Part 9 out of 13
brought into this dungeon? Are there laws no longer? You may as well say
at once that there are no laws. My Lord Judge, I repeat that it is not
I. I am innocent of all that can be said. I know I am. I wish to go
away. This is not justice. There is nothing between this man and me. You
can find out. My life is not hidden up. They came and took me away like
a thief. Why did they come like that? How could I know the man? I am a
travelling mountebank, who plays farces at fairs and markets. I am the
Laughing Man. Plenty of people have been to see me. We are staying in
Tarrinzeau Field. I have been earning an honest livelihood these fifteen
years. I am five-and-twenty. I lodge at the Tadcaster Inn. I am called
Gwynplaine. My lord, let me out. You should not take advantage of the
low estate of the unfortunate. Have compassion on a man who has done no
harm, who is without protection and without defence. You have before you
a poor mountebank."
"I have before me," said the sheriff, "Lord Fermain Clancharlie, Baron
Clancharlie and Hunkerville, Marquis of Corleone in Sicily, and a peer
Rising, and offering his chair to Gwynplaine, the sheriff added,--
"My lord, will your lordship deign to seat yourself?"
BOOK THE FIFTH.
_THE SEA AND FATE ARE MOVED BY THE SAME BREATH._
THE DURABILITY OF FRAGILE THINGS.
Destiny sometimes proffers us a glass of madness to drink. A hand is
thrust out of the mist, and suddenly hands us the mysterious cup in
which is contained the latent intoxication.
Gwynplaine did not understand.
He looked behind him to see who it was who had been addressed.
A sound may be too sharp to be perceptible to the ear; an emotion too
acute conveys no meaning to the mind. There is a limit to comprehension
as well as to hearing.
The wapentake and the justice of the quorum approached Gwynplaine and
took him by the arms. He felt himself placed in the chair which the
sheriff had just vacated. He let it be done, without seeking an
When Gwynplaine was seated, the justice of the quorum and the wapentake
retired a few steps, and stood upright and motionless, behind the seat.
Then the sheriff placed his bunch of roses on the stone table, put on
spectacles which the secretary gave him, drew from the bundles of papers
which covered the table a sheet of parchment, yellow, green, torn, and
jagged in places, which seemed to have been folded in very small folds,
and of which one side was covered with writing; standing under the light
of the lamp, he held the sheet close to his eyes, and in his most
solemn tone read as follows:--
"In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
"This present day, the twenty-ninth of January, one thousand six hundred
and ninetieth year of our Lord.
"Has been wickedly deserted on the desert coast of Portland, with the
intention of allowing him to perish of hunger, of cold, and of solitude,
a child ten years old.
"That child was sold at the age of two years, by order of his most
gracious Majesty, King James the Second.
"That child is Lord Fermain Clancharlie, the only legitimate son of Lord
Linnaeus Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and Hunkerville, Marquis of
Corleone in Sicily, a peer of England, and of Ann Bradshaw, his wife,
both deceased. That child is the inheritor of the estates and titles of
his father. For this reason he was sold, mutilated, disfigured, and put
out of the way by desire of his most gracious Majesty.
"That child was brought up, and trained to be a mountebank at markets
"He was sold at the age of two, after the death of the peer, his father,
and ten pounds sterling were given to the king as his purchase-money, as
well as for divers concessions, tolerations, and immunities.
"Lord Fermain Clancharlie, at the age of two years, was bought by me,
the undersigned, who write these lines, and mutilated and disfigured by
a Fleming of Flanders, called Hardquanonne, who alone is acquainted with
the secrets and modes of treatment of Doctor Conquest.
"The child was destined by us to be a laughing mask (_masca ridens_).
"With this intention Hardquanonne performed on him the operation, _Bucca
fissa usque ad aures_, which stamps an everlasting laugh upon the face.
"The child, by means known only to Hardquanonne, was put to sleep and
made insensible during its performance, knowing nothing of the operation
which he underwent.
"He does not know that he is Lord Clancharlie.
"He answers to the name of Gwynplaine.
"This fact is the result of his youth, and the slight powers of memory
he could have had when he was bought and sold, being then barely two
"Hardquanonne is the only person who knows how to perform the operation
_Bucca fissa_, and the said child is the only living subject upon which
it has been essayed.
"The operation is so unique and singular that though after long years
this child should have come to be an old man instead of a child, and his
black locks should have turned white, he would be immediately recognized
"At the time that I am writing this, Hardquanonne, who has perfect
knowledge of all the facts, and participated as principal therein, is
detained in the prisons of his highness the Prince of Orange, commonly
called King William III. Hardquanonne was apprehended and seized as
being one of the band of Comprachicos or Cheylas. He is imprisoned in
the dungeon of Chatham.
"It was in Switzerland, near the Lake of Geneva, between Lausanne and
Vevey, in the very house in which his father and mother died, that the
child was, in obedience with the orders of the king, sold and given up
by the last servant of the deceased Lord Linnaeus, which servant died
soon after his master, so that this secret and delicate matter is now
unknown to any one on earth, excepting Hardquanonne, who is in the
dungeon of Chatham, and ourselves, now about to perish.
"We, the undersigned, brought up and kept, for eight years, for
professional purposes, the little lord bought by us of the king.
"To-day, flying from England to avoid Hardquanonne's ill-fortune, our
fear of the penal indictments, prohibitions, and fulminations of
Parliament has induced us to desert, at night-fall, on the coast of
Portland, the said child Gwynplaine, who is Lord Fermain Clancharlie.
"Now, we have sworn secrecy to the king, but not to God.
"To-night, at sea, overtaken by a violent tempest by the will of
Providence, full of despair and distress, kneeling before Him who could
save our lives, and may, perhaps, be willing to save our souls, having
nothing more to hope from men, but everything to fear from God, having
for only anchor and resource repentance of our bad actions, resigned to
death, and content if Divine justice be satisfied, humble, penitent, and
beating our breasts, we make this declaration, and confide and deliver
it to the furious ocean to use as it best may according to the will of
God. And may the Holy Virgin aid us, Amen. And we attach our
The sheriff interrupted, saying,--"Here are the signatures. All in
And he resumed,--
"Doctor Gernardus Geestemunde.--Asuncion.--A cross, and at the side of
it, Barbara Fermoy, from Tyrryf Isle, in the Hebrides; Gaizdorra,
Captain; Giangirate; Jacques Quartourze, alias le Narbonnais; Luc-Pierre
Capgaroupe, from the galleys of Mahon."
The sheriff, after a pause, resumed, a "note written in the same hand as
the text and the first signature," and he read,--
"Of the three men comprising the crew, the skipper having been swept off
by a wave, there remain but two, and we have signed, Galdeazun; Ave
The sheriff, interspersing his reading with his own observations,
continued, "At the bottom of the sheet is written,--
"'At sea, on board of the _Matutina_, Biscay hooker, from the Gulf de
Pasages.' This sheet," added the sheriff, "is a legal document, bearing
the mark of King James the Second. On the margin of the declaration, and
in the same handwriting there is this note, 'The present declaration is
written by us on the back of the royal order, which was given us as our
receipt when we bought the child. Turn the leaf and the order will be
The sheriff turned the parchment, and raised it in his right hand, to
expose it to the light.
A blank page was seen, if the word blank can be applied to a thing so
mouldy, and in the middle of the page three words were written, two
Latin words, _Jussu regis_, and a signature, _Jeffreys_.
"_Jussu regis, Jeffreys_," said the sheriff, passing from a grave voice
to a clear one.
Gwynplaine was as a man on whose head a tile falls from the palace of
He began to speak, like one who speaks unconsciously.
"Gernardus, yes, the doctor. An old, sad-looking man. I was afraid of
him. Gaizdorra, Captain, that means chief. There were women, Asuncion,
and the other. And then the Provencal. His name was Capgaroupe. He used
to drink out of a flat bottle on which there was a name written in red."
"Behold it," said the sheriff.
He placed on the table something which the secretary had just taken out
of the bag. It was a gourd, with handles like ears, covered with wicker.
This bottle had evidently seen service, and had sojourned in the water.
Shells and seaweed adhered to it. It was encrusted and damascened over
with the rust of ocean. There was a ring of tar round its neck, showing
that it had been hermetically sealed. Now it was unsealed and open. They
had, however, replaced in the flask a sort of bung made of tarred oakum,
which had been used to cork it.
"It was in this bottle," said the sheriff, "that the men about to perish
placed the declaration which I have just read. This message addressed to
justice has been faithfully delivered by the sea."
The sheriff increased the majesty of his tones, and continued,--
"In the same way that Harrow Hill produces excellent wheat, which is
turned into fine flour for the royal table, so the sea renders every
service in its power to England, and when a nobleman is lost finds and
Then he resumed,--
"On this flask, as you say, there is a name written in red."
He raised his voice, turning to the motionless prisoner,--
"Your name, malefactor, is here. Such are the hidden channels by which
truth, swallowed up in the gulf of human actions, floats to the
The sheriff took the gourd, and turned to the light one of its sides,
which had, no doubt, been cleaned for the ends of justice. Between the
interstices of wicker was a narrow line of red reed, blackened here and
there by the action of water and of time.
The reed, notwithstanding some breakages, traced distinctly in the
wicker-work these twelve letters--Hardquanonne.
Then the sheriff, resuming that monotonous tone of voice which resembles
nothing else, and which may be termed a judicial accent, turned towards
"Hardquanonne! when by us, the sheriff, this bottle, on which is your
name, was for the first time shown, exhibited, and presented to you, you
at once, and willingly, recognized it as having belonged to you. Then,
the parchment being read to you which was contained, folded and enclosed
within it, you would say no more; and in the hope, doubtless, that the
lost child would never be recovered, and that you would escape
punishment, you refuse to answer. As the result of your refusal, you
have had applied to you the _peine forte et dure_; and the second
reading of the said parchment, on which is written the declaration and
confession of your accomplices, was made to you, but in vain.
"This is the fourth day, and that which is legally set apart for the
confrontation, and he who was deserted on the twenty-ninth of January,
one thousand six hundred and ninety, having been brought into your
presence, your devilish hope has vanished, you have broken silence, and
recognized your victim."
The prisoner opened his eyes, lifted his head, and, with a voice
strangely resonant of agony, but which had still an indescribable calm
mingled with its hoarseness, pronounced in excruciating accents, from
under the mass of stones, words to pronounce each of which he had to
lift that which was like the slab of a tomb placed upon him. He spoke,--
"I swore to keep the secret. I have kept it as long as I could. Men of
dark lives are faithful, and hell has its honour. Now silence is
useless. So be it! For this reason I speak. Well--yes; 'tis he! We did
it between us--the king and I: the king, by his will; I, by my art!"
