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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/260

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

kiss the heads of the newly beheaded on their iron stakes. Marguerite de Valois, the grandmother of prudes, wore, fastened to her belt, the hearts of her dead lovers in tin boxes, padlocked. In the eighteenth century the Duchess de Berry, daughter of the Regent, was herself an obscene and royal type of all these creatures.

These fine ladies, moreover, knew Latin. From the sixteenth century this had been accounted a feminine accomplishment. Lady Jane Grey had carried the fashion to the extent of knowing Hebrew. The Duchess Josiana Latinized. Then (another fine thing) she was secretly a Catholic,—after the manner of her uncle, Charles II., rather than her father, James II. James II. had lost his crown by reason of his Catholicism, and Josiana did not care to risk her peerage. Thus it was that while she was a Catholic among her intimate friends and the refined of both sexes, she was outwardly a Protestant for the benefit of the riff-raff. This is a pleasant view to take of religion. You enjoy all the good things connected with the Episcopalian Church, and later on you die, like Grotius, in the odour of Catholicity, with the glory of having a mass said for you by le Père Petau.

Although plump and healthy, Josiana was, we repeat, a perfect prude. At times, her sleepy and voluptuous way of dragging out the end of her phrases was like the creeping of a tiger's paws in the jungle. When one has not got Olympus, one must be content with the Hotel de Rambouillet. Juno resolves herself into Araminta. A pretension to divinity not admitted, creates affectation. Instead of thunder-claps there is impertinence. The temple shrivels into the boudoir. Unable to be a goddess, one becomes a graven image. Besides, there is in prudery a certain pedantry which is pleasing to