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- The Greylock - 6/8 -
his teeth, she reflected on his brother's hard lot and could not help feeling angry with her fortunate son for possessing all the gifts that Destiny refused to her poor outcast George.
Once when the duchess looked in the mirror, she saw George who had carefully taken a clock to pieces, trying to put it together again. A moment later the chancellor and the master of ceremonies came up behind her in order to look into the glass also. No sooner had they done so than they set up a loud outcry, and behaved as if the enemy had invaded the land again.
"The poor, miserable, pitiable, ill-starred princeling!" one of them exclaimed. "A Greylock, it is unheard of, abominable, sacrilegious," the other moaned. They had indeed beheld a dreadful sight, for they had seen the son of Wendelin XV. beaten over the back by a common workman with a stick. The duchess had to witness many similar outrages later when she saw George in the school to which the stone-mason sent his promising apprentice. Alas! how long the poor child had to bend over his drawing- board and his slate doing dreadful sums, whereas Wendelin only studied two hours a day under a considerate tutor who gently coaxed him along the paths of learning. Everything that seemed difficult was carefully removed from his way, and everything that was unpalatable was coated with sugar before being presented to him. Thus even in school the fortunate child trod a path strewn with roses without thorns, and if he yawned now and then in his tutor's face, the latter could flatter himself that the young prince yawned much more frequently over what other people considered pleasures and amusements.
When he attained his sixteenth birthday, he was declared to be of age, for princes mature earlier than other men. Soon afterwards he was crowned, not duke, but king, and it was remarked that he held his lace handkerchief oftener than ever to his mouth.
The state prospered under his government; for his mother and councillors knew how to choose men who understood their work and did it well. These men acted as privy council to the king. One of them was put in charge of the army, a second of the Executive, a third of the customs and taxes, a fourth of the schools, a fifth exercised the king's right of pardon, a sixth, who bore the title the Chancellor of the Council, was obliged to do the king's thinking. To this experienced man was also confided the responsibility of choosing a wife for the young king. He acquitted himself wonderfully well of this duty, for the princess whom Wendelin XVI. espoused on his twentieth birthday, was the daughter of a powerful king, and so beautiful that it seemed as if the good God must have made a new mould in which to form her. No more regular features were to be seen in any collection of wax figures; the princess also possessed the art of keeping her face perfectly unmoved. If anything comic occurred, she smiled slightly, and where others would have wept, and thus distorted their features, she only let her eyelids fall. She was moreover very virtuous and, though but seventeen, was already called "learned." She never said anything silly, and also, no doubt out of modesty, refrained from expressing her wise thoughts. Wendelin approved of her silence, for he did not like to talk; but his mother resented it. She would have liked to pour her heart out to her daughter-in-law, and to make her son's wife her friend and confidante. But such a relationship was impossible; for, when she tried to share with her daughter the emotions which crowded upon her, they rolled off the queen like water off the breast of a swan.
The people adored the royal pair. They were both so beautiful, and looked so noble and princely as they leaned back in the corners of their gilt coach during their drives and gazed into vacancy, as if their interests were above those of ordinary mortals.
Years passed, and the choice of the Chancellor of the Council did not turn out to be so fortunate as had at first appeared, for the queen gave her husband no heir, and the house of Greylock was threatened with the danger of dying out with Wendelin XVI. This troubled the duchess indeed, but not so much as one would have supposed, for she knew that yet another Greylock lived, and the mother's heart ceased not to hope that he would return one day, and hand down the name of her husband.
She therefore persisted in sending messengers to those lands where, to judge by the costume of the people, the appearance of the country and buildings, as shown in the magic mirror, George was most likely to be found.
Once she allowed her daughter-in-law to look into the smooth glass with her; but never again, for it happened that the queen chanced upon a time when George, poorly dressed, and with great beads of perspiration on his forehead, sat hard at work over his drawing in a miserable room under the roof; her delicate nostrils sniffed the air disdainfully, as if afraid that they might be insulted by any odour of poverty, and she said coldly: "And you wish me to believe that person is a brother of my highbred husband? Impossible!"
After this the duchess permitted no one save old Nonna to look into the glass; she, however, spent many hours each clay in following the miserable experiences of her unfortunate child. Sometimes indeed it seemed to her as if a little happiness were mixed with the misery of his existence, and it also struck her that her little imp of a George was gradually growing to be a tall, distinguished-looking man with a noble forehead and flashing eyes, whereas Wendelin, despite his beauty and his grey lock, had become fat and red in the face, and looked like a common farmer.