And looking at Gwynplaine,--
"Now laugh for ever!"
And he himself began to laugh.
This second laugh, wilder yet than the first, might have been taken for
The laughed ceased, and the man lay back. His eyelids closed.
The sheriff, who had allowed the prisoner to speak, resumed,--
"All which is placed on record."
He gave the secretary time to write, and then said,--
"Hardquanonne, by the terms of the law, after confrontation followed by
identification, after the third reading of the declarations of your
accomplices, since confirmed by your recognition and confession, and
after your renewed avowal, you are about to be relieved from these
irons, and placed at the good pleasure of her Majesty to be hung as
"_Plagiary_," said the serjeant of the coif. "That is to say, a buyer
and seller of children. Law of the Visigoths, seventh book, third
section, paragraph _Usurpaverit_, and Salic law, section the
forty-first, paragraph the second, and law of the Frisons, section the
twenty-first, _Deplagio_; and Alexander Nequam says,--
"'_Qui pueros vendis, plagiarius est tibi nomen_.'"
The sheriff placed the parchment on the table, laid down his spectacles,
took up the nosegay, and said,--
"End of _la peine forte et dure_. Hardquanonne, thank her Majesty."
By a sign the justice of the quorum set in motion the man dressed in
This man, who was the executioner's assistant, "groom of the gibbet,"
the old charters call him, went to the prisoner, took off the stones,
one by one, from his chest, and lifted the plate of iron up, exposing
the wretch's crushed sides. Then he freed his wrists and ankle-bones
from the four chains that fastened him to the pillars.
The prisoner, released alike from stones and chains, lay flat on the
ground, his eyes closed, his arms and legs apart, like a crucified man
taken down from a cross.
"Hardquanonne," said the sheriff, "arise!"
The prisoner did not move.
The groom of the gibbet took up a hand and let it go; the hand fell
back. The other hand, being raised, fell back likewise.
The groom of the gibbet seized one foot and then the other, and the
heels fell back on the ground.
The fingers remained inert, and the toes motionless. The naked feet of
an extended corpse seem, as it were, to bristle.
The doctor approached, and drawing from the pocket of his robe a little
mirror of steel, put it to the open mouth of Hardquanonne. Then with his
fingers he opened the eyelids. They did not close again; the glassy
eyeballs remained fixed.
The doctor rose up and said,--
"He is dead."
And he added,--
"He laughed; that killed him."
"'Tis of little consequence," said the sheriff. "After confession, life
or death is a mere formality."
Then pointing to Hardquanonne by a gesture with the nosegay of roses,
the sheriff gave the order to the wapentake,--
"A corpse to be carried away to-night."
The wapentake acquiesced by a nod.
And the sheriff added,--
"The cemetery of the jail is opposite."
The wapentake nodded again.
The sheriff, holding in his left hand the nosegay and in his right the
white wand, placed himself opposite Gwynplaine, who was still seated,
and made him a low bow; then assuming another solemn attitude, he turned
his head over his shoulder, and looking Gwynplaine in the face, said,--
"To you here present, we Philip Denzill Parsons, knight, sheriff of the
county of Surrey, assisted by Aubrey Dominick, Esq., our clerk and
registrar, and by our usual officers, duly provided by the direct and
special commands of her Majesty, in virtue of our commission, and the
rights and duties of our charge, and with authority from the Lord
Chancellor of England, the affidavits having been drawn up and recorded,
regard being had to the documents communicated by the Admiralty, after
verification of attestations and signatures, after declarations read and
heard, after confrontation made, all the statements and legal
information having been completed, exhausted, and brought to a good and
just issue--we signify and declare to you, in order that right may be
done, that you are Fermain Clancharlie, Baron Clancharlie and
Hunkerville, Marquis de Corleone in Sicily, and a peer of England; and
God keep your lordship!"
And he bowed to him.
The serjeant on the right, the doctor, the justice of the quorum, the
wapentake, the secretary, all the attendants except the executioner,
repeated his salutation still more respectfully, and bowed to the ground
"Ah," said Gwynplaine, "awake me!"
And he stood up, pale as death.
"I come to awake you indeed," said a voice which had not yet been heard.
A man came out from behind the pillars. As no one had entered the cell
since the sheet of iron had given passage to the _cortege_ of police, it
was clear that this man had been there in the shadow before Gwynplaine
had entered, that he had a regular right of attendance, and had been
present by appointment and mission. The man was fat and pursy, and wore
a court wig and a travelling cloak.
He was rather old than young, and very precise.
He saluted Gwynplaine with ease and respect--with the ease of a
gentleman-in-waiting, and without the awkwardness of a judge.
"Yes," he said; "I have come to awaken you. For twenty-five years you
have slept. You have been dreaming. It is time to awake. You believe
yourself to be Gwynplaine; you are Clancharlie. You believe yourself to
be one of the people; you belong to the peerage. You believe yourself to
be of the lowest rank; you are of the highest. You believe yourself a
player; you are a senator. You believe yourself poor; you are wealthy.
You believe yourself to be of no account; you are important. Awake, my
Gwynplaine, in a low voice, in which a tremor of fear was to be
"What does it all mean?"
"It means, my lord," said the fat man, "that I am called Barkilphedro;
that I am an officer of the Admiralty; that this waif, the flask of
Hardquanonne, was found on the beach, and was brought to be unsealed by
me, according to the duty and prerogative of my office; that I opened it
in the presence of two sworn jurors of the Jetsam Office, both members
of Parliament, William Brathwait, for the city of Bath, and Thomas
Jervois, for Southampton; that the two jurors deciphered and attested
the contents of the flask, and signed the necessary affidavit conjointly
with me; that I made my report to her Majesty, and by order of the queen
all necessary and legal formalities were carried out with the discretion
necessary in a matter so delicate; that the last form, the
confrontation, has just been carried out; that you have L40,000 a year;
that you are a peer of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, a legislator
and a judge, a supreme judge, a sovereign legislator, dressed in purple
and ermine, equal to princes, like unto emperors; that you have on your
brow the coronet of a peer, and that you are about to wed a duchess, the
daughter of a king."
Under this transfiguration, overwhelming him like a series of
thunderbolts, Gwynplaine fainted.
THE WAIF KNOWS ITS OWN COURSE.
All this had occurred owing to the circumstance of a soldier having
found a bottle on the beach. We will relate the facts. In all facts
there are wheels within wheels.
One day one of the four gunners composing the garrison of Castle Calshor
picked up on the sand at low water a flask covered with wicker, which
had been cast up by the tide. This flask, covered with mould, was corked
by a tarred bung. The soldier carried the waif to the colonel of the
castle, and the colonel sent it to the High Admiral of England. The
Admiral meant the Admiralty; with waifs, the Admiralty meant
Barkilphedro, having uncorked and emptied the bottle, carried it to the
queen. The queen immediately took the matter into consideration.
Two weighty counsellors were instructed and consulted--namely, the Lord
Chancellor, who is by law the guardian of the king's conscience; and the
Lord Marshal, who is referee in Heraldry and in the pedigrees of the
nobility. Thomas Howard, Duke of Norfolk, a Catholic peer, who is
hereditary Earl Marshal of England, had sent word by his deputy Earl
Marshal, Henry Howard, Earl Bindon, that he would agree with the Lord
Chancellor. The Lord Chancellor was William Cowper. We must not confound
this chancellor with his namesake and contemporary William Cowper, the
anatomist and commentator on Bidloo, who published a treatise on
muscles, in England, at the very time that Etienne Abeille published a
history of bones, in France. A surgeon is a very different thing from a
lord. Lord William Cowper is celebrated for having, with reference to
the affair of Talbot Yelverton, Viscount Longueville, propounded this
opinion: That in the English constitution the restoration of a peer is
more important than the restoration of a king. The flask found at
Calshor had awakened his interest in the highest degree. The author of a
maxim delights in opportunities to which it may be applied. Here was a
case of the restoration of a peer. Search was made. Gwynplaine, by the
inscription over his door, was soon found. Neither was Hardquanonne
dead. A prison rots a man, but preserves him--if to keep is to preserve.
People placed in Bastiles were rarely removed. There is little more
change in the dungeon than in the tomb. Hardquanonne was still in prison
at Chatham. They had only to put their hands on him. He was transferred
from Chatham to London. In the meantime information was sought in
Switzerland. The facts were found to be correct. They obtained from the
local archives at Vevey, at Lausanne, the certificate of Lord Linnaeus's
marriage in exile, the certificate of his child's birth, the certificate
of the decease of the father and mother; and they had duplicates, duly
authenticated, made to answer all necessary requirements.
All this was done with the most rigid secrecy, with what is called royal
promptitude, and with that mole-like silence recommended and practised
by Bacon, and later on made law by Blackstone, for affairs connected
with the Chancellorship and the state, and in matters termed
parliamentary. The _jussu regis_ and the signature _Jeffreys_ were
authenticated. To those who have studied pathologically the cases of
caprice called "our good will and pleasure," this _jussu regis_ is very
simple. Why should James II., whose credit required the concealment of
such acts, have allowed that to be written which endangered their
success? The answer is, cynicism--haughty indifference. Oh! you believe
that effrontery is confined to abandoned women? The _raison d'etat_ is
equally abandoned. _Et se cupit ante videri_. To commit a crime and
emblazon it, there is the sum total of history. The king tattooes
himself like the convict. Often when it would be to a man's greatest
advantage to escape from the hands of the police or the records of
history, he would seem to regret the escape so great is the love of
notoriety. Look at my arm! Observe the design! _I_ am Lacenaire! See, a
temple of love and a burning heart pierced through with an arrow! _Jussu
regis_. It is I, James the Second. A man commits a bad action, and
places his mark upon it. To fill up the measure of crime by effrontery,
to denounce himself, to cling to his misdeeds, is the insolent bravado
of the criminal. Christina seized Monaldeschi, had him confessed and
assassinated, and said,--
"I am the Queen of Sweden, in the palace of the King of France."
There is the tyrant who conceals himself, like Tiberius; and the tyrant
who displays himself, like Philip II. One has the attributes of the
scorpion, the other those rather of the leopard. James II. was of this
latter variety. He had, we know, a gay and open countenance, differing
so far from Philip. Philip was sullen, James jovial. Both were equally
ferocious. James II. was an easy-minded tiger; like Philip II., his
crimes lay light upon his conscience. He was a monster by the grace of
God. Therefore he had nothing to dissimulate nor to extenuate, and his
assassinations were by divine right. He, too, would not have minded
leaving behind him those archives of Simancas, with all his misdeeds
dated, classified, labelled, and put in order, each in its compartment,
like poisons in the cabinet of a chemist. To set the sign-manual to
crimes is right royal.
