“Exactly, Your Majesty,” said Hi-You.
“Charming weather for the time of year.”
“For the time of year, of course,” said the King hastily. “One naturally assumes that. Well, my dear,” he went on to his daughter, “I’m sure you will be glad to know that Prince Frederick has consented to stay with us for a little. You will give orders that suitable apartments are to be prepared.”
“Yes, Father. What are suitable apartments?”
The King pulled at his beard and regarded Frederick doubtfully.
“Perhaps it would be better,” the Princess went on, looking at Hi-You, “if this gentleman—”
“Of course, my dear, of course. Naturally His Royal Highness would wish to retain his suite.”
“Humph!” said Frederick, meaning, I imagine, that things were looking up.
Of all the Princes who from time to time had visited the Court none endeared himself so rapidly to the people as did Frederick of Milvania. His complete lack of vanity, his thoughtfulness, the intense reserve which so obviously indicated a strong character, his power of listening placidly to even the most tedious of local dignitaries, all these were virtues of which previous royal visitors had given no sign. Moreover on set occasions Prince Frederick could make a very pretty speech. True, this was read for him, owing to a slight affection of the throat from which, as the Chancellor pointed out, His Royal Highness was temporarily suffering, but it would be couched in the most perfect taste and seasoned at suitable functions (such, for instance, as the opening of the first Public Baths) with a pleasantly restrained humour. Nor was there any doubt that the words were indeed the Prince’s own, as dictated to Hi-You and by him put on paper for the Chancellor. But Hi-You himself never left the Palace.
“My dear,” said the King to his daughter one day, “have you ever thought of marriage?”
“Often, Father,” said Amaril.
“I understand from the Chancellor that the people are expecting an announcement on the subject shortly.”
“We haven’t got anything to announce, have we?”
“It’s a pity that you were so hasty with your other suitors,” said the King thoughtfully. “There is hardly a Prince left who is in any way eligible.”
“Except Prince Frederick,” said Amaril gently.
The King looked at her suspiciously and then looked away again, pulling at his beard.
“Of course,” went on Amaril, “I don’t know what your loving subjects would say about it.”
“My loving subjects,” said the King grimly, “have been properly brought up. They believe—they have my authority for believing—that they are suffering from a disability of the eyesight laid upon them by a wicked enchanter, under which they see Princes as—er—pigs. That, if you remember, was this fellow Hi-You’s suggestion. And a very sensible one.”