Long Live the King
Father And Daughter
With the approach of the anniversary of his son's death, the King grew increasingly
restless. Each year he determined to put away this old grief, and each year, as his bodily
weakness increased, he found it harder to do so. In vain he filled his weary days with the
routine of his kingdom. In vain he told himself that there were worse things than to be cut
off in one's prime, that the tragedy of old age is a long tragedy, with but one end. To have
out-lived all that one loves, he felt, was worse by far. To have driven, in one gloomy
procession after another, to the old Capuchin church and there to have left, prayerfully,
some dearly beloved body - that had been his life. His son had escaped that. But it was
poor comfort to him.
On other years he had had the Crown Prince with him as much as possible on this dreary
day of days. But the Crown Prince was exiled, in disgrace. Not even for the comfort of
his small presence could stern discipline be relaxed.
Annunciata was not much comfort to him. They had always differed, more or less, the
truth being, perhaps, that she was too much like the King ever to sympathize fully with
him. Both were arrogant, determined, obstinate. And those qualities, which age was
beginning to soften in the King, were now, in Annunciata, in full strength and blooming.
But there was more than fundamental similarity at fault. Against her father the
Archduchess held her unhappy marriage.
"You did this," she had said once, when an unusually flagrant escapade had come to the
ears of the Palace. "You did it. I told you I hated him. I told you what he was, too. But
you had some plan in mind. The plan never materialized, but the marriage did. And here I
am." She had turned on him then, not angrily, but with cold hostility. "I shall never
forgive you for it," she said.
She never had. She made her daily visit to her father, and, as he grew more feeble, she
was moved now and then to pity for him. But it was pity, nothing more. The very hands
with which she sometimes changed his pillows were coldly efficient. She had not kissed
him in years.
And now, secretly willing that Hedwig should marry Karl, she was ready to annoy him
by objecting to it.
On the day after her conversation with General Mettlich, she visited the King. It was
afternoon. The King had spent the morning in his study, propped with pillows as was
always the case now, working with a secretary. The secretary was gone when she entered,
and he sat alone. Over his knees was spread one of the brilliant rugs that the peasants
wove in winter evenings, when the snow beat about their small houses and the cattle were
snug in barns. Above it his thin old face looked pinched and pale.