i iji ji 1 i ;' i
University of California • Berkeley
THE HEARST CORPORATION
71. t),S. "M-J S
RUPERT OF HENTZAU
''God Save the King!
SEK PAGE 333.
All Rights Reserved
RUPERT OF liENTZAU
Being the Sequel to a story by the same writer entitled
The Prisoner of Zenda
With Illustrations by
CHARLES DANA GIBSON
J. W. Arrowsmith, II Quay Street
SiMPKiN, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Company Limited
BY THE SAME AUTHOR.
A MAN OF MARK.
A CHANGE OF AIR.
MR. WITT'S WIDOW.
HALF A HERO.
THE PRISONER OF ZENDA.
THE INDISCRETION OF THE DUCHESS.
THE DOLLY DIALOGUES.
THE GOD IN THE CAR.
THE CHRONICLES OF COUNT ANTONIO.
THE HEART OF PRINCESS OSRA.
I. THE queen's good-bye •
II. A STATION WITHOUT A CAB
III. AGAIN TO ZENDA . .
IV. AN EDDY ON THE MOAT •
V. AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING
VI. THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS
VII. THE MESSAGE OF SIMON THE HUNTSMAN
VIII. THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND
IX. THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE
X. THE KING IN STRELSAU
XI. WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW
XII. BEFORE THEM ALL I . • •
XIII. A KING UP HIS SLEEVE
XIV. THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU
XV. A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT .
XVI. A CROWD IN THE KONIGSTRASSE
XVII. YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR
XVIII. THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING
XIX. FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR !
XX. THE DECISION OF HEAVEN
XXI. THE COMING OF THE DREAM
RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
THE QUEEN'S GOOD-BYE.
A MAN who has lived in the world,
marking how every act, although in
itself perhaps light and insignificant,
may become the source of consequences
that spread far and wide, and flow for
years or centuries, could scarcely feel
secure in reckoning that with the death
of the Duke of Strelsau and the restoration
of King Rudolf to liberty and his throne,
there would end, for good and all, the troubles
born of Black Michael's daring conspiracy.
The stakes had been high, the struggle keen ;
the edge of passion had been sharpened, and
the seeds of enmity sown. Yet Michael,
having struck for the crown, had paid for the
blow with his life : should there not then be
an end ? Michael was dead, the Princess her
cousin's wife, the story in safe keeping, and
RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Mr. Rassendyll's face seen no more in
Ruritania. Should there not then be an end ?
So said I to my friend the Constable of
Zenda, as we talked by the bedside of
Marshal Strakencz. The old man, already
nearing the death that soon after robbed us
of his aid and counsel, bowed his head in
assent : in the aged and ailing the love of
peace breeds hope of it. But Colonel Sapt
tugged at his grey moustache and twisted his
black cigar in his mouth, saying : " You 're
very sanguine, friend Fritz. But is Rupert
of Hentzau dead ? I had not heard it."
Well said, and like old Sapt I Yet the man
is little without the opportunity, and Rupert
by himself could hardly have troubled our
repose. Hampered by his own guilt, he
dared not set his foot in the kingdom from
which by rare good luck he had escaped, but
wandered to and fro over Europe, making a
living by his wits, and, as some said, adding
to his resources by gallantries for which he
did not refuse substantial recompense. But
he kept himself constantly before our eyes,
and never ceased to contrive how he might
gain permission to return and enjoy the
estates to which his uncle's death had en-
titled him. The chief agent through whom
he had the effrontery to approach the King
was his relative, the Count of Luzau-Rischen-
heim, a young man of high rank and great
wealth who was devoted to Rupert. The
THE QUEEN'S GOOD-BYE.
Count fulfilled his mission well: acknowledg-
ing Rupert's heavy offences, he put forward
on his behalf the pleas of youth and of the
predominant influence which Duke Michael
had exercised over his adherent, and pro-
mised, in words so significant as to betray
Rupert's own dictation, a future fidelity no
less discreet than hearty. ** Give me my
price and I'll hold my tongue," seemed to
come in Rupert's off-hand accents through
his cousin's deferential lips. As may be sup-
posed, however, the King and those who
advised him in the matter, knowing too well
the manner of man the Count of Hentzau
was, were not inclined to give ear to his
ambassador's prayer. We kept firm hold on
Master Rupert's revenues, and as good a
watch as we could on his movements ; for
we were most firmly determined that he
should never return to Ruritania. Perhaps
we might have obtained his extradition and
hanged him on the score of his crimes ; but
in these days every rogue who deserves no
better than to be strung up to the nearest
tree must have what they call a fair trial,
and we feared that, if Rupert were handed
over to our police and arraigned before the
courts at^ Strelsau, the secret which we
guarded so sedulously would become the
gossip of all the city, aye, and of all Europe.
So Rupert went unpunished except by banish-
ment and the impounding of his rents.
10 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Yet Sapt was in the right about him.
Helpless as he seemed, he did not for an
instant abandon the contest. He lived in
the faith that his chance would come, and
from day to day was ready for its coming.
He schemed against us as we schemed to
protect ourselves from him ; if we watched
him, he kept his eye on us. His ascendancy
over Luzau - Rischenheim grew markedly
greater after a visit which his cousin paid
to him in Paris. From this time the young
Count began to supply him with resources.
Thus armed, he gathered instruments round
him, and organised a system of espionage
that carried to his ears all our actions and
the whole position of affairs at Court. He
knew, far more accurately than any one else
outside the royal circle, the measures taken
for the government of the kingdom and the
considerations that dictated the royal policy.
More than this, he possessed himself of every
detail concerning the King's health, although
the utmost reticence was observed on this
subject. Had his discoveries stopped here,
they would have been vexatious and dis-
quieting, but perhaps of little serious harm.
They went further. Set on the track by his
acquaintance with what had passed during
Mr. Rassendyll's tenure of the throne, he
penetrated the secret which had been kept
successfully from the King himself. In the
knowledge of it he found the opportunity for
THE QUEEN'S GOOD-BYE. II
which he had waited; in its bold use he
discerned his chance. I cannot say whether
he was influenced more strongly by his desire
to re-establish his position in the kingdom,
or by the grudge he bore against Mr. Ras-
scndyll. He loved power and money; dearly
he loved revenge also. No doubt the
motives worked together, and he was re-
joiced to find that the weapon put into his
hand had a double edge ; with one he hoped
to cut his own path clear, with the other to
wound the man he hated through the woman
whom that man loved. In fine, the Count
of Hentzau, shrewdly discerning the feeling
that existed between the Queen and Rudolf
Rassendyll, set his spies to work, and was
rewarded by discovering the object of my
yearly meetings with Mr. Rassendyll. At
least he conjectured the nature of my errand:
this was enough for him. Head and hand
were soon busy in turning the knowledge to
account ; scruples of the heart never stood
in Rupert's way.
