Frederick, in surveying one evening some of the advanced posts
of his camp, discovered a soldier endeavouring to pass the sentinel. His
majesty stopped him, and insisted on knowing where he was going. "To tell
you the truth," answered the soldier, "your majesty has been so worsted in
all your attempts, that I was going to _desert_." "Were you?" answered the
monarch. "Remain here but one week longer, and if fortune does not mend in
that time, I'll desert with you too."
Louis XIV., playing at backgammon, had a doubtful throw; a dispute arose,
and all the courtiers remained silent. The Count de Grammont came in at
that instant. "Decide the matter," said the king to him. "Sire," said the
count, "your Majesty is in the wrong."--"How so," replied the king; "can
you decide without knowing the question?"--"Yes," said the count, "because,
had the matter been doubtful, all these gentlemen present would have given
it for your majesty."
Louis was told that Lord Stair was the best bred man in Europe. "I shall
soon put that to the test," said the king, and asking Lord Stair to take an
airing with him, as soon as the door of the coach was opened he bade him
pass and go in, the other bowed and obeyed. The king said, "The world was
right in the character it gave of Lord Stair--another person would have
troubled me with ceremony."
While the Eddystone light-house was erecting, a French privateer took the
men upon the rock, together with their tools, and carried them to France;
and the captain was in expectation of a reward for the achievement. While
the captives lay in prison, the transaction reached the ears of Louis XIV.,
when he immediately ordered them to be released, and the captors put in
their places, declaring, that "Though he was at war with England, he was
not so with all mankind." He directed the men to be sent back to their
work, with presents--observing, "That the Eddystone light-house was so
situated as to be of equal service to all nations having occasion to
navigate the channel between England and France."
Charles II. was reputed a great connoisseur in naval architecture. Being
once at Chatham, to view a ship just finished on the stocks, he asked the
famous Killigrew, "If he did not think he should make an excellent
shipwright?" He replied, "That he always thought his majesty would have
done better at any trade than his own." No favourable compliment, but as
true a one, perhaps, as ever was paid.