|Chapter Title||THE THREE SMALL FIDDLERS, IRIS, LUCERNE, AND DAISY.|
|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||The King of No-Land|
CHAPTER VII. THE THREE SMALL FIDDLERS, IRIS, LUCERNE, AND DAISY. But chafing as he did most bitterly at the bondage in which he was held, he contrived to steal a few hours privacy now and then. In a retired part of the grounds around the Palace he ordered a pretty lodge to be built; it was small and was comfortably fitted up; locks of an ingenious and peculiar fashion were made, and as no one possessed a key but himself, no other person could enter the retreat. He caused it to be distinctly understood that when he went to the lodge he was not, under any pretence whatev, r, to be disturbed, and so absolute and determined was he in this respect that those about him were compelled to obey his command. 'Let me but discover,' he said, with stern emphasis, ' that I am watched or observed, and I will take proper means to punish the spy.' They knew, from his tone, that he was not to be trifled with. There were two entrances to the lodge, one in front, one at the back. The trees in front of the building were somewhat thinly scattered, but those at the back were close and thick. From a distance the King. could be seen en tering the lodge by the front entrance, but no person, unless he was set es pecially to watch, could see him emerge from it by the back door, which he generally did a few minutes after enter ing the lodge. Here, having provided himself with suitable 'clothes, he trans formed himself from a king into a very common person, and in this disguise he
went wherever his fancy took him. It took him soon after he was crowned to the school which Colisfoot -kept in the village, A hundred boys and girls were busily employed in producing that babel of sound, without which common children cannot learn to spell r.a-t rat, c-a-t cat, and so on, when Sassafras presented himself at the door. The sunlight was streaming scross the desk by which Coltsfoot sat, serious and thoughtful as usual. He started up when he saw Sassafras, and ran towards him with eager gladness. 'Welcome! Welcome !' he cried. 'How you have grown I Now you will have plenty to tell me. Are you going to stay at home? Are your travels over ?' 'Yes,' answered Sassafras, as they stood with their hands upon each other's shoulders, gazing affectionately into each other's eyes; 'and I will see you as often as I can.' Thus the old intercourse was re newed, and the old friendship, which had never been broken, came into active play again. Sassafras had taken the precaution to have his clothes made of such material as ordinary people use, and he managed cleverly enough to thoroughly preserve his incognito. How he spent his stolen hours, which were not many, need not here be set down in detail. He went about with Coltsfoot, and learnt many things of which he would have been entirely ignorant had he confined himself to the routine of duties and pleasures which belonged to his kingly office. He renewed his acquaintanceship with Ragged Robin, who was a woodman now, as his father was before him, with Coltsfoot's mother, Dame Endive, and with Bluebell, who had grown into a beautiful girl, bright, joyous, happy, and as innocent as a bird. Ragged Robin had become more than ever learned in the life of the woods; he could shut his eyes, and show you more marvels than you had ever dreamt of. With his father's axe he had inherited his father's grievance the sigh for two shillings a week more. Now, to speak the truth, and to state the case exactly as it stood, Robin really was receiving precisely two shil lings a week more than his father had received; but this did not matter-it was two shillings a week more than he wanted. Will this grievance, which has a general application, ever be reme died, and will the world ever be set right in this respect ? With the three small fiddlers, Iris, Lucerne, and Daisy, Sassafras contr ieted a great friendship; they did not recognise him as the per son who had addressed them in the churchyard, for he had disguised his voice on that occasion, and lie was covered with his large cloak from head to foot. When they saw him coming they would run to the door, and Daisy would leap into his arms, and Lucerne would take tight hold of the hem of his coat, and wouldn't let go, and Iris would welcome him in her quieter fashion. These three little maidens were deeply in love with him, and it was arranged that when Daisy and Lucerne grew up he should marry them both, and set the laws of No-land at defiance. IfI were to tell you that in his lodge the King of No-land kept private sweetmeats, with which he would cram his pockets when he went to see these three small children, whose boots were patched, and whose socks and stockings were darned and darned until they had lost all likeness of their original selves, you would scarcely be lieve it perhaps; but it is true, never theless, and true, also, that some of the very pleasantest hours in his life were passed in the society of these humble little maidens, who, at his bidding. would stand before him and play their sweetest melodies. It was a scene worth witnessing, and had it become known that Sassafras, King of No-land could be seen on certain occasions sit ting on a stool in the kitchen listening to the fiddling of these poor children, a large number of persons would doubtless have assembled outside the house. Just about that time, the newspapers of No-land were filled with accounts of the approaching vi-it of a barbarian king, who reigned over an insignificant number of persons in a far-di-tant land. This king, who had never been out of his own country, and who had the miserable presumption to call him self the King of Kings, as though he were JEHOVAIH, was an arrogant, proud, and tyrannical ruler, in whose presence his subjects trembled as they would have trembled before the might and majesty of God. He held their lives literally in the palm of his hand, and his nod was suifficient to cause a thousand heads to be struck off. He had nothing to recommend him; he was sullen, narrow-minded, insolent, and indescribably dirty in his habits. Nevertheless, it was deemed necessary for State reasons to receive and enter tain him, as though in his person were to be found the embodiment of all the virtues and the le-sonification ofall those great qualities by which man kind is ennobled. Therefore, this miserable King of Kings was received and worshipped as though he were truly a God, and if his pride and arro gance needed strengthening, he could not have come to abetter place. Guns thundered, music played, soldiers marched, flags waved, and the streets were crowded in his honour, and as the barbarian was drawn in a stately car riage here and there to grand entertain ments, heralded by trumpets, sur rounded by obsequi3us magnificence, his handsome tawny face, if it can be said to have had any expression, bore on it an expression which said, 'It is well; all this flattery, all this bending and bowing, all this grovelling and fawning, prove to me, if I needed proof, that I, the ignorant barbarian, am something more than human, and that you are as dirt beneath my feet. There are in me divine attributes which you might search for in vain among the hordes of common people who assemble to do me honour.' He wore a hat which blazed with costly diamonds and otherjewels, such as had never before been seen within so small a compass, and those men and women in No-land who led the fashion and constituted 'society' gazed with awe and worship upon the glittering mass, and many among them would have been glad of the opportunity to fall down and kiss the dirty feet of him who wore them. Not in the most solemn
moment, nor on the most sacred occa sions of their lives, never in their homes nor in their churches, had their minds been filled with such worshipping adoration. (to be continued).