Open main menu

Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/29

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

just seen, he ate potatoes,—the trash on which at that time pigs and convicts were fed. He ate them sadly, but resignedly. He was not tall,—he was long. He was bent and melancholy. The bowed frame of an old man is the settlement in the architecture of life. Nature had formed him for sadness. He found it difficult to smile, and he had never been able to weep; so that he was deprived of the consolation of tears, as well as of the palliative of joy. An old man is a thinking ruin; and such a ruin was Ursus. He had the loquacity of a charlatan, the leanness of a prophet, the irascibility of a charged mine; such was Ursus. In his youth he had been a philosopher in the house of a lord.

This was a hundred and eighty years ago, when men were more like wolves than they are now. Not so very much though.


Homo was no ordinary wolf. From his appetite for medlars and potatoes he might have been taken for a prairie wolf; from his dark hide, for a lycaon; and from his bark prolonged into a howl, for a Chilian dog. But no one has as yet examined the eyeball of a Chilian dog sufficiently to determine whether he be not a fox; and Homo was a real wolf. He was five feet long, which is a fine length for a wolf, even in Lithuania; he was very strong; he looked at you askance, which was not his fault; he had a soft tongue, with which he occasionally licked Ursus; he had a narrow brush of short bristles on his backbone, and he was lean with the wholesome leanness of a forest life. Before he knew Ursus and had a carriage to draw, he thought nothing of doing his fifty miles a night. Ursus meeting him in a thicket near a stream of running water had conceived a high opinion