|Newspaper Title||Queanbeyan Age (NSW : 1867 - 1904)|
|Trove Title||The Bewitched King: An Episode in the History of Bohemia|
The Bewitched King; EPISODE IN THE HISTORY OF BOHEMIA b l1 By HAROLD W., STEPHNI o CHAPTER IV.' In the midst of the dark forest which stretches away fromi Prigueto the north,, r lay a small, still, ;like; o .sIude'dandi hemmed in by tall pine trees that it, fseemed altogether, removed* from the world, and fitted only for the use of the curlew and bitternl, and other birds of melancholy disposition.,) No joyous ripple ,ever disturbed its glassy surface; no fierce storm ever lashed its vters to frenzy : it was always calm and still and sombre-in fact, jnut such a place for a despairing lover, to prowl around and think of suicide. Fortunately, in the days when that lake rejoiced in its primeval loneliness, young 7eople had other things to do besides espairing and committing suicide : so the evil reputation which the place /undoubtedly possessed was not enhanced I by any such records of human folly. Nevertheless the peasantry of the district rejoiced in sn `iimple store of weird legends of the lake. It was supposed by them to be inhabited) by ?a iiiox of extraordinary beauty:,and, malevolenco, who had sung her iirei-iong-to many'a wanderer by its shore; andrlured many, a knight to a watery grave. But these peasants were all charcoal-burners, and charcoal-burners haye from time" immti morial been mixed up with sprites, gnomes, and demons, to such an extent that their evidence' can, scarcely be accepted as reliable in such inatters. On one point, however, therewasno doubt; at certain seasons the, ghost of a departed king, who had been foully murdered and thrown into the lake, arose from its waters like, O'Donoghue from Killarney, and indulged in a promenade a chevsZ over its moonlit surface. This ghost was born as the Elf-king, and its appearance was always attended with disaster to the royal family of Bohemia. In the centre 4f1 the lake, on .a little island, a former king, (the Elf-king, in fact) had caused a -hunting castle to be erected, and connected it with the main land by a long causeway, planted. with, lime and chestnut tress. This castle had-for some; time beenpa favourite resort of the Kings of Bohemia; but, since the Elf-king had taken it into his head to re-visit the scene of his death, it had been inhabitedo nly by its custo dian and his family,,_and. neither the. present king nor his predecessor had ever. set foot within its walls: Nevertheless it was this castle that King Johann Franz Amadeuis Rudolph Conrad Joseph Mario Heinrich Albrecht Friedrich Karl Moritz Nepomuoelected as the place for his cannibal feasts. His Majesty hoped that the evil reputation of the castle would serve to deter his royal spouse from seeking to accompany her lord on his expeditions ; and he was not disappointed, for, not only the Queen, but every lady of, the Court, solemnly declared that nothing would induce her to risk her person in such uncanny quarters. The King expressed his regret very politely, but neither offered to persuade the ladies to yield, nor consented to -give up the expedition; but, ;on.: the contrary despatched a stock of furniture and provisions in advance, and shortly after followed, with a retinue composediof five or six members of his.Prif Colincil,"mil a company of his body guards. Arrived at the castle,' His AMijesty, ent fora cook. t' : > . This important -fersonago was .n mani well on in years, of grave and reverend aspect-a man properly, respecting his calling, and having nothing in ,common with the modern cihef except the white headgear and apron of hia oflice. He entered the royal presence with" the confidence of a conscientious servant, neither faltering nor cringing, but resptect fully, as becamie a -man summoned to an interview with his royal master. Whens the usher had-left; the roomi the /King began :- - ecook.
sent here some days ago with the convoy -with that convoy were sixty-two babies. Did they arrive in safety ?" "They did, your Majesty, and are. carefully bestowed in the picture gallery, under the care of two of my assistants, who, being fathers themselves, know how to do what is needful for the little ones.". "'Tim well," said the King. "Know now what is to be the fate of. those' babies-we are going to eat them."' "Going to-what ! I" exclaimed the?. cook, surprised into forgetfulness of his' respect. " Surely I cannot have heard aright? Your Majesty never means to eat' these poor little creatures ?' " Question not, knave !" replied the :King' " It is thy duty to obey . ook me one , of those babies for supper this evening." "But, your Majesty" --pleaded the cook' "Letp u!" interrupted the King77" If then dost thy duty well thou shall have rich reward ;., but if thou., failest- toluok !": and his Majesty made a certain noise and gesture demonstrative of the ,procesas of hanging. What could the poor cook do'? He was in a tight place, and to save his neck was forced to promise oliedierice. "' All serene," said the Kings you do your work and act oii the square by me, and I'll do the square thing by you.' "I'll do my best,". replied the cook, "'but I have no experience in cooking babies. It is ticklish meat to meddle with, and I confess I don't see my way clear. How would they do 'stewed ,in poit wine sauce ?" The King shook his head. " The savages, I am told, always bake such meat. I should like mine baked, I think-with a roast apple in its mouth. "Your Majesty shall be obeyed," said the cook-"L must, however, crave the royal permission to dismember the babe before it comes to the table. I dare not let any of the servants know what lind of meat they are serving Even, your Majesty could not save me if the secret got abroad." " Be it so, replied the King-" We se4 the pull of your remarks, and give the permission to do what thou likest, so thou do not fail .to provide us with what we require. Comrie now-we will ourselves select s baby for the supper to-night." 'So saying the King proceeded to the * gallery, and, after dismissinig the atten dants, carefully chose out a fine plumb infant, which thi cook conveyed 'away .in a basket brought for the purpose. That night rthere was high revelry in the banqueting room of the castle, for His Majesty had supped famously off baked sucking pig (so the guests thought), and was in rare good humour. When the dessert came :on, howover, and the servants had left the room, the King enlightened his- convives informing them that what' they thduighit as sucking pig was in reality;baked baby. Then five noble' lords, who had j partaken of the: dish, -rose slowly and sadly from their seats, and silently stalked out of the hall, and a minute later five fo ris: miight have been seen d' loining over the battlements, and gazing , intently into the lake below. They were also otherwise-engaged, after. a fashion .which it is needless to particularise. The King stayed for a week at the e castle,,- and enjoyed himself hugoly, hunting all day and suppiig every i evening off ;baked sucking-pig \(as it was termed in the inenu), but none of the courtiers ever again evinced any disposi e tion to -sharo}.in His ,Majesty's dish. E perientia doesi it, soometimes. -