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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/315

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THE FLAME SEEN IF MAN WERE TRANSPARENT.

ate us with lodging and nourishment, and you imagine that we are your debtors, and count on our gratitude? Very well! we will eat up your substance; we will devour you alive, and tear your heart-strings with our teeth.

This Josiana! was it not absurd? What merit did she possess? She had accomplished the wonderful feat of coming into the world as a testimony to the folly of her father and the shame of her mother. She had done us the favour to exist; and for her kindness in becoming a public scandal, they paid her millions. She had estates and castles, warrens, parks, lakes, forests, and I know not what besides; and with all that she was making a fool of herself, and verses were addressed to her! And Barkilphedro, who had studied and laboured and taken pains, and stuffed his eyes and his brain with great books; who had grown mouldy in old works and in science; who was full of wit; who could command armies; who could, if he would, write tragedies like Otway and Dryden; who was made to be an emperor,—Barkilphedro had been reduced to allowing this nobody to prevent him from dying of hunger! Could the usurpation of the rich, the hateful, spoiled darlings of fortune go further? They put on a semblance of being generous to us, of protecting us, and we smile,—we who would gladly drink their blood and lick our lips afterwards! That this low woman of the court should have the presumption to patronize him, and that such a superior man as himself should be obliged to accept such gifts from such a hand,—what a frightful iniquity! What kind of a social system is this which is founded on such gross injustice? Would it not be best to take it by the four corners, and to throw pell-mell to the ceiling the damask table-cloth, and the festival and the orgies, and the tippling and drunkenness, and the guests, and those with