It was ever "Kings can not do this," or "Kings must do that," and the "this" was always sweet, the "that" repellent; in Krak's hands monarchy became a cross between a treadmill and a strait-waistcoat. "What's the use of being a king?" I dared once to cry to her. "God did not make you a king for your own pleasure," returned Krak solemnly.
I was hardly eight, she nearing ten, and her worldly wisdom seemed great. "Oh, you have just what you want, and do what you like, and kill people that you don't like," said she. "Don't you remember the Arabian Nights?" "Could I kill Krak?" I asked, choosing a concrete and tempting illustration of despotic power. Victoria was puzzled.
So presently my mother went away, and Krak too. Then Anna came and tried to turn down the clothes, but I would not let her. I hung on to them hard, for I was still crying. I heard Anna sigh, "Poor dearie!" then she went away; but directly after Victoria's voice came, saying, "Anna says I may come in with you. May I, please, Augustin?"
He handed the reins to Veslovsky and walked into the marsh. Laska, who had been plaintively whining and fretting against the injustice of her treatment, flew straight ahead to a hopeful place that Levin knew well, and that Krak had not yet come upon. "Why don't you stop her?" shouted Stepan Arkadyevitch.
"They might let me do a little more, mightn't they? It's all Krak, you know. Mother wouldn't be half so bad without Krak." "Oh, my dear, and is Krak so horrid?" "Horrid," said I, with grave emphasis. The Countess kissed me again. "You'll grow up soon," she said. Somehow the assurance comforted me more from her lips than from Victoria's. "Will you be nice to me when you grow up?"
She said also that some one in heaven would hold me, and we differed again as to the celestial personage in whose lap I was to sit. I am afraid that here our imaginations were assisted by the picture of the Holy Family in the chapel of the Schloss. Not the least tiresome incident of this time was that Krak felt it her duty to display affection.
Krak darted out from behind the twisted root of an alder, black all over with the stinking mire of the marsh, and with the air of a conqueror sniffed at Laska. Behind Krak there came into view in the shade of the alder tree the shapely figure of Stepan Arkadyevitch. He came to meet him, red and perspiring, with unbuttoned neckband, still limping in the same way. "Well?
She was smiling still as she added: "There's another old acquaintance coming to assist at the wedding, Augustin. I telegraphed to ask her, and she has answered accepting the invitation in the warmest terms." "Indeed! Who is that, pray?" "The Baroness," said my mother. I stared at her; then I cried with a laugh, "Krak? Not Krak?" "Yes, Krak, as you naughty children used to call her."
And all the while my own secret opinion was that Krak was rather good for Victoria. It has generally been my secret opinion that people had no business to receive the things which they have asked me to give to or procure for them. When the merits are good the King's help is unnecessary.
I had hated Krak with that healthy full-blooded antipathy whose faculty one seems to lose in later years. It is a tiresome thing to be driven by experience to the discovery of some good in everybody; your fine black fades to neutral gray; often I regret the delightfully partial views of earlier days. And so many people succeed in preserving them to a green and untutored old age!