|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||The King of No-Land|
THE KING OF NO-LAND. BY B. L. FABJEON. CHAPTE? XIL-continued. They smiled; except to the mind of Lord Crabtree this was not a serious matter. 'O, that is easily arranged,' they said to one another. A Prelate, high in the Church, was present; and he, by his silence, acquiesced in the easy view they took of the matter. Not a word had he to say in opposition. 'But,' said Lord Crabtree, 'suppose his Majesty contemplates anything serious.' 'Nonsense, nonsense,' they ex claimed ; 'such a thing is impossible unheard of.' 'Still,' continued Lord Crabtree, 'if your lordships will empower me to speak to his Majesty upon the subject-' 'Yes, yes ; speak to him,' they said, before they broke up, 'and show him how easily these matters can be settled both to his and the lady's satis faction.' Lord Crabtree waited upon his Majesty, and explained that he had been commissioned to speak with reference to a few words that had dropped from his Majesty's lips. He was not allowed, however, to proceed far. 'I have heard your views on this subject before to-day,' said Sassafras; 'they are unchanged, I presume.' 'They are the views of the whole body of your counsellors, your Majesty,' replied Lord Crabtree. 'Ltt me put a case to you,' said Sassafras, 'a case that occurs to my mind just now. Say that a king any king ; select an imaginary one, if it pleases you-loved a lady far below him in position, but far above him in all those higher qualities which religion teaches us are of more precious value than wealth or worldly station. Say that she was intelligent, modest, truthful, innocent, and pure ; say that in her unsullied breast resided those qualities of perfect goodness which bring human nature as near as it can be brought to the divine attri. bute. Say that she loved this king, and that he loved her. Could he marry her ?' 'Only in one way, your Majesty,' replied Lord Crabtree. 'There is but one way of marrying,' said Sassafras sternly, 'and I ask you whether in this right way, sanctioned by God and by the words of His priests, this king could marry this woman ?' 'I am glad,' said Lord Crabtree tremulously and gravely, 'that your Majesty has ynt before me only a suppositious case. Indeed, it could not be otherwise.' 'Answer me plainly, my lord.' 'Such a marriage would be distinctly impossible, your Majesty.' 'That is enough, my lord ; I asked but for information. I have nothing more to say.' Caa rEp XIII. OLD HUMANITY. On the appointed . day the repre sentatives of the Quamoclits and Whortleberries had audience of the King. With a rare exercise of wisdom, they had elected as their spokesman one of the most intelligent and con. sistent of the Reformers. At the important meeting at which this man was chosen, some noisy partisans put forward their claims for election to the office. Bugloss, a frothy and insincere demagogue, was especially violent in the representation of his claims, but he was set aside by the shrewd chiefs of the party, who knew what kind of stake they were playing for. The spokesman upon whom their votes fell would have commanded respect in any assembly. He was an old man, who in his younger days had become a stanch Republican from conviction not the conviction that is inspired by the infliction of a personal injury or a personal injustice, but that which emanates from a large and compre hensive view of humanity. Born amongthe people, and living among them, he had made himself intimately acquainted with the condition of their lives, with their struggles, their limited desires, their modest aspirations. He was conversant with their virtues and their vices, and in tbe views he expressed of these extremes he was almost a philosopher. Every action of his life spoke in his favor; he was a conscientious workman, a temperate liver, and had never been known to lie or to commit a dishonest action. He was fixed in his belief that Royalty was a bad institution, and that its existance gave birth to pernicious personal ambition, in the carrying out of which the lower classes of people were made to suffer. He had been asked on many occasions to go publicly among the people, and advocate his views, but he had consistently refused. 'When the right time comes,' he said, 'better men than I will rise to lead you.' But even his calm temperament had been stirred by the recent agitations, and when he was waited upon by a deputation, and was told that the choice of the people had fallen upon him as their spokesman, he allowed himself to be prevailed upon, and consented to accompany the deputation in that capacity. Old Humanity was the name by which he was generally known among the lower classes. To the palace came this old man, in his working clothes, accompanien by a mixed assembly, chiefly composed of Quamoclits and Whortleberries. .Many of the men were hot and dusty, having carried heavy banners through the streets. Outside the palace a huge concourse of people was gathered, waiting to hear the result of the inter view. They were perfectly orderly and peaceful. Sassafras received the deputation in the great hall of the palace; behind him stood his counsellore, among whom was Lord Crabtree, fidgety, and fretful, and ainxions. The thoughtful melan choly face of the King evidentally surprised Old Humanity, as'he stepped forward ; but he set aside all sentiment, and proceeded steadily with the task before him. This man was a born orator, and the theme on which he spoke was one in which the whole strength rotrhis heart and mind was enli-ted.- He had come well armed with facts and with an army of injusatices which he