Every deed done is a draft drawn on the great invisible paymaster. A
bill had just come due with the ominous endorsement, _Jussu regis_.
Queen Anne, in one particular unfeminine, seeing that she could keep a
secret, demanded a confidential report of so grave a matter from the
Lord Chancellor--one of the kind specified as "report to the royal ear."
Reports of this kind have been common in all monarchies. At Vienna there
was "a counsellor of the ear"--an aulic dignitary. It was an ancient
Carlovingian office--the _auricularius_ of the old palatine deeds. He
who whispers to the emperor.
William, Baron Cowper, Chancellor of England, whom the queen believed in
because he was short-sighted like herself, or even more so, had
committed to writing a memorandum commencing thus: "Two birds were
subject to Solomon--a lapwing, the hudbud, who could speak all
languages; and an eagle, the simourganka, who covered with the shadow of
his wings a caravan of twenty thousand men. Thus, under another form,
Providence," etc. The Lord Chancellor proved the fact that the heir to a
peerage had been carried off, mutilated, and then restored. He did not
blame James II., who was, after all, the queen's father. He even went so
far as to justify him. First, there are ancient monarchical maxims. _E
senioratu eripimus. In roturagio cadat_. Secondly, there is a royal
right of mutilation. Chamberlayne asserts the fact. _Corpora et bona
nostrorum subjectorum nostra sunt_, said James I., of glorious and
learned memory. The eyes of dukes of the blood royal have been plucked
out for the good of the kingdom. Certain princes, too near to the
throne, have been conveniently stifled between mattresses, the cause of
death being given out as apoplexy. Now to stifle is worse than to
mutilate. The King of Tunis tore out the eyes of his father, Muley
Assem, and his ambassadors have not been the less favourably received by
the emperor. Hence the king may order the suppression of a limb like the
suppression of a state, etc. It is legal. But one law does not destroy
another. "If a drowned man is cast up by the water, and is not dead, it
is an act of God readjusting one of the king. If the heir be found, let
the coronet be given back to him. Thus was it done for Lord Alla, King
of Northumberland, who was also a mountebank. Thus should be done to
Gwynplaine, who is also a king, seeing that he is a peer. The lowness of
the occupation which he has been obliged to follow, under constraint of
superior power, does not tarnish the blazon: as in the case of
Abdolmumen, who was a king, although he had been a gardener; that of
Joseph, who was a saint, although he had been a carpenter; that of
Apollo, who was a god, although he had been a shepherd."
In short, the learned chancellor concluded by advising the
reinstatement, in all his estates and dignities, of Lord Fermain
Clancharlie, miscalled Gwynplaine, on the sole condition that he should
be confronted with the criminal Hardquanonne, and identified by the
same. And on this point the chancellor, as constitutional keeper of the
royal conscience, based the royal decision. The Lord Chancellor added in
a postscript that if Hardquanonne refused to answer he should be
subjected to the _peine forte et dure_, until the period called the
_frodmortell_, according to the statute of King Athelstane, which orders
the confrontation to take place on the fourth day. In this there is a
certain inconvenience, for if the prisoner dies on the second or third
day the confrontation becomes difficult; still the law must be obeyed.
The inconvenience of the law makes part and parcel of it. In the mind of
the Lord Chancellor, however, the recognition of Gwynplaine by
Hardquanonne was indubitable.
Anne, having been made aware of the deformity of Gwynplaine, and not
wishing to wrong her sister, on whom had been bestowed the estates of
Clancharlie, graciously decided that the Duchess Josiana should be
espoused by the new lord--that is to say, by Gwynplaine.
The reinstatement of Lord Fermain Clancharlie was, moreover, a very
simple affair, the heir being legitimate, and in the direct line.
In cases of doubtful descent, and of peerages in abeyance claimed by
collaterals, the House of Lords must be consulted. This (to go no
further back) was done in 1782, in the case of the barony of Sydney,
claimed by Elizabeth Perry; in 1798, in that of the barony of Beaumont,
claimed by Thomas Stapleton; in 1803, in that of the barony of
Stapleton; in 1803, in that of the barony of Chandos, claimed by the
Reverend Tymewell Brydges; in 1813, in that of the earldom of Banbury,
claimed by General Knollys, etc., etc. But the present was no similar
case. Here there was no pretence for litigation; the legitimacy was
undoubted, the right clear and certain. There was no point to submit to
the House, and the Queen, assisted by the Lord Chancellor, had power to
recognize and admit the new peer.
Barkilphedro managed everything.
The affair, thanks to him, was kept so close, the secret was so
hermetically sealed, that neither Josiana nor Lord David caught sight of
the fearful abyss which was being dug under them. It was easy to deceive
Josiana, entrenched as she was behind a rampart of pride. She was
self-isolated. As to Lord David, they sent him to sea, off the coast of
Flanders. He was going to lose his peerage, and had no suspicion of it.
One circumstance is noteworthy.
It happened that at six leagues from the anchorage of the naval station
commanded by Lord David, a captain called Halyburton broke through the
French fleet. The Earl of Pembroke, President of the Council, proposed
that this Captain Halyburton should be made vice-admiral. Anne struck
out Halyburton's name, and put Lord David Dirry-Moir's in its place,
that he might, when no longer a peer, have the satisfaction of being a
Anne was well pleased. A hideous husband for her sister, and a fine step
for Lord David. Mischief and kindness combined.
Her Majesty was going to enjoy a comedy. Besides, she argued to herself
that she was repairing an abuse of power committed by her august father.
She was reinstating a member of the peerage. She was acting like a
great queen; she was protecting innocence according to the will of God
that Providence in its holy and impenetrable ways, etc., etc. It is very
sweet to do a just action which is disagreeable to those whom we do not
To know that the future husband of her sister was deformed, sufficed the
queen. In what manner Gwynplaine was deformed, and by what kind of
ugliness, Barkilphedro had not communicated to the queen, and Anne had
not deigned to inquire. She was proudly and royally disdainful. Besides,
what could it matter? The House of Lords could not but be grateful. The
Lord Chancellor, its oracle, had approved. To restore a peer is to
restore the peerage. Royalty on this occasion had shown itself a good
and scrupulous guardian of the privileges of the peerage. Whatever might
be the face of the new lord, a face cannot be urged in objection to a
right. Anne said all this to herself, or something like it, and went
straight to her object, an object at once grand, womanlike, and
regal--namely, to give herself a pleasure.
The queen was then at Windsor--a circumstance which placed a certain
distance between the intrigues of the court and the public. Only such
persons as were absolutely necessary to the plan were in the secret of
what was taking place. As to Barkilphedro, he was joyful--a circumstance
which gave a lugubrious expression to his face. If there be one thing in
the world which can be more hideous than another, 'tis joy.
He had had the delight of being the first to taste the contents of
Hardquanonne's flask. He seemed but little surprised, for astonishment
is the attribute of a little mind. Besides, was it not all due to him,
who had waited so long on duty at the gate of chance? Knowing how to
wait, he had fairly won his reward.
This _nil admirari_ was an expression of face. At heart we may admit
that he was very much astonished. Any one who could have lifted the mask
with which he covered his inmost heart even before God would have
discovered this: that at the very time Barkilphedro had begun to feel
finally convinced that it would be impossible--even to him, the intimate
and most infinitesimal enemy of Josiana--to find a vulnerable point in
her lofty life. Hence an access of savage animosity lurked in his mind.
He had reached the paroxysm which is called discouragement. He was all
the more furious, because despairing. To gnaw one's chain--how tragic
and appropriate the expression! A villain gnawing at his own
Barkilphedro was perhaps just on the point of renouncing not his desire
to do evil to Josiana, but his hope of doing it; not the rage, but the
effort. But how degrading to be thus baffled! To keep hate thenceforth
in a case, like a dagger in a museum! How bitter the humiliation!
All at once to a certain goal--Chance, immense and universal, loves to
bring such coincidences about--the flask of Hardquanonne came, driven
from wave to wave, into Barkilphedro's hands. There is in the unknown an
indescribable fealty which seems to be at the beck and call of evil.
Barkilphedro, assisted by two chance witnesses, disinterested jurors of
the Admiralty, uncorked the flask, found the parchment, unfolded, read
it. What words could express his devilish delight!
It is strange to think that the sea, the wind, space, the ebb and flow
of the tide, storms, calms, breezes, should have given themselves so
much trouble to bestow happiness on a scoundrel. That co-operation had
continued for fifteen years. Mysterious efforts! During fifteen years
the ocean had never for an instant ceased from its labours. The waves
transmitted from one to another the floating bottle. The shelving rocks
had shunned the brittle glass; no crack had yawned in the flask; no
friction had displaced the cork; the sea-weeds had not rotted the osier;
the shells had not eaten out the word "Hardquanonne;" the water had not
penetrated into the waif; the mould had not rotted the parchment; the
wet had hot effaced the writing. What trouble the abyss must have taken!
Thus that which Gernardus had flung into darkness, darkness had handed
back to Barkilphedro. The message sent to God had reached the devil.
Space had committed an abuse of confidence, and a lurking sarcasm which
mingles with events had so arranged that it had complicated the loyal
triumph of the lost child's becoming Lord Clancharlie with a venomous
victory: in doing a good action, it had mischievously placed justice at
the service of iniquity. To save the victim of James II. was to give a
prey to Barkilphedro. To reinstate Gwynplaine was to crush Josiana.
Barkilphedro had succeeded, and it was for this that for so many years
the waves, the surge, the squalls had buffeted, shaken, thrown, pushed,
tormented, and respected this bubble of glass, which bore within it so
many commingled fates. It was for this that there had been a cordial
co-operation between the winds, the tides, and the tempests--a vast
agitation of all prodigies for the pleasure of a scoundrel; the infinite
co-operating with an earthworm! Destiny is subject to such grim
Barkilphedro was struck by a flash of Titanic pride. He said to himself
that it had all been done to fulfil his intentions. He felt that he was
the object and the instrument.
But he was wrong. Let us clear the character of chance.
Such was not the real meaning of the remarkable circumstance of which
the hatred of Barkilphedro was to profit. Ocean had made itself father
and mother to an orphan, had sent the hurricane against his
executioners, had wrecked the vessel which had repulsed the child, had
swallowed up the clasped hands of the storm-beaten sailors, refusing
their supplications and accepting only their repentance; the tempest
received a deposit from the hands of death. The strong vessel containing
the crime was replaced by the fragile phial containing the reparation.
The sea changed its character, and, like a panther turning nurse, began
to rock the cradle, not of the child, but of his destiny, whilst he grew
up ignorant of all that the depths of ocean were doing for him.
