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Long Live the King

The King Is Dead
Now at last the old King's hour had come. Mostly he slept, as though his body, eager for
its long rest, had already given up the struggle. Stimulants, given by his devoted
physician, had no effect. Other physicians there were, a group of them, but it was Doctor
Wiederman who stood by the bed and waited.
Father Gregory, his friend of many years, had come again from Etzel, and it was he who
had administered the sacrament. The King had roused for it, and had smiled at the father.
"So!" he said, almost in a whisper, "you would send me clean! It is hard to scour an old
Doctor Wiederman bent over the bed. "Majesty," he implored, "if there is anything we
can do to make you comfortable - "
"Give me Hubert's picture," said the King. When his fingers refused to hold it,
Annunciata came forward swiftly and held it before him. But his heavy eyes closed. With
more intuition than might have been expected of her, the Archduchess laid it on the white
coverlet, and placed her father's hand on it.
The physicians consulted in an alcove. Annunciata went back to her restless, noiseless
pacing of the room. Father Gregory went to a window, and stared out. He saw, not the
silent crowd in the Place, but many other things; the King, as a boy, chafing under the
restraint of Court ceremonial; the King, as a young man, taking a wife who did not love
him. He saw the King madly in love with his wife, and turning to excesses to forget her.
Then, and for this the old priest thanked the God who was so real to him, he saw the
Queen bear children, and turning to her husband because he was their father. They had
lived to love deeply and' truly.
Then had come the inevitable griefs. The Queen had died, and had been saved a tragedy,
for Hubert had been violently done to death. And now again a tragedy had come, but one
the King would never know.
The two Sisters of Mercy stood beside the bed, and looked down at the quiet figure.
"I should wish to die so," whispered the elder. "A long life, filled with many deeds, and
then to sleep away!"
"A long life, full of many sorrows!" observed the younger one, her eyes full of tears. "He
has outlived all that he loved."
"Except the little Otto."
Their glances met, for even here there was a question.