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- The Greylock - 8/8 -
He found great rejoicings in progress when he crossed the frontiers, for Moustache, the field-marshal, had just conquered another enemy, and by the conditions of the treaty of peace another province came into the possession of the Greylocks, making their kingdom then as large as that of the queen's father.
When George entered the capital he found flags flying, heard bells pealing, the explosions of mortars and firing of cannon, sometimes one shot after another, sometimes a deafening salvo of many guns together, and a thousand voices shouting "Hurrah, hurrah! Long live Wendelin the Lucky!"
The Assembly of States had decided the day before that the king by whom the land had been so wonderfully extended, and whose government had been so prosperous that not even a shadow of misfortune had fallen across it, should be called: "Wendelin the Lucky."
This title of honour was to be seen on all the flags, triumphal arches, transparencies, and even on the ginger-bread cakes in the cook-shops.
George and his lovely wife rejoiced with the other jubilant people, but they were happiest when they were alone with his mother.
Wendelin XVI. received his brother and his brother's wife in the great reception room, and even went further forward to meet him than the point prescribed by the master of ceremonies; the queen made good this violation of etiquette by remaining herself well within the boundaries laid down. After the feast Wendelin went with his brother onto the balcony, and as he stood opposite to George and looked at him more closely he let his languid eyelids droop, for it seemed to him that his brother was a man of iron, and he suddenly felt as if his own backbone were made of dough.
In the evening the lake was beautifully illuminated, and the day was to end with a boating party on the water enlivened with music and fireworks.
In the first boat, on cushions of velvet and ermine, sat Wendelin XVI. and his queen, in the second George and his beloved wife. His mother could not bear to be separated from these two, or to miss for even an hour the happiness of having them with her.
The weather for the festivals was as perfect as they could have wished. The full moon shone more brilliantly than usual, as if to congratulate the king on his new title, the bells pealed forth their chimes again, a chorus of maidens and boys in skiffs followed the state gondola of the royal pair, singing the new song which had just been composed in their honour, and which consisted of twenty-four stanzas, each one ending with the lines:
"The luck and glory let us sing Of lucky Wendelin, our king!"
By his side sat his wife, who continued her complaints against the newly- found brother, and urged her husband to make investigations as to whether or not this architect were a true Greylock, "To be sure, both he and his son have the grey lock," she said, "but then they both have light hair, and the barber's craft has made great strides lately; and certainly that fat-cheeked baby looks as if it belonged in the cradle of a peasant rather than in that of a prince." Wendelin XVI did not listen to what she said; his heart was very heavy, and every time one of the bells rang out above the others, or the chorus sang, "lucky Wendelin, our king," particularly distinctly and enthusiastically, he felt as if he were being jeered at and ridiculed. He longed to cry aloud in his shame and pain, and to fly for comfort to his sympathetic mother and strong brother in the other boat. When he stared into the water it seemed as if the fish made fun of him, and if he looked at the sky he imagined the moon made a mocking grimace at him, and looked down scornfully at the wretched man whom they called "fortunate." He knew not where to gaze, he withdrew within himself, and tried to shut his ears, while he wished to Heaven that he could change places with the active sailor opposite who was setting the purple sail with his brawny arms.
A light breeze wafted the royal gondola towards the island where the fireworks were to be displayed. The second boat followed at a short distance. George held his mother's hand and his wife's in his own, few words were spoken, but their very silence betrayed the great treasure of their love and happiness, and spoke more plainly than long discourses how dear these three persons were to one another.
The royal gondola floated quietly past the cliff that separated the southern from the northern part of the lake; no sooner had the second boat approached it, however, than an unexpected and fearful gust of wind blew suddenly from the clefts of the rocks and struck the boat, and before the sailors had time to lower the sail threw it onto its beam ends. George sprang forward instantly to help the sailors right her, but a second gust tore away the flapping sail, and capsized the gondola, which was caught and carried to the bottom by a rushing eddy. Both of the women rose from the waves at George's side. He grasped his mother, and struggled bravely against the wind and current until he laid her on the beach at the foot of the cliff. Then he swam back as rapidly as he could to the place of the accident. His mother was safe, but his wife, his beloved, his all? To rescue her, or to drown with her was his sole idea.
At that moment he perceived a long golden streak rising and falling with the waves. It was a lock of her hair, her wonderful silken hair. With mighty strokes he sped towards it, reached it, grasped it, then his trembling hands felt her body and lifted her up. She breathed, she lived, and it depended on him to save her from the evil spirit, from death. With one arm he held her to him, with the other he parted the waters; but the lake seemed to turn to a mighty torrent that bore down upon him with its heavy waves. He struggled, he fought with panting breast, yet in vain, always in vain. He felt that his strength was being exhausted. If no one came to his aid, he was lost; he raised his head to look for help.
He saw his brother's gondola sailing as peacefully and undisturbed from storm or accident as a swan in the moonlight, and the bitter thought passed through his mind, that Wendelin was the lucky one, and that he had been born to misfortune.
His arm was struggling with the tide once more, and this time more successfully. Then Speranza opened her eyes, recognized him, and, kissing him on the forehead, murmured: "My own love, how good you are!"
From the cliff the duchess called to him: "George, my best, my only son!" His heart warmed within him, all his bitterness disappeared, and the waves seemed to rock him and the burden in his arms as in a cradle. The picture of his mother floated before his vision, that of his child, and of his beautiful work, the great indestructible cathedral, which he had erected to the honour of God. He reflected what sweet joy each new spring had brought him, how he had been blessed in his work, what exquisite delight he derived from all that was beautiful in the world. No, no, no. Of all the men on this earth, he, the child destined to misfortune, was the happiest. Overwhelmed by a feeling of gratitude, he returned his wife's kiss. Saved! She was saved! He felt firm ground beneath his feet; he lifted her on high; but, just as he laid her in the strong arms that reached down from the cliff to receive her, a high wave caught him and dragged him back into the deep, and the waters closed over him.
The next morning a fisherman found his body. George's wife and mother were saved. The wise men of the land said that the ill-starred child had perished, as they had foreseen, and the people echoed their words.
In the mausoleum of the Greylocks only two places remained empty, and these had to be kept for Wendelin the Lucky and his queen, consequently the ill-omened son might not even rest in the grave of his fathers, and George was buried on a green hillside, whence there was a beautiful view of the lake and distant landscape.
King Wendelin the Lucky and his wife lived to a good old age. After the king became childish, he ceased to groan and whimper in the night, as he had formerly done. When he died, he was interred next to Queen Isabella, in the coldest corner of the marble mausoleum, and no ray of sun ever rested on his stone sarcophagus. His son, Wendelin XVII., visited his father's grave once a year, on All Saints' Day, and laid a dry wreath of immortelles on the lid of the coffin.
George's resting-place was surrounded by bushes and flowers. His mother and wife and child visited it and cared for it. When the spring came, nightingales, redbreasts, finches and thrushes without number sang their merry notes above the head of the unfortunate one who lay there. His son George grew to be the pride of his mother, and became a noble prince in beautiful Italy. Centuries have passed since then, yet to-day enthusiastic artists still make pilgrimages to the hillside where the sun shines so brightly, to lay wreaths on the grave of the great architect George Peregrinus of the princely house of the Greylocks.
They at least do not regard him who lies there as one born to misfortune.
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
At my age we count it gain not to be disappointed Had laid aside what we call nerves Like a clock that points to one hour while it strikes another To-morrow could give them nothing better than to-day
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