaches, enchants, 
consoles me; flings me into an ideal world, is agreeable and 
useful to me. What evil can I do him in return ? Humiliate 
him. Disdain is a blow from afar. Let us strike the blow. 
He pleases me, therefore he is vile. He serves me, therefore 
[ hate him. Where can I find a stone to throw at him? 
Priest, give me yours. Philosopher, give me yours. Bossuet, 
excommunicate him. Rousseau, insult him. Orator, spit 
the pebbles from your mouth at him. Bear, fling your stone. 
Let us cast stones at the tree, hit the fruit and eat it. ' ' Bravo i ' ' 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 281 

and " Down withhim I " To repeat poetry is to be infected with 
the plague. Wretched playactor, we will put him in the 
pillory for his success. Let him follow up his triumph with 
our hisses. Let him collect a crowd and create a solitude. 
Thus it is that the wealthy, termed the higher classes, have 
invented for the actor that form of isolation, applause. 

The crowd is less brutal. They neither hated nor despised 
Gwynplaine. Only the meanest calker of the meanest crew 
of the meanest merchantman, anchored in the meanest 
English seaport, considered himself immeasurably superior 
to this amuser of the "scum," and believed that a calker is 
as superior to an actor as a lord is to a calker. 

Gwynplaine was, therefore, like all comedians, applauded 
and kept at a distance. Truly, all success in this world is a 
crime, and must be expiated. He who obtains the medal 
has to take its reverse side as well. 

For Gwynplaine there was no reverse. In this sense, both 
sides of his medal pleased him. He was satisfied with the 
applause, and content with the isolation. In applause he 
was rich, in isolation happy. 

To be rich in his low estate means to be no longer wretch- 
edly poor to have neither holes in his clothes, nor cold at his 
hearth, nor emptiness in his stomach. It is to eat when 
hungry and drink when thirsty. It is to have everything 
necessary, including a penny for a beggar. This indigent 
wealth, enough for liberty, was possessed by Gwynplaine. 
So far as his soul was concerned, he was opulent. He had 
love. What more could he want? Nothing. 

You may think that had the offer been made to him to 
remove his deformity he would have grasped at it. Yet he 
would have refused it emphatically. What! to throw off 
his mask and have his former face restored; to be the creature 
he had perchance been created, handsome and charming? 
No, he would never have consented to it. For what would 
he have to support Dea ? What would have become of that 
poor child, the sweet blind girl who loved him ? Without his 
rictus, which made him a clown without parallel, he would 
have been a mountebank, like any other; a common athlete, 
a picker up of pence from the chinks in the pavement, and 
Dea would perhaps not have had bread every day. It was 
with deep and tender pride that he felt himself the protec- 
tor of the helpless and heavenly creature. Night, solitude, 



282 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

nakedness, weakness, ignorance, hunger, and thirst seven 
yawning jaws of misery were raised around her, and he was 
the St. George fighting the dragon. He triumphed over 
poverty. How? By his deformity. By his deformity he 
was useful, helpful, victorious, great. He had but to show 
himself, and money poured in. He was a master of crowds, 
the sovereign of the mob. He could do everything for Dea. 
Her wants he foresaw; her desires, her tastes, her fancies, in 
the limited sphere in which wishes are possible to the blind, 
he fulfilled. Gwynplaine and Dea were, as we have already 
shown, Providence to each other. He felt himself raised on 
her wings; she felt herself carried in his arms. To protect the 
being who loves you, to give what she requires to her who 
shines on you as your star, can anything be sweeter ? Gwyn- 
plaine possessed this supreme happiness, and he owed it to 
his deformity. His deformity had raised him above all. By 
it he had gained the means of life for himself and others ; by 
it he had gained independence, liberty, celebrity, internal 
satisfaction and pride. In his deformity he was inaccessible. 
The Fates could do nothing beyond this blow in which they 
had spent their whole force, and which he had turned into a 
triumph. This lowest depth of misfortune had become the 
summit of Elysium. Gwynplaine was imprisoned in his 
deformity, but with Dea. And this was, as we have already 
said, to live in a dungeon of paradise. A wall stood between 
them and the living world. So much the better. This wall 
protected as well as enclosed them. What could affect Dea, 
what could affect Gwynplaine, with such a fortress around 
them ? To take from him his success was impossible. They 
would have had to deprive him of his face. Take from him 
his love. Impossible. Dea could not see him. The blind- 
ness of Dea was divinely incurable. What harm did his 
deformity do Gwynplaine ? None. What advantage did it 
give him? Every advantage. He was beloved, notwith- 
standing its horror, and perhaps for that very cause. In- 
firmity and deformity had by instinct been drawn towards 
and coupled with each other. To be beloved, is not that 
everything? Gwynplaine thought of his disfigurement only 
with gratitude. He was blessed in the stigma. With joy 
he felt that it was irremediable and eternal. What a bless- 
ing that it was so! While there were highways and fair- 
grounds, and journeys to take, the people below and the sky 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 283 

above, they would be sure to live, Dea would want nothing, 
and they should have love. Gwynplaine would not have 
changed faces with Apollo. To be a monster was his form of 
happiness. 

Thus, as we said before, destiny had given him all, even to 
overflowing. He who had been rejected had been preferred. 

He was so happy that he felt compassion for the men 
around him. He pitied "the rest of the world. It was, 
besides, his instinct to look about him, because no one is 
always consistent, and a man's nature is not always theo- 
retic ; he was delighted to live within an enclosure, but from 
time to time he lifted his head above the wall. Then he 
retreated again with more joy into his loneliness with Dea, 
having drawn his comparisons. What did he see around him ? 

What were those living creatures of which his wandering 
life showed him so many specimens, changed every day? 
Always new crowds, always the same multitude, ever new 
faces, ever the same miseries. A jumble of ruins. Every 
evening every phase of social misfortune came and encircled 
his happiness. 

The Green Box was popular. 

Low prices attract the low classes. Those who came were 
the weak, the poor, the little. They rushed to Gwynplaine 
as they rushed to gin. They came to buy a pennyworth of 
forgetfulness. From the height of his platform Gwynplaine 
passed those wretched people in review. His spirit was 
enwrapt in the contemplation of every succeeding apparition 
of widespread misery. The physiognomy of man is modelled 
by conscience, and by the tenor of life, and is the result of a 
crowd of mysterious excavations. There was never a suffer- 
ing, not an anger, not a shame, not a despair, of which 
Gwynplaine did not see the wrinkle. The mouths of those 
children had not eaten. That man was a father, that 
woman a mother, and behind them their families might be 
guessed to be on the road to ruin. There was a face already 
marked by vice, on the threshold of crime, and the reasons 
were plain ignorance and indigence. Another showed the 
stamp of original goodness, obliterated by social pressure, 
and turned to hate. On the face of an old woman he saw 
starvation; on that of a girl, prostitution. The same fact, 
and although the girl had the resource of her youth, all the 
sadder for that I In the crowd were arms without tools ; the 



284 "HE LAUGHING MAN. 

workers asked only for work, but the work was wanting' 
Sometimes a soldier came and seated himself by the work- 
men, sometimes a wounded pensioner; and Gwynplaine saw 
the spectre of war. Here Gwynplaine read want of work ; 
there man-farming, slavery. On certain brows he saw an 
indescribable ebbing back towards animalism, and that slow 
return of man to beast, produced on those below by the dull 
pressure of the happiness of those above. There was a break 
in the gloom for Gwynplaine. He and Dea had a loophole 
of happiness; the rest was damnation. Gwynplaine felt 
above him the thoughtless trampling of the powerful, the 
rich, the magnificent, the great, the elect of chance. Below 
he saw the pale faces of the disinherited. He saw himself 
and Dea, with their little happiness, so great to themselves, 
between two worlds. That which was above went and came, 
free, joyous, dancing, trampling under foot; above him the 
world which treads, below the world which is trodden upon. 
It is a fatal fact, and one indicating a profound social evil, 
that light should crush the shadow 1 Gwynplaine thoroughly 
grasped this dark evil. What! a destiny so reptile ? Shall 
a man drag himself thus along with such adherence to dust 
and corruption, with such vicious tastes, such an abdication 
of right, or such abjectness that one feels inclined to crush 
him under foot ? Of what butterfly is, then, this earthly life 
the grub? 

What I in the crowd which hungers and which denies 
everywhere, and before all, the questions of crime and shame 
(the inflexibility of the law producing laxity of conscience), 
is there no child that grows but to be stunted, no virgin but 
matures for sin, no rose that blooms but for the slime of the 
snail ? 

His eyes at times sought everywhere, with the curiosity of 
emotion, to probe the depths of that darkness, in which there 
died away so many useless efforts, and in which there 
struggled so much weariness : families devoured by society, 
morals tortured by the laws, wounds gangrened by penalties, 
poverty gnawed by taxes, wrecked intelligence swallowed up 
by ignorance, rafts in distress alive with the famished, feuds, 
dearth, death-rattles, cries, disappearances. He felt the 
vague oppression of a keen, universal suffering. He saw the 
vision of the foaming wave of misery dashing over the crowd 
9f humanity. He was safe in port himself, as he watched 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 285 

the wreck around him. Sometimes he laid his disfigured 
head in his hands and dreamed. 

What folly to be happy ! How one dreams 1 Ideas were 
born within him. Absurd notions crossed his brain. 

Because formerly he had succoured an infant, he felt a 
ridiculous desire to succour the whole world. The mists of 
reverie sometimes obscured hlis individuality, and he lost his 
ideas of proportion so far as to ask himself the question, 
" What can be done for the poor? " Sometimes he was so 
absorbed in his subject as to express it aloud. Then Ursus 
shrugged his shoulders aud looked at him fixedly. Gwyn- 
plaine continued his reverie. 

"Oh, were I powerful, would I not aid the wretched? 
But what am I? An atom. What can I do? Nothing." 

He was mistaken. He was able to do a great deal for the 
wretched. He could make them laugh; and, as we have 
said, to make people laugh is to make them forget. What a 
benefactor on earth is he who can bestow forgetfulness ! 

CHAPTER XI. 

GWYNPLAINE THINKS JUSTICE, AND URSUS TALKS TRUTH. 

A PHILOSOPHER is a spy. Ursus, a watcher of dreams, 
studied his pupil. 

Our monologues leave on our brows a faint reflection, 
distinguishable to the eye of a physiognomist. Hence what 
occurred to Gwynplaine did not escape Ursus. One day, as 
Gwynplaine was meditating, Ursus pulled him by his jacket, 
and exclaimed, 

" You strike me as being an observer! You fool I Take 
care; it is no business of youis. You have one thing to do 
to love Dea. You have two causes of happiness the first 
is, that the crowd sees your muzzle; the second is, that Dea 
does not. You have no right to the happiness you possess, 
for no woman who saw your mouth would consent to your 
kiss; and that mouth which has made your fortune, and that 
face which has given you riches, are not your own. You were 
not born with that countenance. It was borrowed from the 
grimace which is at the bottom of the infinite. You have 
stolen your mask from the devil. You are hideous; be 
satisfied with having drawn that prize in the lottery. There 
are in this world (and a very good thing too) the happy by 



286 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

right and the happy by luck. You are happy by luck. You 
are in a cave wherein a star is enclosed. The poor star be- 
longs to you. Do not seek to leave the cave, and guard your 
star, O spider! You have in your web the carbuncle, Venus. 
Do me the favour to be satisfied. I see your dreams are 
troubled. It is idiotic of you. Listen; I am going to speak 
to you in the language of true poetry. Let Dea eat beefsteaks 
and mutton chops, and in six months she will be as strong as 
a Turk; marry her immediately, give her a child, two children, 
three children, a long string of children. That is what I call 
philosophy. Moreover, it is happiness, which is no folly. To 
have children is a glimpse of heaven. Have brats wipe them, 
blow their noses, dirt them, wash them, and put them to bed. 
Let them swarm about you. If they laugh, it is well ; if they 
howl, it is better to cry is to live. Watch them suck at six 
months, crawl at a year, walk at two, grow tall at fifteen, fall 
in love at twenty. He who has these joys has everything. 
For myself, I lacked the advantage; and that is the reason 
why I am a brute. God, a composer of beautiful poems and 
the first of men of letters, said to his fellow-workman, Moses, 
' Increase and multiply.' Such is the text. Multiply, you 
beast 1 As to the world, it is as it is; you cannot make nor 
mar it. Do not trouble yourself about it. Pay no atten- 
tion to what goes on outside. Leave the horizon alone. A 
comedian is made to be looked at, not to look. Do you know 
what there is outside ? The happy by right. You, I repeat, 
are the happy by chance. You are the pickpocket of the 
happiness of which they are the proprietors. They are the 
legitimate possessors; you are the intruder. You live in 
concubinage with luck. What do you want that you have 
not already? Shibboleth help me! This fellow is a rascal. 
To multiply himself by Dea would be pleasant, all the same. 
Such happiness is like a swindle. Those above who possess 
happiness by privilege do not like folks below them to have 
io much enjoyment. If they ask you what right you have to 
be happy, you will not know what to answer. You have no 
patent, and they have. Jupiter, Allah, Vishnu, Sabaoth, it 
does not matter who, has given them the passport to happi- 
Fear them. Do not meddle with them, lest they 
should meddle with you. Wretch! do you know what the 
man is who is happy by right? He is a terrible being. He 
is a lord. A lord! He must have intrigued pretty well in 



SHE LAUGHING MAN. 287 

the devil's unknown country before he was born, to enter 
life by the door he did. How difficult it must have been to 
him to be born 1 It is the only trouble he has given himself; 
but, just heavens, what a one! to obtain from destiny, the 
blind blockhead, to mark him in his cradle a master of men. 
To bribe the box-keeper to give him the best place at the 
show. Read the memoranda in the old hut, which I have 
placed on half-pay. Read that breviary of my wisdom, and 
you will see what it is to be a lord. A lord is one who has all 
and is all. A lord is one who exists above his own nature. 
A lord is one who has when young the rights of an old man; 
when old, the success in intrigue of a young one; if vicious, 
the homage of respectable people; if a coward, the command 
of brave men ; if a do-nothing, the fruics of labour; if ignorant, 
the diploma of Cambridge or Oxford; if a fool, the admiration 
of poets; if ugly, the smiles of women; if a Thersites, the 
helm of Achilles ; if a hare, the skin of a lion. Do not mis- 
understand my words. I do not say that a lord must 
necessarily be ignorant, a coward, ugly, stupid, or old. I only 
mean that he may be all those things without any detriment 
to himself. On the contrary. Lords are princes. The 
King of England is only a lord, the first peer of the peerage; 
that is all, but it is much. Kings were formerly called lords 
the Lord of Denmark, the Lord of Ireland, the Lord of the 
Isles. The Lord of Norway was first called king three hundred 
years ago. Lucius, the most ancient king in England, "was 
spoken to by Saint Telesphorus as my Lord Lucius. The lords 
are peers that is to say, equals of whom ? Of the king. 
I do not commit the mistake of confounding the lords with 
parliament. The assembly of the people which the Saxons 
before the Conquest called wittenagemote, the Normans, after 
the Conquest, entitled parliamentum. By degrees the people 
were turned out. The king's letters clause convoking the 
Commons, addressed formerly ad concilium impendendum, 
are now addressed ad consentiendum. To say yes is their 
liberty. The peers can say no; and the proof is that they 
have said it. The peers can cut off the king's head. The 
people cannot. The stroke of the hatchet which decapitated 
Charles I. is an encroachment, not on the king, but on the 
peers, and it was well to place on the gibbet the carcass of 
Cromwell. The lords have power. Why? Because they 
have riches. Who has turned over the leaves of the Doomsday 



288 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Book? It Is the proof that the lords possess England. It is 
the registry of the estates of subjects, compiled under William 
the Conqueror; and it is in the charge of the Chancellor of 
the Exchequer. To copy anything in it you have to pay 
twopence a line. It is a proud book. Do you know that I 
was domestic doctor to a lord, who was called Marmaduke, 
and who had thirty-six thousand a year? Think of that, 
you hideous idiot I Do you know that, with rabbils only 
from the warrens of Earl Lindsay, they could feed all the riff- 
raff of the Cinque Ports ? And the good order kept I Every 
poacher is hung. For two long furry ears sticking out of a 
game bag I saw the father of six children hanging on the 
gibbet. Such is the peerage. The rabbit of a great lord is 
of more importance than God's image in a man. 

" Lords exist, you trespasser, do you see? and we must 
think it good that they do ; and even if we do not, what harm 
will it do them ? The people object, indeed 1 Why? Plautus 
himself would never have attained the comicality of such an 
idea. A philosopher would be jesting if he advised the poor 
devil of the masses to cry out against the size and weight of 
the lords. Just as well might the gnat dispute with the foot 
of an elephant. One day I saw a hippopotamus tread upon 
a molehill; he crushed it utterly. He was innocent. The 
great soft-headed fool of a mastodon did not even know of 
the existence of moles. My son, the moles that are trodden 
on are the human race. To crush is a law. And do you 
think that the mole himself crushes nothing? Why, it is 
the mastodon of the neshworm, who is the mastodon of the 
globeworm. But let us cease arguing. My boy, there are 
coaches in the world; my lord is inside, the people under the 
wheels; the philosopher gets out of the way. Stand aside, 
and let them pass. As to myself, I love lords, and shun them. 
[ lived with one; the beauty of my recollections suffices me. 
I remember his country house, like a glory in a cloud. My 
dreams are all retrospective. Nothing could be more admi- 
rable than Marmaduke Lodge in grandeur, beautiful symmetry, 
rich avenues, and the ornaments and surroundings of the 
edifice. The houses, country seats, and palaces of the lords 
present a selection of all that is greatest and most mag- 
nificent in this flourishing kingdom. I love our lords. I 
thank them for being opulent, powerful, and prosperous. 
I myself am clothed in shadow, and I look with interest upon 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 289 

the shred of heavenly blue which Is called a lord. You enter 
Marmaduke Lodge by an exceedingly spacious courtyard, 
which forms an oblong square, divided into eight spaces, each 
surrounded by a balustrade; on each side is a wide approach, 
and a superb hexagonal fountain plays in the midst; this 
fountain is formed of two basins, which are surmounted by a 
dome of exquisite openwork, elevated on six columns. It was 
there that I knew a learned Frenchman, Monsieur 1'Abbe du 
Cros, who belonged to the Jacobin monastery in the Rue 
Saint Jacques. Half the library of Erpenius is at Marma- 
duke Lodge, the other half being at the theological gallery at 
Cambridge. I used to read the books, seated under the 
ornamented portal. These things are only shown to a select 
number of curious travellers. Do you know, you ridiculous 
boy, that William North, who Is Lord Grey of Rolleston, and 
sits fourteenth on the bench of Barons, has more forest trees 
on his mountains than you have hairs on your horrible noddle ? 
Do you know that Lord Norreys of Rycote, who is Earl of 
Abingdon, has a square keep a hundred feet high, having this 
device Virtus ariete fortioy; which you would think meant 
that virtue is stronger than a ram, but which really means, 
you idiot, that courage is stronger than a battering-machine. 
Yes, I honour, accept, respect, and revere our lords. It is 
the lords who, with her royal Majesty, work to procure and 
preserve the advantages of the nation. Their consummate 
wisdom shines in intricate junctures. Their precedence over 
others I wish they had not ; but they have it. What is called 
principality in Germany, grandeeship in Spain, is called 
peerage in England and France. There being a fair show of 
reason for considering the world a wretched place enough, 
heaven felt where the burden was most galling, and to prove 
that it knew how to make happy people, created lords for the 
satisfaction of philosophers. This acts as a set-off, and gets 
heaven out of the scrape, affording it a decent escape from a 
false position. The great are great. A peer, speaking of 
himself, says we. A peer is a plural. The king qualifies the 
peer consanguinei nostri. The peers have made a multitude 
of wise laws ; amongst others, one which condemns to death 
any one who cuts down a three-year-old poplar tree. Their 
supremacy is such that they have a language of their own. 
In heraldic style, black, which is called sable for gentry, is 
called saturne for princes, and diamond for peers. Diamond 

10 



290 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

dust, a night thick with stars, such Is the night of the happy I 
Even amongst themselves these high and mighty lords have 
their own distinctions. A baron cannot wash with a viscount 
without his permission. These are indeed excellent things, 
and safeguards to the nation. What a fine thing it is for the 
people to have twenty-five dukes, five marquises, seventy-six 
earls, nine viscounts, and sixty-one barons, making altogether 
a hundred and seventy-six peers, of which some are your 
grace, and some my lord I What matter a few rags here and 
there, withal: everybody cannot be dressed in gold. Let the 
rags be. Cannot you see the purple? One balances the 
other. A thing must be built of something. Yes, of course, 
there are the poor what of them 1 They line the happiness 
of the wealthy. Devil take it 1 our lords are our glory I The 
pack of hounds belonging to Charles, Baron Mohun, costs 
him as much as the hospital for lepers In Moorgate, and for 
Christ's Hospital, founded for children, in 1553, by Edward 
VI. Thomas Osborne, Duke of Leeds, spends yearly on his 
liveries five thousand golden guineas. The Spanish grandees 
have a guardian appointed by law to prevent their ruining 
themselves. That is cowardly. Our lords are extravagant 
and magnificent. I esteem them for it. Let us not abuse 
them like envious folks. I feel happy when a beautiful 
vision passes. I have not the light, but I have the reflection. 
A reflection thrown on my ulcer, you will say. Go to the 
deyill I am a Job, delighted in the contemplation of 
Trimalcion. Oh, that beautiful and radiant planet up there I 
But the moonlight is something. To suppress the lords was 
an idea which Orestes, mad as he was, would not have 
dared to entertain. To say that the lords are mischievous or 
useless is as much as to say that the state should be revolu- 
tionized, and that men are not made to live like cattle, 
browsing the grass and bitten by the dog. The field is shorn 
by the sheep, the sheep by the shepherd. It is all one to 
me. I am a philosopher, and I care about life as much as 
a fly. Life is but a lodging. When I think that Henry 
Bowes Howard, Earl of Berkshire, has In his stable twenty- 
four state carriages, of which one is mounted In silver and 
another in gold good heavens! I know that every one 
has not got twenty-four state carriages; but there is no need 
to complain for all that a Because you were cold one night, 
what was that to him? It concerns you only. Others 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 291 

besides you suffer cold and hunger. Don't you know that 
without that cold, Dea would not have been blind, and if Dea 
were not blind she would not love, you ? Think of that, you 
fool I And, besides, if all the people who are lost were to 
complain, there would be a pretty tumult 1 Silence is the 
rule. I have no doubt that heaven imposes silence on the 
damned, otherwise heaven itself would be punished by their 
everlasting cry. The happiness of Olympus is bought by the 
silence of Cocytus. Then, people, be silent! I do better 
myself; I approve and admire. Just now I was enumerat- 
ing the lords, and I ought to add to the list two archbishops 
and^ twenty-four bishops. Truly, I am quite affected when 
I think of it I I remember to have seen at the tithe-gathering 
of the Rev. Dean of Raphoe, who combined the peerage with 
the church, a great tithe of beautiful wheat taken from the 
peasants in the neighbourhood, and which the dean had not 
been at the trouble of growing. This left him time to say his 
prayers. Do you know that Lord Marmaduke, my master, was 
Lord Grand Treasurer of Ireland, and High Seneschal of the 
sovereignty of Knaresborough in the county of York? Do 
you know that the Lord High Chamberlain, which Is an 
office hereditary in the family of the Dukes of Ancaster, 
dresses the king for his coronation, and receives for his 
trouble forty yards of crimson velvet, besides the bed on 
which the king has slept; and that the Usher of the Black 
Rod is his deputy? I should like to see you deny this, that 
the senior viscount of England is Robert Brent, created a 
viscount by Henry V. The lords' titles imply sovereignty 
over land, except that of Earl Rivers, who cakes his title from 
his family name. How admirable is the right which they 
have to tax others, and to levy, for instance, four shillings in 
the pound sterling income-tax, which has just been continued 
for another year I And all the time taxes on distilled spirits, 
on the excise of wine and beer, on tonnage and poundage, 
on cider, on perry, on mum, malt, and prepared barley, on 
coals, and on a hundred things besides. Let us venerate 
things as they are. The clergy themselves depend on the 
lords. The Bishop of Man is subject to the Earl of Derby 
The lords have wild beasts of their own, which they place In 
their armorial bearings. God not having made enough, they 
have Invented others. They have created the heraldic wild 
boar, who is as much above the wild boar as the wfld boar 



292 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

is above the domestic pig and the lord is above the priest. 
They have created the griffin, which is an eagle to lions, and 
a lion to eagles, terrifying lions by his wings, and eagles by 
his mane. They have the guivre, the unicorn, the serpent, 
the salamander, the tarask, the dree, the dragon, and the hip- 
pogriff. All these things, terrible to us, are to them but an 
ornament and an embellishment. They have a menagerie 
which they call the blazon, in which unknown beasts roar. 
The prodigies of the forest are nothing compared to the 
inventions of their pride. Their vanity is full -of phantoms 
which move as in a sublime night, armed with helm and 
cuirass, spurs on their heels and the sceptres in their hands, 
saying in a grave voice, "We are the ancestors 1 " The 
canker-worms eat the roots, and panoplies eat the people. 
Why not ? Are we to change the laws ? The peerage is part 
of the order of society. Do you know that there is a duke in 
Scotland who can ride ninety miles without leaving his own 
estate? Do you know that the Archbishop of Canterbury 
has a revenue of 40,000 a year? Do you know that her 
Majesty has 700,000 sterling from the civil list, besides 
castles, forests, domains, fiefs, tenancies, freeholds, pre- 
bendaries, tithes, rent, confiscations, and fines, which bring 
in over a million sterling ? Those who are not satisfied are 
hard to please." 

" Yes," murmured Gwynplaine sadly, " the paradise of 
the rich is made out of the hell of the poor." 

CHAPTER XII. 

URSUS THE POET DRAGS ON URSUS THE PHILOSOPHER. 

THEN Dea entered. He looked at her, and saw nothing but 
her. This is love ; one may be carried away for a moment by 
the importunity of some other idea, but the beloved one 
enters, and all that does not appertain to her presence 
immediately fades away, without her dreaming that perhaps 
she is effacing in us a world. 

Let us mention a circumstance. In " Chaos Vanquished," 
the word monstruo, addressed to Gwynplaine, displeased Dea. 
Sometimes, with the smattering of Spanish which every one 
knew at the period, she took it into her head to replace it by 
quiero, which signifies, " I wish it." Ursus tolerated, although 
not without an expression of impatience, this alteration in 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 293 

his text. He might have said to Dea, as in our day Moessard 
said to Vissot, Tu manques de respect au repertoire. 

" The Laughing Man." 

Such was the form of Gwynplaine's fame. His name, 
Gwynplaine, little known at any time, had disappeared under 
his nickname, as his face had disappeared under its grin. 

His popularity was like his visage a mask. 

His name, however, was to be read on a large placard in 
front of the Green Box, which offered the crowd the following 
narrative composed by Ursus : 

" Here is to be seen Gwynplaine, deserted at the age of ten, 
on the night of the 29th of January, 1690, by the villainous 
Comprachicos, on the coast of Portland. The little boy has 
grown up, and is called now, THE LAUGHING MAN. 

The existence of these mountebanks was as an existence of 
lepers in a leper-house, and of the blessed in one of the 
Pleiades. There was every day a sudden transition from the 
noisy exhibition outside, into the most complete seclusion. 
Every evening they made their exit from this world. They 
were like the dead, vanishing on condition of being reborn 
next day. A comedian is a revolving light, appearing one 
moment, disappearing the next, and existing for the public 
but as a phantom or a light, as his life circles round. To 
exhibition succeeded isolation. When the performance was 
finished, whilst the audience were dispersing, and their mur- 
mur of satisfaction was dying away in the streets, the Green 
Box shut up its platform, as a fortress does its drawbridge, 
and all communication with mankind was cut off. On one 
side, the universe; on the other, the caravan; and this 
caravan contained liberty, clear consciences, courage, 
devotion, innocence, happiness, love all the constellations. 

Blindness having sight and deformity beloved sat side by 
side, hand pressing hand, brow touching brow, and whis- 
pered to each other, intoxicated with love. 

The compartment in the middle served two purposes for 
the public it was a stage, for the actors a dining-room. 

Ursus, ever delighting in comparisons, profited by the 
diversity of its uses to liken the central compartment in the 
Green Box to the arradach in an Abyssinian hut. 

Ursus counted the receipts, then they supped. In love all 
is ideal. In love, eating and drinking together affords oppor- 
tunities for many sweet promiscuous touches, by which a 



294 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

mouthful becomes a kiss. They drank ale or wine from the 
same glass, as they might drink dew out of the same lily. 
Two souls in love are as full of grace as two birds. Gwyn- 
plaine waited on Dea, cut her bread, poured out her drink, 
approached her too close. 

" Hum I " cried Ursus, and he turned away, his scolding 
melting into a smile. 

The wolf supped under the table, heedless of everything 
which did actually not concern his bone. 

Fibi and Vinos shared the repast, but gave little trouble. 
These vagabonds, half wild and as uncouth as ever, spoke in 
the gipsy language to each other. 

At length Dea re-entered the women's apartment with Fibi 
and Vinos. Ursus chained up Homo under the Green Box; 
Gwynplaine looked after the horses, the lover becoming a 
groom, like a hero of Homer's or a paladin of Charlemagne's. 
At midnight, all were asleep, except the wolf, who, alive to his 
responsibility, now and then opened an eye. The next morn- 
ing they met again. They breakfasted together, generally on 
ham and tea. Tea was introduced into England in 1678. 
Then Dea, after the Spanish fashion, took a siesta, acting 
on the advice of Ursus, who considered her delicate, and 
slept some hours, while Gwynplaine and Ursus did all the 
little jobs of work, without and within, which their wander- 
ing life made necessary. Gwynplaine rarely wandered away 
from the Green Box, except on unfrequented roads and in soli- 
tary places. In cities he went out only at night, disguised in 
a large, slouched hat, so as not to exhibit his face in the street. 

His face was to be seen uncovered only on the stage. 

The Green Box had frequented cities but little. Gwyn- 
plaine at twenty-four had never seen towns larger than the 
Cinque Ports. His renown, however, was increasing. It 
began to rise above the populace, and to percolate through 
higher ground. Amongst those who were fond of, and ran 
after, strange foreign curiosities and prodigies, it was known 
that there was somewhere in existence, leading a wandering 
life, now here, now there, an extraordinary monster. They 
talked about him, they sought him, they asked where he was. 
The laughing man was becoming decidedly famous. A 
certain lustre was reflected on " Chaos Vanquished." 

So much so, that, one day, Ursus, being ambitious, said, 
" We must go to London." 



BOOK THE THIRD. 
THE BEGINNING OF THE FISSURE. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE TADCASTER INN. 

AT that period London had but one bridge London Bridge, 
with houses built upon it. This bridge united London to 
Southwark, a suburb which was paved with flint pebbles 
taken from the Thames, divided into small streets and alleys, 
like the City, with a great number of buildings, houses, 
dwellings, and wooden huts jammed together, a pell-mell 
mixture of combustible matter, amidst which fire might take 
its pleasure, as 1666 had proved. Southwark was then 
pronounced Soudric, it is now pronounced Sousouorc, or near 
it; indeed, an excellent way of pronouncing English names 
is not to pronounce them. Thus, for Southampton, say 
Stpntn. 

It was the time when " Chatham " was pronounced 
fa faime. 

The Southwark of those days resembles the Southwark of 
to-day about as much as Vaugirard resembles Marseilles. It 
was a village it is a city. Nevertheless, a considerable 
trade was carried on there. The long old Cyclopean wall by 
the Thames was studded with rings, to which were anchored 
the river barges. 

This wall was called the Effroc Wall, or Effroc Stone. 
York, in Saxon times, was called Effroc. The legend related 
that a Duke of Effroc had been drowned at the foot of the 
wall. Certainly the water there was deep enough to drown 
a duke. At low water it was six good fathoms. The excel- 



296 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

lence of this little anchorage attracted sea vessels, and the 
old Dutch tub, called the Vograat, came to anchor at the 
Effroc Stone. The Vograat made the crossing from London 
to Rotterdam, and from Rotterdam to London, punctually 
once a week. Other barges started twice a day, either for 
Deptford, Greenwich, or Gravesend, going down with one 
tide and returning with the next. The voyage to Graves- 
end, though twenty miles, was performed in six hours. 

The Vograat was of a model now no longer to be seen, 
except in naval museums. It was almost a junk. At that 
time, while France copied Greece, Holland copied China. 
The Vograat, a heavy hull with two masts, was partitioned 
perpendicularly, so as to be water-tight, having a narrow 
hold in the middle, and two decks, one fore and the other aft. 
The decks were flush as in the iron turret- vessels of the pres- 
ent day, the advantage of which is that in foul weather, the 
force of the wave is diminished, and the inconvenience of 
which is that the crew is exposed to the action of the sea, 
owing to there being no bulwarks. There was nothing to 
save any one on board from falling over. Hence the frequent 
falls overboard and the losses of men, which have caused the 
model to fall into disuse. The Vograat went to Holland 
direct, and did not even call at Gravesend. 

An old ridge of stones, rock as much as masonry, ran along 
the bottom of the Effroc Stone, and being passable at all 
tides, was used as a passage on board the ships moored to 
the wall. This wall was, at intervals, furnished with steps, 
.t marked the southern point of Southwark. An embank- 
ment at the top allowed the passers-by to rest their elbows on 
the Effroc Stone, as on the parapet of a quay. Thence they 
could look down on the Thames; on the other side of the 
water London dwindled away into fields. 

Up the river from the Effroc Stone, at the bend of the 
Thames which is nearly opposite St. James's Palace, behind 
Lambeth House, not far from the walk then called Foxhall 
(Vauxhall, probably), there was, between a pottery in which 
hey made porcelain, and a glass-blower's, where they made 
>rnamental bottles, one of those large unenclosed spaces 
covered with grass, called formerly in France cultures and 
mails, and in England bowling-greens. Of bowling-green, 
a green on which to roll a ball, the French have made 
boultngn*. Folks have this green inside their houses now- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 297 

adays, only It is put on the table, Is a cloth instead of turf, 
and is called billiards. 

It is difficult to see why, having boulevard (boule-vert), 
which is the same word as bowling-green, the French should 
have adopted boulingrin. It is surprising that a person so 
grave as the Dictionary should indulge in useless luxuries. 

The bowling-green of Southwark was called Tarrinzeau 
Field, because it had belonged to the Barons Hastings, who 
are also Barons Tarrinzeau and Mauchline. From the Lords 
Hastings the Tarrinzeau Field passed to the Lords Tadcaster, 
who had made a speculation of it, just as, at a later date, a 
Duke of Orleans made a speculation of the Palais Royal. 
Tarrinzeau Field afterwards became waste ground and 
parochial property. 

Tarrinzeau Field was a kind of permanent fair ground 
covered with jugglers, athletes, mountebanks, and music on 
platforms; and always full of " fools going to look at the 
devil," as Archbishop Sharp said. To look at the devil 
means to go to the play. 

Several inns, which harboured the public and sent them 
to these outlandish exhibitions, were established in this place, 
which kept holiday all the year round, and thereby prospered. 
These inns were simply stalls, inhabited only during the day. 
In the evening the tavern-keeper put into his pocket the key 
of the tavern and went away. 

One only of these inns was a house, the only dwelling in the 
whole bowling-green, the caravans of the fair ground having 
the power of disappearing at any moment, considering the 
absence of any ties in the vagabond life of all mountebanks. 

Mountebanks have no roots to their lives. 

This inn, called the Tadcaster, after the former owners of 
the ground, was an inn rather than a tavern, an hotel rather 
than an inn, and had a carriage entrance and a large 
yard. 

The carriage entrance, opening from the court on the field, 
was the legitimate door of the Tadcaster Inn, which had, 
beside it, a small bastard door, by which people entered. To 
call it bastard is to mean preferred. This lower door was the 
only one used, It opened into the tavern, properly so called, 
which was a large taproom, full of tobacco smoke, furnished 
with tables, and low in the ceiling. Over it was a window on 
the first floor, to the iron bars of which was fastened and 



298 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

hung the sign of the inn. The principal door was barred and 

bolted, and always remained closed. 

It was thus necessary to cross the tavern to enter the court- 
yard. 

At the Tadcaster Inn there was a landlord and a boy. 
The landlord was called Master Nicless, the boy Govicum. 
Master Nicless Nicholas, doubtless, which the English habit 
of contraction had made Nicless, was a miserly widower, and 
one who respected and feared the laws. As to his appear- 
ance, he had bushy eyebrows and hairy hands. The boy, 
aged fourteen, who poured out drink, and answered to the 
name of Govicum, wore a merry face and an apron. His 
hair was cropped close, a sign of servitude. 

He slept on the ground floor, in a nook in which they 
formerly kept a dog. This nook had for window a bull's- 
eye looking on the bowling-green. 

CHAPTER II. 

OPEN-AIR ELOQUENCE. 

ONE very cold and windy evening, on which there was every 
reason why folks should hasten on their way along the street, 
a man, who was walking in Tarrinzeau Field close under the 
walls of the tavern, stopped suddenly. It was during the 
last months of winter between 1704 and 1705. This man, 
whose dress indicated a sailor, was of good mien and fine 
figure, things imperative to courtiers, and not forbidden to 
common folk. 

Why did he stop? To listen. What to? To a voice 
apparently speaking in the court on the other side of the wall, 
a voice a little weakened by age, but so powerful notwith- 
standing that it reached the passer-by in the street. At the 
same time might be heard in the enclosure, from which the 
voice came, the hubbub of a crowd. 

This voice said, 

" Men and women of London, here I am ! I cordially wish 
you joy of being English. You are a great people. I say 
more : you are a great populace. Your fisticuffs are even 
better than your sword thrusts. You have an appetite. 
You are the nation which eats other nations a magnificent 
function! This suction of the world makes England pre.e 
eminent. As politicians and philosophers, in the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 299 

ment of colonies, populations, and industry, and in the 
desire to do others any harm which may turn to your own 
good, you stand alone. The hour will come when two 
boards will be put up on earth inscribed on one side, Men; 
on the other, Englishmen. I mention this to your glory, I, 
who am neither English nor human, having the honour to be 
a bear. Still more I am a doctor. That follows. Gentle- 
men, I teach. What? Two kinds of things things which 
I know, and things which I do not. I sell my drugs and I sell 
my ideas. Approach and listen. Science invites you. Open 
your ear; if it is small, it will hold but little truth; if large, 
a great deal of folly will find its way in. Now, then, atten- 
tion 1 I teach the Pseudoxia Epidemica. I have a comrade 
who will make you laugh, but I can make you think. We 
live in the same box, laughter being of quite as old a family 
as thought. When people asked Democritus, ' How do you 
know ? ' he answered, ' I laugh.' And if I am asked, ' Why do 
you laugh? ' I shall answer, I know.' However, I am not 
laughing. I am the rectifier of popular errors. I take upon 
myself the task of cleaning your intellects. They require it. 
Heaven permits people to deceive themselves, and to be 
deceived. It is useless to be absurdly modest. I frankly 
avow that I believe in Providence, even where it is wrong. 
Only when I see filth errors are filth I sweep them away. 
How am I sure of what I know? That concerns only my- 
self. Every one catches wisdom as he can. Lactantius 
asked questions of, and received answers from, a bronze head 
of Virgil. Sylvester II. conversed with birds. Did the birds 
speak? Did the Pope twitter? That is a question. The 
dead child of the Rabbi Eleazer talked to Saint Augustine. 
Between ourselves, I doubt all these facts except the last. 
The dead child might perhaps talk, because under its tongue 
it had a gold plate, on which were engraved divers constella- 
tions. Thus he deceived people. The fact explains itself. 
You see my moderation. I separate the true from the false. 
See! here are other errors in which, no doubt, you partake, 
poor Ignorant folks that you are, and from which I wish to 
free you. Dioscorides believed that there was a god in the 
henbane; Chrysippus in the cynopaste; Josephus in the 
root bauras; Homer in the plant moly. They were all 
vvvrong. The spirits in herbs are not gods but devils. I have 
tiested this iact. It is not true that the serpent which tempted 



300 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Eve had a human face, as Cadmus relates. Garcias de Horto, 
Cadamosto, and John Hugo, Archbishop of Treves P deny 
that it is sufficient to saw down a tree to catch an elephant. 
I incline to their opinion. Citizens, the efforts of Lucifer are 
the cause of all false impressions. Under the reign of such a 
prince it is natural that meteors of error and of perdition 
should arise. My friends, Claudius Pulcher did not die 
because the fowls refused to come out of the fowl house. The 
fact is, that Lucifer, having foreseen the death of Claudius 
Pulcher, took care to prevent the birds feeding. That 
Beelzebub gave the Emperor Vespasian the virtue of curing 
the lame and giving sight to the blind, by his touch, was an 
act praiseworthy in itself, but of which the motive was 
culpable. Gentlemen, distrust those false doctors, who sell 
the root of the bryony and the white snake, and who make 
washes with honey and the blood of a cock. See clearly 
through that which is false. It is not quite true that Orion 
was the result of a natural function of Jupiter. The truth 
is that it was Mercury who produced this star In that way. 
It is not true that Adam had a navel. When St. George 
killed the dragon he had not the daughter of a saint standing 
by his side. St. Jerome had not a clock on the chimney- 
piece of his study; first, because living in a cave, he had no 
study; secondly, because he had no chimney-piece; thirdly, 
because clocks were not yet inventedo Let us put these 
things right. Put them right. > O gentlefolks, who listen to 
me, if any one tells you that a lizard will be born in your head 
i you smell the herb valerian ; that the rotting carcase of 
the ox changes into bees, and that of the horse into hornets ; 
that a man weighs more when dead than when alive ; that 
the blood of the he-goat dissolves emeralds ; that a cater- 

illar, a fly, and a spider, seen on the same tree, announces 
famine, war, and pestilence ; that the falling sickness is to 
be cured by a worm found in the head of a buck do not 

elieve him. These things are errors. But now listen to 

The skin of a sea-calf is a safeguard against thunder. 

The toad feeds upon earth, which causes a stone to come into 

The rose of Jericho blooms on Christmas Eve. 

erpents cannot endure the shadow of the ash tree. The 
elephant has no joints, and sleeps resting upright against a 

ee. Make a toad sit upon a cock's egg, and he will hatch 
a scorpion which will become a salamander A blind person 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 301 

will recover sight by putting one hand on the left side of the 
altar and the other on his eyes. Virginity does not hinder 
maternity. Honest people, lay these truths to heart. Above 
all, you can believe in Providence in either of two ways, 
either as thirst believes in the orange, or as the ass believes in 
the whip. Now I am going to introduce you to my family." 

Here a violent gust of wind shook the "window-frames and 
shutters of the inn, which stood detached. It was like a 
prolonged murmur of the sky. The orator paused a moment, 
and then resumed. 

" An interruption ; very good. Speak, north wind. 
Gentlemen, I am not angry. The wind is loquacious, like all 
solitary creatures. There is no one to keep him company 
up there, so he jabbers. I resume the thread of my discourse. 
Here you see associated artists. We are four a lupo 
principium. I begin by my friend, who is a wolf. He does 
not conceal it. See him I He is educated, grave, and 
sagacious. Providence, perhaps, entertained for a moment 
the idea of making him a doctor of the university; but for 
that one must be rather stupid, and that he is not. I may 
add that he has no prejudices, and is not aristocratic. He 
chats sometimes with bitches; he who, by right, should 
consort only with she-wolves. His heirs, if he have any, will 
no doubt gracefully combine the yap of their mother with 
the howl of their father. Because he does howl. He howls 
in sympathy with men. He barks as well, in condescension 
to civilization a magnanimous concession. Homo is a dog 
made perfect. Let us venerate the dog. The dog curious 
animal I sweats with its tongue and smiles with its tail. 
Gentlemen, Homo equals in wisdom, and surpasses in 
cordiality, the hairless wolf of Mexico, the wonderful xoloi'tze- 
niski. I may add that he is humble. He has the modesty of 
a wolf who is useful to men. He is helpful and charitable, 
and says nothing about it. His left paw knows not the good 
which his right paw does. These are his merits. Of the 
other, my second friend, I have but one word to say. He 
is a monster. You will admire him. He was formerly 
abandoned by pirates on the shores of the wild ocean. This 
third one is blind. Is she an exception? No, we are all 
blind. The miser is blind ; he sees gold, and he does not see 
riches. The prodigal is blind; he sees the beginning, and 
does not see the end. The coquette is blind; she does not 



302 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

see her wrinkles. The learned man is blind ; he does not see 
his own ignorance. The honest man is blind; he does not 
see the thief. The thief is blind; he does not see God. God 
is blind; the day that he created the world He did not see 
the devil manage to creep into it. I myself am blind; I 
speak, and do not see that you are deaf. This blind girl who 
accompanies us is a mysterious priestess. Vesta has con- 
fided to her her torch. She has in her character depths as 
soft as a division in the wool of a sheep. I believe her to be 
a king's daughter, though I do not assert it as a fact. A 
laudable distrust is the attribute of wisdom. For my own 
part, I reason and I doctor, I think and I heal. Chirurgus 
sum. I cure fevers, miasmas, and plagues. Almost all our 
melancholy and sufferings are issues, which if carefully treated 
relieve us quietly from other evils which might be worse. All 
the same I do not recommend you to have an anthrax, 
otherwise called carbuncle. It is a stupid malady, and 
serves no good end. One dies of it that is all. I am 
neither uncultivated nor rustic. I honour eloquence and 
poetry, and live in an innocent union with these goddesses. 
I conclude by a piece of advice. Ladies and gentlemen, 
on the sunny side of your dispositions, cultivate virtue, 
modesty, honesty, probity, justice, and love. Each one here 
below may thus have his little pot of flowers on his window- 
sill. My lords and gentlemen, I have spoken. The play is 
about to begin." 

^ The man who was apparently a sailor, and who had been 
listening outside, entered the lower room of the inn, crossed 
it, paid the necessary entrance money, reached the court- 
yard which was full of people, saw at the bottom of it a 
caravan on wheels, wide open, and on the platform an old 
man dressed in a bearskin, a young man looking like a mask, 
a blind girl, and a wolf. 

" Gracious heaven 1 " he cried, " what delightful people! " 

CHAPTER III. 

WHERE THE PASSER-BY REAPPEARS. 

THE Green Box, as we have just seen, had arrived in London: 
:t was established at Southwark. Ursus had been tempted 
by the bowling-green, which had one great recommendation, 
that it was always fair-day there, even in winter. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 303 

The dome of St. Paul's was a delight to Ursus. 

London, take it all in all, has some good in it. It was a 
brave thing to dedicate a cathedral to St. Paul. The real 
cathedral saint is St. Peter. St. Paul is suspected of imagina- 
tion, and in matters ecclesiastical imagination means heresy. 
St. Paul is a saint only with extenuating circumstances. He 
entered heaven only by the artists' door. 

A cathedral is a sign. St. Peter is the sign of Rome, the 
city of the dogma ; St. Paul that of London, the city of 
schism. 

Ursus, whose philosophy had arms so long that it embraced 
everything, was a man who appreciated these shades of 
difference, and his attraction towards London arose, per- 
haps, from a certain taste of his for St. Paul. 

The yard of the Tadcaster Inn had taken the fancy of 
Ursus. It might have been ordered for the Green Box. It 
was a theatre ready-made. It was square, with three sides 
built round, and a wall forming the fourth. Against this 
wall was placed the Green Box, which they were able to draw 
into the yard, owing to the height of the gate. A large 
wooden balcony, roofed over, and supported on posts, on 
which the rooms of the first story opened, ran round the 
three fronts of the interior fa$ade of the house, making two 
right angles. The windows of the ground floor made boxes, 
the pavement of the court the pit, and the balcony the 
gallery. The Green Box, reared against the wall, was thus 
in front of a theatre. It was very like the Globe, where they 
played " Othello," " King Lear," and " The Tempest." 

In a corner behind the Green Box was a stable. 

Ursus had made his arrangements with the tavern keeper, 
Master Nicless, who, owing to his respect for the law, would 
not admit the wolf without charging him extra. 

The placard, " Gwynplaine, the Laughing Man," taken 
from its nail in the Green Box, was hung up close to the sign 
of the inn. The sitting-room of the tavern had, as we have 
seen, an inside door which opened into the court. By the 
side of the door was constructed off-hand, by means of an 
empty barrel, a box* for the money-taker, who was sometimes 
Fibi and sometimes Vinos. This was managed much as at 
present. Pay and pass in. Under the placard announcing 
the Laughing Man was a piece of wood, painted white, 
hung on two nails, on which was written in charcoal in 



304 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

large letters the title of Ursus's grand piece, "Chaos 

Vanquished." 

In the centre of the balcony, precisely opposite the Green 
Box, and in a compartment having for entrance a window 
reaching to the ground, there had been partitioned off a 
space " for the nobility." It was large enough to hold, in 
two rows, ten spectators. 

" We are in London," said Ursus. " We must be pre- 
pared for the gentry." 

He had furnished this box with the best chairs in the inn, 
and had placed in the centre a grand arm-chair of yellow 
Utrecht velvet, with a cherry-coloured pattern, in case some 
alderman's wife should come. 

They began their performances. The crowd immediately 
nocked to them, but the compartment for the nobility 
remained empty. With that exception their success became 
so great that no mountebank memory could recall its 
parallel. All Southwark ran in crowds to admire the 
Laughing Man. 

The merry-andrews and mountebanks of Tarrinzeau Field 
were aghast at Gwynplaine. The effect he caused was as 
that of a sparrow-hawk flapping his wings in a cage of gold- 
finches, and feeding in their seed-trough. Gwynplaine ate 
up their public. 

Besides the small fry, the swallowers of swords and the 
grimace makers, real performances took place on the green. 
There was a circus of women, ringing from morning till night 
with a magnificent peal of all sorts of instruments psal- 
teries, drums, rebecks, micamons, timbrels, reeds, dulcimers, 
gongs, chevrettes, bagpipes, German horns, English 
eschaqueils, pipes, flutes, and flageolets. 

In a large round tent were some tumblers, who could not 
have equalled our present climbers of the Pyrenees Dulma, 
Bordenave, and Meylonga who from the peak of Pierrefitte 
lescend to the plateau of Limason, an almost perpendicular 
height. There was a travelling menagerie, where was to be 
seen a performing tiger, who, lashed by the keeper, snapped 
at the whip and tried to swallow tne lash. Even this 
comedian of jaws and claws was eclipsed in success. 

Curiosity, applause, receipts, crowds, the Laughing Man 
monopolized everything. It happened in the twinkling of 
aa eye. Nothing was thought of but the Green Box. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 305 

" ' Chaos Vanquished ' is ' Chaos Victor,' " said Ursus, 
appropriating half Gwynplaine's success, and taking the 
wind out of his sails, as they say at sea. That success was 
prodigious. Still it remained local. Fame does not cross 
the sea easily. It took a hundred and thirty years for the 
name of Shakespeare to penetrate from England into France. 
The sea is a wall ; and if Voltaire a thing which he very 
much regretted when it was too late had not thrown a 
bridge over to Shakespeare, Shakespeare might still be in 
England, on the other side of the wall, a captive in insular 
glory. 

The glory of Gwynplaine had not passed London Bridge. 
It was not great enough yet to re-echo throughout the 
city. At least not at first. But Southwark ought to have 
sufficed to satisfy the ambition of a clown. Ursus said, 

" The money bag grows palpably bigger." 

They played " Ursus Rursus " and " Chaos Vanquished." 

Between the acts Ursus exhibited his power as an en- 
gastrimist, and executed marvels of ventriloquism. He 
imitated every cry which occurred in the audience a song, 
a cry, enough to startle, so exact the imitation, the singer or 
the crier himself, and now and then he copied the hubbub 
of the public, and whistled as if there were a crowd of people 
within him,, These were remarkable talents. Besides this 
he harangued like Cicero, as we have just seen, sold his drugs, 
attended sickness, and even healed the sick. 

Southwark was enthralled. 

Ursus was satisfied with the applause of Southwark, but 
by no means astonished. 

" They are the ancient Trinobantes," he said. 

Then he added, " I must not mistake them, for delicacy 
of taste, for the Atrobates, who people Berkshire, or the 
Belgians, who inhabited Somersetshire, nor for the Parisians, 
who founded York." 

At every performance the yard of the inn, transformed into 
a pit, was filled with a ragged and enthusiastic audience. 
It was composed of watermen, chairmen, coachmen, and 
bargemen, and sailors, just ashore, spending their wages in 
feasting and women. In it there were felons, ruffians, and 
blackguards, who were soldiers condemned for some crime 
against discipline to wear their red coats, which were lined 
with black, inside out fc and from thence the name of black- 



30$ THE LAUGHING MAN. 

guard, which the French turn into blagueurs. All these 
flowed from the street into the theatre, and poured back from 
the theatre into the tap. The emptying of tankards did 
not decrease their success. 

Amidst what it is usual to call the scum, there was one 
taller than the rest, bigger, stronger, less poverty-stricken, 
broader in the shoulders; dressed like the common people, 
but not ragged. 

Admiring and applauding everything to the skies, clearing 
his way with his fists, wearing a disordered periwig, swearing, 
shouting, joking, never dirty, and, at need, ready to blacken 
an eye or pay for a bottle. 

This frequenter was the passer-by whose cheer of enthusi- 
asm has been recorded. 

This connoisseur was suddenly fascinated, and had adopted 
the Laughing Man. He did not come every evening, but 
when he came he led the public applause grew into acclama- 
tion success rose not to the roof, for there was none, but to 
the clouds, for there were plenty of them. Which clouds 
(seeing that there was no roof) sometimes wept over the 
masterpiece of Ursus. 

His enthusiasm caused Ursus to remark this man, and 
Gwynplaine to observe him. 

