Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/26

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
6
THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

yet longing to converse with some one, he solved 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 imprisoned longs to find a vent. To harangue space is an outlet. To talk out loud when one is alone is as it were to have a dialogue with the divinity within. It was, as is well known, a habit with 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 questioned 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 did 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, osmosis, and chymosis; 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 thoroughly sifted chromatics, osmosis, and chymosis 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 clear test. They put you in a scale, and the evidence was conclusive. Too