|Chapter Title||TO GRASP THE JEWELLED HAND OF POVERTY.|
|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||The King of No-Land|
CJAPTER VI. TO GRASP THE JEWELLED HAND OF POVERTY. Sassafras was king, and the loyal subjects of No-land threw up their caps. Things went on as usual, and notwithstanding the difference in the character of the ruler who ruled yester day.and the ruler who ruled to-day, everything to-day was the same as yesterday. Thousands of men were butchered in cold blood in the name of civilisation, fortunes were won and lost, swindlers made millions by lies and trickery, and strove to earn popularity by spending a little of their stolen money in a public way, and persons earned and lost .salvation according to circumstances. Sassafras was king. Everybody bowed and bent before him. His nobles listened with fervour to every breath he drew. Every beat of his pulse, every look, every motion, was indexed. When he went to bed and when he rose-when he yawned and when he sighed-how much he ate and how much he drank-when he sneezed and when he blew his royal nose-every word he spoke and its inflection-every twinge, every grim ace, every start, every smile-were recorded in the royal books by zealous servants for the enlightenment of future generations. 'Dear, dear!' he often exclaimed, 'why don't you let me alone ?' A pimple on his nose, a whitlow on his finger, a corn that troubled him a little, were national calamities. Every body talked of him, morning, noon, and night, and his ears were continually burning. He was public property, and no rest was given him. If he showed only the tip of his nose in the open air, he was run after, and pointed at, and cheered and cheered again and again. 'Dear, dear !' he cried, with his fingers in his ears, ' what a noise ! Is this the normal state of things in the public throughfares ? Are my subjects always screaming thus?' And as he rode along he bowed, as he had been taught, this way and that, until cricks came in his back, and he felt like a miserable dervish who had condemned himself to bend and bow until the last breath was out of him. He was compelled also to smile for such a length of time together that he felt as if his features were waxed into grim curves, and as if he should never be able to get the wrinkles out of his eyelids again. All this was very annoying and distasteful to him. Ac cordii:g to all human calculation, he ought to have been the happiest of the happy. It is but an additional proof of the perverseness of human nature although, to be sure, not one more is needed-that he was as discontented a mortal as could be found in his own kingdom of No-land. He had wit, intelligence, imagination, a good heart, and large sympathies. But he had no time to give practical shape to his best impulses. The duties of his position were so numerous and exacting that he had scarcely a moment he could call his own, unless he stole it, and then he was told everything went wrong and was turned topsy-turvy. 'I am the pivot then, my Lord Crabtree,' he said, ' upon which every thing turns ?' ' Upon which everything turns, your mostgracious Majesty,' gravely assented Lord Crabtree. You are the sun of the nation, the source of all light, honour, and happiness.' King Sassafras made a movement of impatience. He hal just breakfast, and Lord Crabtree, who held the post of Principal and Confidential Worryer, was attending on his royal master. 'My Lord Crabtree, it is a lovely morning.' 'Your Majesty, it is the king's weather. 'Even the weather, then, waits upon me.' Lord Crabtree moved his hands, expressing ' Who can doubt it ?' King Sassafras laughed lightly. ' King's weather ! Nonsense! It is everybody's weather.' 'It is well known, your most gracious Majesty, upon aii important occasions, that 'That-that-that-that, and there's an end to it. Don't prose. I should like to take a walk, and pay my respects to Nature-uunattended,my Lord Crabtree, unattended. I can speak to her more appropriately when 1 am alone. I have been wofully neglectful of the good mother, but she will smile upon me, I have no doubt.' 'Your Majesty, it is impossible.' 'Impossible, my lord ! Iam speaking of a lady.' 'Your Majesty, the lady must wait. 'My Lord Crabtree, you are in sufferably rude.' ' What your most gracious Majesty says cannot be disputed. But your Majesty has forgotten. In one hour from this you have to lay the founda. tion stone of a great institution for the perpetuation of pauperism. The cere mony is most important ; it will be a gay sight. The people are eager to see their monarch; all the bigwigs will be present; eight thousand flags will wave a welcome; two thousand and five hundred charity children will sing the national anthem-' 'In the blessed hope that they may one day find a shelter within the walls which we commence to raise this day. Good.' ' The golden trowel is ready ; I have seen it, your Majesty. It is inlaid with jewels of the first water. ' How appropriate to the purpose to which it is to be applied! To grasp the jewelled hand of poverty-- Well, as you say, my Lord Crabtree, the lady must wait. But I can visit herin the afternoon.' 'Pardon me, your Majesty. This afternoon you hlave to preside at a meeting of the Oldfogyarians, to hear the record of the precious discovery made by the Royal Snuftakers con cerning the exact date on which the death of King Musty took place. 'King Musty, who reigned in sorme out-of-the-way place more :han three thousand years ago! And the Royal
Snufitakers have been thirty years fixing the date I Drawing salaries all the time, and causing the snuff to rise in the market. Precious discovery indeed ! Worthy of my reign I My Lord Crabtree, answer me a question.' 'I am all ears, your most gracious Maje ty.' . 'You are not complimentary to yourself, my lord. Do you think that these thirty years of labour on the part of the Royal Snufftakers have been profitably spent ? Now do you ? Or do you think, as I do, that both time and money might have been better applied ?' ' Your most gracious Majesty, it is time to dress for the foundation stone.' ' But answer me, my lord. I will put it another way. Is not the well-being of those who live to-day of more im portance than those who lived three thousand years ago?' (to be continued).