They had a great friend in this unknown visitor. 
Ursus and Gwynplaine wanted to know him; at least, to 
know who he was. 

One evening Ursus was in the side scene, which was the 
kitchen-door of the Green Box, seeing Master Nicless stand- 
ing by him, showed him this man in the cro. wd, and asked 
him, 

' Do you know that man? " 

Of course I do." 
'Who is he?" 
A sailor." 

What is his name? " said Gwynplaine, interrupting. 
" Tom- Jim- Jack," replied the inn-keeper. 
Then as he redescended the steps at the back of the Green 
Box, to enter the inn, Master Nicless let fall this profound 
reflection, so deep as to be unintelligible, 

" What a pity that he should not be a lord. He would 
make a famous scoundrel." 

Otherwise, although established in the tavern, the group in 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 507 

the Green Box had in no way altered their manner of living, 
and held to their isolated habits. Except a few words ex- 
changed now and then with the tavern-keeper, they held no 
communication with any of those who were living, either 
permanently or temporarily, in the inn; and continued to 
keep to themselves. 

Since they had been at Southwark, Gwynplaine had made 
it his habit, after the performance and the supper of both 
family and horses when Ursus and Dea had gone to bed in 
their respective compartments to breathe a little the fresh 
air of the bowling-green, between eleven o'clock and mid- 
night. 

A certain vagrancy in our spirits impels us to take walks 
at night, and to saunter under the stars. There is a mys- 
terious expectation in youth. Therefore it is that we are 
prone to wander out in the night, without an object. 

At that hour there was no one in the fair-ground, except, 
perhaps, some reeling drunkard, making staggering shadows 
in dark corners. The empty taverns were shut up, and the 
lower room in the Tadcaster Inn was dark, except where, in 
some corner, a solitary candle lighted a last reveller. An 
indistinct glow gleamed through the window-shutters of 
the half-closed tavern, as Gwynplaine, pensive, content, 
and dreaming, happy in a haze of divine joy, passed back- 
wards and forwards in front of the half-open door. 

Of what was he thinking ? Of Dea of nothing of every- 
thing of the depths. 

He never wandered far from the Green Box, being held, 
as by a thread, to Dea. A few steps away from it was far 
enough for him. 

Then he returned, found the whole Green Box asleep, and 
went to bed himself. 

CHAPTER IV. 

CONTRARIES FRATERNIZE IN HATE. 

SUCCESS is hateful, especially to those whom it overthrows. 
It is rare that the eaten adore the eaters. 

The Laughing Man had decidedly made a hit. The 
mountebanks around were indignant. A theatrical success 
is a syphon it pumps in the crowd and creates emptiness 
all round. The shop opposite is done for. The increased 



3 o8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

receipts of the Green Box caused a corresponding decrease 
in the receipts of the surrounding shows. Those entertain- 
ments, popular up to that time, suddenly collapsed. It was 
like a low-water mark, showing inversely, but in perfect 
concordance, the rise hei e, the fall there. Theatres experience 
the effect of tides: they rise in one only on condition of fall- 
ing in another. The swarming foreigners who exhibited 
their talents and their trumpetings on the neighbouring 
platforms, seeing themselves ruined by the Laughing Man, 
were despairing, yet dazzled. All the grimacers, all the 
clowns, all the merry-andrews envied Gwynplaine. How 
happy he must be with the snout of a wild beast 1 The 
buffoon mothers and dancers on the tight-rope, with pretty 
children, looked at them in anger, and pointing out Gwyn- 
plaine, would say, " What a pity you have not a face like 
that! " Some beat their babes savagely for being pretty. 
More than one, had she known the secret, would have 
fashioned her son's face in the Gwynplaine style. The head 
of an angel, which brings no money in, is not as good as that 
of a lucrative devil. One day the mother of a little child who 
was a marvel of beauty, and who acted a cupid, exclaimed, 

"Our children are failures I They only succeeded with 
Gwynplaine." And shaking her fist at her son, she added, 
" If I only knew your father, wouldn't he catch itl " 

Gwynplaine was the goose with the golden eggsl What 
a marvellous phenomenon 1 There was an uproar through 
all the caravans. The mountebanks, enthusiastic and 
exasperated, looked at Gwynplaine and gnashed their teeth. 
Admiring anger is called envy. Then it howls I They tried 
to disturb " Chaos Vanquished; " made a cabal, hissed, 
scolded, shouted! This was an excuse for Ursus to make 
out-of-door harangues to the populace, and for his friend 
Tom-Jim-Jack to use his fists to re-establish order. His 
pugilistic marks of friendship brought him still more under 
the notice and regard of Ursus and Gwynplaine. At a 
distance, however, for the group in the Green Box sufficed 
to themselves, and held aloof from the rest of the world, and 
because Tom- Jim- Jack, this leader of the mob, seemed a 
sort of supreme bully, without a tie, without a friend; a 
smasher of windows, a manager of men, now here, now gone, 
hail-fellow-well-met with every one, companion of none. 

This raging envy against Gwynpiaine did not give in for 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 399 

a few friendly hits from Tom- Jim- Jack. The outcries 
having miscarried, the mountebanks of Tarrinzeau Field fell 
back on a petition. They addressed to the authorities. 
This is the usual course. Against an unpleasant success we 
first try to stir up the crowd and then we petition the 
magistrate. 

With the merry-andrews the reverends allied themselves. 
The Laughing Man had inflicted a blow on the preachers. 
There were empty places not only in the caravans, but in 
the churches. The congregations in the churches of the five 
parishes in Southwark had dwindled away. People left 
before the sermon to go to Gwynplaine. " Chaos. Van- 
quished," the Green Box, the Laughing Man, all the abomi- 
nations of Baal, eclipsed the eloquence of the pulpit. The 
voice crying in the desert, vox clamantis in deserto, is discon- 
tented, and is prono to call for the aid of the authorities. 
The clergy of the five parishes complained to the Bishop of 
London, who complained to her Majesty. 

The complaint of the merry-andrews was based on religion. 
They declared it to be insulted. They described Gwynplaine 
as a sorcerer, and Ursus as an atheist. The reverend gentle- 
men invoked social order. Setting orthodoxy aside they 
took action on the fact that Acts of Parliament were violated. 
It was clever. Because it was the period of Mr. Locke, who 
had died but six months previously 28th October, 1704 
and when scepticism, which Bolingbroke had imbibed from 
Voltaire, was taking root. Later on Wesley came and 
restored the Bible, as Loyola restored the papacy. 

Thus the Green Box was battered on both sides; by the 
merry-andrews, in the name of the Pentateuch, and by 
chaplains in the name of the police. In the name of Heaven 
and of the inspectors of nuisances. The Green Box was 
denounced by the priests as an obstruction, and by the 
jugglers as sacrilegious. 

Had they any pretext? Was there any excuse? Yes. 
What was the crime? This: there was the wolf, A dog 
was allowable; a wolf forbidden. In England the wolf is 
an outlaw. England admits the dog which barks, but not 
the dog which howls a shade of difference between the yard 
and the woods. 

The rectors and vicars of the five parishes of Southwark 
called attention in their petitions to numerous parliamentary 



3 io THE LAUGHING MAN. 

and royal statutes putting the wolf beyond the protection 
of the law. They moved for something like the imprison- 
ment of Gwynplaine and the execution of the wolf, or at any 
rate for their banishment. The question was one of public 
importance, the danger to persons passing, etc. And on this 
point, they appealed to the Faculty. They cited the opinion 
of the Eighty physicians of London, a learned body which 
dates from Henry VIII., which has a seal like that of the 
State, which can raise sick people to the dignity of being amen- 
able to their jurisdiction, which has the right to imprison 
those who infringe its law and contravene its ordinances, and 
which, amongst other useful regulations for the health of 
the citizens, put beyond doubt this fact acquired by science; 
that if a wolf sees a man first, the man becomes hoarse for 
life. Besides, he may be bitten. 
Homo, then, was a pretext. 

Ursus heard of these designs through the inn-keeper. 
He was uneasy. He was afraid of two claws the police and 
the justices. To be afraid of the magistracy, it is sufficient 
to be afraid, there is no need to be guilty. Ursus had no 
desire for contact with sheriffs, provosts, bailiffs, and 
coroners. His eagerness to make their acquaintance 
amounted to nil. His curiosity to see the magistrates was 
about as great as the hare's to see the greyhound. 

He began to regret that he had come to London. " ' Better ' 
is the enemy of ' good,' " murmured he apart. " I thought 
the. proverb was ill-considered. I was wrong. Stupid 
truths are true truths." 

Against the coalition of powers merry-andrews taking in 
hand the cause of religion, and chaplains, indignant in the 
name of medicine the poor Green Box, suspected of sorcery 
in Gwynplaine and of hydrophobia in Homo, had only one 
thing in its favour (but a thing of great power in England), 
municipal inactivity. It is to the local authorities letting 
things take their own course that Englishmen owe their 
liberty. Liberty in England behaves very much as the sea 
around England. It is a tide. Little by little manners 
surmount the law. A cruel system of legislation drowned 
under the wave of custom; a savage code of laws still visible 
through the transparency of universal liberty: such is 
England. 

The Laughing Man, " Chaos Vanquished," and Homo 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 311 

might have mountebanks, preachers, bishops, the House of 
Commons, the House of Lords, her Majesty, London, and 
the whole of England against them, and remain undisturbed 
so long as Southwark permitted. 

The Green Box was the favourite amusement of the suburb, 
and the local authorities seemed disinclined to interfere. In 
England, indifference is protection. So long as the sheriff 
of the county of Surrey, to the jurisdiction of which South- 
wark belongs, did not move in the matter, Ursus breathed 
freely, and Homo could sleep on his wolf's ears. 

So long as the hatred which it excited did not occasion 
acts of violence, it increased success. The Green Box was 
none the worse for it, for the time. On the contrary, hints 
were scattered that it contained something mysterious. 
Hence the Laughing Man became more and more popular. 
The public follow with gusto the scent of anything contra- 
band. To be suspected is a recommendation. The people 
adopt by instinct that at which the finger is pointed. The 
thing which is denounced is like the savour of forbidden 
fruit; we rush to eat it. Besides, applause which irritates 
some one, especially if that some one is in authority, is sweet. 
To perform, whilst passing a pleasant evening, both an act of 
kindness to the oppressed and of opposition to the oppressor 
is agreeable. You are protecting at the same time that you 
are being amused. So the theatrical caravans on the bowling- 
green continued to howl and to cabal against the Laughing 
Man. Nothing could be better calculated to enhance his 
success. The shouts of one's enemies are useful and give 
point and vitality to one's triumph. A friend wearies 
sooner in praise than an enemy in abuse. To abuse does 
not hurt. Enemies are ignorant of this fact. They cannot 
help insulting us, and this constitutes their use. They cannot 
hold their tongues, and thus keep the public awake. 

The crowds which nocked to " Chaos Vanquished " 
increased daily. 

Ursus kept what Master Nicless had said of intriguers and 
complaints in high places to himself, and did not tell Gwyn- 
plaine, lest it should trouble the ease of his acting by creating 
anxiety. If evil was to come, he would be sure to know it 
soon enough. 



3 i3 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

CHAPTER V. 

THE WAPENTAKE. 

ONCE, however, he thought it his duty to derogate from this 
prudence, for prudence* sake, thinking that it might be well 
to make Gwynplaine uneasy. It is true that this idea arose 
from a circumstance much graver, in the opinion of Ursus, 
than the cabals of the fair or of the church. 

Gwynplaine, as he picked up a farthing which had fallen 
when counting the receipts, had, in the presence of the inn- 
keeper, drawn a contrast between the farthing, representing 
the misery of the people, and the die, representing, under the 
figure of Anne, the parasitical magnificence of the throne 
an ill-sounding speech. This observation was repeated by 
Master Nicless, and had such a run that it reached to Ursus 
through Fibi and Vinos. It put Ursus into a fever. Sedi- 
tious words, 1'ese Majeste. He took Gwynplaine severely to 
task. " Watch over your abominable jaws. There is a rule 
for the great to do nothing; and a rule for the small to 
say nothing. The poor man has but one friend, silence. He 
should only pronounce one syllable: ' Yes.' To confess and 
to consent is all the right he has. ' Yes, 1 to the j udge ; ' yes,' 
to the king. Great people, if it pleases them to do so, beat 
us. I have received blows from them. It is their preroga- 
tive ; and they lose nothing of their greatness by breaking our 
bones. The ossifrage is a species of eagle. Let us vener- 
ate the sceptre, which is the first of staves. Respect is 
prudence, and mediocrity is safety. To insult the king is to 
put oneself in the same danger as a girl rashly paring the 
nails of a lion. They tell me that you have been prattling 
about the farthing, which is the same thing as the Hard, and 
that you have found fault with the august medallion, for 
which they sell us at market the eighth part of a salt herring. 
Take care; let us be serious. Consider the existence of 
pains and penalties. Suck in these legislative truths. You 
are in a country in which the man who cuts down a tree three 
years old is quietly taken off to the gallows. As to swearers, 
their feet are put into the stocks. The drunkard is shut up 
in a barrel with the bottom out, so that he can walk, with a 
hole in the top, through which his head is passed, and with 
two in the bung for his hands, so that he cannot lie down. 
He who strikes auother one in Westminster Hall is imprisoned 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 3*3 

for life and has his goods confiscated. Whoever strikes any 
one in the king's palace has his hand struck off. A fillip on 
the nose chances to bleed, and, behold 1 you are maimed for 
life. He who is convicted of heresy in the bishop's court is 
burnt alive. It was for no great matter that Cuthbert 
Simpson was quartered on a turnstile. Three years since, in 
1702, which is not long ago, you see, they placed in the pillory 
a scoundrel, called Daniel Defoe, who had had the audacity 
to print the names of the Members of Parliament who had 
spoken on the previous evening. He who commits high 
treason is disembowelled alive, and they tear out his heart 
and buffet his cheeks with it. Impress on yourself notions 
of right and justice. Never allow yourself to speak a word, 
and at the first cause of anxiety, run for it. Such is the 
bravery which I counsel and which I practise. In the way 
of temerity, imitate the birds ; in the way of talking, imitate 
the fishes. England has one admirable point in her favour, 
that her legislation is very mild." 

His admonition over, Ursus remained uneasy for some 
time. Gwynplaine not at all. The intrepidity of youth 
arises from want of experience. However, it seemed that 
Gwynplaine had good reason for his easy mind, for the weeks 
flowed on peacefully, and no bad consequences seemed to 
have resulted from his observations about the queen. 

Ursus, we know, lacked apathy, and, like a roebuck on the 
watch, kept a lookout in every direction. One day, a short 
time after his sermon to Gwynplaine, as he was looking out 
from the window in the wall which commanded the field, he 
became suddenly pale 
' Gwynplaine? " 

What?' 1 

Look." 

Where? ' 

In the field." 

Well." 

' Do you see that passer-by? 
'The man in black?" 

Yes." 
' Who has a kind of mace in his hand? " 

Yes." 

Well?" 
' Well, Gwynplaiae, that man is a wapentake." 



3I4 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" What is a wapentake? " 
" He is the bailifE of the hundred." 
" What is the bailiff of the hundred? " 
" He is the pr&positus hundredi." 
" And what is the prcepositus hundredi ? " 
" He is a terrible officer." 
" What has he got in his hand? " 
" The iron weapon." 
" What is the iron weapon? " 
" A thing made of iron." 
" What does he do with that? " 

" First of all, he swears upon it. It is for that reason that 
he is called the wapentake." 
"And then?" 

" Then he touches you with it." 
"With what?" 
" With the iron weapon." 

" The wapentake touches you with the iron weapon ? " 
"Yes." 

" What does that mean? " 
" That means, follow me." 
" And must you follow? " 
" Yes." 
"Whither?" 
" How should I know? " 

" But he tells you where he is going to take you? " 
" No." 

"How is that?" 
" He says nothing, and you say nothing." 

" But " 

" He touches you with the iron weapon. All is over then. 
You must go." 
"But where? " 
" After him." 
"But where?" 

" Wherever he likes, Gwynplaine." 
"And if you resist? " 
" You are hanged." 

Ursus looked out of the window again, and drawing a long 
breath, said, 

1 ' Thank God ! He has passed. He was not coming here." 
Ursus was perhaps unreasonably alarmed about the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 315 

indiscreet remark, and the consequences likely to result 
from the unconsidered words of Gwynplaine. 

Master Nicless, who had heard them, had no interest in 
compromising the poor inhabitants of the Green Box. He 
was amassing, at the same time as the Laughing Man, a nice 
little fortune. " Chaos Vanquished " had succeeded in two 
ways. While it made art triumph on the stage, it made 
drunkenness prosper in the tavern. 

CHAPTER VI. 

THE MOUSE EXAMINED BY THE CATS. 

URSUS was soon afterwards startled by another alarming cir- 
cumstance. This time it was he himself who was concerned. 
He was summoned to Bishopsgate before a commission com- 
posed of three disagreeable countenances. They belonged to 
three doctors, called overseers. One was a Doctor of 
Theology, delegated by the Dean of Westminster ; another, 
a Doctor of Medicine, delegated by the College of Surgeons ; 
the third, a Doctor in History and Civil Law, delegated by 
Gresham College. These three experts in omni re scibili had 
the censorship of everything said in public throughout the 
bounds of the hundred and thirty parishes of London, the 
seventy-three of Middlesex, and, by extension, the five of 
Southwark. 

Such theological jurisdictions still subsist in England, and 
do good service. In December, 1868, by sentence of the 
Court of Arches, confirmed by the decision of the Privy 
Council, the Reverend Mackonochie was censured, besides 
being condemned in costs, for having placed lighted candles 
on a table. The liturgy allows no jokes. 

Ursus, then, one fine day received from the delegated 
doctors an order to appear before them, which was, luckily, 
given into his own hands, and which he was therefore enabled 
to keep secret. Without saying a word, he obeyed the cita- 
tion, shuddering at the thought that he might be considered 
culpable to the extent of having the appearance of being 
suspected of a certain amount of rashness. He who had so 
recommended silence to others had here a rough lesson. 
Garrule, sana te ipsum. 

The three doctors, delegated and appointed overseers, sat 
at Bishopsgate, at the end of a room on the ground floor, in 



3i6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

three armchairs covered with black leather, with three busts 
of Minos, ^Eacus, and Rhadamanthus, in the wall above 
their heads, a table before them, and at their feet a form for 
the accused. 

Ursus, introduced by a tipstaff, of placid but severe 
expression, entered, perceived the doctors, and immediately 
in his own mind, gave to each of them the name of the judge 
of the infernal regions represented by the bust placed above 
his head. Minos, the president, the representative of 
theology, made him a sign to sit down on the form. 

Ursus made a proper bow that is to say, bowed to the 
ground ; and knowing that bears are charmed by honey, and 
doctors by Latin, he said, keeping his body still bent respect- 
fully, 

" Tres faciunt capitulum ! " 

Then, with head inclined (for modesty disarms) he sat 
down on the form. 

Each of the three doctors had before him a bundle of 
papers, of which he was turning the leaves. 

Minos began. 
You speak in public? " 
Yes," replied Ursus. 
By what right?" 
I am a philosopher." 

' That gives no right." 
I am also a mountebank," said Ursus. 

' That is a different thing." 

Ursus breathed again, but with humility. 

Minos resumed, 

" As a mountebank, you may speak; as a philosopher, 
you must keep silence." 

" I will try," said Ursus. 

Then he thought to himself. 

" I may speak, but I must be silent. How complicated." 

He was much alarmed. 

The same overseer continued, 

" You say things which do not sound right. You insult 
religion. You deny the most evident truths. You pro- 
pagate revolting errors. For instance, you have said 
that the fact of virginity excludes the possibility of 
maternity." 

Ursus lifted his eyes meekly, " I did not say that. I said 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 317 

that the fact of maternity excludes the possibility of 
virginity." 

Minos was thoughtful, and mumbled, " True, that is the 
contrary." 

It was really the same thing. But Ursus had parried the 
first blow. 

Minos, meditating on the answer just given by Ursus, sank 
into the depths of his own imbecility, and kept silent. 

The overseer of history, or, as Ursus called him, Rhada- 
manthus, covered the retreat of Minos by this interpolation, 
" Accused! your audacity and your errors are of two sorts. 
You have denied that the battle of Pharsalia would have 
been lost because Brutus and Cassius had met a negro." 

" I said," murmured Ursus " that there was something in 
the fact that Caesar was the better captain." 

The man of history passed, without transition, to myth- 
ology. 

" You have excused the infamous acts of Actaeon." 

" I think," said Ursus, insinuatingly, " that a man is not 
dishonoured by having seen a naked woman." 

" Then you are wrong," said the judge severely. Rhada- 
manthus returned to history. 

" Apropos of the accidents which happened to the cavalry 
of Mithridates, you have contested the virtues of herbs and 
plants. You have denied that a herb like the securiduca, 
could make the shoes of horses fall off." 

" Pardon me," replied Ursus. " I said that the power 
existed only in the herb sferra cavallo. I never denied the 
virtue of any herb," and he added, in a low voice, " nor of 
any woman." 

By this extraneous addition to his answer Ursus proved to 
himself that, anxious as he was, he was not disheartened. 
Ursus was a compound of terror and presence of mind. 

"To continue," resumed Rhadamanthus ; "you have 
declared that it was folly in Scipio, when he wished to open 
the gates of Carthage, to use as a key the herb asthiopis, 
because the herb aethiopis has not the property of breaking 
locks." 

" I merely said that he would have done better to have 
used the herb lunaria." 

" That is a matter of opinion," murmured Rhadamanthus, 
touched in his turn. And the man of history was silent. 



318 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

The theologian, Minos, having returned to consciousness, 
questioned Ursus anew. He had had time to consult his 
notes. 

" You have classed orpiment amongst the products of 
arsenic, and you have said that it is a poison. The Bible 
denies this." 

" The Bible denies, but arsenic affirms it," sighed Ursus. 

The man whom Ursus called JEacus, and who' was the envy 
of medicine, had not yet spoken, but now looking down on 
Ursus, with proudly half-closed eyes, he said, 

" The answer is not without some show of reason." 

Ursus thanked him with his most cringing smile. Minos 
frowned frightfully. *' I resume," said Minos. " You have 
said that it is false that the basilisk is the king of serpents, 
under the name of cockatrice." 

" Very reverend sir," said Ursus, " so little did I desire to 
insult the basilisk thai? I have given out as certain that it 
has a man's head." 

" Be it so," replied Minos severely; " but you added that 
Poerius had seen one with the head of a falcon. an you 
prove it?" 

" Not easily," said Ursus. 

Here he had lost a little ground. 

Minos, seizing the advantage, pushed it. 

" You have said that a converted Jew has not a nice smell." 

" Yes. But I added that a Christian who becomes a Jew 
has a nasty one.' 1 

Minos lost his eyes over the accusing documents. 

11 You have affirmed and propagated things which are 
impossible. You have said that Elien had seen an elephant 
write sentences." 

"Nay, very reverend gentleman! I simply said that 
Oppian had heard a hippopotamus discuss a philosophical 
problem.-' 

" You have declared that it is not true that a dish made of 
beech-wood will become covered of itself with all the viands 
that one can desire." 

" I said, that if it has this virtue, it must be that you 
received it from the devil." 

"That I received it I" 

' Nc, most reverend sir. I, nobody, everybody! " 

Aside, Ursus thought, " I don't know what I am saying." 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 319 

But his outward confusion, though extreme, was not dis- 
tinctly visible. Ursus struggled with it. 

" All this," Minos began again, " implies a certain belief 
in the devil." 

Ursus held his own. 

" Very reverend sir, I am not an unbeliever with regard to 
the devil. Belief in the devil is the reverse side of faith in 
God. The one proves the other. He who does not believe 
a little in the devil, does not believe much in God. He who 
believes in the sun must believe in the shadow. The devil is 
the night of God. What is night ? The proof of day." 

Ursus here extemporized a fathomless combination of 
philosophy and religion. Minos remained pensive, and re- 
lapsed into silence. 

Ursus breathed afresh. 

A sharp onslaught now took place. ^Eacus, the medical 
delegate, who had disdainfully protected Ursus against the 
theologian, now turned suddenly from auxiliary into assailant 
He placed his closed fist on his bundle of papers, which was 
large and heavy. Ursus received this apostrophe full in the 
breast, 

" It is proved that crystal is sublimated ice, and that the 
diamond is sublimated crystal. It is averred that ice be- 
comes crystal in a thousand years, and crystal diamond in a 
thousand ages. You have denied this." 

" Nay," replied Ursus, with sadness, " I only said that in 
a thousand years ice had time to melt, and that a thousand 
ages were difficult to count." 

The examination went on ; questions and answers clashed 
like swords. 

14 You have denied that plants can talk." 

"Not at all. But to do so they must grow under a 
gibbet." 

' Do you own that the mandragora cries ? " 
' No; but it sings." 

' You have denied that the fourth finger of the left hand 
has a cordial virtue." 

I only said that to sneeze to the left was a bad sign." 
You have spoken rashly and disrespectfully of the 
phoenix." 

" Learned judge, I merely said that when he wrote that the 
brain of the phoenix was a delicate morsel, but that it pro- 



320 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

duccd headache, Plutarch was a little out of his reckoning, 

inasmuch as the phoenix never existed." 

" A detestable speech 1 The cinnamalker which makes its 
nest with sticks of cinnamon, the rhintacus that Parysatis 
used in the manufacture of his poisons, the manucodiatas 
which is the bird of paradise, and the semenda, which has a 
threefold beak, have been mistaken for the phoenix; but the 
phoenix has existed." 

" I do not deny it." 

" You are a stupid ass." 

" I desire to be thought no better." 

" You have confessed that the elder tree cures the quinsy, 
but you added that It was not because it has in its root a 
fairy excrescence." 

" I said it was because Judas hung himself on an elder 
tree." 

" A plausible opinion," growled the theologian, glad to 
strike his little blow at ^Eacus. 

Arrogance repulsed soon turns to anger. ^Eacus was 
enraged. 

" Wandering mountebank 1 you wander as much in mind 
as with your feet. Your tendencies are out of the way and 
suspicious. You approach the bounds of sorcery. You 
have dealings with unknown animals. You speak to the 
populace of things that exist but for you alone, and the nature 
of which is unknown, such as the hcemorrhous." 

" The hcemorrhous is a viper which was seen by Tremel- 
lius." 

This repartee produced a certain disorder in the irritated 
science of Doctor ^Eacus. 

Ursus added, " The existence of the hcemorrhous is quite 
as true as that of the odoriferous hyena, and of the civet 
described by Castellus." 

^Eacus got out of the difficulty by charging home. 
" Here are your own words, and very diabolical words they 
are. Listen." 

With his eyes on his notes, ^Eacus read, 
"Two plants, the thalagssigle and the aglaphotis, are 
luminous in the evening, flowers by day, stars by night; " 
and looking steadily at Ursus, " What have you to say to 
that?" 

Ursus answered, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 321 

" Every plant is a lamp. Its perfume is its light." 

^Eacus turned over other pages. 

" You have denied that the vesicles of the otter are equiva- 
lent to castoreum." 

" I merely said that perhaps it may be necessary to receive 
the teaching of ^Etius on this point with some reserve." 

^Eacus became furious. 

" You practise medicine? " 

" I practise medicine," sighed Ursus timidly. 

"On living things?" 

" Rather than on dead ones," said Ursus. 

Ursus defended himself stoutly, but dully; an admirable 
mixture, in which meekness predominated. He spoke with 
such gentleness that Doctor ^Eacus felt that he must insult 
him. 

" What are you murmuring there? " said he rudely. 

Ursus was amazed, and restricted himself to saying, 

" Murmurings are for the young, and moans for the aged. 
Alas, I moanl" 

^Eacus replied, 

" Be assured of this if you attend a sick person, and he 
dies, you will be punished by death." 

Ursus hazarded a question. 

" And if he gets well? " 

" In that case," said the doctor, softening his voice, " you 
will be punished by death." 

" There is little difference," said Ursus. 

The doctor replied, 

" If death ensues, we punish gross ignorance; if recovery, 
we punish presumption. The gibbet in either case." 

" I was ignorant of the circumstance," murmured Ursus. 
" I thank you for teaching me. One does not know all the 
beauties of the law." 

" Take care of yourself." 

" Religiously," said Ursus. 
" We know what you are about." 

" As for me," thought Ursus, " that is more than I always 
know myself." 

" We could send you to prison." 
" I see that perfectly, gentlemen." 

" You cannot deny your infractions nor your encroach- 
ments." 

II 



322 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

' My philosophy asks pardon." 

' Great audacity has been attributed to you." 

' That is quite a mistake." 

' It is said that you have cured the sick." 

' I am the victim of calumny." 

The three pairs of eyebrows which were so horribly fixed 
on Ursus contracted. The three wise faces "drew near to 
each other, and whispered. Ursus had the vision of a vague 
fool's cap sketched out above those three empowered heads. 
The low and requisite whispering of the trio was of some 
minutes' duration, during which time Ursus felt all the ice 
and all the scorch of agony. At length Minos, who was 
president, turned to him and said angrily, 

" Go away! " 

Ursus felt something like Jonas when he was leaving the 
belly of the whale. 

Minos continued, 

" You are discharged." 

Ursus said to himself, 

" They won't catch me at this again. Good-bye, medi- 
cine! " 

And he added in his innermost heart, 

" From henceforth I will carefully allow them to die." 

Bent double, he bowed everywhere; to the doctors, to the 
busts, the tables, the walls, and retiring backwards through 
the door, disappeared almost as a shadow melting into air. 

He left the hall slowly, like an innocent man, and rushed 
from the street rapidly, like a guilty one. The officers of 
justice are so singular and obscure in their ways that even 
when acquitted one flies from them. 

As he fled he mumbled, 

" I am well out of it. I am the savant untamed ; they the 
savants ^ civilized. Doctors cavil at the learned. False 
science is the excrement of the true, and is employed to the 
destruction of philosophers. Philosophers, as they produce 
sophists, produce their own scourge. Of the dung of the 
thrush is born the mistletoe, with which is made birdlime, 
with which the thrush is captured. Turdus sibi malum 
cacat." 

We do not represent Ursus as a refined man. He was im- 
prudent enough to use words which expressed his thoughts. 
He had no more taste than Voltaire. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 323 

When Ursus returned to the Green Box, he told Master 

Nicless that he had been delayed by following a pretty 

woman, and let not a word escape him concerning his 

adventure. 

Except in the evening when he said in a low voice to 

Homo, 

" See here, I have vanquished the three heads of Cerberus." 

CHAPTER VII. 

WHY SHOULD A GOLD PIECE LOWER ITSELF BY MIXING WITH 
A HEAP OF PENNIES? 

AN event happened. 

The Tadcaster Inn became more and more a furnace of joy 
and laughter. Never was there more resonant gaiety. The 
landlord and his boy were become insufficient to draw the 
ale, stout, and porter. In the evening in the lower room, 
with its windows all aglow, there was not a vacant table. 
They sang, they shouted; the great old hearth, vaulted like 
an oven, with its iron bars piled with coals, shone out 
brightly. It was like a house of fire and noise. 

In the yard that is to say, in the theatre the crowd was 
greater still. 

Crowds as great as the suburb of Southwark could supply 
so thronged the performances of " Chaos Vanquished " that 
directly the curtain was raised that is to say, the platform 
of the Green Box was lowered every place was filled. The 
windows were alive with spectators, the balcony was crammed. 
Not a single paving-stone in the paved yard was to be seen. 
It seemed paved with faces. 

Only the compartment for the nobility remained empty. 

There was thus a space in the centre of the balcony, a 
black hole, called in metaphorical slang, an oven. No one 
there. Crowds everywhere except in that one spot. 

One evening it was occupied. 

It was on a Saturday, a day on which the English make all 
haste to amuse themselves before the ennui of Sunday. 
The hall was full. 

We say hall. Shakespeare for a long time had to use the 
yard of an inn for a theatre, and he called it hall. 

Just as the curtain rose on the prologue of " Chaos Van- 
quished," with Ursus. Homo, and Gwyiiplaine on the stage. 



324 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Ursus, from habit, cast a look at the audience, and felt a 

sensation. 

The compartment for the nobility was occupied. A lady 
was sitting alone in the middle of the box, on the Utrecht 
velvet arm-chair. She was alone, and she filled the box. 
Certain beings seem to give out light. This lady, like Dea, 
had a light in herself, but a light of a different character. 

Dea was pale, this lady was pink. Dea was the twilight, 
this lady, Aurora. Dea was beautiful, this lady was superb. 
Dea was innocence, candour, fairness, alabaster this woman 
was of the purple, and one felt that she did not fear the 
blush. Her irradiation overflowed the box, she sat in the 
midst of it, immovable, in the spreading majesty of an idol. 
Amidst the sordid crowd she shone out grandly, as with 
the radiance of a carbuncle. She inundated it with so much 
light that she drowned it in shadow, and all the mean faces 
in it underwent eclipse. Her splendour blotted out all else. 
Every eye was turned towards her. 

Tom- Jim- Jack was in the crowd. He was lost like the 
rest in the nimbus of this dazzling creature. 

The lady at first absorbed the whole attention of the 
public, who had crowded to the performance, thus somewhat 
diminishing the opening effects of " Chaos Vanquished." 

Whatever might be the air of dreamland about her, for 
those who were near she was a woman; perchance too much 
a woman. 

She was tall and amply formed, and showed as much as 
possible of her magnificent person. She wore heavy earrings 
of pearls, with which were mixed those whimsical jewels 
called " keys of England." Her upper dress was of Indian 
muslin, embroidered all over with gold a great luxury, 
because those muslin dresses then cost six hundred crowns. 
A large diamond brooch closed her chemise, the which she 
wore so as to display her shoulders and bosom, in the im- 
modest fashion of the time; the chemisette was made of 
that lawn of which Anne of Austria had sheets so fine that 
they could be passed through a ring. She wore what seemed 
like a cuirass of rubies some uncut, but polished, and 
precious stones were sewn all over the body of her dress. 
Then, her eyebrows were blackened with Indian ink; and 
her arms, elbows, shoulders, chin, and nostrils, with the top 
of her eyelids, the lobes of her ears, the palms of her hands, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 3^5 

the tips of her fingers, were tinted with a glowing and pro- 
voking touch of colour. Above all, she wore an expression 
of implacable determination to be beautiful. This reached 
the point of ferocity. She was like a panther, with the power 
of turning cat at will, and caressing. One of her eyes was 
blue, the other black. 

Gwynplaine, as well as Ursus, contemplated her. 

The Green Box somewhat resembled a phantasmagoria in 
its representations. " Chaos Vanquished " was rather a 
dream than a piece; it generally produced on the audience 
the effect of a vision. Now, this effect was reflected on the 
actors. The house took the performers by surprise, and 
they were thunderstruck in their turn. It was a rebound 
of fascination* 

The woman watched them, and they watched her. 

At the distance at which they were placed, and in that 
luminous mist which is the half-light of a theatre, details 
were lost and it was like a hallucination* Of course it was 
a woman, but was it not a chimera as well ? The penetration 
of her light into their obscurity stupefied them. It was like 
the appearance of an unknown planet. It came from a 
world of the happy. Her irradiation amplified her figure. 
The lady was covered with"nocturnal glitterings, like a milky 
way. Her precious stones were stars. The diamond brooch 
was perhaps a pleiad. The splendid beauty of her bosom 
seemed supernatural. They felt, as they looked upon the 
star-like creature, the momentary but thrilling approach 
of the regions of felicity. It was out of the heights of a 
Paradise that she leant towards their mean-looking Green 
Box, and revealed to the gaze of its wretched audience her 
expression of inexorable serenity. As she satisfied her 
unbounded curiosity, she fed ab the same time the curiosity 
of the public. 

It was the Zenith permitting the Abyss to look at it. 

Ursus. Gwynplaine, Vinos, Fibi, the crowd, every one had 
succumbed to her dazzling beauty, except Dea, ignorant in 
her darkness. 

An apparition was indeed before them; but none of the 
ideas usually evoked by the word were realized in the lady's 
appearance. 

There was nothing about her diaphanous, nothing un- 
decided, nothing floating, no mist. She was an apparition; 



326 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

rose-coloured and fresh, and full of health. Yet, under the 
optical condition in which Ursus and Gwynplaine were placed, 
she looked like a vision. There are fleshy phantoms, called 
vampires. Such a queen as she, though a spirit to the crowd, 
consumes twelve hundred thousand a year, to keep her 
health. 

Behind the lady, in the shadow, her page was to be per- 
ceived, el mozo, a little child-like man, fair and pretty, with 
a serious face. A very young and very grave servant was the 
fashion at that period. This page was dressed from top to 
toe in scarlet velvet, and had on his skull-cap, which was 
embroidered with gold, a bunch of curled feathers. This was 
the sign of a high class of service, and indicated attendance 
on a very great lady. 

The lackey is part of the lord, and it was impossible not 
to remark, in the shadow of his mistress, the train-bearing 
page. Memory often takes notes unconsciously; and, with- 
out Gwynplaine's suspecting it, the round cheeks, the serious 
mien, the embroidered and plumed cap of the lady's page left 
some trace on his mind. The page, however, did nothing to 
call attention to himself. To do so is to be wanting in respect. 
He held himself aloof and passive at the back of the box, 
retiring as far as the closed door permitted. 

Notwithstanding the presence of her train-bearer, the lady 
was not the less alone in the compartment, since a valet 
counts for nothing. 

However powerful a diversion had been produced by this 
person, who produced the effect of a personage, the dSnoue- 
ment of "Chaos Vanquished" was more powerful still. 
The impression which it made was, as usual, irresistible. 
Perhaps, even, there occurred in the hall, on account of the 
radiant spectator (for sometimes the spectator is part of the 
spectacle), an increase of electricity. The contagion of 
Gwynplaine's laugh was more triumphant than ever. The 
whole audience fell into an indescribable epilepsy of hilarity, 
through which could be distinguished the sonorous and 
magisterial ha I hal of Tom- Jim- Jack. 

Only the unknown lady looked at the performance with 
the immobility of a statue, and with her eyes p like those of a 
phantom, she laughed not. A spectre, but sun-born. 

The performance over, the piatform drawn up, and the 
family reassembled in the Green Box, Ursus opened and 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 327 

emptied on the supper-table the bag of receipts. From a 
heap of pennies there slid suddenly forth a Spanish gold onza. 
"Hers I " cried Ursus. 

The onza amidst the pence covered with verdigris was a 
type of the lady amidst the crowd. 

" She has paid an onza for her seat," cried Ursus with 
enthusiasm. 

Just then, the hotel-keeper entered the Green Box, and, 

passing his arm out of the window at the back of it, opened 

the loophole in the wall of which we have already spoken, 

which gave a view over the field, and which was level with 

the window j then he made a silent sign to Ursus to look out. 

A carriage, swarming with plumed footmen carrying torches 

and magnificently appointed, was driving off at a fast trot. 

Ursus took the piece of gold between his forefinger and 

thumb respectfully, and, showing it to Master Nicless, said, 

" She is a goddess." 

Then his eyes falling on the carriage which was about to 
turn the corner of the field, and on the imperial of which the 
footmen's torches lighted up a golden coronet, with eight 
strawberry leaves, he exclaimed, 
" She is more. She is a duchess." 

The carriage disappeared. The rumbling of its wheels 
died away in the distance. 

Ursus remained some moments in an ecstasy, holding the 
gold piece between his finger and thumb, as in a monstrance, 
elevating it as the priest elevates the host. 

Then he placed it on the table, and, as he contemplated it, 
began to talk of " Madam." 
I The innkeeper replied, 

" She was a duchess." Yes. They knew her title. But 
her name? Of that they were ignorant. Master Nicless 
had been close to the carriage, and seen the coat of arms and 
the footmen covered with lace. The coachman had a wig on 
which might have belonged to a Lord Chancellor. The 
carriage was of that rare design called, in Spain, cochetumbon, 
a splendid build, with a top like a tomb, which makes a 
magnificent support for a coronet. The page was a man in 
miniature, so small that he could sit on the step of the 
carriage outside the door. The duty of those pretty 
creatures was to bear the trains of their mistresses. They 
also bore their messages. And did you remark the plumed 



3 2 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

cap of the page ? How grand it was I You pay a fine if you 
wear those plumes without the right of doing so. Master 
Nicless had seen the lady, too, quite close. A kind of queen. 
Such wealth gives beauty. The skin is whiter, the eye more 
proud, the gait more noble, and grace more insolent. Noth- 
ing can equal the elegant impertinence of hands which never 
work. Master Nicless told the story of all the magnificence, 
of the white skin with the blue veins, the neck, the shoulders, 
the arms, the touch of paint everywhere, the pearl earrings, 
the head-dress powdered with gold ; the profusion of stones, 
the rubies, the diamonds. 

" Less brilliant than her eyes," murmured Ursus. 

Gwynplaine said nothing. 

Dea listened. 

" And do you know," said the tavern-keeper, "the most 
wonderful thing of all ? " 

"What?" said Ursus. ' 

" I saw her get into her carriage." 

"What then?" 

" She did not get in alone." 

"Nonsense! " 

" Some one got in with her." 

"Who?" 

" Guess." 

" The king," said Ursus. 

" In the first place," said Master Nicless, " there is no kin 
at present. We are B not living under a king. Guess who got 
into the carriage with the duchess." 

" Jupiter," said Ursus. 

The hotel-keeper replied, 

"Tom- Jim- Jack! " 

Gwynplaine, who had not said a word, broke silence. 

" Tom- Jim- Jack 1 " he cried. 

There was a pause of astonishment, during which the low 
voice of Dea was heard to say,- 

" Cannot this woman be prevented coming." 

CHAPTER VIII. 

SYMPTOMS OF POISONING. 

THB " apparition " did not return. It did not reappear in 
the theatre, but it reappeared to the memory of Gwynplaine, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 329 

Gwyaplaine was, to a certain degree, troubled. It seemed 
to him that for the first time In his life he had seen a woman. 
He made that first stumble, a strange dream. We should 
beware of the nature of the reveries that fasten on us. 
Reverie has in it the mystery and subtlety of an odour. It 
is to thought what perfume is to the tuberose. It Is at times 
the exudation of a venomous idea, and It penetrates like a 
vapour. You may poison yourself with reveries, as with 
flowers. An intoxicating suicide, exquisite and malignant. 
The suicide of the soul is evil thought. In it is the poison. 
Reverie attracts, cajoles, lures, entwines, and then makes 
you its accomplice. It makes you bear your half in the 
trickeries which it plays on conscience. It charms ; then it 
corrupts you,, We may say of reverie as of play, one begins 
by being a dupe, and ends by being a cheat. 

Gwynplaine dreamed. 

He had never before seen Woman. He had seen the 
shadow in the women of the populace, and he had seen the 
sou) in Dea, 

He had just seen the reality. 

A warm and living skin, under which one felt the circula- 
tion of passionate blood; an outline with the precision of 
marble and the undulation of the wave; a high and im- 
passive mien, mingling refusal with attraction, and summing 
itself up in its own glory ; hair of the colour of the reflection 
from a furnace; a gallantry of adornment producing in 
herself and in others a tremor of voluptuousness, the half- 
revealed nudity betraying a disdainful desire to be coveted 
at a distance by the crowd; an ineradicable coquetry; the 
charm of impenetrability, temptation seasoned by the 
glimpse of perdition, a promise to the senses and a menace 
to the mind; a double anxiety, the one desire, the other 
fear. He had just seen these things. He had just seen 
Woman. 

He had seen rnors and less than a woman; he had seen a 
female. 

And at the same time an Olympian. The female of a god. 

The mystery of sex had just been revealed to him. 

And where? On inaccessible heights at an infinite 
distance. 

O mocking destiny I The soul, that celestial essence, he 
possessed ; he hold it in his hand. It was Dea. Sex, that 



330 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

terrestrial embodiment, he perceived in the heights of 
heaven. It was that woman. 

A duchess 1 

" More than a goddess," Ursus had said. 

What a precipice I Even dreams dissolved before such a 
perpendicular height to escalade. 

Was he going to commit the folly of dreaming about the 
unknown beauty ? 

He debated with himself. 

He recalled all that Ursus had said of high stations which 
are almost royal. The philosopher's disquisitions, which 
had hitherto seemed so useless, now became landmarks for 
his thoughts. A very thin layer of forgetfulness often lies 
over our memory, through which at times we catch a glimpse 
of all beneath it. His fancy ran on that august world, the 
peerage, to which the lady belonged, and which was so 
inexorably placed above the inferior world, the common 
people, of which he was one. 

And was he even one of the people? Was not he, the 
mountebank, below the lowest of the low ? For the first time 
since he had arrived at the age of reflection, he felt his heart 
vaguely contracted by a sense of his baseness, and of that 
which we nowadays call abasement. The paintings and 
the catalogues of Ursus, his lyrical inventories, his dithy- 
rambics of castles, parks, fountains, and colonnades, his 
catalogues of riches and of power, revived in the memory of 
Gwynplaine in the relief of reality mingled with mist. He 
was possessed with the image of this zenith. That a man 
should be a lord ! it seemed chimerical. It was so, however. 
Incredible thing 1 There were lords! But were they of 
flesh and blood, like ourselves? It seemed doubtful. He 
felt that he lay at the bottom of all darkness, encompassed 
by a wall, while he could just perceive in the far distance 
above his head, through the mouth of the pit, a dazzling 
confusion of azure, of figures, and of rays, which was 
Olympus. In the midst of this glory the duchess shone out 
resplendent. 

He felt for this woman a strange, inexpressible longing, 
combined with a conviction of the impossibility of attain- 
ment. This poignant contradiction returned to his mind 
again and again, notwithstanding every effort. He saw near 
to him, even within his reach, in close and tangible reality. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 3 3 1 

the soul; and in the unattainable in the depths of the ideal 
the flesh. None of these thoughts attained to certain 
shape. They were as a vapour within him, changing every 
instant its form, and floating away. But the darkness which 
the vapour caused was intense. 

He did not form even in his dreams any hope of reaching 
the heights where the duchess dwelt. Luckily for him. 

The vibration of such ladders of fancy, if ever we put our 
foot upon them, may render our brains dizzy for ever. 
Intending to scale Olympus, we reach Bedlam ; any distinct 
feeling of actual desire would have terrified him. He 
entertained none of that nature. 

Besides, was he likely ever to see the lady again? Most 
probably not. To fall in love with a passing light on the 
horizon, madness cannot reach to that pitch. To make 
loving eyes at a star even, is not incomprehensible. It is 
seen again, it reappears, it is fixed in the sky. But can 
any one be enamoured of a flash of lightning ? 

Dreams flowed and ebbed within him. The majestic and 
gallant idol at the back of the box had cast a light over his 
diffused ideas, then faded away. He thought, yet thought 
not of it; turned to other things returned to it. It rocked 
about in his brain nothing more. It broke his sleep for 
several nights. Sleeplessness is as full of dreams as sleep. 

It is almost impossible to express in their exact limits the 
abstract evolutions of the brain. The inconvenience of 
words is that they are more marked in form than ideas. 
All ideas have indistinct boundary lines, words have not. 
A certain diffused phase of the soul ever escapes words. 
Expression has its frontiers, thought has none. 

The depths of our secret souls are so vast that Gwyn- 
plaine's dreams scarcely touched Dea. Dea reigned sacred 
in the centre of his soul; nothing could approach her. 

Still (for such contradictions make up the soul of man) there 
was a conflict within him. Was he conscious of it ? Scarcely. 

In his heart of hearts he felt a collision of desires. We all 
have our weak points. Its nature would have been clear to 
Ursus; but to Gwynplaine it was not, 

Two instincts- one the ideal, the other sexual were, 
struggling within him. Such contests occur between the 
angels of light and darkness on the edge of the abyss. 

At length the angel of darkness was overthrown. One 



3J3- THE LAUGHING MAN. 

day Gwynplaine suddenly thought no more of the unknown 

woman. 

The struggle between two principles the duel between 
his earthly and his heavenly nature had taken place within 
his soul, and at such a depth that he had understood it but 
dimly. One thing was certain, that he had never for one 
moment ceased to adore Dea. 

He had been attacked by a violent disorder, his blood had 
been fevered ; but it was over. Dea alone remained. 

Gwynplaine would have been much astonished had any one 
told him that Dea had eyer been, even for a moment, in 
danger; and in a week or two the phantom which had 
threatened the hearts of both their souls faded away. 

Within Gwynplaine nothing remained but the heart, 
which was the hearth, and the love, which was its fire. 

Besides, we have just said that " the duchess " did not 
return. 

Ursus thought it all very natural. " The lady with the 
gold piece " is a phenomenon. She enters, pays, and 
vanishes. It would be too much joy were she to return. 

As to Dea, she made no allusion to the woman who had 
come and passed away. She listened, perhaps, and was 
sufficiently enlightened by the sighs of Ursus, and now and 
then by some significant exclamation, such as, 
" One does not get ounces of gold every day I " 
She spoke no more of the " woman." This showed deep 
instinct. The soul takes obscure precautions, in the secrets 
of which it is not always admitted itself. To keep silence 
about any one seems to keep them afar off. One fears that 
questions may call them back. We put silence between us, 
as if we were shutting a door. 
So the incident fell into oblivion. 

Was it ever anything? Had it ever occurred? Could it 
be said that a shadow had floated between Gwynplaine and 
Dea ? Dea did not know of it, nor Gwynplaine either. No ; 
nothing had occurred. The duchess herself was blurred in 
the distant perspective like an illusion. It had been but a 
momentary dream passing over Gwynplaine, out of which he 
had awakened. 

When it fades away, a reverie, like a mist, leaves no trace 
behind; and when the cloud has passed on, love shines out 
as brightly in the heart as the sun in the sky. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 533 

CHAPTER IX. 

ABYSSUS ABYSSUM VOCAT. 

ANOTHER face disappeared Tom- Jim- Jack's. Suddenly he 
ceased to frequent the Tadcaster Inn. 

Persons so situated as to be able to observe other phases 
of fashionable life in London, might have seen that about 
this time the Weekly Gazette, between two extracts from par- 
ish registers, announced the departure of Lord David Dirry- 
Moir, by order of her Majesty, to take command of his frigate 
in the white squadron then cruising off the coast of Holland. 

Ursus, perceiving that Tom- Jim- Jack did not return, was 
troubled by his absence. He had not seen Tom- Jim- Jack 
since the day on which he had driven off in the same carriage 
with the lady of the gold piece. It was, indeed, an enigma 
who this Tom- Jim- Jack could be, who carried off duchesses 
under his arm. What an interesting investigation I What 
questions to propound I What things to be said. Therefore 
Ursus said not a word. 

Ursus, who had had experience, knew the smart caused 
by rash curiosity. Curiosity ought always to be proportioned 
to the curious. By listening, we risk our ear; by watching, 
we risk our eye. Prudent people neither hear nor see. 
Tom- Jim- Jack had got into a princely carriage. The 
tavern-keeper had seen him. It appeared so extraordinary 
that the sailor should sit by the lady that it made Ursus 
circumspect. The caprices of those in high life ought to be 
sacred to the lower orders. The reptiles called the poor had 
best squat in their holes when they see anything out of the 
way. Quiescence is a power. Shut your eyes, if you have 
not the luck to be blind; stop up your ears, if you have not 
the good fortune to be deaf; paralyze your tongue, if you 
have not the perfection of being mute. The great do what 
they like, the little what they can. Let the unknown pass 
unnoticed. Do not importune mythology. Do not inter- 
rogate appearances. Have a profound respect for idols. 
Do not let us direct our gossiping towards the lessenings or 
increasings which take place in superior regions, of the 
motives of which we are ignorant. Such things are mostly 
Optical delusions to us inferior creatures. Metamorphoses 
are the business of the gods . the transformations and the 



334 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

contingent disorders of great persons who float above us are 
clouds impossible to comprehend and perilous to study. Too 
much attention irritates the Olympians engaged in their gyra- 
tions of amusement or fancy; and a thunderbolt may teach 
you that the bull you are too curiously examining is Jupiter. 
Do not lift the folds of the stone-coloured mantles of those 
terrible powers. Indifference is intelligence. Do not stir, and 
you will be safe. Feign death, and they will not kill you. 
Therein lies the wisdom of the insect. Ursus practised it. 

The tavern-keeper, who was puzzled as well, questioned 
Ursus one day. 

" Do you observe that Tom- Jim- Jack never comes here 
now! " 

" Indeed! " said Ursus. " I have not remarked it." 

Master Nicless made an observation in an undertone, no 
doubt touching the intimacy between the ducal carriage and 
Tom- Jim- Jack a remark which, as it might have been 
irreverent and dangerous, Ursus took care not to hear. 

Still Ursus was too much of an artist not to regret Tom- 
Jim-Jack. He felt some disappointment. He told his feel- 
ing to Homo, of whose discretion alone he felt certain. He 
whispered into the ear of the wolf, " Since Tom-Jim-Jack 
ceased to come, I feel a blank as a man, and a chill as a poet." 
This pouring out of his heart to a friend relieved Ursus. 

His lips were sealed before Gwynplaine, who, however, 
made no allusion to Tom- Jim- Jack. The fact was that Tom- 
Jim-Jack's presence or absence mattered not to Gwynplaine, 
absorbed as he was in Dea. 