said would take a week to narrate. He selected the strongest instances, and laid them before the King. By means of contrast he drew powerful and startling pictures. Not new ones ; old as the hills almost were they, but they were faithful transcriptions. Here, the very extreme of physical want, and destitution; there, the very extreme of undeserved luxury and ease. Ignorance, crime, and squalor on the one side; intellectual wealth and material splendour on the other. He even went so far, in his preliminary remarks, as to show how one man was forced to earn damnation, while his brother rode in his carriage to sal vation. He insisted that, as it was no fault or merit of the child whether he was born in St. Giles or St. James, it was the imperative duty of the State to act in some part as the father instead of the gaoler of the unfortunate; he argued that, if this were done wisely and judiciously, there would in time be no such place as St Giles; and'he said that the difference between classes was so appallingly wide as to be a crime in the eyes of God and humanity. He illustrated every step of his argument; from his mind he drew logic-from6 his heart he drew pity. He quoted largely from Christ and from religious teachings. He had brought with him extracts from the sermons of living divines, and he placed practice side by side with pre- cept. Here are such and such ut terances, he said ; here are such and such facts ; and he asked the King to reconcile them. He spoke of the struggles. of great numbers of the laboring classes, which every now and then forced themselves to the surface; he gave a true history of the personal condition of the agricultural laborers and of the miserable condition of their lives; he drew a painful picture of children brought up in the brickyards and the gutters, and who were com pelled to suck in degradation with their5 mothers' milk ; he declared that there never was a period in the world's history in which the lust for money and power was producing such baneful effects as at present ; and after travel ling over much ground which there is not space here to touch upon, he came to his peroration, in which he stated his honest conviction that the monarchical institution had proved itself to be utterly inadequate to remedy these evils. This lame and inadequate description of his speech, which occupied an hour in its delivery, must be accepted; .but no words could do justice to the man's eloquence and fire and sincerity. When he concluded, murmurs of delighted approval broke out among the auditors in the body of the hall; then there was silence for many moments, during which all eyes were turned towards the King. His face was hidden from them, and when he raised it, something like a clear light shone in his eyes. 'I have listened to you patiently,' he said, in a low sad tone, 'and you have told me many things of which I was ignorant. I require time for self communion; come to-morrow to the palace, at this hour, and you shall receive my reply.' He bowed to them, and they departed. Then without a word to his counsellors, who crowded anxiously about him, he waved them aside, and retired to his private apartment. Had any person been present in the rear of the King's lodge at about ten o'clock that night, he might have seen a man emerge from the door. The night was dark, and the man stood for a little while, with the handle of the door in his hand, peering into the darkness. Then he locked the door, and threw the key among the distant trees. He was commonly dressed, and was evidentally anxious not to be observed. He turned towards the palace, and waved a farewell to it, and with a strange expression on his face, and a sigh which seemed to lift a heavy weight from his heart, and yet had in it a sound of pain aid weariness, he plunged into the wo.d, and crept stealthily away. On the following day, at the time set dlown by the King, the Quamoclits and Whortleberries, headed by Old Humanity, made their way to the palace. Their numbers were more numerous than on the previous oc casion. There could not have been fewer than a hundred thousand persons congregated in the open spaces round about the palace. The deputation was received by Lord Crabtree and his fellows. In Lord Crabtree's hand was a sealed letter. Addressing Old Humanity, the courtier said, 'I have received a communication from his most gracious Majesty this morning, in which he desires me to hand you this letter as his answer. His Majesty says that you are to open the letter and read it aloud here. Perhaps it will be as well--perhaps it will be as well.' Old Humanity took the -letter from Lord Crabtree's hand. From where he was standing many of the deputation could not see him. 'Stand upon the dais,' they shouted, 'so that we can all see and hear.' Lord Crabtree placed himself in Old Humanity's way. 'It cannot be permitted,' he said; 'it cannot be permitted. This is royal ground.' Old Humanity,. pushing steadily forward, replied;. . 'The King says that I am toread the contents alood to all the people. This is the only elevation from which I can obey the King's command.' Lord Crabtree was compelled to give way, and Old Humanity stood in the place which the King had occupied the previous day. He opened the letter, and every person in the vast hall inclined his head to hear what the King had written. The court para sites, of whom a larger number were now present, were as anxious as the people. 'This is what King Sassafras writes,' cried Old Humanity, in a inging tone: 'I have pondered seriously over the words you, as representative of the o~ple, havre addressed to-me, and I recogisa tj ~ justice ofyour complaint.. I believe tJhat your grievances are not and- eal' Sir inetant' remedy. What
personal feeling influences me in the decision I have come to it is not neces sary here to state; but my conscience tells me that if I, as King, am respon sible for the thousandth part of the miseries and injustices which you have placed before me with so much power and eloquence, I should not, now that I am made acquainted with them, deserve to live another hour if in my own person I continued to per petuate them. You tell me that if the people of No-land were to be governed by themselves, these evils would soon be remedied, and justice would be done. In God's name, let justice be done but let there be no violence, no blood shed. Into the people's hands I ,re ig my crown, and what power and aitbr ity they suppose I have possessed. I enjoin the nobles of my co d-ourt o nothing to obstruct my wish-if they do, I can at any moment return and punish them for their disobedience. It will be useless seeking for me ; they will not find me. From this day the people of No-land are to be governed by the people. Most cheerfully do I resign my office, and most humbly do I pray for a realisation of your noble aspirations. (To be continued).