Page:T.M. Royal Highness.djvu/52

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

36

ROYAL HIGHNESS

admission to them,—a measure which was obviously due to the shocking state of the castle. But people who could get a peep, the tradesmen and the staff, declared that there was stuffing peeping out of more than one stiff, imposing piece of furniture.

The castle and the Court Church together made up a grey, irregular, and commanding mass of turrets, galleries, and gateways, half fortress, half palace. Various epochs had contributed to its erection, and large parts of it were decaying, weather-beaten, spoilt, and ready to fall into pieces. To the west it dropped steeply down to the lower-lying city, and was connected with it by battered steps clamped together with rusty iron bars. But the huge main gate, guarded by lions couchant, and surmounted by the pious, haughty motto: "Turris fortissima nomen Domini," in almost illegible carving, faced the Albrechtsplatz. It had its sentries and sentry boxes; it was the scene of the changing of the guard, with drums and martial display; it was the playground of all the urchins of the town.

The Old Castle had three courtyards, in the corners of which rose graceful stair-turrets and between whose paving stones an unnecessary amount of weeds was generally growing. But in the middle of one of the courtyards stood the rose-bush,—it had stood there for ages in a bed, although there was no other attempt at a garden to be seen. It was just like any other rose-bush; it had a porter to tend it, it stood there in snow, rain, and sunshine, and in due season it bore roses. These were exceptionally fine roses, nobly formed, with dark-red velvet petals, a pleasure to look at, and real masterpieces of nature. But those roses had one strange and dreadful peculiarity: they had no scent ! Or rather, they had a scent, but for some unknown reason it was not the scent of roses, but of decay—a slight, but plainly perceptible scent of decay. Every-