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Long Live the King

The Terror
Until late that night General Mettlich and the King talked together. The King had been
lifted from his bed and sat propped in a great chair. Above his shabby dressing-gown his
face showed gaunt and old. In a straight chair facing him sat his old friend and
Chancellor.
"What it has shown is not entirely bad," said the King, after a pause. "The boy has
initiative. And he made no attempt at evasion. He is essentially truthful."
"What it has also shown, sire, is that no protection is enough. When I, who love the lad,
and would - when I could sleep, and let him get away, as I did - "
"The truth is," said the King, "we are both of us getting old." He tapped with his gnarled
fingers on the blanket that lay over his knees. "The truth is also," he observed a moment
later, "that the boy has very few pleasures. He is alone a great deal."
General Mettlich raised his shaggy head. Many years of wearing a soldier's cap had not
injured his heavy gray hair. He had bristling eyebrows, white new, and a short, fighting
mustache. When he was irritated, or disagreed with any one, his eyebrows came down
and the mustache went up.
Many years of association with his king had given him the right to talk to him as man to
man. They even quarreled now and then. It was a brave man who would quarrel with old
Ferdinand II.
So now his eyebrows came down and his mustache went up. "How - alone, sire?"
"You do not regard that bigoted Englishwoman as a companion, do you?"
"He is attached to her."
"I'm damned if I know why," observed the old King. "She doesn't appear to have a single
human quality."
Human quality! General Mettlich eyed his king with concern. Since when had the
reigning family demanded human qualities in their governesses? "She is a thoughtful and
conscientious woman, sire," he said stiffly. It happened that he had selected her. "She
does her duty. And as to the boy being lonely, he has no time to be lonely. His tutors - "
"How old is he?"
"Ten next month."
 
 
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