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- The Greylock - 5/8 -
any one a fool who called him an ill-fated child.
After he had satisfied his hunger, he thanked the shepherd, and offered him one of the groschen which the fish had given him, but the old man refused it.
George insisted, for it hurt his pride to take anything as a gift from a man clad in rags, but the shepherd still declined, and added, after he had noticed the fine clothes of the little prince, which the water had not entirely spoiled: "What the poor man gives gladly, no gold can repay. Keep your groschen."
George blushed scarlet, put his money in his pocket, and replied: "Then may God reward you." The words sprang naturally and easily to his lips, and yet they were the very ones that the beggars in the duchy of the Greylocks always used.
He ran along by the side of the stream quite fast, in order to dry his clothes, until it was noon, and many thoughts passed through his mind, but so rapidly that he could hardly remember whether they were gay or sad. When at last he sat down to rest under a flowering elder bush, he thought of his mother, and of the great sorrow that he was causing her, of his brother, and Norma, and old Pepe, and his heart failed him, and he wept. He might never see them again, for how could he ever accomplish anything that was good and great, and yet the fish had demanded it of him! For three days he continued to be very dejected, and whenever he passed boys at play, or boys and maidens dancing and singing under the trees, he would say to himself: "You are happy, for you were not born under an evil star as I was."
The first night he slept in a mill, the second in an inn, the third in a smithy. just as he was leaving in the early morning a horseman rode rapidly past, and called out to the smith, who was standing in front of the shop: "The battle is lost. The King is flying. The Greylocks are marching on the capital."
George laughed aloud, and the messenger hearing him, made a cut at him with his riding-whip, but missed him, and the boy ran away. George felt as if some one had removed the burden that had been weighing him down during his wanderings, and he reflected that, if he had remained a prince, and had been at that moment comfortably at home, instead of wandering until he was footsore along the highways, Moustache, the Field-marshal, would have lost the battle.
It was still early when he reached the spot where the river turned to the east. From this point he was to go northwards. He found a path that led from the bank of the river, through the woods, across the mountain chain. The dew still hung on the grass, and above in the oaks and beeches, it seemed as if all the birds were holding high festival, there was such a fluttering, and calling, and chirping, and trilling, and singing, while the woodpecker beat time. The sunshine played among the branches, and fell through onto the flowery earth, where it lay among the shadows of the leaves like so many round pieces of gold. Although George was climbing the mountain, his breath came freely, and all at once, without any reason, he burst into song. He sang a song at the top of his voice, there in the woods, that he had learned from the gardeners. At noon he thought he had reached the top of the mountain, but behind again a yet higher peak arose, and so, after he had eaten the bread and butter which the blacksmith's wife had given him, he continued his way and, as the sun was setting, attained the summit of the second mountain, which was the highest far and near.
Once more he beheld the river which, sparkling and bright, wound through the green plain like a silver snake. Smaller hills covered with forests fell away on all sides and the tops of the trees caught the radiance of the sinking sun. Over the snow-fields of the further mountain-ranges, a rosy shimmer spread that made him think of the peach blossoms at home; a purple mist obscured the rocky peaks behind him and there, far away to the south, was a tiny speck of blue. That might be his own dear lake, which he was never to see again. It was all so wonderfully beautiful and his heart filled to overflowing with memories and hopes. Neither to the right nor to the left, whither he turned his eyes, were there any boundaries to be seen. How wide, how immeasurably wide was the world which, in the future, was to be his home, in the place of the small walled garden of the castle. Two eagles were floating round in circles under the softly-glowing fleecy clouds, and George said to himself that he was as free and untrammelled on the earth as they were in the air; suddenly a feeling of delight in his liberty overcame him, he snatched his cap from his head and, waving it aloft, tore down the mountain, as if he were running for a wager. That night he found hospitable housing in the cell of a hermit.
After this he derived much pleasure from his wanderings. He was a child born to bad luck--no denial could change that--nevertheless a child destined to good fortune could hardly have been more contented than he. On the thirtieth day of his journeying he met with a travelling companion in the lower countries, which he had reached some time before. This was a stone-mason's son, who was much older than George, but who accepted the gay young vagabond as his comrade. The youth was returning home after his wanderings as a journeyman and, as he soon discovered that George was a clever, trustworthy boy with all his wits about him, he persuaded him to offer himself as apprentice to the stone-mason, who was an excellent master in his business. His name was Kraft, and he gladly received his son's companion as apprentice, George having spent his last groschen that very day, and thus the little prince was turned into a stone-mason's apprentice.
