The King's Mirror

Publisher: DigiLibraries.com
ISBN: N/A
Language: English
Published: 1 week ago
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CHAPTER I.

A PIOUS HYPERBOLE.

Before my coronation there was no event in childhood that impressed itself on my memory with marked or singular distinction. My father's death, the result of a chill contracted during a hunting excursion, meant no more to me than a week of rooms gloomy and games forbidden; the decease of King Augustin, my uncle, appeared at the first instant of even less importance. I recollect the news coming. The King, having been always in frail health, had never married; seeing clearly but not far, he was a sad man: the fate that struck down his brother increased his natural melancholy; he became almost a recluse, withdrew himself from the capital to a retired residence, and henceforward was little more than a name in which Prince von Hammerfeldt conducted the business of the country. Now and then my mother visited him; once she brought back to me a letter from him, little of which I understood then, although I have since read often the touching words of his message. When he died, there was the same gloom as when my father left us; but it seemed to me that I was treated a little differently; the servants stared at me, my mother would look long at me with a half-admiring, half-amused expression, and Victoria let me have all her toys. In Baroness von Krakenstein (or Krak, as we called her) alone, there was no difference; yet the explanation came from her, for when that evening I reached out my little hand and snatched a bit of cake from the dish, Krak caught my wrist, saying gravely,

"Kings must not snatch, Augustin."

"Victoria, what do you get when you are a king?" I asked my sister that night. I was hardly eight, she nearing ten, and her worldly wisdom seemed great.

"Oh, you have just what you want, and do what you like, and kill people that you don't like," said she. "Don't you remember the Arabian Nights?"

"Could I kill Krak?" I asked, choosing a concrete and tempting illustration of despotic power.

Victoria was puzzled.

"She'd have to do something first, I suppose," she answered vaguely. "I should have been queen if you hadn't been born, Augustin." Her tone now became rather plaintive.

"But nobody has a queen if they can get a king," said I serenely.

It is the coronation day that stands out in memory; the months that elapsed between my accession and that event are merged in a vague dimness. I think little difference was made in our household while we mourned the dead King. Krak was still sharp, imperious, and exacting. She had been my mother's governess, and came with her from Styria. I suppose she had learned the necessity of sternness from her previous experience with Princess Gertrude, for that lady, my mother, a fair, small, slim woman, who preserved her girlishness of appearance till the approach of middle age, was of a strong and masterful temper. Only Krak and Hammerfeldt had any power over her; Krak's seemed the result of ancient domination, the Prince's was won by a suave and coaxing deference that changed once a year or thereabouts to stern and uncompromising opposition....