|Chapter Title||NO EXAMPLE OF MINE SHALL EVER WEAKEN OR DEGRADE IN MY PEOPLE'S EYES THE SANCTITY OF THE MARRIAGE BON|
|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||The King of No-Land|
THE KING. OF NO-LAND. BY B. L. FARJEON. CHAPTER VIII. NO EXAMPLE OF MINE SHALL EVER WEAKEN. OR DEGRADE IN 3MY PEOPLE'S EYES THE SANCTITY OF THE MARRIAGE BOND ! The nation was in a state of extreme dejection. King Sassafras was indis posed. Bulletins were flying all over No-land, and a hundred editors were writing leading articles upon the sub ject of the King's illness. Fresh editions of all the principal newspapers were published every hour, containing such information as ' His most gracious Majesty still remains in the same con dition;' 'The pain in his most gracious Majesty's head continues unabated;' ' His most gracious Majesty is no worse;' ' His most gracious Majesty is no bet ter;' 'No change to report;' 'His most gracious Majesty has eaten his din ner ;' In this way the appetite and anxiety of the King Sassafras were in some measure appeased. And all this while, King Sassafras, quite unaware of the excitement he was creating, was laughing in his sleeve. He was shamming illness, not for the first time, for the purpose of having a few hours' quietude. He saw no other way of being let alone for a short while. There was not the least cause for anxiety. He was as well in health as you and I are, but he was wearied almost to death by the fetes and cere monies given in honour of the King of Kings, and in which he had to play so prominent a part. He had during all that time been disgusted with himself for having had to do this and that in the way of pumped-up hospitality to this barbarian ; for, entertaining as he did a profound contempt for this man, and a profound horror of his ideas and notions, Sassafras would have been inclined to teach him a very differ ent lesson from that he must have learned during his visit. However, on this point he had, if he wanted any peace, to keep his opinion to himself, and he was heartily glad when the barbarian ruler quitted the shores of No-land, and the absurd and senseless pomp was at an end. He was now alone in his private apartment. Books and papers were scattered on the floor and on the sofa on which he was lying. He had been reading for fully two hours, and his desire that he should be undisturbed had thus far been obeyed. On the features, as he read, were exhibited signs of doubt and perplexity, and he was so deeply interested in his pursuit as not to hear a knock at the door, thrice repeated. Presently, with caution and timidity, the door was opened. ' Your most gracious Majesty-' It was Lord Crabtree who spoke. The King looked up and frowned. Then he remembered that he was sick, and he put his hand to his head and groaned. Lord Crabtree's face assumed an expression of mostanxious sympathy. 'Your Majesty still suffers, I regret to see.' King Sassafras groaned again, and shifted his position fretfully. ' Will your most gracious Majesty see the royal physicians ? ' No, my lord. Repose is what I require-perfect repose. Solitude is the only medicine that can do me good -with no one to worry me-with no old chatterpate to set my head a-singing.' Lord Crabtree did not take the hint -being too dull, perhaps, to under stand it. 'The royal physicians have held a consultation upon the state of your Majesty's health.' ' That is the fifth to-day. Dear ! dear ! Why do they trouble themselves so much ?' ' The trouble's a pleasure,' said Lord Crabtree, quoting a common form of politeness, and unaware of its inappro priateness on the present occasion. 'They say that your gracious Majesty reads too much.' 'The royal physicians are a set of very-worthy fellows. But tell me, my Lord Crabtree, should not a king make himself acquainted with what goes on in his kingdom ?' 'It is scarcely necessary, your Majesty,' replied Lord Crabtree; 'your Majesty is in the happy position of being spared the trouble of thinking. You are surrounded by servants who joyfully take that labour upon them selves.' 'Servants such as yourself, my Lord Crabtree.' 'Such as myself, your Majesty.' 'Servants who cut and measure my life as a tailor cuts and measures his cloth. But we live two lives, my lord.' 'I do not understand your gracious Majesty.' ' An outer and an inner life. My outer life you may cut, and measure and snip; but my inner life'-and King Sassafras touched his head and his heart-' is my own, and no tape of yours shall ever measure it.' Lord Crabtree bowed, vainly striving to banish the look of alarm which had overspread his features when King Sassafras had touched his forehead. 'Therefore, continued the King, ' I deem it necessary to learn what my subjects are doing-how arts and learn ing progress, or whether they do pro gress-how my subjects amuse them selves-what changes are being made in the social life- whether the people are contented-and what views are held by different classes. How am I to gain this knowledge ? But through one medium that I can see-printed paper. Books and newspapers. See -here they are.' Sassafras looked round wearily, and repeated. 'Books and newspapers I Books and news papers I My Lord Crabtree, they are sufficient to drive a weak mind to idiocy. I have read and read until I am perfectly bewildered. The fever of this life is to much for me. I am racked with anxiety. I am torn to pieces by doubt. The past and the future weigh me down. What now is the present to me? Yesterday I was a monkey, and to-morrow I shall have no coals to burn !' Sassafras walked about the room with a disturbed air; but presently, seeing Lord Crabtree's anxious eyes watching him, he laughed merrily, andL clapping the old nobleman on the shokulder, said in agay tone,n
