|Newspaper Title||Mercury and Weekly Courier (Vic. : 1878 - 1903)|
|Trove Title||The King of No-Land|
CHAPTER XVII. Sassafras was not permitted to remain long in doubt of Old Humanity's intentions. Within a week after Christmas he saw from his cottage window a group of persons approaching, led by Coltsfoot. They had timed their visit well, choosing the mid-hour of the day, when he generally spent an hour at home. Bluebell was in the room, and, seeing marks of disturbance on her husband's face, she came close to his side with looks of anxious af fection. Following the direction of his gaze, she saw-the persons upon whom his eyes were fixed. 'They are coming here,' she said. 'I am afrail so,' he muttered. 'Have you anything to fear from them ?' she asked apprehensively. 'Much. My happiness is in their hands.' She did not understand his words, but they filled her with alarm. 'One word, Bluebell,' he said hurredly. 'Has your married life been a happy one ?' 'Can you ask ? Can you ask ?' she exclaimed. 'O my darling, what is the meaning of this change in you?' 'You will know all presently. I have not time to explain, but you will learn from them. Strengthen me, my heart's treasure. Look into my eyes, and assure me again of your love. Ah, my sweet! what perfect joy have I tasted during these three happy years! Hush ! they are here.' But he did not loose her. He stood with his arms around her dear form, and faced the persons who entered the room. Old Humanity, Lord Crabtree, and a number of other Reformers and Courtiers composed the group. As they entered they removed their hats, and stood before Sassafaas with un covered heads. Coltsfoot was the first to speak. 'These gentlemen requested me to accompany them. Believing, as they said, that their business with you was urgent, I led them to the cottage when I knew they would find you at home.' It was not without intention that he had: chosen the simplest words in which to explain his presence among them.. He stepped aside, and Old Humanitys came to the front. His first word caused a shiver to run through Bluebell's frame, and a startled look to flash into Coltsfoot's eyes.
'Your Majesty,' said Old Humanity, with straight directness, 'we, a depu tation from all ranks of. society, from the highest to the lowest, have been appointed to wait upon you to beg you to resume your rightful position in the land. Had we known earlier where we could have found you, we should have come to you. This is not the time nor this the place to enter lengthily upon our reasons. Having, as I think, some knowledge.of, the. workings of your heart and mind, I do most truly believe that it will be sufficient incentive to you to accede to the wish of your people when I tell you that their condition is worse to day than it was during the time you sat upon the throne.' 'Your most gracious Maiesty,' in terrupted Lord Crabtree, with tears in his eyes, betraying an intention to fall at his royal master's feet. 'Silence, my Lord!' cried Sassafras in a stern tone. 'Let this man speak.' Old Humanity continued: 'It is my purpose, and it will best serve our ends, to be brief on this occasion. You will have an opportunity hereafter of proving the truth of my words.' Then, in a manly, manner, without abating 1one jot of his independence, he recounted the experiences of the last few years. He had found that those who entertained his opinions from conviction, founded on reason, formed but a small body of people; around this small body surged vast numbers of Quamoclits and Whortle berries, who had wrested the power from the hands of the Reformers, and who, being rapacious men and ignorant of the first principles of good govern ment, had shown only an anxiety to enrich themselves at the expense of the people. The consequence was that large employers of labor, distrust ing their political rulers, were gradu ally narrowing their operations ; thou sands of men were out of employment; trade was languishing ; there were much misery and distress throughout the country ; the respect in which No-land was held by other nations was rapidly diminishing, and there was great danger that the senseless and arrogant folly of the Quamoclits and Whortleberries would bring on a disastrous foreign war, if it did not provoke a worse evil in the shape of civil dissention. These and other matters Old Humanity briefly and forcibly touched upon, and concluded by frankly declaring that when on a former occasion he had accepted the position of spokesman for the people, he had committed a serious error. When he had concluded . others pressed forward to speak, but Sassafras held up his hand. He had heard enough, he said, and he bade them depart and return to the cottage in an hour for his answer. The deputation withdrew, and Sassafras, Bluebell, and Coltsfoot were left alone. The countenance of Sassa fras was distressed; that of Coltsfoot was grave and thoughtful. Bluebell, standing a little apart, watched them both with eyes of anxious love and friendship. 'Come to my side, Bluebell,' said Sassafras, 'and let me try to gather wisdom from love.' Bluebell moved close to her husband; he took her hand in his. 'You are not angry with me, Blue bell, for having deceived you ?' 'No, my King--' Her hand dropped from his grasp as he cried, 'Bluebell !' So sharp was his note of agony, as he detected in her tone such hesitation and reserve as she would naturally adopt when speaking to one far above her in station, that she trembled before him. Raising her eyes, she saw him with yearning love in his face, holding out his arms towards her. She fell into them, and he kissed her sweet face again and again. 'Your husband, darling, your mate ; not your King.' 'My husband, my mate, my heart's delight!' 