Forgetfulness fell more and more on Gwynplaine. As for 
Dea, she had not even suspected the existence of a vague 
trouble. At the same time, no more cabals or complaints 
against the Laughing Man were spoken of. Hate seemed to 
have let go its hold. All was tranquil in and around the 
Green Box. No more opposition from strollers, merry- 
andrews, nor priests; no more grumbling outside. Their 
success was unclouded. Destiny allows of such sudden 
serenity. The brilliant happiness of Gwynplaine and Dea 
was for the present absolutely cloudless. Little by little it 
had risen to a degree which admitted of no increase. There 
is one word which expresses the situation apogee. Happi- 
ness, like the sea, has its high tide. The worst thing for 
the perfectly happy is that it recedes. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 335 

There are two ways of being inaccessible : being too 
high and being too low. At least as much, perhaps, as the 
first is the second to be desired. More surely than the eagle 
escapes the arrow, the animalcule escapes being crushed. 
This security of insignificance, if it had ever existed on earth, 
was enjoyed by Gwynplaine and Dea, and never before had 
it been so complete. They lived on, daily more and more 
ecstatically wrapt in each other. The heart saturates itself 
with love as with a divine salt that preserves it, and from 
this arises the incorruptible constancy of those who have 
loved each other from the dawn of their lives, and the affec- 
tion which keeps its freshness in old age. There is such a 
thing as the embalmment of the heart. It is of Daphnis and 
Chloe that Philemon and Baucis are made. The old age of 
which we speak, evening resembling morning, was evidently 
reserved for Gwynplaine and Dea. In the meantime they 
were young. 

Ursus looked on this love as a doctor examines his case. 
He had what was in those days termed a hippocratical 
expression of face. He fixed his sagacious eyes on Dea, 
fragile and pale, and growled out, "It is lucky that she is 
happy." At other times he said, " She is lucky for her 
health's sake." He shook his head, and at times read at- 
tentively a portion treating of heart-disease in Aviccunas, 
translated by Vossiscus Fortunatus, Louvain, 1650, an old 
worm-eaten book of his. 

Dea, when fatigued, suffered from perspirations and 
drowsiness, and took a daily siesta, as we have already seen. 
One day, while she was lying asleep on the bearskin, Gwyn- 
plaine was out, and Ursus bent down softly and applied his 
ear to Dea's heart. He seemed to listen for a few minutes, 
and then stood up, murmuring, " She must not have any 
shock. It would find out the weak place." 

The crowd continued to flock to the performance of 
" Chaos Vanquished." The success of the Laughing Man 
seemed inexhaustible. Every one rushed to see him ; no 
longer from Southwark only, but even from other parts of 
London. The general public began to mingle with the usual 
audience, which no longer consisted of sailors and drivers 
only; in the opinion of Master Nicless, who was well ac- 
quainted with crowds, there were In the crowd gentlemen 
and baronets disguised as common people. Disguise is one 



336 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

of the pleasures of pride, and was much In fashion at that 
period. This mixing of the aristocratic element with the 
mob was a good sign, and showed that their popularity was 
extending to London. The fame of Gwynplaine has de- 
cidedly penetrated into the great world. Such was the fact. 
Nothing was talked of but the Laughing Man. He was 
talked about even at the Mohawk Club, frequented by 
noblemen. 

In the Green Box they had no idea of all this. They were 
content to be happy. It was intoxication to Dea to feel, as 
she did every evening, the crisp and tawny head of Gwyn- 
plaine. In love there is nothing like habit. The whole of 
life is concentiated in it. The reappearance of the stars is 
the custom of the universe. Creation is nothing but a 
mistress, and the sun is a lover* Light is a dazzling cary- 
atid supporting the world. Each day, for a sublime minute, 
the earth, covered by night, rests on the rising sun. Dea, 
blind, felt a like return of warmth and hope within her when 
she placed her hand on the head of Gwynplaine. 

To adore each other in the shadows, to love in the plenitude 
of silence; who could not become reconciled to such an 
eternity ? 

One evening Gwynplaine, feeling within him that overflow 
of felicity which, like the intoxication of perfumes, causes a 
sort of delicious faintness, was strolling, as he usually did 
after the performance, in the meadow some hundred paces 
from the Green Box. Sometimes in those high tides of 
feeling in our souls we feel that we would fain pour out the 
sensations of the overflowing heart. The night was dark 
but clear. The stars were shining. The whole fair-ground 
was deserted. Sleep and forgetfulness reigned hi the 
caravans which were scattered over Tarrinzeau Field. 

One light alone was unextinguished. It was the lamp of 
the Tadcaster Inn, the door of which was left ajar to admit 
Gwynplaine on his return. 

^Midnight had just struck in the five parishes of Southwark, 
with the breaks and differences of tone of their various bells. 
Gwynplaine was dreaming of Dea. Of whom else should he 
dream? But that evening, feeling singularly troubled, and 
full of a charm which was at the same time a pang, he 
thought of Dea as a man thinks of a woman. He reproached 
himself for this. It seemed to be falling In respect to her. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 337 

The husband's attack was forming dimly within him. Sweet 
and imperious impatience 1 He was crossing the invisible 
frontier, on this side of which is the virgin, on the other, the 
wife. He questioned himself anxiously. A blush, as it 
were, overspread his mind. The Gwynplaine of long ago had 
been transformed, by degrees, unconsciously in a mysterious 
growth. His old modesty was becoming misty and uneasy. 
We have an ear of light, into which speaks the spirit; and an 
ear of darkness, into which speaks the instinct. Into the 
latter strange voices were making their proposals. However 
pure-minded may be the youth who dreams of love, a certain 
grossness of the flesh eventually comes between his dream 
and him. Intentions lose their transparency. The un- 
avowed desire implanted by nature enters into his con- 
science. Gwynplaine felt an indescribable yearning of the 
flesh, which abounds in all temptation, and Dea was scarcely 
flesh. In this fever, which he knew to be unhealthy, he 
transfigured Dea into a more material aspect, and tried to 
exaggerate her seraphic form into feminine loveliness. It 
is thou, O woman, that we require. 

Love comes not to permit too much of paradise. It re- 
quires the fevered skin, the troubled life, the unbound hair, 
the kiss electrical and irreparable, the clasp of desire. The 
sidereal is embarrassing, the ethereal is heavy. Too much 
of the heavenly in love is like too much fuel on a fire: the 
flame suffers from it. Gwynplaine fell into an exquisite 
nightmare; Dea to be clasped in his arms Dea clasped in 
them I He heard nature in his heart crying out for a woman. 
Like a Pygmalion in a dream modelling a Galathea out of the 
azure, in the depths of his soul he worked at the chaste 
contour of Dea a contour with too much of heaven, too 
little of Eden. For Eden is Eve, and Eve was a female, a 
carnal mother, a terrestrial nurse; the sacred womb of 
generations; the breast of unfailing milk; the rocker of the 
cradle of the newborn world, and wings are incompatible 
with the bosom of woman. Virginity is but the hope of 
maternity. Still, in Gwynplaine's dreams, Dea, until now, 
had been enthroned above flesh. Now, however, he made 
wild efforts in thought to draw her downwards by that 
thread, sex, which ties every girl to earth. Not one of those 
birds is free. Dea, like all the rest, was within this law; and 
Gwynplaine, though he scarcely acknowledged It, felt a vague 



33 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

desire that she should submit to it. This desire possessed 
him in spite of himself, and with an ever-recurring relapse. 
He pictured Dea as woman. He came to the point of 
regai ding her under a hitherto unheard-of form; as a 
creature no longer of ecstasy only, but of voluptuousness; 
as Dea, with her head resting on the pillow. He was ashamed 
of this visionary desecration. It was like an attempt at 
profanation. He resisted its assault. He turned from it, 
but it returned again. He felt as if he were committing a 
criminal assault. To him Dea was encompassed by a cloud. 
Cleaving that cloud, he shuddered, as though he were rais- 
ing her chemise. It was in April. The spine has its dreams. 
He rambled at random with the uncertain step caused by 
solitude. To have no one by is a provocative to wander. 
Whither flew his thoughts? He would not have dared to 
own it to himself. To heaven ? No. To a bed. You were 
looking down upon him, O ye stars. 

Why talk of a man in love ? Rather say a man possessed. 
To be possessed by the devil, is the exception; to be pos- 
sessed by a woman, the rule. Every man has to bear this 
alienation of himself. What a sorceress is a pretty woman I 
The true name of love is captivity. 

Man is made prisoner by the soul of a woman ; by her 
flesh as well, and sometimes even more by the flesh than by 
the soul. The soul is the true love, the flesh, the mistress. 

We slander the devil. It was not he who tempted Eve. 
It was Eve who tempted him. The woman began. Lucifer 
was passing by quietly. He perceived the woman, and 
became Satan. 

The flesh is the cover of the unknown. It is provocative 
(which is strange) by its modesty. Nothing could be more 
distracting. It is full of shame, the hussey I 

It was the terrible love of the surface which was then 
agitating Gwynplaine, and holding him in its power. Fear- 
ful the moment in which man covets the nakedness of 
woman 1 What dark things lurk beneath the fairness of 
Venus ! 

Something within him was calling Dea aloud, Dea the 
maiden, Dea the other half of a man, Dea flesh and blood, 
Dea with uncovered bosom. That cry was almost driving 
away the angel. Mysterious crisis through which all love 
must pass and in which the Ideal is in danger 1 Therein is 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 339 

the predestination of Creation. Moment of heavenly 
corruption! Gwynplaine's love of Dea was becoming 
nuptial. Virgin love is but a transition. The moment was 
come. Gwynplaine coveted the woman. 

He coveted a woman I 

Precipice of which one sees but the first gentle slope 1 

The indistinct summons of nature is inexorable. The 
whole of woman what an abyss I 

Luckily, there was no woman for Gwynplaine but Dea 
the only one he desired, the only one who could desire him. 

Gwynplaine felt that vague and mighty shudder which is 
the vital claim of infinity. Besides there was the aggrava- 
tion of the spring. He was breathing the nameless odours 
of the starry darkness. He walked forward in a wild feeling 
of delight. The wandering perfumes of the rising sap, the 
heady irradiations which float in shadow, the distant 
opening of nocturnal flowers, the complicity of little hidden 
nests, the murmurs of waters and of leaves, soft sighs rising 
from all things, the freshness, the warmth, and the mysteri- 
ous awakening of April and May, is the vast diffusion of 
sex murmuring, in whispers, their proposals of voluptuous- 
ness, till the soul stammers in answer to the giddy provoca- 
tion. The ideal no longer knows what it is saying. 

Any one observing Gwynplaine walk would have said, 
" See! a drunken man! " 

He almost staggered under the weight of his own heart, of 
spring, and of the night. 

The solitude in the bowling-green was so peaceful that at 
times he spoke aloud. The consciousness that there is no 
listener induces speech. 

He walked with slow steps, his head bent down, his hands 
behind him, the left hand in the right, the fingers open* 

Suddenly he felt something slipped between his fingers. 

He turned round quickly. 

In his hand was a paper, and in front of him a man. 

It was the man who, coming behind him with the stealth 
of a cat, had placed the paper in his fingers. 

The paper was a letter. 

The man, as he appeared pretty clearly in the starlight, 
was small, chubby-cheeked, young, sedate, and dressed in 
a scarlet livery, exposed from top to toe through the opening 
of a long gray cloak, then called a capenoche, a Spanish word 



340 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

contracted; In French it was cape-de-nutt. His head was 
covered by a crimson cap, like the skull-cap of a cardinal, on 
which servitude was indicated by a strip of lace. On this 
cap was a plume of tisserin feathers. He stood motionless 
before Gwynplaine, like a dark outline in a dream. 

Gwynplaine recognized the duchess's page. 

Before Gwynplaine could utter an exclamation of surprise, 
he heard the thin voice of the page, at once childlike and 
feminine in its tone, saying to him, 

" At this hour to-morrow, be at the corner of London 
Bridge. I will be there to conduct you " 

" Whither? " demanded Gwynplaine. 

" Where you are expected." 

Gwynplaine dropped his eyes on the letter, which he was 
holding mechanically in his hand. 

When he looked up the page was no longer with him. 

He perceived a vague form lessening rapidly in the distance. 
It was the little valet. He turned the corner of the street, 
and solitude reigned again. 

Gwynplaine saw the page vanish, then looked at the letter. 
There are moments in our lives when what happens seems 
not to happen. Stupor keeps us for a moment at a distance 
from the fact. 

Gwynplaine raised the letter to his eyes, as if to read it, 
but soon perceived that he could not do so for two reasons 
first, because he had not broken the seal; and, secondly, 
because it was too dark. 

It was some minutes before he remembered that there was 
a lamp at the inn. He took a few steps sideways, as if he 
knew not whither he was going. 

A somnambulist, to whom a phantom had given a letter, 
might walk as he did. 

At last he made up his mind. He ran rather than walked 
towards the inn, stood in the light which broke through the 
half-open door, and by it again examined the closed letter. 
There was no design on the seal, and on the envelope was 
written, " To Gwynplaine" He broke the seal, tore the 
envelope, unfolded the letter, put it directly under the light, 
and read as follows: 

" You are hideous; I am beautiful. You are a player; I 
am a duchess. I am the highest; you are the lowest. I 
desire you 1 I love you 1 Come 1 " 



BOOK THE FOURTH. 
THE CELL OF TORTURL. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE TEMPTATION OF ST. GWYNPLAINE. 

ONE jet of flame hardly makes a prick in the darkness : 
another sets fire to a volcano. 

Some sparks are gigantic. 

Gwynplaine read the letter, then he read it over again. 
Yes, the words were there, " I love you 1 " 

Terrors chased each other through his mind. 

The first was, that he believed himself to be mad. 

He was mad; that was certain. He had just seen what had 
no existence. The twilight spectres were making game of 
him, poor wretch I The little man in scarlet was the will-o'- 
the-wisp of a dream. Sometimes, at night, nothings con- 
densed into flame come and laugh at us. Having had his 
laugh out, the visionary being had disappeared, and left 
Gwynplaine behind him, mad. 

Such are the freaks of darkness. 

The second terror was, to find out that he was in his right 
senses. 

A vision? Certainly not. How could that be? Had he 
not a letter In his hand ? Did he not see an envelope, a seal, 
paper, and writing? Did he not know from whom that 
came ? It was all clear enough. Some one took a pen and 
ink, and wrote. Some one lighted a taper, and sealed it with 
wax. Was not his name written on the letter " To Gwyn- 
blaine t " The paper was scented. All was clear. 



342 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Gwynplaine knew the little man. The dwarf was a page. 
The gleam was a livery. The page had given him a rendez- 
vous for the same hour on the morrow, at the corner of 
London Bridge. 

Was London Bridge an illusion? 

No, no. All was clear. There was no delirium. All was 
reality. Gwynplaine was perfectly clear in his intellect. It 
was not a phantasmagoria, suddenly dissolving above his 
head, and fading into nothingness. It was something which 
had really happened to him. No, Gwynplaine was not mad, 
nor was he dreaming. Again he read the letter; 

Well, yes I But then? 

That then was terror-striking. 

There was a woman who desired himl If so, let no one 
ever again pronounce the word incredible 1 A woman desire 
him 1 A woman who had seen his face 1 A woman who was 
not blind 1 And who was this woman ? An ugly one ? No ; 
a beauty. A gipsy? No; a duchess 1 

What was it all about, and what could it all mean? 
What peril in such a triumph 1 And how was he to help 
plunging into it headlong ? 

Whatl that woman 1 The siren, the apparition, the lady 
in the visionary box, the light in the darkness 1 It was she ! 
Yes; it was shel 

The crackling of the fire burst out in every part of his 
frame. It was the strange, unknown lady, she who had 
previously so troubled his thoughts ; and his first tumultuous 
feelings about this woman returned, heated by the evil fire. 
Forgetf illness is nothing but a palimpsest : an incident 
happens unexpectedly, and all that was effaced revives in 
the blanks of wondering memory. 

Gwynplaine thought that he had dismissed that image 
from his remembrance, and he found that it was still there; 
and she had put her mark in his brain, unconsciously guilty 
of a dream. Without his suspecting it, the lines of the en- 
graving had been bitten deep by reverie. And now a certain 
amount of evil had been done, and this train of thought, 
thenceforth, perhaps, irreparable, he took up again eagerly. 
What! she desired him! Whatl the princess descend from 
her throne, the idol from its shrine, the statue from its 
pedestal, the phantom from its cloud! What! from the 
depths of the impossible had this chimera come! This 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 343 

deity of the sky 1 This Irradiation 1 This nereid all glisten- 
ing with jewels I This proud and unattainable beauty, from 
the height of her radiant throne, was bending down to Gwyn- 
plaine I What 1 had she drawn up her chariot of the dawn, 
with its yoke of turtle-doves and dragons, before Gwynplaine, 
and said to him, "Cornel" What I this terrible glory of 
being the object of such abasement from the empyrean, for 
Gwynplaine I This woman, if he could give that name to a 
form so starlike and majestic, this woman proposed herself, 
gave herself, delivered herself up to him I Wonder of 
wonders ! A goddess prostituting herself for him 1 The 
arms of a courtesan opening in a cloud to clasp him to the 
bosom of a goddess, and that without degradation! Such 
majestic creatures cannot be sullied. The gods bathe them- 
selves pure in light; and this goddess who came to him knew 
what she was doing. She was not ignorant of the incarnate 
hideousness of Gwynplaine. She had seen the mask which 
was his face; and that mask had not caused her to draw 
back. Gwynplaine was loved notwithstanding it! 

Here was a thing surpassing all the extravagance of 
dreams. He was loved in consequence of his mask. Far 
from repulsing the goddess, the mask attracted her. Gwyn- 
plaine was not only loved; he was desired. He was more 
than accepted; he was chosen. He, chosen! 

What ! there, where this woman dwelt, in the regal region 
of irresponsible splendour, and in the power of full, free will ; 
where there were princes, and she could take a prince ; nobles, 
and she could take a noble ; where there were men handsome, 
charming, magnificent, and she could take an Adonis : whom 
did she take ? Gnafron I She could choose from the midst 
of meteors and thunders, the mighty six-winged seraphim, 
and she chose the larva crawling in the slime. On one side 
were highnesses and peers, all grandeur, all opulence, all 
glory; on the other, a mountebank. The mountebank car- 
ried it I What kind of scales could there be in the heart of 
this woman? By what measure did she weigh her love? 
She took off her ducal coronet, and flung it on the platform 
of a clown ! She took from her brow the Olympian aureola, 
and placed it on the bristly head of a gnome I The world had 
turned topsy-turvy. The insects swarmed on high, the stars 
were scattered below, whilst the wonder-stricken Gwynplaine, 
overwhelmed by a falling rain of light, and lying in the dust, 



344 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

was enshrined in a glory. One all-powerful, revolting 
against beauty and splendour, gave herself to the damned 
of night? preferred Gwynplaine to Antinous; excited by 
curiosity, she entered the shadows, and descending within 
them, and from this abdication of goddess-ship was rising, 
crowned and prodigious, the royalty of the wretched- ! * You 
are hideous. I love you/ 1 These words touched Gwynplaine 
in the ugly spot of pride. Pride is the heel in which all 
heroes are vulnerable. Gwynplaine was nattered in his 
vanity as a monster. He was loved for his deformity. He, 
too, was the exception, as much and perhaps more than the 
Jupiters and the Apollos. He felt superhuman, and so much 
a monster as to be a god. Fearful bewilderment 1 

Now, who was this woman? What did he know about 
her? Everything and nothing, ghe was a duchess, that he 
knew; he knew, also, that she was beautiful an4 rich; that 
she had liveries, lackeys, pages, and footmen running with 
torches by the side of her coroneted carriage. He knew that 
she was in love with him ; at least she said so. Of everything 
else he was ignorant. He knew her title, but not her name. 
He knew her thought ; he knew not her life. Was she married, 
widow, maiden ? Was she free ? Of what family was she ? 
Were there snares, traps, dangers about her ? Of the gallantry 
existing on the idle heights of society; the caves on those 
summits, in which savage charmers dream amid the scattered 
skeletons of the loves which they have already preyed on; 
of the extent of tragic cynicism to which the experiments of 
a woman may attain who believes herself to be beyond the 
reach of man of things such as these Gwynplaine had no 
idea. Nor had he even in his mind materials out of which 
to build up a conjecture, information concerning such things 
being very scanty in the social depths in which he lived. 
Still he detected a shadow; he felt that a mist hung over all 
this brightness. Did he understand it? No. Could he 
guess at it? Still less. What was there behind that letter ? 
One pair of folding doors opening before him, another closing 
on him, and causing him a vague anxiety. On the one side 
an avowal ; on the other an enigma avowal and enigma, 
which, like two mouths, one tempting, the other threatening, 
pronounce the same word, Dare 1 

Never had perfidious chance taken its measures better, nor 
timed more fitly the moment of temptation. Gwynplaine, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 345 

stirred by spring, and by the sap rising in all things, was 
prompt to dream the dream of the flesh. The old man who 
is not to be stamped out, and over whom none of us can 
triumph, was awaking in that backward youth, still a boy at 
twenty-four. 

It was just then, at the most stormy moment of the crisis, 
that the offer was made him, and the naked bosom of the 
Sphinx appeared before his dazzled eyes. Youth is an 
inclined plane. Gwynplaine was stooping, and something 
pushed him forward. What? the season, and the night. 
Who ? the woman. 

Were there no month of April, man would be a great deal 
more virtuous. The budding plants are a set of accomplices 1 
Love is the thief, Spring the receiver. 

Gwynplaine was shaken. 

There is a kind of smoke of evil, preceding sin, in which 
the conscience cannot breathe. The obscure nausea of hell 
comes over virtue in temptation. The yawning abyss dis- 
charges an exhalation which warns the strong and turns 
the weak giddy, Gwynplaine was suffering its mysterious 
attack. 

Dilemmas, transient and at the same time stubborn, were 
floating before him. Sin, presenting itself obstinately again 
and again to his mind, was taking form, The morrow, 
midnight? London Bridge, the page? Should he go? 
" Yes," cried the flesh; "No," cried the soul. 

Nevertheless, we must remark that, strange as it may 
appear at first sight, he never once put himself the question, 
" Should he go ? " quite distinctly. Reprehensible actions 
are like over-strong brandies you cannot swallow them at 
a draught You put down your glass ; you will see to it 
presently; there is a strange taste even about that first drop. 
One thing is certain ; he felt something behind him pushing 
him forward towards the unknown. And he trembled. 
He could catch a glimpse of a crumbling precipice, and 
he drew back, stricken by the terror encircling him. 
He closed his eyes. He tried hard to deny to himself that 
the adventure had ever occurred, and to persuade himself 
into doubting his reason. This was evidently his best plan; 
the wisest thing he eculd dc was to believe himself mad. 

Fatal fever. Every man, surprised by the unexpected, 
has at times fait the throb of such tragic pulsations. The 



346 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

observer ever listens with anxiety to the echoes resounding 
from the dull strokes of the battering-ram of destiny striking 
against a conscience. 

Alas I Gwynplaine put himself questions. Where duty 
is clear, to put oneself questions is to suffer defeat. 

There are invasions which the mind may have to suffer. 
There are the Vandals of the soul evil thoughts coming to 
devastate our virtue. A thousand contrary ideas rushed 
into Gwynplaine's brain, now following each other singly, 
now crowding together. Then silence reigned again, and 
he would lean his head on his hands, in a kind "of mournful 
attention, as of one who contemplates a landscape by night. 

Suddenly he felt that he was no longer thinking. His 
reverie had reached that point of utter darkness in which 
all things disappear. 

He remembered, too, that he had not entered the inn. It 
might be about two o'clock in the morning. 

He placed the letter which the page had brought him in 
his side-pocket; but perceiving that it was next his heart, he 
drew it out again, crumpled it up, and placed it in a pocket 
of his hose. He then directed his steps towards the inn, 
which he entered stealthily, and without awaking little 
Govicum, who, while waiting up for him, had fallen asleep 
on the table, with his arms for a pillow. He closed the door, 
lighted a candle at the lamp, fastened the bolt, turned the 
key in the lock, taking, mechanically, all the precautions 
usual to a man returning home late, ascended the staircase of 
the Green Box, slipped into the old hovel which he used as a 
bedroom, looked at Ursus who was asleep, blew out his candle, 
and did not go to bed. 

Thus an hour passed away. Weary, at length, and fancy- 
ing that bed and sleep were one, he laid his head upon the 
pillow without undressing, making darkness the concession 
of closing his eyes. But the storm of emotions which assailed 
him had not waned for an instant. Sleeplessness is a cruelty 
which night inflicts on man. Gwynplaine suffered greatly. 
For the first time in his life, he was not pleased with himself. 
Ache of heart mingled with gratified vanity. What was he 
to do ? Day broke at last ; he heard Ursus get up, but did not 
raise his eyelids. No truce for him, however. The letter 
was ever in his mind. Every word of it came back to him in 
a kind of chaos. In certain violent storms within the soul 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 347 

thought becomes a liquid. It Is convulsed, it heaves, and 
something rises from it, like the dull roaring of the waves. 
Flood and flow, sudden shocks and whirls, the hesitation of 
the wave before the rock; hail and rain clouds with the light 
shining through their breaks ; the petty flights of useless foam ; 
wild swell broken in an instant; great efforts lost; wreck 
appearing all around; darkness and universal dispersion 
as these things are of the sea, so are they of man. Gwyn- 
plaine was a prey to such a storm. 

At the acme of his agony, his eyes still closed, he heard 
an exquisite voice saying, " Are you asleep, Gwynplaine? " 
He opened his eyes with a start, and sat up. Dea was 
standing in the half -open doorway. Her ineffable smile was 
in her eyes and on her lips. She was standing there, charm- 
ing in the unconscious serenity of her radiance. Then came, 
as it were, a sacred moment. Gwynplaine watched her, 
startled, dazzled, awakened. Awakened from what? from 
sleep? no, from sleeplessness. It was she, it was Dea; and 
suddenly he felt in the depths of his being the indescribable 
wane of the storm and the sublime descent of good over evil ; 
the miracle of the look from on high was accomplished; the 
blind girl, the sweet light-bearer, with no effort beyond her 
mere presence, dissipated all the darkness within him; the 
curtain of cloud was dispersed from the soul as if drawn by 
an invisible hand, and a sky of azure, as though by celestial 
enchantment, again spread over Gwynplaine's conscience. 
In a moment he became by the virtue of that angel, the great 
and good Gwynplaine, the innocent man. Such mysterious 
confrontations occur to the soul as they do to creation. 
Both were silent she, who was the light; he, who was the 
abyss; she, who was divine; he, who was appeased; and 
over Gwynplaine's stormy heart Dea shone with the inde- 
scribable effect of a star shining on the sea. 

CHAPTER II. 

FROM GAY TO GRAVE. 

How simple is a miracle I It was breakfast hour in the 
Green Box, and Dea had merely come to see why Gwynplaine 
had not joined their little breakfast table. 

" It is you I " exclaimed Gwynplaine; and he had said 
everything. There was no other horizon, no vision for him 



34 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

now but the heavens where Dea was. His mind was appeased 
appeased in such a manner as he alone can understand 
who has seen the smile spread swiftly over the sea when the 
hurricane had passed away. Over nothing does the calm 
come so quickly as over the whirlpool. This results from 
its power of absorption. And so it is with the human heart. 
Not always, however. 

Dea had but to show herself, and all the light that was in 
Gwynplaine left him and went to her, and behind the dazzled 
Gwynplaine there was but a flight of phantoms. What a 
peacemaker is adoration I A few minutes afterwards they 
were sitting opposite each other, Ursus between them, Homo 
at their feet. The teapot, hung over a little lamp, was on 
the table. Fibi and Vinos were outside, waiting. 

They breakfasted as they supped, in the centre compart- 
ment. From the position in which the narrow table was 
placed, Dea's back was turned towards the aperture in the par- 
tition which was opposite the entrance door of the Green Box. 
Their knees were touching. Gwynplaine was pouring out 
tea for Dea. Dea blew gracefully on her cup. Suddenly 
she sneezed. Just at that moment a thin smoke rose above 
the flame of the lamp, and something like a piece of paper 
fell into ashes. It was the smoke which had caused Dea to 
sneeze. 

" What was that? " she asked. 

" Nothing," replied Gwynplaine. 

And he smiled. He had just burnt the duchess's letter. 

The conscience of the man who loves is the guardian angel 
of the woman whom he loves. 

Unburdened of the letter, his relief was wondrous, and 
Gwynplaine felt his integrity as the eagle feels its wings. 

It seemed to him as if his temptation had evaporated with 
the smoke, and as if the duchess had crumbled into ashes with 
the paper. 

Taking up their cups at random, and drinking one after the 
other from the same one, they talked. A babble of lovers, a 
chattering of sparrows! Child's talk, worthy of Mother 
Goose or of Homer I With two loving hearts, go no further 
lor poetry; with two kisses for dialogue, go no further for 
music. 

" Do you know something? " 

" No." 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 349 

" Gwynplaine, I dreamt that we were animals, and had 
wings." 

" Wings; that means birds," murmured Gwynplaine. 

" Fools! it means angels," growled Ursus. 

And their talk went on. 

"If you did not exist, Gwynplaine? " 

"What then?" 

" It could only be because there was no God." 

" The tea is too hot; you will burn yourself, Dea." 

" Blow on my cup." 

" How beautiful you are this morning 1 " 

" Do you know that I have a great many things to say 
to you? " 

" Say them." 

" I love you." 

" I adore you." 

And Ursus said aside, " By heaven, they are polite I " 

Exquisite to lovers are their moments of silence! In 
them they gather, as it were, masses of love, which afterwards 
explode into sweet fragments. 

" Do you know ! In the evening, when we are playing our 
parts, at the moment when my hand touches your forehead 
oh, what a noble head is yours, Gwynplaine ! at the moment 
when I feel your hair under my fingers, I shiver ; a heavenly 
joy comes over me, and I say to myself, In all this world of 
darkness which encompasses me, in this universe of solitude, 
in this great obscurity of ruin in which I am, in this quaking 
fear of myself and of everything, I have one prop ; and he is 
there. It is he it is you." 

" Oh I you love me," said Gwynplaine. " I, too, have but 
you on earth. You are all in all to me. Dea, what would 
you have me do? What do you desire? What do you 
want? " 

Dea answered, 

" I do not know. I am happy." 

" Oh," replied Gwynplaine, " we are happy." 

Ursus raised his voice severely, 

" Oh, you are happy, are you? That's a crime. I have 
warned you already. You are happy 1 Then take care you 
aren't seen. Take up as little room as you can. Happiness 
ought to stufi itself into a hole. Make yourselves still less 
than you are, if that can be. God measures the greatness of 



35 o THE LAUGHING MAN. 

happiness by the littleness of the happy. The happy should 
conceal themselves like malefactors. Oh, only shine out like 
the wretched glowworms that you are, and you'll be trodden 
on; and quite right tool What do you mean by all that 
love-making nonsense? I'm no duenna, whose business it 
is to watch lovers billing and cooing. I'm tired of it all, I 
tell you; and you may both go to the devil." 

And feeling that his harsh tones were melting into tender- 
ness, he drowned his emotion in a loud grumble. 
" Father," said Dea, " how roughly you scold I " 
" It's because I don't like to see people too happy." 
Here Homo re-echoed Ursus. His growl was heard from 
beneath the lovers' feet 

Ursus stooped down, and placed his hand on Homo's head. 
" That's right; you're in bad humour, too. You growl. 
The bristles are all on end on your wolf's pate. You don't 
like all this love-making. That's because you are wise. 
Hold your tongue, all the same. You have had your say and 
given your opinion ; be it so. Now be silent." 

The wolf growled again. Ursus looked under the table 
at him. 

"Be still, Homol Come, don't dwell on it, you phi- 
losopher 1 " 

But the wolf sat up, and looked towards the door, showing 
his teeth. 

" What's wrong with you now? " said Ursus. And he 
caught hold of Homo by the skin of the neck. 

Heedless of the wolf's growls, and wholly wrapped up in 
her own thoughts and in the sound of Gwynplaine's voice, 
which left its after-taste within her, Dea was silent, and 
absorbed by that kind of esctasy peculiar to the blind, 
which seems at times to give them a song to listen to in their 
souls, and to make up to them for the light which they lack 
by some strain of ideal music. Blindness is a cavern, to 
which reaches the deep harmony of the Eternal. 

While Ursus, addressing Homo, was looking down, Gwyn- 
plaine had raised his eyes. He was about to drink a cup of 
tea, but did not drink it. He placed it on the table with the 
slow movement of a spring drawn back; his fingers remained 
open, his eyes fixed. He scarcely breathed. 

A man was standing In the doorway, behind Dea. He was 
clad ID black, with a hood. He wore a wig down to his eye- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 351 

brows, and held In his hand an Iron staff with a crown at each 
end. His staff was short and massive. He was like Medusa 
thrusting her head between two branches in Paradise. 

Ursus, who had heard some one enter and raised his head 
without loosing his hold of Homo, recognized the terrible 
personage. He shook from head to foot, and whispered to 
Gwynplaine, 

" It's the wapentake." 

Gwynplaine recollected. An exclamation of surprise was 
about to escape him, but he restrained it. The iron staff, 
with the crown at each end, was called the iron weapon. It 
was from this iron weapon, upon which the city officers of 
justice took the oath when they entered on their duties, that 
the old wapentakes cf the English police derived their 
qualification. 

Behind the man in the wig, the frightened landlord could 
just be perceived in the shadow. 

Without saying a word, a personification of the Muta 
Therms of the old charters, the man stretched his right arm 
over the radiant Dea, and touched Gwynplaine on the 
shoulder with the iron staff, at the same time pointing with 
hia left thumb to the door of the Green Box behind him. 
These gestures, all the more Imperious for their silence, 
meant, " Follow me." 

Pro signo exeundi, surswn trahe, says the old Norman 
record. 

He who was touched by the iron weapon had no right but 
the right of obedience. To that mute order there was no 
reply. The harsh penalties of the English law threatened 
the refractory. Gwynplaine felt a shock under the rigid 
touch of the law; then he sat as though petrified. 

If, instead of having been merely grazed on the shoulder, 
he had been struck a violent blow on the head with the iron 
staff, he^could not have been more stunned. He knew that 
the police-officer summoned him to follow; but why? That 
he could not understand. 

On his part Ursus, too, was thrown into the most painful 
agitation, but he saw through matters pretty distinctly. 
His thoughts ran on the jugglers and preachers, his com- 
petitors, on informations laid against the Green Box, on that 
delinquent the wolf, on his own affair with the three Bishops- 
commissioners, and who knows? perhaps but that 



352 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

would be too fearful Gwynplaine's unbecoming and fac- 
tious speeches touching the royal authority. 

He trembled violently. 

Dea was smiling. 

Neither Gwynplaine nor Ursus pronounced a word. They 
had both the same thought not to frighten Dea. It may 
have struck the wolf as well, for he ceased growling. True, 
Ursus did not loose him. 

Homo, however, was a prudent wolf when occasion 
required. Who is there who has not remarked a, kind of in- 
telligent anxiety in animals ? It may be that to the extent 
to which a wolf can understand mankind he felt that he was 
an outlaw. 

Gwynplaine rose. 

Resistance was impracticable, as Gwynplaine knew. He 
remembered Ursus's words, and there was no question 
possible. He remained standing in front of the wapentake. 
The latter raised the iron staff from Gwynplaine's shoulder, 
and drawing it back, held it out straight in an attitude of 
command a constable's attitude which was well understood 
in those days by the whole people, and which expressed the 
following order: " Let this man, and no other, follow me. 
The rest remain where they are. Silence I " 

No curious followers were allowed. In all times the police 
have had a taste for arrests of the kind. This description 
of seizure was termed sequestration of the person. 

The wapentake turned round in one motion, like a piece 
of mechanism revolving on its own pivot, and with grave and 
magisterial step proceeded towards the door of the Green Box. 
Gwynplaine looked at Ursus. The latter went through a 
pantomime composed as follows: he shrugged his shoulders, 
placed both elbows close to his hips, with his hands out, and 
knitted his brows into chevrons all which signifies, " We 
must submit to the unknown." 

Gwynplaine looked at Dea. She was in her dream. She 
was still smiling. He put the ends of his fingers to his lips, 
and sent her an unutterable kiss. 

Ursus, relieved of some portion of his terror now that the 
wapentake's back was turned, seized the moment to whisper 
in Gwynplaine's ear, 

" On your life, do not speak until you are questioned." 

Gwynplaine, with the same care to make no noise as he 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 353 

would have taken in a sickroom, took his hat and cloak from 
the hook on the partition, wrapped himself up to the eyes in 
the cloak, and pushed his hat over his forehead. Not having 
been to bed, he had his working clothes still on, and his 
leather esclavin round his neck. Once more he looked at 
Dea. Having reached the door, the wapentake raised his 
staff and began to descend the steps; then Gwynplaine set 
out as if the man was dragging him by an invisible chain. 
Ursus watched Gwynplaine leave the Green Box. At that 
moment the wolf gave a low growl ; but Ursus silenced him, 
and whispered, " He is coming back." 

In the yard, Master Nicless was stemming, with servile and 
imperious gestures, the cries of terror raised by Vinos and 
Fibi, as in great distress they watched Gwynplaine led away, 
and the mourning-coloured garb and the iron staff of the 
wapentake. 

The two girls were like petrifactions: they were in the 
attitude of stalactites. Govicum, stunned, was looking open- 
mouthed out of a window. 

The wapentake preceded Gwynplaine by a few steps, never 
turning round or looking at him, in that icy ease which is 
given by the knowledge that one is the law. 

In death-like silence they both crossed the yard, went 
through the dark taproom, and reached the* treet. A few 
passers-by had collected about the inn door, and the justice 
of the quorum was there at the head of a squad of police. 
The idlers, stupefied, and without breathing a word, opened 
out and stood aside, with English discipline, at the sight of 
the constable's staff. The wapentake moved off in the 
direction of the narrow street then called the Little Strand, 
running by the Thames; and Gwynplaine, with the justice 
of the quorum's men in ranks on each side, like a double 
hedge, pale, without a motion except that of his steps, 
wrapped in his cloak as in a shroud, was leaving the inn 
farther and farther behind him as he followed the silent man, 
like a statue following a spectre. 

CHAPTER III. 

LEX, REX, FEX. 

UNEXPLAINED arrest, which would greatly astonish an 
Englishman nowadays, was then a very usual proceeding 



354 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

of the police. Recourse was had to it, notwithstanding the 
Habeas Corpus Act, up to George II. 's time, especially in 
such delicate cases as were provided for by lettres de cachet in 
France; and one of the accusations against which Walpole 
had to defend himself was that he had caused or allowed 
Neuhoff to be arrested in that manner. The accusation was 
probably without foundation, for Neuhoff, King of Corsica, 
was put in prison by his creditors. 

These silent captures of the person, very usual with the 
Holy Vaehme in Germany, were admitted by German custom, 
which rules one half of the old English laws, and recom- 
mended in certain cases by Norman custom, which rules the 
other half. Justinian's chief of the palace police was called 
" silentiarius imperialist The English magistrates who 
practised the captures in question relied upon numerous 
Norman texts: -Canes latrant, sergentes silent. Sergenter 
agere, id est tacere. They quoted Lundulphus Sagax, para- 
graph 16: Facit imperator silentium. They quoted the 
charter of King Philip in 1307: Multos tenebimus bastonerios 
qui, obmutescentes, sergentare valeant. They quoted the 
statutes of Henry I. of England, cap. 53: Surge signo jussus. 
Taciturnior esto. Hoc cst esse in captione regis. They took 
advantage especially of the following description, held to 




justicier vertueusement a 1'espee tous ceux qui 
suient malveses compagnies, gens diffamez d'aucuns crimes, et 
gens fuites et forbannis . . . . et les doivent si vigoureuse- 
ment et discretement apprehender, que la bonne gent qui 
sont paisibles soient gardez paisiblement et que les malf eteurs 
soient espoantes." To be thus arrested was to be seized " a 
le glaive de 1'espee." (Vetus Consuetude Normannice, MS. 
part i, sect, i, ch. u.) The jurisconsults referred besides " in 
Charta Ludovici Hutum pro Normannis, chapter Servientes 
spathce." Servientes spatha, in the gradual approach of base 
Latin to our idioms, became sergentes spades. 

These silent arrests were the contrary of the Clameur de 
Haro, and gave warning that it was advisable to hold one's 
tongue until such time as light should be thrown upon certain 
matters still in the dark. They signified questions reserved, 
and showed in the operation of the -police a certain amount 
of raison d'etat. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 355 

The legal term " private " was applied to arrests of this 
description. It was thus that Edward III., according to 
some chroniclers, caused Mortimer to be seized in the bed of 
his mother, Isabella of France. This, again, we may take 
leave to doubt; for Mortimer sustained a siege in his town 
before being captured. 

Warwick, the king-maker, delighted in practising this 
mode of " attaching people." Cromwell made use of it, 
especially in Connaught; and it was with this precaution of 
silence that Trailie Arcklo, a relation of the Earl of Ormond, 
was arrested at Kilmacaugh. 

These captures of the body by the mere motion of justice 
represented rather the mandat de comparution than the 
warrant of arrest. Sometimes they were but processes of 
inquiry, and even argued, by the silence imposed upon all, 
a certain consideration for the person seized. For the mass 
of the people, little versed as they were in the estimate of 
such shades of difference, they had peculiar terrors. 

It must not be forgotten that in 1705, and even much later, 
England was far from being what she is to-day. The general 
features of its constitution were confused and at times very 
oppressive. Daniel Defoe, who had himself had a taste of 
the pillory, characterizes the social order of England, some- 
where in his writings, as the " iron hands of the law." There 
was not only the law ; there was its arbitrary administration. 
We have but to recall Steele, ejected from Parliament; Locke, 
driven from his chair; Hobbes and Gibbon, compelled to 
flight; Charles Churchill, Hume, and Priestley, persecuted; 
John Wilkes sent to the Tower. The task would be a long 
one, were we to count over the victims of the statute against 
seditious libel. The Inquisition had, to some extent, spread 
its arrangements throughout Europe, and its police practice 
was taken as a guide. A monstrous attempt against all 
rights was possible in England. We have only to recall the 
Gazetier Cuirassk. In the midst of the eighteenth century, 
Louis XV. had writers, whose works displeased him, arrested 
in Piccadilly. It is true that George II. laid his hands on 
the Pretender in France, right in the middle of the hall at 
the opera. Those were two long arms that of the King of 
France reaching London; that of the King of England, Paris I 
Such was the liberty of the period. 



35 6 THE LAUGHING MAN 

CHAPTER IV. 

URSUS SPIES THE POLICE. 

As we have already said, according to the very severe laws 
of the police of those days, the summons to follow the 
wapentake, addressed to an individual, implied to all other 
persons present the command not to stir. 

Some curious idlers, however, were stubborn, and followed 
from afar off the cortege which had taken Gwynplaine into 
custody. 

Ursus was of them. He had been as nearly petrified as any 
one has a right to be. But Ursus, so often assailed by the 
surprises incident to a wandering life, and by the malice of 
chance, was, like a ship-of-war, prepared for action, and could 
call to the post of danger the whole crew that is to say, the 
aid of all his intelligence. 

He flung off his stupor and began to think. He strove not 
to give way to emotion, but to stand face to face with cir- 
cumstances. 

To look fortune in the face is the duty of every one not an 
idiot; to seek not to understand, but to act. 

Presently he asked himself, What could he do ? 

Gwynplaine being taken, Ursus was placed between two 
terrors a fear for Gwynplaine, which instigated him to 
follow; and a fear for himself, which urged him to remain 
where he was. 

Ursus had the intrepidity of a fly and the impassibility of 
a sensitive plant. His agitation was not to be described. 
However, he took his resolution heroically, and decided to 
brave the law, and to follow the wapentake, so anxious was 
he concerning the fate of Gwynplaine. 

His terror must have been great to prompt so much 
courage. 

To what valiant acts will not fear drive a hare I 

The chamois in despair jumps a precipice. To be terrified 
into imprudence is one of the forms of fear. 

Gwynplaine had been carried off rather than arrested. 
The operation of the police had been executed so rapidly that 
the Fair field, generally little frequented at that hour of the 
morning, had scarcely taken cognizance of the circumstance. 

Scarcely any one in the caravans had any idea that the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 357 

wapentake had come to take Gwynplaine. Hence the 
smallness of the crowd. 

Gwynplaine, thanks to his cloak and his hat, which 
nearly concealed his face, could not be recognized by the 
passers-by* 

Before he went out to follow Gwynplaine, Ursus took a 
precaution. He spoke to Master Nicless, to the boy Govicum, 
and to Fibi and Vinos, and insisted on their keeping ab- 
solute silence before Dea, who was ignorant of everything. 
That they should not utter a syllable that could make her 
suspect what had occurred ; that they should make her under- 
stand that the cares of the management of the Green Box 
necessitated the absence of Gwynplaine and Ursus; that, 
besides, it would soon be the time of her daily siesta, and that 
before she awoke he and Gwynplaine would have returned; 
that all that had taken place had arisen from a mistake ; that 
it would be very easy for Gwynplaine and himself to clear 
themselves before the magistrate and police; that a touch 
of the finger would put the matter straight, after which they 
should both return ; above all, that no one should say a word 
on the subject to Dea. Having given these directions he 
departed. 

Ursus was able to follow Gwynplaine without being re- 
marked. Though he kept at the greatest possible distance, 
he so managed as not to lose sight of him. Boldness in 
ambuscade is the bravery of the timid. 

After all, notwithstanding the solemnity of the attendant 
circumstances, Gwynplaine might have been summoned 
before the magistrate for some unimportant infraction of 
the law. 

Ursus assured himself that the question would be decided 
at once. 

The solution of the mystery would be made under his very 
eyes by the direction taken by the cortege which took Gwyn- 
plaine from Tarrinzeau Field when it reached the entrance 
of the lanes of the Little Strand. 

If it turned to the left, it would conduct Gwynplaine to 
the justice hall in Southwark. In that case there would be 
little to fear, some trifling municipal offence, an admonition 
from the magistrate, two or three shillings to pay, and Gwyn- 
plaine would be set at liberty, and the representation of 
" Chaos Vanquished " would take place in the evening as 



358 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

usual. In that case no one would know that anything un- 
usual had happened. 

If the cortege turned to the right, matters would be serious. 

There were frightful places in that direction. 

When the wapentake, leading the file of soldiers between 
whom Gwynplaine walked, arrived at the small streets, Ursus 
watched them breathlessly. There are moments in which 
a man's whole being passes into his eyes. 

Which way were they going to turn ? 

They turned to the right. 

Ursus, staggering with terror, leant against a wall that he 
might not fall. 

There is no hypocrisy so great as the words which we say 
to ourselves, " I wish to know the worst/ " At heart we do 
not wish it at all. We have a dreadful fear of knowing it. 
Agony is mingled with a dim effort not to see the end. We 
do not own it to ourselves, but we would draw back if we 
dared ; and when we have advanced, we reproach ourselves 
for having done so. 

Thus did Ursus. He shuddered as he thought, 

" Here are things going wrong. I should have found it 
out soon enough. What business had I to follow Gwyn- 
plaine? " 

Having made this reflection, man being but self-contra- 
diction, he increased his pace, and, mastering his anxiety, 
hastened to get nearer the cortege, so as not to break, in the 
maze of small streets, the thread between Gwynplaine and 
himself. 

The cortege of police could not move quickly, on account 
of its solemnity. 

The wapentake led it. 

The justice of the quorum closed it. 

This order compelled a certain deliberation of movement. 

All the majesty possible in an official shone in the justice 
of the quorum. His costume held a middle place between 
the splendid robe of a doctor of music of Oxford and the 
sober black habiliments of a doctor of divinity of Cambridge. 
He wore the dress of a gentleman under a long godebert, 
which is a mantle trimmed with the fur of the Norwegian hare. 
He was half Gothic and half modern, wearing a wig like 
Lamoignon, and sleeves like Tristan 1'Hermite. His great 
round eye watched Gwynplaine with the fixedness of an owl's. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 359 

He walked with a cadence. Never did honest man look 
fiercer. 

Ursus, for a moment thrown out of his way in the tangled 
skein of streets, overtook, close to Saint Mary Overy, the 
cortege, which had fortunately been retarded in the church- 
1 yard by a fight between children and dogs a common inci- 
dent in the streets in those days. " Dogs and boys," say the 
old registers of police, placing the dogs before the boys. 

A man being taken before a magistrate by the police was, 
after all, an everyday affair, and each one having his own 
business to attend to, the few who had followed soon dis- 
persed. There remained but Ursus on the track of Gwynplaine. 

They passed before two chapels opposite to each other, 
belonging the one to the Recreative Religionists, the other 
to the Hallelujah League sects which flourished then, and 
which exist to the present day. 

Then the cortege wound from street to street, making a 
zigzag, choosing by preference lanes not yet built on, roads 
where the grass grew, and deserted alleys. 

At length it stopped. 

It was in a little lane with no houses except two or three 
hovels. This narrow alley was composed of two walls one 
on the left, low; the other on the right, high. The high waU 
was black, and built in the Saxon style with narrow holes, 
scorpions, and large square gratings over narrow loopholes. 
There was no window on it, but here and there slits, old em- 
brasures of pierriers and archegayes. At the foot of this 
high wall was seen, like the hole at the bottom of a rat-trap, 
a little wicket gate, very elliptical in its arch. 

This small door, encased in a full, heavy girding of stone, 
had a grated peephole, a heavy knocker, a large lock, hinges 
thick and knotted, a bristling of nails, an armour of plates, 
and hinges, so that altogether it was more of iron than of 
wood. 

There was no one in the lane no shops, no passengers; 
but in It there was heard a continual noise, as if the lane ran 
parallel to a torrent. There was a tumult of voices and of 
carriages. It seemed as if on the other side of the black 
edifice there must be a great street, doubtless the principal 
street of Southwark, one end of which ran into the Canter- 
bury road, and the other on to London Bridge. 

All the length of the lane, except the cortege which sur- 



360 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

rounded Gwynplaine, a watcher would have seen no other 
human face than the pale profile of Ursus, hazarding a half 
advance from the shadow of the corner of the wall looking, 
yet fearing to see. He had posted himself behind the wall 
at a turn of the lane. 

The constables grouped themselves before the wicket.' 
Gwynplaine was in the centre, the wapentake and his baton 
of iron being now behind him. 

The justice of the quorum raised the knocker, and struck 
the door three times. The loophole opened. 

The justice of the quorum said, 

" By order of her Majesty." 

The heavy door of oak and iron turned on its hinges, mak- 
ing a chilly opening, like the mouth of a cavern. A hideous 
depth yawned in the shadow. 

Ursus saw Gwynplaine disappear within, it. 

CHAPTER V. 

A FEARFUL PLACE. 

THE wapentake entered behind Gwynplaine. 

Then the justice of the quorum. 

Then the constables. 

The wicket was closed. 

The heavy door swung to, closing hermetically on the 
stone sills, without any one seeing who had opened orrshut 
it. It seemed as if the bolts re-entered their sockets of their 
own act. Some of these mechanisms, the inventions of 
ancient intimidation, still exist in old prisons doors of 
which you saw no doorkeeper. With them the entrance to 
a prison becomes like the entrance to a tomb. 

This wicket was the lower door of Southwark Jail. 

There was nothing in the harsh and worm-eaten aspect of 
this prison to soften its appropriate air of rigour. 

Originally a pagan temple, built by the Catieuchlans for 
the Mogons, ancient English gods, it became a palace for 
tthelwolf and a fortress for Edward the Confessor; then it 
was elevated to the dignity of a prison, in 1199, by John 
Lackland. Such was Southwark Jail. This jail, at first 
intersected by a street, like Chenonceaux by a river, had been 
for a century or two a gate that is to say, the gate of the 
suburb; the passage had then been walled up, There re- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 361 

main in England some prisons of this nature. In London, 
Newgate | at Canterbury, Westgate; at Edinburgh, Canon- 
gate. In France the Bastile was originally a gate. 

Almost all the jails of England present the same appear- 
ance a high wall without and a hive of cells within. Noth- 
ing could be more funereal than the appearance of those 
prisons, where spiders and justice spread their webs, and 
where John Howard, that ray of light, had not yet pene- 
trated. Like the old Gehenna of Brussels, they might well 
have been designated Treurenberg the house of tears. 

Men felt before such buildings, at once so savage and 
inhospitable, the same distress that the ancient navigators 
suffered before the hell of slaves mentioned by Plautus, 
islands of creaking chains, ferricrepidita insulce y when they 
passed near enough to hear the clank of the fetters. 

Southwark Jail, an old place of exorcisms and torture, 
was*originally used solely for the imprisonment of sorcerers, 
as was proved by two verses engraved on a defaced stone at 
the foot of the wicket, 

Sunt arreptitii, vexati daemone multo 

Est energumenus, quern daemon possidet unus. 

Lines which draw a subtle delicate distinction between the 
demoniac and man possessed by a devil. 

At the bottom of this inscription, nailed flat against the 
wall, was a stone ladder, which had been originally of wood, 
but which had been changed into stone by being buried in 
earth of petrifying quality at a place called Apsley Gowis, 
near Woburn Abbey. 

The prison of Southwark, now demolished, opened on two 
streets, between which, as a gate, it formerly served as means 
of communication. It had two doors. In the large street 
a door, apparently used by the authorities ; and in the lane 
the door of punishment, used by the rest of the living and by 
the dead also, because when a prisoner in the jail died it was 
by that issue that his corpse was carried out. A liberation 
not to be despised. Death is release into infinity. 

It was by the gate of punishment that Gwynplaine had 
been taken into prison. The lane, as we have said, was 
nothing but a little passage, paved with flints, confined 
between two opposite walls. There is one of the same kind 
at Brussels called Rue d'une Personne. The walls were 



362 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

unequal in height. The high one was the prison; the low 
one, the cemetery the enclosure for the mortuary remains 
of the jail was not higher than the ordinary stature of a 
man. In it was a gate almost opposite the prison wicket. 
The dead had only to cross the street; the cemetery was but 
twenty paces from the jail. On the high wall was affixed a 
gallows; on the low one was sculptured a Death's head. 
Neither of these walls made its opposite neighbour more 
cheerful. 

CHAPTER VI. 

THE KIND OF MAGISTRACY UNDER THE WIGS OF FORMER 
DAYS. 