The marriage, which had set all Ruritania
on fire with joy and formed in the people's
eyes the visible triumph over Black Michael
and his fellow-conspirators, was now three
years old. For three years the Princess
Flavia had been Queen. I am come by now
to the age when a man should look out on
life with an eye undimmed by the mists of
passion. My love-making days are over ;
Xa RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
yet there is nothing for which I am more
thankful to Almighty God than the gift of my
wife's love. In storm it has been my anchor,
and in clear skies my star. But we common
folk are free to follow our hearts ; am I an
old fool for saying that he is a fool who
follows anything else ? Our liberty is not
for princes. "We need v^/ait for no future
world to balance the luck of men ; even here
there is an equipoise. From the highly
placed a price is exacted for their state, their
wealth, and their honours, as heavy as these
are great ; to the poor what is to us mean
and of no sweetness may appear decked in
the robes of pleasure and delight. Well, if
it were not so, who could sleep at nights?
The burden laid on Queen Flavia I knew
and know, so well as a man can know it. I
think it needs a woman to know it fully; for
even now my wife's eyes fill with tears when
we speak of it. Yet she bore it, and if she
failed in anything, I wonder that it was in
so little. For it was not only that she had
never loved the King and had loved another
with all her heart. The King's health, shat-
tered by the horror and rigours of his im-
prisonment in the Castle of Zenda, soon
broke utterly. He lived indeed; nay, he
shot and hunted, and kept in his hand some
measure, at least, of government. But
always from the day of his release he was
a fretful invalid, different utterly from the
THE QUEEN'S GOOD-BYE. 13
gay and jovial prince whom Michael's villains
had caught in the hunting - lodge. There
was worse than this. As time went on, the
first impulse of gratitude and admiration that
he had felt towards Mr. Rassendyll died
away. He came to brood more and more
on what had passed while he was a prisoner ;
he was possessed not only by a haunting
dread of Rupert of Hentzau, at whose hands
he had suffered so greatly, but also by a
morbid half-mad jealousy of Mr. Rassendyll.
Rudolf had played the hero while he lay
helpless. Rudolfs were the exploits for
which his own people cheered him in his
own capital. Rudolf's were the laurels that
crowned his impatient brow. He had enough
nobility to resent his borrowed credit, with-
out the fortitude to endure it manfully. And
the hateful comparison struck him nearer
home. Sapt would tell him bluntly that
Rudolf did this or that, set this precedent or
that, laid down this or the other policy, and
that the King could do no better than follow
in Rudolfs steps. Mr. Rassendyll's name
seldom left his wife's lips, but when she
spoke of him it was as one speaks of a great
man who is dead, belittling all the living by
the shadow of his name. I do not believe
that the King discerned that truth which his
wife spent her days in hiding from him; yet
he was uneasy if Rudolfs name were men-
tioned by Sapt or myself, and from the
RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Queen's mouth he could not bear it. I have
seen him fall into fits of passion on the mere
sound of it ; for he lost control of himself on
what seemed slight provocation.
Moved by this disquieting jealousy, he
sought continually to exact from the Queen
proofs of love and care beyond what most
husbands can boast of, or in my humble
judgment make good their right to, always
asking of her what in his heart he feared
was not hers to give. Much she did in pity
and in duty ; but in some moments, being
but human and herself a woman of high
temper, she failed ; then the slight rebuff or
involuntary coldness was magnified by a sick
man's fancy into great offence or studied
insult, and nothing that she could do would
atone for it. Thus they, who had never in
truth come together, drifted yet further apart ;
he was alone in his sickness and suspicion,
she in her sorrows and her memories. There
was no child to bridge the gulf between them,
and although she was his queen and his wife,
she grew almost a stranger to him. So he
seemed to will that it should be.
Thus, worse than widowed, she lived for
three years; and once only in each year she
sent three words to the man she loved, and
received from him three words in answer.
Then her strength failed her. A pitiful scene
had occurred in which the King peevishly
upbraided her in regard to some trivial
THE QUEEN'S GOOD-BYE. 1 5
matter — the occasion escapes my memory —
speaking to her before others words that
even alone she could not have listened to
with dignity. I was there, and Sapt ; the
Colonel's small eyes had gleamed in anger.
*' I should like to shut his mouth for him,"
I heard him mutter, for the King's wayward-
ness had well-nigh worn out even his
The thing, of which I will say no more,
happened a day or two before I was to set
out to meet Mr. Rassendyll. I was to seek
him this time at Wintenberg, for I had been
recognised the year before, at Dresden,
and Wintenberg, being a smaller place
and less in the way of chance visitors,
was deemed safer. I remember well how
she was when she called me into her own
room a few hours after she had left the King.
She stood by the table; the box was on it,
and I knew well that the red rose and the
message were within. But there was more
to-day. Without preface she broke into the
subject of my errand.
** I must write to him," she said. ** I can't
bear it, I must write. My dear friend Fritz,
you will carry it safely for me, won't you?
And he must write to me. And you '11 bring
that safely, won't you? Ah, Fritz, I know
I 'm wrong, but I *m starved, starved, starved !
And it's for the last time. For I know now
that if I send anything, I must send more.
l6 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
So after this time I will not send at all. But
I must say good-bye to him, I must have
his good-bye to carry me through my life.
This once, then, Fritz, do it for me."
The tears rolled down her cheeks, which
to-day were flushed out of their paleness to
a stormy red ; her eyes defied me even while
they pleaded. I bent my head and kissed
**With God's help I'll carry it safely and
bring his safely, my Queen," said I.
<*And tell me how he looks. Look at him
closely, Fritz. See if he is well and seems
strong. Oh, and make him merry and
happy! Bring that smile to his lips, Fritz,
and the merry twinkle to his eyes. When
you speak of me, see if he— if he looks as
if he still loved me." But then she broke
off, crying : " But don't tell him I said that I
He'd be grieved if I doubted his love. I
don't doubt it — I don't indeed ; but still tell
me how he looks when you speak of me,
won't you, Fritz? See, here's the letter."
