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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/41

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URSUS.

expressing his approbation. One day, when James II. made a gift to the Virgin in a Catholic chapel in Ireland of a massive gold lamp, Ursus, passing that way with Homo, who was more indifferent to such things, burst into loud exclamations of admiration before the crowd, and exclaimed: "It is certain that the blessed Virgin needs a lamp much more than those barefooted children there need shoes."

Such proofs of his loyalty and such evidences of his respect for established powers probably contributed in no small degree to make the magistrates tolerate his vagabond life and his disreputable alliance with a wolf. Sometimes of an evening, through friendly weakness, he allowed Homo to stretch his limbs and wander about. The wolf was incapable of an abuse of confidence, and behaved in society, that is to say among men, with all the meekness of a poodle. All the same, if bad-tempered officials had to be dealt with, difficulties might arise; so Ursus kept the honest wolf chained up as much as possible.

From a political point of view his writing about gold, not very intelligible in itself, and now become undecipherable, was but a smear, and gave no handle to the enemy. Even after the time of James II., and under the "respectable" reign of William and Mary, his caravan might have been seen peacefully going its rounds of the little English country towns. He travelled freely from one end of Great Britain to the other, selling his philtres, and phials, and performing, with the assistance of his wolf, his quack mummeries; and he passed with ease through the meshes of the nets which the police of that period had spread all over England in order to catch wandering gangs, and especially to stop the progress of the Comprachicos.

This was right enough. Ursus belonged to no gang.