ANY one observing at that moment the other side of the 
prison its fa9ade would have perceived the high street of 
Southwark, and might have remarked, stationed before the 
monumental and official entrance to the jail, a travelling 
carriage, recognized as such by its imperial. A few idlers 
surrounded the carriage. On it was a coat of arms, and a 
personage had been seen to descend from it and enter the 
prison. " Probably a magistrate," conjectured the crowd. 
Many of the English magistrates were noble, and almost all 
had the right of bearing arms. In France blazon and robe 
were almost contradictory terms. The Duke Saint-Simon 
says, in speaking of magistrates, "people of that class." In 
England a gentleman was not despised for being a judge. 

There are travelling magistrates in England; they are 
called judges of circuit, and nothing was easier than to 
recognize the carriage as the vehicle of a judge on circuit. 
That which was less comprehensible was, that the supposed 
magistrate got down, not from the carriage itself, but from 
the box, a place which is not habitually occupied by the 
owner. Another unusual thing. People travelled at that 
period in England in two ways by coach, at the rate of a 
shilling for five miles ; and by post, paying three half-pence 
per mile, and twopence to the postillion after each stage. 
A private carriage, whose owner desired to travel by relays, 
paid as many shillings per horse per mile as the horseman 
paid pence. The carriage drawn up before the jail in South- 
wark had four horses and two postillions, which displayed 
princely state. Finally, that which excited and disconcerted 
conjectures to the utmost was the circumstance that the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 363 

carriage was sedulously shut up. The blinds of the windows 
were closed up. The glasses in front were darkened by 
blinds; every opening by which the eye might have pene- 
trated was masked. From without, nothing within could be 
seen, and most likely from within, nothing could be seen 
outside. However, it did not seem probable that there was 
any one in the carriage. 

Southwark being in Surrey, the prison was within the 
jurisdiction of the sheriff of the county. 

Such distinct jurisdictions were very frequent in England. 
Thus, for example, the Tower of London was not supposed 
to be situated in any county ; that is to say, that legally it 
was considered to be in air. The Tower recognized no 
authority of jurisdiction except in its own constable, who 
was qualified as custos turris. The Tower had its jurisdiction, 
its church, its court of justice, and its government apart. 
The authority of its custos, or constable, extended, beyond 
London, over twenty-one hamlets. As in Great Britain 
legal singularities engraft one upon another the office of 
the master gunner of England was derived from the Tower 
of London. Other legal customs seem still more whimsical. 
Thus, the English Court of Admiralty consults and applies 
the laws of Rhodes and of Oleron, a French island which was 
once English. 

The sheriff of a county was a person of high consideration. 
He was always an esquire, and sometimes a knight. He was 
called spectabilis in the old deeds, " a man to be looked at " 
a kind of intermediate title between illustris and clarissimus ; 
less than the first, more than the second. Long ago the 
sheriffs of the counties were chosen by the people; but 
Edward II., and after him Henry VI., having claimed their 
nomination for the crown, the office of sheriff became a royal 
emanation. 

They all received their commissions from majesty, except 
the sheriff of Westmoreland, whose office was hereditary, and 
the sheriffs of London and Middlesex, who were elected by 
the livery in the common hall. Sheriffs of Wales and 
Chester possessed certain fiscal prerogatives. These ap- 
pointments are all still in existence in England, but, sub- 
jected little by little to the friction of manners and ideas, they 
have lost their old aspects. It was the duty of the sheriff of 
the county to escort and protect the judges on circuit. As 



364 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

we have two arms, he had two officers; his right arm the 
under-sheriff, his left arm the justice of the quorum. The 
justice of the quorum, assisted by the bailiff of the hundred, 
termed the wapentake, apprehended, examined, and, under 
the responsibility of the sheriff, imprisoned, for trial by the 
judges of circuit, thieves, murderers, rebels, vagabonds, and 
all sorts of felons. 

The shade of difference between the under-sheriff and the 
justice of the quorum, in their hierarchical service towards 
the sheriff, was that the under-sheriff accompanied and the 
justice of the quorum assisted. 

The sheriff held two courts one fixed and central, the 
county court ; and a movable court, the sheriff's turn. He 
thus represented both unity and ubiquity. He might as 
judge be aided and informed on legal questions by the 
serjeant of the coif, called sergens coifce, who is a serjeant-at- 
law, and who wears under his black skull-cap a fillet of white 
Cambray lawn. 

The sheriff delivered the jails. When he arrived at a town 
in his province, he had the right of summary trial of the 
prisoners, of which he might cause either their release or the 
execution. This was called a jail delivery. The sheriff 
presented bills of indictment to the twenty-four members of 
the grand jury. If they approved, they wrote above, billa 
vera; if the contrary, they wrote ignoramus. In the latter 
case the accusation was annulled, and the sheriff had the 
privilege of tearing up the bill. If during the deliberation a 
juror died, this legally acquitted the prisoner and made him 
innocent, and the sheriff, who had the privilege of arresting 
the accused, had also that of setting him at liberty. 

That which made the sheriff singularly feared and re- 
spected was that he had the charge of executing all the orders 
of her Majesty a fearful latitude. An arbitrary power 
lodges in such commissions. 

The officers termed vergers, the coroners making part of 
the sheriff's cortege, and the clerks of the market as escort, 
with gentlemen on horseback and their servants in livery, 
made a handsome suite. The sheriff, says Chamberlayne, 
is the " life of justice, of law, and of the country." 

In England an insensible demolition constantly pulverizes 
and dissevers laws and customs. You must understand In 
our day that neither the sheriff, the wapentake, nor the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 365 

justice of the quorum could exercise their functions as they 
did then. There was in the England of the past a certain 
confusion of powers, whose ill-defined attributes resulted in 
their overstepping their real bounds at times a thing which 
would be impossible in the present day. The usurpation of 
power by police and justices has ceased. We believe that 
even the word " wapentake " has changed its meaning. It 
implied a magisterial function ; now it signifies a territorial 
division: it specified the centurion; it now specifies the 
hundred (centum). 

Moreover, in those days the sheriff of the county combined 
with something more and something less, and condensed in 
his own authority, which was at once royal and municipal, 
the two magistrates formerly called in France the eivil 
lieutenant of Paris and the lieutenant of police. The civil 
lieutenant of Paris, Monsieur, is pretty well described in an 
old police note: "The civil lieutenant has no dislike to 
domestic quarrels, because he always has the pickings " 
(22nd July 1704). As to the lieutenant of police, he was a 
redoubtable person, multiple and vague. The best personi- 
fication of him was Rene d'Argenson, who, as was said by 
Saint- Simon, displayed in his face the three judges of hell 
united. 

The three judges of hell sat, as has already been seen, 
at Bishopsgate, London. 

CHAPTER VII. 

SHUDDERING. 

WHEN Gwynplaine heard the wicket shut, creaking in all its 
bolts, he trembled. It seemed to him that the door which 
had just closed was the communication between light and 
darkness opening on one side on the living, human crowd, 
and on the other on a dead world ; and now that everything 
illumined by the sun was behind him, that he had stepped 
over the boundary of life and was standing without it, his 
heart contracted. What were they going to do with him? 
What did it all mean? Where was he? 

He saw nothing around him; he found himself in perfect 
darkness. The shutting of the door had momentarily 
blinded him. The window in the door had been closed as 
well. No loophole, no lamp. Such were the precautions of 



3 66 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

old times. It was forbidden to light the entrance to the 

jails, so that the newcomers should take no observations. 

Gwynplaine extended his arms, and touched the wall on 
the right side and on the left. He was in a passage. Little 
by little a cavernous daylight exuding, no one knows whence, 
and which floats about dark places, and to which the dilata- 
tion of the pupil adjusts itself slowly, enabled him to dis- 
tinguish a feature here and there, and the corridor was 
vaguely sketched out before him. 

Gwynplaine, who had never had a glimpse of penal 
severities, save in the exaggerations of Ursus, felt as though' 
seized by a sort of vague gigantic hand. To be caught in the 
mysterious toils of the law is frightful. He who is brave in 
all other dangers is disconcerted in the presence of justice. 
Why? Is it that the justice of man works in twilight, and 
the judge gropes his way? Gwynplaine remembered what 
Ursus had told him of the necessity for silence. He wished 
to see Dea again: he felt some discretionary instinct, which 
urged him not to irritate. Sometimes to wish to be en- 
lightened is to make matters worse; on the other hand, 
however, the weight of the adventure was so overwhelming 
that he gave way at length, and could not restrain a question. 

" Gentlemen," said he, " whither are you taking me? " 

They made no answer. 

It was the law of silent capture, and the Norman text is 
formal: A silenliariis ostio, prcepositis introducti sunt, 

This silence froze Gwynplaine. Up to that moment he 
had believed himself to be firm: he was self-sufficing. To 
be self-sufficing is to be powerful. He had lived isolated 
from the world, and imagined that being alone he was un- 
assailable; and now all at once he felt himself under the 
pressure of a hideous collective force. How was he to 
combat that horrible anonyma, the law ? He felt faint under 
the perplexity; a fear of an unknown character had found 
a fissure in his armour; besides, he had not slept, he had not 
eaten, he had scarcely moistened his lips with a cup of tea. 
The whole night had been passed in a kind of delirium, and 
the fever was still on him. He was thirsty; perhaps hungry. 
The craving of the stomach disorders everything. Since the 
previous evening all kinds of incidents had assailed him. 
The emotions which had tormented had sustained him. 
Without the storm a sail would be a rag. But his was the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 367 

excessive feebleness of the rag, which the wind inflates till it 
tears it. He felt himself sinking. Was he about to fall 
without consciousness on the pavement? To faint is the 
resource of a woman, and the humiliation of a man. He 
hardened himself, but he trembled. He felt as one losing 
his footing. 

CHAPTER VIII. 

LAMENTATION. 

THEY began to move forward. 

They advanced through the passage. 

There was no preliminary registry, no place of record. 
The prisons in those times were not overburdened with 
documents. They were content to close round you without 
knowing why. To be a prison, and to hold prisoners, 
sufficed. 

The procession was obliged to lengthen itself out, taking 
the form of the corridor. They walked almost in single file; 
first the wapentake, then Gwynplaine, then the justice of the 
quorum, then the constables, advancing in a group, and 
blocking up the passage behind Gwynplaine as with a bung. 
The passage narrowed. Now Gwynplaine touched the walls 
with both his elbows. In the roof, which was made of flints, 
dashed with cement, was a succession of granite arches jutting 
out, and still more contracting the passage. He had to 
stoop to pass under them. No speed was possible in that 
corridor. Any one trying to escape through it would have 
been compelled to move slowly. The passage twisted. All 
entrails are tortuous ; those of a prison as well as those of a 
man. Here and there, sometimes to the right and sometimes 
to the left, spaces in the wall, square and closed by large iron 
gratings, gave glimpses of flights of stairs, some descending 
and some ascending. 

They reached a closed door; it opened. They passed 
through, and it closed again. Then they came to a second 
door, which admitted them; then to a third, which also turned 
on its hinges. These doors seemed to open and shut of them- 
selves. No one was to be seen. While the corridor contracted, 
the roof grew lower, until at length it was impossible to 
stand upright. Moisture exuded from the wall. Drops of 
water fell from the vault. The slabs that paved the corri- 
dor were clammy as an intestine. The diffused pallor that 



368 THE LAUGHING MAtf. 

served as light became more and more a pall. Air was 
deficient, and, what was singularly ominous, the passage was 
a descent. 

Close observation was necessary to perceive that there was 
such a descent. In darkness a gentle declivity is portentous. 
Nothing is more fearful than the vague evils to which we are 
led by imperceptible degrees. 

It is awful to descend into unknown depths. 
How long had they proceeded thus? Gwynplaine could 
not tell. 

Moments passed under such crushing agony seem im- 
measurably prolonged. 
Suddenly they halted. 
The darkness was intense. 

The corridor widened somewhat. Gwynplaine heard close 
to him a noise of which only a Chinese gong could give an 
idea; something like a blow struck against the diaphragm 
of the abyss. It was the wapentake striking his wand against 
a sheet of iron. 

That sheet of iron was a door. 

Not a door on hinges, but a door which was raised and let 
down. 

Something like a portcullis. 

There was a sound of creaking in a groove, and Gwynplaine 
was suddenly face to face with a bit of square light. The 
sheet of metal had just been raised into a slit in the vault, 
like the door of a mouse-trap. 
An opening had appeared. 

The light was not daylight, but glimmer; but on the 
dilated eyeballs of Gwynplaine the pale and sudden ray 
struck like a flash of lightning. 

It was some time before he could see anything. To see 
with dazzled eyes is as difficult as to see in darkness. 

At length, by degrees, the pupil of his eye . became propor- 
tioned to the light, just as it had been proportioned to the 
darkness, and he was able to distinguish objects. The light, 
which at first had seemed too bright, settled into its proper 
hue and became livid. He cast a glance into the yawning 
space before him, and what he saw was terrible. 

At his feet were about twenty steps, steep, narrow, worn, 
almost perpendicular, without balustrade on either side, a 
sort of stone ridge cut out from the side of a wall into stairs, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 369 

entering and leading into a very deep cell. They reached to 
the bottom. 

The cell was round, roofed by an ogee vault with a low 
arch, from the fault of level in the top stone of the frieze, a 
displacement common to cells under heavy edifices. 

The kind of hole acting as a door, which the sheet of iron 
had just revealed, and on which the stairs abutted, was 
formed in the vault, so that the eye looked down from it as 
into a well. 

The cell was large, and if it was the bottom of a well, it 
must have been a cyclopean one. The idea that the old word 
" cul-de-basse-fosse " awakens in the mind can only be applied 
to it if it were a lair of wild beasts. 

The cell was neither flagged nor paved. The bottom was 
of that cold, moist earth peculiar to deep places. 

In the midst of the cell, four low and disproportioned 
columns sustained a porch heavily ogival, of which the four 
mouldings united in the interior of the porch, something like 
the inside of a mitre. This porch, similar to the pinnacles 
under which sarcophagi were formerly placed, rose nearly to 
the top of the vault, and made a sort of central chamber in 
the cavern, if that could be called a chamber which had only 
pillars in place of walls. 

From the key of the arch hung a brass lamp, round and 
barred like the window of a prison. This lamp threw around 
it on the pillars, on the vault, on the circular wall which 
was seen dimly behind the pillars a wan ligh^, cut by bars 
of shadow. 

This was the light which had at first dazzled Gwynplaine; 
now it threw out only a confused redness. 

There was no other light in the cell neither window, nor 
door, nor loophole. 

Between the four pillars, exactly below the lamp, in the 
spot where there was most light, a pale and terrible form lay 
on the ground. 

It was lying on its back; a head was visible, of which the 
eyes were shut; a body, of which the chest was a shapeless 
mass ; four limbs belonging to the body, in the position of the 
cross of Saint Andrew, were drawn towards the four pillars by 
four chains fastened to each foot and each hand. 

These chains were fastened to an Iron ring at the base of 
each column. The form was held immovable, in the horrible 



370 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

position of being quartered, and had the icy look of a livid 

corpse. 

It was naked. It was a man. 

Gwynplaine, as if petrified, stood at the top of the stairs, 
looking down. Suddenly he heard a rattle in the throat. 

The corpse was alive. 

Close to the spectre, in one of the ogives of the door, on 
each side of a great seat, which stood on a large flat 
stone, stood two men swathed in long black "cloaks; and 
on the seat an old man was sitting, dressed in a red robe 
wan, motionless, and ominous, holding a bunch of roses in his 
hand. 

The bunch of roses would have enlightened any one less 
ignorant that Gwynplaine. The right of judging with a nose- 
gay in his hand implied the holder to be a magistrate, at once 
royal and municipal. The Lord Mayor of London still keeps 
up the custom. To assist the deliberations of the judges 
was the function of the earliest roses of the season. 

The old man seated on the bench was the sheriff of the 
county of Surrey. 

His was the majestic rigidity of a Roman dignitary. 

The bench was the only seat in the cell. 

By the side of it was a table covered with papers and books, 
on which lay the long, white wand of the sheriff. The men 
standing by the side of the sheriff were two doctors, one of 
medicine, the other of law; the latter recognizable by the 
Serjeant's coif over his wig. Both wore black robes one of 
the shape worn by judges, the other by doctors. 

Men of these kinds wear mourning for the deaths of which 
they are the cause. 

Behind the sheriff, at the edge of the flat stone under the 
seat, was crouched with a writing-table near to him, a 
bundle of papers on his knees, and a sheet of parchment on 
the bundle a secretary, in a round wig, with a pen in his 
hand, in the attitude of a man ready to write. 

This secretary was of the class called keeper of the bag, as 
was shown by a bag at his feet. 

These bags, in former times employed in law processes, 
were termed bags of justice. 

With folded arms, leaning against a pillar, was a man 
entirely dressed In leather, the hangman's assistant. 

These men seemed as if they had been nxed by enchant- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 371 

ment In their funereal postures round the chained man. 
None of them spoke or moved. 

There brooded over all a fearful calm. 

What Gwynplaine saw was a torture chamber. There 
were many such in England. 

The crypt of Beauchamp Tower long served this purpose, 
as did also the cell in the Lollards' prison. A place of this 
nature is still to be seen in London, called " the Vaults of 
Lady Place." In this last-mentioned chamber there is a 
grate for the purpose of heating the irons. 

All the prisons of King John's time (and Southwark Jail 
was one) had their chambers of torture. 

The scene which is about to follow was in those days a 
frequent one in England, and might even, by criminal process, 
be carried out to-day, since the same laws are still unrepealed. 
England offers the curious sight of a barbarous code living 
on the best terms with liberty. We confess that they make 
an excellent family party. 

Some distrust, however, might not be undesirable. In the 
case of a crisis, a return to the penal code would not be im- 
possible. English legislation is a tamed tiger with a velvet 
paw, but the claws are still there. Cut the claws of the law, 
and you will do well. Law almost ignores right. On one 
side is penalty, on the other humanity. Philosophers protest; 
but it will take some time yet before the justice of man is 
assimilated to the justice of God. 

Respect for the law : that is the English phrase. In Eng< 
land they venerate so many laws, that they never repeal any. 
They save themselves from the consequences of their venera- 
tion by never putting them into execution. An old law falls 
into disuse like an old woman, and they never think of killing 
either one or the other. They cease to make use of them; 
that is all. Both are at liberty to consider themselves still 
young and beautiful. They may fancy that they are as they 
were. This politeness is called respect. 

Norman custom is very wrinkled. That does not prevent 
many an English judge casting sheep's eyes at her. They 
stick amorously to an antiquated atrocity, so long as it is 
Norman. What can be more savage than the gibbet? In 
1867 a man was sentenced to be cut into four quarters and 
offered to a woman the Queen.* 

* The Fenian, Burke. 



37 2 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Still, torture was never practised In England. History 
asserts this as a fact. The assurance of history is wonderful. 
Matthew of Westminster mentions that the " Saxon law, 
very clement and kind," did not punish criminals by death; 
and adds that " it limited itself to cutting off the nose and 
scooping out the eyes." That was all I 

Gwynplaine, scared and haggard, stood at the top of the 
steps, trembling in every limb. He shuddered from head 
to foot. He tried to remember what crime he had committed. 
To the silence of the wapentake had succeeded the vision of 
torture to be endured. It was a step, indeed, forward ; but a 
tragic one. He saw the dark enigma of the law under the 
power of which he felt himself increasing in obscurity. 

The human form lying on the earth rattled in its throat 
again. 

Gwynplaine felt some one touching him gently on his 
shoulder. 

It was the wapentake. 

Gwynplaine knew that meant that he was to descend. 
He obeyed. 

He descended the stairs step by step. They were very 
narrow, each eight or nine inches in height. There was no 
hand-rail. The descent required caution. Two steps be- 
hind Gwynplaine followed the wapentake, holding up his 
iron weapon ; and at the same interval behind the wapentake, 
the justice of the quorum. 

As he descended the steps, Gwynplaine felt an indescrib- 
able extinction of hope. There was death in each step. In 
each one that he descended there died a ray of the light 
within him. Growing paler and paler, he reached the bottom 
of the stairs. 

The larva lying chained to the four pillars still rattled in 
its throat. 

A voice in the shadow said, 
" Approach I " 

It was the sheriff addressing Gwynplaine. 
Gwynplaine took a step forward. 
" Closer," said the sheriff. 

The justice of the quorum murmured in the ear of Gwyn- 
plaine, so gravely that there was solemnity in the whisper, 
" You are before the sheriff of the county of Surrey." 

Gwynplaine advanced towards the victim extended in the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 373 

centre of the cell. The wapentake and the justice of the 
quorum remained where they were, allowing Gwynplaine to 
advance alone. 

When Gwynplaine reached the spot under the porch, close 
to that miserable thing which he had hitherto perceived only 
from a distance, but which was a living man, his fear rose to 
terror. The man who was chained there was quite naked, 
except for that rag so hideously modest, which might be 
called the vineleaf of punishment, the succingulum of the 
Romans, and the christipannus of the Goths, of which the old 
Gallic jargon made cripagne. Christ wore but that shred on 
the cross. 

The terror-stricken sufferer whom Gwynplaine now saw 
seemed a man of about fifty or sixty years of age. He was 
bald. Grizzly hairs of beard bristled on his chin. His eyes 
were closed, his mouth open. Every tooth was to be seen. 
His thin and bony face was like a death's-head. His arms 
and legs were fastened by chains to the four stone pillars in 
the shape of the letter X. He had on his breast and belly 
a plate of iron, and on this iron five or six large stones were 
laid. His rattle was at times a sigh, at times a roar. 

The sheriff, still holding his bunch of roses, took from the 
table with the hand which was free his white wand, and 
standing up said, " Obedience to her Majesty." 

Then he replaced the wand upon the table. 

Then in words long-drawn as a knell, without a gesture, 
and immovable as the sufferer, the sheriff, raising his voice, 
said, 

" Man, who liest here bound in chains, listen for the last 
time to the voice of justice; you have been taken from your 
dungeon and brought to this jail. Legally summoned in the 
usual forms, for mains verbis pressus ; not regarding to 
lectures and communications which have been made, and 
which will now be repeated, to you; inspired by a bad and 
perverse spirit of tenacity, you have preserved silence, and 
refused to answer the judge. This is a detestable licence, 
which constitutes, among deeds punishable by cashlit, the 
crime and misdemeanour of overseness." 

The serjeant of the coif on the right of the sheriff inter- 
rupted him, and said, with an indifference indescribably 
lugubrious in its effect, " Overhernessa. Laws of Alfred anrl 
of Godrun, chapter the sixth," 



374 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

The sheriff resumed. 

" The law is respected by all except by scoundrels who 
infest the woods where the hinds bear young." 

Like one clock striking after another, the serjeant said, 

" Q u i f^iunt vastum in foresta ubi damce solent founinare." 

"He who refuses to answer the magistrate," said the 
sheriff, " is suspected of every vice. He is reputed capable 
of every evil." 

The serjeant interposed. 

" Prodigus, devorator, profusus, salax, ruffianus, ebriosus, 
luxuriosus, simulator, consumptor patrimonii, elluo, ambro, 
et gluto." 

" Every vice," said the sheriff, " means every crime. He 
who confesses nothing, confesses everything. He who holds 
his peace before the questions of the judge is in fact a liar 
and a parricide." 

" Mendax et parricida" said the serjeant. 

The sheriff said, 

" Man, it is not permitted to absent oneself by silence. To 
pretend contumaciousness is a wound given to the law. It 
is like Diomede wounding a goddess. Taciturnity before a 
judge is a form of rebellion. Treason to justice is high 
treason. Nothing is more hateful or rash. He who resists 
interrogation steals truth. The law has provided for this. 
For such cases., the English have always enjoyed the right of 
the foss, the fork, and chains." 

" Anglica Charta, year 1088," said the serjeant. Then 
with the same mechanical gravity he added, " Ferrum, et 
foss am, et f ureas cum aliis libertatibus." 

The sheriff continued, 

" Man! Forasmuch as you have not chosen to break 
silence, though of sound mind and having full knowledge in 
respect of the subject concerning which justice demands an 
answer, and forasmuch as you are diabolically refractory, 
you have necessarily been put to torture, and you have been, 
by the terms of the criminal statutes, tried by the ' Peine 
forte et dure.' This is what has been done to you, for the law 
requires that I should fully Inform you. You have been 
brought to this dungeon. You have been stripped of your 
clothes. You have been laid on your back naked on the 
ground, your limbs have been stretched and tied to the four 
pillars of the law; a sheet of Iron has been placed on your 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 375 

chest, and as many stones as you can bear have been heaped 
on your belly, ' and more/ says the law." 

" Plusque," affirmed the Serjeant. 

The sheriff continued, 

" In this situation, and before prolonging the torture, a 
second summons to answer and to speak has been made you 
by me, sheriff of the county of Surrey, and you have satanic- 
ally kept silent, though under torture, chains, shackles, 
fetters, and irons." 

" Attachiamenta leg alia," said the Serjeant. 

" On your refusal and contumacy," said the sheriff, " it 
being right that the obstinacy of the law should equal the 
obstinacy of the criminal, the proof has been continued 
according to the edicts and texts. The first day you were 
given nothing to eat or drink." 

" Hoc est superfefunare," said the Serjeant. 

There was silence, the awful hiss of the man's breathing 
was heard from under the heap of stones,, 

The serjeant-at-law completed his quotation. 

" Adde augmentum abstinent! & ciborum diminutione. 
Consuetude brittanica, art. 504." 

The two men, the sheriff and the serjeant, alternated. 
Nothing could be more dreary than their imperturbable 
monotony. The mournful voice responded to the ominous 
voice; it might be said that the priest and the deacon of 
punishment were celebrating the savage mass of the law. 

The sheriff resumed, 

" On the first day you were given nothing to eat or drink. 
On the second day you were given food, but nothing to drink. 
Between your teeth were thrust three mouthfuls of barley 
bread. On the third day they gave you to drink, but nothing 
to eat. They poured into your mouth at three different 
times, and in three different glasses, a pint of water taken 
from the common sewer of the prison. The fourth day is 
come. It is to-day. Now, if you do not answer, you will be 
left here till you die. Justice wills it." 

The serjeant, ready with his reply, appeared. 

" Mors rei homagium est bonce legi." 

" And while you feel yourself dying miserably," resumed 
the sheriff, " no one will attend to you, even when the blood 
rushes from your throat, your chin, and your armpits, and 
every pore, from the mouth to the loins." 



376 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" A throtabolla," said the Serjeant, " et pabu ct subhircis et 
a grugno usque ad crupponum." 

The sheriff continued, 

" Man, attend to me, because the consequences concern 
you. If you renounce your execrable silence, and if you 
confess, you will only be hanged, and you will have a right to 
the meldefeoh, which is a sum of money." 

" Damnum confitens," said the serjeant, " habeat le melde- 
feoh. Leges Ina, chapter the twentieth." 

" Which sum," insisted the sheriff, " shaU be paid in 
doitkins, suskins, and galihalpens, the only case in which 
this money is to pass, according to the terms of the statute 
of abolition, in the third of Henry V., and you will have the 
right and enjoyment of scortum ante mortem, and then be 
hanged on the gibbet. Such are the advantages of confes- 
sion. Does it please you to answer to justice? " 

The sheriff ceased and waited. 

The prisoner lay motionless* 

The sheriff resumed, 

" Man, silence is a refuge in which there is more risk than 
safety. The obstinate man is damnable and vicious. He 
who is silent before justice is a felon to the crown. Do not 
persist in this unfilial disobedience. Think of her Majesty. 
Do not oppose our gracious queen. When I speak to you, 
answer her; be a loyal subject." 

The patient rattled in the throat. 

The sheriff continued, 

" So, after the seventy- two hours of the proof, here we are 
at the fourth day. Man, this is the decisive day. The 
fourth day has been fixed by the law for the confrontation." 

" Quarta die, frontem ad frontem adduce," growled the 
serjeant. 

" The wisdom of the law," continued the sheriff, " has 
chosen this last hour to hold what our ancestors called 
' judgment by mortal cold, seeing that it is the moment when 
men are believed on their yes or their no." 

The serjeant on the right confirmed his words. 

" Judicium pro frodmortell, quod homines credendi sint per 
suum ya et per suum no. Charter of King Adelstan, volume 
the first, page one hundred and sixty-three." 

There was a moment's pause; then the sheriff bent his 
item iacd towards the prisoner. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 37? 

" Man, who art lying there on the ground " 

He paused. 

" Man," he cried, " do you hear me? " 

The man did not move. 

" In the name of the law," said the sheriff, "open your 
eyes." 

The man's lids remained closed. 

The sheriff turned to the doctor, who was standing on his 
left. 

" Doctor, give your diagnostic." 

" Probe , da diagnosticum," said the serjeant. 

The doctor came down with magisterial stiffness, ap- 
proached the man, leant over him, put his ear close to the 
mouth of the sufferer, felt the pulse at the wrist, the armpit, 
and the thigh, then rose again. 

" Well? " said the sheriff. 

" He can still hear," said the doctor. 

" Can he see? " inquired the sheriff. 

The doctor answered, " He can see." 

On a sign from the sheriff, the justice of the quorum and 
the wapentake advanced. The wapentake placed himself 
near the head of the patient. The justice of the quorum 
stood behind Gwynplaine. 

The doctor retired a step behind the pillars. 

Then the sheriff, raising the bunch of roses as a priest about 
to sprinkle holy water, called to the prisoner in a loud voice, 
and became awful. 

" O wretched man, speak 1 The law supplicates before 
she exterminates you. You, who feign to be mute, remember 
how mute is the tomb. You, who appear deaf, remember 
that damnation is more deaf. Think of the death which is 
worse than your present state. Repent I You are about to 
be left alone in this cell. Listen ! you who are my likeness ; 
for I am a man! Listen, my brother, because I am a 
Christian 1 Listen, my son, because I am an old manl 
Look at me; for I am the master of your sufferings, and I 
am about to become terrible. The terrors of the law make 
up the majesty of the judge. Believe that I myself tremble 
before myself. My own power alarms me. Do not drive me 
to extremities. I am filled by the holy malice of chastise- 
ment. Feel, then, wretched man, the salutary and honest 
fear of justice, and obey me. The hour of confrontation is 



3 ;8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

come, and you must answer. Do not harden yourself in 
resistance. Do not that which will be irrevocable. Think 
that your end belongs to me. Half man, half corpse, listen 1 
At least, let it not be your determination to expire here, 
exhausted for hours, days, and weeks, by frightful agonies of 
hunger and foulness, under the weight of those stones, alone 
in this cell, deserted, forgotten, annihilated, left as food for 
the rats and the weasels, gnawed by creatures of darkness 
while the world comes and goes, buys and sells, whilst 
carriages roll in the streets above your head. Unless you 
would continue to draw painful breath without remission in 
the depths of this despair grinding your teeth, weeping, 
blaspheming without a doctor to appease the anguish of 
your wounds, without a priest to offer a divine draught of 
water to your soul. Ohl if only that you may not feel the 
frightful froth of the sepulchre ooze slowly from your lips, I 
adjure and conjure you to hear me. I call you to your own 
aid. Have pity on yourself. Do what is asked of you. 
Give way to justice. Open your eyes, and see if you recog- 
nize this manl " 

The prisoner neither turned his head nor lifted his eyelids. 

The sheriff cast a glance first at the justice of the quorum 
and then at the wapentake. 

The justice of the quorum, taking Gwynplaine's hat and 
mantle, put his hands on his shoulders and placed him in the 
light by the side of the chained man. The face of Gwyn- 
plaine stood out clearly from the surrounding shadow in its 
strange relief. 

At the same time, the wapentake bent down, took the 
man's temples between his hands, turned the inert head 
towards Gwynplaine, and with his thumbs and his first 
fingers lifted the closed eyelids. 

The prisoner saw Gwynplaine. Then, raising his head 
voluntarily, and opening his eyes wide, he looked at him. 

He quivered as much as a man can quiver with a mountain 
on his breast, and then cried out, 
"Tishel Yes; 'tis he 1 " 

And he burst into a horrible laugh. 
^'Tis he I "he repeated. 

Then his head fell back on the ground, and he closed his 
eyes again. 

" Registrar, take that down," said the justice. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 379 

Gwynplaine, though terrified, had, up to that moment, 

E reserved a calm exterior. The cry of the prisoner, " 'Tis 
el " overwhelmed him completely. The words, " Registrar, 
take that down! " froze him. It seemed to him that a 
scoundrel had dragged him to his fate without his being able 
to guess why, and that the man's unintelligible confession 
was closing round him like the clasp of an iron collar. He 
fancied himself side by side with him in the posts of the same 
pillory. Gwynplaine lost his footing in his terror, and pro- 
tested. He began to stammer incoherent words in the deep 
distress of an innocent man, and quivering, terrified, lost, 
uttered the first random outcries that rose to his mind, and 
words of agony like aimless projectiles. 

*' It is not true. It was not me. I do not know the man. 
He cannot know me, since I do not know him. I have my 
part to play this eveningo What do you want of me? I 
demand my liberty. Nor is that all. Why have I been 
brought into this dungeon ? Are there laws no longer ? You 
may as well say at once that there are no laws. My Lord 
Judge, I repeat that it is not I. I am innocent of all that can 
be said. I know I am. I wish to go away. This is not 
justice. There is nothing between this man and me. You 
can find out. My life is not hidden up. They came and took 
me away like a thief. Why did they come like that ? How 
could I know the man ? I am a travelling mountebank, who 
plays farces at fairs and markets. I am the Laughing Man. 
Plenty of people have been to see me. We are staying in 
Tarrinzeau Field. I have been earning an honest livelihood 
these fifteen years. I am five-and-twenty. I lodge at the 
Tadcaster Inn. I am called Gwynplaine. My lord, let me 
out. You should not take advantage of the low estate of 
the unfortunate. Have compassion on a man who has done 
no harm, who is without protection and without defence. 
You have before you a poor mountebank." 

" I have before me," said the sheriff, " Lord Fermain Clan- 
charlie, Baron Clancharlie and Hunkerville, Marquis of 
Corleone in Sicily, and a peer of England." 

Rising, and offering his chair to Gwynplaine, the sheriff 
added, 

" My lord, will]your lordship deign to seat yourself? " 



BOOK THE FIFTH. 

THE SEA AND FATE ARE MOVED BY 
THE SAME BREATH. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE DURABILITY OF FRAGILE THINGS. 

DESTINY sometimes proffers us a glass of madness to drink. 
A hand is thrust out of the mist, and suddenly hands us the 
mysterious cup in which is contained the latent intoxication. 

Gwynplaine did not understand. 

He looked behind him to see who it was who had been 
addressed. 

A sound may t>e too sharp to be perceptible to the ear ; an 
emotion too acute conveys no meaning to the mind. There 
is a limit to comprehension as well as to hearing. 

The wapentake and the justice of the quorum approached 
Gwynplaine and took him by the arms. He felt himself 
placed in the chair which the sheriff had just vacated. He 
let it be done, without seeking an explanation. 

When Gwynplaine was seated, the justice of the quorum 
and the wapentake retired a few steps, and stood upright and 
motionless, behind the seat. 

Then the sheriff placed his bunch of roses on the stone 
table, put on spectacles which the secretary gave him, drew 
from the bundles of papers which covered the table a sheet of 
parchment, yellow, green, torn, and jagged in places, which 
seemed to have been folded in very small folds, and of which 
one side was covered with writing; standing under the light 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 381 

of the lamp, he held the sheet close to his eyes, and in. his 
most solemn, tone read as follows : 

" In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. 

" This present day, the twenty-ninth of January, one 
thousand six hundred and ninetieth year of our Lord. 

" Has been wickedly deserted on the desert coast of Port- 
land, with the intention of allowing him to perish of hunger, 
of cold, and of solitude, a child ten years old. 

" That child was sold at the age of two years, by order of 
his most gracious Majesty, King James the Second. 

" That child is Lord Fermain Clancharlie, the only legiti- 
mate son of Lord Linnaeus Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and 
Hunkerville, Marquis of Corleone in Sicily, a peer of England, 
and of Ann Bradshaw, his wife, both deceased. That child 
is the inheritor of the estates and titles of his father. For 
this reason he was sold, mutilated, disfigured, and put out of 
the way by desire of his most gracious Majesty. 

" That child was brought up, and trained to be a mounte- 
bank at markets and fairs. 

" He was sold at the age of two, after the death of the peer, 
his father, and ten pounds sterling were given to the king as 
his purchase-money, as well as for divers concessions, tolera- 
tions, and immunities. 

" Lord Fermain Clancharlie, at the age of two years, was 
bought by me, the undersigned, who write these lines, and 
mutilated and disfigured by a Fleming of Flanders, called 
Hardquanonne, who alone is acquainted with the secrets and 
modes of treatment of Doctor Conquest. 

" The child was destined by us to be a laughing mask 
(masca ridens). 

" With this intention Hardquanonne performed on him 
the operation, Bucca fissa usque ad aures, which stamps an 
everlasting laugh upon the face. 

" The child, by means known only to Hardquanonne, was 
put to sleep and made insensible during its performance, 
knowing nothing of the operation which he underwent. 

" He does not know that he is Lord Clancharlie. 

" He answers to the name of Gwynplaine. 

" This fact is the result of his youth, and the slight powers 
of memory he could have had when he was bought and sold, 
being then barely two years old. 

" Hardquanoune is the only person who knows how to per- 



382 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

form the operation Bucca fissa, and the said child is the only 

living subject upon which it has been essayed. 

" The operation is so unique and singular that though 
after long years this child should have come to be an 
old man instead of a child, and his black locks should have 
turned white, he would be immediately recognized by Hard- 
quanonne. 

" At the time that I am writing this, Hardqnanonne, who 
has perfect knowledge of all the facts, and participated as 
principal therein, is detained in the prisons of his highness 
the Prince of Orange, commonly called King William III. 
Hardquanonne was apprehended and seized as being one 
of the band of Comprachicos or Cheylas. He is imprisoned 
in the dungeon of Chatham. 

" It was in Switzerland, near the Lake of Geneva, between 
Lausanne and Vevey, in the very house in which his father 
and mother died, that the child was, in obedience with the 
orders of the king, sold and given up by the last servant of the 
deceased Lord Linnaeus, which servant died soon after his 
master, so that this secret and delicate matter is now unknown 
to any one on earth, excepting Hardquanonne, who is in the 
dungeon of Chatham, and ourselves, now about to perish. 

" We, the undersigned, brought up and kept, for eight 
years, for professional purposes, the little lord bought by us 
of the king. 

" To-day, flying from England to avoid Hardquanonne's 
ill-fortune, our fear of the penal indictments, prohibitions, 
and fulminations of Parliament has induced us to desert, at 
night-fall, on the coastof Portland, the said child Gwynplaine, 
who is Lord Fermain Clancharlie. 

" Now, we have sworn secrecy to the king, but not to God. 

" To-night, at sea, overtaken by a violent tempest by the 
will of Providence, full of despair and distress, kneeling before 
Him who could save our lives, and may, perhaps, be willing 
to save our souls, having nothing more to hope from men, but 
everything to fear from God, having for only anchor and 
resource repentance of our bad actions, resigned to death, 
and content if Divine justice be satisfied, humble, penitent, 
and beating our breasts, we make this declaration, and con- 
fide and deliver it to the furious ocean to use as it best may 
according to the will of God. And may the Holy Virgin 
aid us, Amen. And we attach our signatures." 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 383 

The sheriff Interrupted, saying, 

" Here are the signatures. All in different handwritings." 

And he resumed, 

" Doctor Gernardus Geestemunde. Asuncion. A cross, 
and at the side of it, Barbara Fermoy, from Tyrryf Isle, 
in the Hebrides; Gaizdorra, Captain; Giangirate; Jacques 
Quartourze, alias le Narbonnais; Luc-Pierre Capgaroupe, 
from the galleys of Mahon." 

The sheriff, after a pause, resumed, a " note written in the 
same hand as the text and the first signature," and he 
read, 

" Of the three men comprising the crew, the skipper having 
been swept off by a wave, there remain but two, and we 
have signed, Galdeazun; Ave Maria, Thief." 

The sheriff, interspersing his reading with his own observa- 
tions, continued, " At the bottom of the sheet is written, 

" ' At sea, on board of the Matutina, Biscay hooker, from 
the Gulf de Pasages.' This sheet," added the sheriff, " is 
alegal document, bearing the mark of King James the Second. 
On the margin of the declaration, and in the same hand- 
writing there is this note, ' The present declaration is 
written by us on the back of the royal order, which was given 
us as our receipt when we bought the child. Turn the leaf 
and the order will be seen.' " 

The sheriff turned the parchment, and raised it in his right 
hand, to expose it to the light. 

A blank page was seen, if the word blank can be applied to 
a thing so mouldy, and in the middle of the page three words 
were written, two Latin words, Jussu regis, and a signature, 
Jeffreys. 

"Jussu regis, Jeffreys," said the sheriff, passing from a 
grave voice to a clear one. 

Gwynplaine was as a man on whose head a tile falls from 
the palace of dreams. 

He began to speak, like one who speaks unconsciously. 

" Gernardus, yes, the doctor. An old, sad-looking man. 
I was afraid of him. Gaizdorra, Captain, that means chief. 
There were women, Asuncion, and the other. And then the 
Provengal. His name was Capgaroupe. He used to drink 
out of a flat bottle on which there was a name written in 
red." 

" Behold it," said the sheriff. 



5 84 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

He placed on the table something which the secretary had 
just taken out of the bag. It was a gourd, with handles like 
ears, covered with wicker. This bottle had evidently seen 
service, and had sojourned in the water. Shells and seaweed 
adhered to it. It was encrusted and damascened over with 
the rust of ocean. There was a ring of tar round its neck, 
showing that it had been hermetically sealed. Now it was 
unsealed and open. They had, however, replaced in the 
flask a sort of bung made of tarred oakum, which had been 
used to cork it. 

" It was in this bottle," said the sheriff, " that the men 
about to perish placed the declaration which I have just read. 
This message addressed to justice has been faithfully delivered 
by the sea." 

The sheriff increased the majesty of his tones, and con- 
tinued, 

" In the same way that Harrow Hill produces excellent 
wheat, which is turned into fine flour for the royal table, so 
the sea renders every service in its power to England, and 
when a nobleman is lost finds and restores him." 
Then he resumed, 

" On this flask, as you say, there is a name written in red." 
He raised his voice, turning to the motionless prisoner, 
" Your name, malefactor, is here. Such are the hidden 
channels by which truth, swallowed up in the gulf of human 
actions, floats to the surface " 

The sheriff took the gourd, and turned to the light one of 
its sides, which had, no doubt, been cleaned for the ends of 
justice. Between the interstices of wicker was a narrow line 
of red reed, blackened here and there by the action of water 
and of time. 

The reed, notwithstanding some breakages, traced dis- 
tinctly in the wicker-work these twelve letters Hardqua- 
nonne. 

Then the sheriff, resuming that monotonous tone of voice 
which resembles nothing else, and which may be termed a 
judicial accent, turned towards the sufferer. 

" Hardquanonne! when by us, the sheriff, this bottle, on 
which is your name, was for the first time shown, exhibited, 
and presented to you, you at once, and willingly, recognized 
it as having belonged to you. Then, the parchment being 
read to you which was contained, folded and enclosed within 



THE LAUGHING MAN, 385 

It, you would say no more; and In the hope, doubtless, that 
the lost child would never be recovered, and that you would 
escape punishment, you refuse to answer. As the result of 
your refusal, you have had applied to you the peine forte et 
dure; and the second reading of the said parchment, on 
which is written the declaration and confession of your accom- 
plices, was made to you, but in vain. 

" This is the fourth day, and that which is legally set apart 
for the confrontation, and he who was deserted on the twenty- 
ninth of January, one thousand six hundred and ninety, 
having been brought into your presence, your devilish hope 
has vanished, you have broken silence, and recognized your 
victim." 

The prisoner opened his eyes, lifted his head, and, with a 
voice strangely resonant of agony, but which had still an 
indescribable calm mingled with its hoarseness, pronounced 
in excruciating accents, from under the mass of stones, words 
to pronounce each of which he had to lift that which was like 
the slab of a tomb placed upon him. He spoke, 

" I swore to keep the secret. I have kept it as long as I 
could. Men of dark lives are faithful, and hell has its honour. 
Now silence is useless. So be it! For this reason I speak. 
Well yes ; 'tis he 1 We did it between us the king and I : 
the king, by his will; I, by my art 1 " 

And looking at Gwynplaine, 

" Now laugh for ever I " 

And he himself began to laugh. 

This second laugh, wilder yet than the first, might have 
been taken for a sob. 

The laughed ceased, and the man lay back. His eyelids 
closed. 

The sheriff, who had allowed the prisoner to speak, re- 
sumed, 

" All which is placed on record.'* 

He gave the secretary time to write, and then said, 

" Hardquanonne, by the terms of the law, after confronta- 
tion followed by identification, after the third reading of the 
declarations of your accomplices, since confirmed by your 
recognition and confession, and after your renewed avowal, 
you are about to be relieved from these irons, and placed at 
the good pleasure of her Majesty to be hung as plagiary." 

" Plagiary," aa^id the serjeant of the coif. " That is to say, a 
13 



386 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

buyer and seller of children. Law of the Visigoths, seventh 
book, third section, paragraph Usurpaverit, and Salic law, 
section the forty-first, paragraph the second, and law of the 
Prisons, section the twenty-first, Deplagio; and Alexander 
Nequam says, 

" ' Qui pueros vendis, plagiarius est tibi nomen.' ' 

The sheriff placed the parchment on the table, laid down 
his spectacles, took up the nosegay, and said, 

" End of la peine forte et dure. Hardquanonne, thank her 
Majesty." 

By a sign the justice of the quorum set in motion the man 
dressed in leather. 

This man, who was the executioner's assistant, " groom of 
the gibbet," the old charters call him, went to the prisoner, 
took off the stones, one by one, from his chest, and lifted the 
plate of iron up, exposing the wretch's crushed sides. Then 
he freed his wrists and ankle-bones from the four chains that 
fastened him to the pillars. 

The prisoner, released alike from stones and chains, lay flat 
on the ground, his eyes closed, his arms and legs apart, like a 
crucified man taken down from a cross. 

" Hardquanonne," said the sheriff, " arise! " 

The prisoner did not move. 

The groom of the gibbet took up a hand and let it go; the 
hand fell back. The other hand, being raised, fell back 
likewise. 

The groom of the gibbet seized one foot and then the other, 
and the heels fell back on the ground. 

The fingers remained inert, and the toes motionless. The 
naked feet of an extended corpse seem, as it were, to bristle. 

The doctor approached, and drawing from the pocket of 
his robe a little mirror of steel, put it to the open mouth of 
Hardquanonne. Then with his fingers he opened the eyelids. 
They did not close again ; the glassy eyeballs remained 
fixed. 

The doctor rose up and said, 

" He is dead." 

And he added, 

" He laughed; that killed him." 

' Tis of little consequence," said the sheriff. " After 
confession, life or death is a mere formality." 

Then pointing to Hardquanonne by a gesture with the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 387 

nosegay of roses, the sheriff gave the order to the wapen- 
take, 

" A corpse to be carried away to-night." 

The wapentake acquiesced by a nod. 

And the sheriff added, 

" The cemetery of the jail is opposite." 

The wapentake nodded again. 

The sheriff, holding in his left hand the nosegay and in his 
right the white wand, placed himself opposite Gwynplaine, 
who was still seated, and made him a low bow; then assum- 
ing another solemn attitude, he turned his head over his 
shoulder, and looking Gwynplaine in the face, said, 

" To you here present, we Philip Denzill Parsons, knight, 
sheriff of the county of Surrey, assisted by Aubrey Dominick, 
Esq., our clerk and registrar, and by our usual officers, duly 
provided by the direct and special commands of her Majesty, 
in virtue of our commission, and the rights and duties of our 
charge, and with authority from the Lord Chancellor of 
England, the affidavits having been drawn up and recorded, 
regard being had to the documents communicated by the 
Admiralty, after verification of attestations and signatures, 
after declarations read and heard, after confrontation made, 
all the statements and legal information having been com- 
pleted, exhausted, and brought to a good and just issue we 
signify and declare to you, in order that right may be done, 
that you are Fermain Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and 
Hunkerville, Marquis de Corleone in Sicily, and a peer of 
England; and God keep your lordship! " 

And he bowed to him. 

The serjeant on the right, the doctor, the justice of the 
quorum, the wapentake, the secretary, all the attendants 
except the executioner, repeated his salutation still more 
respectfully, and bowed to the ground before Gwynplaine. 

" Ah," said Gwynplaine, " awake me! " 

And he stood up, pale as death. 

" I come to awake you indeed," said a voice which had not 
yet been heard. 

A man came out from behind the pillars. As no one had 
entered the cell since the sheet of iron had given passage to 
the cortige of police, it was clear that this man had been there 
in the shadow before Gwynplaine had entered, that he had a 
regular right of attendance, and had been present by ap- 



388 THE LAUGHING MAN, 

pointment and mission. The man was fat and pursy, and 
wore a court wig and a travelling cloak. 

He was rather old than young, and very precise. 

He saluted Gwynplaine with ease and respect with the 
ease of a gentleman-in-waiting, and without the awkward- 
ness of a judge. 

" Yes," he said; " I have come to awaken you. For 
twenty-five years you have slept. You have been dreaming. 
It is time to awake. You believe yourself to be Gwynplaine ; 
you are Clancharlie. You believe yourself to be one of the 
people ; you belong to the peerage. You believe yourself to 
be of the lowest rank; you are of the highest. You believe 
yourself a player; you are a senator. You believe yourself 
poor; you are wealthy. You believe yourself to be of no 
account; you are important. Awake, my lord I " 

Gwynplaine, in a low voice, in which a tremor of fear was 
to be distinguished, murmured, 

" What does it all mean? " 

" It means, my lord," said the fat man, " that I am called 
Barkilphedro; that I am an officer of the Admiralty; that 
this waif, the flask of Hardquanonne, was found on the 
beach, and was brought to be unsealed by me, according to 
the duty and prerogative of my office ; that I opened it in the 
presence of two sworn jurors of the Jetsam Office, both 
members of Parliament, William Brathwait, for the city of 
Bath, and Thomas Jervois, for Southampton; that the two 
jurors deciphered and attested the contents of the flask, and 
signed the necessary affidavit conjointly with me; that I 
made my report to her Majesty, and by order of the queen all 
necessary and legal formalities were carried out with the 
discretion necessary in a matter so delicate; that the last 
form, the confrontation, has just been carried out; that you 
have 40,000 a year; that you are a peer of the United King- 
dom of Great Britain, a legislator and a judge, a supreme 
judge, a sovereign legislator, dressed in purple and ermine, 
equal to princes, like unto emperors; that you have on your 
brow the coronet of a peer, and that you are about to wed a 
duchess, the daughter of a king." 

Under this transfiguration, overwhelming him like a series 
of thunderbolts, Gwynplaine fainted. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 389 

CHAPTER IX. 

THE WAIF KNOWS ITS OWN COURSE. 

ALL this had occurred owing to the circumstance of a soldier 
having found a bottle on the beach. We will relate the facts. 
In all facts there are wheels within wheels. 

One day one of the four gunners composing the garrison of 
Castle Calshor picked up on the sand at low water a flask 
covered with wicker, which had been cast up by the tide. 
This flask, covered with mould, was corked by a tarred bung. 
The soldier carried the waif to the colonel of the castle, and 
the colonel sent it to the High Admiral of England. The 
Admiral meant the Admiralty; with waifs, the Admiralty 
meant Barkilphedro. 

Barkilphedro, having uncorked and emptied the bottle, 
carried it to the queen. The queen immediately took the 
matter into consideration. 

Two weighty counsellors were instructed and consulted 
namely, the Lord Chancellor, who is by law the guardian of 
the king's conscience; and the Lord Marshal, who is referee 
in Heraldry and in the pedigrees of the nobility. Thomas 
Howard, Duke of Norfolk, a Catholic peer, who is hereditary 
Earl Marshal of England, had sent word by his deputy Earl 
Marshal, Henry Howard, Earl Bindon, that he would agree 
with the Lord Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor was 
William Cowper. We must not confound this chancellor 
with his namesake and contemporary William Cowper, the 
anatomist and commentator on Bidloo, who published a 
treatise on muscles, in England, at the very time that 
Etienne Abeille published a history of bones, in France. A 
surgeon is a very,different thing from a lord. Lord William 
Cowper is celebrated for having, with reference to the affair 
of Talbot Yelverton, Viscount Longueville, propounded this 
opinion: That in the English constitution the restoration 
of a peer is more important than the restoration of a king. 
The flask found at Calshor had awakened his interest in the 
highest degree. The author of a maxim delights in oppor- 
tunities to which it may be applied. Here was a case of the 
restoration of a peer. Search was made. Gwynplaine, by 
the inscription over his door, was soon found. Neither was 



390 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Hardquanonne dead. A prison rots a man, but preserves 
him if to keep is to preserve. People placed in Bastiles 
were rarely removed. There Is little more change in the 
dungeon than in the tomb. Hardquanonne was still in 
prison at Chatham. They had only to put their hands on 
him. He was transferred from Chatham to London. In 
the meantime information was sought in Switzerland. The 
facts were found to be correct. They obtained from the 
local archives at Vevey, at Lausanne, the certificate of Lord 
Linnaeus's marriage in exile, the certificate of his child's 
birth, the certificate of the decease of the father and mother; 
and they had duplicates, duly authenticated, made to answer 
all necessary requirements. 