Taking it from her bosom, she kissed it
before she gave it to me. Then she added
a thousand cautions — how I was to carry
her letter, how I was to go and how return,
and how I was to run no danger, because
my wife Helga loved me as well as she
would have loved her husband had Heaven
"At least, almost as I should, Fritz," she
THE QUEEN'S GOOD-BYE. 1 7
said, now between smiles and tears. She
would not believe that any woman could
love as she loved.
I left the Queen and went to prepare for
my journey. I used to take only one
servant with me, and I had chosen a different
man each year. None of them had known
that I met Mr. Rassendyll, but supposed that
I was engaged on the private business which
I made my pretext for obtaining leave of
absence from the King. This time I had
determined to take with me a Swiss youth,
who had entered my service only a few weeks
before. His name was Bauer ; he seemed
a stolid, somewhat stupid fellow, but as
honest as the day and very obliging. He
had come to me well recommended, and I
had not hesitated to engage him. I chose
him for my companion now, chiefly because
he was a foreigner, and therefore less likely
to gossip with the other servants when we
returned. I do not pretend to much clever-
ness, but I confess that it vexes me to
remember how that stout guileless-looking
youth made a fool of me. For Rupert knew
that I had met Mr. Rassendyll the year
before at Dresden ; Rupert was keeping a
watchful eye on all that passed in Strelsau ;
Rupert had procured the fellow his fine
testimonials and sent him to me, in the
hope that he would chance on something
of advantage to his employer. My resolve
l8 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
to take him to Wintenberg may have been
hoped for, but could scarcely have been
counted on ; it was the added luck that waits
so often on the plans of a clever schemer.
Going to take leave of the King, I found him
huddled over the fire. The day was not cold,
but the damp chill of his dungeon seemed to
have penetrated to the very core of his bones.
He was annoyed at my going, and questioned
me peevishly about the business that occa-
sioned my journey. I parried his curiosity as
I best could, but did not succeed in appeasing
his ill-humour. Half-ashamed of his recent
outburst, half- anxious to justify it to himself,
he cried fretfully :
" Business ! Yes, any business is a good
enough excuse for leaving me ! By heaven,
I wonder if a king was ever served so badly
as I am ! Why did you trouble to get me out
of Zenda ? Nobody wants me, nobody cares
whether I live or die."
To reason with such a mood was impossible.
I could only assure him that I would hasten
my return by all possible means.
"Yes, pray do," said he. "I want some-
body to look after me. Who knows what that
villain Rupert may attempt against me ? And
I can't defend myself, can I ? I *m not Rudolf
Rassendyll, am I ? "
Thus, with a mixture of plaintiveness and
malice, he scolded me. At last I stood silent,
waiting till he should be pleased to dismiss
THE QUEEN'S GOOD-BYE. 19
me. At any rate I was thankful that he enter-
tained no suspicion as to my errand. Had I
spoken a word of Mr. Rassendyll he would
not have let me go. He had fallen foul of me
before on learning that I was in communica-
tion with Rudolf; so completely had jealousy
destroyed gratitude in his breast. If he had
known what I carried, I do not think that he
could have hated his preserver more. Very
likely some such feeling was natural enough ;
it was none the less painful to perceive.
On leaving the King's presence I sought out
the Constable of Zenda. He knew my errand;
and, sitting down beside him, I told him of the
letter I carried, and arranged how to apprise
him of my fortune surely and quickly. He was
not in a good humour that day : the King had
ruffled him also, and Colonel Sapt had no great
reserve of patience.
" If we haven't cut one another's throats
before then, we shall all be at Zenda by the
time you arrive at Wintenberg," he said.
" The Court moves there to-morrow, and I
shall be there as long as the King is."
He paused, and then added: "Destroy the
letter if there 's any danger.'*
I nodded my head.
" And destroy yourself with it, if that 's the
only way," he went on with a surly smile.
•' Heaven knows why she must send such a
silly message at all, but since she must she *d
better have sent me with it."
20 RUPERT OP HENTZAU.
I knew that Sapt was in the way of jeering
at all sentiment, and I took no notice of the
terms that he applied to the Queen's farewell.
I contented myself with ansv»7ering the last
part of what he said.
"No, it 's better you should be here," I
urged. " For if I should lose the letter —
though there 's little chance of it — you could
prevent it coming to the King."
"I could try," he grinned. "But on my
life, to run the chance for a letter's sake ! A
letter's a poor thing to risk the peace of a
"Unhappily," said I, "it's the only thing
that a messenger can well carry."
" Off with you, then," grumbled the Colonel.
"Tell Rassendyll from me that he did well.
But tell him to do something more. Let 'em
say good-bye and have done v/ith it. Good
God, is he going to waste all his life thinking
of a woman he never sees?" Sapt's air was
full of indignation.
"What more is he to do?" I asked. "Isn't
his work here done ? "
"Aye, it's done. Perhaps it's done," he
answered. "At least he has given us back
our good King ! "
To lay on the King the full blame for
what he was would have been rank injustice.
Sapt was not guilty of it, but his disappoint-
ment was bitter that all our efforts had
secured no better ruler for Ruritania. Sapt
THE QUEEN'S GOOD-BYE. 21
could serve, but he K!i:^i his master to be a
"Aye, I'm afraid the lad's work here
is done," he said, as I shook him by the
hand. Then a sudden light came in his
eyes. "Perhaps not," he muttered. "Who
knows ? "
A man need not, I hope, be deemed uxori-
ous for liking a quiet dinner alone with his
wife before he starts on a long journey. Such,
at least, was my fancy ; and I was annoyed to
find that Helga's cousin, Anton von Strofzin,
had invited himself to share our meal and
our farewell. Ke conversed with his usual
airy emptiness on all the topics that were
supplying Strelsau with gossip. There were
rumours that the King was ill, that the
Queen was angry at being carried off to
Zenda, that the Archbishop meant to preach
against low dresses, that the Chancellor was
to be dismissed, that his daughter was to be
married, and so forth. I heard without lis-
tening. But the last bit of his budget caught
my wandering attention.
"They were betting at the club," said
Anton, "that Rupert of Hentzau would be
recalled. Have you heard anything about it,
Fritz ? "
If I had known anything, it is needless to
say that I should not have confided it to
Anton. But the suggested step was so
utterly at variance with the King's intentions
22 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
that I made no difficulty about contradicting
the report with an authoritative air. Anton
heard me with a judicial wrinkle on his
''That's all very well," said he, "and I
daresay you're bound to say so. All I know
is that Rischenheim dropped a hint to Colonel
Markel a day or two ago."
" Rischenheim believes what he hopes,"
"And where 's he gone?" cried Anton ex-
ultantly. "Why has he suddenly left Strelsau ?
