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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/226

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

was! I touched her hand,—it was like stone! 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!"

While 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 wake the little infant.

Ursus turned round. "Well done, Homo! I shall be father, and you shall be uncle."

Then he betook himself again to mending the fire with philosophical care, without pausing in his soliloquy, however.

"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, "Is it Thou?"

Then his head dropped, as if beneath a burden. Raising his eyes a moment afterwards they met those of the just-awakened boy, who was listening.

"What are you laughing at?" Ursus demanded abruptly.

"I am not laughing," replied the boy.

Ursus looked at him intently for a few minutes. "Then you are frightful to look upon!" he exclaimed.

The interior of the van, on the previous night, had been so dark that Ursus had not seen the boy's face at all. The broad daylight revealed it. He placed the palms of his hands on the two shoulders of the boy, and, examining his countenance more and more piercingly, exclaimed,—

"Do not laugh any more!"