All this was done with the most rigid secrecy, with what is 
called royal promptitude, and with that mole-like silence 
recommended and practised by Bacon, and later on made 
law by Blackstone, for affairs connected with the Chancellor- 
ship and the state, and in matters termed parliamentary. 
The jussu regis and the signature Jeffreys were authenticated. 
To those who have studied pathologically the cases of caprice 
called " our good will and pleasure," this jussu regis is very 
simple. Why should James II., whose credit required the 
concealment of such acts, have allowed that to be written 
which endangered their success ? The answer is, cynicism 
haughty indifference. Oh I you believe that effrontery is 
confined to abandoned women ? The raison d'etat is equally 
abandoned. Et se cupit ante videri. To commit a crime and 
emblazon it, there is the sum total of history. The king 
tattooes himself like the convict. Often when it would be to 
a man's greatest advantage to escape from the hands of the 
police or the records of history, he would seem to regret the 
escape so great is the love of notoriety. Look at my arm I 
Observe the design 1 / am Lacenaire ! See,, a temple of love 
and a burning heart pierced through with an arrow! Jussu 
regis. It is I, James the Second. A man commits a bad 
action, and places his mark upon it. To fill up the measure of 
crime by effrontery, to denounce himself, to cling to his mis- 
deeds, is the insolent bravado of the criminal. Christina seized 
Monaldeschi, had him confessed and assassinated, and said, 

" I am the Queen of Sweden, in the palace of the King of 
France." 

There is the tyrant who conceals himself, like Tiberius; 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 391 

and the tyrant who displays himself, like Philip II. One has 
the attributes of the scorpion, the other those rather of the 
leopard. James II. was of this latter variety. He had, 
we know, a gay and open countenance, differing so far 
from Philip. Philip was sullen, James jovial. Both were 
equally ferocious. James II. was an easy-minded tiger; 
like Philip II., his crimes lay light upon his conscience. He 
was a monster by the grace of God. Therefore he had noth- 
ing to dissimulate nor to extenuate, and his assassinations 
were by divine right. He, too, would not have minded 
leaving behind him those archives of Simancas, with all his 
misdeeds dated, classified, labelled, and put in order, each in 
its compartment, like poisons in the cabinet of a chemist. 
To set the sign-manual to crimes is right royal. 

Every deed done is a draft drawn on the great invisible 
paymaster. A bill had just come due with the ominous 
endorsement, Jussu regis. 

Queen Anne, in one particular unfeminine, seeing that she 
could keep a secret, demanded a confidential report of so 
grave a matter from the Lord Chancellor one of the kind 
specified as " report to the royal ear." Reports of this kind 
have been common in all monarchies. At Vienna there was 
" a counsellor of the ear " an aulic dignitary. It was an 
ancient Carlovingian office the auricularius of the old 
palatine deeds. He who whispers to the emperor. 

William, Baron Cowper, Chancellor of England, whom the 
queen believed in because he was short-sighted like herself, 
or even more so, had committed to writing a memorandum 
commencing thus: " Two birds were subject to Solomon a 
lapwing, the hudbud, who could speak all languages ; and an 
eagle, the simourganka, who covered with the shadow of his 
wings a caravan of twenty thousand men. Thus, under 
another form, Providence," etc. The Lord Chancellor 
proved the fact that the heir to a peerage had been carried 
off, mutilated, and then restored. He did not blame James 
II. , who was, after all, the queen's father. He even went so 
far as to justify him. First, there are ancient monarchical 
maxims. E senioratu eripimus. In roturagio cadat. 
Secondly, there is a royal right of mutilation. Chamberlayne 
asserts the fact.* Corpora et bona nostrorum subjectorum 

* The life and the limbs of subjects depend on the king. Chamber- 
layne, Part 2, chap, iv., p. 76. 



392 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

no sir a sunt, said James I., of glorious and learned memory. 
The eyes of dukes of the blood royal have been plucked out 
for the good of the kingdom. Certain princes, too near to 
the throne, have been conveniently stifled between mat- 
tresses, the cause of death being given out as apoplexy. Now 
to stifle is worse than to mutilate. The King -of Tunis tore 
out the eyes of his father, Muley Assem, and his ambassadors 
have not been the less favourably received by the emperor. 
Hence the king may order the suppression of a limb like the 
suppression of a state, etc. It is legal. But one law does 
not destroy another. " If a drowned man is cast up by the 
water, and is not dead, it is an act of God readjusting one of 
the king. If the heir be found, let the coronet be given back 
to him. Thus was it done for Lord Alia, King of North- 
umberland, who was also a mountebank. Thus should be 
done to Gwynplaine, who is also a king, seeing that he is a 
peer. The lowness of the occupation which he has been 
obliged to follow, under constraint of superior power, does 
not tarnish the blazon : as in the case of Abdolmumen, who 
was a king, although he had been a gardener; that of Joseph, 
who was a saint, although he had been a carpenter; that of 
Apollo, who was a god, although he had been a shepherd." 

In short, the learned chancellor concluded by advising the 
reinstatement, in all his estates and dignities, of Lord Fermain 
Clancharlie, miscalled Gwynplaine, on the sole condition that 
he should be confronted with the criminal Hardquanonne, 
and identified by the same. And on this point the chan- 
cellor, as constitutional keeper of the royal conscience, based 
the royal decision. The Lord Chancellor added in a postscript 
that if Hardquanonne refused to answer he should be sub- 
jected to the peine forte et dure, until the period called the 
frodmortell, according to the statute of King Athelstane, 
which orders the confrontation to take place on the fourth 
day. In this there is a certain inconvenience, for if the 
prisoner dies on the second or third day the confrontation 
becomes difficult; still the law must be obeyed. The incon- 
venience of the law makes part and parcel of it. In the mind 
of the Lord Chancellor, however, the recognition of Gwyn- 
plaine by Hardquanonne was indubitable. 

Anne, having been made aware of the deformity of Gwyn- 
plaine, and not wishing to wrong her sister, on whom had 
been bestowed the estates of Clancharlie, graciously decided 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 393 

that the Duchess Josiana should be espoused by the new 
lord that is to say, by Gwynplaine. 

The reinstatement of Lord Fermain Clancharlie was, more- 
over, a very simple affair, the heir being legitimate, and in 
the direct line. 

In cases of doubtful descent, and of peerages in abeyance 
claimed by collaterals, the House of Lords must be con- 
sulted. This (to go no further back) was done in 1782, in 
the case of the barony of Sydney, claimed by Elizabeth 
Perry; in 1798, In that of the barony of Beaumont, 
claimed by Thomas Stapleton; in 1803, in that of the 
barony of Stapleton; in 1803, in that of the barony of 
Chandos, claimed by the Reverend Tymewell Brydges ; in 
1813, in that of the earldom of Banbury, claimed by General 
Knollys, etc., etc. But the present was no similar case. Here 
there was no pretence for litigation; the legitimacy was 
undoubted, the right clear and certain. There was no point 
to submit to the House, and the Queen, assisted by the Lord 
Chancellor, had power to recognize and admit the new peer. 

Barkilphedro managed everything. 

The affair, thanks to him, was kept so close, the secret was 
so hermetically sealed, that neither Josiana nor Lord David 
caught sight of the fearful abyss which was being dug under 
them. It was easy to deceive Josiana, entrenched as 
she was behind a rampart of pride. She was self-isolated. 
As to Lord David, they sent him to sea, off the coast of 
Flanders. He was going to lose his peerage, and had no 
suspicion of it. One circumstance is noteworthy. 

It happened that at six leagues from the anchorage of 
the naval station commanded by Lord David, a captain 
called Halyburton broke through the French fleet. The Earl 
of Pembroke, President of the Council, proposed that this 
Captain Halyburton should be made vice-admiral. Anne 
struck out Halyburton's name, and put Lord David Dirry- 
Moir's in its place, that he might, when no longer a peer, have 
the satisfaction of being a vice-admiral. 

Anne was well pleased. A hideous husband for her sister, 
and a fine step for Lord David. Mischief and kindness 
combined. 

Her Majesty was going to enjoy a comedy. Besides, she 
argued to herself that she was repairing an abuse of power 
committed by her august father. She was reinstating a 



394 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

member of the peerage. She was acting like a great queen ; 
she was protecting innocence according to the will of God; 
that Providence in its holy and impenetrable ways, etc., etc. 
It is very sweet to do a just action which is disagreeable to 
those whom we do not like. 

To know that the future husband of her sister was de- 
formed, sufficed the queen. In what manner Gwynplaine 
was deformed, and by what kind of ugliness, Barkilphedro 
had not communicated to the queen, and Anne had not 
deigned to inquire. She was proudly and royally disdainful. 
Besides, what could it matter? The House of Lords could 
not but be grateful. The Lord Chancellor, its oracle, had ap- 
proved. To restore a peer is to restore the peerage. Royalty 
on this occasion had shown itself a good and scrupulous 
guardian of the privileges of the peerage. Whatever might 
be the face of the new lord, a face cannot be urged in ob- 
jection to a right. Anne said all this to herself, or something 
like it, and went straight to her object, an object at once 
grand, womanlike, and regal namely, to give herself a 
pleasure. 

The queen was then at Windsor a circumstance which 
placed a certain distance between the intrigues of the court 
and the public. Only such persons as were absolutely neces- 
sary to the plan were in the secret of what was taking place. 
As to Barkilphedro, he was joyful a circumstance which gave 
a lugubrious expression to his face. If there be one thing in 
the world which can be more hideous than another, 'tis joy. 

He had had the delight of being the first to taste the con- 
tents of Hardquanonne's flask. He seemed but little sur- 
prised, for astonishment is the attribute of a little mind. 
Besides, was it not all due to him, who had waited so long on 
duty at the gate of chance ? Knowing how to wait, he had 
fairly won his reward. 

This nil admirari was an expression of face. At heart we 
may admit that he was very much astonished. Any one 
who could have lifted the mask with which he covered his 
inmost heart even before God would have discovered this: 
that at the very time Barkilphedro had begun to feel finally 
convinced that it would be impossible even to him, the 
intimate and most infinitesimal enemy of Josiana to find 
a vulnerable point in her lofty life. Hence an access of 
savage animosity lurked in his mind. He had reached tho 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 395 

paroxysm which is called discouragement. He was all the 
more furious, because despairing. To gnaw one's chain 
how tragic and appropriate the expression 1 A villain gnaw- 
ing at his own powerlessness 1 

Barkilphedro was perhaps just on the point of renouncing 
not his desire to do evil to Josiana, but his hope of doing it; 
not the rage, but the effort. But how degrading to be thus 
baffled 1 To keep hate thenceforth in a case, like a dagger in 
a museum 1 How bitter the humiliation I 

All at once to a certain goal Chance, immense and uni- 
versal, loves to bring such coincidences about the flask of 
Hardquanonne came, driven from wave to wave, into 
Barkilphedro's hands. There is in the unknown an inde- 
scribable fealty which seems to be at the beck and call of 
evil. Barkilphedro, assisted by two chance witnesses, dis- 
interested jurors of the Admiralty, uncorked the flask, found 
the parchment, unfolded, read it. What words could express 
his devilish delight I 

It is strange to think that the sea, the wind, space, the ebb 
and flow of the tide, storms, calms, breezes, should have given 
themselves so muchtroubletobestowhappine^sonascoundreL 
That co-operation had continued for fifteen years. Mysterious 
efforts 1 During fifteen years the ocean had never for an 
instant ceased from its labours. The waves transmitted 
from one to another the floating bottle. The shelving rocks 
had shunned the brittle glass; no crack had yawned in the 
flask; no friction had displaced the cork; the sea- weeds had 
not rotted the osier; the shells had not eaten out the word 
" Hardquanonne; " the water had not penetrated into the 
waif; the mould had not rotted the parchment; the wet had 
not effaced the writing. What trouble the abyss must have 
taken I Thus that which Gernardus had flung into darkness, 
darkness had handed back to Barkilphedro. The message 
sent to God had reached the devil. Space had committed 
an abuse of confidence, and a lurking sarcasm which mingles 
with events had so arranged that it had complicated the loyal 
triumph of the lost child's becoming Lord Clancharlie with a 
venomous victory: in doing a good action, it had mischiev- 
ously placed justice at the service of iniquity. To save 
the victim of James II. was to give a prey to Barkilphedro. 
To reinstate Gwynplaine was to crush Josiana. Barkilphedro 
had succeeded, and it was for this that for so many years the 



396 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

waves, the surge, the squalls had buffeted, shaken, thrown, 
pushed, tormented, and respected this bubble of glass, which 
bore within it so many commingled fates. It was for this 
that there had been a cordial co-operation between the winds, 
the tides, and the tempests a vast agitation of all prodigies 
for the pleasure of a scoundrel; the infinite co-operating with 
an earthworm I Destiny is subject to such grim caprices. 

Barkilphredo was struck by a flash of Titanic pride. He 
said to himself that it had all been done to fulfil his intentions. 
He felt that he was the object and the instrument. 

But he was wrong. Let us clear the character of chance. 

Such was not the real meaning of the remarkable circum- 
stance of which the hatred of Barkilphedro was to profit. 
Ocean had made itself father and mother to an orphan, had 
sent the hurricane against his executioners, had wrecked the 
vessel which had repulsed the child, had swallowed up the 
clasped hands of the storm-beaten sailors, refusing their 
supplications and accepting only their repentance ; the 
tempest received a deposit from the hands of death. The 
strong vessel containing the crime was replaced by the fragile 
phial containing the reparation. The sea changed its char- 
acter, and, like a panther turning nurse, began to rock the 
cradle, not of the child, but of his destiny, whilst he grew up 
ignorant of all that the depths of ocean were doing for him. 

The waves to which this flask had been flung watching over 
that past which contained a future; the whirlwind breathing 
kindly on it; the currents directing the frail waif across the 
fathomless wastes of water; the caution exercised by sea- 
weed, the swells, the rocks; the vast froth of the abyss, taking 
under its protection an innocent child ; the wave imperturb- 
able as a conscience; chaos re-establishing order; the world- 
wide shadows ending in radiance; darkness employed to 
bring to light the star of truth ; the exile consoled in his tomb ; 
the heir given back to his inheritance ; the crime of the king 
repaired; divine premeditation obeyed; the little, the weak, 
the deserted child with infinity for a guardian all this 
Barkilphedro might have seen in the event on which he 
triumphed. This is what he did not see. He did not believe 
that it had all been done for Gwynplaine. He fancied that it 
had been effected for Barkilphedro, and that he was well 
worth the trouble. Thus it is ever with Satan. 

Moreover, ere we feel astonished that 9 waif so fragile 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 397 

should have floated for fifteen years undamaged, we should 
seek to understand the tender care of the ocean. Fifteen 
years is nothing. On the 4th of October 1867, on the coast 
of Morbihan, between the Isle de Croix, the extremity of the 
peninsula de Gavres, and the Rocher des Errants, the fisher- 
men of Port Louis found a Roman amphora of the fourth 
century, covered with arabesques by the incrustations of the 
sea. That amphora had been floating fifteen hundred years. 

Whatever appearance of indifference Barkilphedro tried to 
exhibit, his wonder had equalled his joy. Everything he 
could desire was there to his hand. All seemed ready made. 
The fragments of the event which was to satisfy his hate were 
spread out within his reach. He had nothing to do but to 
pick them up and fit them together a repair which it was an 
amusement to execute. He was the artificer. 

Gwynplainel He knew the name. Masca ridens. Like 
every one else, he had been to see the Laughing Man. He 
had read the sign nailed up against the Tadcaster Inn as one 
reads a play-bill that attracts a crowd. He had noted it. 
He remembered it directly in its most minute details ; and, in 
any case, it was easy to compare them with the original. That 
notice, in the electrical summons which arose in his memory, 
appeared in the depths of his mind, and placed itself by the 
side of the parchment signed by the shipwrecked crew, like 
an answer following a question, like the solution following 
an enigma; and the lines " Here is to be seen Gwynplaine, 
deserted at the age of ten, on the 29th of January, 1690, on 
the coast at Portland " suddenly appeared to his eyes in 
the splendour of an apocalypse. His vision was the light 
of Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, outside a booth. Here was the 
destruction of the edifice which made the existence of Josiana. 
A sudden earthquake. The lost child was found. There 
was a Lord Clancharlie; David Dirry-Moir was nobody. 
Peerage, riches, power, rank all these things left Lord David 
and entered Gwynplaine. All the castles, parks, forests, 
town houses, palaces, domains, Josiana included, belonged 
to Gwynplaine. And what a climax for Josiana ! What had 
she now before her? Illustrious and haughty, a player; 
beautiful, a monster. Who could have hoped for this ? The 
truth was that the joy of Barkilphedro had become enthusi- 
astic. The most hateful combinations are surpassed by the 
infernal munificence of the unforeseen. When reality likes, 



398 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

it works masterpieces. Barkilphed.ro found that all his 

dreams had been nonsense; reality were better. 

The change he was about to work would not have seemed 
less desirable had it been detrimental to him. Insects exist 
which are so savagely disinterested that they sting, knowing 
that to sting is to die. Barkilphedro was like such vermin. 

But this time he had not the merit of being disinterested. 
Lord David Dirry-Moir owed him nothing, and Lord Fermain 
Clancharlie was about to owe him everything. From being 
a protigb Barkilphedro was about to become a protector. 
Protector of whom ? Of a peer of England. He was going 
to have a lord of his own, and a lord who would be his creature. 
Barkilphedro counted on giving him his first impressions. 
His peer would be the morganatic brother-in-law of the queen. 
His ugliness would please the queen in the same proportion as 
it displeased Josiana. Advancing by such favour, and assum- 
ing grave and modest airs, Barkilphedro might become a 
somebody. He had always been destined for the church. 
He had a vague longing to be a bishop. 

Meanwhile he was happy. 

Oh, what a great success ! and what a deal of useful work 
had chance accomplished for him I His vengeance for he 
called it his vengeance had been softly brought to him by 
the waves. He had not lain in ambush in vain. 

He was the rock, Josiana was the waif. Josiana was about 
to be dashed against Barkilphedro, to his intense villainous 
ecstasy. 

He was clever in the art of suggestion, which consists in 
making in the minds of others a little incision into which you 
put an idea of your own. Holding himself aloof, and without 
appearing to mix himself up in the matter, it was he who 
arranged that Josiana should go to the Green Box and see 
Gwynplaine. It could do no harm. The appearance of the 
mountebank, in his low estate, would be a good ingredient in 
the combination; later on it would season it. 

He had quietly prepared everything beforehand. What 
he most desired was something unspeakably abrupt. The 
work on which he was engaged could only be expressed in 
these strange words the construction of a thunderbolt. 

All preliminaries being complete, he had watched till all 
the necessary legal formalities had been accomplished. The 
secret had not oozed out, silence being an element of law. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 399 

The confrontation of Hardquanonne with Gwynplaine had 
taken place. Barkilphedro had been present. We have 
seen the result. 

The same day a post-chaise belonging to the royal house- 
hold was suddenly sent by her Majesty to fetch Lady Josiana 
from London to Windsor, where the queen was at the time 
residing. 

Josiana, for reasons of her own, would have been very glad 
to disobey, or at least to delay obedience, and put off her 
departure till next day; but court life does not permit of 
these objections. She was obliged to set out at once, and to 
leave her residence in London, Hunkerville House, for her 
residence at Windsor, Corleone Lodge. 

The Duchess Josiana left London at the very moment that 
the wapentake appeared at the Tadcaster Inn to arrest 
Gwynplaine and take him to the torture cell of South wark. 

When she arrived at Windsor, the Usher of the Black Rod, 
who guards the door of the presence chamber, informed her 
that her Majesty was in audience with the Lord Chancellor, 
and could not receive her until the next day; that, con- 
sequently, she was to remain at Corleone Lodge, at the orders 
of her Majesty; and that she should receive the queen's 
commands direct, when her Majesty awoke the next morning. 
Josiana entered her house feeling very spiteful, supped in a 
bad humour, had the spleen, dismissed every one except her 
page, then dismissed him, and went to bed while it was yet 
daylight. 

When she arrived she had learned that Lord David Dirry- 
Moir was expected at Windsor the next day, owing to his 
having, whilst at sea, received orders to return immediately 
and receive her Majesty's commands. 

CHAPTER III. 

AN AWAKENING. 

'No man could pass suddenly from Siberia into Senegal without 
losing consciousness." HUMBOLDT. 

THE swoon of a man, even of one the most firm and 
energetic, under the sudden shock of an unexpected stroke of 
good fortune, is nothing wonderful. A man is knocked down 
by the uuf oreseeu blow, like an ox by the poleaxe. Francis 



4 oo THE LAUGHING MAN. 

d'Albescola, he who tore from the Turkish ports their iroa 

chains, remained a whole day without consciousness when 

they made him pope. Now the stride from a cardinal to 

a pope is less than tha'! from a mountebank to a peer of 

England. 

No shock is so violent as a loss of equilibrium. 

When Gwynplaine came to himself and opened his eyes it 
was night. He was in an armchair, in the midst of a large 
chamber lined throughout with purple velvet, over walls, 
ceiling, and floor. The carpet was velvet. Standing near 
him, with uncovered head, was the fat man in the travelling 
cloak, who had emerged from behind the pillar in the cell 
at Southwark. Gwynplaine was alone in the chamber with 
him. From the chair, by extending his arms, he could reach 
two tables, each bearing a branch of six lighted wax candles. 
On one of these tables there were papers and a casket, on the 
other refreshments; a cold fowl, wine, and brandy, served 
on a silver-gilt salver. 

Through the panes of a high window, reaching from the 
ceiling to the floor, a semicircle of pillars was to be seen, in 
the clear April night, encircling a courtyard with three gates, 
one very wide, and the other two low. The carriage gate, 
of great size, was in the middle ; on the right, that for eques- 
trians, smaller; on the left, that for foot passengers, still less. 
These gates were formed of iron railings, with glittering 
points. A tall piece of sculpture surmounted the central one. 
The columns were probably in white marble, as well as the 
pavement of the court, thus producing an effect like snow; 
and framed in its sheet of flat flags was a mosaic, the pattern 
of which was vaguely marked in the shadow. This mosaic, 
when seen by daylight, would no doubt have disclosed to the 
sight, with much emblazonry and many colours, a gigantic 
coat-of-arms, in the Florentine fashion. Zigzags of balus- 
trades rose and fell, indicating stairs of terraces. Over the 
court frowned an immense pile of architecture, now shadowy 
and vague in the starlight. Intervals of sky, full of stars, 
marked out clearly the outline of the palace. An enormous 
roof could be seen, with the gable ends vaulted; garret 
windows, roofed over like visors ; chimneys like towers ; and 
entablatures covered with motionless gods and goddesses. 

Beyond the colonnade there played in the shadow one of 
those fairy fountains in which, as the water falls from basin 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 401 

to basin, it combines the beauty of rain with that of the 
cascade, and as if scattering the contents of a jewel box, flings 
to the wind its diamonds and its pearls as though to divert 
the statues around. Long rows of windows ranged away, 
separated by panoplies, in relievo, and by busts on small 
pedestals. On the pinnacles, trophies and morions with 
plumes cut in stone alternated with statues of heathen 
deities. 

In the chamber where Gwynplaine was, on the side opposite 
the window, was a fireplace as high as the ceiling, and on 
another, under a dais, one of those old spacious feudal beds 
which were reached by a ladder, and where you might sleep 
lying across; the joint-stool of the bed was at its side; a row 
of armchairs by the walls, and a row of ordinary chairs, in 
front of them, completed the furniture. The ceiling was 
domed. A great wood fire in the French fashion blazed in 
the fireplace; by the richness of the flames, variegated of 
rose colour and green, a judge of such things would have seen 
that the wood was ash a great luxury. The room was so 
large that the branches of candles failed to light it up. Here 
and there curtains over doors, falling and swaying, indicated 
communications with other rooms. The style of the room 
was altogether that of the reign of James I. a style square 
and massive, antiquated and magnificent. Like the carpet 
and the lining of the chamber, the dais, the baldaquin, the 
bed, the stool, the curtains, the mantelpiece, the coverings 
of the table, the sofas, the chairs, were all of purple velvet. 

There was no gilding, except on the ceiling. Laid on it, at 
equal distance from the four angles, was a huge round shield 
of embossed metal, on which sparkled, in dazzling relief, 
various coats of arms. Amongst the devices, on two blazons, 
side by side, were to be distinguished the cap of a baron and 
the coronet of a marquis. Were they of brass or of silver-gilt ? 
You could not tell. They seemed to be of gold. And in the 
centre of this lordly ceiling, like a gloomy and magnificent 
sky, the gleaming escutcheon was as the dark splendour of a 
sun shining in the night. 

The savage, in whom is embodied the free man, is nearly 
as restless in a palace as in a prison. This magnificent 
chamber was depressing. So much splendour produces fear. 
Who could be the inhabitant of this stately palace? To 
what colossus did all this grandeur appertain ? Of what lion 



402 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

is this the lair? Gwynplaine, as yet but half awake, was 

heavy at heart. 

"Where am I? "he said. 

The man who was standing before him answered, 

" You are in your own house, my lord." 

CHAPTER IV. 

FASCINATION. 

IT takes time to rise to the surface. And Gwynplaine had 
been thrown into an abyss of stupefaction. 

We do not gain our footing at once in unknown depths. 

There are routs of ideas, as there are routs of armies. The 
rally is not immediate. 

We feel as it were scattered as though some strange 
evaporation of self were taking place. 

God is the arm, chance is the sling, man is the pebble. 
How are you to resist, once flung ? 

Gwynplaine, if we may coin the expression, ricocheted 
from one surprise to another. After the love letter of the 
duchess came the revelation in the Southwark dungeon. 

In destiny, when wonders begin, prepare yourself for blow 
upon blow. The gloomy portals once open, prodigies pour 
in. A breach once made in the wall, and events rush upon 
us pell-mell. The marvellous never comes singly. 

The marvellous is an obscurity. The shadow of this ob- 
scurity was over Gwynplaine. What was happening to him 
seemed unintelligible. He saw everything through the mist 
which a deep commotion leaves in the mind, like the dust 
caused by a falling ruin. The shock had been from top to 
bottom. Nothing was clear to him. However, light always 
returns by degrees. The dust settles. Moment by moment 
the density of astonishment decreases. Gwynplaine was like 
a man with his eyes open and fixed in a dream, as if trying to 
see what may be within it. He dispersed the mist. Then 
he reshaped it. He had intermittances of wandering. He 
underwent that oscillation of the mind in the unforeseen 
which alternately pushes us in the direction in which we 
understand, and then throws us back in that which is incom- 
prehensible. Who has not at some time felt this pendulum 
in his brain ? 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 403 

By degrees his thoughts dilated in the darkness of the 
event, as the pupil of his eye had done in the underground 
shadows at Southwark. The difficulty was to succeed in 
putting a certain space between accumulated sensations. 
Before that combustion of hazy ideas called comprehension 
can take place, air must be admitted between the emotions. 
There air was wanting. The event, so to speak, could not be 
breathed. 

In entering that terrible cell at Southwark, Gwynplaine 
had expected the iron collar of a felon; they had placed on 
his head the coronet of a peer. How could this be ? There 
had not been space of time enough between what Gwynplaine 
had feared and what had really occurred; it had succeeded 
too quickly his terror changing into other feelings too 
abruptly for comprehension. The contrasts were too tightly 
packed one against the other. Gwynplaine made an effort 
to withdraw his mind from the vice. 

He was silent. This is the instinct of great stupefaction, 
which is more on the defensive than it is thought to be. Who 
says nothing is prepared for everything. A word of yours 
allowed to drop may be seized in some unknown system of 
wheels, and your utter destruction be compassed in its com- 
plex machinery. 

The poor and weak live in terror of being crushed. The 
crowd ever expect to be trodden down. Gwynplaine had 
long been one of the crowd. 

A singular state of human uneasiness can be expressed by 
the words: Let us see what will happen. Gwynplaine was 
in this state. You feel that you have not gained your equi- 
librium when an unexpected situation surges up under your 
feet. You watch for something which must produce a result. 
You are vaguely attentive. We will see what happens. 
What ? You do not know. Whom ? You watch. 

The man with the paunch repeated, " You are in your own 
house, my lord." 

Gwynplaine felt himself. In surprises, we first look to 
make sure that things exist; then we feel ourselves, to make 
sure that we exist ourselves. It was certainly to him that the 
words were spoken ; but he himself was somebody else. He 
no longer had his jacket on, or his esclavine of leather. He 
had a waistcoat of cloth of silver; and a satin coat, which he 
touched and found to be embroidered. He felt a heavy 



404 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

purse In his waistcoat pocket. A pair of velvet trunk hose 
covered his clown's tights. He wore shoes with high red 
heels. As they had brought him to this palace, so had they 
changed his dress. 
The man resumed, 

" Will your lordship deign to remember this: I am called 
Barkilphedro ; I am clerk to the Admiralty. It was I who 
opened Hardquanonne's flask and drew your destiny out of 
it. Thus, in the 'Arabian Nights ' a fisherman releases a 
giant from a bottle." 

Gwynplaine fixed his eyes on the smiling- face of the 
speaker. 

Barkilphedro continued : 

" Besides this palace, my lord, Hunkerville House, which 
is larger, is yours. You own Clancharlie Castle, from which 
you take your title, and which was a fortress in the time of 
Edward the Elder. You have nineteen bailivricks belonging 
to you, with their villages and their inhabitant. This puts 
under your banner, as a landlord and a nobleman, about 
eighty thousand vassals and tenants. At Clancharlie you 
are a judge judge of all, both of goods and of persons and 
you hold your baron's court. The king has no right which 
you have not, except the privilege of coining money. The 
king, designated by the Norman law as chief signer, has 
justice, court, and coin. Coin is money. So that you, 
excepting in this last, are as much a king in your lordship as 
he is in his kingdom. You have the right, as a baron, to a 
gibbet with four pillars in England ; and, as a marquis, to a 
scaffold with seven posts in Sicily: that of the mere lord 
having two pillars ; that of a lord of the manor, three ; and 
that of a duke, eight. You are styled prince in the ancient 
charters of Northumberland. You are related to the Vis- 
counts Valentia in Ireland, whose name is Power; and to the 
Earls of Umfraville in Scotland, whose name is Angus. 
You are chief of a clan, like Campbell, Ardmannach, and 
Macallummore. You have eight barons' courts Reculver, 
Baston, Hell-Kerters, Homble, Moricambe, Grundraith, 
Trenwardraith, and others. You have a right over the turf- 
cutting of Pillinmore, and over the alabaster quarries near 
Trent. Moreover, you own all the country of Penneth Chase ; 
and you have a mountain with an ancient town on it. The 
town is called Vinecaunton; the mountain ia called Moil- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 405 

enlli. All which gives you an. income of forty thousand pounds 
a year. That is to say, forty times the five-and-twenty 
thousand francs with which a Frenchman, is satisfied." 

Whilst Barkilphedro spoke, Gwynplaine, in a crescendo of 
stupor, remembered the past. Memory is a gulf that a word 
can. move to its lowest depths. Gwynplaine knew all the 
words pronounced by Barkilphedro. They were written in 
the last lines of the two scrolls which lined the van in which 
his childhood had been passed, and, from so often letting his 
eyes wander over them mechanically, he knew them by heart. 
On reaching, a forsaken orphan, the travelling caravan at 
Weymouth, he had found the inventory of the inheritance 
which awaited him ; and in the morning, when the poor little 
boy awoke, the first thing spelt by his careless and uncon- 
scious eyes was his own title and its possessions. It was a 
strange detail added to all his other surprises, that, during 
fifteen years, rolling from highway to highway, the clown of 
a travelling theatre, earning his bread day by day, picking 
up farthings, and living on crumbs, he should have travelled 
with the inventory of his fortune placarded over his misery. 

Barkilphedro touched the casket on the table with his fore- 
finger. 

" My lord, this casket contains two thousand guineas which 
her gracious Majesty the Queen has sent you for your present 
wants." 

Gwynplaine made a movement. 

" That shall be for my Father Ursus," he said. 

" So be it, my lord," said Barkilphedro. " Ursus, at the 
Tadcaster Inn. The Serjeant of the Coif, who accompanied 
us hither, and is about to return immediately, will carry them 
to him. Perhaps I may go to London myself. In that case 
I will take charge of it." 

" I shall take them to him myself," said Gwynplaine. 

Barkilphedro's smile disappeared, and he said, 

" Impossible! " 

There is an impressive inflection of voice which, as it were, 
underlines the words. Barkilphedro's tone was thus em- 
phasized ; he paused, so as to put a full stop after the word 
he had just uttered. Then he continued, with the peculiar 
and respectful tone of a servant who feels that he is 
master, 

" My lord, you are twenty-three miles from London, at 



4 o6 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Corleone Lodge, your court residence, contiguous to the 
Royal Castle of Windsor. You are here unknown to any one. 
You were brought here in a close carriage, which was await- 
ing you at the gate of the jail at Southwark. The servants 
who introduced you into this palace are ignorant who you 
are; but they know me, and that is sufficient. You may 
possibly have been brought to these apartments by means of 
a private key which is in my possession. There are people 
in the house asleep, and it is not an hour to awaken them. 
Hence we have time for an explanation, which, neverthe- 
less, will be short. I have been commissioned by her 
Majesty " 

As he spoke, Barkilphedro began to turn over the leaves 
of some bundles of papers which were lying near the 
casket. 

" My lord, here is your patent of peerage. Here is that of 
your Sicilian marquisate. These are the parchments and 
title-deeds of your eight baronies, with the seals of eleven 
kings, from Baldret, King of Kent, to James the Sixth of 
Scotland, and first of England and Scotland united. Here 
are your letters of precedence. Here are your rent-rolls, and 
titles and descriptions of your fiefs, freeholds, dependencies, 
lands, and domains. That which you see above your head 
in the emblazonment on the ceiling are your two coronets: 
the circlet with pearls for the baron, and the circlet with 
strawberry leaves for the marquis. 

" Here, in the wardrobe, is your peer's robe of red velvet, 
bordered with ermine. To-day, only a few hours since, the 
Lord Chancellor and the Deputy Earl Marshal of England, 
informed of the result of your confrontation with the Com- 
prachico Hardquanonne, have taken her Majesty's com- 
mands. Her Majesty has signed them, according to her 
royal will, which is the same as the law. All formalities have 
been complied with. To-morrow, and no later than to- 
morrow, you will take your seat in the House of Lords, where 
they have for some days been deliberating on a bill, presented 
by the crown, having for its object the augmentation, by a 
hundred thousand pounds sterling yearly, of the annual 
allowance to the Duke of Cumberland, husband of the queen. 
You will be able to take part in the debate." 

Barkilphedro paused, breathed slowly, and resumed. 

' ' However, nothing is yet settled. A man cannot be made 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 407 

a peer of England without his own consent. All can be 
annulled and disappear, unless you acquiesce. An event 
nipped in the bud ere it ripens often occurs in state policy. 
My lord, up to this time silence has been preserved on what 
has occurred. The House of Lords will not be informed of 
the facts until to-morrow. Secrecy has been kept about the 
whole matter for reasons of state, which are of such impor- 
tance that the influential persons who alone are at this 
moment cognizant of your existence, and of your rights, will 
forget them immediately should reasons of state command 
their being forgotten. That which is in darkness may re- 
main in darkness. It is easy to wipe you out; the more so 
as you have a brother, the natural son of your father and of 
a woman who afterwards, during the exile of your father, 
became mistress to King Charles II., which accounts for your 
brother's high position at court; for it is to this brother, 
bastard though he be, that your peerage would revert. Do 
you wish this? I cannot think so. Well, all depends on 
you. The queen must be obeyed. You will not quit the 
house till to-morrow in a royal carriage, and to go to the 
House of Lords. My lord, will you be a peer of England; 
yes 'or no ? The queen has designs for you. She destines 
you for an alliance almost royal. Lord Fermain Clancharlie, 
this is the decisive moment. Destiny never opens one door 
without shutting another. After a certain step in advance, 
to step back is impossible. Whoso enters into transfigura- 
tion, leaves behind him evanescence. My lord, Gwynplaine 
is dead. Do you understand? " 

Gwynplaine trembled from head to foot. 

Then he recovered himself. 

" Yes," he said. 

Barkilphedro, smiling, bowed, placed the casket under his 
cloak, and left the room. 

CHAPTER V. 

WE THINK WE REMEMBER; WE FORGET. 

WHENCE arise those strange, visible changes which occur in 
the soul of man ? 

Gwynplaine had been at the same moment raised to a 
summit and cast into an abyss. 



4 o8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

His head swam with double giddiness the giddiness of 
ascent and descent. A fatal combination. 
He felt himself ascend, and felt not his fall. 
It is appalling to see a new horizon. 

A perspective affords suggestions, not always good ones. 
He had before him the fairy glade, a snare perhaps, seen 
through opening clouds, and showing the blue depths of sky; 
so deep, that they are obscure. 

He was on the mountain, whence he could see all the king- 
doms of the earth. A mountain all the more terrible that it 
is a visionary one. Those who are on its apex ate in a dream. 
Palaces, castles, power, opulence, all human happiness 
extending as far as eye could reach; a map of enjoyments 
spread out to the horizon; a sort of radiant geography of 
which he was the centre. A perilous mirage 1 

Imagine what must have been the haze of such a vision, 
not led up to, not attained to as by the gradual steps of a 
ladder, but reached without transition and without previous 
warning. 

A man going to sleep in a mole's burrow, and awaking on 
the top of the Strasbourg steeple; such was the state of 
Gwynplaine. 

Giddiness is a dangerous kind of glare, particularly that 
which bears you at once towards the day and towards the 
night, forming two whirlwinds, one opposed to the other. 
He saw too much, and not enough. 
He saw all, and nothing. 

His state was what the author of this book has somewhere 
expressed as the blind man dazzled. 

Gwynplaine, left by himself, began to walk with long 
strides. A bubbling precedes an explosion. 

Notwithstanding his agitation, in this impossibility of 
keeping still, he meditated. His mind liquefied as it boiled. 
He began to recall things to his memory. It is surprising 
how we find that we have heard so clearly that to which we 
scarcely listened. The declaration of the shipwrecked men, 
read by the sheriff in the Southwark cell, came back to him 
clearly and intelligibly. He recalled every word, he saw 
under it his whole infancy. 

Suddenly he stopped, his hands clasped behind his back, 
looking up to the ceiling the sky no matter what what- 
ever was above him. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 409 

"Quits! " he cried. 

He felt like one whose head rises out of the water. It 
seemed to him that he saw everything the past, the future, 
the present in the accession of a sudden flash of light. 

" Oh 1 " he cried, for there are cries in the depths of thought. 
" Oh I it was so, was it! I was a lord. All is discovered. 
They stole, betrayed, destroyed, abandoned, disinherited, 
murdered me! The corpse of my destiny floated fifteen 
years on the sea; all at once it touched the earth, and it 
started up, erect and living. I am reborn. I am born. I 
felt under my rags that the breast there palpitating was not 
that of a wretch; and when I looked on crowds of men, I felt 
that they were the flocks, and that I was not the dog, but the 
shepherd 1 Shepherds of the people, leaders of men, guides 
and masters, such were my fathers; and what they were I 
am I I am a gentleman, and I have a sword ; I am a baron, 
and I have a casque; I am a marquis, and I have a plume; I 
am a peer, and I have a coronet. Lo I they deprived me of 
all this. I dwelt in light, they flung me .into darkness. 
Those who proscribed the father, sold the son. When my 
father was dead, they took from beneath his head the stone 
of exile which he had placed for his pillow, and, tying it to my 
neck, they flung me into a sewer. Oh 1 those scoundrels who 
tortured my infancy 1 Yes, they rise and move in the depths 
of my memory. Yes ; I see them again. I was that morsel 
of flesh pecked to pieces on a tomb by a flight of crows. I 
bled and cried under all those horrible shadows. Lo I it was 
there that they precipitated me, under the crush of those who 
come and go, under the trampling feet of men, under the 
undermost of the human race, lower than the serf, baser than 
the serving man, lower than the felon, lower than the slave, 
at the spot where Chaos becomes a sewer, in which I was 
engulfed. It is from thence that I come ; it is from this that 
I rise; it is from this that I am risen. And here I am now. 
Quits I " 

He sat down, he rose, clasped his head with his hands, 
began to pace the room again, and his tempestuous monologue 
continued within him. 

" Where am I ? on the summit? Where is it that I have 
just alighted ? on the highest peak? This pinnacle, this 
grandeur, this dome of the world, this great power, is my 
home. This temple is in air. I am one of the gods. I live 



4 io THE LAUGHING MAN. 

in inaccessible heights. This supremacy, which I looked up 
to from below, and from whence emanated such rays of glory 
that I shut my eyes ; this ineffaceable peerage ; this impreg- 
nable fortress of the fortunate, I enter. I am in it. I am of 
it. Ah, what a decisive turn of the wheel ! I was below, I 
am on high on high for ever! Behold me a lord! I shall 
have a scarlet robe. I shall have an earl's coronet on my 
head. I shall assist at the coronation of kings. They will 
take the oath from my hands. I shall judge princes and 
ministers. I shall exist. From the depths into which I was 
thrown, I have rebounded to the zenith. I have palaces in 
town and country: houses, gardens, chases, forests, carriages, 
millions. I will give fetes. I will make laws. I shall have 
the choice of joys and pleasures. And the vagabond Gwyn- 
plaine, who had not the right to gather a flower in the grass, 
may pluck the stars from heaven! " 

Melancholy overshadowing of a soul's brightness! Thus 
it was that in Gwynplaine, who had been a hero, and per- 
haps had not ceased to be one, moral greatness gave way 
to material splendour. A lamentable transition! Virtue 
broken down by a troop of passing demons. A surprise made 
on the weak side of man's fortress. All the inferior circum- 
stances called by men superior, ambition, the purblind 
desires of instinct, passions, covetousness, driven far from 
Gwynplaine by the wholesome restraints of misfortune, took 
tumultuous possession of his generous heart. And from 
what had this arisen ? From the discovery of a parchment 
in a waif drifted by the sea. Conscience may be violated by 
a chance attack. 

Gwynplaine drank in great draughts of pride, and it dulled 
his soul. Such is the poison of that fatal wine. 

Giddiness invaded him. He more than consented to its 
approach. He welcomed it. This was the effect of previous 
and long-continued thirst. Are we an accomplice of the cup 
which deprives us of reason ? He had always vaguely desired 
this. His eyes had always turned towards the great. To watch 
is to wish. The eaglet is not born in the eyrie for nothing. 

Now, however, at moments, it seemed to him the simplest 
thing in the world that he should be a lord. A few hours only 
had passed, and yet the past of yesterday seemed so far off I 
Gwynplaine had fallen into the ambuscade of Better, who is 
the enemy of Good. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 411 

Unhappy Is he of whom we say, how lucky he Is 1 Adver- 
sity is more easily resisted than prosperity. We rise more 
perfect from ill fortune than from good. There is a Charybdis 
in poverty, and a Scylla in riches. Those who remain erect 
under the thunderbolt are prostrated by the flash. Thou 
who standest without shrinking on the verge of a precipice, 
fear lest thou be carried up on the innumerable wings of 
mists and dreams. The ascent which elevates will dwarf 
thee. An apotheosis has a sinister power of degradation. 

It is not easy to understand what is good luck. Chance is 
nothing but a disguise. Nothing deceives so much as the 
face of fortune. Is she Providence? Is she Fatality? 

A brightness may not be a brightness, because light is 
truth, and a gleam may be a deceit. You believe that it 
lights you; but no, it sets you on fire. 

At night, a candle made of mean tallow becomes a star if 
placed in an opening in the darkness. The moth flies to it. 

In what measure is the moth responsible? 

The sight of the candle fascinates the moth as the eye of 
the serpent fascinates the bird. 

Is it possible that the bird and the moth should resist 
the attraction ? Is it possible that the leaf should resist the 
wind? Is it possible that the stone should refuse obedience 
to the laws of gravitation ? 

These are material questions, which are moral questions 
as well. 

After he had received the letter of the duchess, Gwynplaine 
had recovered himself. The deep love in his nature had 
resisted it. But the storm having wearied itself on one side 
of the horizon, burst out on the other; for in destiny, as in 
nature, there are successive convulsions. The first shock 
loosens, the second uproots. 

Alas 1 how do the oaks fall ? 

Thus he who, when a child of ten, stood alone on the shore 
of Portland, ready to give battle, who had looked steadfastly 
at all the combatants whom he had to encounter, the blast 
which bore away the vessel in which he had expected to 
embark, the gulf which had swallowed up the plank, the 
yawning abyss, of which the menace was its retrocession, the 
earth which refused him a shelter, the sky which refused him 
a star, solitude without pity, obscurity without notice, ocean, 
sky, all the violence of one infinite space, and all the mysterious 



4 i2 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

enigmas of another ; he who had neither trembled nor fainted 
before the mighty hostility of the unknown; he who, still so 
young, had held his own with night, as Hercules of old had 
held his own with death; he who in the unequal struggle had 
thrown down this dehance, that he, a child, adopted a child, 
that he encumbered himself with a load, when tired and ex- 
hausted, thus rendering himself an easier prey to the attacks 
on his weakness, and, as It were, himself unmuzzling the 
shadowy monsters in ambush around him; he who, a pre- 
cocious warrior, had immediately, and from his first steps out 
of the cradle, struggled breast to breast with. destiny; he, 
whose disproportion with strife had not discouraged from 
striving; he who, perceiving in everything around him a 
frightful occultation of the human race, had accepted that 
eclipse, and proudly continued his journey; he who had 
known how to endure cold, thirst, hunger, valiantly; he who, 
a pigmy in stature, had been a colossus in soul: this Gwyn- 
plaine, who had conquered the great terror of the abyss under 
its double form, Tempest and Misery, staggered under a 
breath Vanity. 

Thus, when she has exhausted distress, nakedness, storms, 
catastrophes, agonies on an unflinching man, Fatality begins 
to smile, and her victim, suddenly intoxicated, staggers. 

The smile of Fatality I Can anything more terrible be 
imagined ? It is the last resource of the pitiless trier of souls 
in his proof of man. The tiger, lurking in destiny, caresses 
man with a velvet paw. Sinister preparation, hideous gentle- 
ness in the monster I 

Every self-observer has detected within himself mental 
weakness coincident with aggrandisement. A sudden growth 
disturbs the system, and produces fever. 

In Gwynplaine's brain was the giddy whirlwind of a crowd 
of new circumstances; all the light and shade of a meta- 
morphosis; inexpressibly strange confrontations; the shock 
of the past against the future. Two Gwynplaines, himself 
doubled; behind, an infant in rags crawling through night 
wandering, shivering, hungry, provoking laughter; in front, 
a brilliant nobleman luxurious, proud, dazzling all London. 
He was casting off one form, and amalgamating himself with 
the other. He was casting the mountebank, and becoming 
the peer. Change of skin is sometimes change of soul. Now 
and then the past seemed like a dream. It was complex; 



THE LAUGHING MATT. 413 

bad and good. He thought of his father. It was a poignant 
anguish never to have known his father. He tried to 
picture him to himself. He thought of his brother, of whom 
he had j ust heard. Then he had a family 1 He, Gwynplaine 1 
He lost himself in fantastic dreams. He saw visions of 
magnificence; unknown forms of solemn grandeur moved in 
mist before him. He heard nourishes of trumpets. 

" And then," he said, " I shall be eloquent." 

He pictured to himself a splendid entrance into the House 
of Lords. He should arrive full to the brim with new facts 
and ideas. What could he not tell them? What subjects 
he had accumulated! What an advantage to be in the 
midst of them, a man who had seen, touched, undergone, and 
suffered; who could cry aloud to them, " I have been near 
to everything, from which you are so far removed." He 
would hurl reality in the face of those patricians, crammed 
with illusions. They should tremble, for it would be the 
truth. They would applaud, for it would be grand. He 
would arise amongst those powerful men, more powerful 
than they. " I shall appear as a torch-bearer, to show them 
truth ; and as a sword-bearer, to show them justice I " What 
a triumph 1 

And, building up these fantasies in his mind, clear and 
confused at the same time, he had attacks of delirium, 
sinking on the first seat he came to; sometimes drowsy, 
sometimes starting up. He came and went, looked at the 
ceiling, examined the coronets, studied vaguely the hierogly- 
phics of the emblazonment, felt the velvet of the walls, moved 
the chairs, turned over the parchments, read the names, 
spelt out the titles, Buxton, Homble, Grundraith, Hunker- 
ville, Clancharlie; compared the wax, the impression, felt 
the twist of silk appended to the royal privy seal, approached 
the window, listened to the splash of the fountain, contem- 
plated the statues, counted, with the patience of a somnam- 
bulist, the columns of marble, and said, 

" It is real." 

Then he touched his satin clothes, and asked himself, 

"Is it I? Yes." 

He was torn by an inward tempest. 

In this whirlwind, did he feel f aintness and fatigue ? Did 
he drink, eat, sleep ? If he did so, he was unconscious of the 
fact. In certain violent situations instinct satisfies itself. 



4 I4 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

according lo its requirements, unconsciously. Besides, his 
thoughts were less thoughts than mists. At the moment that 
the black flame of an irruption disgorges itself from depths 
full of boiling lava, has the crater any consciousness of the 
flocks which crop the grass at the foot of the mountain ? 

The hours passed. 

The dawn appeared and brought the day. A bright ray 
penetrated the chamber, and at the same instant broke on 
the soul of Gwynplaine. 

And Dea ! said the light. 



BOOK THE SIXTH. 
URSUS UNDER DIFFERENT ASPECTS. 



CHAPTER I. 

WHAT THE MISANTHROPE SAID. 

AFTER Ursus had seen Gwynplaine thrust within the gates 
of South wark Jail, he remained, haggard, in the corner from 
which he was watching. For a long time his ears were 
haunted by the grinding of the bolts and bars, which was like 
a howl of joy that one wretch more should be enclosed within 
them. 

He waited. What for? He watched. What for? Such 
inexorable doors, once shut, do not re-open so soon. They 
are tongue-tied by their stagnation in darkness, and move 
with difficulty, especially when they have to give up a prisoner. 
Entrance is permitted. Exit is quite a different matter. 
Ursus knew this. But waiting is a thing which we have not 
the power to give up at our own will. We wait in our own 
despite. What we do disengages an acquired force, which 
maintains its action when its object has ceased, which keeps 
possession of us and holds us, and obliges us for some time 
longer to continue that which has already lost its motive. 
Hence the useless watch, the inert position that we have 
all held at times, the loss of time which every thoughtful 
man gives mechanically to that which has disappeared. 
None escapes this law. We become stubborn in a sort of 
vague fury. We know not why we are in the place, but we 
remain there. That which we have begun actively we con- 



416 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

tinue passively, with an exhausting tenacity from which ws 
emerge overwhelmed. Ursus, though differing from other 
men, was, as any other might have been, nailed to his post 
by that species of conscious reverie into which we are plunged 
by events all important to us, and in which we are impotent. 
He scrutinized by turns those two black walls, now the high 
one, then the low; sometimes the door near which the ladder 
to the gibbet stood, then that surmounted by a death's head. 
It was as if he were caught in a vice, composed of a prison 
and a cemetery. This shunned and unpopular street was 
so deserted that he was unobserved. 

At length he left the arch under which he had taken shelter, 
a kind of chance sentry-box, in which he had acted the watch- 
man, and departed with slow steps. The day was declining, 
for his guard had been long. From time to time he turned his 
head and looked at the fearful wicket through which Gwyn- 
plaine had disappeared. His eyes were glassy and dull. He 
reached the end of the alley, entered another, then another, 
retracing almost unconsciously the road which he had taken 
some hours before. At intervals he turned, as if he could 
still see the door of the prison, though he was no longer in the 
street in which the jail was situated. Step by step he was 
approaching Tarrinzeau Field. The lanes in the neighbour- 
hood of the fair-ground were deserted pathways between 
enclosed gardens. He walked along, his head bent down, by 
the hedges and ditches. All at once he halted, and drawing 
himself up, exclaimed, " So much the better I " 

At the same time he struck his fist twice on his head and 
twice on his thigh, thus proving himself to be a sensible fellow, 
who saw things in their right light; and then he began to 
growl inwardly, yet now and then raising his voice. 

It is all right! Oh, the scoundrel! the thief! the vaga- 
bond! the worthless fellow! the seditious scampi It is his 
speeches about the government that have sent him there. 
He is a rebel. I was harbouring a rebel. I am free of him, 
and lucky for me; he was compromising us. Thrust into 
prison! Oh, so much the better! What excellent laws! 
Ungrateful boy! I who brought him up! To give oneself 
so much trouble for this ! Why should he want to speak and 
to reason? He mixed himself up in politics. The ass! As 
he handled pennies he babbled about the taxes, about the 
poor, about the people, about what was no busiaese of hit, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 417 

He permitted himself to make reflections on pennies. He 
commented wickedly and maliciously on the copper money 
of the kingdom. He insulted the farthings of her Majesty. 
A farthing 1 Why, 'tis the same as the queen. A sacred 
effigy 1 Devil take it 1 a sacred effigy I Have we a queen 
yes or no ? Then respect her verdigris 1 Everything depends 
on the government; one ought to know that. I have experi- 
ence, I have. I know something. They may say to me, " But 
you give up politics, then?" Politics, my friends! Icareasmuch 
for them as for the rough hide of an ass. I received, one day, a 
blew from a baronet's cane. I said to myself, That is enough: 
I understand politics. The people have but a farthing, they 
give it,' the queen takes it, the people thank her. Nothing 
can be more natural. It is for the peers to arrange the rest; 
their lordships, the lords spiritual and temporal. Oh I so 
Gwynplaine is locked up I So he is in prison. That is just 
as it should be. It is equitable, excellent, well-merited, and 
legitimate. It is his own fault. To criticize is forbidden. 
Are you a lord, you idiot? The constable has seized him, 
the justice of the quorum has carried him off, the sheriff has 
him in custody. At this moment he is probably being ex- 
amined by a ser j eant of the coif. They pluck out your crimes, 
those clever fellows 1 Imprisoned, my wag! So much the 
worse for him, so much the better for mel Faith, I am 
satisfied. I own frankly that fortune favours me. Of what 
folly was I guilty when I picked up that little boy and girl! 
We were so quiet before, Homo and 1 1 What had they to do 
in my caravan, the little blackguards ? Didn't I brood over 
them when they were young 1 Didn't I draw them along 
with my harness I Pretty foundlings, indeed; he as ugly as 
sin, and she blind of both eyes! Where was the use of de- 
priving myself of everything for their sakes? The beggars 
grow up, forsooth, and make love to each other. The flirta- 
tions of the deformed ! It was to that we had come. The 
toad and the mole; quite an idyl! That was what went on 
in my household. All which was sure to end by going before 
the justice. The toad talked politics! But now I am 
free of him. When the wapentake came I was at first a fool; 
one always doubts one's own good luck. I believed that I did 
not see what I did see ; that it was impossible, that it was a 
nightmare, that a day-dream was playing me a trick. But 
no! Nothing could be truer. It is all clear, Gwynplaine 

14 



4 i8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

is really in prison. It is a stroke of Providence. Praise be 
to itl He was the monster who, with the row he made, drew 
attention to my establishment and denounced my poor wolf. 
Be off, Gwynplaine; and, see, I am rid of bothl Two birds 
killed with one stone. Because Dea will die, now that she 
can no longer see Gwynplaine. For she sees him, the idiot 1 
She will have no object in life. She will say, ' What am 
I to do in the world?' Good-bye! To the devil with 
both of them. I always hated the creatures I Die, Dea I 
Oh, I am quite comfortable 1 " 

CHAPTER II. 