I tell you he's gone to meet Rupert, and I'll
bet you what you like he carries some pro-
posal. Ah, you don't know everything, Fritz,
my boy! "
It was indeed true that I did not know
everything. I made haste to admit as much.
"I didn't even know that the Count was
gone, much less why he 's gone," said I.
" You see ! " exclaimed Anton. And he
added patronisingly : "You should keep your
ears open, my boy ; then you might be worth
what the King pays you."
"No less, I trust," said I, "for he pays
me nothing." Indeed at this time I held no
office save the honorary position of Chamber-
lain to Her Majesty. Any advice the King
needed from me was asked and given un-
Anton went off, persuaded that he had
scored a point against me. I could not see
THE QUEEN'S GOOD-BYE. 23
where. It was possible that the Count of
Luzau-Rischenheim had gone to meet his
cousin, equally possible that no such busi-
ness claimed his care. At any rate, the
matter was not for me. I had a more press-
ing affair in hand. Dismissing the whole
thing from my mind, I bade the butler tell
Bauer to go forward with my luggage and
to let my carriage be at the door in good
time. Helga had busied herself, since our
guest's departure, in preparing small comforts
for my journey ; now she came to me to say
good-bye. Although she tried to hide all
signs of it, I detected an uneasiness in her
manner. She did not like these errands of
mine, imagining dangers and risks of which
I saw no likelihood. I would not give in to
her mood, and, as I kissed her, I bade her
expect me back in a few days' time. Not
even to her did I speak of the new and more
dangerous burden that I carried, although I
was aware that she enjoyed a full measure
of the Queen's confidence.
*'My love to King Rudolf, the real King
Rudolf," said she. " Though you carry what
will make him think little of my love."
" I have no desire he should think too
much of it, sweet," said I.
She caught me by the hands, and looked up
in my face.
"What a friend you are, aren't you, Fritz ?"
said she. "You worship Mr. Rassendyll. I
24 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
know you think I should worship him too if
he asked me. Well, I shouldn't. I am foolish
enough to have my own idol."
All my modesty did not let me doubt who
her idol might be. Suddenly she drew near
to me and whispered in my ear. I think that
our own happiness brought to her a sudden
keen sympathy with her mistress.
" Make him send her a loving message,
Fritz," she whispered, " something that will
comfort her. Her idol can't be with her as
mine is with me."
"Yes, he'll send something to comfort her,"
I answered. "And God keep you, my dear."
For he would surely send an answer to the
letter that I carried, and that answer I was
sworn to bring safely to her. So I set out
in good heart, bearing in the pocket of my
coat the little box and the Queen's good-bye.
And, as Colonel Sapt said to me, both I would
destroy, if need were — aye, and myself with
them. A man did not serve Queen Flavia
with divided mind.
A STATION WITHOUT A CAB.
THE arrangements for my meeting with
Mr. Rassendyll had been carefully
made by correspondence before he
left England. He was to be at the Golden
Lion Hotel at eleven o'clock on the night
of the 15th of October. I reckoned to
arrive in the town between eight and nine
on the same evening, to proceed to another
hotel, and, on pretence of taking a stroll,
slip out and call on him at the appointed
hour. I should then fulfil my commission,
take his answer, and enjoy the rare pleasure
of a long talk with him. Early the next
morning he would have left Wintenberg, and
I should be on my way back to Strelsau. I
knew that he would not fail to keep his ap-
pointment, and I was perfectly confident of
being able to carry out the programme
punctually ; I had, however, taken the pre-
caution of obtaining a week's leave of absence,
in case any unforeseen accident should delay
my return. Conscious of having done all I
could to guard against misunderstanding or
mishap, I got into the train in a tolerably
peaceful frame of mind. The box was in my
inner pocket, the letter in a porte-monnaie.
26 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
I could feel them both with my hand. I was
not in uniform, but I took my revolver.
Although I had no reason to anticipate
any difficulties, I did not forget that what I
carried must be protected at all hazards and
The weary night journey wore itself away.
Bauer came to me in the morning, performed
his small services, re-packed my handbag,
procured me some coffee, and left me. It
was then about eight o'clock ; we had arrived
at a station of some importance and were
not to stop again until mid- day. I saw
Bauer enter the second-class compartment
in which he was travelling, and settled down
in my own coupe. I think it was at this
moment that the thought of Rischenheim
came again into my head, and I found my-
self wondering why he clung to the hopeless
idea of compassing Rupert's return, and what
business had taken him from Strelsau. But
I made little of the matter, and, drowsy
from a broken night's rest, soon fell into a
doze. I was alone in the carriage and could
sleep without fear or danger. I was awakened
by our noontide halt. Here I saw Bauer
again. After taking a basin of soup I went
to the telegraph -bureau to send a message
to my wife : the receipt of it would not
merely set her mind at ease, but would also
ensure word of my safe progress reaching
the Queen. As I entered the bureau I met
A STATION WITHOUT A CAB. 27
Bauer coming out of it. He seemed rather
startled at our encounter, but told me readily
enough that he had been telegraphing for
rooms at Wintenberg, a very needless pre-
caution, since there was no danger of the
hotel being full. In fact I was annoyed, as
I especially wished to avoid calling attention
to my arrival. However the mischief was
done, and to rebuke my servant might have
aggravated it by setting his wits at work
to find out my motive for secrecy. So I
said nothing, but passed by him with a
nod. When the whole circumstances came
to light, I had reason to suppose that, be-
sides his message to the innkeeper, Bauer
sent one of a character and to a quarter
unsuspected by me.
We stopped once again before reaching
Wintenberg. I put my head out of the
window to look about me and saw Bauer
standing near the luggage-van. He ran to
me eagerly, asking whether I required any-
thing. I told him " nothing," but instead of
going away he began to talk to me. Grow-
ing weary of him, I returned to my seat
and waited impatiently for the train to go
on. There was a further delay of five
minutes, and then we started.
*' Thank goodness!" I exclaimed, leaning
back comfortably in my seat and taking a
cigar from my case.
But in a moment the cigar rolled un-
28 RUPERT OF HENTZAU
heeded on to the floor, as I sprang eagerly
to my feet and darted to the window. For,
just as we were clearing the station, I saw
being carried past the carriage on the
shoulders of a porter a bag which looked
very much like mine. Bauer had been in
charge of my bag, and it had been put in
the van under his directions. It seemed
unlikely that it should be taken out now by
any mistake. Yet the bag I saw was very
like the bag I owned. But I was not sure,
and could have done nothing had I been
sure. We were not to stop again before
Wintenberg, and, with my luggage or with-
out it, I myself must be in the town that
We arrived punctual to our appointed time.
