Long Live the King
Nikky Makes A Promise
The Chancellor lived alone, in his little house near the Palace, a house that looked
strangely like him, overhanging eyebrows and all, with windows that were like his eyes,
clear and concealing many secrets. A grim, gray little old house, which concealed behind
it a walled garden full of unexpected charm. And that, too, was like the Chancellor.
In his study on the ground floor, overlooking the garden, the Chancellor spent his leisure
,hours. Here, on the broad, desk-like arm of his chair, where so many state documents
had lain for signature, most of his meals were served. Here, free from the ghosts that
haunted the upper rooms, he dreamed his dream of a greater kingdom.
Mathilde kept his house for him, mended and pressed his uniforms, washed and starched
his linen, quarreled with the orderly who attended him, and drove him to bed at night.
"It is midnight," she would say firmly - or one o'clock, or even later, for the Chancellor
was old, and needed little sleep. "Give me the book." Because, if she did not take it, he
would carry it off to bed, and reading in bed is bad for the eyes.
"Just a moment, Mathilde," he would say, and finish a paragraph. Sometimes he went on
reading, and forgot about her, to look up, a half-hour later, perhaps, and find her still
standing there, immobile, firm.
Then he would sigh, and close the book.
At his elbow every evening Mathilde placed a glass of milk. If he had forgotten it, now
he sipped it slowly, and the two talked - of homely things, mostly, the garden, or moths in
the closed rooms which had lost, one by one, their beloved occupants, or of a loose tile on
the roof. But now and then their conversation was more serious.
Mathilde, haunting the market with its gayly striped booths, its rabbits hung in pairs by
the ears, its strings of dried vegetables, its lace bazaars Mathilde was in touch with the
people. It was Mathilde, and not one of his agents, who had brought word of the
approaching revolt of the coppersmiths' guild, and enabled him to check it almost before
it began. A stoic, this Mathilde, with her tall, spare figure and glowing eyes, stoic and
patriot. Once every month she burned four candles before the shrine of Our Lady of
Sorrows in the cathedral, because of four sons she had given to her country.
On the evening of the day Hedwig had made her futile appeal to the King, the Chancellor
sat alone. His dinner, almost untasted, lay at his elbow. It was nine o'clock. At something
after seven he had paid his evening visit to the King, and had found him uneasy and
"Sit down;" the King had said. "I need steadying, old friend."