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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/236

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

to reward with ingratitude the magnanimity which he displayed in ascending the throne,—was not such conduct abominable? Lord Linnæus Clancharlie had inflicted this vexation upon honest men. To sulk at his country's happiness,—alack, what folly! We know that in 1650 Parliament had drawn up this form of declaration: "I 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 rejoicing thought that he had the right to be sad. He had a profound esteem for that which was no more, and was absurdly attached to the former state of things. To excuse him was impossible; even the most charitably disposed abandoned him. Some had done him the honour to believe that he had entered the republican ranks only to observe more closely the flaws in the republican armour, and to smite it the more surely when the day should come to strike for the sacred cause of the king. These lurkings in ambush for the convenient hour to stab the enemy in the back are attributes of 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 of him. Evidently Lord Clancharlie was confirmed in his convictions; that is to say, he was an idiot!

The explanation given by the indulgent wavered between puerile stubbornness and senile obstinacy. The severe and the just went much further; they cursed 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, who was this Lord Clancharlie? A deserter. He had left his camp, that