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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/288

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

An obscure but fattening servitude had long made up Barkilphedro's existence. Service is something; but he wanted power besides. He was, perhaps, about to attain it when James II. fell; then he had to begin all over again. There was no chance for him under William III., a sullen prince, exercising in his mode of reigning a prudery which he believed to be probity. Barkilphedro, when his protector James II. was dethroned, did not lapse at once into rags. There is a something which survives deposed princes, and which feeds and sustains their parasites. The remains of the exhaustible sap causes leaves to live on for two or three days on the branches of the uprooted tree; then, all at once, the leaf yellows and dries up: and thus it is with the courtier. Thanks to that embalming process which is called legitimacy, the prince himself, although fallen and cast away, is preserved; it is not so with the courtier, who is much more dead than the king. The king over yonder is a mummy; the courtier here is a phantom. To be the shadow of a shadow is leanness indeed. Hence Barkilphedro became famished; then he took up the character of a man of letters. But he was thrust out even from the kitchens. Sometimes he knew not where to sleep. "Who will give me shelter?" he would ask. He struggled on. All that is interesting in patience in distress he possessed. He had, besides, the talent of the termite,—knowing how to bore a hole from the bottom to the top. By dint of making use of the name of James II., of old memories, of anecdotes of fidelity, and of touching stories, he pierced the Duchess Josiana's heart.

Josiana took a liking to this man of poverty and wit,—an interesting combination. She introduced him to Lord Dirry-Moir, gave him a shelter in the servants' hall among her domestics, retained him in her house-