The waves to which this flask had been flung watching over that past
which contained a future; the whirlwind breathing kindly on it; the
currents directing the frail waif across the fathomless wastes of water;
the caution exercised by seaweed, the swells, the rocks; the vast froth
of the abyss, taking under its protection an innocent child; the wave
imperturbable as a conscience; chaos re-establishing order; the
worldwide shadows ending in radiance; darkness employed to bring to
light the star of truth; the exile consoled in his tomb; the heir given
back to his inheritance; the crime of the king repaired; divine
premeditation obeyed; the little, the weak, the deserted child with
infinity for a guardian--all this Barkilphedro might have seen in the
event on which he triumphed. This is what he did not see. He did not
believe that it had all been done for Gwynplaine. He fancied that it had
been effected for Barkilphedro, and that he was well worth the trouble.
Thus it is ever with Satan.
Moreover, ere we feel astonished that a waif so fragile should have
floated for fifteen years undamaged, we should seek to understand the
tender care of the ocean. Fifteen years is nothing. On the 4th of
October 1867, on the coast of Morbihan, between the Isle de Croix, the
extremity of the peninsula de Gavres, and the Rocher des Errants, the
fishermen of Port Louis found a Roman amphora of the fourth century,
covered with arabesques by the incrustations of the sea. That amphora
had been floating fifteen hundred years.
Whatever appearance of indifference Barkilphedro tried to exhibit, his
wonder had equalled his joy. Everything he could desire was there to his
hand. All seemed ready made. The fragments of the event which was to
satisfy his hate were spread out within his reach. He had nothing to do
but to pick them up and fit them together--a repair which it was an
amusement to execute. He was the artificer.
Gwynplaine! He knew the name. _Masca ridens_. Like every one else, he
had been to see the Laughing Man. He had read the sign nailed up against
the Tadcaster Inn as one reads a play-bill that attracts a crowd. He had
noted it. He remembered it directly in its most minute details; and, in
any case, it was easy to compare them with the original. That notice, in
the electrical summons which arose in his memory, appeared in the depths
of his mind, and placed itself by the side of the parchment signed by
the shipwrecked crew, like an answer following a question, like the
solution following an enigma; and the lines--"Here is to be seen
Gwynplaine, deserted at the age of ten, on the 29th of January, 1690, on
the coast at Portland"--suddenly appeared to his eyes in the splendour
of an apocalypse. His vision was the light of _Mene, Tekel, Upharsin_,
outside a booth. Here was the destruction of the edifice which made the
existence of Josiana. A sudden earthquake. The lost child was found.
There was a Lord Clancharlie; David Dirry-Moir was nobody. Peerage,
riches, power, rank--all these things left Lord David and entered
Gwynplaine. All the castles, parks, forests, town houses, palaces,
domains, Josiana included, belonged to Gwynplaine. And what a climax for
Josiana! What had she now before her? Illustrious and haughty, a player;
beautiful, a monster. Who could have hoped for this? The truth was that
the joy of Barkilphedro had become enthusiastic. The most hateful
combinations are surpassed by the infernal munificence of the
unforeseen. When reality likes, it works masterpieces. Barkilphedro
found that all his dreams had been nonsense; reality were better.
The change he was about to work would not have seemed less desirable had
it been detrimental to him. Insects exist which are so savagely
disinterested that they sting, knowing that to sting is to die.
Barkilphedro was like such vermin.
But this time he had not the merit of being disinterested. Lord David
Dirry-Moir owed him nothing, and Lord Fermain Clancharlie was about to
owe him everything. From being a _protege_ Barkilphedro was about to
become a protector. Protector of whom? Of a peer of England. He was
going to have a lord of his own, and a lord who would be his creature.
Barkilphedro counted on giving him his first impressions. His peer would
be the morganatic brother-in-law of the queen. His ugliness would please
the queen in the same proportion as it displeased Josiana. Advancing by
such favour, and assuming grave and modest airs, Barkilphedro might
become a somebody. He had always been destined for the church. He had a
vague longing to be a bishop.
Meanwhile he was happy.
Oh, what a great success! and what a deal of useful work had chance
accomplished for him! His vengeance--for he called it his vengeance--had
been softly brought to him by the waves. He had not lain in ambush in
He was the rock, Josiana was the waif. Josiana was about to be dashed
against Barkilphedro, to his intense villainous ecstasy.
He was clever in the art of suggestion, which consists in making in the
minds of others a little incision into which you put an idea of your
own. Holding himself aloof, and without appearing to mix himself up in
the matter, it was he who arranged that Josiana should go to the Green
Box and see Gwynplaine. It could do no harm. The appearance of the
mountebank, in his low estate, would be a good ingredient in the
combination; later on it would season it.
He had quietly prepared everything beforehand. What he most desired was
something unspeakably abrupt. The work on which he was engaged could
only be expressed in these strange words--the construction of a
All preliminaries being complete, he had watched till all the necessary
legal formalities had been accomplished. The secret had not oozed out,
silence being an element of law.
The confrontation of Hardquanonne with Gwynplaine had taken place.
Barkilphedro had been present. We have seen the result.
The same day a post-chaise belonging to the royal household was suddenly
sent by her Majesty to fetch Lady Josiana from London to Windsor, where
the queen was at the time residing.
Josiana, for reasons of her own, would have been very glad to disobey,
or at least to delay obedience, and put off her departure till next day;
but court life does not permit of these objections. She was obliged to
set out at once, and to leave her residence in London, Hunkerville
House, for her residence at Windsor, Corleone Lodge.
The Duchess Josiana left London at the very moment that the wapentake
appeared at the Tadcaster Inn to arrest Gwynplaine and take him to the
torture cell of Southwark.
When she arrived at Windsor, the Usher of the Black Rod, who guards the
door of the presence chamber, informed her that her Majesty was in
audience with the Lord Chancellor, and could not receive her until the
next day; that, consequently, she was to remain at Corleone Lodge, at
the orders of her Majesty; and that she should receive the queen's
commands direct, when her Majesty awoke the next morning. Josiana
entered her house feeling very spiteful, supped in a bad humour, had the
spleen, dismissed every one except her page, then dismissed him, and
went to bed while it was yet daylight.
When she arrived she had learned that Lord David Dirry-Moir was expected
at Windsor the next day, owing to his having, whilst at sea, received
orders to return immediately and receive her Majesty's commands.
"No man could pass suddenly from Siberia into Senegal without
The swoon of a man, even of one the most firm and energetic, under the
sudden shock of an unexpected stroke of good fortune, is nothing
wonderful. A man is knocked down by the unforeseen blow, like an ox by
the poleaxe. Francis d'Albescola, he who tore from the Turkish ports
their iron chains, remained a whole day without consciousness when they
made him pope. Now the stride from a cardinal to a pope is less than
that from a mountebank to a peer of England.
No shock is so violent as a loss of equilibrium.
When Gwynplaine came to himself and opened his eyes it was night. He was
in an armchair, in the midst of a large chamber lined throughout with
purple velvet, over walls, ceiling, and floor. The carpet was velvet.
Standing near him, with uncovered head, was the fat man in the
travelling cloak, who had emerged from behind the pillar in the cell at
Southwark. Gwynplaine was alone in the chamber with him. From the chair,
by extending his arms, he could reach two tables, each bearing a branch
of six lighted wax candles. On one of these tables there were papers and
a casket, on the other refreshments; a cold fowl, wine, and brandy,
served on a silver-gilt salver.
Through the panes of a high window, reaching from the ceiling to the
floor, a semicircle of pillars was to be seen, in the clear April night,
encircling a courtyard with three gates, one very wide, and the other
two low. The carriage gate, of great size, was in the middle; on the
right, that for equestrians, smaller; on the left, that for foot
passengers, still less. These gates were formed of iron railings, with
glittering points. A tall piece of sculpture surmounted the central one.
The columns were probably in white marble, as well as the pavement of
the court, thus producing an effect like snow; and framed in its sheet
of flat flags was a mosaic, the pattern of which was vaguely marked in
the shadow. This mosaic, when seen by daylight, would no doubt have
disclosed to the sight, with much emblazonry and many colours, a
gigantic coat-of-arms, in the Florentine fashion. Zigzags of balustrades
rose and fell, indicating stairs of terraces. Over the court frowned an
immense pile of architecture, now shadowy and vague in the starlight.
Intervals of sky, full of stars, marked out clearly the outline of the
palace. An enormous roof could be seen, with the gable ends vaulted;
garret windows, roofed over like visors; chimneys like towers; and
entablatures covered with motionless gods and goddesses.
Beyond the colonnade there played in the shadow one of those fairy
fountains in which, as the water falls from basin to basin, it combines
the beauty of rain with that of the cascade, and as if scattering the
contents of a jewel box, flings to the wind its diamonds and its pearls
as though to divert the statues around. Long rows of windows ranged
away, separated by panoplies, in relievo, and by busts on small
pedestals. On the pinnacles, trophies and morions with plumes cut in
stone alternated with statues of heathen deities.
In the chamber where Gwynplaine was, on the side opposite the window,
was a fireplace as high as the ceiling, and on another, under a dais,
one of those old spacious feudal beds which were reached by a ladder,
and where you might sleep lying across; the joint-stool of the bed was
at its side; a row of armchairs by the walls, and a row of ordinary
chairs, in front of them, completed the furniture. The ceiling was
domed. A great wood fire in the French fashion blazed in the fireplace;
by the richness of the flames, variegated of rose colour and green, a
judge of such things would have seen that the wood was ash--a great
luxury. The room was so large that the branches of candles failed to
light it up. Here and there curtains over doors, falling and swaying,
indicated communications with other rooms. The style of the room was
altogether that of the reign of James I.--a style square and massive,
antiquated and magnificent. Like the carpet and the lining of the
chamber, the dais, the baldaquin, the bed, the stool, the curtains, the
mantelpiece, the coverings of the table, the sofas, the chairs, were all
of purple velvet.
There was no gilding, except on the ceiling. Laid on it, at equal
distance from the four angles, was a huge round shield of embossed
metal, on which sparkled, in dazzling relief, various coats of arms.
Amongst the devices, on two blazons, side by side, were to be
distinguished the cap of a baron and the coronet of a marquis. Were they
of brass or of silver-gilt? You could not tell. They seemed to be of
gold. And in the centre of this lordly ceiling, like a gloomy and
magnificent sky, the gleaming escutcheon was as the dark splendour of a
sun shining in the night.
