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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/58

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

In England, so long as the Stuarts reigned, the confederation of the Comprachicos was (for motives of which we have already given a glimpse) to a certain extent protected. James II., a devout man, who persecuted the Jews and trampled out the Gipsies, was a good prince to the Comprachicos. We have seen why. The Comprachicos were buyers of the human wares in which he was a dealer. They excelled in disappearances. Disappearances are occasionally necessary for the good of the State. An inconvenient heir of tender age whom they took in hand lost his original shape. This facilitated confiscation; the transfer of titles to favourites was simplified. The Comprachicos were, moreover, very discreet, and very taciturn. They bound themselves to silence and kept their word, which is very necessary in affairs of State. There is scarcely an instance of their having betrayed the secrets of the king. This was, it is true, greatly to their interest; for if the king had lost confidence in them, they would have been in great danger. They were thus of use in a political point of view. Moreover, these artists furnished singers for the Holy Father. The Comprachicos were useful for the "Miserere" of Allegri. They were particularly devoted to the Virgin Mary. All this pleased the Stuarts. James II. could not be hostile to men who carried their devotion to the Virgin to the extent of manufacturing eunuchs. In 1688 there was a change of dynasty in England: Orange supplanted Stuart; William III. replaced James II.

James II. went away to die in exile; miracles were performed on his tomb, and his relics cured the Bishop of Autun of fistula,—a worthy recompense for the Christian virtues of the prince.

William, having neither the same ideas nor the same practices as James, was severe to the Comprachicos. He did his best to crush out the vermin. A statute of the