Short Stories » Septimus


THERE was once upon a time a king and queen, who had a very small kingdom to govern. The king was named Petard ; he was a very good man, rather blunt, of a weak and limited mind ; but otherwise -the best king in the world. His subjects were nearly as much masters in his kingdom as himself, for on the most unimportant occasions they gave their advice rather loudly and without its being asked for ; and each of them wished him notions on government to be noticed and followed.

The queen was called Gilletta ; she had no larger share of talents than her husband, but still her character was mild, timid and inoffensive, which caused her to speak little, and often by sentences only ; she paid that submissive deference to the long, which a wife usually pays to the husband to whom she owes her fortune.

As Petard was the only child of the king and queen, his father and mother, they resolved, from his birth, to marry him to a little princess, the niece of an old lairy, named Gangan, who was at that time the intimate friend of Petard's father and mother. It is true that the princess was not yet come into the world ; but, on Gangan's assuring them that she should one day be an accomplished person, all that she required was promised, and an oath was even taken to ensure it.

Petard having arrived at twenty-five years of age, thought it would be proper to marry to his own mind ; he troubled himself but little about his father and mother's promises, and married, without their consent, an extremely pretty young lady, of whom he was very fond. She was only a rich farmer's daughter ; but although she was married to a king's son, her natural good sense prevented her becoming vain, that is to say, silly.

The king, Petard's father, angry at that prince's marriage, could not refuse to Gangan the right of avenging the affront which he had put on them both ; he accordingly disinherited his son, forbade him ever to appear at his court, and gave him his portion, which it was settled should be a pretty considerable estate, on which his father in law was farmer. All the favour that was granted him was, leave to erect this little estate into a sovereignty, himself having the title of king and majesty. Shortly after his disgrace, his father died ; and his mother having obtained the regency, was not sorry to be unencumbered with a son, who, notwithstanding his want of wit, might have been able to thwart her projects, and to oppose her desire of reigning.

Petard was neither ambitious nor a conqueror ; consequently he was not long in accustoming himself to his small estate, and even in becoming very well pleased with it : small as it was, he reigned therein, as though it were larger ; in fact it was quite as large as was necessary for him ; and the titles of king and majesty served him instead of a large kingdom. But as the most bounded minds have always at least their share of vanity, he soon prided himself in imitating the king his father, and created a seneschal, a solicitor- general, and a chamberlain (for in these days, chancellors, parliaments, and farmers-general were alike unknown; the kings administered justice themselves, and received in person their revenues). He also coined money, instituted, with his seneschal, regulations for the police of his little kingdom ; his father in law Carbuncle being the person whom he honored with the title of seneschal. He was a frank, sincere, and upright man, and was endowed hy nature with good common sense and some imagination : accordingly he decided slowly, but nearly always justly : he knew by heart the verses of the poets of his time, and was fond of reciting them. This little appointment did not make him vain ; for he continued to make the farm as valuable as before ; which so gained him his son-in-law's confidence, that his majesty soon was unable to do without him.

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