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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/49

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THE COMPRACHICOS.

whenever the czar or czarina was displeased with a Russian prince, he was forced to squat down in the great ante-chamber of the palace, and to remain in that posture a certain number of days, mewing like a cat or clucking like a sitting hen, and pecking his food from the floor. These fashions have passed away; but not so much, perhaps, as one might imagine. Nowadays, courtiers slightly modify their intonation in clucking to please their masters. More than one picks up from the ground—we will not say from the mud—what he eats.

It is very fortunate that kings cannot err. Hence their contradictions never perplex us. In approving always, one is sure to be always right,—which is pleasant. Louis XIV. would not have liked to see at Versailles either an officer acting the cock, or a prince acting the turkey. That which enhanced the royal and imperial dignity in England and Russia would have seemed to Louis the Great incompatible with the crown of St. Louis. We know how intense was his displeasure when Madame Henriette forgot herself so far as to see a hen in a dream,—which was, indeed, a grave breach of good manners in a lady of the Court. When one is of the Court, one should not dream of the courtyard. Bossuet, it may be remembered, was nearly as much scandalized as Louis XIV.


IV.

The traffic in children in the seventeenth century, as we have already explained, was connected with a trade. The Comprachicos engaged in the traffic and carried on the trade. They bought children, worked a little on the raw material, and re-sold them afterwards.

The vendors were of all kinds,—from the wretched father, getting rid of his family, to the master, utilizing