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Long Live the King   By: (1867-1905)

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Author of "Dr. Nikola," "The Beautiful White Devil," "A Maker of Nations," "A Bid for Fortune," etc.


[Illustration: "'Farewell, your Majesty,' he said."]



How strange it seems, after this long lapse of time, to look back upon those days, and after all that has come between. When I think of the child whose curious fancies, strange whims, and still stranger life, I am about to portray, I find myself inclining towards what is certainly a feeling of bewilderment, and one that might almost be said to be akin to physical pain. That the little fellow I see in my mind's eye, playing so happily on the far side of that River of Years, can be myself , the man sitting in this chair, who, pen in hand, is trying so hard to arrange his thoughts, is to me scarcely believable. Between the two there looms so vast a difference, that it would appear as if no possible connecting link could serve to unite them with each other. Whether I am better or worse for the change must be left for more competent judges to declare.

Looking back, I can scarcely determine which is the first event in my life that I can recall. I have always declared that I have the very faintest recollection of being held up by my mother at a window to see my father present some new colours to his favourite regiment of Guards in the square below. But if, as they say, that occurrence happened exactly five and twenty years ago, and the records of the Regiment are there to prove it, my memory must be a more than ordinarily good one, seeing that, at the time, I could not have been more than three years of age. Imperfect though that recollection may be, however, it is quite certain that I can distinctly recall the day, two years later, when my brother, the Crown Prince Maximilian, being then a big boy of nine, led his regiment past my father on parade for the first time. I can also remember crying bitterly, because I was not permitted to accompany him, which eagerness on my part, so I have been informed since, was taken by my mother's Ladies in Waiting to be a sign that a great military career awaited me. That I have never so far justified either their hopes or their good opinion of me must be set down by the charitably minded as the result of a lack of opportunity. In a sense, however, I must confess it has proved almost true, but how it came about will be told in its proper place. In the meantime, having a long story to tell, and not much space to tell it in, it is necessary that I should return to my earliest recollections with as much speed as possible.

To enter upon my story proper, it is only fit that I should commence with a brief description of the life of my poor father. Maximilian the Second, King of Pannonia, as all the world is aware, was a monarch foredoomed to trouble from his cradle. His succession to the throne was the result of an accident. But for a fatal shot, fired in the excitement of a wolf hunt, and which stretched the heir lifeless upon the snow, he would in all human probability never have been called upon to undertake the responsibilities for which he was, not only by nature, but also by inclination, so totally unfitted. A scholar of the finest type, essentially a recluse, more at his ease in his library than in the Council Chamber, happier when holding a pen than when carrying a sword, I must admit it is to me a matter of wonderment that he succeeded even as well as he did. A loveless marriage, thrust upon him by the exigencies of State, when his inclinations tended in another and very different direction, marked the next downward step in his career. My mother was the eldest daughter of Alexander the Tenth, King of Gothia, and was as ambitious as my father was the reverse. Where he was only too glad to find an opportunity of effacing himself, she, at first, boldly courted the admiration of the world... Continue reading book >>

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