Great was her solicitude for him, and her heart bled when she saw him suffer, which was not seldom; but then, on the other hand, she often had to laugh with him and be merry, when he gave himself up to the strange illusion of being happy. And had she ever seen a face so beaming as his was when one day, in a splendid hall, a stately grey-haired man in a long gown embraced him and laid a laurel wreath on the design for a building, at which she had seen George work. And then he seemed to have gone to another country, and to be living in the midst of the direst poverty, yet somehow the world must have been turned upside down, for he was as lighthearted and gay as if Dame Fortune had poured the entire contents of her cornucopia over him.
He lived in a little white-washed room, which was not even floored, but only paved with common tiles. In the evening he ate nothing save a piece of bread, with some goat-cheese and figs, and quenched his thirst with a draught of muddy wine which he diluted with water. A squalid old woman brought him this wretched supper, and it cut the duchess to the heart to see him hunt about for coppers enough to pay for it. One day he seemed to have exhausted his store, for he turned his purse upside down and shook it, but not the smallest coin fell out.
This grieved her sorely, and she wept bitterly, thinking of the ease of her other son, and resenting the injustice with which blind and cruel Fortune had bestowed her gifts.
When she had dried her eyes sufficiently to be able to see the picture in the mirror once more, she beheld a long low house by the side of which there was a large space roofed over with lattice work. This was covered by a luxuriant growth of fig-branches and grape-vine. The moon shed its silver radiance over the leaves and stems, while beneath it a fire cast its golden and purple lights on the house, the trellis roof, and the gay folk supping under it.
Young men in strange garb sat at the small tables. Their faces were wonderfully animated and gay. Before each one stood a long-necked bottle wound with straw, cups were filled, emptied, waved aloft or clinked. With every moment the eyes of the drinkers grew brighter, their gestures freer and more lively; finally one of them sprang up on a table, he was the handsomest of them all,--her own George, and he looked as if he were in Paradise instead of on this earth, and had been blessed by a sight of God and his Heavenly host. He spoke and spoke, while the others listened without moving until he raised a large goblet and took such a long draught that the duchess was frightened. Then what a wild shout the others sent up! They jumped to their feet, as if possessed, and one of them tossed his cup through the lattice work and vines overhead.
When George got down again, young and old surrounded him, a few of them embraced him, and then the whole gay company began to sing. Later the duchess saw her son whirling madly in the dance with a girl dressed in many colours, who, though beautiful, was undoubtedly only the daughter of a swineherd, for she was barefoot, and kiss her red lips--which indeed no Greylock ought to have done, yet his mother did not begrudge him the amusement.
It looked as if that were happiness, but true happiness it could not be, for such was not granted to a child born to misfortune. Yet what else could it be? At any rate, he had the appearance of being the most blessed of mortals.
He was in Italy; of that she became more and more assured, and yet none of her messengers could find him. A year later, however, her son began to busy himself with matters that would certainly give some clue to her more recent envoys.
George had left his poverty-stricken room and dwelt now in a handsome vaulted chamber. Each day dressed in a fine robe and with a roll of parchment in his hand, he superintended a great number of builders. Often she saw him standing on such high scaffolding that he seemed to be perched between heaven and earth, and she would be overcome by giddiness, though he seemed proof against it.
Once in a while a tall princely-looking man, with a beautiful young woman and a train of courtiers and servants, came to inspect the building. George would be sent for to show the gentleman and the young woman, who seemed to be his daughter, the plans, and they had long conversations together. At these interviews George was not at all servile; and his gestures were so manly and graceful, his eyes shone so frankly, yet so sweetly and modestly, that his mother yearned to draw him to her heart and kiss him; but that, alas! could not be, and little by little it dawned upon her that he longed for other lips than hers, for the glances that he bestowed upon the maiden bespoke his admiration, which, the duchess noticed, did not seem to displease her.
Once, during an interview with George, she dropped a rose, and when he picked it up, she must have allowed him to keep it, for she gave no sign of disapproval when he kissed it and hid it inside the breast of his doublet. The large architectural drawing had screened this little comedy from curious eyes.
One evening, in the moonlight, the duchess saw him climb a garden wall, with a lute in his hand, then the sky became overcast, and she could distinguish him no more; she could only see a lighted window where a beautiful girl was standing. The maiden charmed her beyond measure, and she grew hot and cold with the pleasurable anticipation that George might win her for his wife some day and bring her home. But then she reflected that he was a child born to ill-luck, and as such would never be blessed with the love of so exquisite a creature.
What she saw in the next few weeks confirmed this opinion. His manner was usually decisive, abrupt and self-reliant, but now he seemed to her like a clock that points to one hour while it strikes another. At the works he gave his orders as firmly and decidedly as ever; but as soon as he was alone, he looked like a criminal sentenced to death, and either sat bowed down and miserable or else paced up and down the floor restlessly, gesticulating wildly. Often when he beat his forehead with
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