In the castle of the Greylocks, meanwhile, there was sorrow and lamentation. The boy who had ventured onto the lake with George, managed to save his life and returned home the following morning, and to repeated questionings he had only the one answer to make--that he had seen the prince drown before his very eyes. With this information the Court had to content itself; but not the duchess, for a king will give up his throne sooner than a mother the hope of seeing her child again. She possessed indeed one means by which she could know beyond doubt whether her darling were alive or dead, namely the magic mirror which the fairy had given to the first Wendelin, and in which, ever since, the Greylocks had been able to see what they held most dear. In this glass she had seen her husband fall from his horse and die. Once again she took it out of the ivory casket in which it was kept; but so long as George sat imprisoned in the cave of the evil spirit, nothing was to be seen on its smooth surface. That was ominous, yet she ceased not to hope, and thought: "If he were dead, I should see his corpse." She sat the whole night staring in the mirror. In the morning a messenger from the army of the Greylocks arrived, bringing word that the enemy was pressing upon them and that a battle would have to be fought before the fresh troops, which Moustache, the field-marshal, had asked for, could arrive.
The issue was doubtful, and the duchess would better have everything ready for her flight and that of the princes, and, in case of the worst, to carry with her the crown jewels, the royal seal and a store of gold.
The chancellor ordered all of these things to be packed in chests and warned the servants not to forget to add his dressing-gown. Then he begged the noble widow to look into the glass and to let him know as soon as there was any reflection of the battle.
Presently she saw the two armies fall upon each other, but her longing to see her son overcame her immediately, and behold, there in the glass he appeared, seated by the side of an old ragged shepherd and eating bread and cheese, his clothes were soaked and there was no possibility of his changing them. This worried her and she at once pictured him with a cold or lying helpless in the open air, stricken down by fever or inflammation of the lungs. Henceforth she thought no more about the decisive battle, and forgot all else during the hours that she sat and followed George's movements. Then she sent for huntsmen, for messengers and for all the professors who studied geography, botany, or geology, and bade them look into the mirror, and asked them if they knew where those mountains were, of which they saw the reflection. The smooth surface showed only the immediate surroundings of the boy, and no one could tell what the district was where George wandered. Thereupon she sent messengers towards all points of the compass to seek him.
Thus half the day passed, and when the chancellor came again in the afternoon to inquire after the fortunes of the battle, the duchess was frightened, for she had entirely forgotten the conflict.
She therefore commanded the mirror to show her again the army and Moustache, the field-marshal, who was a cousin of her late husband. She beheld with dismay that the ranks of her soldiers were wavering. The chancellor saw it, too; he put his hand to his narrow forehead and cried:
"Everything is lost! My office, your Highness, and the land! I must to the treasury, to the stables! The enemy--flight--our brave soldiers--I pray your Highness to keep a watch over the battle! More important duties. . . ."
He withdrew, and when half an hour later he returned, very red in the face from all the orders that he had given, and looked over the duchess' shoulder, unperceived into the mirror, he started back and cried out angrily, as no true courtier ought ever to allow himself to do in the presence of his sovereign: "By the blood of my ancestors! A boy climbing a mountain. And there is such dire need to know . . ."
The duchess sighed and called the battle once more into view. During the time that she had been watching her son, things had taken a better turn. This pleased her greatly, and the chancellor exclaimed: "Did I not prophesy this to your Highness. The circumstances were such that the victory was bound to be ours. Brave Moustache! I had such confidence in him that I saw the caravans bearing the treasure depart, without a pang of uneasiness. Will your Highness be good enough to have them recalled."
After this the duchess had no further opportunity to see the reflection of her boy until the battle was decided and the victory theirs beyond a doubt; then she could use the mirror to gratify the desire of her heart.
When George walked along dejectedly, she thought: "Is that my heedless boy?" and when he looked about him gaily once more to see what mischief he could get into, she rejoiced, yet it troubled her, too, to have him appear so free from all grief, she feared that he might have entirely forgotten her.
All the expeditions that she sent in search of him were fruitless; but she knew from the glass that he had become apprentice to a stone-mason and had hard work to do. This made her very sad. He was indeed a child born to misfortune, and when she saw him eat out of the same bowl with his companions, food so coarse, that her very dogs would have despised it, she felt that the misery into which he had fallen was too deep, too awful. Yet, strange to relate, he always seemed gay, despite these ills, whereas Wendelin, the heir to the throne, grew more peevish every day.
The duchy of this fortunate youth had been enlarged by the late successful war, and the assembly of the states of the empire was debating whether it should not be made a kingdom. He possessed everything that it was in the power of man to desire, and yet, with each new month, he seemed to become more unhappy and dejected.
When the heir to the throne drove out in his gilt coach and the duchess heard of the enthusiasm exhibited by the people, or saw him sitting at a feast of pheasants, smacking his lips and drawing the asparagus between
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