The Prince's Councilors
AS the Prince and a Page were coming from a game of tennis, a newsboy ran along crying: "Extra—extra-a Here y' are; extra-a! Ter'ble los' life!"
"Boy!" called the Prince, in a truly royal voice.
"Extra?" asked the boy, running up to them.
"Yes, please," answered the Prince condescendingly, taking the paper and drawing a gold coin from his purse.
"I can't change that," said the boy.
"Never mind the change," said the Prince. The boy's eyes sparkled. He hastily handed over two papers, and ran off with the coin, shouting as before, while heads popped from windows and people tried to find out the news without paying for it.
Meanwhile the Prince and the Page read their papers.
The Princess Paragon!
Alone And Adrift!!
Royalty To The Rescue!!!
By this time both had dropped the rackets and were reading rapidly down the big print so as to get at the facts. The finer print told the story in simple words.
The position of the Princess Paragon—at present entirely unknown—is for that very reason most alarming. With her Royal Father she this morning went sailing in their private yacht. In spite of His Majesty's well-known skill with tiller and tackle, he lost control for an instant of the stanch little vessel, and, fearing the worst, courageously jumped overboard and waded ashore, intending to bring assistance to Her Royal Highness, the unfortunate Princess. Having lost one of his shoes in the wet sand, His Majesty was so delayed by his efforts to find it that the yacht had drifted beyond reach of those on shore before the fishermen sent by the intrepid King could reach the beach.
Distracted by his loss, the King now most generously offers his daughter's hand and a princely dowry, also half his Kingdom (subject to a first and second mortgage), to the noble youth who shall restore to him his daughter and the valuable necklace of diamonds she wears.
We commend the quest to the young Prince and the brave youths of his court. Further particulars in the regular edition this afternoon. The boat, we learn, was fully insured.
"There!" said the Page, throwing aside the paper. "That's just what I'm looking for!"
"What is that?" asked the Prince, as he folded his paper and put it in his pocket.
"An opportunity to distinguish myself—to become renowned!" said the Page, proudly.
"You shall have it," answered the Prince, graciously. "You have always served me well, and you play tennis nearly as well as I do." (The score that afternoon was six sets love in favor of the Page.)
"Then you are willing I should try this adventure?" asked the Page, in surprise.
"Certainly," replied the Prince. "I shall take you with me, of course."
"Oh!" said the Page, in quite a different tone. He had been surprised at the Prince's generosity, but now he understood it better. Then he turned to the Prince and said, "When shall you start?"
"In a few days, I think," said the Prince, as he stooped to pick up his racket. "It depends on how long it will take to decide upon the best plan, to get things ready, and to pack up my robes, and put my fleet in order."
"Indeed!" said the Page. Then he added, "As I'm quite willing to go alone, because I'm in a hurry, I think I won't wait. In fact, I 'll start now."
Then, coolly turning on his heel, he walked off down the street, leaving his racket where it had fallen, and the Prince where he stood.
"His last week's wages are n't paid, either," said the Prince to himself; "and I don't believe he 'll ever come back for that racket of his. Reckless boy!"
The Prince picked up the racket and went leisurely home to the palace, where he was received by two long lines of footmen, who bowed low as he entered.
There were quail on toast for supper, and the Prince was so fond of these little birds that he ate seven of them, and was so busied over it that he could not find time to say a word until he was quite done. The Queen was telling the King all about a new gown; and the King was thinking how he could persuade the treasurer that there was a little too much money instead of much too little; and the Jester was wondering what chance he might have to make a living as a farmer; and the nobles were trying to attract the King's attention; so there was hardly a word spoken at the table until the Prince was quite through with his seven small birds. Then said the Prince:
"Oh, by the way, Papa, I almost forgot to ask you something. Will you please tell the treasurer to give me three or four bags of gold to-morrow? I'm going to take a little journey." But the King at first paid no attention.
"What did you say?" he asked, at length.
"You tell him," suggested the Prince to the Jester.
So the Jester gave the King a hasty outline of the news in the paper, and told him that the Prince thought of going in search of the Princess. The King took little interest in the story until there was mention of the three or four bags of gold. Then he awoke to animation.
"To be sure," he cried. "It is an excellent plan. I will give you an order on the treasurer for six bags of gold, and I will keep the rest so as to send out a search expedition for you when you get lost."