I sat in the carriage a moment or two, ex-
pecting Bauer to open the door and relieve
me of my small baggage. He did not come,
so I got out. It seemed that I had few
fellow-passengers, and these were quickly
disappearing on foot or in the carriages and
carts that waited outside the station. I
stood looking for my servant and my
luggage. The evening was mild ; I was
encumbered with my handbag and a heavy
fur coat. There were no signs either of
Bauer or of baggage. I stayed where I
was for five or six minutes. The guard of
the train had disappeared, but presently I
observed the station-master: he seemed to
A STATION WITHOUT A CAB. 29
be taking a last glance round the premises.
Going up to him, I asked whether he had
seen my servant ; he could give me no
news of him. I had no luggage -ticket, for
mine had been in Bauer's hands, but I
prevailed on him to allow me to look at
the baggage which had arrived : my property
was not among it. The station-master was
inclined, I think, to be a little sceptical as
to the existence both of bag and of servant.
His only suggestion was that the man must
have been left behind accidentally. I pointed
out that in this case he would not have had
the bag v/ith him, but that it would have
come on in the train. The station-master
admitted the force of my argument ; he
shrugged his shoulders and spread his hands
out ; he was evidently at the end of his
Now, for the first time and with sudden
force, a doubt of Bauer's fidelity thrust it-
self into my mind. I remembered how
little I knew o' the fellow, and how great
my charge was. Three rapid movements of
my hand assured me that letter, box, and
revolver were in their respective places. If
Bauer had gone hunting in the bag, he had
drawn a blank. The station-master noticed
nothing ; he was staring at the dim gas lamp
that hung from the roof. I turned to him.
" Well, tell him when he comes " I
30 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"He won't come to-night now," inter-
rupted the station-master, none too politely.
"No other train arrives to-night."
"Tell him when he does come to follow
me to the Wintenbergerhof. I 'm going there
immediately." For time was short, and I did
not wish to keep Mr. Rassendyll waiting.
Besides, in my new-born nervousness, I was
anxious to accomplish my errand as soon as
might be. What had become of Bauer ? The
thought returned, and now with it another,
that seemed to connect itself in some subtle
way with my present position : why and
whither had the Count of Luzau-Rischenheim
set out from Strelsau a day before I started
on my journey to Wintenberg ?
"If he comes I '11 tell him," said the
station-master, and as he spoke he looked
round the yard.
There was not a cab to be seen ! I knew
that the station lay on the extreme outskirts
of the town, for I had passed through Win-
tenberg on my v/edding journey nearly three
years before. The trouble involved in walk-
ing, and the further waste of time, put the
cap on my irritation.
"Why don't you have enough cabs?"
I asked angrily.
"There are plenty generally, sir," he
answered more civilly, with an apologetic
air. "There would be to-night, but for an
A STATION WITHOUT A CAB. 3 1
Another accident ! This expedition of mine
seemed doomed to be the sport of chance.
"Just before your train arrived," he con-
tinued, " a local came in. As a rule hardly
anybody comes by it, but to-night a number
of men — oh, twenty or five-and-twenty, I
should think — got cut. I collected their
tickets myself, and they all came from the
first station on the line. Well, that *s not
so strange, for there's a good beer-garden
there. But, curiously enough, every one of
them hired a separate cab and drove off,
laughing and shouting to one another as
they went. That's how it happens that there
were only one or two cabs left when your
train came in, and they were snapped up at
Taken alone, this occurrence was nothing;
but I asked myself whether the conspiracy
that had robbed me of my servant had
deprived me of a vehicle also.
"What sort of men were they?" I asked.
**A11 sorts of men, sir," answered the
station-master, " but most of them were
shabby-looking fellows. I wondered where
some of them had got the money for their
The vague feeling of uneasiness which
had already attacked me grew stronger.
Although I fought against it, calling myself
an old woman and a coward, I must con-
fess to an impulse which almost made me
32 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
beg the station-master's company on my
walk; but, besides being ashamed to exhibit
a timidity apparently groundless, I was re-
luctant to draw attention to myself in any
way. I would not for the world have it
supposed that I carried anything of value.
"Well, there's no help for it," said I;
and, buttoning my heavy coat about me, I
took my handbag and stick in one hand,
and asked my way to the hotel. My
misfortunes had broken down the station-
master's indifference, and he directed me in
a sympathetic tone.
"Straight along the road, sir," said he,
"between the poplars for hard on half a
mile; then the houses begin, and your hotel
is in the first square you come to on the
I thanked him curtly (for I had not quite
forgiven his earlier incivility) and started on
my walk, weighed down by my big coat and
the handbag. When I left the lighted station
yard I realised that the evening had fallen
very dark, and the shade of the tall lank
trees intensified the gloom. I could hardly
see my way, and went timidly, with frequent
stumbles over the uneven stones of the road.
The lamps were dim, few, and widely sepa-
rated ; so far as company v/as concerned, I
might have been a thousand miles from an
inhabited house. In spite of myself the
thought of danger persistently assailed my
A STATION WITHOUT A CAB. 33
mind. I began to review every circumstance
of my journey, twisting the trivial into some
ominous shape, magnifying the significance of
everything which might justly seem sus-
picious, studying in the light of my new
apprehensions every expression of Bauer's
face and every word that had fallen from
his lips. I could not persuade myself into
security. I carried the Queen's letter, and
— well, I would have given much to have
old Sapt or Rudolf Rassendyll by my side.
Now when a man suspects danger, let him
not spend his time in asking whether there
be really danger, or in upbraiding himself for
timidity, but let him face his cowardice and
act as though the danger were real. If I
had followed that rule, and kept my eyes
about me, scanning the sides of the road
and the ground in front of my feet, instead
of losing myself in a maze of reflection, I
might have had time to avoid the trap, or at
least to get my hand to my revolver and
make a fight for it, or indeed, in the last
resort, to destroy what I carried before harm
came to it. But my mind was pre-occupied,
and the whole thing seemed to happen in a
minute. At the very moment that I had
declared to myself the vanity of my fears
and determined to be resolute in banishing
them, I heard voices — a low strained whis-
pering; I saw two or three figures in the
shadow of th« )9oplars by the wayside. An
34 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
instant later, a dart was made at me.
