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courier, which he had been scanning with Bohemia . . . sire!" said he, with a halfgreat impatience.
"I warn you, my friend," he said, looking up as the good father entered, "that you will find me in a very bad temper. Ferdinand is dead-can you imagine anything more unreasonable of him! He was always the most inconsiderate of mortals; and now, without the least warning, he shuffles his responsibilities upon my shoulders."
The priest knew his friend, and the way of his thought, and he could not help smiling at his quaint petulance. "Which means that you are King of
whimsical reverence. Where on earthhe was wondering-was there another man who would be so put out at being made a king!
"Exactly," answered the duke; "do you wonder that I am out of temper? You must give me your advice. There must be some way out of it. Whatwhat am I to do?"
"I am afraid there is nothing for you to do but-reign . . . Your Majesty," answered the priest. "I agree with you that it is a great hardship.' "Do you really understand how great a
hardship it is?" retorted the king to his friend; "will you share it with me?"
"Share it with you?" asked the priest. "Yes! as it appears that I must consent to be Head of the World Temporal-will you consent to be the Head of the World Spiritual? In short, will you consent to be Archbishop of Bohemia?"
"Leave the little church that I love, and the kind simple hearts in my care, given into my keeping by the goodness of God. . ." asked the priest.
"To be the spiritual shepherd," answered the king, not without irony, "of the sad flocks of souls that wander, without pastor, the strange streets of lost cities..." The king paused, and added with his sad understanding smile, "and to sit on a gold throne, in a great cathedral, filled with incense and colored windows."
And the priest smiled back; for the king and the priest were old friends and understood and loved each other.
At that moment, there came a sound of trumpets through the quiet boughs, and the priest, rising and looking through the window, saw a procession of gilded carriages, from the first of which stepped out a dignified man with white hair and many years, and robed in purple and ermine.
"It is your Prime Minister, and your court," answered the priest to the mute question of the king. And again they smiled together; but the smile on the face of the king was weary beyond all human words: because of all the perils that beset a man, the one peril he had feared was the peril of being made a king, of all the sorrows that sorrow, of all the foolishness that foolishness: for vanity had long since passed away from his heart, and the bees and the blossoms of his garden seemed just as worthy of his care as that swarming hive of ambitious human wasps and earwigs over which he was thus summoned by sound of trumpet that happy summer afternoon-to be the king. Think of being the king of so foul a kingdom -when one might be the king-of a garden.
But in spite of his reluctance, the good duke at length admitted the truth urged upon him by the good priest-that there are sacred duties inherited by those born in high places and to noble destinies from which there is no honorable escape, and,
on the priest agreeing to be the Archbishop of Bohemia, he resigned himself to being its king. Thereupon, he received all the various dignitaries and functionaries that could so little have understood his heart-having in the interval recovered his lost temper-with all the graciousness for which he was famous, and appointed a day-as far off as possible-when he would set out, with all his train, for his coronation in the capital, a journey of many leagues.
However, when the day came, and, in fact, at the very moment of the starting out of the long and glittering cortège, all the gilded carriages were suddenly brought to a halt, by news coming to the duke of the sickness and imminent death of a much loved dependent of his, an old shepherd with whom as a boy he was wont to wander the hills, and listen eagerly to the lore of times and seasons, of rising and setting stars, and of the ways of the winds, which is hidden in the hearts of tanned and withered old men, who have spent their lives out-of-doors under sun and rain.
But, to the great impatience of the court ladies and the great bewigged and powdered gentlemen, the old shepherd lived on for several days, during which time the duke was constantly at his side. At last, however, the old shepherd went to his rest, and the procession, which he, humble soul, would not have believed that he could have delayed, started on its magnificent way again, with flutter of pennant and feather and sound of trumpet and ladies' laughter.
But it had traveled only a few leagues, when it was again brought to a standstill by the duke-who was thus progressing to his coronation-catching sight from his carriage window, as it flitted past, of an extremely lovely and uncommon butterfly. The duke had, all his days, been a passionate entomologist, and this particular butterfly was the one that so far he had been unable to add to his collection. Therefore, he commanded the trumpets to call a halt, and had his butterfly-net brought to him; and he and several of his gentlemen went in pursuit of the flitting painted thing: but not that day, nor the next, was it captured in the royal net, not, in fact, till a whole week had gone by; and, meanwhile, the carriages stood idly in the stables, and
"To think of a man chasing a butterfly -with a king's crown awaiting him-and even perhaps a kingdom at stake!" said many a tongue-for rumors came on the wind that a half-brother of the dead king was meditating usurpation of the throne, and was already gathering a large following about him. Urgent despatches were
senger, and said, "Yes! but look at my butterfly-" and no one but his friend the priest, of course, had understood. Murmurs began to arise, indeed, among the courtiers, and hints of plots even, as the duke pursued his leisurely journey, turning aside for each wayward fancy.
One day it would be a turtle crossing
the road, with her little ones, which would bring to a respectful halt all those beautiful gold coaches and caracoling horses. Tenderly would the good duke step from his carriage and watch her with his gentle smile-not, doubtless, without sly laughter in his heart, and an understanding glance from the priest, that so humble and helpless a creature should for once have it in its power thus to delay so much worldly pomp and vanity.
On another occasion, when they had journeyed for a whole day without any such fanciful interruptions, and the cour
tiers began to think that they would reach the imperial city at last, the duke decided to turn aside several long leagues out of their course, to visit the grave of a great poet whose songs were one of the chief glories of his land.
"I may have no other opportunity to do him honor," said the duke.
And when his advisers ventured to protest, and even to murmur, urging the increasing jeopardy of his crown, he gently admonished them:
"Poets are greater than kings," he said, "and what is my poor crown compared
with that crown of laurel which he wears forever among the immortals?"
There was no one found to agree with this except the good priest, and one other, a poor poet who had somehow been included in the train, but whom few regarded. The priest kept his thoughts to himself, but the poet created some amusement by openly agreeing with the duke.
But, of course, the royal will had to be accepted with such grace as the courtiers could find to hide their discontented-and even, in the case of some, their disaffected -hearts; for some of them, at this new whimsy of the duke's, secretly sent messengers to the would-be usurper promising him their allegiance and support.
So, at length, after a day's journey, the peaceful valley was reached where the poet lay at rest among the simple peasants whom he had loved, -kindly folk who still carried his songs in their hearts, and sang them at evening to their babies and sweethearts, and each day brought flowers to his green, bird-haunted grave.
When the duke came and bowed his head in that quiet place, carrying in his hands a wreath of laurel, his heart was much moved by their simple flowers lying there, fresh and glittering as with newshed tears; and, as he reverently knelt and placed the wreath upon the sleeping mound, he said aloud in the humility of his great heart:
"What is such an offering as mine, compared with these!"
And a picture came to him of the peaceful valley he had left behind, and of the simple folk he loved who were his friends; and more and more his heart missed them, and less and less it rejoiced at the journey still before him, and still more foolish seemed his crown.
So, with a great sigh, he rose from the poet's grave, and gave word for the carriages once more to move along the leafy lanes.
And, to the great satisfaction of the courtiers, the duke delayed them no more, for his heart grew heavier within him, and he sat with his head on his breast, speaking