The King knew the treasurer would not dare refuse the money for so worthy an object as the rescue of a princess adrift. Even if the treasurer did not want to give up the money, the people would never support an economy that would keep the Prince from so worthy an expedition. Indeed, the King's order was at once obeyed, and the Prince began his preparations. First the Prince called a council of the wisest of the court.
SOME OF THE COUNCILORS.
"I suppose you have all read the news about the Princess?" he asked, when his councilors had assembled.
"Yes," they answered.
"I am desirous of not making a blunder at the outset, and so have resolved to secure the assistance of the wisest men of the kingdom. What, then, would you advise?"
"It seems to me," said the Chief Secretary, who was so venerable that his hair and beard seemed turned to cotton-batting, "that we ought first to ascertain whether the report is confirmed."
A low murmur of assent arose from them all; and the Prince, accepting the suggestion, said: "Let us then appoint a committee of investigation. Who knows how to go about the appointing of a committee?"
After a brief pause for consideration, another old courtier arose and said that he had a neighbor who was skilled in such matters, and if they would take an adjournment for a day or two he would ascertain just how to go about it.
The Prince thought the request was very reasonable, and announced that the council would meet again in two days. So they separated, and the Prince betook himself to the tennis-courts again, this time, however, with another page. The Prince found during the games that the former page's racket was a very good one; and this reminded him that the owner of it had started to seek the lost Princess.
Suddenly stopping the game, he said to one of his attendants:
"On second thought, I think I ought not to have sent after the man who knows how to appoint a committee. Suppose you go after the man who went after him, and tell him to come back."
Away went the attendant, and the Prince returned to the palace, resolved to prosecute the search with vigor. The council was again called together, and the Prince told them that without waiting to verify the report of the loss of the Princess, he meant to seek her at once.
"But in which direction will you go?" asked the Court Geographer.
"Oh, in any direction!" said the Prince, indifferently. "There is no telling where a boat may drift to."
"In that case," said the Court Mathematician, smiling, "the chances are about one in three hundred and sixty that you will hit upon the right way. Let me show you."
So the Court Mathematician sent a page to the kitchen for some beans. Away ran the boy; only to return in a few moments with the report that the cook wished to know whether he wanted "a pint, or a quart, or how many?"
"I want three hundred and sixty white ones, and one black one," said the Mathematician.
This time the page was gone a long while. When he returned, he explained that it took the cook longer to count the beans than one would think. That they had disagreed, and had counted them twice, to make sure; and then had to send to the grocer's for a black bean, since there was none in the palace.
"There was no need of that," said the Mathematician, impatiently. "I can mark one of the white ones, and it will do quite as well."
So the page ran to overtake the messenger who had started for the grocer's and meanwhile the Mathematician made an ink mark on one of the white beans, put them all into a hat, and shook them well.
"Now draw one," he said, offering the hat to the Prince.
The Prince drew one. It was the marked bean.
"Well," he said, "what does that prove?"
"It really does n't prove anything," said the Mathematician, a little out of temper. "Try again." So the Prince returned the marked white bean to the hat, and after they were well shaken, drew again. This time he drew a plain bean.
"You see," said the Mathematician, triumphantly.
"What do I see?" asked the Prince.
"You did n't get the right one."
"But I did the first time," argued the Prince. "All your experiment proves is that I may hit it right the first time, and miss it the second, if I should try again. But if I hit it right the first time, I sha'n't have to try over again; so your rule does n't apply. Is n't that so?"
"It does sound reasonable," answered the Mathematician, who was honest though scientific.
"Perhaps you'd like to go home and try the experiment for yourself?" said the Prince, kindly.
The Mathematician borrowed the beans, and went home, promising to send a written report of his trials after a few days.
"Now that we have settled the mathematical side of the question," said the Court Meteorologist, "we can go at the problem scientifically. Here, if you will allow me, is the way it appears to me, your Royal Highness."
Then the Meteorologist unrolled a map and pinned it on the wall.
"The present position of the lost Princess," said he, "depends upon the joint action of the winds and tides. The Gulf Stream has little or nothing to do with the problem, as the boat was abandoned beyond the sphere of its influence. The trade-winds for a similar reason may perhaps be disregarded. There is no question here of simoom or sirocco, and—"
"Maybe it would be as well to leave out the things that have nothing to do with it," suggested the Prince, a little impatiently.
