Page:Man Who Laughs (Estes and Lauriat 1869) v1.djvu/211

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179
MISANTHROPY PLAYS ITS PRANKS.

The man could not have raised himself on tiptoe. The van was just his height.

"Come in!" said the man, who was Ursus. The boy entered.

"Put down your bundle."

The boy placed his burden carefully on the top of the chest, for fear of awakening and terrifying his charge.

The man continued: "How gently you put it down! You could not be more careful if it were a case of relics. Are you afraid of tearing a hole in your rags? What are you doing in the streets at this hour, you vagabond? Who are you? Answer! But, no; I forbid you to answer. You are cold; warm yourself as quick as you can," and he shoved him by the shoulders in front of the fire.

"How wet you are! You're frozen through! A nice state you are in to enter a man's house! Take off those rags, you villain!" and as he hastily tore off the boy's rags with one hand, with the other he took down from a nail a man's shirt, and one of those knitted jackets which are up to this day called kiss-me-quicks. "Here are some clothes," he added gruffly. He picked up a woollen rag, and chafed before the fire the limbs of the exhausted and bewildered child, who at that moment felt as if he were seeing and touching heaven. The limbs having been rubbed, the man next wiped the boy's feet.

"You're all right!" he exclaimed. "I was fool enough to fancy you had frozen your hind-legs or fore-paws. You will not lose the use of them this time. Dress yourself!"

The boy put on the shirt, and the man slipped the knitted jacket over it.

"Now—" The man pushed the stool forward and made the boy sit down; then he pointed with his finger