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- The Greylock - 3/8 -
evenings, when he sat over his wine in company with the Keeper of the Cellar, the Keeper of the Plate and the Decker of the Table, he could not resist giving expression to his presentiments. His conviction that Bad Luck had knocked at the door of the hitherto fortunate Greylocks was finally shared by his companions.
That an unhappy future awaited the second boy was the firm belief, not only of the servants, but of the whole Court. The unlucky horoscope cast by the Astrologer was known to all, the wise men of the land confirmed it by their predictions, and soon it was proved that even the fairy Clementine was powerless to avert the misfortune that threatened the youngest prince. On the day of the baptism, neither the gentle tinkling sound, nor the sweet perfume, which had heretofore announced her presence, were perceptible. That she had not deserted the ducal house altogether was shown by the fact that the lock on the temple of the first-born twined itself into a perfect curl. The lock on the left temple of the second son remained brown, and not a sign of grey could be discovered even with a magnifying glass. The heart of the young mother was filled with alarm, and she called the old nurse who had taken care of her dead husband when he was a baby, to ask her what had happened at his baptism, and the old woman burst into tears, and ended by betraying the gloomy forecasts of the Astrologer and wise men. That a Greylock should go through life without the white curl was unheard of, was awful! And the old nurse called the poor little creature, "an ill-starred child, a dear pitiable princeling."
Then the mother recalled her last dream, in which she had seen a dragon attack her youngest boy. A great fear possessed her heart, and she bade them bring the child to her. When they laid him naked before her, she stroked the little round body, the straight back, and well-shaped legs with her weak hands, and felt comforted. He was a beautifully-formed, well-developed child, her child, her very own, and nothing was lacking save the grey lock. She never wearied of looking at him; at last she leaned over him and whispered: "You sweet little darling, you are just as good, and just as much of a Greylock as your brother. He will be duke, but that is no great piece of luck, and we will not begrudge it to him. His subjects will some day give him enough anxiety. He must grow to be a mighty man for their sakes, and I doubt not that his nurse gives him better nourishment to that end than I could who am only a weak woman. But you, you poor, dear, little ill-omened mite, I shall nourish you myself, and if your life is unhappy it shall not be because I have not done my best."
When the Chief Priest came to her, to ask her what name she had chosen for the second boy--the first, of course, was to be Wendelin XVI--she remembered her dream, and answered quickly: "Let him be named George, for it was he who killed the dragon."
The old man understood her meaning, and answered earnestly: "That is a good name for him."
Time passed, and both of the princes flourished. George was nourished by his own mother, Wendelin by a hired nurse. They learned to babble and coo, then to walk and talk, for in this respect the sons of dukes with grey locks are just like other boys. And yet no two children are alike, and if any schoolmaster tried to write an exhaustive treatise on the subject of education, it would have to contain as many chapters as there are boys and girls in the world, and it would not be one of the thinnest books ever published.
The ducal twins from the beginning exhibited great differences. Wendelin's hair was straight and, save for the grey lock, which hung over his left temple like a mark of interrogation, jet black; George, on the contrary, had curly brown hair. Their size remained equal until their seventh year, when the younger brother began to outstrip the older. They loved one another very fondly, but the amusements that pleased one failed to attract the other; even their eyes seemed to have been made on different patterns, for many things that seemed white to George appeared black to his brother.
Both received equal care and were never left alone. The older brother found this but natural, and he liked to lie still, and be fanned, or have the flies brushed away from him, and to have some one read fairy stories, which he loved, aloud to him until he dozed off to sleep. It was astonishing how long and how soundly he could sleep. The courtiers said that he was laying up a store of strength, to meet the demands that would be made upon him when he came to the throne.
Even before he could speak plainly, he had learned to let others wait upon him, and would never lift his little finger to do anything for himself. His passive face and large melancholy eyes were wonderfully beautiful, and inspired even his mother with a feeling of awe and respect. She never had cause to feel anxious about him, for there was no better, nor more obedient child in the whole land.
The ill-omened boy, George, was the exact opposite of his brother. He, on the contrary, had to be watched and tended, for his veins seemed to run quicksilver. One would have been justified in saying that he went out to meet the misfortune which was so surely awaiting him. Whenever it was possible he gave his nurses and attendants the slip. He planned dangerous games, and incited the children of the castle servants and gardeners to carry out the mischief which he had contrived.
But his favorite pastime was building. Sometimes he would erect houses of red stone, often he would dig great caves of many chambers and halls in the sand. At this work he was much more energetic than his humbler playfellows, and he would be dirty and dripping with perspiration when he returned to the castle. The courtiers would shake their heads over him in disapprobation, and then look approvingly at Wendelin, who was a true royal child and never got his white hands dirty.
