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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/238

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

back into the right path with Monk. Take Monk's case. He is in command of 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 time, and is created Knight of the Garter, with a prospect of being buried in Westminster Abbey. Such is the reward of British fidelity!

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 of it in more senses than one. Hence arose absurd disgust to the facts examined. No man can be a statesman who gives way to such overstrained delicacy. Excess of conscientiousness degenerates into an infirmity. Distrust scruples; they drag you too far. Exaggerated fidelity is like a ladder leading into a cavern,—one step down, another, then another; and there you are in the dark. The clever re-ascend; fools remain there. Conscience must not be allowed to practise such austerity. If it is, it is sure to relapse eventually into the depths of political prudery, as in Lord Clancharlie's case. Such principles result in one's ruin. He was walking, with his hands behind him, along the shores of the Lake of Geneva. A fine way of getting on!

In London they sometimes spoke of the exile. He