The savage, in whom is embodied the free man, is nearly as restless in a
palace as in a prison. This magnificent chamber was depressing. So much
splendour produces fear. Who could be the inhabitant of this stately
palace? To what colossus did all this grandeur appertain? Of what lion
is this the lair? Gwynplaine, as yet but half awake, was heavy at
"Where am I?" he said.
The man who was standing before him answered,--"You are in your own
house, my lord."
It takes time to rise to the surface. And Gwynplaine had been thrown
into an abyss of stupefaction.
We do not gain our footing at once in unknown depths.
There are routs of ideas, as there are routs of armies. The rally is not
We feel as it were scattered--as though some strange evaporation of self
were taking place.
God is the arm, chance is the sling, man is the pebble. How are you to
resist, once flung?
Gwynplaine, if we may coin the expression, ricocheted from one surprise
to another. After the love letter of the duchess came the revelation in
the Southwark dungeon.
In destiny, when wonders begin, prepare yourself for blow upon blow. The
gloomy portals once open, prodigies pour in. A breach once made in the
wall, and events rush upon us pell-mell. The marvellous never comes
The marvellous is an obscurity. The shadow of this obscurity was over
Gwynplaine. What was happening to him seemed unintelligible. He saw
everything through the mist which a deep commotion leaves in the mind,
like the dust caused by a falling ruin. The shock had been from top to
bottom. Nothing was clear to him. However, light always returns by
degrees. The dust settles. Moment by moment the density of astonishment
decreases. Gwynplaine was like a man with his eyes open and fixed in a
dream, as if trying to see what may be within it. He dispersed the mist.
Then he reshaped it. He had intermittances of wandering. He underwent
that oscillation of the mind in the unforeseen which alternately pushes
us in the direction in which we understand, and then throws us back in
that which is incomprehensible. Who has not at some time felt this
pendulum in his brain?
By degrees his thoughts dilated in the darkness of the event, as the
pupil of his eye had done in the underground shadows at Southwark. The
difficulty was to succeed in putting a certain space between accumulated
sensations. Before that combustion of hazy ideas called comprehension
can take place, air must be admitted between the emotions. There air was
wanting. The event, so to speak, could not be breathed.
In entering that terrible cell at Southwark, Gwynplaine had expected the
iron collar of a felon; they had placed on his head the coronet of a
peer. How could this be? There had not been space of time enough between
what Gwynplaine had feared and what had really occurred; it had
succeeded too quickly--his terror changing into other feelings too
abruptly for comprehension. The contrasts were too tightly packed one
against the other. Gwynplaine made an effort to withdraw his mind from
He was silent. This is the instinct of great stupefaction, which is more
on the defensive than it is thought to be. Who says nothing is prepared
for everything. A word of yours allowed to drop may be seized in some
unknown system of wheels, and your utter destruction be compassed in its
The poor and weak live in terror of being crushed. The crowd ever expect
to be trodden down. Gwynplaine had long been one of the crowd.
A singular state of human uneasiness can be expressed by the words: Let
us see what will happen. Gwynplaine was in this state. You feel that you
have not gained your equilibrium when an unexpected situation surges up
under your feet. You watch for something which must produce a result.
You are vaguely attentive. We will see what happens. What? You do not
know. Whom? You watch.
The man with the paunch repeated, "You are in your own house, my lord."
Gwynplaine felt himself. In surprises, we first look to make sure that
things exist; then we feel ourselves, to make sure that we exist
ourselves. It was certainly to him that the words were spoken; but he
himself was somebody else. He no longer had his jacket on, or his
esclavine of leather. He had a waistcoat of cloth of silver; and a satin
coat, which he touched and found to be embroidered. He felt a heavy
purse in his waistcoat pocket. A pair of velvet trunk hose covered his
clown's tights. He wore shoes with high red heels. As they had brought
him to this palace, so had they changed his dress.
The man resumed,--
"Will your lordship deign to remember this: I am called Barkilphedro; I
am clerk to the Admiralty. It was I who opened Hardquanonne's flask and
drew your destiny out of it. Thus, in the 'Arabian Nights' a fisherman
releases a giant from a bottle."
Gwynplaine fixed his eyes on the smiling face of the speaker.
"Besides this palace, my lord, Hunkerville House, which is larger, is
yours. You own Clancharlie Castle, from which you take your title, and
which was a fortress in the time of Edward the Elder. You have nineteen
bailiwicks belonging to you, with their villages and their inhabitants.
This puts under your banner, as a landlord and a nobleman, about eighty
thousand vassals and tenants. At Clancharlie you are a judge--judge of
all, both of goods and of persons--and you hold your baron's court. The
king has no right which you have not, except the privilege of coining
money. The king, designated by the Norman law as chief signor, has
justice, court, and coin. Coin is money. So that you, excepting in this
last, are as much a king in your lordship as he is in his kingdom. You
have the right, as a baron, to a gibbet with four pillars in England;
and, as a marquis, to a scaffold with seven posts in Sicily: that of the
mere lord having two pillars; that of a lord of the manor, three; and
that of a duke, eight. You are styled prince in the ancient charters of
Northumberland. You are related to the Viscounts Valentia in Ireland,
whose name is Power; and to the Earls of Umfraville in Scotland, whose
name is Angus. You are chief of a clan, like Campbell, Ardmannach, and
Macallummore. You have eight barons' courts--Reculver, Baston,
Hell-Kerters, Homble, Moricambe, Grundraith, Trenwardraith, and others.
You have a right over the turf-cutting of Pillinmore, and over the
alabaster quarries near Trent. Moreover, you own all the country of
Penneth Chase; and you have a mountain with an ancient town on it. The
town is called Vinecaunton; the mountain is called Moilenlli. All which
gives you an income of forty thousand pounds a year. That is to say,
forty times the five-and-twenty thousand francs with which a Frenchman
Whilst Barkilphedro spoke, Gwynplaine, in a crescendo of stupor,
remembered the past. Memory is a gulf that a word can move to its lowest
depths. Gwynplaine knew all the words pronounced by Barkilphedro. They
were written in the last lines of the two scrolls which lined the van in
which his childhood had been passed, and, from so often letting his eyes
wander over them mechanically, he knew them by heart. On reaching, a
forsaken orphan, the travelling caravan at Weymouth, he had found the
inventory of the inheritance which awaited him; and in the morning, when
the poor little boy awoke, the first thing spelt by his careless and
unconscious eyes was his own title and its possessions. It was a strange
detail added to all his other surprises, that, during fifteen years,
rolling from highway to highway, the clown of a travelling theatre,
earning his bread day by day, picking up farthings, and living on
crumbs, he should have travelled with the inventory of his fortune
placarded over his misery.
Barkilphedro touched the casket on the table with his forefinger.
"My lord, this casket contains two thousand guineas which her gracious
Majesty the Queen has sent you for your present wants."
Gwynplaine made a movement.
"That shall be for my Father Ursus," he said.
"So be it, my lord," said Barkilphedro. "Ursus, at the Tadcaster Inn.
The Serjeant of the Coif, who accompanied us hither, and is about to
return immediately, will carry them to him. Perhaps I may go to London
myself. In that case I will take charge of it."
"I shall take them to him myself," said Gwynplaine.
Barkilphedro's smile disappeared, and he said,--"Impossible!"
There is an impressive inflection of voice which, as it were, underlines
the words. Barkilphedro's tone was thus emphasized; he paused, so as to
put a full stop after the word he had just uttered. Then he continued,
with the peculiar and respectful tone of a servant who feels that he is
"My lord, you are twenty-three miles from London, at Corleone Lodge,
your court residence, contiguous to the Royal Castle of Windsor. You are
here unknown to any one. You were brought here in a close carriage,
which was awaiting you at the gate of the jail at Southwark. The
servants who introduced you into this palace are ignorant who you are;
but they know me, and that is sufficient. You may possibly have been
brought to these apartments by means of a private key which is in my
possession. There are people in the house asleep, and it is not an hour
to awaken them. Hence we have time for an explanation, which,
nevertheless, will be short. I have been commissioned by her Majesty--"
As he spoke, Barkilphedro began to turn over the leaves of some bundles
of papers which were lying near the casket.
"My lord, here is your patent of peerage. Here is that of your Sicilian
marquisate. These are the parchments and title-deeds of your eight
baronies, with the seals of eleven kings, from Baldret, King of Kent, to
James the Sixth of Scotland, and first of England and Scotland united.
Here are your letters of precedence. Here are your rent-rolls, and
titles and descriptions of your fiefs, freeholds, dependencies, lands,
and domains. That which you see above your head in the emblazonment on
the ceiling are your two coronets: the circlet with pearls for the
baron, and the circlet with strawberry leaves for the marquis.
"Here, in the wardrobe, is your peer's robe of red velvet, bordered with
ermine. To-day, only a few hours since, the Lord Chancellor and the
Deputy Earl Marshal of England, informed of the result of your
confrontation with the Comprachico Hardquanonne, have taken her
Majesty's commands. Her Majesty has signed them, according to her royal
will, which is the same as the law. All formalities have been complied
with. To-morrow, and no later than to-morrow, you will take your seat in
the House of Lords, where they have for some days been deliberating on a
bill, presented by the crown, having for its object the augmentation, by
a hundred thousand pounds sterling yearly, of the annual allowance to
the Duke of Cumberland, husband of the queen. You will be able to take
part in the debate."
Barkilphedro paused, breathed slowly, and resumed.
"However, nothing is yet settled. A man cannot be made a peer of
England without his own consent. All can be annulled and disappear,
unless you acquiesce. An event nipped in the bud ere it ripens often
occurs in state policy. My lord, up to this time silence has been
preserved on what has occurred. The House of Lords will not be informed
of the facts until to-morrow. Secrecy has been kept about the whole
matter for reasons of state, which are of such importance that the
influential persons who alone are at this moment cognizant of your
existence, and of your rights, will forget them immediately should
reasons of state command their being forgotten. That which is in
darkness may remain in darkness. It is easy to wipe you out; the more so
as you have a brother, the natural son of your father and of a woman who
afterwards, during the exile of your father, became mistress to King
Charles II., which accounts for your brother's high position at court;
for it is to this brother, bastard though he be, that your peerage would
revert. Do you wish this? I cannot think so. Well, all depends on you.
The queen must be obeyed. You will not quit the house till to-morrow in
a royal carriage, and to go to the House of Lords. My lord, will you be
a peer of England; yes or no? The queen has designs for you. She
destines you for an alliance almost royal. Lord Fermain Clancharlie,
this is the decisive moment. Destiny never opens one door without
shutting another. After a certain step in advance, to step back is
impossible. Whoso enters into transfiguration, leaves behind him
evanescence. My lord, Gwynplaine is dead. Do you understand?"
Gwynplaine trembled from head to foot.
