PRINCE RICARDO. 133
" Your Majesty has only to command," said Herr Schnipp. "There have been monarchs, in neighbouring kingdoms, who would have cut off all our heads after we had done a bit of secret business; but the merest word of your Majesty is law to your loving subjects."
The other merchants murmured assent, for King Prigio was really liked by his people. He was always good-tempered and polite. He never went to war with anybody. He spent most of the royal income on public objects, and of course there were scarcely any taxes to speak of. Moreover, he had abolished what is called compulsory education, or making everybody go to school whether he likes it or not; a most mischievous and tyrannical measure! " A fellow who can't teach himself to read," said the king, "is not worth teaching."
For all these reasons, and because they were so fond of the queen, his subjects were ready to do anything in reason for King Prigio.
Only one tradesman, bowing very deep and blushing very much, said :
" Your Majesty, will you hear me for one moment ?"
" For an hour, with pleasure, Herr Schmidt," said the monarch.
" It is an untradesman-like and an unusual thing to decline an order ; and if your Majesty asked for my heart's blood, I am ready to shed it, not to speak of anything in the line of my