The Fools Love Story

Rafael Sabatini
The Fool's Love Story
by Rafael Sabatini
From The Ludgate, June 1899
Chapter I.
Kuoni von Stocken, the Hofknarr of Sachsenberg, heaves a weary sigh
and a strange, half-sad, half-scornful expression sits upon his lean
sardonic countenance, as, turning his back to the gay crowd of courtiers
that fills the Ballroom of the Palace of Schwerlingen, he passes out on
to the balcony, and bends his glance upon the sleeping town below.
Resting his elbows upon the cool stone and his chin upon his hands, he
may breathe the free, unpolluted air of heaven, out here; he may permit
his face to assume what expression it lists; in a word, he may rest--if
rest there be for one whose soul is full of bitterness and gall, whose
heart is well-nigh bursting with the hopeless passion it conceals.
He is sadly changed of late, this nimble-witted fool! Time was when
his jests were bright and merry and wounded none save the arrogant
and vain who deserved no better; but now, alas! he has grown morose
and moody, and moves, listless and silent, deep in strange musings
from which he but awakens at times, to give vent to such bursts of
ghastly and even blasphemous mirth, as make men shudder and women
cross themselves, deeming him possessed of devils.
His tongue, from which the bright and sparkling bon-mots were once
listened to with avidity, is now compared, not inadequately, with the
fangs of some poisonous snake. And many who have felt its stinging
sarcasms, pray devoutly that his Majesty may soon deem fit to look
about him for a new jester.
The young French nobleman, the Marquis de Savignon, in the honour

of whose fiançailles with the lady Louisa von Lichtenau, to-night's fête
is held, seems to have become in particular the butt for the jester's most
biting gibes. This the Court thinks strange, for the young Frenchman
has ever treated Kuoni kindly.
What is amiss? Some swear that he is growing old; but that is untrue,
for he is scarce thirty years of age and in point of strength and
agility--though but a jester--he has no equal in the army of Sachsenberg.
Others jestingly whisper that he is in love, and little do they dream how
near the truth they are!
Alas! Poor Kuoni! For ten years he has gloried in his suit of motley, but
now of a sudden he seems to grow ashamed of his quaint black tunic
with its cap and bells and pointed cape, and in his secret shame, at
times he hangs his head; at times he curses bitterly to himself the fate
which has made him the sport of courtiers, and which seems to forget
that he is human, and that he has a heart.
As he stands upon the balcony, gazing aimlessly now up into the starlit
summer sky, now down upon the sleeping city of Schwerlingen, his
long, lithe figure bathed in a flood of light from the window behind him
and his ears assailed by sounds of music and of revelry, the wretched
jester feels--as he has never felt until to-night--the bitter ignominy of
his position. In an agony rendered all the more terrible by the despair
that fills his soul, he flings himself down upon a stone seat in a corner,
and covers his face with his hands. Thus he sits for some few moments,
his vigorous frame shaken by a fierce sobbing which no tears come to
relieve, until a step close at hand bids him make an effort to overcome
his emotion.
The tall, slim figure of a girl stands for a moment framed in the open
casement, and as, raising his eyes, Kuoni beholds her, he springs
suddenly to his feet and turns his pale countenance towards her, so that
the light from the room beyond falls full upon it, revealing clearly the
signs of the storm of agony that has swept across the jester's soul.
An exclamation of wonder escapes the girl at the sight of that distorted

"Kuoni!" she cries, coming forward, "what is amiss? Have you seen a
"Aye, Madame," he answers, in accents full of bitter, bitter sadness, "I
have indeed seen a ghost--the ghost of happiness."
"And is the sight then so distressing as your face and tone would tell
me? Why, I should have deemed it otherwise."
"Yes, were it tangible, attainable happiness that I had beheld; but I said
the ghost of happiness--in other words, the reflection of the joys of
others--a shadow well calculated to strike despair into the hearts of
those wretches who may not grasp the substance."
"And are you one of those wretches, Kuoni?" enquires the girl, her tone
full of an interest and sympathy such as a wise man might have
misconstrued but which the fool
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