WHAT HE DID. 

HE returned to the Tadcaster Inn. 

It struck half -past six. It was a little before twilight. 

Master Nicless stood on his doorstep. 

He had not succeeded, since the morning, in extinguishing 
the terror which still showed on his scared face. 

He perceived Ursus from afar. 

" Well 1" he cried. 

"Well! what?" 

"Is Gwynplaine coming back? It is full time. The 
public will soon be coming. Shall we have the performance 
of ' The Laughing Man ' this evening? " 

" I am the laughing man," said Ursus. 

And he looked at the tavern-keeper with a loud chuckle. 

Then he went up to the first floor, opened the window next 
to the sign of the inn, leant over towards the placard about 
Gwynplaine, the laughing man, and the bill of " Chaos 
Vanquished;" unnailed the one, tore down the other, put 
both under his arm, and descended. 

Master Nicless followed him with his eyes. 

" Why do you unhook that? " 

Ursus burst into a second fit of laughter. 

" Why do you laugh? " said the tavern-keeper. 

" I am re-entering private life." 

Master Nicless understood, and gave an order to his 
lieutenant, the boy Govicum, to announce to every one who 
should come that there would be no performance that even- 
ing. He took from the dx>or the box made out of a cask, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 419 

where they received the entrance money, and rolled it into a 
corner of the lower sitting-room. 

A moment after, Ursus entered the Green Box. 

He put the two signs away in a corner, and entered what 
he called the woman's wing. 

Dea was asleep. 

She was on her bed, dressed as usual, excepting that the 
body of her gown was loosened, as when she was taking her 
siesta. 

Near her Vinos and Fibl were sitting one on a stool, the 
other on the ground musing. Notwithstanding the late- 
ness of the hour, they had not dressed themselves in their 
goddesses' gauze, which was a sign of deep discouragement. 
They had remained in their drugget petticoats and their 
dress of coarse cloth. 

Ursus looked at Dea. 

" She is rehearsing for a longer sleep," murmured he. 

Then, addressing Fibi and Vinos, 

" You both know all. The music is over. You may put 
your trumpets into the drawer. You did well not to equip 
yourselves as deities. You look ugly enough as you are, but 
you were quite right. Keep on your petticoats. No perform- 
ance to-night, nor to-morrow, nor the day after to-morrow. 
No Gwynplaine. Gwynplaine is clean gone." 

Then he looked at Dea again. 

" What a blow to her this will be! It will be like blowing 
out a candle." 

He inflated his cheeks. 

' ' Puff 1 nothing more. ' ' 

Then, with a little dry laugh, 

" Losing Gwynplaine, she loses all. It would be just as if 
I were to lose Homo. It will be worse. She will feel more 
lonely than any one else could. The blind wade through 
more sorrow than we do." 

He looked out of the window at the end of the room. 

" How the days lengthen I It is not dark at seven o'clock. 
Nevertheless we will light up." 

He struck the steel and lighted the lamp which hung from 
the ceiling of the Green Box. 

Then he leaned over Dea. 

" She will catch cold ; you have unlaced her bodice too low. 
There is a proverb, 



420 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Though April skies be bright, 
Keep all your wrappers tight.' " 

Seeing a pin shining on the floor, he picked it up and 
pinned up her sleeve. Then he paced the Green Box, 
gesticulating. 

" I am in full possession of my faculties. I am lucid, quite 
lucid. I consider this occurrence quite proper, and I approve 
of what has happened. When she awakes I will explain 
everything to her clearly. The catastrophe will not be 
long in coming. No more Gwynplaine. Good-night, Dea. 
How well all has been arranged! Gwynplaine in prison, 
Dea in the cemetery, they will be vis-h-vis! A dance of 
death I Two destinies going off the stage at once. Pack up 
the dresses. Fasten the valise. For valise, read coffin. It 
was just what was best for them both. Dea without eyes, 
Gwynplaine without a face. On high the Almighty will 
restore sight to Dea and beauty to Gwynplaine. Death puts 
things to rights. All will be well. Fibi, Vinos, hang up your 
tambourines on the nail. Your talents for noise will go to 
rust, my beauties; no more playing, no more trumpeting. 
' Chaos Vanquished ' is vanquished. ' The Laughing Man ' 
is done for. ' Taratantara ' is dead. Dea sleeps on. She 
does well. If I were she I would never awake. Oh I she 
will soon fall asleep again. A skylark like her takes very 
little killing. This comes of meddling with politics. What 
a lesson! Governments are right. Gwynplaine to the 
sheriff. Dea to the grave-digger. Parallel cases! In- 
structive symmetry! I hope the tavern-keeper has barred 
the door. We are going to die to-night quietly at home, 
between ourselves not I, nor Homo, but Dea. As for me, 
I shall continue to roll on in the caravan. I belong to the 
meanderings of vagabond life. I shall dismiss these two 
women. I shall not keep even one of them. I have a 
tendency to become an old scoundrel. A maidservant in 
the house of a libertine is like a loaf of bread on the shelf. I 
decline the temptation. It is not becoming at my age. 
Turpe senilis amor. I will follow my way alone with Homo. 
How astonished Homo will be! Where is Gwynplaine? 
Where is Dea? Old comrade, here we are once more alone 
together. Plague take it! I'm delighted. Their bucolics 
were an encumbrance. Oh! that scamp Gwynplaine, who 
is never coming back. He has left us stuck here. I say ' All 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 421 

right,' And now 'tis Dea's turn. That won't be long. I 
like things to be done with. I would not snap my fingers 
to stop her dying her dying, I tell you 1 See, she awakes 1 " 

Dea opened her eyelids ; many blind persons shut them 
when they sleep. Her sweet unwitting face wore all its usual 
radiance. 

" She smiles," whispered Ursus, " and I laugh. That is as 
it should be." 

Dea called, 

"Fibil Vinos! It must be the time for the performance. 
1 think I have been asleep a long time. Come and 
dress me." 

Neither Fibi nor Vinos moved. 

Meanwhile the ineffable blind look of Dea's eyes met those 
of Ursus. He started. 

" Well ! " he cried ; " what are you about ? Vinos 1 Fibil 
Do you not hear your mistress? Are you deaf? Quick 1 
the play is going to begin." 

The two women looked at Ursus in stupefaction. 

Ursus shouted, 

" Do you not hear the audience coming in ? Fibi, dress 
Dea. Vinos, take your tambourine." 

Fibi was obedient ; Vinos, passive. Together, they 
personified submission. Their master, Ursus, had always 
been to them an enigma. Never to be understood is a reason 
for being always obeyed. They simply thought he had gone 
mad, and did as they were told. Fibi took down the costume, 
and Vinos the tambourine. 

Fibi began to dress Dea. Ursus let down the door-curtain 
of the women's room, and from behind the curtain con- 
tinued, 

" Look there, Gwynplaine ! the court is already more than 
half full of people. They are in heaps in the passages. 
What a crowd 1 And you say that Fibi and Vinos look as if 
they did not see them. How stupid the gipsies are ! What 
fools they are in Egypt 1 Don't lift the curtain from the 
door. Be decent. Dea is dressing." 

He paused, and suddenly they heard an exclamation, 

" How beautiful Dea is! " 

It was the voice of Gwynplaine. 

Fibi and Vinos started, and turned round. It was the 
voice of Gwynplaine, but in the mouth of Ursus. 



422 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Ursus, by a sign which he made through the door ajar, 
forbade the expression of any astonishment. 

Then, again taking the voice of Gwynplaine, 

"Angel I" 

Then he replied in his own voice, 

" Dea an angel! You are a fool, Gwynplaine. No mam- 
mifer can fly except the bats." 

And he added, 

" Look here, Gwynplaine I Let Homo loose; that wfll be 
more to the purpose." 

And he descended the ladder of the Green Box very 
quickly, with the agile spring of Gwynplaine, imitating his 
step so that Dea could hear it. 

In the court he addressed the boy, whom the occurrences 
of the day had made idle and inquisitive. 

" Spread out both your hands," said he, in a loud voice. 

And he poured a handful of pence into them. 

Govicum was grateful for his munificence. 

Ursus whispered in his ear, 

"Boy, go into the yard; jump, dance, knock, bawl, 
whistle, coo, neigh, applaud, stamp your feet, burst out 
laughing, break something." 

Master Nicless, saddened and humiliated at seeing the folks 
who had come to see " The Laughing Man " turned back and 
crowding towards other caravans, had shut the door of the 
inn. He had even given up the idea of selling any beer or 
spirits that evening, that he might have to answer no awk- 
ward questions ; and, quite overcome by the sudden close of 
the performance, was looking, with his candle in his hand, 
into the court from the balcony above. 

Ursus, taking the precaution of putting his voice between 
parentheses fashioned by adjusting the palms of his hands 
to his mouth, cried out to him, 

"Sir! do as your boy is doing yelp, bark, howl." 

He re-ascended the steps of the Green Box, and said to the 
wolf, 

" Talk as much as you can." 

Then, raising his voice, 

" What a crowd there is I We shall have a crammed per- 
formance." 

In the meantime Vinos played the tambourine. Ursus 
went on, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 423 

" Dea is dressed. Now we can begin. I am sorry they 
have admitted so many spectators. How thickly packed 
they are I Look, Gwynplaine, what a mad mob it is ! I will 
bet that to-day we shall take more money than we have ever 
done yet. Come, gipsies, play up, both of you. Come here. 
Fibi, take your clarion. Good. Vinos, drum on your 
tambourine. Fling it up and catch it again. Fibi, put your- 
self into the attitude of Fame. Young ladies, you have too 
much on. Take off those jackets. Replace stuff by gauze. 
The public like to see the female form exposed. Let the 
moralists thunder. A little indecency. Devil take it! 
what of that? Look voluptuous, and rush into wild 
melodies. Snort, blow, whistle, nourish, play the tambour- 
ine. What a number of people, my poor Gwynplaine 1 " 

He interrupted himself. 

" Gwynplaine, help me. Let down the platform." He 
spread out his pocket-handkerchief. " But first let me roar 
In my rag," and he blew his nose violently as a ventriloquist 
ought. Having returned his handkerchief to his pocket, he 
drew the pegs out of the pulleys, which creaked as usual as 
tine platform was let down. 

" Gwynplaine, do not draw the curtain until the perform- 
ance begins. We are not alone. You two come on in front. 
Music, ladies I turn, turn, turn. A pretty audience we have 1 
the dregs of the people. Good heavens I " 

The two gipsies, stupidly obedient, placed themselves in 
their usual corners of the platform. Then Ursus became 
wonderful. It was no longer a man, but a crowd. Obliged 
to make abundance out of emptiness, he called to aid his 
prodigious powers of ventriloquism. The whole orchestra 
of human and animal voices which was within him he called 
into tumult at once. 

He was legion. Any one with his eyes closed would have 
imagined that he was in a public place on some day of rejoic- 
ing, or in some sudden popular riot. A whirlwind of clamour 
proceeded from Ursus : he sang, he shouted, he talked, he 
coughed, he spat, he sneezed, took snuff, talked and re- 
sponded, put questions and gave answers, all at once. The 
Ualf-uttered syllables ran one into another. In the court, 
untenanted by a single spectator, were heard men, women, 
and children. It was a clear confusion of tumult. Strange 
laughter wound, vapour-like, through the noise, the chirping 



424 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

of birds, the swearing of cats, the wailings of children at the 
breast. The indistinct tones of drunken men were to be 
heard, and the growls of dogs under the feet of people who 
stamped on them. The cries came from far and near, from 
top to bottom, from the upper boxes to the pit. The whole 
was an uproar, the detail was a cry. Ursus clapped his hands, 
stamped his feet, threw his voice to the end of the court, and 
then made it come from underground. It was both stormy 
and familiar. It passed from a murmur to a noise, from a 
noise to a tumult, from a tumult to a tempest. He was him- 
self, any, every one else. Alone, and polyglot. As there 
are optical illusions, there are also auricular illusions. That 
which Proteus did to sight Ursus did to hearing. Nothing 
could be more marvellous than his fac -simile of multitude. 
From time to time he opened the door of the women's apart- 
ment and looked at Dea. Dea was listening. On his part 
the boy exerted himself to the utmost. Vinos and Fibi 
trumpeted conscientiously, and took turns with the tambour- 
ine. Master Nicless, the only spectator, quietly made him- 
self the same explanation as they did that Ursus was gone 
mad ; which was, for that matter, but another sad item added 
to his misery . The good tavern-keeper growled out, " What 
insanity!" And he was serious as a man might well be who 
has the fear of the law before him. 

Govicum, delighted at being able to help in making a noise, 
exerted himself almost as much as Ursus. It amused him, 
and, moreover, it earned him pence. 

Homo was pensive. 

In the midst of the tumult Ursus now and then uttered 
such words as these:" Just as usual, Gwynplaine. There 
is a cabal against us. Our rivals are undermining our success. 
Tumult is the seasoning of triumph. Besides, there are too 
many people. They are uncomfortable. The angles of their 
neighbours' elbows do not dispose them to good-nature. I 
hope the benches will not give way. We shall be the victims 
of an incensed population. Oh, if our friend Tom- Jim- Jack 
were only here! but he never comes now. Look at those 
heads rising one above the other. Those who are forced to 
stand don't look very well pleased, though the great Galen 
pronounced it to be strengthening. We will shorten the 
entertainment; as only ' Chaos Vanquished ' was announced 
in the playbill, we will not play ' Ursus^Rursus. ' There will be 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 425 

something gained In that. What an uproar! O blind tur- 
bulence of the masses. They will do us some damage. How- 
ever, they can't go on like this. We should not be able to 
play. No one can catch a word of the piece. I am going to 
address them. Gwynplaine, draw the curtain a little aside. 
Gentlemen." Here Ursus addressed himself with a shrill 
and feeble voice, 

" Down with that old fooll " 
Then he answered in his own voice, 
" It seems that the mob insult me. Cicero Is right: plebs 
fex urbis. Never mind; we will admonish the mob, though I 
shall have a great deal of trouble to make myself heard. I 
will speak, notwithstanding. Man, do your duty. Gwyn- 
plaine, look at that scold grinding her teeth down there." 

Ursus made a pause, in which he placed a gnashing of his 
teeth. Homo, provoked, added a second, and Govicum a 
^hird. 

Ursus went on, 

" The women are worse than the men. The moment is 
unpropitious, but it doesn't matter 1 Let us try the power 
of a speech ; an eloquent speech is never out of place. Listen, 
Gwynplaine, to my attractive exordium. Ladies and gentle- 
men, I am a bear. I take off my head to address you. I 
humbly appeal to you for silence." Ursus, lending a cry to 
the crowd, said, " Grumphlll " 
Then he continued, 

" I respect my audience. Grumphll is an epiphonema as 
good as any other welcome. You growlers. That you are 
all of the dregs of the people, I do not doubt. That in no 
way diminishes my esteem for you. A well-considered 
esteem. I have a profound respect for the bullies who honour 
me with their custom. There are deformed folks amongst 
you. They give me no offence. The lame and the humpv 
backed are works of nature. The camel is gibbous. The 
bison's back is humped. The badger's left legs are shorter 
than the right. That fact is decided by Aristotle, in his 
treatise on the walking of animals. There are those amongst 
you who have but two shirts one on his back, and the other 
at the pawnbroker's. I know that to be true. Albuquerque 
pawned his moustache, and St. Denis his glory. The Jews 
advanced money on the glory. Great examples. To have 
debts is to have something. I revere your beggardom." 



4 20 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Ursus cut short his speech, interrupting it in a deep bass 
voice by the shout, 

"Triple ass 1 " 

And he answered In his politest accent, 

" I admit it. I am a learned man. I do my best to 
apologize for it. I scientifically despise science. Ignorance 
is a reality on which we feed; science is a reality on which 
we starve. In general one is obliged to choose between two 
things to be learned and grow thin, or to browse and be an 
ass. O gentlemen, browse I Science is" not worth a mouthful 
of anything nice. I had rather eat a sirloin of beejf than know 
what they call the psoas muscle. I have but one merit a 
dry eye. Such as you see me, I have never wept. It must 
be owned that I have never been satisfied never satisfied 
not even with myself. I despise myself; but I submit this 
to the members of the opposition here present if Ursus is 
only a learned man, Gwynplaine is an artist." 

He groaned again, 

"Grumphll!" 

And resumed, 

" Grumphll again 1 it is an objection. All the same, I pass 
it over. Near Gwynplaine, gentlemen and ladies, is another 
artist, a valued and distinguished personage who accompanies 
us his lordship Homo, formerly a wild dog, now a civilized 
wolf, and a faithful subject of her Majesty's. Homo is a 
mine of deep and superior talent. Be attentive and watch. 
You are going to set Homo play as well as Gwynplaine, anc? 
you must do honour to art. That is an attribute of great 
nations. Are you men of the woods? I admit the fact. 
In that case, sylva sunt consule digna. Two artists are well 
worth one consul. All right! Some one has flung a cab- 
bage stalk at me, but did not hit me. That will not stop 
my speaking; on the contrary, a danger evaded makes folks 
garrulous. Garrula pericula, says Juvenal. My hearers 1 
there are amongst you drunken men and drunken women. 
Very well. The men are unwholesome. The women are 
hideous. You have all sorts of excellent reasons for stowing 
yourselves away here on the benches of the pothouse want 
of work, idleness, the spare time between two robberies, 
porter, ale, stout, malt, brandy, gin, and the attraction of one 
sex for the other. What could be better? A wit prone 
to irony would find this a fair field. But I abstain. Tis 



-CHE LAUGHING MIAN. 427 

luxury; so be it, but even, an orgy should be kept within 
bounds. You are gay, but noisy. You imitate successfully 
the cries of beasts ; but what would you say if, when you were 
making love to a lady, I passed my time in barking at you ? It 
would disturb you, and so it disturbs us. I order you to hold 
your tongues. Art is as respectable as debauch. I speak to 
you civilly." 

He apostrophized himself, 

" May the fever strangle you, with your eyebrows like the 
beard of rye." 

And he replied, 

" Honourable gentlemen, let the' rye alone. It is impious 
to insult the vegetables, by likening them either to human 
creatures or animals. Besides, the fever does not strangle. 
'Tis a false metaphor. For pity's sake, keep silence. Allow 
me to tell you that you are slightly wanting in the repose 
which characterizes the true English gentleman. I see that 
some amongst you, who have shoes out of which their toes 
are peeping, take advantage of the circumstance to rest their 
feet on the shoulders of those who are in front of them, caus- 
ing the ladies to remark that the soles of shoes divide always 
at the part at which is the head of the metatarsal bones. 
Show more of your hands and less of your feet. I perceive 
scamps who plunge their ingenious fists into the pockets of 
their foolish neighbours. Dear pickpockets, have a little 
modesty. Fight those next to you If you like; do not 
plunder them. You will vex them less by blackening an eye, 
than by lightening their purses of a penny. Break their 
noses if you like. The shopkeeper thinks more of his money 
than of his beauty. Barring this, accept my sympathies, 
for I am not pedantic enough to blame thieves. Evil exists. 
Every one endures it, every one inflicts it. No one is exempt 
from the vermin of his sins. That's what I keep saying. 
Have we not all our Itch? I myself have made mistakes. 
Plaudits , cives." 

Ursus uttered a long groan, which he overpowered by these 
concluding words, 

" My lords and gentlemen, I see that my address has 
unluckily displeased you. I take leave of your hisses for a 
moment. I shall put on my head, and the performance is 
going to begin." 

He dropt his oratorical tone, and resumed his usual voice- 



428 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" Close the curtains. Let me breathe. I have spoken 
like honey. I have spoken well. My words were like velvet; 
but they were useless. I called them my lords and gentlemen. 
What do you think of all this scum, Gwynplaine ? How well 
may we estimate the ills which England has suffered for the 
last forty years through the ill-temper of these irritable and 
malicious spirits ! The ancient Britons were warlike ; these 
are melancholy and learned. They glory in despising the 
laws and contemning royal authority. I have done all that 
human eloquence can do. I have been prodigal of metonymies, 
as gracious as the blooming cheek of youth. t Were they 
softened by them? I doubt it. What can affect a people 
who eat so extraordinarily, who stupefy themselves by 
tobacco so completely that their literary men often write 
their works with a pipe in their mouths ? Never mind. Let 
us begin the play." 

The rings of the curtain were heard being drawn over 
the rod. The tambourines of the gipsies were still. Ursus 
took down his instrument, executed his prelude, and said in 
a low tone: "Alas, Gwynplaine, how mysterious it is!" 
then he flung himself down with the wolf. 

When he had taken down his instrument, he had also taken 
from the nail a rough wig which he had, and which he had 
thrown on the stage in a corner within his reach. The per- 
formance of " Chaos Vanquished " took place as usual, minus 
only the effect of the blue light and the brilliancy of the 
fairies. The wolf played his best. At the proper moment 
Dea made her appearance, and, in her voice so tremulous and 
heavenly, invoked Gwynplaine. She extended her arms, 
feeling for that head. 

Ursus rushed at the wig, ruffled it, put it on, advanced 
softly, and holding his breath, his head bristled thus under 
the hand of Dea. 

Then calling all his art to his aid, and copying Gwynplaine 's 
voice, he sang with ineffable love the response of the monster 
to the call of the spirit. The imitation was so perfect that 
again the gipsies looked for Gwynplaine, frightened at hearing 
without seeing him. 

Govicum, filled with astonishment, stamped, applauded, 
clapped his hands, producing an Olympian tumult, and himself 
laughed as if he had been a chorus of gods. This boy, it must 
be confessed, developed a rare talent for acting an audience. 



THE LAUGHING MAN, 429 

Fibi and Vinos, being automatons of which Ursus pulled 
the strings, rattled their instruments, composed of copper 
and ass's skin the usual sign of the performance being over 
and of the departure of the people. 

Ursus arose, covered with perspiration. He said, in a low 
voice, to Homo, " You see it was necessary to gain time. I 
think we have succeeded. I have not acquitted myself 
badly I, who have as much reason as any one to go dis- 
tracted. Gwynplaine may perhaps return to-morrow. It is 
useless to kill Dea directly. I can explain matters to you." 

He took off his wig and wiped his forehead. 

" I am a ventriloquist of genius," murmured he. " What 
talent I displayed ! I have equalled Brabant, the engastrimist 
of Francis I. of France. Dea is convinced that Gwynplaine 
is here." 

" Ursus," said Dea, " where is Gwynplaine? " 

Ursus started and turned round. Dea was still standing 
at the back of the stage, alone under the lamp which hung 
from the ceiling. She was pale, with the pallor of a ghost. 

She added, with an ineffable expression of despair, 

" I know. He has left us. He is gone. I always knew 
that he had wings." 

And raising her sightless eyes on high, she added, 

"When shall I follow?" 



CHAPTER III. 

COMPLICATIONS. 

URSUS was stunned. 

He had not sustained the illusion. 

Was it the fault of ventriloquism? Certainly not. He 
had succeeded in deceiving Fibi and Vinos, who had eyes, 
although he had not deceived Dea, who was blind. It was 
because Fibi and Vinos saw with their eyes, while Dea saw 
with her heart. He could not utter a word. He thought 
to himself, Bos in lingtia. The troubled man has an ox on 
his tongue. 

In his complex emotions, humiliation was the first which 
dawned on him. Ursus, driven out of his last resource, 
pondered. 

" I lavish my onomatopies in vain." Then, like every 



430 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

dreamer, he reviled himself. " What a frightful failure! I 
wore myself out in a pure loss of imitative harmony. But 
what is to be done next? " 

He looked at Dea. She was silent, and grew paler every 
moment, as she stood perfectly motionless. Her sightless 
eyes remained fixed in depths of thought. 

Fortunately, something happened. Ursus saw Master 
Nicless in the yard, with a candle in his hand, beckoning 
to him. 

Master Nicless had not assisted at the end of the phantom 
comedy played by Ursus. Some one had happened to knock 
at the door of the inn. Master Nicless had gone to open it. 
There had been two knocks, and twice Master Nicless had 
disappeared. Ursus, absorbed by his hundred- voiced mono- 
logue, had not observed his absence. 

On the mute call of Master Nicless, Ursus descended. 

He approached the tavern-keeper. Ursus put his finger on 
his lips. Master Nicless put his finger on his lips. 

The two looked at each other thus. 

Each seemed to say to the other, " We will talk, but we 
will hold our tongues." 

The tavern-keeper silently opened the door of the lower 
room of the tavern. Master Nicless entered. Ursus entered. 
There was no one there except these two. On the side look- 
Ing on the street both doors and window-shutters were 
closed. 

The tavern-keeper pushed the door behind him, and shut 
it in the face of the inquisitive Govicum. 

Master Nicless placed the candle on the table. 

A low whispering dialogue began. 

"Master Ursus?" 

"Master Nicless?" 

" I understand at last." 

" Nonsense I " 

" You wished the poor blind girl to think that all was 
going on as usual." 

" There is no law against my being a ventriloquist." 

" You are a clever fellow." 

" No." 

" It is wonderful how you manage all that you wish to do." 

" I tell you it is not." 

" Now, I have something to tell you." 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 431 

" Is it about politics? " 

" I don't know." 

" Because in that case I could not listen to you." 

" Look here: whilst you were playing actors and audience 
by yourself, some one knocked at the door of the tavern." 

" Some one knocked at the door? " 

" Yes." 

" I don't like that." 

" Nor I, either." 

" And then? " 

" And then I opened it." 

" Who was it that knocked? " 

" Some one who spoke to me." 

"What did he say?" 

" I listened to him." 

" What did you answer? " 

" Nothing. I came back to see you play." 

-And ?" 

" Some one knocked a second time." 

" Who? the same person? " 

" No, another." 

" Some one else to speak to you ? " 

" Some one who said nothing." 

"I like that better." 

" I do not." 

" Explain yourself, Master Nicless." 

" Guess who called the first time." 

" I have no leisure to be an GEdipus." 

" It was the proprietor of the circus." 

"Over the way? " 

" Over the way." 

" Whence comes all that fearful noise. Well? " 

" Well, Master Ursus, he makes you a proposal." 

"A proposal?" 

" A proposal." 

"Why?" 

" Because " 

" You have an advantage over me, Master Nicless. Just 
now you solved my enigma, and now I cannot understand 
yours." 

" The proprietor of the circus commissioned me to tell you 
that he had seen the cortege of police pass this morning, and 



432 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

that he, the proprietor of the circus, wishing to prove that he 
is your friend, offers to buy of you, for fifty pounds, ready 1 
money, your caravan, the Green Box, your two horses, your 
trumpets, with the women that blow them, your play, with 
the blind girl who sings in it, your wolf, and yourself." 

Ursus smiled a haughty smile. 

" Innkeeper, tell the proprietor of the circus that Gwyn- 
plaine is coming back." 

The innkeeper took something from a chair in the darkness, 
and turning towards Ursus with both arms raised, dangled 
from one hand a cloak, and from the other a leather esclavine, 
a felt hat, and a jacket. 

And Master Nicless said, " The man who knocked the 
second time was connected with the police; he came in and 
left without saying a word, and brought these things." 

Ursus recognized the esclavine, the jacket, the hat, and 
the cloak of Gwynplaine. 

CHAPTER IV. 

MCENIBUS SURDIS CAMPANA MUTA. 

URSUS smoothed the felt of the hat, touched the cloth of the 
cloak, the serge of the coat, the leather of the esclavine, and 
no longer able to doubt whose garments they were, with a 
gesture at once brief and imperative, and without saying a 
word, pointed to the door of the inn. 

Master Nicless opened it. 

Ursus rushed out of the tavern. 

Master Nicless looked after him, and saw Ursus run, as fast 
as his old legs would allow, in the direction taken that morn- 
ing by the wapentake who carried off Gwynplaine. 

A quarter of an hour afterwards, Ursus, out of breath, 
reached the little street in which stood the back wicket of the 
Southwark jail, which he had already watched so many hours. 
This alley was lonely enough at all hours ; but if dreary during 
the day, it was portentous in the night. No one ventured 
through it after a certain hour. It seemed as though people 
feared that the walls should close in, and that if the prison or 
the cemetery took a fancy to embrace, they should be crushed 
in their clasp. Such are the effects of darkness. The 
pollard willows of the Ruelle Vauvert in Paris were thus ill- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 433 

iamed. It was said that during the night the stumps of those 
trees changed into great hands, and caught hold of the 
passers-by. 

By instinct the Southwark folks shunned, as we have 
already mentioned, this alley between a prison and a church- 
yard. Formerly it had been barricaded during the night by 
an iron chain. Very uselessly; because the strongest chain 
which guarded the street was the terror it inspired. 

Ursus entered it resolutely. 

What intention possessed him? None. 

He came into the alley to seek intelligence. 

Was he going to knock at the gate of the jail? Certainly 
not. Such an expedient, at once fearful and vain, had no 
place in his brain. To attempt to introduce himself to de- 
mand an explanation. What folly 1 Prisons do not open to 
those who wish to enter, any more than to those who desire 
to get out. Their hinges never turn except by law. Ursus 
knew this. Why, then, had he come there? To see. To 
see what? Nothing. Who can tell? Even to be opposite 
the gate through which Gwynplaine had disappeared was 
something. 

Sometimes the blackest and most rugged of walls whispers, 
and some light escapes through a cranny. A vague glimmer- 
ing is now and then to be perceived through solid and sombre 
piles of building. Even to examine the envelope of a fact 
may be to some purpose. The instinct of us all is to leave 
between the fact which interests us and ourselves but the 
thinnest possible cover. Therefore it was that Ursus re- 
turned to the alley in which the lower entrance to the prison 
was situated. 

Just as he entered it he heard one stroke of the clock, then 
a second. 

" Hold," thought he; " can it be midnight already? " 

Mechanically he set himself to count. 

" Three, four, five." 

He mused. 

" At what long intervals this clock strikes! how slowly I 
Six; seven! " 

Then he remarked, 

" What a melancholy sound ! Eight, nine ! Ah ! nothing can 
be more natural; it's dull work for a clock to live in a prison. 
Ten 1 Besides, there is the cemetery. This clock sounds the 



434 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

hour to the living, and eternity to the dead. Eleven ! Alas! 
to strike the hour to him who is not free is also to chronicle 
an eternity. Twelve I " 

He paused. 

" Yes, it is midnight." 

The clock struck a thirteenth stroke. 

Ursus shuddered. 

"Thirteen!" 

Then followed a fourteenth; then a fifteenth. 

" What can this mean? " 

The strokes continued at long intervals. Ursus listened. 

" It is not the striking of a clock; it is the bell Muta. No 
wonder I said, ' How long it takes to strike midnight ! ' This 
clock does not strike; it tolls. What fearful thing is about 
to take place? " 

Formerly all prisons and all monasteries had a bell called 
Muta, reserved for melancholy occasions. La Muta (the 
mute) was a bell which struck very low, as if doing its best 
not to be heard. 

Ursus had reached the corner which he had found so con- 
venient for his watch, and whence he had been able, during a 
great part of the day, to keep his eye on the prison. 

The strokes followed each other at lugubrious intervals. 

A knell makes an ugly punctuation in space. It breaks 
the preoccupation of the mind into funereal paragraphs. A 
knell, like a man's death-rattle, notifies an agony. If in the 
houses about the neighbourhood where a knell is tolled there 
are reveries straying in doubt, its sound cuts them into rigid 
fragments. A vague reverie is a sort of refuge. Some in- 
definable diffuseness in anguish allows now and then a ray of 
hope to pierce through it. A knell is precise and desolating. 
It concentrates this diffusion of thought, and precipitates the 
vapours in which anxiety seeks to remain in suspense. A 
knell speaks to each one in the sense of his own grief or of his 
own fear. Tragic belli it concerns you. It is a warning 
to you. 

There Is nothing so dreary as a monologue on which its 
cadence falls. The even returns of sound seem to show a 
purpose. 

What is it that this hammer, the bell, forges on the anvil 
of thought? 

Ursus counted, vaguely and without motive, the tolling of 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 435 

the knell. Feeling that his thoughts were sliding from him, 
he made an effort not to let them slip into conjecture. Con- 
jecture is an inclined plane, on which we slip too far to be to 
our own advantage. Still, what was the meaning of the bell ? 

He looked through the darkness in the direction in which 
he knew the gate of the prison to be. 

Suddenly, in that very spot which looked like a dark hole, 
a redness showed. The redness grew larger, and became a 
light. 

There was no uncertainty about it. It soon took a form 
and angles. The gate of the jail had just turned on its hinges. 
The glow painted the arch and the jambs of the door. It 
was a yawning rather than an opening. A prison does not 
open; it yawns perhaps from ennui. Through the gate 
passed a man with a torch in his hand. 

, The bell rang on. Ursus felt his attention fascinated by 
two objects. He watched his ear the knell, his eye the 
torch. Behind the first man the gate, which had been ajar, 
enlarged the opening suddenly, and allowed egress to two 
other men; then to a fourth. This fourth was the wapen- 
take, clearly visible in the light of the torch. In his grasp 
was his iron staff. 

Following the wapentake, there filed and opened out below 
the gateway in order, two by two, with the rigidity of a series 
of walking posts, ranks of silent men. 

This nocturnal procession stepped through the wicket in 
file, like a procession of penitents, without any solution of 
continuity, with a funereal care to make no noise gravely, 
almost gently. A serpent issues from its hole with similar 
precautions. 

The torch threw out their profiles and attitudes into relief. 
Fierce looks, sullen attitudes. 

Ursus recognized the faces of the police who had that 
morning carried off Gwynplaine. 

There was no doubt about it. They were the same. They 
were reappearing. 

Of course, Gwynplaine would also reappear. They had 
led him to that place; they would bring him back. 

It was all quite clear. 

Ursus strained his eyes to the utmost. Would they set 
Gwynplaine at liberty ? 

The files of police flowed from the low arch very slowly, 



436 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

and, as It were, drop by drop. The toll of the bell was unin- 
terrupted, and seemed to mark their steps. On leaving the 
prison, the procession turned their backs on Ursus, went to 
the right, into the bend of the street opposite to that in which 
he was posted. 

A second torch shone under the gateway, announcing the 
end of the procession. 

Ursus was now about to see what they were bringing with 
them. The prisoner the man. 

Ursus was soon, he thought, to see Gwynplaine. 
That which they carried appeared. 
It was a bier. 

Four men carried a bier, covered with black cloth. 
Behind them came a man, with a shovel on his shoulder. 
A third lighted torch, held by a man reading a book 
probably the chaplain, closed the procession. 

The bier followed the ranks of the police, who had turned 
to the right. 

Just at that moment the head of the procession stopped. 
Ursus heard the grating of a key. 

Opposite the prison, in the low wall which ran along the 
other side of the street, another opening was illuminated by 
a torch passing beneath it. 

This gate, over which a death's-head was placed, was that 
of the cemetery. 

The wapentake passed through it, then the men, then the 
second torch. The procession decreased therein, like a 
reptile entering his retreat. 

The files of police penetrated into that other darkness 
which was beyond the gate; then the bier; then the man 
with the spade; then the chaplain with his torch and his 
book, and the gate closed. 

There was nothing left but a haze of light above the 
wall. 

A muttering was heard; then some dull sounds. Doubt- 
less the chaplain and the gravedigger the one throwing on 
the coffin some verses of Scripture, the other some clods of 
earth. 

The muttering ceased; the heavy sounds ceased. A 
movement was made. The torches shone. The wapentake 
reappeared, holding high his weapon, under the reopened 
gate of the cemetery; then the chaplain with his book, and 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 437 

the gravedigger with his spade. The cortege reappeared 
without the coffin. 

The files of men crossed over in the same order, with the 
same taciturnity, and in the opposite direction. The gate 
of the cemetery closed. That of the prison opened. Its 
sepulchral architecture stood out against the light. The 
obscurity of the passage became vaguely visible. The solid 
and deep night of the jail was revealed to sight; then the 
whole vision disappeared in the depths of shadow. 

The knell ceased. All was locked in silence. A sinister 
incarceration of shadows. 

A vanished vision ; nothing more. 

A passage of spectres, which had disappeared. 

The logical arrangement of surmises builds up something 
which at least resembles evidence. To the arrest of Gwyn- 
plaine, to the secret mode of his capture, to the return of his 
garments by the police officer, to the death bell of the prison 
to which he had been conducted, was now added, or rather 
adjusted portentous circumstance a coffin carried to the 
grave. 

" He is dead! " cried Ursus. 

He sank down upon a stone. 

" Dead I They have killed him I Gwynplaine 1 My child 1 
My son 1 " 

And he burst into passionate sobs. 

CHAPTER V. 

STATE POLICY DEALS WITH LITTLE MATTERS AS WELL AS 
WITH GREAT. 

URSUS, alas! had boasted that he had never wept. His 
reservoir of tears was fulL Such plentitude as is accumu- 
lated drop on drop, sorrow on sorrow, through a long exist- 
ence, is not to be poured out in a moment, Ursus wept 
alone. 

The first tear is a letting out of waters. He wept for 
Gwynplaine, for Dea, for himself, Ursus, for Homo. He 
wept like a child. He wept like an old man. He wept for 
everything at which he had ever laughed. He paid ofi 
arrears. Man is never nonsuited when he pleads his right to 
tears. 



43 8 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

The corpse they had just buried was Hardquanonae's? 
but Ursus could not know that. 

The hours crept on. 

Day began to break. The pale clothing of the morning 
was spread out, dimly creased with shadow, over the bowl- 
ing-green. The dawn lighted up the front of the Tadcaster 
Inn. Master Nicless had not gone to bed, because sometimes 
the same occurrence produces sleeplessness in many. 

Troubles radiate in every direction. Throw a stone in the 
water, and count the splashes. 

Master Nicless felt himself impeached. It is very disagree- 
able that such things should happen in one's house. Master 
Nicless, uneasy, and foreseeing misfortunes, meditated. He 
regretted having received such people into his house. Had 
he but known that they would end by getting him into 
mischief 1 But the question was how to get rid of them ? 
He had given Ursus a lease. What a blessing if he could 
free himself from it 1 How should he set to work to drive 
them out ? 

Suddenly the door of the inn resounded with one of those 
tumultuous knocks which in England announces " Some- 
body." The gamut of knocking corresponds with the ladder 
of hierarchy. 

It was not quite the knock of a lord; but it was the 
knock of a justice. 

The trembling innkeeper half opened his window. There 
was, indeed, the magistrate. Master Nicless perceived at 
the door a body of police, from the head of which two men 
detached themselves, one of whom was the justice of the 
quorum. 

Master Nicless had seen the justice of the quorum that 
morning, and recognized him. 

He did not know the other, who was a fat gentleman, with 
a waxen-coloured face, a fashionable wig, and a travelling 
cloak. Nicless was much afraid of the first of these persons, 
the justice of the quorum. Had he been of the court, he 
would have feared the other most, because it was Barkil- 
phedro. 

One of the subordinates knocked at the door again 
violently. 

The innkeeper, with great drops of perspiration on his 
brow, from anxiety, opened it. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 439 

The justice of the quorum, in the tone of a man who is 
employed in matters of police, and who is well acquainted 
with various shades of vagrancy, raised his voice, and asked 
severely, for 

" Master Ursus 1" 

The host, cap in hand, replied, 

" Your honour; he lives here." 

I know it," said the justice. 

No doubt, your honour." 

Tell him to come down." 

Your honour, he is not here." 

Where is he?" 

I do not know." 

How is that? " 

He has not come In." 

Then he must have gone out very early? " 

No; but he went out very late." 

What vagabonds 1 " replied the justice. 

Your honour," said Master Nicless, softly , ' ' here he comes. ' * 
Ursus, indeed, had just come in sight, round a turn of the 
wall. He was returning to the inn. He had passed nearly 
the whole night between the jail, where at midday he had 
seen Gwynplaine, and the cemetery, where at midnight he 
had heard the grave filled up. He was pallid with two pallors 
that of sorrow and of twilight. 

Dawn, which is light in a chrysalis state, leaves even 
those forms which are in movement in the uncertainty of 
night. Ursus, wan and indistinct, walked slowly, like a man 
in a dream. In the wild distraction produced by agony of 
mind, he had left the inn with his head bare. He had not 
even found out that he had no hat on. His spare, gray 
locks fluttered in the wind. His open eyes appeared sight- 
less. Often when awake we are asleep, and as often when 
asleep we are awake. 
I Ursus looked like a lunatic. 

" Master Ursus," cried the innkeeper, " come ; their 
honours desire to speak to you." 

Master Nicless, in his endeavour to soften matters down, 
let slip, although he would gladly have omitted, this plural, 
" their honours " respectful to the group, but mortifying, 
perhaps, to the chief, confounded therein, to some degree, 
with his subordinates. 



440 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Ursus started like a man falling off a bed, on which he was 
sound asleep. 

" What is the matter ? " said he. 

He saw the police, and at the head of the police the justice. 
A fresh and rude shock. 

But a short time ago, the wapentake, now the justice of 
the quorum. He seemed to have been cast from one to the 
other, as ships by some reefs of which we have read in old 
stories. 

The justice of the quorum made him a sign to enter the 
tavern. Ursus obeyed. 

Govicum, who had just got up, and who was sweeping 
the room, stopped his work, got into a corner behind the 
tables, put down his broom, and held his breath. He 
plunged his fingers into his hair, and scratched his head, 
a symptom which indicated attention to what was about to 
occur. 

The justice of the quorum sat down on a form, before a 
table. Barkilphedro took a chair. Ursus and Master Nicless 
remained standing. The police officers, left outside, grouped 
themselves in front of the closed door. 

The justice of the quorum fixed his eye, full of the law, 
upon Ursus. He said, 

" You have a wolf." 

Ursus answered, 

" Not exactly." 

" You have a wolf," continued the justice, emphasizing 
" wolf " with a decided accent. 

Ursus answered, 

" You see " 

And he was silent. 

" A misdemeanour 1 " replied the justice. 

Ursus hazarded an excuse, 

" He is my servant." 

The justice placed his hand flat on the table, with his 
fingers spread out, which is a very fine gesture of authority. 

" Merry- andrew 1 to-morrow, by this hour, you and your 
wolf must have left England. If not, the wolf will be seized, 
carried to the register office, and killed." 

Ursus thought, "More murder 1 " but he breathed not a 
syllable, and was satisfied with trembling in every limb. 

" You hear? " said the justice. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 441 

Ursus nodded. 

The justice persisted, 

"Killed." 

There was silence. 

" Strangled, or drowned." 

The justice of the quorum watched Ursus. 

" And yourself in prison." 

Ursus murmured, 

" Your worship 1 " 

"Be off before to-morrow morning; if not, such is the 
order." 

" Your worship 1 " 

"What?" 

' " Must we leave England, he and I ? " 
' "Yes." 

"To-day?" 

" To-day." 

"What is to be done?" 

Master Nicless was happy. The magistrate, whom he had 
feared, had come to his aid. The police had acted as auxiliary 
to him, Nicless. They had delivered him from " such 
people." The means he had sought were brought to him. 
Ursus, whom he wanted to get rid of, was being driven away 
by the police, a superior authority. Nothing to object to. 
He was delighted. He interrupted, 

" Your honour, that man " 

He pointed to Ursus with his finger. 

" That man wants to know how he is to leave England 
to-day. Nothing can be easier. There are night and day 
at anchor on the Thames, both on this and on the other 
side of London Bridge, vessels that sail to the Continent. 
They go from England to Denmark, to Holland, to Spain; 
not to France, on account of the war, but everywhere else. 
To-night several ships will sail, about one o'clock in the morn- 
ing, which is the hour of high tide, and, amongst others, the 
Vograat of Rotterdam." 

The justice of the quorum made a movement of his shoulder 
towards Ursus. 

" Be it so. Leave by the first ship by the Vograat." 

' Your worship," said Ursus. 

"Well?" 

" Your worship, If I had. as formerly, only my little box 



442 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

on wheels, it might be done, A boat wauld contain that; 

but " 

"But what?" 

" But now I have got the Green Box, which is a great 
caravan drawn by two horses, and however wide the ship 
might be, we could not get it into her." 

" What is that to me? " said the justice. " The wolf will 
be killed." 

Ursus shuddered, as if he were grasped by a hand of ice. 

"Monsters I" he thought. "Murdering people is their 
way of settling matters." 

The innkeeper smiled, and addressed Ursus. 

" Master Ursus, you can sell the Green Box." 

Ursus looked at Nicless. 

" Master Ursus, you have the offer." 

"From whom?" 

" An offer for the caravan, an offer for the two horses, an 
offer for the two gipsy women, an offer " 

" From whom? " repeated Ursus. 

" From the proprietor of the neighbouring circus." 

Ursus remembered it. 

" It is true." 

Master Nicless turned to the justice of the quorum. 

" Your honour, the bargain can be completed to-day. The 
proprietor of the circus close by wishes to buy the caravan 
and the horses." 

" The proprietor of the circus is right," said the justice, 
" because he will soon require them. A caravan and 
horses will be useful to him. He, too, will depart to-day. 
The reverend gentlemen of the parish of Southwark have 
complained of the indecent riot in Tarrinzeau field. The 
sheriff has taken his measures. To-night there will not be a 
single juggler's booth in the place. There must be an end of 
all these scandals. The honourable gentleman who deigns to 
be here present " 

The justice of the quorum interrupted his speech to salute 
Barkilphedro, who returned the bow. 

" The honourable gentleman who deigns to be present 
has just arrived from Windsor. He brings orders. Her 
Majesty has said, ' It must be swept away.' " 

Ursus, during his long meditation all night, had not failed 
to put himself some questions. After all, he had only seen 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 443 

a bier. Could he be sure that It contained Gwynplaine? 
Other people might have died besides Gwynplaine, A coffin 
does not announce the name of the corpse, as it passes by. 
A funeral had followed the arrest of Gwynplaine. That 
proved nothing. Post hoc, non propter hoc, etc. Ursus had 
begun to doubt. 

Hope burns and glimmers over misery like naphtha over 
water. Its hovering flame ever floats over human sorrow. 
Ursus had come to this conclusion, " It is probable that it 
was Gwynplaine whom they buried, but it is not certain. 
Who knows ? Perhaps Gwynplaine is still alive." 

Ursus bowed to the justice. 

" Honourable judge, I will go away, we will go away, all 
will go away, by the Vograat of Rotterdam, to-day. I will 
sell the Green Box, the horses, the trumpets, the gipsies. 
But I have a comrade, whom I cannot leave behind 
Gwynplaine." 

" Gwynplaine is dead," said a voice. 

Ursus felt a cold sensation, such as is produced by a reptile 
crawling over the skio. It was Barkilphedro who had just 
spoken- 

The last gleam was extinguished. No more doubt now. 
Gwynplaine was dead. A person in authority must know. 
This one looked ill-favoured enough to do so. 

Ursus bowed to him. 

Master Nicless was a good-hearted man enough, but a 
dreadful coward. Once terrified, he became a brute. The 
greatest cruelty is that inspired by fear. 

He growled out, 

" This simplifies matters." 

And he indulged, standing behind Ursus, in rubbing his 
hands, a peculiarity of the selfish, signifying, " I am well 
out of it," and suggestive of Pontius Pilate washing his 
hands. 

Ursus, overwhelmed, bent down his head. 

The sentence on Gwynplaine had been executed death. 
His sentence was pronounced exile. Nothing remained 
but to obey. He felt as in a dream. 

Some one touched his arm. It was the other person, who 
was with the justice of the quorum. Ursus shuddered. 

The voice which had said, "Gwynplaine is dead," whispered 
to his ear, 



444 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" Here are ten guineas, sent you by one who wishes yoti 
well." 

And Barkilphedro placed a little purse on a table before 
Ursus. We must not forget the casket that Barkilphedro 
had taken with him. 

Ten guineas out of two thousand I It was all that Barkil- 
phedro could make up his mind to part with. In all con-- 
science It was enough. If he had given more, he would have 
lost. He had taken the trouble of finding out a lord} and 
having sunk the shaft, it was but fair that the first proceeds 
of the mine should belong to him. Those who see meanness 
in the act are right, but they would be wrong to feel astonished. 
Barkilphedro loved money, especially money which was, 
stolen. An envious man is an avaricious one. Barkilphedro 
was not without his faults. The commission of crimes does 
not preclude the possession of vices. Tigers have their lice. 

Besides, he belonged to the school of Bacon. 

Barkilphedro turned towards the justice of the quorum, 
and said to him, 

" Sir, be so good as to conclude this matter. I am In haste. 
A carriage and horses belonging to her Majesty await me. 
I must go full gallop to Windsor, for I must be there within 
two hours' time. I have intelligence to give, and orders to 
take/" 

The justice of the quorum arose. 

He went to the door, which was only latched, opened it, 
and, looking silently towards the police, beckoned to them 
authoritatively. They entered with that silence which 
heralds severity of action. 

Master Nicless, satisfied with the rapid denouement which 
cut short his difficulties, charmed to be out of the entangled 
skein, was afraid, when he saw the muster of officers, that 
they were going to apprehend Ursus In his house. Two 
arrests, one after the other, made in his house first that of 
Gwynplaine, then that of Ursus might be injurious to the 
inn. Customers dislike police raids. 

Here then was a time for a respectful appeal, suppliant and 
generous. Master Nicless turned toward the justice of the 
quorum a smiling face, in which confidence was tempered by 
respect. 

" Your honour, I venture to observe to your honour that 
these honourable gentlemen, the police officers, might be 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 445 

dispensed with, now that the wolf is about to be carried away 
from England, and that this man, Ursus, makes no resist- 
ance; and since your honour's orders are being punctually 
carried out, your honour will consider that the respectable 
business of the police, so necessary to the good of the king- 
dom, does great harm to an establishment, and that my 
house is innocent. The merry andrews of the Green Box 
having been swept away, as her Majesty says, there is no 
longer any criminal here, as I do not suppose that the blind 
girl and the two women are criminals; therefore, I implore 
your honour to deign to shorten your august visit, and to 
dismiss these worthy gentlemen who have just entered, 
because there is nothing for them to do in my house; and, if 
your honour will permit me to prove the justice of my speech 
under the form of a humble question, I will prove the inu- 
tility of these revered gentlemen's presence by asking your 
honour, if the man, Ursus, obeys orders and departs, who 
there can be to arrest here? " 

" Yourself," said the justice. 

A man does not argue with a sword which runs him through 
and through. Master Nicless subsided he cared not on 
what, on a table, on a form, on anything that happened to be 
there prostrate. 

The justice raised his voice, so that if there were people 
outside, they might hear. 

" Master Nicless Plumptree, keeper of this tavern, this is the 
last point to be settled. This mountebank and the wolf are 
vagabonds. They are driven away. But the person most 
in fault is yourself. It is in your house, and with your con- 
sent, that the law has been violated ; and you, a man licensed, 
invested with a public responsibility, have established the 
scandal here. Master Nicless, your licence is taken away; 
you must pay the penalty, and go to prison." 

The policemen surrounded the innkeeper. 

The justice continued, pointing out Govicum, 

" Arrest that boy as an accomplice." The hand of an 
officer fell upon the collar of Govicum, who looked at him 
inquisitively. The boy was not much alarmed, scarcely 
understanding the occurrence; having already observed 
many things out of the way, he wondered if this were the 
end of the comedy. 

The justice of the quorum forced his hat down on his head. 



446 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

crossed his hands on his stomach, which is the height of 
majesty, and added, 

"It is decided, Master Nicless; you are to be taken to 
prison, and put into jail, you and the boy; and this house, 
the Tadcaster Inn, is to remain shut up, condemned and 
closed. For the sake of example. Upon which, you will 
follow us." 



BOOK THE SEVENTH 
THE TITANESS. 



CHAPTER I. 

THE AWAKENING. 

AND Deal 

It seemed to Gwynplaine, as he watched the break of day 
at Corleone Lodge, while the things we have related were 
occurring at the Tadcaster Inn, that the call came from with- 
out; but it came from within. 

Who has not heard the deep clamours of the soul ? 

Moreover, the morning was dawning. 

Aurora is a voice. 

Of what use is the sun if not to reawaken that dark sleeper 
the conscience ? 

Light and virtue are akin. 

Whether the god be called Christ or Love, there is at times 
an hour when he is forgotten, even by the best. All of us, 
even the saints, require a voice to remind us ; and the dawn 
speaks to us, like a sublime monitor. Conscience calls out 
before duty, as the cock crows before the dawn of day. 

That chaos, the human heart, hears the -fiat lux! 

Gwynplaine we will continue thus to call him (Clan- 
charlie is a lord, Gwynplaine is a man) Gwynplaine felt 
as if brought back to life. It was time that the artery was 
bound up. 

For a while his virtue had spread its wings and flown away. 

"And Deal " he said. 