"But how shall we know what to leave out unless we go over them to see?" asked the lecturer.
"True," said the Prince; "but as that will take some time, you might run over the list at home and report to me, say, the day after to-morrow."
"I will do so," replied the Meteorologist, rolling up his map and departing with an air of great importance.
"I don't see," remarked the Prince, uneasily, "that we are making real progress."
"There has been nothing but nonsense, so far," said a bluff old Admiral. "What I say is to take a boat and go after the young lady in shipshape style!"
The Prince was so much encouraged by this direct way of putting the matter that he let the undignified mention of the Princess pass without reproof.
"And what would you advise?" he asked the Admiral.
"Take the fastest brigantine you can find—" began the officer; but he was interrupted.
"In a case of less importance," broke in the voice of a portly Commodore, "I should not venture to interrupt my superior officer. But here the matter admits of no false hesitation because of etiquette."
"What suggestion have you to make?" inquired the Prince.
"A brigantine," the Commodore said impressively, "is an unreliable craft at best. I say, take a frigate, at once."
"Pshaw!" broke in the Admiral explosively.
"Gentlemen," said the perplexed Prince, "I cannot presume to decide between you. I am a novice in these matters. Suppose you discuss the question fully, and report in writing?"
When the naval officers had departed, there were, left only a few small fry who asked that they might have a day or two to think the whole matter over before committing themselves to a decided opinion. Upon their withdrawal, the Prince found only the Jester.
"Perhaps," said the Prince, a little sarcastically, "you have some advice to give?"
"Perhaps," replied the Jester; "but first I have a plan to suggest.
"What is that?"
"You might take a small army and go after the page who started out to seek the Princess. By the time you have come up with him, he will perhaps have found her. Then you can sail in and take her away from him, and bring her home yourself. That's the way kings and princes often do."
"But that seems hardly fair," said the Prince, after a few moments' reflection.
"Of course it is n't fair," said the Jester; "but it's your only chance. I have no doubt he has found the Princess long ago."
"Do you think so?" asked the Prince.
"No doubt of it," said the Jester. "You see, he did n't wait for any advice, but started oft at once."
"Is n't advice a good thing?"
"Yes," said the Jester, "for lawyers and councilors. They make their living by it. Advice is good when it's good; but the best qualities are hard to find, and the time it takes to find them is sometimes worth more than the advice when found."
"Then you would n't advise me to take advice?" said the Prince, thoughtfully.
"My advice is," said the Jester, "don't take mine, or anybody's."
"Is n't that rather a difficult course to follow?" asked the Prince, after a moment's reflection.
"Very," the Jester agreed.
"I think," the Prince went on, "that I shall start now, and take my chances."
"I 'll go with you," replied his companion.
So they started toward the palace gate; but just as they reached it and had called for the gate-keeper, there came a summons from without. When the gate was opened there was the Page. He seemed weary, and his shoes showed that he had traveled a long way on foot.
"Did you find the Princess?" asked the Prince, eagerly.
"Yes," said the Page, very calmly. "I found her."
"Fortunate boy!" said the Prince, a little enviously.
"I don't know about that," said the Page. "She was as cross as two sticks about having been left to go adrift. It rained, you know; and when I rowed out to the yacht, I found that everything on board was soaking wet, and she had n't had anything to eat for two days, and—my goodness!—she was hopping mad!"
"What did she say?" asked the Jester.
"She said she'd like to box my ears," said the Page, earnestly. "Then I told her if she was n't more polite I would n't rescue her. That quieted her, quick! So then she did n't say anything, but she looked about as pleasant as cold gravy. As soon as I towed the boat ashore, she gave me some money and told me to get along home. So I did, and I was glad to be away. I did n't tell her who I was, and I don't think she will ever find me. You won't tell, will you?" pleaded the Page, as he finished.
"No", said the Prince, laughing. "I won't tell. But perhaps you did n't treat the Princess with proper courtesy. No wonder she was out of humor, after being adrift so long."