There was no doubt but that George was cast in a less aristocratic mould than his brother. When Wendelin complained of the heat, George would spring into the lake for a swim, and when Wendelin was freezing, George would praise the fresh bracing air. The duchess often sighed for a thousand eyes that she might the better look after him, and she constantly had to scold and reprove him, whereas her other son never heard anything but soft words from her. But then George would fly into her arms in a most unprincely manner, and she would kiss him and hug him, as if she never wanted to let him go, while her caresses of her elder son were restricted to a kiss on his forehead, or to stroking his hair. George was by no means so beautiful as his brother; he had only a fresh boyish face, but his eyes were exceptionally deep and truthful, and his mother always found in them a perfect reflection of what was in her own heart.
The two boys were as happy as is every child who grows up in the sunshine of its mother's love, but the lords and ladies about the Court, and the castle-servants felt that misfortune had already begun to dog the footsteps of the younger prince. How constantly he was in disgrace with the duchess! And the accidents that had already happened in the eleven years of his life were too numerous to count. While bathing he had ventured too far out into the lake and had been nearly drowned; once, while riding in the ring, he had been thrown over the barriers by an unmanageable horse; indeed the Court-physician was certain to be called from his night's rest at least once a month, to bind up bloody wounds in the young prince's bead, or bruises on his body.
No one, save the Seneschal of the Royal Household, and the Master of Ceremonies bore the unruly boy any malice, but every one pitied him as an ill-starred child. With what relentlessness his evil destiny pursued him was first made clear when a stone house, which he, together with some other boys, had built, fell down on top of him. When they drew him out from under the blocks and stones he was unconscious, and the Major-domo, who had been attracted by the cries of George's companions, carried him into the prince's room, laid him on the bed, and watched by him until the physician was called.
The old nurse, Nonna, aided the Majordomo, and these two faithful souls confided their anxiety to one another. They recalled the unlucky signs that had accompanied his entrance into the world, and Pepe expressed his fear that the unfortunate child would not come to life again.
"'Tis very sad," he continued, "but I doubt not it would be better for the ducal family if Heaven were now to remove him, for an early death is, after all, preferable to a long life of vexation and misery."
The boy heard this conversation word for word, for, although he could move neither hand nor foot, and kept his eyes closed, his hearing and understanding were wide awake.
Old Nonna had shed many tears during good Pepe's speech, and he was trying to comfort her when George suddenly sat up, rubbed his eyes with the back of his hands, stretched himself, and then, agile as a brook trout, sprang out of bed.
The two old people screamed in their astonishment, then laughed louder in their joy; but the Court physician, who was just entering the room, looked very much disgusted and disappointed, for he saw the beautiful prospect of saving the life of one of the royal children dissolve before his very eyes.
At the time of this accident the Duchess was away from home. On her return she forced herself to reprove George for his recklessness before she yielded fully to her motherly affection. When George threw his arms around her neck and asked her if it were really true that he was an ill- starred child, and would never have anything but bad luck as long as he lived, she nearly burst into tears. But she restrained herself, called Pepe and Nouna a couple of old geese, and the "signs," which they had talked about, stupid nonsense. Then she left the room hurriedly and George thought that he heard her crying outside. He had gathered from her tone that she was not convinced of what she was saying, and was only trying to quiet his fears, and from that hour he, too, regarded himself as a child destined to adversity. This was indeed unfortunate, yet it had its compensation, for each morning he anticipated an unhappy day, and when in the evening he looked back on nothing but pleasure and sunshine, he went to bed with a heart full of gratitude for the good which he had enjoyed but which did not rightfully belong to him. From this time his mother had him more carefully guarded than before, she herself even followed him about anxiously, like a hen who has hatched a duckling, and forbade him to build any more stone-houses.
The noble Duchess was just then weighed down with other cares. One of her neighbors, a king, who had often been defeated in battle by her husband and her husband's father, thought it an excellent opportunity, while the duchy of the Greylocks was ruled only by a woman and her Councillors, to invade the land, and win back some of the provinces which he had formerly lost. Moustache, her Field-marshal, had led forth the army, and a battle was now imminent, which like all other battles, must end either in victory or defeat.
One day a messenger came from the camp, bringing a letter from the brave marshal, who demanded more troops, saying that the enemy far out-numbered him. Then the Prime Minister called the Great Council together, from which, of course, the Duchess could not be absent, and during the time that she presided over the Councillors' meeting, she lost sight of George for the first time for many weeks.
The naughty boy was delighted. He slipped out of the castle, whence his older brother would not move, on account of the bad weather, went down to
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