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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/314

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

geny, all concern you. A wolf-cub is born to them; well, you have to compose a sonnet; you are a poet because you are so low. Isn't it enough to make the stars fall? A little more, and they would make you wear their old shoes!

"Whom have you got there, my dear? How ugly he is! Who is that man?"—"I do not know. A sort of scholar, whom I feed." Thus converse these idiots, without even lowering their voices. You hear, and remain mechanically amiable. If you are ill, your masters will send for the doctor,—not their own; occasionally they may even inquire after you. Being of entirely different clay from you, and so immeasurably far above you, they are affable; their superiority makes them condescending; they know that equality is impossible. At table they give you a little nod; sometimes they absolutely know how your name is spelt! They only show that they are your protectors by walking unconsciously over all the delicacy and susceptibility you possess. They treat you with good-nature. Is all this to be borne? No doubt Barkilphedro was eager to punish Josiana. He must teach her with whom she had to deal! Oh, my rich lords and ladies! merely because you cannot eat up everything; because opulence causes indigestion, seeing that your stomachs are no bigger than ours; because it is, after all, better to distribute the remainder than to throw it away,—you exalt a morsel flung to the poor into an act of munificence. You give us bread, you give us shelter, you give us clothes, you give us employment; and you carry audacity, folly, cruelty, stupidity, and absurdity to the pitch of believing that we are grateful. The bread is the bread of servitude; the shelter is a footman's bedroom; the clothes are a livery; the employment is ridiculous, paid for, it is true, but brutalizing. Oh, you think you have a right to humili-