While I could fly I would not fight ; with
a sudden forward plunge I eluded the men
who rushed at me, and started at a run
towards the lights of the town and the
shapes of the houses, now distant about a
quarter of a mile. Perhaps I ran twenty
yards, perhaps fifty ; I do not know. I heard
the steps behind me, quick as my own.
Then I fell headlong on the road — tripped
up! I understood. They had stretched a
rope across my path ; as I fell a man
bounded up from either side, and I found
the rope slack under my body. There I
lay on my face; a man knelt on me, others
held either hand; my face was pressed into
the mud of the road, and I was like to be
stifled; my handbag had whizzed away from
me. Then a voice said:
"Turn him over."
I knew the voice; it was a confirmation
of the fears which I had lately been at such
pains to banish. It justified the forecast of
Anton von Strofzin, and explained the hint
of the Count of Luzau-Rischenheim. For
it was Rischenheim's voice.
They caught hold of me and began to
turn me on my back. Here I saw a chance,
and with a great heave of my body I flung
them from me. For a short instant I was
free ; my impetuous attack seemed to have
startled the enemy; I gathered myself up
A STATION WITHOUT A CAB. 35
on my knees. But my advantage was not
to last long. Another man, whom I had not
seen, sprang suddenly on me, like a bullet
from a catapult. His fierce onset overthrew
me, I was stretched on the ground again, on
my back now, and my throat was clutched
viciously in strong fingers. At the same
moment my arms were again seized and
pinned. The face of the man on my chest
bent down towards mine; and through the
darkness I discerned the features of Rupert
of Hentzau. He was panting from his sud-
den exertion and the intense force with
which he held me, but he was smiling also,
and when he saw by my eyes that I knew
him, he laughed softly in triumph.
Then came Rischenheim's voice again.
"Where's the bag he carried? It may be
in the bag."
"You fool, he'll have it about him," said
Rupert scornfully. " Hold him fast while I
On either side my hands were still pinned
fast. Rupert's left hand did not leave my
throat, but his free right hand began to dart
about me, feeling, probing, and rummaging.
I lay quite helpless and in the bitterness of
great consternation. Rupert found my re-
volver, drew it out with a gibe, and handed
it to Rischenheim, who was now standing
beside him. Then he felt the box, he drew
it out, his eyes sparkled. He set his knee
36 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
hard on my chest, so that I could scarcely
breathe; then he ventured to loose my
throat, and tore the box open eagerly.
"Bring a light here," he cried. Another
ruffian came with a dark lantern, whose
glow he turned on the box. Rupert opened
it, and when he saw what was inside he
laughed again, and stowed it away in his
" Quick, quick ! " urged Rischenheim.
"We've got what we wanted, and somebody
may come at any moment."
A brief hope comforted me. The loss of
the box was a calamity, but I would pardon
fortune if only the letter escaped capture.
Rupert might have suspected that I carried
some such token as the box held, but he
could not know of the letter. Would he
listen to Rischenheim ? No. The Count of
Hentzau did things thoroughly.
"We may as well overhaul him a bit
more," said he, and resumed his search.
My hope vanished, for now he was bound
to come upon the letter.
Another instant brought him to it. He
snatched the porte-monnaie, and, motioning
impatiently to the man to hold the lantern
nearer, began to examine the contents. I
remember well the look of his face as the
fierce white light threw it up against the
darkness in its clear pallor and high-bred
comeliness, with its curling lips and scornful
My chance had come.
A STATION WITHOUT A CAB. 37
eyes. He had the letter now ; and a gleam
of joy danced in his eyes as he tore it open.
A hasty glance showed him what his prize
was ; then coolly and deliberately he settled
himself to read, regarding neither Rischen-
heim's nervous hurry nor my desperate
angry glance that glared up at him. He
read leisurely, as though he had been in an
armchair in his own house ; the lips smiled
and curled as he read the last words that
the Queen had written to her lover. He
had indeed come on more than he thought.
Rischenheim laid a hand on his shoulder.
** Quick, Rupert, quick I " he urged again,
in a voice full of agitation.
" Let me alone, man. I haven't read
anything so amusing for a long while,'*
answered Rupert. Then he burst into a
laugh, crying, " Look, look ! " and pointing
to the foot of the last page of the letter.
I was mad with anger ; my fury gave me
new strength. In his enjoyment of what
he read Rupert had grown careless ; his
knee pressed more lightly on me, and as he
showed Rischenheim the passage in the
letter that caused him so much amusement,
he turned his head away for an instant.
My chance had come. With a sudden move-
ment I displaced him, and with a desperate
wrench I freed my right hand. Darting it
out, I snatched at the letter. Rupert,
alarmed for his treasure, sprang back and off
38 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
me. I also sprang up on my feet, hurling
away the fellow who had gripped my other
hand. For a moment I stood facing Rupert ;
then I darted on him. He v/as too quick
for me : he dodged behind the man with
the lantern and hurled the fellow forward
against me. The lantern fell on the ground.
** Give me your stick," I heard Rupert
say. " Where is it ? That's right ! "
Then came Rischenheim's voice again, im-
ploring and timid :
" Rupert, you promised not to kill him ! "
The only answer was a short fierce laugh.
I hurled away the man who had been
thrust into my arms, and sprang forward.
I saw Rupert of Hentzau : his hand was
raised above his head and held a stout club.
I hardly know what followed : there came —
all in a confused blur of instant sequence —
an oath from Rupert, a rush from me, a
scuffle as though someone sought to hold
him back ; then he was on me ; I felt a
great thud on my forehead, and I felt nothing
more. Again I was on my back, with a
terrible pain in my head and a dull dreamy
consciousness of a knot of men standing
over me, talking eagerly to one another.
I could not hear what they were saying ;
I had no great desire to hear. I fancied,
somehow, that they were talking about me ;
they looked at me and moved their hands
towards me now and again. I heard Rupert's
A STATION WITHOUT A CAB. 39
laugh, and saw his club poised over me ;
then Rischenheim caught him by the wrist.
I know now that Rischenheim was reminding
his cousin that he had promised not to kill
me, that Rupert's oath did not weigh a straw
in the scales, but that he was held back
only by a doubt whether I alive or my dead
body would be the more inconvenient to
dispose of. Yet then I did not understand,
but lay there listless. And presently the
talking forms seemed to cease their talking;
they grew blurred and dim, running into
one another, and all mingling together to
form one great shapeless creature that seemed
to murmur and gibber over me, some such
monster as a man sees in his dreams. I
hated to see it, and closed my eyes ; its
murmurings and gibberings haunted my ears
for awhile, making me restless and unhappy ;
then they died av/ay. Their going made me
happy ; I sighed in contentment ; and every-
thing became as though it were not.
