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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/290

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

Josiana's laughter redoubled. "What meanest thou? Thou art jesting."

"No, madam."

"To amuse myself, I shall answer you seriously," said the duchess. "What dost thou wish to be? Repeat it."

"Uncorker of the bottles of the ocean."

"Everything is possible at court. Is there an appointment of that kind?"

"Yes, madam."

"That is news to me. Go on."

"There is such an appointment, however."

"Swear it by the soul which thou dost not possess."

"I swear it."

"I do not believe thee."

"Thank you, madam."

"Then thou wishest— Say it again."

"To uncork the bottles of the ocean."

"That is a situation which can give you very little trouble. It is like grooming a bronze horse."

"Very nearly,"

"Nothing to do. Well, 't is a situation that would suit thee. Thou art just about equal to it, I should judge."

"You see I am good for something."

"Come! thou art talking nonsense. Is there such an appointment?"

Barkilphedro assumed an attitude of deferential gravity: "Madam, you had an august father, James II. the king, and you have an illustrious brother-in-law, George of Denmark, Duke of Cumberland; your father was, and your brother is. Lord High Admiral of England—"

"Is what thou tellest me any news? I know all that as well as thou?"

"But here is something your Grace does not know.