THE TALE OF THE LOST LAND
CHAPTER 8: THE BOSS
I was no shadow of a king; I was the substance; the king himself
was the shadow. My power was colossal; and it was not a mere
name, as such things have generally been, it was the genuine
article. I stood here, at the very spring and source of the second
great period of the world's history; and could see the trickling
stream of that history gather and deepen and broaden, and roll
its mighty tides down the far centuries; and I could note the
upspringing of adventurers like myself in the shelter of its long
array of thrones: De Montforts, Gavestons, Mortimers, Villierses;
the war-making, campaign-directing wantons of France, and Charles
the Second's scepter-wielding drabs; but nowhere in the procession
was my full-sized fellow visible. I was a Unique; and glad to know
that that fact could not be dislodged or challenged for thirteen
centuries and a half, for sure. Yes, in power I was equal to
the king. At the same time there was another power that was
a trifle stronger than both of us put together. That was the Church.
I do not wish to disguise that fact. I couldn't, if I wanted to.
But never mind about that, now; it will show up, in its proper
place, later on. It didn't cause me any trouble in the beginning--
at least any of consequence.
Well, it was a curious country, and full of interest. And the
people! They were the quaintest and simplest and trustingest race;
why, they were nothing but rabbits. It was pitiful for a person
born in a wholesome free atmosphere to listen to their humble
and hearty outpourings of loyalty toward their king and Church
and nobility; as if they had any more occasion to love and honor
king and Church and noble than a slave has to love and honor
the lash, or a dog has to love and honor the stranger that kicks him!
Why, dear me, any kind of royalty,
howsoever modified, any kind
of aristocracy, howsoever pruned, is rightly an insult; but if you
are born and brought up under that sort of arrangement you probably
never find it out for yourself, and don't believe it when somebody
else tells you. It is enough to make a body ashamed of his race
to think of the sort of froth that has always occupied its thrones
without shadow of right or reason, and the seventh-rate people
that have always figured as its aristocracies--a company of monarchs
and nobles who, as a rule, would have achieved only poverty and
obscurity if left, like their betters, to their own exertions.