448 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Then he felt through his veins a generous transfusion. 
Something healthy and tumultuous rushed upon him. The 
violent irruption of good thoughts is like the return home of 
a man who has not his key, and who forces his own lock 
honestly. It is an escalade, but an escalade of good. It is 
a burglary, but a burglary of evil. 

" Deal Deal Deal " repeated he. 

He strove to assure himself of his heart's strength. And 
he put the question with a loud voice " Where are you? " 

He almost wondered that no one answered him. 

Then again, gazing on the walls and the v ceiling, with 
wandering thoughts, through which reason returned. 

" Where are you ? Where am I ? " 

And in the chamber which was his cage he began to walk 
again, to and fro, like a wild beast in captivity. 

" Where am I? At Windsor. And you? In South wark. 
Alasl this is the first time that there has been distance 
between us. Who has dug this gulf? I here, thou there. 
Oh, it cannot be; it shall not bel What Is this that they 
have done to me ? " 

He stopped. 

" Who talked to me of the queen? What do I know of 
such things? / changed 1 Why? Because I am a lord. 
Do you know what has happened, Dea? You are a lady. 
What has come to pass is astounding. My business now is 
to get back into my right road. Who is it who led me astray ? 
There is a man who spoke to me mysteriously. I remember 
the words which he addressed to me. ' My lord, when one 
door opens another is shut. That which you have left behind 
is no longer yours/ In other words, you are a coward. 
That man, the miserable wretch I said that to me before I 
was well awake. He took advantage of my first moment of 
astonishment. I was as it were a prey to him. Where is 
he, that I may insult him? He spoke to me with the evil 
smile of a demon. But see I am myself again. That is well. 
They deceive themselves if they think that they can do what 
they like with Lord Clancharlie, a peer of England. Yes, 
with a peeress, who is Dea! Conditions I Shall I accept 
them ? The queen ! What is the queen to me ? I never saw 
her. I am not a lord to be made a slave. I enter my posi- 
tion unfettered. Did they think they had unchained me fof 
nothing? They have unmuzzled me. That is all. Deal 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 449 

Ursusl we are together. That which you were, 1 was; 
that which I am, you are. Come. No. I will go to you 
directly directly. I have already waited too long. What 
can they think, not seeing me return I That money. When 
I think I sent them that money 1 It was myself that they 
wanted. I remember the man said that I could not leave 
this place. We shall see that. Come! a carriage, a carriage! 
put to the horses. I am going to look for them. Where are 
the servants ? I ought to have servants here, since I am a 
lord. I am master here. This is my house. I will twist off. 
the bolts, I will break the locks, I will kick down the doors, 
I will run my sword through the body of any one who bars my 
passage. I should like to see who shall stop me. I have a 
wife, and she is Dea. I have a father, who is Ursus. My 
house is a palace, and I give it to Ursus. My name is a 
diadem, and I give it to Dea. Quick, directly, Dea, I am 
coming; yes, you may be sure that I shall soon stride across 
the intervening space! " 

And raising the first piece of tapestry he came to, he rushed 
from the chamber impetuously. 

He found himself in a corridor. 

He went straight forward. 

A second corridor opened out before him. 

All the doors were open. 

He walked on at random, from chamber to chamber, from 
passage to passage, seeking an exit. 

CHAPTER II. 

THE RESEMBLANCE OF A PALACE TO A WOOD. 

IN palaces after the Italian fashion, and Corleone Lodge was 
one, there were very few doors, but abundance of tapestry 
screens and curtained doorways. In every palace of that 
date there was a wonderful labyrinth of chambers and cor- 
ridors, where luxury ran riot; gilding, marble, carved wains- 
coting, Eastern silks; nooks and corners, some secret and 
dark as night, others light and pleasant as the day. There 
were attics, richly and brightly furnished; burnished recesses 
shining with Dutch tiles and Portuguese azulejos. The tops 
of the high windows were converted into small rooms and 
glass attics, forming pretty habitable lanterns. The thick- 

15 



450 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

ness of the walls was such that there were rooms within them. 
Here and there were closets, nominally wardrobes. They 
were called " The Little Rooms." It was within them that 
evil deeds were hatched. 

When a Duke of Guise had to be killed, the pretty Presi- 
dente of Sylvecane abducted, or the cries of little girls brought 
thither by Lebel smothered, such places were convenient for 
the purpose. They were labyrinthine chambers, impractic- 
able to a stranger; scenes of abductions; unknown depths, 
receptacles of mysterious disappearances. In those elegant 
caverns princes and lords stored their plunder. In such a 
place the Count de Charolais hid Madame Courchamp, the 
wife of the Clerk of the Privy Council; Monsieur de Monthule, 
the daughter of Haudry, the farmer of La Croix Saint Lenfroy ; 
the Prince de Conti, the two beautiful baker women of L'lle 
Adam; the Duke of Buckingham, poor Penny well, etc. 
The deeds done there were such as were designated by the 
Roman law as committed vi, clam, et precario by force, in 
secret, and for a short time. Once in, an occupant remained 
there till the master of the house decreed his or her release. 
They were gilded oubliettes, savouring both of the cloister 
and the harem. Their staircases twisted, turned, ascended, 
and descended. A zigzag of rooms, one running into another, 
led back to the starting-point. A gallery terminated in an 
oratory. A confessional was grafted on to an alcove. Per- 
haps the architects of " the little rooms," building for royalty 
and aristocracy, took as models the ramifications of coral 
beds, and the openings in a sponge. The branches became a 
labyrinth. Pictures turning on false panels were exits and 
entrances. They were full of stage contrivances, and no 
wonder considering the dramas that were played there! 
The floors of these hives reached from the cellars to the attics. 
Quaint madrepore inlaying every palace, from Versailles 
downwards, like cells of pygmies in dwelling-places of Titans. 
Passages, niches, alcoves, and secret recesses. All sorts of 
holes and corners, in which was stored away the meanness of 
the great. 

These winding and narrow passages recalled games, blind- 
folded eyes, hands feeling in the dark, suppressed laughter, 
blind man's buff, hide and seek, while, at the same time, they 
suggested memories of the Atrides, of the Plantagenets, of 
the Medicis, the brutal knights of Eltz, of Rizzio, of Monal- 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 45 1 

deschi; of naked swords, pursuing the fugitive flying from 
room to room. 

The ancients, too, had mysterious retreats of the same 
kind, in which luxury was adapted to enormities. The 
pattern has been preserved underground in some sepulchres 
in Egypt, notably in the tomb of King Psammetichus, dis- 
covered by Passalacqua. The 'ancient poets have recorded 
the horrors of these suspicious buildings. Error circumflexus, 
locus implicitus gyris. 

Gwynplaine was in the " little rooms "of Corleone Lodge. 
He was burning to be off, to get outside, to see Dea again. 
The maze of passages and alcoves, with secret and bewilder- 
ing doors, checked and retarded his progress. He strove to 
run ; he was obliged to wander. He thought that he had but 
one door to thrust open, while he had a skein of doors to 
unravel. To one room succeeded another. Then a crossway, 
with rooms on every side. 

Not a living creature was to be seen. He listened. Not a 
sound. 

At times he thought that he must be returning towards his 
starting-point; then, that he saw some one approaching. 
It was no one. It was only the reflection of himself in a 
mirror, dressed as a nobleman. That he? Impossible 1 
Then he recognized himself, but not at once. 

He explored every passage that he came to. 

He examined the quaint arrangements of the rambling 
building, and their yet quainter fittings. Here, a cabinet, 
painted and carved in a sentimental but vicious style; there, 
an equivocal-looking chapel, studded with enamels and 
mother-of-pearl, with miniatures on ivory wrought out in 
relief, like those on old-fashioned snuff-boxes; there, one of 
those pretty Florentine retreats, adapted to the hypochondri- 
asis of women, and even then called boudoirs. Everywhere 
on the ceilings, on the walls, and on the very floors were 
representations, in velvet or in metal, of birds, of trees; of 
luxuriant vegetation, picked out in reliefs of lacework; tables 
covered with jet carvings, representing warriors, queens, 
and tritons armed with the scaly terminations of a hydra. 
Cut crystals combining prismatic effects with those of re- 
flection. Mirrors repeated the light of precious stones, and 
sparkles glittered in the darkest corners. It was impossible 
to guess whether those many-sided, shining surfaces, where 



452 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

emerald green mingled with the golden hues of the rising sun, 
where floated a glimmer of ever-varying colours, like those on 
a pigeon's neck, were miniature mirrors or enormous beryls. 
Everywhere was magnificence, at once refined and stupen- 
dous; if it was not the most diminutive of palaces, it was 
the most gigantic of jewel-cases. A house for Mab or a jewel 
for Geo. 

Gwynplaine sought an exit. He could not find one. Im- 
possible to make out his way. There is nothing so confusing 
as wealth seen for the first time. Moreover, this was a 
labyrinth. At each step he was stopped by some magnificent 
object which appeared to retard his exit, and to be unwilling 
to let him pass. He was encompassed by a net of wonders. 
He felt himself bound and held back. 

What a horrible palace I he thought. Restless, he 
wandered through the maze, asking himself what it all meant 
whether he was in prison; chafing, thirsting for the fresh 
air. He repeated Dea 1 Dea 1 as if that word was the thread 
of the labyrinth, and must be held unbroken, to guide him 
out of it. Now and then he shouted, " Ho ! Any one there ? " 
No one answered. The rooms never came to an end. All 
was deserted, silent, splendid, sinister. It realized the fables 
of enchanted castles. Hidden pipes of hot air maintained 
a summer temperature in the building. It was as if some 
magician had caught up the month of June and imprisoned 
it in a labyrinth. There were pleasant odours now and then, 
and he crossed currents of perfume, as though passing by 
invisible flowers. It was warm. Carpets everywhere. One 
might have walked about there, unclothed. 

Gwynplaine looked out of the windows. The view from 
each one was different. From one he beheld gardens, spar- 
kling with the freshness of a spring morning ; from another 
a plot decked with statues; from a third, a patio in the 
Spanish style, a little square, flagged, mouldy, and cold. At 
times he saw a river it was the Thames; sometimes a'great 
tower it was Windsor. 

It was still so early that there were no signs of life without. 

He stood still and listened. 

"Oh 1 I will get out of this place," said he. " I will return 
to Dea ! They shall not keep me here by force. Wpe to him 
who bars my exit! What is that great tower yonder? If 
there was a giant, a hell-hound, a miuotaur, to keep the gates 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 453 

of this enchanted palace, I would annihilate him. If an 
army, I would exterminate it. Deal Deal " 

Suddenly he heard a gentle noise, very faint. It was like 
dropping water. He was in a dark narrow passage, closed, 
some few paces further on, by a curtain. He advanced to 
the curtain, pushed it aside, entered. He leaped before he 
looked. 

CHAPTER III. 

EVE. 

AN octagon room, with a vaulted ceiling, without windows, 
but lighted by a skylight; walls, ceiling, and floors faced with 
peach-coloured marble ; a black marble canopy, like a pall, 
with twisted columns in the solid but pleasing Elizabethan 
style, overshadowing a vase-like bath of the same black 
marble this was what he saw before him. In the centre of 
the bath arose a slender jet of tepid and perfumed water, 
which, softly and slowly, was filling the tank. The bath was 
black to augment fairness into brilliancy. 

It was the water which he had heard. A waste-pipe, 
placed at a certain height in the bath, prevented It from over- 
flowing. Vapour was rising from the water, but not sufficient 
to cause It to hang in drops on the marble. The slender jet 
of water was like a supple wand of steel, bending at the 
slightest current of air. There was no furniture, except a 
chair-bed with pillows, long enough for a woman to lie on at 
full length, and yet have room for a dog at her feet. The 
French, indeed, borrow their word canape from can-al-pU. 
This sofa was of Spanish manufacture. In it silver took the 
place of woodwork. The cushions and coverings were of 
rich white silk. 

On the other side of the bath, by the wall, was a lofty 
dressing-table of solid silver, furnished with every requisite 
for the table, having in its centre, and in imitation of a 
window, eight small Venetian mirrors, set in a silver frame. 
In a panel on the wall was a square opening, like a little win- 
dow, which was closed by a door of solid silver. This door 
was fitted with hinges, like a shutter. On the shutter there 
glistened a chased and gilt royal crown. Over it, and affixed 
to the wall, was a bell, silver gilt, if not of pure gold. 

Opposite the entrance of the chamber, in which Gwynplaine 



454 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

stood as if transfixed, there was an opening in the marble 
wall, extending to the 'ceiling, and closed by a high and 
broad curtain of silver tissue. This curtain, of fairy-like 
tenuity, was transparent, and did not interrupt the view. 
Through the centre of this web, where one might expect a 
spider, Gwynplaine saw a more formidable object a woman. 
Her dress was a long chemise so long that it floated 
over her feet, like the dresses of angels in holy pictures; 
but so fine that it seemed liquid. 

The silver tissue, transparent as glass and fastened only at 
the ceiling, could be lifted aside. It separated the marble 
chamber, which was a bathroom, from the adjoining apart- 
ment, which was a bedchamber. This tiny dormitory was 
as a grotto of mirrors. Venetian glasses, close together, 
mounted with gold mouldings, reflected on every side the bed 
in the centre of the room. On the bed, which, like the toilet- 
table, was of silver, lay the woman ; she was asleep. 

The crumpled clothes bore evidence of troubled sleep. 
The beauty of the folds was proof of the quality of the 
material. 

It was a period when a queen, thinking that she should be 
damned, pictured hell to herself as a bed with coarse sheets. - 

A dressing-gown, of curious silk, was thrown over the foot of 
the couch. It was apparently Chinese; for a great golden 
lizard was partly visible in between the folds. 

Beyond the couch, and probably masking a door, was a 
large mirror, on which were painted peacocks and swans. 

Shadow seemed to lose its nature in this apartment, and 
glistened. The spaces between the mirrors and the gold work 
were lined with that sparkling material called at Venice 
thread of glass that is, spun glass. 

At the head of the couch stood a reading desk, on a mov- 
able pivot, with candles, and a book lying open, bearing this 
title, in large red letters, " Alcoranus Mahumedis." 

Gwynplaine saw none of these details. He had eyes only 
for the woman. He was at once stupefied and filled with 
tumultuous emotions, states apparently incompatible, yet 
sometimes co-existent. He recognized her. Her eyes were 
closed, but her face was turned towards him. It was the 
duchess she,the mysterious being in whom all the splendours 

* This fashion of sleeping partly undrest came from Italy, and was 
derived from the Romans. " Sub clard nuda lacernd," says Horace. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 455 

of the unknown, were united; she who had occasioned .him 
so many unavowable dreams; she who had written him so 
strange a letter I The only woman in the world of whom he 
could say, " She has seen me, and she desires mel " 

He had dismissed the dreams from his mind ; he had burnt 
the letter. He had, as far as lay in his power, banished the 
remembrance of her from his thoughts and dreams. He no 
longer thought of her. He had forgotten her 

Again he saw her, and saw her terrible in power. His 
breath came in short catches. He felt as if he were in a 
storm-driven cloud. He looked. This woman before him! 
Was it possible? At the theatre a duchess; here a nereid, 
a nymph, a fairy. Always an apparition. He tried to fly, 
but felt the futility of the attempt. His eyes were riveted 
on the vision, as though he were bound. Was she a woman ? 
Was she a maiden ? Both. Messalina was perhaps present, 
though invisible, and smiled, while Diana kept watch. 

Over all her beauty was the radiance of inaccessibility. 
No purity could compare with her chaste and haughty form. 
Certain snows, which have never been touched, give an idea 
of it such as the sacred whiteness of the Jungfrau. Im- 
modesty was merged in splendour. She felt the security of ' 
an Olympian, who knew that she was daughter of the depths, 
and might say to the ocean, " Father 1 " And she exposed 
herself, unattainable and proud, to everything that should 
pass to looks, to desires, to ravings, to dreams; as proud 
in her languor, on her boudoir couch, as Venus in the im- 
mensity of the sea-foam. 

She had slept all night, and was prolonging her sleep into 
the daylight; her boldness, begun in shadow, continued in 
light. 

Gwynplaine shuddered. He admired her with an unhealthy 
and absorbing admiration, which ended in fear. Misfortunes 
never come singly. Gwynplaine thought he had drained to 
the dregs the cup of his ill-luck. Now it was refilled. Who 
was itjwho was hurling all those unremitting thunderbolts on 
his devoted head, and who had now thrown against him, as 
he stood trembling there, a sleeping goddess ? What ! was 
the dangerous and desirable object of his dream lurking all 
the while behind these successive glimpses of heaven ? Did 
these favours of the mysterious tempter tend to inspire him 
with vague aspirations and confused ideas, and overwhelm 



456 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

him with, an intoxicating series of realities proceeding from 
apparent impossibilities? Wherefore did all the shadows 
conspire against him, a wretched man; and what would 
become of him, with all those evil smiles of fortune beaming 
on him? Was his temptation prearranged? This woman, 
how and why was she there ? No explanation ! Why him ? 
Why her ? Was he made a peer of England expressly for 
this duchess ? Who had brought them together ? Who was 
the dupe? Who the victim? Whose simplicity was being 
abused? Was it God who was being deceived? All these 
undefined thoughts passed confusedly, like a flight of dark 
shadows, through his brain. That magical and malevolent 
abode, that strange and prison-like palace, was it also in the 
plot ? Gwynplaine suffered a partial unconsciousness. Sup- 
pressed emotions threatened to strangle him. He was 
weighed down by an overwhelming force. His will became 
powerless. How could he resist? He was incoherent and 
entranced. This time he felt he was becoming irremediably 
insane. His dark, headlong fall over the precipice of stupe- 
faction continued. 

But the woman slept on. 

What aggravated the storm within him was, that he saw 
not the princess, not the duchess, not the lady, but the 
woman. 

Gwynplaine, losing all self-command, trembled. What 
could he do against such a temptation ? Here were no skilful 
effects of dress, no silken folds, no complex and coquettish 
adornments, no affected exaggeration of concealment or of 
exhibition, no cloud. It was fearful simplicity a sort of 
mysterious summons the shameless audacity of Eden. The 
whole of the dark side of human nature was there. Eve 
worse than Satan; the human and the superhuman com- 
mingled. A perplexing ecstasy, winding up in a brutal 
triumph of instinct over duty. The sovereign contour of 
beauty is imperious. When it leaves the ideal and con- 
descends to be real, its proximity is fatal to man. 

Now and then the duchess moved softly on the bed, with 
the vague movement of a cloud in the heavens, changing as 
a vapour changes its form. Absurd as it may appear, though 
he saw her present in the flesh before him, yet she seemed a 
chimera; and, palpable as she was, she seemed to him afar 
off. Scared and livid, he gazed on. He listened for her 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 457 

breathing, and fancied he heard only a phantom's respiration. 
He was attracted, though against his will. How arm himself 
against her or against himself? He had been prepared for 
everything except this danger. A savage doorkeeper, a 
raging monster of a jailer suchwerehis expected antagonists. 
He looked for Cerberus ; he saw Hebe. A sleeping woman 1 
What an opponent I He closed his eyes. Too bright a 
dawn blinds the eyes. But through his closed eyelids there 
penetrated at once the woman's form not so distinct, but 
beautiful as ever. 

Flyl Easier said than done. He had already tried and 
failed. He was rooted to the ground, as if in a dream. When 
we try to draw back, temptation clogs our feet and glues 
them to the earth. We can still advance, but to retire is 
impossible. The invisible arms of sin rise from below and 
drag us down. 

There is a commonplace idea, accepted by every one, that 
feelings become blunted by experience. Nothing can be 
more untrue. You might as well say that by dropping nitric 
acid slowly on a sore it would heal and become sound, and 
that torture dulled the sufferings of Damiens. The truth is, 
that each fresh application intensifies the pain. 

From one surprise after another, Gwynplaine had become 
desperate. That cup, his reason, under this new stupor, was 
overflowing. He felt within him a terrible awakening. Com- 
pass he no longer possessed. One idea only was before him 
the woman. An indescribable happiness appeared, which 
threatened to overwhelm him. He could no longer decide 
for himself. There was an irresistible current and a reef. 
The reef was not a rock, but a siren a magnet at the bottom 
of the abyss. He wished to tear himself away from this 
magnet; but how was he to carry out his wish? He had 
ceased to feel any basis of support. Who can foresee the 
fluctuations of the human mind ! A man may be wrecked, 
as is a ship. Conscience is an anchor. It is a terrible thing, 
but, like the anchor, conscience may be carried away. 

He had not even the chance of being repulsed on account 
of his terrible disfigurement. The woman had written to say 
that she loved him. 

In every crisis there is a moment when the scale hesitates 
before kicking the beam. When we lean to the worst side 
of our nature, Instead of strengthening our better qualities, 



458 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

the moral force which has been preserving the balance gives 
way, and down we go. Had this critical moment in Gwyn- 
plaine's life arrived ? 

How could he escape ? 

So it is she the duchess, the woman I There she was in 
that lonely room asleep, far from succour, helpless, alone, 
at his mercy; yet he was in her power! The duchess! We 
have, perchance, observed a star in the distant firmament. 
We have admired it. It is so far off. What can there be to 
make us shudder in a fixed star ? Well, one day one night, 
rather it moves. We perceive a trembling gleam around it. 
The star which we imagined to be immovable is in motion. 
It is no longer a star, but a comet the incendiary giant of 
the skies. The luminary moves on, grows bigger, shakes off 
a shower of sparks and fire, and becomes enormous. It 
advances towards us. Oh, horror, it is coming our way! 
The comet recognizes us, marks us for its own, and will not be 
turned aside. Irresistible attack of the heavens 1 What is 
it which is bearing down on us? An excess of light, which 
blinds us; an excess of life, which kills us. That proposal 
which the heavens make we refuse; that unfathomable love 
we reject. We close our eyes; we hide; we tear ourselves 
away; we imagine the danger is past. We open our eyes: 
the formidable star is still before us ; but, no longer a star, it 
has become a world a world unknown, a world of lava and 
ashes; the devastating prodigy of space. It fills the sky, 
allowing no compeers. The carbuncle of the firmament's 
depths, a diamond in the distance, when drawn close to us 
becomes a furnace. You are caught in its flames. And the 
first sensation of burning is that of a heavenly warmth. 

CHAPTER IV. 

SATAN. 

SUDDENLY the sleeper awoke. She sat up with a sudden 
and gracious dignity of movement, her fair silken tresses fall- 
ing in soft disorder. Then stretching herself, she yawned 
like a tigress in the rising sun. 

Perhaps Gwynplaine breathed heavily, as we do when we 
endeavour to restrain our respiration. 

" Is any one there ? " said she. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 459 

She yawned as she spoke, and her very yawn was graceful. 
Gwynplaine listened to the unfamiliar voice the voice of a 
charmer, its accents exquisitely haughty, its caressing intona- 
tion softening its native arrogance. Then rising on her knees 
there is an antique statue kneeling thus in the midst of a 
thousand transparent folds she drew the dressing-gown 
towards her, and springing from the couch stood upright. 
In the twinkling of an eye the silken robe was around her. 
The trailing sleeve concealed her hands ; only the tips of her 
toes, with little pink nails like those of an infant, were left 
visible. Having drawn from underneath the dressing-gown 
a mass of hair which had been imprisoned by it, she crossed 
behind the couch to the end of the room, and placed her ear 
to the painted mirror, which was, apparently, a door. Tap- 
ping the glass with her finger, she called, " Is any one there ? 
Lord David ? Are you come already ? What time is it then ? 
Is that yoik Barkilphedro ? " She turned from the glass. 
" No ! it was not there. Is there any one in the bathroom ? 
Will you answer? Of course not. No one could come that 
way." 

Going to the silver lace curtain, she raised it with her foot, 
thrust it aside with her shoulder, and entered the marble 
room. An agonized numbness fell upon Gwynplaine. No 
possibility of concealment. It was too late to fly. Moreover, 
he was no longer equal to the exertion. He wished that 
the earth might open and swallow him up. Anything to 
hide him. 

She saw him. She stared, immensely astonished, but 
without the slightest nervousness. Then, in a tone of mingled 
pleasure and contempt, she said, " Why, it is Gwynplaine 1 " 
Suddenly with a rapid spring, for this cat was a panther, she 
flung herself on his neck. 

Suddenly, pushing him back, and holding him by both 
shoulders with her small claw-like hands, she stood up face to 
face with him, and began to gaze at him with a strange 
expression. 

It was a fatal glance she gave him with her Aldebaran-like 
eyes a glance at once equivocal and starlike. Gwynplaine 
watched the blue eye and the black eye, distracted by the 
double ray of heaven and of hell that shone in the orbs thus 
fixed on him. The man and the woman threw a malign 
dazzling reflection one on the other. Both were fascinated 



460 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

he by her beauty, she by his deformity. Both were in a 
measure awe-stricken. Pressed down, as by an overwhelm- 
ing weight, he was speechless. 

" Ohl " she cried. " How clever you are ! You are come. 
You found out that I was obliged to leave London. You 
followed me. That was right. Your being here proves you 
to be a wonder." 

The simultaneous return of self-possession acts like a flash 
of lightning. Gwynplaine, indistinctly warned by a vague, 
rude, but honest misgiving, drew back, but the pink nails 
clung to his shoulders and restrained him. Some inexorable 
power proclaimed its sway over him. He himself, a wild 
beast, was caged in a wild beast's den. She continued, 
" Anne, the fool you know whom I mean the queen 
ordered me to Windsor without giving any reason. When 
I arrived she was closeted with her idiot of a Chancellor. 
But how did you contrive to obtain access to me? That's 
what I call being a man. Obstacles, indeed ! there are no 
such things. You come at a call. You found things out. 
My name, the Duchess Josiana, you knew, I fancy. Who 
was it brought you in ? No doubt it was the page. Oh, he 
is clever 1 I will give him a hundred guineas. Which way 
did you get in? Tell me I No, don't tell me; I don't want 
to know. Explanations diminish interest. I prefer the 
marvellous, and you are hideous enough to be wonderful. 
You have fallen from the highest heavens, or you have risen 
from the depths of hell through the devil's trap-door. 
Nothing can be more natural. The ceiling opened or the 
floor yawned. A descent in a cloud, or an ascent in a mass 
of fire and brimstone, that is how you have travelled. You 
have a right to enter like the gods. Agreed; you are my 
lover." 

Gwynplaine was scared, and listened, his mind growing 
more irresolute every moment. Now all was certain. Im- 
possible to have any further doubt. That letter 1 the woman 
confirmed its meaning. Gwynplaine the lover and the 
beloved of a duchess 1 Mighty pride, with its thousand 
baleful heads, stirred his wretched heart. Vanity, that 
powerful agent within us, works us measureless evil. 

The duchess went on, " Since you are here, it is so decreed. 
I ask nothing more. There is some one on high, or in hell, 
who brings us together, The betrothal of Styx and Aurora f 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 461 

Unbridled ceremonies beyond all laws 1 The very day I first 
saw you I said, "It is he 1" I recognize him. He is the monster 
of my dreams. He shall be mine. We should give destiny 
a helping hand. Therefore I wrote to you. One question, 
Gwynplaine : do you believe in predestination ? For my part, 
I have believed in it since I read, in Cicero, Scipio's dream. 
Ah 1 I did not observe it. Dressed like a gentleman 1 You 
in fine clothes I Why not? You are a mountebank. All 
the more reason. A juggler is as good as a lord. Moreover, 
what are lords ? Clowns. You have a noble figure ; you are 
magnificently made. It is wonderful that you should be 
here. When did you arrive? How long have you been 
here? Did you see me naked? I am beautiful, am I not? 
I was going to take my bath. Oh, how I love you I You 
read my letter 1 Did you read it yourself? Did any one 
read it to you ? Can you read ? Probably you are ignorant. 
I ask questions, but don't answer them. I don't like the 
sound of your voice. It is soft. An extraordinary thing 
like you should snarl, and not speak. You sing harmoniously. 
I hate it. It is the only thing about you that I do not like. 
All the rest is terrible is grand. In India you would be a 
god. Were you born with that frightful laugh on your face ? 
No I No doubt it is a penal brand. I do hope you have 
committed some crime. Come to my arms." 

She sank on the couch, and made him sit beside her. They 
found themselves close together unconsciously. What she 
said passed over Gwynplaine like a mighty storm. He hardly 
understood the meaning of her whirlwind of words. Her 
eyes were full of admiration. She spoke tumultuously, 
frantically, with a voice broken and tender. Her words 
were music, but their music was to Gwynplaine as a hurri- 
cane. Again she fixed her gaze upon him and continued,^ 

" I feel degraded in your presence, and oh, what happiness 
that is! How insipid it is to be a grandee! I am noble; 
what can be more tiresome ? Disgrace is a comfort. I am 
so satiated with respect that I long for contempt. We are 
all a little erratic, from Venus, Cleopatra, Mesdames de 
Chevreuse and de Longueville, down to myself. I will make 
a display of you, I declare. Here's a love affair which will be 
a blow to my family, the Stuarts. Ah I I breathe again. I 
have discovered a secret. I am clear of royalty. To be free 
from its trammels is indeed deliverance. To break down, 



462 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

defy, make and destroy at will, that is true enjoyment. 
Listen, I love you." 

She paused; then with a frightful smile went on, "I love 
you, not only because you are deformed, but because you 
are low. I love monsters, and I love mountebanks. . A lover 
despised, mocked, grotesque, hideous, exposed to laughter 
on that pillory called a theatre, has for me an extraordinary 
attraction. It is tasting the fruit of hell. An infamous 
lover, how exquisite! To taste the apple, not of Paradise, 
but of hell such is my temptation. It is for that I hunger 
and thirst. I am that Eve, the Eve of the depths. Prob- 
ably you are, unknown to yourself, a devil. I am in love 
with a nightmare. You are a moving puppet, of which the 
strings are pulled by a spectre. You are the incarnation of 
infernal mirth. You are the master I require. I wanted a 
lover such as those of Medea and Canidia. I felt sure that 
some night would bring me such a one. You are all that I 
want. I am talking of a heap of things of which you 
probably know nothing. Gwynplaine, hitherto I have 
remained untouched; I give myself to you, pure as a burning 
ember. You evidently do not believe me; but if you only 
knew how little I care 1 " 

Her words flowed like a volcanic eruption. Pierce Mount 
Etna, and you may obtain some idea of that jet of fiery 
eloquence. 

Gwynplaine stammered, " Madame " 

She placed her hand on his mouth. " Silence," she said. 
" I am studying you. I am unbridled desire, immaculate. 
I am a vestal bacchante. No man has known me, and I 
might be the virgin pythoness at Delphos, and have under 
my naked foot the bronze tripod, where the priests lean their 
elbows on the skin of the python, whispering questions to the 
invisible god. My heart is of stone, but It is like those 
mysterious pebbles which the sea washes to the foot of the 
rock called Huntly Nabb, at the mouth of the Tees, and 
which if broken are found to contain a serpent. That serpent 
Is my love a love which is all-powerful, for it has brought 
you to me. An impossible distance was between us. I was 
in Sirius, and you were in Allioth. You have crossed the 
Immeasurable space, and here you are. 'Tis well. Be silent. 
Take, me." 

she ceased; he trembled. Then she went on, smiling, 



THB LAUGHING MAN. 463 

" You see, Gwynplaine, to dream is to create; to desire is to 
summon. To build up the chimera is to provoke the reality. 
The all-powerful and terrible mystery will not be defied. It 
produces result. You are here. Do I dare to lose caste? 
Yes. Do I dare to be your mistress your concubine 
your slave your chattel? Joyfully. Gwynplaine, I am 
woman. Woman is clay longing to become mire. I want 
to despise myself. That lends a zest to pride. The alloy of 
greatness is baseness. They combine in perfection. Despise 
me, you who are despised. Nothing can be better. Deg- 
radation on degradation. What joyl I pluck the double 
blossom of ignominy. Trample me under foot. You will 
only love me the more. I am sure of it. Do you understand 
why I idolize you? Because I despise you. You are so 
immeasurably below me that I place you on an altar. Bring 
the highest and lowest depths together, and you have Chaos, 
and I delight in Chaos Chaos, the beginning and end of 
everything. What is Chaos? A huge blot. Out of that 
blot God made light, and out of that sink the world. You 
don't know how perverse I can be. Knead a star in mud, 
and you will have my likeness." 

She went on, 

" A wolf to all beside; a faithful dog to you. How 
astonished they will all be I The astonishment of fools is 
amusing. I understand myself. Am I a goddess ? Amphi- 
trite gave herself to the Cyclops. Fluctivoma Amphitrite. 
Am I a fairy ? Urgele gave herself to Bugryx, a winged man, 
with eight webbed hands. Am I a princess ? Marie Stuart 
had Rizzio. Three beauties, three monsters. I am greater 
than they, for you are lower than they. Gwynplaine, we 
were made for one another. The monster that you are out- 
wardly, I am within. Thence my love for you. A caprice ? 
Just so. What is a hurricane but a caprice ? Our stars have 
a certain affinity. Together we are things of night you in 
your face, I in my mind. As your countenance is defaced, so 
is my mind. You, in your turn, create me. You come, 
and my real soul shows itself. I did not know it. It is 
astonishing. Your coming has evoked the hydra in me, 
who am a goddess. You reveal my real nature. See how 
I resemble you. Look at me as if I were a mirror. Your 
face is my mind. I did not know I was so terrible. I am 
also, then, a monster. O Gwynplaine, you do amuse me!" 



464 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

She laughed, a strange and childlike laugh; and, putting 
her mouth close to his ear, whispered, 

" Do you want to see a mad woman? look at me." 

She poured her searching look into Gwynplaine. A look is 
a philtre. Her loosened robe provoked a thousand danger- 
ous feelings. Blind, animal ecstasy was invading his mind-^- 
ecstasy combined with agony. Whilst she spoke, though 
he felt her words like burning coals, his blood froze within 
his veins. He had not strength to utter a word. 

She stopped, and looked at him. 

" O monster I " she cried. She grew wild. 

Suddenly she seized his hands. 

" Gwynplaine, I am the throne ; you are the footstool. Let 
us join on the same level. Oh, how happy I am in my fall! 
I wish all the world could know how abject I am become. It 
would bow down all the lower. The more man abhors, the 
more does he cringe. It is human nature. Hostile, but 
reptile; dragon, but worm. Oh, I am as depraved as are the 
gods 1 They can never say that I am not a king's bastard. I 
act like a queen. Who was Rodope but a queen loving Pteh, 
a man with a crocodile's head ? She raised the third pyramid 
in his honour. Penthesilea loved the centaur, who, being 
now a star, is named Sagittarius. And what do you say 
about Anne of Austria? Mazarin was ugly enough I Now, 
you are not only ugly; you are deformed. Ugliness is mean, 
deformity is grand. Ugliness is the devil's grin behind 
beauty; deformity is the reverse of sublimity. It is the 
back view. Olympus has two aspects. One, by day, shows 
Apollo ; the other, by night, shows Polyphemus. You you 
are a Titan. You would be Behemoth in the forests, 
Leviathan in the deep, and Typhon in the sewer. You sur- 
pass everything. There is the trace of lightning in your 
deformity; your face has been battered by the thunderbolt. 
The jagged contortion of forked lightning has imprinted its 
mark on your face. It struck you and passed on. A 
mighty and mysterious wrath has, in a fit of passion, 
cemented your spirit in a terrible and superhuman form. 
1 is a penal furnace, where the iron called Fatality is raised 
:o a white heat. You have been branded with it. To love 
you is to understand grandeur. I enjoy that triumph. To 
be in love with Apollo a fine effort, forsooth 1 Glory is to be 
measured by the astonishment it creates. I love you. I 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 465 

have dreamt of you night after night. This is my palace. 
You shall see my gardens. There are fresh springs under the 
shrubs; arbours for lovers; and beautiful groups of marble 
statuary by Bernini. Flowers I there are too many during 
the spring the place is on fire with roses. Did I tell you that 
the queen is my sister? Do what you like with me. I am 
made for Jupiter to kiss my feet, and for Satan to spit in my 
face. Are you of any religion ? I am a Papist. My father, 
James II., died in France, surrounded by Jesuits. I have 
never felt before as I feel now that I am near you. Oh, how 
I should like to pass the evening with you, in the midst of 
music, both reclining on the same cushion, under a purple 
awning, in a gilded gondola on the soft expanse of ocean ! 
Insult me, beat me, kick me, cuff me, treat me like a brute ! 
I adore you." 

Caresses can roar. If you doubt it, observe the lion's. 
The woman was horrible, and yet full of grace. The effect was 
tragic. First he felt the claw, then the velvet of the paw. 
A feline attack, made up of advances and retreats. There 
was death as well as sport in this game of come and go. She 
idolized him, but arrogantly. The result was contagious 
frenzy. Fatal language, at once inexpressible, violent, and 
sweet. The insulter did not insult ; the adorer outraged the 
object of adoration. She, who buffeted, deified him. Her 
tones imparted to her violent yet amorous words an indescrib- 
able Promethean grandeur. According to ^Eschylus, in the 
orgies in honour of the great goddess the women were smitten 
by this evil frenzy when they pursued the satyrs under the 
stars. Such paroxysms raged in the mysterious dances in 
the grove of Dodona. This woman was as if transfigured 
if, indeed, we can term that transfiguration which is the 
antithesis of heaven. 

Her hair quivered like a mane; her robe opened and 
closed. The sunshine of the blue eye mingled with the fire of 
the Iplack one. She was unearthly. 

Gwynplaine, giving way, felt himself vanquished by the 
deep subtilty of this attack. 

" I love you 1 " she cried. And she bit him with a kiss. 

Homeric clouds were, perhaps, about to be required to 
encompass Gwynplaine and Josiana, as they did Jupiter and 
Juno. For Gwynplaine to be loved by a woman who could 
see and who saw him, to feel on his deformed mouth the 



466 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

pressure of divine lips, was exquisite and maddening. Before 
this woman, full of enigmas, all else faded away in his mind. 
The remembrance of Dea struggled in the shadows with weak 
cries. There is an antique bas-relief representing the Sphinx 
devouring a Cupid. The wings of the sweet celestial are 
bleeding between the fierce, grinning fangs. 

Did Gwynplaine love this woman? Has man, like the 
globe, two poles? Are we, on our inflexible axis, a moving 
sphere, a star when seen from afar, mud when seen more 
closely, in which night alternates with day ? Has the heart 
two aspects one on which its love is poured 'forth in light; 
the other in darkness? Here a woman of light, there a 
woman of the sewer. Angels are necessary. Is it possible 
that demons are also essential? Has the soul the wings of 
the bat ? Does twilight fall fatally for all ? Is sin an integral 
and inevitable part of our destiny ? Must we accept evil as 
part and portion of our whole ? Do we inherit sin as a debt? 
What awful subjects for thought I 

Yet a voice tells us that weakness is a crime. Gwyn- 
plaine's feelings are not to be described. The flesh, life, 
terror, lust, an overwhelming intoxication of spirit, and all 
the shame possible to pride. Was he about to succumb ? 

She repeated, " I love you! " and flung her frenzied arms 
around him. Gwynplaine panted. 

Suddenly close at hand there rang, clear and distinct, a 
little bell. It was the little bell inside the wall. The 
duchess, turning her head, said, 

" What does she want of me ? " 

Quickly, with the noise of a spring door, the silver panel, 
with the golden crown chased on it, opened. A compartment 
of a shaft, lined with royal blue velvet, appeared, and on a 
golden salver a letter. The letter, broad and weighty, was 
placed so as to exhibit the seal, which was a large impression 
in red wax. The bell continued to tinkle. The open panel 
almost touched the couch where the duchess and Gwynplaine 
were sitting. 

Leaning over, but still keeping her arm round his neck, she 
took the letter from the plate, and touched the panel. The 
compartment closed in, and the bell ceased ringing. 

The duchess broke the seal, and, opening the envelope, 
drew out two documents contained therein, and flung it on 
the floor at Gwynplaine's feet. The impression of the broken 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 467 

seal was still decipherable, and Gwynplaine could distinguish 
a royal crown over the initial A. The torn envelope lay open 
before him, so that he could read, "To Her Grace the 
Duchess Josiana." The envelope had contained both 
vellum and parchment. The former was a small, the latter 
a large document. On the parchment was a large Chancery 
seal in green wax, called Lords' sealing-wax. 

The face of the duchess, whose bosom was palpitating, and 
whose eyes were swimming with passion, became overspread 
with a slight expression of dissatisfaction. 

" Ah! " she said. " What does she send me? A lot of 
papers I What a spoil-sport that woman is 1 " 

Pushing aside the parchment, she opened the vellum. 

"It is her handwriting. It is my sister's hand. It is 
quite provoking. Gwynplaine, I asked you if you could 
read. Can you ? " 

Gwynplaine nodded assent. 

She stretched herself at full length on the couch, carefully 
drew her feet and arms under her robe, with a whimsical 
affectation of modesty, and, giving Gwynplaine the vellum, 
watched him with an impassioned look. 

" Well, you are mine. Begin your duties, my beloved. 
Read me what the queen writes." 

Gwynplaine took the vellum, unfolded it, and, in a voice 
tremulous with many emotions, began to read : 

" MADAM, We are graciously pleased to send to you 
herewith, sealed and signed by our trusty and well-beloved 
William Cowper, Lord High Chancellor of England, a copy of 
a report showing forth the very important fact that the 
legitimate son of Linnaeus Lord Clancharlie has just been 
discovered and recognized, bearing the name of Gwynplaine, 
in the lowest rank of a wandering and vagabond life, among 
strollers and mountebanks. His false position dates from 
his earliest days. In accordance with the laws of the 
country, and in virtue of his hereditary rights, Lord Fermain 
Clancharlie, son of Lord Linnaeus, will be this day admitted, 
and installed in his position in the House of Lords. There- 
fore, having regard to your welfare, and wishing to preserve 
for your use the property and estates of Lord Clancharlie 
of Hunkerville, we substitute him in the place of Lord David 
Dfrry-Moir, and recommend him to your srood graces. We 



468 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

have caused Lord Fermain to be conducted to Corleone 
Lodge. We will and command, as sister and as Queen, that 
the said Fermain Lord Clancharlie, hitherto called Gwyn- 
plaine, shall be your husband, and that you shall marry him. 
Such is our royal pleasure." 

While Gwynplaine, In tremulous tones which varied at 
almost every word, was reading the document, the duchess, 
half risen from the couch, listened with fixed attention. 
When Gwynplaine finished, she snatched the letter from his 
hands. 

" Anne R," she murmured in a tone of abstraction. Then 
picking up from the floor the parchment she had thrown 
down, she ran her eye over it. It was the confession of the 
shipwrecked crew of the Matutina, embodied in a report 
signed by the sheriff of Southwark and by the lord chancellor. 

Having perused the report, she read the queen's letter over 
again. Then she said, "Be it so." And calmly pointing 
with her finger to the door of the gallery through which he 
had entered, she added, " Begone." 

Gwynplaine was petrified, and remained immovable. 
She repeated, in icy tones, " Since you are my husband, 
begone." Gwynplaine, speechless, and with eyes downcast 
like a criminal, remained motionless. She added, " You 
have no right to be here; it is my lover's place." Gwyn- 
plaine was like a man transfixed. " Very well," said she; 
" I must go myself. So you are my husband. Nothing 
can be better. I hate you." She rose, and with an inde- 
scribably haughty gesture of adieu left the room. The 
curtain in the doorway of the gallery fell behind her. 

CHAPTER V. 

THEY RECOGNIZE, BUT DO NOT KNOW, EACH OTHER. 

GWYNPLAINE was alone alone, and In the presence of the 
tepid bath and the deserted couch. The confusion in his 
mind had reached its culminating point. His thoughts no 
longer resembled thoughts. They overflowed and ran riot; 
it was the anguish of a creature wrestling with perplexity. 
He felt as if he were awaking from a horrid nightmare. The 
entrance into unknown spheres is no simple matter, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 469 

From the time he had received the duchess's letter, 
brought by the page, a series of surprising adventures had 
befallen Gwynplaine, each one less intelligible than the other. 
Up to this time, though in a dream, he had seen things clearly. 
Now he could only grope his way. He no longer thought, 
nor even dreamed. He collapsed. He sank down upon the 
couch which the duchess had vacated. 

Suddenly he heard a sound of footsteps, and those of a 
man. The noise came from the opposite side of the gallery to 
that by which the duchess had departed. The man ap- 
proached, and his footsteps, though deadened by the carpet, 
were clear and distinct. Gwynplaine, in spite of his abstrac- 
tion, listened. 

Suddenly, beyond the silver web of curtain which the 
duchess had left partly open, a door, evidently concealed by 
the painted glass, opened wide, and there came floating into 
the room the refrain of an old French song, carolled at the 
top of a manly and joyous voice, 

"Trois petits gorets sur leur fumier 
Juraient comme de porteurs de chaise," 

and a man entered. He wore a sword by his side, a magnifi- 
cent naval uniform, covered with gold lace, and held in his 
hand a plumed hat with loops and cockade. Gwynplaine 
sprang up erect as if moved by springs. He recognized the 
man, and was, in turn, recognized by him. From their aston- 
ished lips came, simultaneously, this double exclamation: 

" Gwynplaine I " 

" Tom- Jim- Jack! " 

The man with the plumed hat advanced towards Gywn- 
plaine, who stood with folded arms. 

" What are you doing here, Gwynplaine? " 

" And you, Tom- Jim- Jack, what are you doing here? " 

"Oh! I understand. Josiana! a caprice. A mounte- 
bank and a monster! The double attraction is too powerful 
to be resisted. You disguised yourself in order to get here, 
Gwynplaine? " 

' And you, too, Tom- Jim- Jack? " 

' Gwynplaine, what does this gentleman's dress mean ? " 

' Tom- Jim- Jack, what does that officer's uniform mean ? " 

' Gwynplaine, I answer no questions." 

' Neither do I. Tom- Jim- Jack." 



470 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" Gwynplaine, my name is not Tom- Jim- Jack." 

" Tom- Jim- Jack, my name is not Gwynplaine." 

" Gwynplaine, I am here in my own house." 

" I am here in my own house, Tom- Jim- Jack." 

" I will not have you echo my words. You are ironical; 
but I've got a cane. An end to your jokes, you wretched 
fool." 

Gwynplaine became ashy pale. " You are a fool yourself, 
and you shall give me satisfaction for this insult." 

" In your booth as much as you like, with fisticuffs." 

" Here, and with swords? " 

" My friend Gwynplaine, the sword is a weapon for gentle- 
men. With it I can only fight my equals. At fisticuffs we 
are equal, but not so with swords. At the Tadcaster Inn 
Tom- Jim- Jack could box with Gwynplaine; at Windsor 
the case is altered. Understand this: I am a rear-admiral." 

" And I am a peer of England." 

The man whom Gwynplaine recognized as Tom- Jim- Jack 
burst out laughing. " Why not a king? Indeed, you are 
right. An actor plays every part. You'll tell me next that 
you are Theseus, Duke of Athens." 

" I am a peer of England, and we are going to fight." 

" Gwynplaine, this becomes tiresome. Don't play with 
one who can order you to be flogged. I am Lord David 
Dirry-Moir." 

" And I am Lord Clancharlie." 

Again Lord David burst out laughing. 

"Well said! Gwynplaine is Lord Clancharlie. That Is 
indeed the name the man must bear who is to win Josiana. 
Listen. I forgive you; and do you know the reason? It's 
because we are both lovers of the same woman." 

The curtain in the door was lifted, and a voice exclaimed, 
" You are the two husbands, my lords." 

They turned. 

" Barkilphedro! " cried Lord David. 

It was Indeed he; he bowed low to the two lords, with a 
smile on his face. Some few paces behind him was a gentle- 
man with a stern and dignified countenance, who carried in 
his hand a black wand. This gentleman advanced, and, 
bowing three times to Gwynplaine, said, " I am the Usher of 
the Black Rod. I come to fetch your lordship, in obedience 
to her Majesty's commands." 



BOOK THE EIGHTH. 
THE CAPITOL AND THINGS AROUND IT. 



CHAPTER I. 

ANALYSIS OF MAJESTIC MATTERS. 

IRRESISTIBLE Fate ever carrying him forward, which had 
now for so many hours showered its surprises on Gwynplaine, 
and which had transported him to Windsor, transferred him 
again to London. Visionary realities succeeded each other 
without a moment's intermission. He could not escape from 
their influence. Freed from one he met another. He had 
scarcely time to breathe. Any one who has seen a juggler 
throwing and catching balls can judge the nature of fate. 
Those rising and falling projectiles are like men tossed in the 
hands of Destiny projectiles and playthings. 

On the evening of the same day, Gwynplaine was an actor 
in an extraordinary scene. He was seated on a bench 
covered with fleurs-de-lis; over his silken clothes he wore a 
robe of scarlet velvet, lined with white silk, with a cape of 
ermine, and on his shoulders two bands of ermine embroidered 
with gold. Around him were men of all ages, young and old, 
seated like him on benches covered with fleurs-de-lis, and 
dressed like him in ermine and purple. In front of him other 
men were kneeling, clothed in black silk gowns. Some of 
them were writing; opposite, and a short distance from him, 
he observed steps, a raised platform, a dais, a large escutcheon 
glittering between a lion and a unicorn, and at the top of the 
steps, on the platform under the dais, resting against the 



472 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

escutcheon, was a gilded chair with a crown over it. This 

was a throne the throne of Great Britain. 

Gwynplaine, himself a peer of England, was in the House of 
Lords. How Gwynplaine's introduction to the House of 
Lords came about, we will now explain. Throughout the 
day, from morning to night, from Windsor to London, from 
Corleone Lodge to Westminster Hall, he had step by step 
mounted higher in the social grade. At each step he grew 
giddier. He had been conveyed from Windsor in a royal 
carriage with a peer's escort. There is not much difference 
between a guard of honour and a prisoner's. - On that day, 
travellers on the London and Windsor road saw a galloping 
cavalcade of gentlemen pensioners of her Majesty's house- 
hold escorting two carriages drawn at a rapid pace. In the 
first carriage sat the Usher of the Black Rod, his wand in his 
hand. In the second was to be seen a large hat with white 
plumes, throwing into shadow and hiding the face under- 
neathit. Who was it who was thus being hurried on aprince, 
a prisoner ? It was Gwynplaine. 

It looked as if they were conducting some one to the Tower, 
unless, indeed, they were escorting him to the House of Lords. 
The queen had done things well. As it was for her future 
brother-in-law, she had provided an escort from her own 
household. The officer of the Usher of the Black Rod rode on 
horseback at the head of the cavalcade. The Usher of 
the Black Rod carried, on a cushion placed on a seat of the 
carriage, a black portfolio stamped with the royarcrown. At 
Brentford, the last relay before London, the carriages and 
escort halted. A four-horse carriage of tortoise-shell, with 
two postilions, a coachman in a wig, and four footmen, was 
in waiting. The wheels, steps, springs, pole, and all the fit- 
tings of this carriage were gilt. The horses' harness was of 
silver. This state coach was of an ancient and extraordinary 
shape, and would have been distinguished by its grandeur 
among the fifty-one celebrated carriages of which Roubo has 
left us drawings. 

The Usher of the Black Rod and his officer alighted. The 
latter, having lifted the cushion, on which rested the royal 
portfolio, from the seat in the postchaise, carried it on out- 
stretched hands, and stood behind the Usher. He first 
opened the door of the empty carriage, then the door of that 
occupied by Gwynplaine, and, with downcast eyes, respect' 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 473 

fully invited him to descend. Gwynplaine left the chaise, 
and took his seat in the carriage. The Usher carrying the 
rod, and the officer supporting the cushion, followed, and 
took their places on the low front seat provided for pages in 
old state coaches. The inside of the carriage was lined with 
white satin trimmed with Binche silk, with tufts and tassels 
of silver. The roof was painted with armorial bearings. The 
postilions of the chaises they were leaving were dressed in the 
royal livery. The attendants of the carriage they now 
entered wore a different but very magnificent livery. 

Gwynplaine, in spite of his bewildered state, in which he felt 
quite overcome, remarked the gorgeously-attired footmen, 
and asked the Usher of the Black Rod, 

" Whose livery is that? " 

He answered, 

" Yours, my lord." 

The House of Lords was to sit that evening. Curia erat 
serena, run the old records. In England parliamentary work 
is by preference undertaken at night. It once happened 
that Sheridan began a speech at midnight and finished it at 
sunrise. 

The two postchaises returned to Windsor. Gwynplaine 's 
carriage set out for London. This ornamented four-horse 
carriage proceeded at a walk from Brentford to London, as 
befitted the dignity of the coachman. Gwynplaine's servi- 
tude to ceremony was beginning in the shape of his solemn- 
looking coachman. The delay was, moreover, apparently 
prearranged ; and we shall see presently its probable motive. 

Night was falling, though it was not quite dark, when the 
carriage stopped at the King's Gate, a large sunken door 
between two turrets connecting Whitehall with Westminster. 
The escort of gentlemen pensioners formed a circle around the 
carriage. A footman jumped down from behind it and 
opened the door. The Usher of the Black Rod, followed by 
the officer carrying the cushion, got out of the carriage, and 
addressed Gwynplaine. 

" My lord, be pleased to alight. I beg your lordship to 
keep your hat on." 

Gwynplaine wore under his travelling cloak the suit of 
black silk, which he had not changed since the previous even- 
ing. He had no sword. He left his cloak in the carriage. 
Under the arched way of the King's Gate there was a small 



474 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

side door raised some few steps above the road. In 

ceremonial processions the greatest personage never walks 

first. 

The Usher of the Black Rod, followed by his officer, walked 
first; Gwynplaine followed. They ascended the steps, and 
entered by the side door. Presently they were in a wide, 
circular room, with a pillar in the centre, the lower part of a 
turret. The room, being on the ground floor, was lighted by 
narrow windows in the pointed arches, which served but to 
make darkness visible. Twilight often lends -solemnity to a 
scene. Obscurity is in itself majestic. 