Yet I had one more vision, breaking
suddenly across my unconsciousness. A bold
rich voice rang out, " By God, I will ! "
*'No, no!" cried another. Then "What's
that ? * There was a rush of feet, the
cries of men who met in anger or excite-
ment, the crack of a shot and of another
quickly following, oaths and scuffling. Then
came the sound of feet flying. I could not
make it out ; I grew weary with the puzzle
40 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
of it. Would they not be quiet ? Quiet was
what I wanted. At last they grew quiet ;
I closed my eyes again. The pain was less
now ; they were quiet ; I could sleep.
When a man looks back on the past,
reviewing in his mind the chances Fortune
ha-s given and the calls she has made, he
always torments himself by thinking that
he could have done other and better than
in fact he did. Even now I lie awake at
night sometimes, making clever plans by
which I could have thwarted Rupert's
schemes. In these musings I am very acute ;
Anton von Strofzin's idle talk furnishes me
with many a clue, and I draw inferences
sure and swift as a detective in the story-
books. Bauer is my tool, I am not his. I
lay Rischenheim by the heels, send Rupert
off howling with a ball in his arm, and carry
my precious burden in triumph to Mr. Rassen-
dyll. By the time I have played the whole
game I am indeed proud of myself. Yet in
truth — in daylight truth — I fear that, unless
Heaven sent me a fresh set of brains, I should
be caught in much the same way again.
Though not by that fellow Bauer, I swear !
Well, there it was ! They had made a fool
of me. I lay on the road with a bloody head,
and Rupert of Hentzau had the Queen's letter.
AGAIN TO ZENDA.
BY Heaven's care, or— since a man may
be over-apt to arrogate to himself a
great share of such attention — by good
luck, I had not to trust for my life to the
slender thread of an oath sworn by Rupert
of Hentzau. The visions of my dazed brain
were transmutations of reality; the scuffle,
the rush, the retreat were not all dream.
There is an honest fellow now living at
Wintenberg comfortably and at his ease,
by reason that his waggon chanced to come
lumbering along with three or four stout
lads in it, at the moment when Rupert was
meditating a second and murderous blow.
Seeing the group of us, the good carrier
and his boys leapt down and rushed on my
assailants* One of the thieves, they said,
was for fighting it out — I could guess who
that was — and called on the rest to stand ;
but they, more prudent, laid hands on him,
and in spite of his oaths hustled him off
along the road towards the station. Open
country lay there, and the promise of safety.
My new friends set off in pursuit, but a
couple of revolver-shots, heard by me but
42 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
not understood, awoke their caution. Good
Samaritans but not men of war, they
returned to where I lay senseless on the
ground, congratulating themselves and me
that an enemy so well armed should run
and not stand his ground. They forced a
drink of rough wine down my throat, and
in a minute or two I opened my eyes. They
were for carrying me to a hospital. I would
have none of it. As soon as things grew
clear to me again and I knew where I was,
I did nothing but repeat in urgent tones :
" The Golden Lion, the Golden Lion !
Twenty crowns to carry me to the Golden
Lion ! "
Perceiving that I knew my own business
and where I wished to go, one picked up
my handbag and the rest hoisted me into
their waggon and set out for the hotel where
Rudolf Rassendyll was. The one thought
my broken head held was to get to him as
soon as might be, and tell him how I had
been fool enough to let myself be robbed of
the Queen's letter.
He was there. He stood on the threshold
of the inn, waiting for me, as it seemed,
although it was not yet the hour of my
appointment. As they drew me up to the
door I saw his tall straight figure and his
red hair by the light of the hall lamps. By
heaven, I felt as a lost child must on sight
of his mother ! I stretched out my hand
AGAIN TO ZENDA. 43
to him over the side of the waggon, mur-
muring, "I've lost it."
He started at the words, and sprang
forward to me. Then he turned quickly to
" This gentleman is my friend," he said.
" Give him to me. I *11 speak to you later."
He waited while I was lifted down from
the waggon into the arms that he held ready
for me, and himself carried me across the
threshold. I was quite clear in the head
by now, and understood all that passed.
There were one or two people in the hall,
but Mr. Rassendyll took no heed of them.
He bore me quickly upstairs and into his
sitting-room. There he set me down in an
armchair and stood opposite to me. He
was smiling, but anxiety was awake in his
" I 've lost it," I said again, looking up
at him pitifully enough.
" That 's all right," said he, nodding. " Will
you wait, or can you tell me ? "
" Yes ; but give me some brandy," said I.
Rudolf gave me a little brandy mixed in
a great deal of water, and then I made
shift to tell him. Though faint, I was not
confused, and I gave my story in brief,
hurried, yet sufficient words. He made no
sign till I mentioned the letter. Then his
" A letter too ? " he exclaimed, in a
44 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Strange mixture of increased apprehension
and unlooked-for joy.
** Yes, a letter too : she wrote a letter, and
I carried that as well as the box. I 've lost
them both, Rudolf. God help me, I've lost
them both ! Rupert has the letter too."
I think I must have been weak and un-
manned from the blow I had received, for
my composure broke down here. Rudolf
stepped up to me and wrung me by the
hand. I mastered myself again and looked
in his face, as he stood in thought, his
hand caressing the strong curve of his
clean-shaven chin. Now that I was with
him again it seemed as though I had never
lost him, as though we were still together
in Strelsau or at Tarlenheim, planning how
to hoodwink Black Michael, send Rupert of
Hentzau to his own place, and bring the
King back to his throne. For Mr. Rassendyll,
as he stood before me now, was changed
in nothing since our last meeting, nor
indeed since he reigned in Strelsau, save
that a few flecks of grey spotted his hair.
My battered head ached most consumedly.
Mr. Rassendyll rang the bell twice, and a
short thickset man of middle age appeared ;
he wore a suit of tweed and had the air
of smartness and respectability which marks
"James," said Rudolf, "this gentleman
has hurt his head. Look after it."
AGAIN TO ZENDA. 45
James went out. In a few minutes he
was back, with water, basin, towels, and
bandages. Bending over me, he began to
wash and tend my wound very deftly.
Rudolf was walking up and down.
" Done the head, James ? " he asked, after
a few moments.
"Yes, sir," answered the servant, gather-
ing together his appliances.
** Telegraph forms, then."
James went out, and was back with the
forms in an instant.
"Be ready when I ring," said Rudolf.
