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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/42

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

Ursus lived with Ursus, a tête-à-tête, into which the wolf gently thrust his nose. If Ursus could have had his way, he would have been a Caribbee; that being impossible, he preferred to be alone. The solitary man is a modified savage, accepted by civilization. He who wanders most is most alone; hence his continual change of place. To remain anywhere long, suffocated him with the sense of being tamed. He spent his life in moving on. The sight of towns increased his taste for brambles, thickets, thorns, and caves. His home was the forest. He did not feel much out of his element in the murmur of crowded streets, which is so like the rustling of trees. The crowd to some extent satisfies our taste for the desert. What he disliked most in his van was its having a door and windows, and thus resembling a house. He would have realized his ideal had he been able to put a cave on four wheels and travel in a den.

Ursus did not smile, as we have already said, but he used to laugh,—sometimes, indeed frequently, a bitter laugh. There is consent in a smile, while a laugh is often a refusal. His chief business was to hate the human race. He was implacable in this hatred. Having satisfied himself that human life is a dreadful thing; having observed the superposition of evils,—kings on the people, war on kings, the plague on war, famine on the plague, folly on everything; having proved a certain degree of chastisement in the mere fact of existence; having recognized that death is a deliverance,—when they brought him a sick man he cured him; and he had cordials and beverages to prolong the lives of the old. He put lame cripples on their legs again, and hurled this sarcasm at them: "There, you are on your paws once more; may you walk long in this vale of tears!" When he saw a poor man dying of hunger, he gave him