In this room, thirteen men, disposed in ranks, were stand- 
ing three in the front row, six in the second row, and four 
behind. In the front row one wore a crimson velvet gown; 
the other two, gowns of the same colour, but of satin. All 
three had the arms of England embroidered on their shoulders. 
The second rank wore tunics of white silk, each one having a 
different coat of arms emblazoned in front. The last row 
were clad in black silk, and were thus distinguished. The 
first wore a blue cape. The second had a scarlet St. George 
embroidered in front. The third, two embroidered crimson 
crosses, in front and behind. The fourth had a collar of 
black sable fur. All were uncovered, wore wigs, and carried 
swords. Their faces were scarcely visible in the dim light, 
neither could they see Gwynplaine's face. 

The Usher of the Black Rod, raising his wand, said, 

" My Lord Fermain Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and 
Hunkerville, I, the Usher of the Black Rod, first officer of the 
presence chamber, hand your lordship over to Garter King- 
at-Arms." 

The person clothed In velvet, quitting his place in the 
ranks, bowed to the ground before Gwynplaine, and said, 

" My Lord Fermain Clancharlie, I am Garter, Principal 
King-at-Arms of England. I am the officer appointed and 
installed by his grace the Duke of Norfolk, hereditary Earl 
Marshal. I have sworn obedience to the king, peers, and 
knights of the garter. The day of my installation, when the 
Earl Marshal of England anointed me by pouring a goblet of 
wine on my head, I solemnly promised to be attentive to the 
nobility; to avoid bad company 4 to excuse, rather than 
accuse, gentlefolks ; and to assist widows and virgins. It is I 
who have the charge of arranging the funeral ceremonies of 



THE LAUGHING MAN, 475 

peers, and the supervision of their armorial bearings. I place 
myself at the orders of your lordship." 

The first of those wearing satin tunics, having bowed 
deeply, said, 

" My lord, I am Clarenceaux, Second King-at-Arms of 
England. I am the officer who arranges the obsequies of 
nobles below the rank of peers. I am at your lordship's 
disposal." 

The other wearer of the satin tunic bowed and spoke 
thus, 

" My lord, I am Nowoy, Third King-at-Arms of England. 
Command me." 

The second row, erect and without bowing, advanced a 
pace. The right-hand man said, 

" My lord, we are the six Dukes-at-Arms of England. I 
am York." 

Then each of the heralds, or Dukes-at-Arms, speaking in 
turn, proclaimed his title. 
I am Lancaster." 
I am Richmond." 
I am Chester." 
I am Somerset." 
I am Windsor." 

The coats of arms embroidered on their breasts were those 
of the counties and towns from which they took their 
names. 

The third rank, dressed in black, remained silent Garter 
King-at-Arms, pointing them out to Gwynplaine, said, 

" My lord, these are the four Pursuivants-at-Arms. Blue 
Mantle." 

The man with the blue cape bowed. 

" Rouge Dragon." 

He with the St. George inclined his head. 

" Rouge Croix." 

He with the scarlet crosses saluted. 

" Portcullis." 

He with the sable fur collar made his obeisance. 

On a sign from the King-at-Arms, the first of the pursui- 
vants, Blue Mantle, stepped forward and received from the 
officer of the Usher the cushion of silver cloth and crown- 
emblazoned portfolio. And the King-at-Arms said to the 
Usher of the Black Rod, 



476 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" Proceed; I leave in your hands the Introduction of his 
lordship I " 

The observance of these customs, and also of others which 
will now be described, were the old ceremonies in use prior to 
the time of Henry VIII., and which Anne for some time 
attempted to revive. There is nothing like it in existence 
now. Nevertheless, the House of Lords thinks that it is un- 
changeable ; and, if Conservatism exists anywhere, it is there. 

It changes, nevertheless. E pur si muove. For instance, 
what has become of the may-pole, which the citizens of 
London erected on the ist of May, when the peers went down 
to the House ? The last one was erected in 1 7 1 3. Since then 
the may-pole has disappeared. Disuse. 

Outwardly, unchangeable ; inwardly, mutable. Take, for 
example, the title of Albemarle. It sounds eternal. Yet 
it has been through six different families Odo, Mandeville, 
Bethune, Plantagenet, Beauchamp, Monck. Under the title of 
Leicester five different names have been merged Beaumont, 
Breose, Dudley, Sydney, Coke. Under Lincoln, six; under 
Pembroke, seven. The families change, under unchanging 
titles. A superficial historian believes in immutability. In 
reality it does not exist. Man can never be more than a 
wave; humanity is the ocean. 

Aristocracy is proud of what women consider a reproach 
age! Yet both cherish the same illusion, that they do not 
change. It is probable the House of Lords will not recognize 
itself in the foregoing description, nor yet in that which 
follows, thus resembling the once pretty woman, who objects 
to having any wrinkles. The mirror is ever a scapegoat, yet 
its truths cannot be contested. To portray exactly, con- 
stitutes the duty of a historian. The King-at-Arms, turn- 
ing to Gwynplaine, said, 

" Be pleased to follow me, my lord." And added, " You 
will be saluted. Your lordship, in returning the salute, will 
be pleased merely to raise the brim of your hat." 

They moved off, in procession, towards a door at the far 
side of the room. The Usher of the Black Rod walked in 
front; then Blue Mantle, carrying the cushion; then the 
King-at-Arms ; and after him came Gwynplaine, wearing his 
hat. The rest, kings-at-arms, heralds, and pursuivants, re- 
mained in the circular room. Gwynplaine, preceded by the 
Usher of the Black Rod, and escorted by the King-at-Arma, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 477 

passed from room to room, in a direction which it would now 
be impossible to trace, the old Houses of Parliament having 
been pulled down. Amongst others, he crossed that Gothic 
state chamber in which took place the last meeting of James 
II. and Monmouth, and whose walls witnessed the useless de- 
basement of the cowardly nephew at the feet of his vindictive 
uncle. On the walls of this chamber hung, in chronological 
order, nine fell-length portraits of former peers, with their 
dates Lord Nansladron, 1305; Lord Baliol, 1306; Lord 
Benestede, 1314; Lord Cantilupe, 1356; Lord Montbegon, 
1357; Lord Tibotot, 1373; Lord Zouch of Codnor, 1615; 
Lord Bella- Aqua, with no date; Lord Harren and Surrey, 
Count of Blois, also without date. 

It being now dark, lamps were burning at intervals in the 
galleries. Brass chandeliers, with wax candles, illuminated 
the rooms, lighting them like the side aisles of a church. 
None but officials were present. In one room, which the 
procession crossed, stood, with heads respectfully lowered, 
the four clerks of the signet, and the Clerk of the Council. In 
another room stood the distinguished Knight Banneret, 
Philip Sydenham of Brympton in Somersetshire. The 
Knight Banneret is a title conferred in time of war, under the 
unfurled royal standard. In another room was the senior 
baronet of England, Sir Edmund Bacon of Suffolk, heir of 
Sir Nicholas Bacon, styled, Primus baronetorum Anglicce. 
Behind Sir Edmund was an armour-bearer with an arquebus, 
and an esquire carrying the arms of Ulster, the baronets being 
the hereditary defenders of the province of Ulster in Ireland. 
In another room was the Chancellor of the Exchequer, with 
his four accountants, and the two deputies of the Lord 
Chamberlain, appointed to cleave the tallies.* 

At the entrance of a corridor covered with matting, which 
was the communication between the Lower and the Upper 
House, Gwynplaine was saluted by Sir Thomas Mansell of 
Margam, Comptroller of the Queen's Household and Member 
for Glamorgan ; and at the exit from the corridor by a dep- 
utation of one for every two of the Barons of the Cinque 

* The author is apparently mistaken. The Chamberlains of the Ex. 
chequer 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 Parlia- 
ment were destroyed by fire. TRANSLATOR. 



478 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Ports, four on the right and four on the left, the Cinque Ports 
being eight in number. William Hastings did obeisance for 
Hastings; Matthew Aylmor, for Dover; Josias Burchett, 
for Sandwich; Sir Philip Boteler, for Hythe; John Brewer, 
for New Rumney; Edward Southwell, for the town of Rye; 
James Hayes, for Winchelsea; George Nailor, for Seaford. 
As Gwynplaine was about to return the salute, the King-at- 
Arms reminded him in a low voice of the etiquette, " Only the 
brim of your hat, my lord." Gwynplaine did as directed. 
He now entered the so-called Painted Chamber, in which 
there was no painting, except a few of saints, and amongst 
them St. Edward, in the high arches of the long and deep- 
pointed windows, which were divided by what formed the 
ceiling of Westminster Hall and the floor of the Painted 
Chamber. On the far side of the wooden barrier which 
divided the room from end to end, stood the three Secretaries 
of State, men of mark. The functions of the first of these 
officials comprised the supervision of all affairs relating to the 
south of England, Ireland, the Colonies, France, Switzerland, 
Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Turkey. The second had charge 
of the north of England, and watched affairs in the Low 
Countries, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, and Russia. 
The third, a Scot, had charge of Scotland. The two first- 
mentioned were English, one of them being the Honourable 
Robert Harley, Member for the borough of New Radnor. 
A Scotch member, Mungo Graham, Esquire, a relation of the 
Duke of Montrose, was present. All bowed, without speak- 
ing, to Gwynplaine, who returned the salute by touching his 
hat. The barrier-keeper -lifted the wooden arm which, 
pivoting on a hinge, formed the entrance to the far side of the 
Painted Chamber, where stood the long table, covered with 
green cloth, reserved for peers. A branch of lighted candles 
stood on the table. Gwynplaine, preceded by the Usher of 
the Black Rod, Garter King-at-Arms, and Blue Mantle, 
penetrated into this privileged compartment. The barrier- 
keeper closed the opening immediately Gwynplaine had 
passed. The King-at-Arms, having entered the precincts of 
the privileged compartment, halted. The Painted Chamber 
was a spacious apartment. At the farther end, upright, 
beneath the royal escutcheon which was placed between the 
two windows, stood two old men, in red velvet robes, with 
two rows of ermine trimmed with gold lace on their shoulders, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 479 

and wearing wigs, and hats with white plumes. Through the 
openings of their robes might be detected silk garments and 
sword hilts. Motionless behind them stood a man dressed in 
black silk, holding on high a great mace of gold surmounted 
by a crowned Hon. It was the Mace-bearer of the Peers of 
England. The lion is their crest. Et les Lions ce sont les 
Barons et li Per, runs the manuscript chronicle of Bertrand 
Duguesclin. 

The King-at-Arms pointed out the two persons in velvet, 
and whispered to Gwynplaine, 

" My lord, these are your equals. Be pleased to return 
their salute exactly as they make it. These two peers are 
barons, and have been named by the Lord Chancellor as your 
sponsors. They are very old, and almost blind. They will, 
themselves, introduce you to the House of Lords. The first 
is Charles Mildmay, Lord Fitzwalter, sixth on the roll of 
barons; the second is Augustus Arundel, Lord Arundel of 
Trerice, thirty-eighth on the roll of barons." The King-at- 
Arms having advanced a step towards the two old men, pro- 
claimed " Fermain Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie, Baron 
Hunkerville, Marquis of Corleone in Sicily, greets your 
lordships 1 ' ' The two peers raised their hats to the full extent 
of the arm, and then replaced them. Gwynplaine did the 
same. The Usher of the Black Rod stepped forward, 
followed by Blue Mantle and Garter King at-Arms. The 
Mace-bearer took up his post in front of Gwynplaine, the 
two peers at his side, Lord Fitzwalter on the right, and Lord 
Arundel of Trerice on the left. Lord Arundel, the elder of 
the two, was very feeble. He died the following year, be- 
queathing to his grandson John, a minor, the title which 
became extinct in 1768. The procession, leaving the Painted 
Chamber, entered a gallery in which were rows of pilasters, 
and between the spaces were sentinels, alternately pike-men 
of England and halberdiers of Scotland. The Scotch hal- 
berdiers were magnificent kilted soldiers, worthy to encounter 
later on at Fontenoy the French cavalry, and the royal 
cuirassiers, whom their colonel thus addressed: " Messieurs 
les mattres, assure* vos chapeaux. Nous allons avoir Vhonneur 
de charger.'' The captain of these soldiers saluted Gwyn- 
plaine, and the peers, his sponsors, with their swords. The 
men saluted with their pikes and halberds. 

At the end of the gallery shone a large door, so magnificent 



4 8o THE LAUGHING MAN. 

that its two folds seemed to be masses of gold. On each side 
of the door there stood, upright and motionless, men who 
were called doorkeepers. Just before you came to this door, 
the gallery widened out into a circular space. In this space 
was an armchair with an immense back, and on it, judging 
by his wig and from the amplitude of his robes, was a dis- 
tinguished person. It was William Cowper, Lord Chancellor 
of England. To be able to cap a royal infirmity with a 
similar one has its advantages. William Cowper was short- 
sighted. Anne had also defective sight, but in a lesser degree. 
The near-sightedness of William Cowper found favour in the 
eyes of the short-sighted queen, and induced her to appoint 
him Lord Chancellor, and Keeper of the Royal Conscience. 
William Cowper's upper lip was thin, and his lower one thick 
a sign of semi-good-nature. 

This circular space was lighted by a lamp hung from the 
ceiling. The Lord Chancellor was sitting gravely in his large 
armchair ; at his right was the Clerk of the Crown, and at 
his left the Clerk of the Parliaments. 

Each of the clerks had before him an open register and an 
inkhorn. 

Behind the Lord Chancellor was his mace-bearer, holding 
the mace with the crown on the top, besides the train-bearer 
and purse-bearer, in large wigs. 

All these officers are still in existence. On a little stand, 
near the woolsack, was a sword, with a gold hilt and sheath, 
and belt of crimson velvet. 

Behind the Clerk of the Crown was an officer holding in his 
hands the coronation robe. 

Behind the Clerk of the Parliaments another officer held a 
second robe, which was that of a peer. 

The robes, both of scarlet velvet, lined with white silk, and 
having bands of ermine trimmed with gold lace over the 
shoulders, were similar, except that the ermine band was 
wider on the coronation robe. 

The third officer, who was the librarian, carried on a square 
of Flanders leather the red book, a little volume, bound 
in red morocco, containing a list of the peers and commons, 
besides a few blank leaves and a pencil, which it was the 
custom to present to each new member on his entering the 
House. 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 483 

Gwynplaine, between the two peers, his sponsors, brought 
up the procession, which stopped before the woolsack. 

The two peers, who introduced him, uncovered their heads, 
and Gwynplaine did likewise. 

The King-at-Arms received from the hands of Blue Mantle 
the cushion of silver cloth, knelt down, and presented the 
black portfolio on the cushion to the Lord Chancellor. 

The Lord Chancellor took the black portfolio, and handed 
it to the Clerk of the Parliament. 

The Clerk received it ceremoniously, and then sat down. 

The Clerk of the Parliament opened the portfolio, and arose. 

The portfolio contained the two usual messages the royal 
patent addressed to the House of Lords, and the writ of 
summons. 

The Clerk read aloud these two messages, with respectful 
deliberation, standing. 

The writ of summons, addressed to Fermain Lord Clan- 
charlie, concluded with the accustomed formalities, 

" We strictly enjoin you, on the faith and allegiance that 
you owe, to "come and take your place in person among the 
prelates and peers sitting in our Parliament at Westminster, 
for the purpose of giving your advice, in all honour and con- 
science, on the business of the kingdom and of the church." 

The reading of the messages being concluded, the Lord 
Chancellor raised his voice, 

" The message of the Crown has been read. Lord Clan- 
charlie, does your lordship renounce transubstantiation. 
adoration of saints, and the mass ? " 

Gwynplaine bowed. 

" The test has been administered," said the Lord Chan- 
cellor. 

And the Clerk of the Parliament resumed, 

" His lordship has taken the test.'* 

The Lord Chancellor added, 

" My Lord Clancharlie, you can take your seat." 

" So be it," said the two sponsors. 

The King-at-Arms rose, took the sword from the stand, 
and buckled it round Gwynplaine's waist. 

" Ce faict," says the old Norman charter, " le pair prend 
son espee, et monte aux hauts sieges, et assiste a 1'audience." 

Gwynplaine heard a voice behind him which said, 

" I array your lordship in a peer's robe." 
16 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 

At the same time, the officer who spoke to him, who was 
holding the robe, placed it on him, and tied the black strings 
of the ermine cape round his neck. 

Gwynplaine, the scarlet robe on his shoulders, and the 
golden sword by his side, was attired like the peers on his 
right and left. 

The librarian presented to him the red book, and put it in 
the pocket of his waistcoat. 

The King-at-Arms murmured in his ear, 

" My lord, on entering, will bow to the royal chair." 

The royal chair is the throne. 

Meanwhile the two clerks were writing, each at his table 
one on the register of the Crown, the other on the register of 
the House. 

Then both the Clerk of the Crown preceding the other 
brought their books to the Lord Chancellor, who signed 
them. Having signed the two registers, the Lord Chan- 
cellor rose. 

" Fermain Lord Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie, Baron 
Hunkerville, Marquis of Corleone in Sicily, be you welcome 
among your peers, the lords spiritual and temporal of Great 
Britain." 

Gwynplaine's sponsors touched his shoulder. 

He turned round. 

The folds of the great gilded door at the end of the gallery 
opened. 

It was the door of the House of Lords. 

Thirty-six hours only had elapsed since Gwynplaine, sur- 
rounded by a different procession, had entered the iron door 
of Southwark Jail. 

What shadowy chimeras had passed, with terrible rapid- 
ity through his brain chimeras which were hard facts; 
rapidity, which was a capture by assault! 

CHAPTER II. 

IMPARTIALITY. 

THE creation of an equality with the king, called Peerage, was, 
in barbarous epochs, a useful fiction. This rudimentary 
political expedient produced in France and England different 
results. In France, the peer was a mock king; in England, a 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 483 

real prince less grand than in France, but more genuine: 
we might say less, but worse. 

Peerage was born in France ; the date is uncertain under 
Charlemagne, says the legend; under Robert le Sage, says 
history, and history is not more to be relied on than legend. 
Favin writes : " The King of France wished to attach to 
himself the great of his kingdom, by the magnificent title of 
peers, as if they were his equals." 

Peerage soon thrust forth branches, and from France 
passed over to England. 

The English peerage has been a great fact, and almost a 
mighty institution. It had for precedent the Saxon witten- 
agemote. The Danish thane and the Norman vavassour 
commingled in the baron. Baron is the same as vir, which is 
translated into Spanish by varon, and which signifies, par 
excellence, " Man." As early as 1075, the barons made 
themselves felt by the king and by what a kingl By 
William the Conqueror. In 1086 they laid the foundation 
of feudality, and its basis was the " Doomsday Book." 
Under John Lackland came conflict. The French peerage 
took the high hand with Great Britain, and demanded that 
the king of England should appear at their bar. Great was 
the indignation of the English barons. At the coronation of 
Philip Augustus, the King of England, as Duke of Normandy, 
carried the first square banner, and the Duke of Guyenne the 
second. Against this king, a vassal of the foreigner, the War 
of the Barons burst forth. The barons imposed on the weak- 
minded King John Magna Charta, from which sprang the 
House of Lords. The pope took part with the king, and 
excommunicated the lords. The date was 1215, and the 
pope was Innocent III., who wrote the " Veni, Sancte 
Spiritus," and who sent to John Lackland the four cardinal 
virtues in the shape of four gold rings. The Lords persisted. 
The duel continued through many generations. Pembroke 
struggled. 1248 was the year of " the provisions of Oxford." 
Twenty-four barons limited the king's powers, discussed him, 
and called a knight from each county to take part in the 
widened breach. Here was the dawn of the Commons. 
Later on, the Lords added two citizens from each city, and 
two burgesses from each borough. It arose from this, that 
up to "the time of Elizabeth the peers were judges of the 
validity of elections to the House of Commons. From their 



484 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

jurisdiction sprang the proverb that the members returned 
ought to be without the three P's sine Prece, sine Pretio, 
sine Poculo. This did not obviate rotten boroughs. In 
1293, the Court of Peers in France had still the King of 
England under their jurisdiction; and Philippe le Bel cited 
Edward I. to appear before him. Edward I. was the king 
who ordered his son to boil him down after death, and to 
carry his bones to the wars. Under the follies of their kings 
the Lords felt the necessity of fortifying Parliament. They 
divided it into two chambers, the upper and the lower. The 
Lords arrogantly kept the supremacy. " If it happens that 
any member of the Commons should be so bold as to speak to 
the prejudice of the House of Lords, he is called to the bar of 
the House to be reprimanded, and, occasionally, to be sent to 
the Tower." There is the same distinction in voting. In the 
House of Lords they vote one by one, beginning with the 
junior, called the puisne baron. Each peer answers " Con- 
tent," or "Non-content." In the Commons they vote to- 
gether, by " Aye," or " No," in a crowd. The Commons 
accuse, the peers j udge. The peers, in their disdain of figures, 
delegated to the Commons, who were to profit by it, the super- 
intendence of the Exchequer thus named, according to some, 
after the table-cover, which was like a chess-board; and 
according to others, from the drawers of the old safe, where 
was kept, behind an iron grating, the treasure of the kings of 
England. The " Year-Book " dates from the end of the 
thirteenth century. In the War of the Roses the weight of 
the Lords was thrown, now on the side of John of Gaunt, 
Duke of Lancaster, now on the side of Edmund, Duke of 
York. Wat Tyler, the Lollards, Warwick the King-maker, 
all that anarchy from which freedom is to spring, had for 
foundation, avowed or secret, the English feudal system. 
The Lords were usefully jealous of the Crown; for to be 
jealous is to be watchful. They circumscribed the royal 
initiative, diminished the category of cases of high treason, 
raised up pretended Richards against Henry IV., appointed 
themselves arbitrators, judged the question of the three 
crowns between the Duke of York and Margaret of Anjou, 
and at need levied armies, and fought their battles of Shrews- 
bury, Tewkesbury, and St. Albans, sometimes winning, 
sometimes losing. Before this, in the thirteenth century, 
they had gained the battle oi Lewes, and had driven from the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 485 

kingdom the four brothers of the king, bastards of Queen 
Isabella by the Count de la Marche; all four usurers, who 
extorted money from Christians by means of the Jews ; half 
princes, half sharpers a thing common enough in more 
recent times, but not held in good odour in those days. Up 
to the fifteenth century the Norman Duke peeped out in the 
King of England, and the acts of Parliament were written in 
French. From the reign of Henry VII., by the will of the 
Lords, these were written in English. England, British 
under Uther Pendragon ; Roman under Caesar ; Saxon under 
the Heptarchy; Danish under Harold; Norman after 
William; then became, thanks to the Lords, English. After 
that she became Anglican. To have one's religion at home 
is a great power. A foreign pope drags down the national 
life. A Mecca is an octopus, and devours it. In 1534, 
London bowed out Rome. The peerage adopted the reformed 
religion, and the Lords accepted Luther. Here we have the 
answer to the excommunication of 1215. It was agreeable 
to Henry VIII. ; but, in other respects, the Lords were a 
trouble to him. As a bulldog to a bear, so was the House of 
Lords to Henry VIII. When Wolsey robbed the nation of 
Whitehall, and when Henry robbed Wolsey of it, who com- 
plained ? Four lords Darcie, of Chichester ; Saint John of 
Bletsho ; and (two Norman names ) Mountjoie and Mounteagle. 
The king usurped. The peerage encroached. There is some- 
thing in hereditary power which is incorruptible. Hence the 
insubordination of the Lords. Even in Elizabeth's reign 
the barons were restless. From this resulted the tortures at 
Durham. Elizabeth was as a farthingale over an execu- 
tioner's block. Elizabeth assembled Parliament as seldom 
as possible, and reduced the House of Lords to sixty-five 
members, amongst whom there was but one marquis (Win- 
chester), and not a single duke. In France the kings felt the 
same jealousy and carried out the same elimination. Under 
Henry III. there were no more than eight dukedoms in the 
peerage, and it was to the great vexation of the king that the 
Baron de Mantes, the Baron de Courcy, the Baron de Coulom- 
miers, the Baron de Chateauneuf-en-Thimerais, the Baron de 
la Fere-en-Lardenois, the Baron de Mortagne, and some 
others besides, maintained themselves as barons peers of 
France. In England the crown saw the peerage diminish 
with pleasure. Under Anne, to quote but one example, the 



486 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

peerages become extinct since the twelfth century amounted 
to five hundred and sixty-five. The War of the Roses had 
begun the extermination of dukes, which the axe of Mary 
Tudor completed. This was, indeed, the decapitation of the 
nobility. To prune away the dukes was to cut off its head. 
Good policy, perhaps; but it is better to corrupt than to 
decapitate. James I. was of this opinion. He restored 
dukedoms. He made a duke of his favourite Villiers, who 
had made him a pig; * a transformation from the duke feudal 
to the duke courtier. This sowing was to bring forth a rank 
harvest: Charles II. was to make two of his mistresses 
duchesses Barbara of Southampton, and Louise de la 
Querouel of Portsmouth. Under Anne there were to be 
twenty-five dukes, of whom three were to be foreigners, 
Cumberland, Cambridge, and Schomberg. Did this court 
policy, invented by James I., succeed? No. The House of 
Peers was irritated by the effort to shackle it by intrigue. 
It was irritated against James I., it was irritated against 
Charles I., who, we may observe, may have had something to 
do with the death of his father, just as Marie de Medicis may 
have had something to do with the death of her husband. 
There was a rupture between Charles I. and the peerage. 
The lords who, under James I., had tried at their bar ex- 
tortion, in the person of Bacon, under Charles I. tried 
treason, in the person of Strafford. They had condemned 
Bacon ; they condemned Strafford. One had lost his 
honour, the other lost his life. Charles I. was first beheaded 
in the person of Strafford. The Lords lent their aid to the 
Commons. The king convokes Parliament to Oxford; the 
revolution convokes it to London. Forty-four peers side 
with the King, twenty-two with the Republic. From this 
combination of the people with the Lords arose the Bill of 
Rights a sketch of the French Droits de I'homme, a vague 
shadow flung back from the depths of futurity by the 
revolution of France on the revolution of England. 

Such were the services of the peerage. Involuntary ones, 
we admit, and dearly purchased, because the said peerage 
is a huge parasite. But considerable services, nevertheless. 

The despotic work of Louis XL, of Richelieu, and of Louis 
XIV., the creation of a sultan, levelling taken for true 
equality, the bastinado given by the sceptre, the common 
* Villiers called James I., " Votre cochonncrie." 



THE LAUGHING MAN, 487 

abasement of the people, all these Turkish tricks in France 
the peers prevented in England. The aristocracy was a wall, 
banking up the king on one side, sheltering the people on the 
other. They redeemed their arrogance towards the people 
by their insolence towards the king. Simon, Earl of 
Leicester, said to Henry III., " King, thou hast lied I " The 
Lords curbed the crown, and grated against their kings in the 
tenderest point, that of venery. Every lord, passing through 
a royal park, had the right to kill a deer: in the house of the 
king the peer was at home; in the Tower of London the scale 
of allowance for the king was no more than that for a peer 
namely, twelve pounds sterling per week. This was the 
House of Lords' doing. 

Yet more. We owe to it the deposition of kings. The 
Lords ousted John Lackland, degraded Edward II., deposed 
Richard II., broke the power of Henry VI., and made Crom- 
well a possibility. What a Louis XIV. there was in Charles 
I.I Thanks to Cromwell, it remained latent. By-the-bye, 
we may here observe that Cromwell himself, though no 
historian seems to have noticed the fact, aspired to the peer- 
age. This was why he married Elizabeth Bouchier, descend- 
ant and heiress of a Cromwell, Lord Bouchier, whose peerage 
became extinct in 1471, and of a Bouchier, Lord Robesart, 
another peerage extinct in 1429. Carried on with the 
formidable increase of important events, he found the sup- 
pression of a king a shorter way to power than the recovery of 
a peerage. A ceremonial of the Lords, at times ominous, 
could reach even to the king. Two men-at-arms from the 
Tower, with their axes on their shoulders, between whom an 
accused peer stood at the bar of the house, might have been 
there inlike attendance on the king as on any other nobleman. 
For five centuries the House of Lords acted on a system, and 
carried it out with determination. They had their days of 
idleness and weakness, as, for instance, that strange time 
when they allowed themselves to be seduced by the vessels 
loaded with cheeses, hams, and Greek wines sent them by 
Julius II. The English aristocracy was restless, haughty, 
ungovernable, watchful, and patriotically mistrustful. It 
was that aristocracy which, at the end of the seventeenth 
century, by act the tenth of the year 1694, deprived the 
borough of Stockbridge, in Hampshire, of the right of sending 
members to Parliament, and forced the Commons to declare 



488 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

null the election for that borough, stained by papistical 
fraud. It imposed the test on James, Duke of York, and, on 
his refusal to take it, excluded him from the throne. He 
reigned, notwithstanding; but the Lords wound up by calling 
him to account and banishing him. That aristocracy has 
had, in its long duration, some instinct of progress. It has 
always given out a certain quantity of appreciable light, 
except now towards its end, which is at hand. Under James 
II. it maintained in the Lower House the proportion of three 
hundred and forty-six burgesses against ninety-two knights. 
The sixteen barons, by courtesy, of the Cinque Ports were 
more than counterbalanced by the fifty citizens of the 
twenty-five cities. Though corrupt and egotistic, that aris- 
tocracy was, in some instances, singularly impartial. It is 
harshly judged. History keeps all its compliments for the 
Commons. The justice of this is doubtful. We consider the 
part played by the Lords a very great one. Oligarchy is the 
independence of a barbarous state, but it is an independence. 
Take Poland, for instance, nominally a kingdom, really a 
republic. The peers of England held the throne in suspicion 
and guardianship. Time after time they have made their 
power more felt than that of the Commons. They gave 
check to the king. Thus, in that remarkable year, 1694, the 
Triennial Parliament Bill, rejected by the Commons, in conse- 
quence of the objections of William III., was passed by the 
Lords. William III., in his irritation, deprived the Earl of 
Bath of the governorship of Pendennis Castle, and Viscount 
Mordaunt of all his offices. The House of Lords was the 
republic of Venice in the heart of the royalty of England. 
To reduce the king to a doge was its object; and in propor- 
tion as it decreased the power of the crown it increased that 
of the people. Royalty knew this, and hated the peerage. 
Each endeavoured to lessen the other. What was thus lost 
by each was proportionate profit to the people. Those two 
blind powers, monarchy and oligarchy, could not see that 
they were working for the benefit of a third, which was 
democracy. What a delight it was to the crown, in the last 
century, to be able to hang a peer, Lord Ferrers 1 

However, they hung him with a silken rope. How polite I 
" They would not have hung a peer of France," the Duke 
of Richelieu haughtily remarked. Granted. They would 
have beheaded him. Still more polite 1 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 489 

Montmorency Tancarville signed himself peer of France 
and England ; thus throwing the English peerage into the 
second rank. The peers of France were higher and less 
powerful, holding to rank more than to authority, and to 
precedence more than to domination. There was between 
them and the Lords that shade of difference which separates 
vanity from pride. With the peers of France, to take pre- 
cedence of foreign princes, of Spanish grandees, of Venetian 
patricians ; to see seated on the lower benches the Marshals of 
France, the Constable and the Admiral of France, were he 
even Comte de Toulouse and son of Louis XIV. ; to draw a 
distinction between duchies in the male and female line; to 
maintain the proper distance between a simple comte, like 
Armagnac or Albret, and a comtS pairie, like Evreux ; to wear 
by right, at five-and-twenty, the blue ribbon of the Golden 
Fleece; to counterbalance the Duke de la Tremoille, the most 
ancient peer of the court, with the Duke Uzes, the most 
ancient peer of the Parliament; to claim as many pages and 
horses to their carriages as an elector; to be called monsei- 
gneur by the first President ; to discuss whether the Duke de 
Maine dates his peerage as the Comte d'Eu, from 1458; to 
cross the grand chamber diagonally, or by the side such 
things were grave matters. Grave matters with the Lords 
were the Navigation Act, the Test Act, the enrolment of 
Europe in the service of England, the command of the sea, 
the expulsion of the Stuarts, war with France. On one side, 
etiquette above all; on the other, empire above all. The 
peers of England had the substance, the peers of France the 
shadow. 

To conclude, the House o^ Lords was a starting-point; 
towards civilization this is an immense thing. It had the 
honour to found a nation. It was the first incarnation of the 
unity of the people : English resistance, that obscure but all- 
powerful force, was born in the House of Lords. The 
barons, by a series of acts of violence against royalty, have 
paved the way for its eventual downfall. The House of 
Lords at the present day is somewhat sad and astonished at 
what it has unwillingly and unintentionally done, all the 
more that it is irrevocable. 

What are concessions? Restitutions; and nations 
know it. 

" I grant," says the king. 



490 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

" I get back my own," says the people. 

The House of Lords believed that it was creating the privi- 
leges of the peerage, and it has produced the rights of the 
citizen. That vulture, aristocracy, has hatched the eagle's 
egg of liberty. 

And now the egg is broken, the eagle is soaring, the vulture 
dying. 

Aristocracy is at its last gasp ; England is growing up. 

Still, let us be just towards the'aristocracy. It entered the 
scale against royalty, and was its counterpoise. It was an 
obstacle to despotism. It was a barrier. Let us thank and 
bury it. 

CHAPTER III. 

THE OLD HALL. 

NEAR Westminster Abbey was an old Norman palace which 
was burnt in the time of Henry VIII. Its wings were spared. 
In one of them Edward VI. placed the House of Lords, in the 
other the House of Commons. Neither the two wings nor 
the two chambers are now in existence. The whole has been 
rebuilt. 

We have already said, and we must repeat, that there is no 
resemblance between the House of Lords of the present day 
and that of the past. In demolishing the ancient palace they 
somewhat demolished its ancient usages. The strokes of the 
pickaxe on the monument produce their counter-strokes on 
customs and charters. An old stone cannot fall without 
dragging down with it an old law. Place in a round room a 
parliament which has been hitherto held in a square room, 
and it will no longer be the same thing. A change in the 
shape of the shell changes the shape of the fish inside. 

If you wish to preserve an old thing, human or divine, a 
code or a dogma, af nobility or a priesthood, never repair 
anything about it thoroughly, even its outside cover. Patch it 
up, nothing more. For instance, Jesuitism is a piece added 
to Catholicism. Treat edifices as you would treat institu- 
tions. Shadows should dwell in ruins. Worn-out powers 
are uneasy in chambers freshly decorated. Ruined palaces 
accord best with institutions in rags. To attempt to describe 
the House of Lords of other days would be to attempt to 
describe the unknown. History is night. In history there 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 491 

is no second tier. That which is no longer on the stage 
immediately fades into obscurity. The scene is shifted, and 
all is at once forgotten. The past has a synonym, the 
unknown. 

The peers of England sat as a court of justice in West- 
minster Hall, and as the higher legislative chamber in a 
chamber specially reserved for the purpose, called The House 
of Lords. 

Besides the house of peers of England, which did not 
assemble as a court unless convoked by the crown, two great 
English tribunals, inferior to the house of peers, but superior 
to all other jurisdiction, sat in Westminster Hall. At the end 
of that hall they occupied adjoining compartments. The 
first was the Court of King's Bench, in which the king was 
supposed to preside; the second, the Court of Chancery, in 
which the Chancellor presided. The one was a court of 
justice, the other a court of mercy. It was the Chancellor 
who counselled the king to pardon ; only rarely, though. 

These two courts, which are still in existence, interpreted 
legislation, and reconstructed it somewhat, for the art of the 
judge is to carve the code into jurisprudence; a task from 
which equity results as it best may. Legislation was worked 
up and applied in the severity of the great hall of Westminster, 
the rafters of which were of chestnut wood, over which 
spiders could not spread their webs. There are enough of 
them in all conscience in the laws. 

To sit as a court and to sit as a chamber are two distinct 
things. This double function constitutes supreme power. 
The Long Parliament, which began in November 1640, felt 
the revolutionary necessity for this two-edged sword. So it 
declared that, as House of Lords, it possessed judicial as well 
as legislative power. 

This double power has been, from time immemorial, vested 
in the House of Peers. We have just mentioned that as 
judges they occupied Westminster Hall; as legislators, they 
had another chamber. This other chamber, properly called 
the House of Lords, was oblong and narrow. All the light 
in it came from four windows in deep embrasures, which 
received their light through the roof, and a bull's-eye, cpn> 
posed of six panes with curtains, over the throne. At night 
there was no other light than twelve'half candelabra, fastened 
to the wall. The chamber of Venice was darker still. A 



492 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

certain obscurity is pleasing to those owls of supreme 
power. 

A high ceiling adorned with many-faced relievos and gilded 
cornices, circled over the chamber where the Lords as- 
sembled. The Commons had but a flat ceiling. There is a 
meaning in all monarchical buildings. At one end of the 
long chamber of the Lords was the door; at the other, op- 
posite to it, the throne. A few paces from the door, the 
bar, a transverse barrier, and a sort of frontier, marked the 
spot where the people ended and the peerage began. To the 
right of the throne was a fireplace with emblazoned pinnacles, 
and two bas-reliefs of marble, representing, one, the victory 
of Cuthwolf over the Britons, in 572; the other, the geo- 
metrical plan of the borough of Dunstable, which had four 
streets, parallel to the four quarters of the world. The throne 
was approached by three steps. It was called the royal 
chair. On the two walls, opposite each other, were displayed 
in successive pictures, on a huge piece of tapestry given to the 
Lords by Elizabeth, the adventures of the Armada, from the 
time of its leaving Spain until it was wrecked on the coasts of 
Great Britain. The great hulls of the ships were embroidered 
with threads of gold and silver, which had become blackened 
by time. Against this tapestry, cut at intervals by the 
candelabra fastened in the wall, were placed, to the right of 
the throne, three rows of benches for the bishops, and to the 
left three rows of benches for the dukes, marquises, and earls, 
in tiers, and separated by gangways. On the three benches 
of the first section sat the dukes ; on those of the second, the 
marquises ; on those of the third, the earls. The viscounts' 
bench was placed across, opposite the throne, and behind, 
between the viscounts and the bar, were two benches for the 
barons. 

On the highest bench to the right of the throne sat the two 
archbishops of Canterbury and York; on the middle bench, 
three bishops, London, Durham, and Winchester, and the 
other bishops on the lowest bench. There is between the 
Archbishop of Canterbury and the other bishops this con- 
siderable difference, that he is bishop " by divine provi- 
dence," whilst the others are only so " by divine permission." 
On the right of the throne was a chair for the Prince of Wales, 
and on the left, folding chairs for the royal dukes, and behind 
the latter, a raised seat for minor peers, who had not the 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 493 

privilege of voting. Plenty of fleurs-de-lis everywhere, and 
the great escutcheon of England over the four walls, above 
the peers, as well as above the king. 

The sons of peers and the heirs to peerages assisted at the 
debates, standing behind the throne, between the dai's and the 
wall. A large square space was left vacant between the tiers 
of benches placed along three sides of the chamber and the 
throne. In this space, which was covered with the state 
carpet, Interwoven with the arms of Great Britain, were four 
woolsacks one in front of the throne, on which sat the Lord 
Chancellor, between the mace and the seal; one in front of 
the bishops, on which sat the judges, counsellors of state, who 
had the right to vote, but not to speak; one in front of the 
dukes, marquises, and earls, on which sat the Secretaries of 
State ; and one in front of the viscounts and barons, on which 
sat the Clerk of the Crown and the Clerk of the Parliament, 
and on which the two under-clerks wrote, kneeling. 

In the middle of the space was a large covered table, 
heaped with bundles of papers, registers, and summonses, with 
magnificent inkstands of chased silver, and with high candle- 
sticks at the four corners. 

The peers took their seats in chronological order, each 
according to the date of the creation of his peerage. They 
ranked according to their titles, and within their grade of 
nobility according to seniority. At the bar stood the Usher 
of the Black Rod, his wand in his hand. Inside the door was 
the Deputy-Usher; and outside, the Crier of the Black Rod, 
whose duty it was to open the sittings of the Courts of 
Justice with the cry, " Oyez! " in French, uttered thrice, 
with a solemn accent upon the first syllable. Near the Crier 
stood the Serjeant Mace-Bearer of the Chancellor. 

In royal ceremonies the temporal peers wore coronets on 
their heads, and the spiritual peers, mitres. The arch- 
bishops wore mitres, with a ducal coronet; and the bishops, 
who rank after viscounts, mitres, with a baron's cap. 

It is to be remarked, as a coincidence at once strange and 
instructive, that this square formed by the throne, the 
bishops, and the barons, with kneeling magistrates within it, 
was in form similar to the ancient parliament in France under 
the two first dynasties. The aspect of authority was the 
same in France as in England. Hincmar, in his treatise, " De 



494 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

Ordinatione Sacri Palatii," described in 853 the sittings of 
the House of Lords at Westminster in the eighteenth century. 
Strange, indeed! a description given nine hundred years 
before the existence of the thing described. 

But what is history? An echo of the past in the future; a 
reflex from the future on the past. 

The assembly of Parliament was obligatory only once in 
every seven years. 

The Lords deliberated in secret, with closed doors. The 
debates of the Commons were public. Publicity entails 
diminution of dignity. 

The number of the Lords was unlimited. To create Lords 
was the menace of royalty; a means of government. 

At the beginning of the eighteenth century the House of 
Lords already contained a very large number of members. 
It has increased still further since that period. To dilute 
the aristocracy is politic. Elizabeth most probably erred in 
condensing the peerage into sixty-five lords. The less 
numerous, the more intense is a peerage. In assemblies, the 
more numerous the members, the fewer the heads. James II. 
understood this when he increased the Upper House to a 
hundred and eighty-eight lords ; a hundred and eighty-six if 
we subtract from the peerages the two duchies of royal 
favourites, Portsmouth and Cleveland. Under Anne the 
total number of the lords, including bishops, was two hundred 
and seven. Not counting the Duke of Cumberland, husband 
of the queen, there were twenty-five dukes, of whom the 
premier, Norfolk, did not take his seat, being a Catholic ; and 
of whom the junior, Cambridge, the Elector of Hanover, did, 
although a foreigner. Winchester, termed first and sole 
marquis of England, as Astorga was termed sole Marquis of 
Spain, was absent, being a Jacobite ; so that there were only 
five marquises, of whom the premier was Lindsay, and the 
junior Lothian; seventy-nine earls, of whom Derby was 
premier and Islay junior; nine viscounts, of whom Hereford 
was premier and Lonsdale junior; and sixty-two barons, of 
whom Abergavenny was premier and Hervey junior. Lord 
Hervey, the junior baron, was what was called the " Puisne 
of the House." Derby, of whom Oxford, Shrewsbury, and 
Kent took precedence, and who was therefore but the fourth 
under James II., became (under Anne) premier earl. Two 
chancellors' names had disappeared from the list of barons 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 495 

Verulam, under which designation history finds us Bacon; 
and Wem, under which it finds us Jeffreys. Bacon and 
Jeffreys! both names overshadowed, though by different 
crimes. In 1705, the twenty-six bishops were reduced to 
twenty-five, the see of Chester being vacant. Amongst the 
bishops some were peers of high rank, such as William 
Talbot, Bishop of Oxford, who was head of the Protestant 
branch of that family. Others were eminent Doctors, like 
John Sharp, Archbishop of York, formerly Dean of Norwich; 
the poet, Thomas Spratt, Bishop of Rochester, an apoplectic 
old man ; and that Bishop of Lincoln, who was to die Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury, Wake, the adversary of Bossuet. On 
important occasions, and when a message from the Crown to 
the House was expected, the whole of this august assembly 
in robes, in wigs, in mitres, or plumes formed out, and dis- 
played their rows of heads, in tiers, along the walls of the 
House, where the storm was vaguely to be seen exterminating 
the Armada almost as much as to say, " The storm is at the 
orders of England." 

CHAPTER IV. 

THE OLD CHAMBER. 

THE whole ceremony of the investiture of Gwynplaine, from 
his entry under the King's Gate to his taking the test under 
the nave window, was enacted in a sort of twilight. 

Lord William Cowper had not permitted that he, as Lord 
Chancellor of England, should receive too many details of 
circumstances connected with the disfigurement of the young 
Lord Fermain Clancharlie, considering it below his dignity to 
know that a peer was not handsome; and feeling that his 
dignity would suffer if an inferior should venture to intrude 
on him information of such a nature. We know that a 
common fellow will take pleasure in saying, " That prince is 
humpbacked; " therefore, it is abusive to say that a lord is 
deformed. To the few words dropped on the subject by the 
queen the Lord Chancellor had contented himself with 
replying, " The face of a peer is in his peerage! " 

Ultimately, however, the affidavits he had read and certified 
enlightened him. Hence the precautions which he took. 
The face of the new lord, on his entrance into the House, 



496 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

might cause some sensation. This it was necessary to pre- 
vent; and the Lord Chancellor took his measures for the 
purpose. It is a fixed idea, and a rule of conduct in grave 
personages, to allow as little disturbance as possible. Dislike 
of incident is a part of their gravity. He felt the necessity of 
so ordering matters that the admission of Gwynplaine should 
take place without any hitch, and like that of any other 
successor to the peerage. 

It was for this reason that the Lord Chancellor directed 
that the reception of Lord Fermain Clancharlie should take 
place at the evening sitting. The Chancellor being the door- 
keeper " Quodammodo ostiarus," says the Norman charter; 
" Januarum cancellorumque," says Tertullian he can 
officiate outside the room on the threshold; and Lord 
William Cowper had used his right by carrying out under the 
nave the formalities of the investiture of Lord Fermain Clan- 
charlie. Moreover, he had brought forward the hour for the 
ceremonies ; so that the new peer actually made his entrance 
into the House before the House had assembled. 

For the investiture of a peer on the threshold, and not in 
the chamber itself, there were precedents. The first heredi- 
tary baron, John de Beauchamp, of Holt Castle, created by 
patent by Richard II., in 1387, Baron Kidderminster, was 
thus installed. In renewing this precedent the Lord Chan- 
cellor was creating for himself a future cause for embarrass- 
ment, of which he felt the inconvenience less than two years 
afterwards on the entrance of Viscount Newhaven into the 
House of Lords. 

Short-sighted as we have already stated him to be, Lord 
William Cowper scarcely perceived the deformity of Gwyn- 
plaine; while the two sponsors, being old and nearly blind, 
did not perceive it at all. 

The Lord Chancellor had chosen them for that very reason. 

More than this, the Lord Chancellor, having only seen the 
presence and stature of Gwynplaine, thought him a fine- 
looking man. When the door-keeper opened the folding 
doors to Gwynplaine there were but few peers in the house ; 
and these few were nearly all old men. In assemblies the old 
members are the most punctual, just as towards women they 
are the most assiduous. 

On the dukes' benches there were but two, one white- 
headed, the other gray Thomas Osborne, Duke of Leeds, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 497 

and Schomberg, son of that Schomberg, German by birth, 
French by his marshal's baton, and English by his peerage, 
who was banished by the edict of Nantes, and who, having 
fought against England as a Frenchman, fought against 
France as an Englishman. On the benches of the lords 
spiritual there sat only the Archbishop of Canterbury, Primate 
of England, above; and below, Dr. Simon Patrick, Bishop of 
Ely, in conversation with Evelyn Pierrepoint, Marquis of 
Dorchester, who was explaining to him the difference between 
a gabion considered singly and when used in the parapet of a 
field work, and between palisades and f raises; the former 
being a row of posts driven into the ground in front of the 
tents, for the purpose of protecting the camp; the latter 
sharp-pointed stakes set up under the wall of a fortress, to 
prevent the escalade of the besiegers and the desertion of the 
besieged; and the marquis was explaining further the 
method of placing fraises in the ditches of redoubts, half of 
each stake being buried and half exposed. Thomas Thynne, 
Viscount Weymouth, having approached the light of a 
chandelier, was examining a plan of his architect's for laying 
out his gardens at Longleat, in Wiltshire, in the Italian style 
as a lawn, broken up into plots, with squares of turf alter- 
nating with squares of red and yellow sand, of river shells, 
and of fine coal dust. On the viscounts' benches was a group 
of old peers, Essex, Ossulstone, Peregrine, Osborne, William 
Zulestein, Earl of Rochford, and amongst them, a few more 
youthful ones, of the faction which did not wear wigs, 
gathered round Prince Devereux, Viscount Hereford, and 
discussing the question whether an infusion of apalaca holly 
was tea. " Very nearly," said Osborne. " Quite," said 
Essex. This discussion was attentively listened to by Paulet 
St. John, a cousin of Bolingbroke, of whom Voltaire was, 
later on, in some degree the pupil; for Voltaire's education, 
commenced by Pere Poree, was finished by Bolingbroke. On 
the marquises' benches, Thomas de Grey, Marquis of Kent, 
Lord Chamberlain to the Queen, was informing Robert Bertie, 
Marquis of Lindsay, Lord Chamberlain of England, that the 
first prize in the great English lottery of 1694 had been won 
by two French refugees, Monsieur Le Coq, formerly coun- 
cillor in the parliament of Paris, and Monsieur Ravenel, a 
gentleman of Brittany. The Earl of Wemyss was reading a 
book, entitled " Pratique Curieuse des Oracles des Sybilles." 



498 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

John Campbell, Earl of Greenwich, famous for his long chin, 
his gaiety, and his eighty-seven years, was writing to his 
mistress. Lord Chandos was trimming his nails. 

The sitting which was about to take place, being a royal 
one, where the crown was to be represented by commissioners, 
two assistant door-keepers were placing in front of the throne 
a bench covered with purple velvet. On the second woolsack 
sat the Master of the Rolls, sacrorum scriniorum magister, 
who had then for his residence the house formerly belonging 
to the converted Jews. Two under-clerks were kneeling, and 
turning over the leaves of the registers which lay on the 
fourth woolsack. In the meantime the Lord Chancellor took 
his place on the first woolsack. The members of the chamber 
took theirs, some sitting, others standing; when the Arch- 
bishop of Canterbury rose and read the prayer, and the sitting 
of the house began. 

Gwynplaine had already been there for some time without 
attracting any notice. The second bench of barons, on 
which was his place, was close to the bar, so that he had had 
to take but a few steps to reach it. The two peers, his 
sponsors, sat, one on his right, the other on his left, thus 
almost concealing the presence of the new-comer. 

No one having been furnished with any previous informa- 
tion, the Clerk of the Parliament had read in a low voice, and, 
as it were, mumbled through the different documents con- 
cerning the new peer, and the Lord Chancellor had pro- 
claimed his admission in the midst of what is called, in the 
reports, " general inattention." Every one was talking. 
There buzzed through the House that cheerful hum of voices 
during which assemblies pass things which will not bear the 
light, and at which they wonder when they find out what they 
have done, too late. 

Gwynplaine was seated in silence, with his head uncovered, 
between the two old peers, Lord Fitzwalter and Lord 
Arundel. On entering, according to the instructions of the 
King-at-Arms -afterwards renewed by his sponsors he had 
bowed to the throne. 

Thus all was over. He was a peer. That pinnacle, under 
the glory of which he had, all his life, seen his master, Ursus, 
bow himself down in fear that prodigious pinnacle was 
under his feet. He was in that place, so dark and yet so 
dazzling in England. Old peak of the feudal mountain, 



THE LAUGHING MAN. 499 

looked up to for six centuries by Europe and by history! 
Terrible nimbus of a world of shadow 1 He had entered into 
the brightness of its glory, and his entrance was irrevocable. 

He was there in his own sphere, seated on his throne, like 
the king on his. He was there and nothing in the future 
could obliterate the fact. The royal crown, which he saw 
under the dais, was brother to his coronet. He was a peer of 
that throne. In the face of majesty he was peerage; less, 
but like. Yesterday, what was he? A player. To-day, 
what was he ? A prince. 

Yesterday, nothing; to-day, everything. 

It was a sudden confrontation of misery and power, meet- 
ing face to face, and resolving themselves at once into the two 
halves of a conscience. Two spectres, Adversity and Pros- 
perity, were taking possession of the same soul, and each 
drawing that soul towards itself. 

Oh, pathetic division of an intellect, of a will, of a brain, 
between two brothers who are enemies ! the Phantom of 
Poverty and the Phantom of Wealth ! Abel and Cain in the 
same man 1 

CHAPTER V. 

ARISTOCRATIC GOSSIP. 

BY degrees the seats of the House filled as the Lords arrived. 
The question was the vote for augmenting, by a hundred 
thousand pounds sterling, the annual income of George of 
Denmark, Duke of Cumberland, the queen's husband. 
Besides this, it was announced that several bills assented to 
by her Majesty were to be brought back to the House by the 
Commissioners of the Crown empowered and charged to 
sanction them. This raised the sitting to a royal one. The 
peers all wore their robes over their usual court or ordinary 
dress. These robes, similar to that which had been thrown 
over Gwynplaine, were alike for all, excepting that the dukes 
had five bands of ermine, trimmed with gold; marquises, 
four ; earls and viscounts, three ; and barons, two. Most of 
the lords entered in groups. They had met in the corridors, 
and were continuing the conversations there begun. A few 
came in alone. The costumes of all were solemn ; but neither 
their attitudes nor their words corresponded with them. On 
entering, each one bowed to the throne. 



500 THE LAUGHING MAN. 

The peers flowed In. The series of great names marched 
past with scant ceremonial, the public not being present. 
Leicester entered, and shook Lichfield's hand; then came 
Charles Mordaunt, Earl of Peterborough and Monmouth, the 
friend of Locke, under whose advice he had proposed the re- 
coinage of money; then Charles Campbell, Earl of Loudoun, 
listening to Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke; then Dorme, Earl 
of Carnarvon; then Robert Sutton, Baron Lexington, son of 
that Lexington who recommended Charles II. to banish 
Gregorio Leti, the historiographer, who was so ill-advised as 
to try to become a historian; then Thomas Bellasys, Vis- 
count