The artist looked gravely down at him. “Proud, Son?” he asked, in the peculiar way he had of reasoning with the Little Chap. “Have you reached the age of five because of anything you have done? Or did you acquire the trousers with money you earned?”
The Little Chap looked up at him questioningly. He had inherited his father’s wide gray eyes, and at present their expression was troubled. Then, evidently seeking a more easily comprehended topic, his eyes left his father’s and sought the canvas on which was depicted a court scene of mediaeval times. “Who is that, Daddy?” His small index finger pointed to the most prominent figure in the painting.
His father continued to regard him thoughtfully. “One of England’s proud kings, Son.”
“And what did he do to be proud of?” came quickly from the youthful inquisitioner.
A hearty laugh escaped the artist. “Bully for you, Son! That’s a poser! Aside from taxing the poor and having enemies beheaded, I’m puzzled to know what he really did do to earn his high position.”
The Little Chap squirmed himself between his father’s knees and started to scale the heights to his lap, where he finally settled down with a sigh of comfort. “Tell me a story about him,” he said eagerly. “A story with castles, ‘n’ wars, ‘n’ everything.”
The artist’s gaze rested on the kingly figure in the picture, then wandered away to the window through which he seemed to lose himself in scenes of a far-distant time.
“I’ll tell you a story, Son,” he began, slowly and ruminatingly, “of how Loyalty and Service stormed the Stronghold of Honour and Splendour. This proud king you see in the picture lived part of the time in the great castle of Windsor, and the balance of the year in Saint James’s Palace in London.”
“It must have cost him a lot for rent,” wisely interpolated the Little Chap.
“No, the people paid the rent, Son. Some of them were glad to do it, for they looked upon their king as a superior being. Among this class of loyal subjects was an old hatter, very poor and humble.”
“What was his name?” asked the Little Chap, apparently greatly interested.
“He had no name. People in those olden days were known by their trade or calling. So he was simply called ’the hatter’.”
“And did he make nice hats?”
“I’ve no doubt he did, Son. But you mustn’t interrupt. Well, the hatter paid his tithes, or taxes, after which, I dare say, he had little enough left to live on. But he appeared not to mind. And whenever the King and Queen rode through the streets in their gilded coach of state, his cracked old voice would cheer lustily, and his hoary head would be bared in deepest reverence.”
“Didn’t he ever catch cold?”
“Hush, Son, I’m telling a story! As the hatter grew older he lost his wits and became quite crazy on the subject of his king. He yearned to do something to prove his loyalty. And whenever England engaged in a war, and a proclamation was issued calling for men to fight for King and country, he would be one of the first to volunteer. But they never accepted him, of course, because he was so old.