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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/298

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

Catesby, the colleague of Guy Fawkes, in the Popish powder plot, said: "I would n't miss seeing Parliament blown upside down for a million sterling." Barkilphedro was that meanest and most terrible of things,—an envious man. There is always room for envy at court. Courts abound in impertinent people, in idlers, in rich loungers hungering for gossip; in those who seek for needles in haystacks; in triflers, in banterers bantered; in witty ninnies, who cannot do without converse with an envious man. What a refreshing thing the evil you hear about others is! Envy is good stuff to make a spy of. There is a profound analogy between that natural passion envy and that social function espionage. The spy hunts on some other person's account, like the dog; the envious man hunts on his own account like the cat. The envious man is generally a fierce man; but Barkilphedro was singularly cautious and reserved. He guarded his secret well, and racked himself with his hate. Enormous baseness implies enormous vanity. He was liked by those whom he amused, and hated by all others; but he felt that he was scorned by those who hated him, and despised even by those who liked him. He restrained himself; all his gall simmered noiselessly. He was a silent prey of the Furies. He had a talent for swallowing everything. Paroxysms of internal rage convulsed him, fierce fires smouldered unseen in his breast. He was a smoke-consuming man of passion. The surface was serene. He was kind, prompt, easy, amiable, obliging. Never mind to whom, never mind where, he bowed with every breath of wind; he bowed to the earth. What a source of fortune to have such a reed for a spine!

Such crafty and venomous beings are not so rare as is believed. We live surrounded by ill-natured, crawling things. Why are such malevolent creatures allowed to