Then he recovered himself.
"Yes," he said.
Barkilphedro, smiling, bowed, placed the casket under his cloak, and
left the room.
WE THINK WE REMEMBER; WE FORGET.
Whence arise those strange, visible changes which occur in the soul of
Gwynplaine had been at the same moment raised to a summit and cast into
His head swam with double giddiness--the giddiness of ascent and
descent. A fatal combination.
He felt himself ascend, and felt not his fall.
It is appalling to see a new horizon.
A perspective affords suggestions,--not always good ones.
He had before him the fairy glade, a snare perhaps, seen through opening
clouds, and showing the blue depths of sky; so deep, that they are
He was on the mountain, whence he could see all the kingdoms of the
earth. A mountain all the more terrible that it is a visionary one.
Those who are on its apex are in a dream.
Palaces, castles, power, opulence, all human happiness extending as far
as eye could reach; a map of enjoyments spread out to the horizon; a
sort of radiant geography of which he was the centre. A perilous mirage!
Imagine what must have been the haze of such a vision, not led up to,
not attained to as by the gradual steps of a ladder, but reached without
transition and without previous warning.
A man going to sleep in a mole's burrow, and awaking on the top of the
Strasbourg steeple; such was the state of Gwynplaine.
Giddiness is a dangerous kind of glare, particularly that which bears
you at once towards the day and towards the night, forming two
whirlwinds, one opposed to the other.
He saw too much, and not enough.
He saw all, and nothing.
His state was what the author of this book has somewhere expressed as
the blind man dazzled.
Gwynplaine, left by himself, began to walk with long strides. A bubbling
precedes an explosion.
Notwithstanding his agitation, in this impossibility of keeping still,
he meditated. His mind liquefied as it boiled. He began to recall things
to his memory. It is surprising how we find that we have heard so
clearly that to which we scarcely listened. The declaration of the
shipwrecked men, read by the sheriff in the Southwark cell, came back to
him clearly and intelligibly. He recalled every word, he saw under it
his whole infancy.
Suddenly he stopped, his hands clasped behind his back, looking up to
the ceilings--the sky--no matter what--whatever was above him.
"Quits!" he cried.
He felt like one whose head rises out of the water. It seemed to him
that he saw everything--the past, the future, the present--in the
accession of a sudden flash of light.
"Oh!" he cried, for there are cries in the depths of thought. "Oh! it
was so, was it! I was a lord. All is discovered. They stole, betrayed,
destroyed, abandoned, disinherited, murdered me! The corpse of my
destiny floated fifteen years on the sea; all at once it touched the
earth, and it started up, erect and living. I am reborn. I am born. I
felt under my rags that the breast there palpitating was not that of a
wretch; and when I looked on crowds of men, I felt that they were the
flocks, and that I was not the dog, but the shepherd! Shepherds of the
people, leaders of men, guides and masters, such were my fathers; and
what they were I am! I am a gentleman, and I have a sword; I am a baron,
and I have a casque; I am a marquis, and I have a plume; I am a peer,
and I have a coronet. Lo! they deprived me of all this. I dwelt in
light, they flung me into darkness. Those who proscribed the father,
sold the son. When my father was dead, they took from beneath his head
the stone of exile which he had placed for his pillow, and, tying it to
my neck, they flung me into a sewer. Oh! those scoundrels who tortured
my infancy! Yes, they rise and move in the depths of my memory. Yes; I
see them again. I was that morsel of flesh pecked to pieces on a tomb by
a flight of crows. I bled and cried under all those horrible shadows.
Lo! it was there that they precipitated me, under the crush of those who
come and go, under the trampling feet of men, under the undermost of the
human race, lower than the serf, baser than the serving man, lower than
the felon, lower than the slave, at the spot where Chaos becomes a
sewer, in which I was engulfed. It is from thence that I come; it is
from this that I rise; it is from this that I am risen. And here I am
He sat down, he rose, clasped his head with his hands, began to pace the
room again, and his tempestuous monologue continued within him.
"Where am I?--on the summit? Where is it that I have just alighted?--on
the highest peak? This pinnacle, this grandeur, this dome of the world,
this great power, is my home. This temple is in air. I am one of the
gods. I live in inaccessible heights. This supremacy, which I looked up
to from below, and from whence emanated such rays of glory that I shut
my eyes; this ineffaceable peerage; this impregnable fortress of the
fortunate, I enter. I am in it. I am of it. Ah, what a decisive turn of
the wheel! I was below, I am on high--on high for ever! Behold me a
lord! I shall have a scarlet robe. I shall have an earl's coronet on my
head. I shall assist at the coronation of kings. They will take the oath
from my hands. I shall judge princes and ministers. I shall exist. From
the depths into which I was thrown, I have rebounded to the zenith. I
have palaces in town and country: houses, gardens, chases, forests,
carriages, millions. I will give fetes. I will make laws. I shall have
the choice of joys and pleasures. And the vagabond Gwynplaine, who had
not the right to gather a flower in the grass, may pluck the stars from
Melancholy overshadowing of a soul's brightness! Thus it was that in
Gwynplaine, who had been a hero, and perhaps had not ceased to be one,
moral greatness gave way to material splendour. A lamentable transition!
Virtue broken down by a troop of passing demons. A surprise made on the
weak side of man's fortress. All the inferior circumstances called by
men superior, ambition, the purblind desires of instinct, passions,
covetousness, driven far from Gwynplaine by the wholesome restraints of
misfortune, took tumultuous possession of his generous heart. And from
what had this arisen? From the discovery of a parchment in a waif
drifted by the sea. Conscience may be violated by a chance attack.
Gwynplaine drank in great draughts of pride, and it dulled his soul.
Such is the poison of that fatal wine.
Giddiness invaded him. He more than consented to its approach. He
welcomed it. This was the effect of previous and long-continued thirst.
Are we an accomplice of the cup which deprives us of reason? He had
always vaguely desired this. His eyes had always turned towards the
great. To watch is to wish. The eaglet is not born in the eyrie for
Now, however, at moments, it seemed to him the simplest thing in the
world that he should be a lord. A few hours only had passed, and yet the
past of yesterday seemed so far off! Gwynplaine had fallen into the
ambuscade of Better, who is the enemy of Good.
Unhappy is he of whom we say, how lucky he is! Adversity is more easily
resisted than prosperity. We rise more perfect from ill fortune than
from good. There is a Charybdis in poverty, and a Scylla in riches.
Those who remain erect under the thunderbolt are prostrated by the
flash. Thou who standest without shrinking on the verge of a precipice,
fear lest thou be carried up on the innumerable wings of mists and
dreams. The ascent which elevates will dwarf thee. An apotheosis has a
sinister power of degradation.
It is not easy to understand what is good luck. Chance is nothing but a
disguise. Nothing deceives so much as the face of fortune. Is she
Providence? Is she Fatality?
A brightness may not be a brightness, because light is truth, and a
gleam may be a deceit. You believe that it lights you; but no, it sets
you on fire.
At night, a candle made of mean tallow becomes a star if placed in an
opening in the darkness. The moth flies to it.
In what measure is the moth responsible?
The sight of the candle fascinates the moth as the eye of the serpent
fascinates the bird.
Is it possible that the bird and the moth should resist the attraction?
Is it possible that the leaf should resist the wind? Is it possible that
the stone should refuse obedience to the laws of gravitation?
These are material questions, which are moral questions as well.
After he had received the letter of the duchess, Gwynplaine had
recovered himself. The deep love in his nature had resisted it. But the
storm having wearied itself on one side of the horizon, burst out on the
other; for in destiny, as in nature, there are successive convulsions.
The first shock loosens, the second uproots.
Alas! how do the oaks fall?
Thus he who, when a child of ten, stood alone on the shore of Portland,
ready to give battle, who had looked steadfastly at all the combatants
whom he had to encounter, the blast which bore away the vessel in which
he had expected to embark, the gulf which had swallowed up the plank,
the yawning abyss, of which the menace was its retrocession, the earth
which refused him a shelter, the sky which refused him a star, solitude
without pity, obscurity without notice, ocean, sky, all the violence of
one infinite space, and all the mysterious enigmas of another; he who
had neither trembled nor fainted before the mighty hostility of the
unknown; he who, still so young, had held his own with night, as
Hercules of old had held his own with death; he who in the unequal
struggle had thrown down this defiance, that he, a child, adopted a
child, that he encumbered himself with a load, when tired and exhausted,
thus rendering himself an easier prey to the attacks on his weakness,
and, as it were, himself unmuzzling the shadowy monsters in ambush
around him; he who, a precocious warrior, had immediately, and from his
first steps out of the cradle, struggled breast to breast with destiny;
he, whose disproportion with strife had not discouraged from striving;
he who, perceiving in everything around him a frightful occultation of
the human race, had accepted that eclipse, and proudly continued his
journey; he who had known how to endure cold, thirst, hunger, valiantly;
he who, a pigmy in stature, had been a colossus in soul: this
Gwynplaine, who had conquered the great terror of the abyss under its
double form, Tempest and Misery, staggered under a breath--Vanity.
Thus, when she has exhausted distress, nakedness, storms, catastrophes,
agonies on an unflinching man, Fatality begins to smile, and her victim,
suddenly intoxicated, staggers.
The smile of Fatality! Can anything more terrible be imagined? It is the
last resource of the pitiless trier of souls in his proof of man. The
tiger, lurking in destiny, caresses man with a velvet paw. Sinister
preparation, hideous gentleness in the monster!
Every self-observer has detected within himself mental weakness
coincident with aggrandisement. A sudden growth disturbs the system, and
In Gwynplaine's brain was the giddy whirlwind of a crowd of new
circumstances; all the light and shade of a metamorphosis; inexpressibly
strange confrontations; the shock of the past against the future. Two
Gwynplaines, himself doubled; behind, an infant in rags crawling through
night--wandering, shivering, hungry, provoking laughter; in front, a
brilliant nobleman--luxurious, proud, dazzling all London. He was
casting off one form, and amalgamating himself with the other. He was
casting the mountebank, and becoming the peer. Change of skin is
sometimes change of soul. Now and then the past seemed like a dream. It
was complex; bad and good. He thought of his father. It was a poignant
anguish never to have known his father. He tried to picture him to
himself. He thought of his brother, of whom he had just heard. Then he
had a family! He, Gwynplaine! He lost himself in fantastic dreams. He
saw visions of magnificence; unknown forms of solemn grandeur moved in
mist before him. He heard flourishes of trumpets.
"And then," he said, "I shall be eloquent."
