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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/297

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BARKILPHEDRO GNAWS HIS WAY.

intrigue; and to speak of intrigue is to speak of advancement. This functionary had come to be a personage of some consideration. He was a clerk, and ranked directly after the two grooms of the almonry. He had the right of entrance into the palace,—at least, what was called the humble entrance (humilis introïtus),—and even into the bedchamber; for it was the custom that he should inform the monarch, on occasions of importance, of the objects found, which were often very curious,—the wills of men in despair, farewells to fatherland, revelations of falsified logs, bills of lading, crimes committed at sea, legacies to the crown, etc.,—and should account from time to time to the king or queen concerning the opening of these ill-omened bottles. It was the Black Cabinet of the ocean. Elizabeth, who was always glad of an opportunity to speak Latin, used to ask Tonfield, of Coley in Berkshire, jetsam officer in her reign, when he brought her one of these papers cast up by the sea: "Quid mihi scribit Neptunus?"

The way had been eaten, the insect had succeeded. Barkilphedro had at last reached the queen. This was all he wanted. Was it in order that he might make his fortune? No. It was to destroy that of others. A much greater satisfaction. To destroy affords some persons unspeakable delight. To be imbued with a vague but implacable desire to destroy, and never to lose sight of that desire, is not a characteristic of every one; but Barkilphedro possessed this fixity of purpose in an eminent degree. He clung to his resolve with all the tenacity of a bull-dog. To feel himself inexorable afforded him no end of grim satisfaction. So long as he had a victim in his clutches, or a certainty of injuring him in his soul, he asked nothing more. He shivered content if he knew that his neighbour was suffering with the cold.