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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/230

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

jects. He made war upon Hanover for reasons best known to himself; at least, no one else knew them. He sold Dunkirk to France,—a piece of State policy. The Whig peers, concerning whom Chamberlain says, "The cursed republic had 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 one thinks of all this, the glorious reign, the excellent king, the august princes given back by divine mercy to the people's love; when one remembers that such persons as Monk, and later on Jefferies, had rallied round the throne; that they had been suitably rewarded for their loyalty and zeal by the most splendid appointments and the most lucrative offices; that Lord Clancharlie could not be 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 prosperity; that London was all banquets and carousals; that everybody was rich and enthusiastic; that the court was gallant, gay, and magnificent,—if by 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 standing on the shore of the lake, pale, absent-minded, heedless of the storm and of the winter's cold, walking as if at random, his eye fixed on the ground, his white hair waving in the wind, silent, pensive, solitary, who could forbear to smile? Was not such a being nothing more or less than a madman?

Thinking of Lord Clancharlie, of what he might have been and what he was, one proved oneself very charitable if one only smiled. Many persons laughed aloud,