He pictured to himself a splendid entrance into the House of Lords. He
should arrive full to the brim with new facts and ideas. What could he
not tell them? What subjects he had accumulated! What an advantage to be
in the midst of them, a man who had seen, touched, undergone, and
suffered; who could cry aloud to them, "I have been near to everything,
from which you are so far removed." He would hurl reality in the face of
those patricians, crammed with illusions. They should tremble, for it
would be the truth. They would applaud, for it would be grand. He would
arise amongst those powerful men, more powerful than they. "I shall
appear as a torch-bearer, to show them truth; and as a sword-bearer, to
show them justice!" What a triumph!
And, building up these fantasies in his mind, clear and confused at the
same time, he had attacks of delirium,--sinking on the first seat he
came to; sometimes drowsy, sometimes starting up. He came and went,
looked at the ceiling, examined the coronets, studied vaguely the
hieroglyphics of the emblazonment, felt the velvet of the walls, moved
the chairs, turned over the parchments, read the names, spelt out the
titles, Buxton, Homble, Grundraith, Hunkerville, Clancharlie; compared
the wax, the impression, felt the twist of silk appended to the royal
privy seal, approached the window, listened to the splash of the
fountain, contemplated the statues, counted, with the patience of a
somnambulist, the columns of marble, and said,--
"It is real."
Then he touched his satin clothes, and asked himself,--
"Is it I? Yes."
He was torn by an inward tempest.
In this whirlwind, did he feel faintness and fatigue? Did he drink, eat,
sleep? If he did so, he was unconscious of the fact. In certain violent
situations instinct satisfies itself, according to its requirements,
unconsciously. Besides, his thoughts were less thoughts than mists. At
the moment that the black flame of an irruption disgorges itself from
depths full of boiling lava, has the crater any consciousness of the
flocks which crop the grass at the foot of the mountain?
The hours passed.
The dawn appeared and brought the day. A bright ray penetrated the
chamber, and at the same instant broke on the soul of Gwynplaine.
And Dea! said the light.
BOOK THE SIXTH.
_URSUS UNDER DIFFERENT ASPECTS._
WHAT THE MISANTHROPE SAID.
After Ursus had seen Gwynplaine thrust within the gates of Southwark
Jail, he remained, haggard, in the corner from which he was watching.
For a long time his ears were haunted by the grinding of the bolts and
bars, which was like a howl of joy that one wretch more should be
enclosed within them.
He waited. What for? He watched. What for? Such inexorable doors, once
shut, do not re-open so soon. They are tongue-tied by their stagnation
in darkness, and move with difficulty, especially when they have to give
up a prisoner. Entrance is permitted. Exit is quite a different matter.
Ursus knew this. But waiting is a thing which we have not the power to
give up at our own will. We wait in our own despite. What we do
disengages an acquired force, which maintains its action when its object
has ceased, which keeps possession of us and holds us, and obliges us
for some time longer to continue that which has already lost its motive.
Hence the useless watch, the inert position that we have all held at
times, the loss of time which every thoughtful man gives mechanically to
that which has disappeared. None escapes this law. We become stubborn in
a sort of vague fury. We know not why we are in the place, but we remain
there. That which we have begun actively we continue passively, with an
exhausting tenacity from which we emerge overwhelmed. Ursus, though
differing from other men, was, as any other might have been, nailed to
his post by that species of conscious reverie into which we are plunged
by events all important to us, and in which we are impotent. He
scrutinized by turns those two black walls, now the high one, then the
low; sometimes the door near which the ladder to the gibbet stood, then
that surmounted by a death's head. It was as if he were caught in a
vice, composed of a prison and a cemetery. This shunned and unpopular
street was so deserted that he was unobserved.
At length he left the arch under which he had taken shelter, a kind of
chance sentry-box, in which he had acted the watchman, and departed with
slow steps. The day was declining, for his guard had been long. From
time to time he turned his head and looked at the fearful wicket through
which Gwynplaine had disappeared. His eyes were glassy and dull. He
reached the end of the alley, entered another, then another, retracing
almost unconsciously the road which he had taken some hours before. At
intervals he turned, as if he could still see the door of the prison,
though he was no longer in the street in which the jail was situated.
Step by step he was approaching Tarrinzeau Field. The lanes in the
neighbourhood of the fair-ground were deserted pathways between enclosed
gardens. He walked along, his head bent down, by the hedges and ditches.
All at once he halted, and drawing himself up, exclaimed, "So much the
At the same time he struck his fist twice on his head and twice on his
thigh, thus proving himself to be a sensible fellow, who saw things in
their right light; and then he began to growl inwardly, yet now and then
raising his voice.
"It is all right! Oh, the scoundrel! the thief! the vagabond! the
worthless fellow! the seditious scamp! It is his speeches about the
government that have sent him there. He is a rebel. I was harbouring a
rebel. I am free of him, and lucky for me; he was compromising us.
Thrust into prison! Oh, so much the better! What excellent laws!
Ungrateful boy! I who brought him up! To give oneself so much trouble
for this! Why should he want to speak and to reason? He mixed himself up
in politics. The ass! As he handled pennies he babbled about the taxes,
about the poor, about the people, about what was no business of his. He
permitted himself to make reflections on pennies. He commented wickedly
and maliciously on the copper money of the kingdom. He insulted the
farthings of her Majesty. A farthing! Why, 'tis the same as the queen. A
sacred effigy! Devil take it! a sacred effigy! Have we a queen--yes or
no? Then respect her verdigris! Everything depends on the government;
one ought to know that. I have experience, I have. I know something.
They may say to me, 'But you give up politics, then?' Politics, my
friends! I care as much for them as for the rough hide of an ass. I
received, one day, a blow from a baronet's cane. I said to myself, That
is enough: I understand politics. The people have but a farthing, they
give it; the queen takes it, the people thank her. Nothing can be more
natural. It is for the peers to arrange the rest; their lordships, the
lords spiritual and temporal. Oh! so Gwynplaine is locked up! So he is
in prison. That is just as it should be. It is equitable, excellent,
well-merited, and legitimate. It is his own fault. To criticize is
forbidden. Are you a lord, you idiot? The constable has seized him, the
justice of the quorum has carried him off, the sheriff has him in
custody. At this moment he is probably being examined by a serjeant of
the coif. They pluck out your crimes, those clever fellows! Imprisoned,
my wag! So much the worse for him, so much the better for me! Faith, I
am satisfied. I own frankly that fortune favours me. Of what folly was I
guilty when I picked up that little boy and girl! We were so quiet
before, Homo and I! What had they to do in my caravan, the little
blackguards? Didn't I brood over them when they were young! Didn't I
draw them along with my harness! Pretty foundlings, indeed; he as ugly
as sin, and she blind of both eyes! Where was the use of depriving
myself of everything for their sakes? The beggars grow up, forsooth, and
make love to each other. The flirtations of the deformed! It was to that
we had come. The toad and the mole; quite an idyl! That was what went on
in my household. All which was sure to end by going before the justice.
The toad talked politics! But now I am free of him. When the wapentake
came I was at first a fool; one always doubts one's own good luck. I
believed that I did not see what I did see; that it was impossible, that
it was a nightmare, that a day-dream was playing me a trick. But no!
Nothing could be truer. It is all clear. Gwynplaine is really in
prison. It is a stroke of Providence. Praise be to it! He was the
monster who, with the row he made, drew attention to my establishment
and denounced my poor wolf. Be off, Gwynplaine; and, see, I am rid of
both! Two birds killed with one stone. Because Dea will die, now that
she can no longer see Gwynplaine. For she sees him, the idiot! She will
have no object in life. She will say, 'What am I to do in the world?'
Good-bye! To the devil with both of them. I always hated the creatures!
Die, Dea! Oh, I am quite comfortable!"
WHAT HE DID.
He returned to the Tadcaster Inn,
It struck half-past six. It was a little before twilight.
Master Nicless stood on his doorstep.
He had not succeeded, since the morning, in extinguishing the terror
which still showed on his scared face.
He perceived Ursus from afar.
"Well!" he cried.
"Is Gwynplaine coming back? It is full time. The public will soon be
coming. Shall we have the performance of 'The Laughing Man' this
"I am the laughing man," said Ursus.
And he looked at the tavern-keeper with a loud chuckle.
Then he went up to the first floor, opened the window next to the sign
of the inn, leant over towards the placard about Gwynplaine, the
laughing man, and the bill of "Chaos Vanquished;" unnailed the one, tore
down the other, put both under his arm, and descended.
Master Nicless followed him with his eyes.
"Why do you unhook that?"
Ursus burst into a second fit of laughter.
"Why do you laugh?" said the tavern-keeper.
"I am re-entering private life."
Master Nicless understood, and gave an order to his lieutenant, the boy
Govicum, to announce to every one who should come that there would be no
performance that evening. He took from the door the box made out of a
cask, where they received the entrance money, and rolled it into a
corner of the lower sitting-room.
A moment after, Ursus entered the Green Box.
He put the two signs away in a corner, and entered what he called the
Dea was asleep.
She was on her bed, dressed as usual, excepting that the body of her
gown was loosened, as when she was taking her siesta.
Near her Vinos and Fibi were sitting--one on a stool, the other on the
ground--musing. Notwithstanding the lateness of the hour, they had not
dressed themselves in their goddesses' gauze, which was a sign of deep
discouragement. They had remained in their drugget petticoats and their
dress of coarse cloth.
Ursus looked at Dea.
"She is rehearsing for a longer sleep," murmured he.
Then, addressing Fibi and Vinos,--
"You both know all. The music is over. You may put your trumpets into
the drawer. You did well not to equip yourselves as deities. You look
ugly enough as you are, but you were quite right. Keep on your
petticoats. No performance to-night, nor to-morrow, nor the day after
to-morrow. No Gwynplaine. Gwynplaine is clean gone."
Then he looked at Dea again.
"What a blow to her this will be! It will be like blowing out a candle."
He inflated his cheeks.
"Puff! nothing more."
Then, with a little dry laugh,--
"Losing Gwynplaine, she loses all. It would be just as if I were to lose
Homo. It will be worse. She will feel more lonely than any one else
could. The blind wade through more sorrow than we do."
He looked out of the window at the end of the room.
"How the days lengthen! It is not dark at seven o'clock. Nevertheless we
will light up."
He struck the steel and lighted the lamp which hung from the ceiling of
the Green Box.
Then he leaned over Dea.
"She will catch cold; you have unlaced her bodice too low. There is a
"'Though April skies be bright,
Keep all your wrappers tight.'"
Seeing a pin shining on the floor, he picked it up and pinned up her
sleeve. Then he paced the Green Box, gesticulating.