'Always, for ever, until the last day !' His full love would be satisfied with no less; and she repeated the words after him with a deep happiness in her heart. 'Never to change, darling, whatever occurs,' he said. 'Never to change, my dearest. If I thought otherwise I should die.' 'We have been very happy here, Bluebell.' She sighed. What was the future to be ?' 'If,' he continued, 'all lots in life were set before me, I would choose this life that we have led, and grate fully live my days until the end comes. Surely, in so doing, I should be violating no law, human or divine ! I work for my bread, and by the labor of my hands I 'supply the wants of those whom I lovre. What higher dignity can I desire ? I work, Ienjoy, I do no man wrong, and I thank God for all. Why should I change? Within these walls great happiness has been mine; they are sanctified by the dear memories that love and friendship have created ; they seem to speak to me as I look upon them, and seem to beg me to remain. Here our first born drew his first breath; his grave is near; here have I tasted the sweet ness that lies in sorrow, the love that lies in affliction, the hope and the joy that are born of faith ; here have I been drawn nearer to God! Counsel me, Bluebell; advise me, dear woman ! What shall I do ?' Bluebelllooked pleadingly at Colts foot; his countenance had not changed its thoughtful expression. 'It is for you to decide, dear love,' said Bluebell 'you are wiser and stronger than I. However it is to be, believe hat I shall be happy if you are satisfied.' Sassafras paced the apartment in serious mental disturbance. He also looked at Coltsfoot, 'who, however, made no sign. Then said Sassafras, somewhat bitterly, . 'Are you waiting for permission to speak before the king ?' 'No,' replied Coltsfoot, in a gentle tone, 'I am waiting to hear how your best judgment prompts you to decide.' 'You hive heard. I coves no other lot than this. I desire no higher.' 'You speak out of your Eselfishness, then.'. - i I
'I-speaksoot of my heart'- r- ' - 'What would yo6u say of- the'soldieri iho,s iwhen :his country,. -for :a .just cause, demands the strength of his arm, slinks out of the- ranks, and hides in his chimney corner ?'-" 'The soldier enlists of his own free will.-To desert at-such a moment is the act of acoward.' 'What, then, of the man who, placed by destiny at the head of a great nation, and having within his hands the )power of achieving great good, flies fretfully from his responsibilities, because he has not the strength of- mind, to set his heel upon the littlenesses with which established routine declares his life must be occupied ? When you say you desire no higher lot than this, you speak out of your blinul,"es. So can I fancy some Sybarite -peaking, who maintains that there i- no higher aim in life than the indulgence of luxuriousness. And while the world is groaning round about him, he, wrapt in his silken cloak of selfish ease and effeminacy, heeds not, hears not, the suffering, cries 'of his brothers and sisters. 0,' crieA Colt-foot, with passionate fervour, 'that I had been born to power as you were! that I possessed the capacity which is yours, and which you regard so lightly, of healing the wounds of a great people ! I would lift my lance against i?norance. I would give good opportunity to those who are born low down. I would root uncleanliness out of my land. I would honor true merit. I would wage war against the fashions which drift a nation upon the rocks of false morality. I would walk with my eyes open through the streets of my country, and I would do my best to purify them. I would be a prie-t to my people-a healer. By my example, I would make simplicity honored. Religion should be something more than tradition, and God should be worshipped on Mondays and Tuesdays, and the other week-days-wor-hipped, as He should be worshipped, in houses and streets as well as in churches, by the living of good lives and the constant exercise of charity and virtue. So would I walk through my life and live my days, and fulfil the solemn trust which had fallen into my hands leaving behind me, when my task was done, an honorable name, built upou solid foundation, and a heritage of good deeds to grace my children's lives, and make them loved throughout the land I' A year has passed, and Sassafras reigns again in No-land. Lord Crab tree is dismissed, and by the King's side, for counsellors, are Coltsfoot and Old Humanity. Wise counsellors, indeed, are they; they strike at the very root of evil; false fashions and sham moralities fall beneath their lances, and glittering masks are torn from the faces of idols hitherto wor shipped in high places. Short as is the time that has elapsed since the events recorded in the last chapters, great deeds have been done, and, with God's help, greater still will be ac complished. Sassafras is beloved by all; and even more beloved than he is Bluebell, whose modesty, simplicity, and goodness have endeared her to the hearts of the people. Their pictures hers with a baby in her arms-hang upon the walls of every lowly cottage in the land; and when she walks or rides through the streets, loving eyes follow her, and loving hearts treasure up the affectionate looks she bestows upon them. Iris, Lucerne, and Daisy live in Bluebell's cottage, and many are the happy hours Sassafras and Bluebell spend in that dear home. And when the Good Season comes round again, men and women who have the means are influenced by the bright example set them by their King and Queen, and go among the poor and lowly, and the light of good deeds shines upon their way. Truly a blessing has fallen upon the country, and it is Christmas throughout all the land. (Concluded.)