"I 'll tell you," said the Page, suddenly, "what we 'll do. I found the Princess, and I suppose I'm entitled to the reward. Now, can't you arrange it that you 'll marry the Princess? I think she 'll just suit you. She is a fine-looking Princess, and I don't believe she meant to be cross. Do you think you can arrange it? It would be a splendid thing for the kingdom, you know. It would unite the two kingdoms, and there'd be all sorts of advantages. You can say that I went with your permission, you know, and that I'm engaged to be married, and would n't presume to aspire to a princess's hand."
"It's a good suggestion," said the Jester; "for otherwise there 'll be war, of course. The other king will be bound to know why this young man won't accept his daughter's hand, and then there 'll be a lot of diplomatic correspondence, ultimatums, protocols, and all sorts of goings-on. If you don't mind, I think you would do well to marry this Princess."
"I don't mind at all," answered the Prince; "and I think I 'll write a letter to her this very day. But how," he went on, turning to the Page, "did you come to be engaged? I did n't know anything about it?"
"The fact is," said the Page, "I'm not quite engaged; but there's one of the maids of honor who will have me, I'm sure. She told me the other day that she wished it was leap-year every day; and I think that's a distinct encouragement, don't you?"
His friend agreed that it was a marked observation.
"You 'll be safe for a day or two," remarked the Jester to the Page; "and meanwhile you can be getting your clothes brushed and your shoes mended. The Prince will write to-day."
Early on the following morning, as the Prince came down to breakfast, he was told that a deputation was awaiting him in the Council-Room. "Who are they?" he asked.
"The Councilors with their reports," answered the messenger.
"But," said the Prince, "they are too—"
"Hush!" said the Jester; "let us not lose their words of wisdom."
"Very well," the Prince agreed, smiling.
So the Prince, the Jester, and the Page entered the room where the Council were assembled. All bowed profoundly.
"Your Royal Highness," began the Secretary, "in order to verify the report of the loss of the Princess, I sent an inquiry to a friend of mine who stands very high in favor at her father's court. It was thus worded: 'Is the Royal Princess absent from the Court?' And I have his sealed reply: 'She is not.' That I consider conclusive. Is it not?"
"Yes," said the Jester; "it is not."
"I have no doubt," said the Prince, "that your information is correct; and I thank you for your diligence."
The Secretary bowed and was seated.
"I," began the Meteorologist, "have prepared a list of the things that may be disregarded in the search. It contains 872 items, with two appendices and voluminous notes. I will read it."
"Never mind," said the Prince, very graciously. "I will order it filed in the Royal Archives. We will now listen to the Mathematician."
"I have tried the bean-experiment several hundreds of times," said the Mathematician, "and have not yet succeeded in drawing the marked bean. The formula of chances I have worked out. I find that 'If Henry puts 360 white beans into a hat, and John draws a good many times, no one can tell whether he will draw the marked bean the first time, or not at all.' I consider that an exact statement of the matter."
"I am not prepared to dispute you," said the Prince, "and I will ask leave therefore to express my indebtedness to you."
"We," said the Admiral, speaking for himself and the Commodore, "I regret to say, have as yet arrived at nothing more advanced than a compromise. We have agreed to recommend a squadron composed of equal numbers of brigantines and frigates. Thus you will secure the advantages of both forms of craft."
"A wise conclusion," said the Prince; "and I gladly offer to you both my fervent gratitude."A few of the smaller fry of Councilors yet remained to be heard, but the Prince announced that he had bestowed upon each councilor The Order of the Brazen Owl. As he was about to leave the room, the Councilors, after a moment's consultation, begged permission to ask a question. It was granted.
"We should like to know what use Your Highness wished to make of the information we have furnished?"
"To find the Princess who was lost," answered the Prince.
"Oh, yes," said the Councilors' spokesman. "We had forgotten what it was all about. But it's of no consequence now."
"No," said the Prince; "she is rescued."
"Indeed?" said the Councilors, with polite interest. Then they put on their cloaks and went their several ways, all reading their reports to one another, and none listening.
The Prince and Princess were married soon after, and the Page and the Maid of Honor were best man and bridesmaid.
The Prince pensioned the Councilors and sent them to America. They all sailed in one ship. The vessel is several days overdue, but undoubtedly will arrive in safety after the Admiral and the Commodore have settled a little difference of opinion as to where they had better land.
The Page and the Maid of Honor are married, and keep a candy-store where they sell a dollar's worth of candy for five cents. They sent me the address, but you 'll be sorry to learn that I have mislaid it.