"I am in full possession of my faculties. I am lucid, quite lucid. I
consider this occurrence quite proper, and I approve of what has
happened. When she awakes I will explain everything to her clearly. The
catastrophe will not be long in coming. No more Gwynplaine. Good-night,
Dea. How well all has been arranged! Gwynplaine in prison, Dea in the
cemetery, they will be _vis-a-vis_! A dance of death! Two destinies
going off the stage at once. Pack up the dresses. Fasten the valise. For
valise, read coffin. It was just what was best for them both. Dea
without eyes, Gwynplaine without a face. On high the Almighty will
restore sight to Dea and beauty to Gwynplaine. Death puts things to
rights. All will be well. Fibi, Vinos, hang up your tambourines on the
nail. Your talents for noise will go to rust, my beauties; no more
playing, no more trumpeting 'Chaos Vanquished' is vanquished. 'The
Laughing Man' is done for. 'Taratantara' is dead. Dea sleeps on. She
does well. If I were she I would never awake. Oh! she will soon fall
asleep again. A skylark like her takes very little killing. This comes
of meddling with politics. What a lesson! Governments are right.
Gwynplaine to the sheriff. Dea to the grave-digger. Parallel cases!
Instructive symmetry! I hope the tavern-keeper has barred the door. We
are going to die to-night quietly at home, between ourselves--not I, nor
Homo, but Dea. As for me, I shall continue to roll on in the caravan. I
belong to the meanderings of vagabond life. I shall dismiss these two
women. I shall not keep even one of them. I have a tendency to become an
old scoundrel. A maidservant in the house of a libertine is like a loaf
of bread on the shelf. I decline the temptation. It is not becoming at
my age. _Turpe senilis amor_. I will follow my way alone with Homo. How
astonished Homo will be! Where is Gwynplaine? Where is Dea? Old comrade,
here we are once more alone together. Plague take it! I'm delighted.
Their bucolics were an encumbrance. Oh! that scamp Gwynplaine, who is
never coming back. He has left us stuck here. I say 'All right.' And
now 'tis Dea's turn. That won't be long. I like things to be done with.
I would not snap my fingers to stop her dying--her dying, I tell you!
See, she awakes!"
Dea opened her eyelids; many blind persons shut them when they sleep.
Her sweet unwitting face wore all its usual radiance.
"She smiles," whispered Ursus, "and I laugh. That is as it should be."
"Fibi! Vinos! It must be the time for the performance. I think I have
been asleep a long time. Come and dress me."
Neither Fibi nor Vinos moved.
Meanwhile the ineffable blind look of Dea's eyes met those of Ursus. He
"Well!" he cried; "what are you about? Vinos! Fibi! Do you not hear your
mistress? Are you deaf? Quick! the play is going to begin."
The two women looked at Ursus in stupefaction.
"Do you not hear the audience coming in?--Fibi, dress Dea.--Vinos, take
Fibi was obedient; Vinos, passive. Together, they personified
submission. Their master, Ursus, had always been to them an enigma.
Never to be understood is a reason for being always obeyed. They simply
thought he had gone mad, and did as they were told. Fibi took down the
costume, and Vinos the tambourine.
Fibi began to dress Dea. Ursus let down the door-curtain of the women's
room, and from behind the curtain continued,--
"Look there, Gwynplaine! the court is already more than half full of
people. They are in heaps in the passages. What a crowd! And you say
that Fibi and Vinos look as if they did not see them. How stupid the
gipsies are! What fools they are in Egypt! Don't lift the curtain from
the door. Be decent. Dea is dressing."
He paused, and suddenly they heard an exclamation,--
"How beautiful Dea is!"
It was the voice of Gwynplaine.
Fibi and Vinos started, and turned round. It was the voice of
Gwynplaine, but in the mouth of Ursus.
Ursus, by a sign which he made through the door ajar, forbade the
expression of any astonishment.
Then, again taking the voice of Gwynplaine,--
Then he replied in his own voice,--
"Dea an angel! You are a fool, Gwynplaine. No mammifer can fly except
And he added,--
"Look here, Gwynplaine! Let Homo loose; that will be more to the
And he descended the ladder of the Green Box very quickly, with the
agile spring of Gwynplaine, imitating his step so that Dea could hear
In the court he addressed the boy, whom the occurrences of the day had
made idle and inquisitive.
"Spread out both your hands," said he, in a loud voice.
And he poured a handful of pence into them.
Govicum was grateful for his munificence.
Ursus whispered in his ear,--
"Boy, go into the yard; jump, dance, knock, bawl, whistle, coo, neigh,
applaud, stamp your feet, burst out laughing, break something."
Master Nicless, saddened and humiliated at seeing the folks who had come
to see "The Laughing Man" turned back and crowding towards other
caravans, had shut the door of the inn. He had even given up the idea of
selling any beer or spirits that evening, that he might have to answer
no awkward questions; and, quite overcome by the sudden close of the
performance, was looking, with his candle in his hand, into the court
from the balcony above.
Ursus, taking the precaution of putting his voice between parentheses
fashioned by adjusting the palms of his hands to his mouth, cried out to
"Sir! do as your boy is doing--yelp, bark, howl."
He re-ascended the steps of the Green Box, and said to the wolf,--
"_Talk_ as much as you can."
Then, raising his voice,--
"What a crowd there is! We shall have a crammed performance."
In the meantime Vinos played the tambourine. Ursus went on,--
"Dea is dressed. Now we can begin. I am sorry they have admitted so
many spectators. How thickly packed they are!--Look, Gwynplaine, what a
mad mob it is! I will bet that to-day we shall take more money than we
have ever done yet.--Come, gipsies, play up, both of you. Come
here.--Fibi, take your clarion. Good.--Vinos, drum on your tambourine.
Fling it up and catch it again.--Fibi, put yourself into the attitude of
Fame.--Young ladies, you have too much on. Take off those jackets.
Replace stuff by gauze. The public like to see the female form exposed.
Let the moralists thunder. A little indecency. Devil take it! what of
that? Look voluptuous, and rush into wild melodies. Snort, blow,
whistle, flourish, play the tambourine.--What a number of people, my
He interrupted himself.
"Gwynplaine, help me. Let down the platform." He spread out his
pocket-handkerchief. "But first let me roar in my rag," and he blew his
nose violently as a ventriloquist ought. Having returned his
handkerchief to his pocket, he drew the pegs out of the pulleys, which
creaked as usual as the platform was let down.
"Gwynplaine, do not draw the curtain until the performance begins. We
are not alone.--You two come on in front. Music, ladies! turn, turn,
turn.--A pretty audience we have! the dregs of the people. Good
The two gipsies, stupidly obedient, placed themselves in their usual
corners of the platform. Then Ursus became wonderful. It was no longer a
man, but a crowd. Obliged to make abundance out of emptiness, he called
to aid his prodigious powers of ventriloquism. The whole orchestra of
human and animal voices which was within him he called into tumult at
He was legion. Any one with his eyes closed would have imagined that he
was in a public place on some day of rejoicing, or in some sudden
popular riot. A whirlwind of clamour proceeded from Ursus: he sang, he
shouted, he talked, he coughed, he spat, he sneezed, took snuff, talked
and responded, put questions and gave answers, all at once. The
half-uttered syllables ran one into another. In the court, untenanted by
a single spectator, were heard men, women, and children. It was a clear
confusion of tumult. Strange laughter wound, vapour-like, through the
noise, the chirping of birds, the swearing of cats, the wailings of
children at the breast. The indistinct tones of drunken men were to be
heard, and the growls of dogs under the feet of people who stamped on
them. The cries came from far and near, from top to bottom, from the
upper boxes to the pit. The whole was an uproar, the detail was a cry.
Ursus clapped his hands, stamped his feet, threw his voice to the end of
the court, and then made it come from underground. It was both stormy
and familiar. It passed from a murmur to a noise, from a noise to a
tumult, from a tumult to a tempest. He was himself, any, every one else.
Alone, and polyglot. As there are optical illusions, there are also
auricular illusions. That which Proteus did to sight Ursus did to
hearing. Nothing could be more marvellous than his facsimile of
multitude. From time to time he opened the door of the women's apartment
and looked at Dea. Dea was listening. On his part the boy exerted
himself to the utmost. Vinos and Fibi trumpeted conscientiously, and
took turns with the tambourine. Master Nicless, the only spectator,
quietly made himself the same explanation as they did--that Ursus was
gone mad; which was, for that matter, but another sad item added to his
misery. The good tavern-keeper growled out, "What insanity!" And he was
serious as a man might well be who has the fear of the law before him.
Govicum, delighted at being able to help in making a noise, exerted
himself almost as much as Ursus. It amused him, and, moreover, it earned
Homo was pensive.
In the midst of the tumult Ursus now and then uttered such words as
these:--"Just as usual, Gwynplaine. There is a cabal against us. Our
rivals are undermining our success. Tumult is the seasoning of triumph.
Besides, there are too many people. They are uncomfortable. The angles
of their neighbours' elbows do not dispose them to good-nature. I hope
the benches will not give way. We shall be the victims of an incensed
population. Oh, if our friend Tom-Jim-Jack were only here! but he never
comes now. Look at those heads rising one above the other. Those who are
forced to stand don't look very well pleased, though the great Galen
pronounced it to be strengthening. We will shorten the entertainment; as
only 'Chaos Vanquished' was announced in the playbill, we will not play
'Ursus Rursus.' There will be something gained in that. What an uproar!
O blind turbulence of the masses. They will do us some damage. However,
they can't go on like this. We should not be able to play. No one can
catch a word of the piece. I am going to address them. Gwynplaine, draw
the curtain a little aside.--Gentlemen." Here Ursus addressed himself
with a shrill and feeble voice,--
"Down with that old fool!"
Then he answered in his own voice,--
"It seems that the mob insult me. Cicero is right: _plebs fex urbis_.
Never mind; we will admonish the mob, though I shall have a great deal
of trouble to make myself heard. I will speak, notwithstanding. Man, do
your duty. Gwynplaine, look at that scold grinding her teeth down
Ursus made a pause, in which he placed a gnashing of his teeth. Homo,
provoked, added a second, and Govicum a third.
Ursus went on,--
"The women are worse than the men. The moment is unpropitious, but it
doesn't matter! Let us try the power of a speech; an eloquent speech is
never out of place. Listen, Gwynplaine, to my attractive exordium.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am a bear. I take off my head to address you. I
humbly appeal to you for silence." Ursus, lending a cry to the crowd,
Then he continued,--
"I respect my audience. Grumphll is an epiphonema as good as any other
welcome. You growlers. That you are all of the dregs of the people, I do
not doubt. That in no way diminishes my esteem for you. A
well-considered esteem. I have a profound respect for the bullies who