“I had some bread and sausage with me; yesterday afternoon I finished it.”
“You would like to eat now?”
“If I might have a little water I would be glad; my throat is very dry.”
The king had water and wine brought for him, and cake also; but August, though he drank eagerly, could not swallow anything. His mind was in too great a tumult.
“May I stay with Hirschvogel?—may I stay?” he said with feverish agitation.
“Wait a little,” said the king, and asked, abruptly, “What do you wish to be when you are a man?”
“A painter. I wish to be what Hirschvogel was—I mean the master that made my Hirschvogel.”
“I understand,” said the king.
Then the two dealers were brought into their sovereign’s presence. They were so terribly alarmed, not being either so innocent or so ignorant as August was that they were trembling as though they were being led to the slaughter, and they were so utterly astonished too at a child having come all the way from Tyrol in the stove, as a gentleman of the court had just told them this child had done, that they could not tell what to say or where to look, and presented a very foolish aspect indeed.
“Did you buy this Nuernberg stove of this little boy’s father for two hundred florins?” the king asked them; and his voice was no longer soft and kind as it had been when addressing the child, but very stern.
“Yes, your majesty,” murmured the trembling traders.
“And how much did the gentleman who purchased it for me give to you?”
“Two thousand ducats, your majesty,” muttered the dealers, frightened out of their wits, and telling the truth in their fright.
The gentleman was not present: he was a trusted counselor in art matters of the king’s, and often made purchases for him.
The king smiled a little, and said nothing. The gentleman had made out the price to him as eleven thousand ducats.
“You will give at once to this boy’s father the two thousand gold ducats that you received, less the two hundred Austrian florins that you paid him,” said the king to his humiliated and abject subjects. “You are great rogues. Be thankful you are not more greatly punished.”
He dismissed them by a sign to his courtiers, and to one of these gave the mission of making the dealers of the Marienplatz disgorge their ill-gotten gains.
August heard, and felt dazzled yet miserable. Two thousand gold Bavarian ducats for his father! Why, his father would never need to go any more to the salt-baking! And yet, whether for ducats or for florins, Hirschvogel was sold just the same, and would the king let him stay with it?—would he?
“Oh, do! oh, please do!” he murmured, joining his little brown weather-stained hands, and kneeling down before the young monarch, who himself stood absorbed in painful thought, for the deception so basely practised for the greedy sake of gain on him by a trusted counsellor was bitter to him.