THE COURT CARDS
OH， so many dainty things can be cut out of paste- board and pasted together！ In this fashion there was cutand pasted a castle so large that it took up a whole tabletop， and it was painted so that it seemed to be built outof red brick． It had a shining copper roof； it had towersand a drawbridge； the water in the canals looked likeplate glass， which is just wtat it was； and in the topmosttower there stood a watchman cut out of wood． He had atrumpet， but he didn' t blow it．
All this belonged to a little boy named William． Heraised and then lowered the drawbridge himself， and madehis tin soldiers march over it．He opened the castle gateto peep into the spacious reception hall， where all theface cards from a pack—Hearts，Diamonds， Clubs and Spades—hung in frames upon the wall， like portraits in areal reception hall．The Kings each held a scepter and wore a crown．The Queens wore flowing veils over their shoulders， and in their hands each held a flower or a fan．The Knaves had halberds and nodding plumes．
One evening the little boy peered through the open gates of the castle to have a look at the Court Cards in thereception hall．It seemed to him that the Kings saluted him with their scepters， the Queen of Spades waved the golden tulip she held， the Queen of Hearts raised her fan， and all four Queens graciously took notice of him．As he came a little closer to get a better view， his headstruck against the castle and shook it．Then the four Knaves， of Hearts， Diamonds， Clubs， and Spades， liftedtheir halberds to warn him not to try to press his way through．
The little boy understood，and gave them a friendly nod．He nodded again，and then he said："Say some－ thing，"but the Court Cards said not a word．However， when he nodded a third time to the Knave of Hearts， theKnave jumped out of his card and placed himself in the middle of the floor．
"What's your name？"he asked the youngster．"You have bright eyes and good teeth， but you don't wash yourhands often enough．"This was not a very polite way to talk．
"My name is william，"said the youngster．"This castle is mine，and you are my Knave of Hearts．"
"I'm my King's and my Queen's Knave， not yours，"said the Knave of Hearts．"I can get off of the card and outof the frame too． So can my gracious King and Queen， even more easily than I． We can march right out into the wide world， but that' s such a tiresome journey， and wehave grown weary of it．It's more convenient，and more pleasant for us to be sitting in the cards， just being our-selves．"
"Were all of you really human beings once？"asked the youngster．
"Human beings？" the Knave of Hearts said．"Yes， but we were not as good as we should have been． Now please light a little wax candle for me． I'd like a red onebest， for red is the color of my King and Queen．Then I shall tell our whole story to the lord of the castle—I be－lieve you said you were lord of the castle， didn't you？Butdon't interrupt me． If I speak， there must not be theslightest interruption．"
"Do you see my King—the King of Hearts？Of these four kings， he is the oldest， the first-born． He was born with a golden crown and a golden apple， and he began to rule immediately． His Queen was born with a golden fan．
She still has it． They had a wonderful time， even inchildhood． They did not have to go to school． They couldamuse themselves all day long， building up castles and knocking them down，setting up tin soldiers，and playing with dolls．If they asked for a slice of bread and butter， their bread was buttered on both sides and nicely sprin－ kled with brown sugar too． This was in the good old days which were called the golden age，but they tired of it all，and so did I． Yes， those were the good old days！—and then the King of Diamonds took over the government．"
The Knave didn't say any more．The little boy wait－ ed to hear something else，but not a syllable was spoken， so after a while he asked，"What then？"
The Knave of Hearts made him no answer．He stood erect and silent， with his eyes fixed on the burning waxcandle．[The youngster nodded， and nodded again， buthe got no response．] He then turned to the Knave of Dia-
monds， and when he had nodded to him three times theKnave leaped from the card to the center of the floor．He said only two words："Wax candle！"
Understanding what he wanted， little William atonce lighted a red candle and placed it before him． The Knave of Diamonds presented arms with his halberd， andsaid：
"Then the King of Diamonds came to the throne—a King with a pane of glass in his chest．The Queen also had a pane of glass in her chest， so people could look right inside them， though in all other respects they were shaped as normal human beings．They were so pleasant that a monument was raised in their honor． It stood with－ out falling for seven whole years， but it was built to standforever．"The Knave of Diamonds presented arms and stared at the red wax candle．
Immediately， without any nod of encouragement from little William， the Knave of Clubs stepped down， as seri－ ous as the stork that strides with such dignity across the meadow． like a bird， the black three-leafed clover in thecorner of the card flew past the Knave and back again， tofit itself where it had fitted before． Without waiting for his wax candle—as the other knaves had done—the Knave of Clubs said：
"Not everyone gets his bread buttered on both sides and powdered with sugar．My King and Queen had none of that． They were compelled to go to school and learn what they had not learned before．They too had panes of glass in their chests， but nobody looked through the glass except to see if something was wrong with their works inside，[and if possible to find out some reason for scolding them．] I know it．I have served my King and Queen all my lile long．I know all about them， and I obey all their orders． They commanded me to say nothing more tonight， so I keep si－ lence and present arms．"
But William lighted a candle for this Knave too—a candle， white as snow．Quickly—[even more quickly than the candle was lighted]—the Knave of Spades appeared [in the center of the hall．] He hurried along， yet helimped as if he had a lame leg．[It creaked and cracked asif it had once been broken．Yes，he had met with many ups and downs in his life．]Now he spoke：
"Yes， you have each got a candle， and I shall getone too． I know that． But if we Knaves are honored sohighly，our kings and Queens should have triple honors．
[And it is right that My king and Queen should have four candles each． Their story and trials are so sad and unhappy that they have good reason to dress in mourning and to wear a grave－digger's spade on their coat of arms．] Poor Knave that I am， in one game of cards I have been micknamed 'Black Peter．' Yes！ But I have a name that isn't even fitto mention．"So he whispered，"In another game I am nicknamed'Dirty Mads'—I who was once first cavalier to the King of Spades．Now I am last！The history of my royal master and mistress I will not tell，[for they do not wish me to do so．] The little lord of the castle may imagine their story for himself if he will，but it is a most melan－ choly one． They have sunk pretty low， and their fate is not apt to change for the better until we all go riding on the red horse， higher than there are clouds．"
And little William proceeded to light three candles apiece for the Kings， and three for the Queens．[But for the King and Queen of Spades， he lighted four candles apiece，]and the whole reception hall became as dazzlinglybright as the wealthiest emperor's palace． The four Kingsand Queens made each other serene bows and gracious curtsies． The Queen of Hearts fluttered her golden fan，and the Queen of Spades twirled her golden tulip in a wheel of fire． The royal couples came down from their cards and frames to move in a graceful minuet across the floor．[They were dancing in and out among the candle flames， and the Knaves were dancing too． ] [Suddenly the entire reception hall was ablaze．The fire roared up through the windows and the walls， and ev－ erything was a curtain of flames that crackled and hissed．] The whole castle was wrapped in fire and smoke．William was frightened．He ran shouting to his father and mother，"Fire，fire！ My castle's on fire！" Itsparkled and blazed， but from the flames it sang：
"Now we are riding the red horse， higher than the clouds． This is the way it behooves Kings and Queens to go．And this is the way it behooves their Knaves to fol－ low．"
Yes！That was the end of William's castle，and of the Court Cards． William is still alive， and he washes hishands． It was not his fault that the castle burned．