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Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/92

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THE MAN WHO LAUGHS.

pitch an left swinging. Examples must be made in public, and tarred examples last longest. The tar was a fine thing; by renewing it they were spared the necessity of making too many fresh examples. In those days they placed gibbets from point to point along the coast, as nowadays they do beacons. The hanged man did duty as a lantern. After his fashion, he guided his comrades, the smugglers, who from far out at sea perceived the gibbets. There is one, first warning; another, second warning. It did not however stop smuggling; but public order is made up of such things. The fashion lasted in England up to the beginning of the present century. In 1822 three men could still be seen hanging in front of Dover Castle. But, for that matter, the preserving process was employed not with smugglers alone. England treated robbers, incendiaries, and murderers in the same way. Jack Painter, who set fire to the government storehouses at Portsmouth, was hanged and tarred in 1776. L'Abbé Coyer, who calls him Jean le Peintre, saw him in 1777; Jack Painter was still hanging above the ruin he had made, and was re-tarred from time to time. His corpse lasted (I had almost said lived) nearly fourteen years. It was still doing good service in 1788; in 1790, however, they were obliged to replace it by another. The Egyptians used to value the mummy of the king; a plebeian mummy can also be of service, it seems.

The wind, having great power on the hill, had cleared it of all snow. Herbage was now reappearing on it, interspersed here and there with a few thistles; the hill was covered with that close, short grass which grows by the sea, and makes the tops of cliffs resemble green cloth. Under the gibbet, on the very spot over which hung the feet of the executed criminal, was a long thick tuft, uncommon on such poor soil. Corpses, crumbling