' Nevermind my wild words, my lord; Hings must have their humours.' - ' Your 'Majesty's merry mood delights me.' 'A..true courtier's .speech.. But come; my lord, you .had a motive in intruding upon me.' ' Indeed, your majesty, if I might make so bold- ' ' To the point, my lord ; to the point. Your motive.' But it was impossible for Lord Crabtree to come to the point without going round about. It is the way of such. ' If it might please your Majesty to forgive your loyal servant and subject ' You are forgiven. Proceed.' ' I would humbly crave an audience to speak with your privately upon a subject most important to yourself and to the nation-a vital subject your Majesty.' ' Therefore an unpleasant one.' 'Not at all, your Majesty,' said Lord Crabtree, with a giggle. ' Pleas ant and joyful! Pleasant and joyful ! ' Pleasant and joyful ! name it.' With a preparatory smack of his lips, Lord Crabtree replied, ' Marriage.' King Sassafras looked thoughtfully and gravely at his confidential Worryer. ' A pleasant and sacred subject, my lord. I will'listen to what you have to say.' The King settled himself comfortably in an easy-chair. Lord Crabtree, thus encouraged, cleared his throat and proceeded. 'Your most gracious Majesty's health is not good.' 'Truly, my lord; I suffer much. What has that to do with the subject in hand ?' 'Your Majesty, marriage is good for the health.' 'Ah ! and I am to take it as if it were a pill.' 'Your Majesty's wit is transcendant. Will your Majesty, looking upon me for the nonce in the light of a physician -and I may consider myself one of this subject, having lived matrimonally for seven-and-twenty years-con descend to explain to me the ordinary symptoms of your sickness ?' 'My symptoms ! Let me think. First, my lord, a general weariness.' 'Good-good. A disinclination for society.' ' Especially for society that bores me. A desire for solitude-a wish that I could shut the door upon the world, and be let alone. Then an inclination to make myself disagreeable, from which I am -sure, my lord, you have suffered much. Then a general peevishness, and a tendency to believe that most things are wrong.' ' As I expected, your Majesty. A complete disorganisation of the system.' 'Precisely. Leading me to take distorted views of things. As, for instance, that absurd comparison of mine the other day concerning the Garden and the Present. You must have been much astonished, my lord at my wild words.' 'I was, your Majesty I was. I have thought seriously and deeply upon your Majesty's remarks about that garden-have put all my mind to them-and I have been unable to arrive at an understanding of them.' ' I do not wonder at it, my lord. Are my symptoms such as you im agined ?' 'Your Majesty, they tally exactly with the diagnosis I have made of your Majesty's health. And the royal physicians are with me.' ' And you still prescribe -' ' Marriage, your Majesty. The pleasantest medicine !' ' Have you found it so, my lord ?' Lord Crabtree winced slightly. 'Lady Crabtree and I are of one mind upon that, your Majesty. No thing could have been better nothing could have been better.' But his voice was not remarkable for cheer fullness as he made the declaration. 'I desire no greater happiness,' said King Sassafras, in a musing tone, 'than to mate with one to whom my heart is drawn. A partnership of hearts and souls, my lord, as well as of hands. Heaven upon earth must be realised in the perfect joy of such an union.' Lord Crabtree listened with delight. All was going on swimmingly. 'The wisest man, your Majesty, that ever lived The fussy fidgety manner of Lord Crabtree changed the King's humour. 'Surely the man lives not in my kingdom my lord ? His name ?' 'The great King Solomon, your Majesty. He, who knew how to rightly estimate all things, spoke in favour of matrimony.' ' Gave his vote for it. I cannot call to mind the manner or the matter of his testimony.' 'Did he not say that a virtuous woman was a crown of something to her husband? I forget the precise words.' ' Something in the jewel way, doubt less, as a woman was in question. He should have known the value of a wife. He had a thousand who ought to have stood to him in that connection.' ' Has your Majesty ever given the matter a thought ?' inquired Lord Crabtree. 'I have, my lord; many and many a dream have I indulged in, in which I have pictured the pure delights which wait on mutual love. Is it possible that such happiness can ever be mine ?' He rose and paced the room with an agitated air. 'Can it ever, ever be?' Or am I doomed to be denied the sweetest blessing which life contains ? My lord I can see the woman I would fain call my queen.' 'See her, your Majesty 1' and Lord Crabtree looked about him anxiously, in the fear that some fair nymph was concealed behind the curtains. 'She is here, my lord,' said King Sassafras, touching his forehead, and, relieved of his fears, Lord Crabtree gave a sigh of relief. 'If one could flndhernow I And if.there was no obstacle in the way ' He paused before Lord Crabtree, and the old courtier leant forward, and rubbed his hands to ani fro upon his kneee, and clucked like an old hen. ' What obstacle can there be in your way,. your Majesty? What other geot.eman can choose as your Majesty can choose5 with the cei tinty of being
blessed ? Not that but the lady will be much more:blessed. A happy, happy lady I A queen whom all will envy I' And Lord Crabtree rubbed his hands more vigorously upon his shaky old knees. King Sassafras gazed upon him with suspicion. 'I do not understand, my lord.' ' If one could find her now!' chuckled Lord Crabtree. 'If one could find her now ! That is what your Majesty said. He! he ! he!' And having had his wheezy old laugh out, Lord Crabtree whispered confidentially, 'Your Majesty, we have found her !' The King started back, and his face grew pale. ' You have found her!' he echoed. Lord Crabtree was so enthusiastic in his purpose that he did not observe the expression on his royal master's countenance. ' We have found her, your Majesty ! A Princess in whose veins runs the blood of half a hundred kings. A Princess who will add honour and lustre even to the House of Sassafras. A Princess who----' (to be continued).