And he added, turning to me, "Any easier,
"I can listen to you now," I said.
" I see their game," said he. " One or
other of them — Rupert or this Rischenheim
— will try to get to the King with the letter."
I sprang to my feet.
" They mustn't ! " I cried ; and I reeled
back into my chair, with a feeling as if
a red-hot poker were being run through my
^" Much you can do to stop 'em, old
fellow," smiled Rudolf, pausing to press my
hand as he went by. " They won't trust
the post, you know. One will go. Now
which ? " He stood facing me with a
thoughtful frown on his face.
I did not know, but I thought that Rischen-
heim would go. It was a great risk for
46 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Rupert to trust himself in the kingdom, and
he knew that the King would not easily be
persuaded to receive him, however startling
might be the business he professed as his
errand. On the other hand, nothing was
known against Rischenheim, while his rank
would secure and indeed entitle him to an
early audience. Therefore I concluded that
Rischenheim would go with the letter, or, if
Rupert would not let that out of his posses-
sion, with the news of the letter.
"Or a copy," suggested Rudolf. "Well,
Rischenheim or Rupert will be on his way
by to-morrow morning, or is on his way
Again I tried to rise, for I was on fire
to prevent the fatal consequences of my
stupidity. Rudolf thrust me back in my
chair, saying, "No, no." Then he sat down
at the table and took up the telegraph forms.
"You and Sapt arranged a cipher, I sup-
pose ? " he asked.
"Yes. You write the message and I'll put
it into the cipher."
" This is what I 'vc written : * Document
lost. Let nobody see him if possible. Wire
who asks.* I don't like to make it plainer :
most ciphers can be read, you know."
"Not ours," said I.
" Well, but will that do ? " asked Rudolf
with an unconvinced smile.
"Yes, I think he'll understand it." And I
AGAIN TO ZENDA. 47
wrote it again in the cipher ; it was as much
as I could do to hold the pen.
The bell was rung again, and James
appeared in an instant.
"Send this," said Rudolf.
"The offices will be shut, sir."
"James, James ! "
" Very good, sir ; but it may take an hour
to get one open."
"I'll give you half an hour. Have you
money ? "
"And now," added Rudolf, turning to mc,
"you'd better go to bed."
I do not recollect what I answered, for
my faintness came upon me again, and I
remember only that Rudolf himself helped
me into his own bed. I slept, but I do not
think he so much as lay down on the sofa ;
chancing to awake once or twice, I heard him
pacing about. But towards morning I slept
heavily, and I did not know what he was
At eight o'clock James entered and roused
me. He said that a doctor was to be at the
hotel in half an hour, but that Mr. Rassendyll
would like to see me for a few minutes if I
felt equal to business. I begged James to
summon his master at once. Whether I
were equal or unequal, the business had to
Rudolf came, calm and serene. Danger
48 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
and the need for exertion acted on him like a
draught of good wine on a seasoned drinker.
He was not only himself, but more than him-
self, his excellencies enhanced, the indolence
that marred him in quiet hours sloughed off.
But to-day there was something more ; I can
describe it only as a kind of radiance. I have
seen it on the faces of young sparks when
the lady they love comes through the ball-
room door, and I have seen it glow more
softly in a girl's eyes when some fellow, who
seemed to me nothing out of the ordinary,
asked her for a dance. That strange gleam
was on Rudolf's face as he stood by my
bedside. I daresay it used to be on mine
when I went courting.
** Fritz, old friend," said he, " there 's an
answer from Sapt. I'll lay the telegraph
offices were stirred at Zcnda as well as
James stirred them here in Wintenberg.
And what do you think ? Rischenheim asked
for an audience before he left Strelsau."
I raised myself on my elbow in the bed.
"You understand?" he went on. "He
left on Monday. To-day's Wednesday. The
King has granted him an audience at four
on Friday. Well, then "
" They counted on success," I cried, " and
Rischenheim takes the letter ! "
**A copy, if I know Rupert of Hentzau.
Yes, it was well laid. I like the men taking all
the cabs. How much ahead had they now?"
AGAIN TO ZENDA. 49
I did not know that, though I had no more
doubt than he that Rupert's hand was in the
"Well," he continued, "I am going to wire
to Sapt to put Rischenheim off for twelve
hours if he can — failing that, to get the King
away from Zenda."
" But Rischenheim must have his audience
sooner or later," I objected.
"Sooner or later — there's the world's
difference between them ! " cried Rudolf
Rassendyll. He sat down on the bed by
me, and went on in quick decisive words :
"You can't move for a day or two. Send
my message to Sapt. Tell him to keep you
informed of what happens. As soon as you
can travel, go to Strelsau, and let Sapt know
directly you arrive. We shall want your
"And what are you going to do ? " I cried,
staring at him.
He looked at me for a moment, and his face
was crossed by conflicting feelings. I saw
resolve there, obstinacy, and the scorn of
danger ; fun, too, and merriment ; and, lastly,
that same radiance I spoke of. He had been
smoking a cigarette ; now he threw the end
of it into the grate and rose from the bed
where he had been sitting.
" I 'm going to Zenda," said he.
"To Zenda?" I cried, amazed.
"Yes," said Rudolf, "I'm going again to
50 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Zenda, Fritz, old fellow. By Jove, I knew
it would come, and now it has come ! "
"But to do what?"
"I shall overtake Rischenheim, or be hot
on his heels. If he gets there first, Sapt will
keep him waiting till I come ; and if I come,
he shall never see the King. Yes, if I come
in time " He broke into a sudden laugh.
"What?" he cried. "Have I lost my like-
ness ? Can't I still play the King ? Yes, if
I come in time, Rischenheim shall have his
audience of the King at Zenda, and the King
will be very gracious to him, and the King
will take his copy of the letter from him.
Oh, Rischenheim shall have an audience of
King Rudolf in the castle of Zenda, never
He stood, looking to see how I received
his plan ; but, amazed at the boldness of it,
I could only lie back and gasp.
Rudolf's excitement left him as suddenly as
it had come ; he was again the cool, shrewd,
nonchalant Englishman, as, lighting another
cigarette, he proceeded :
"You see, there are two of them — Rupert
and Rischenheim. Now you can't move for
a day or two, that 's certain. But there must
be two of us there in Ruritania. Rischenheim
is to try first ; but, if he fails, Rupert will
risk everything and break through to the
King's presence. Give him five minutes with
the King, and the mischief's done. Very
AGAIN TO ZENDA. 51
well, then : Sapt must keep Rupert at bay,
while I tackle Rischenheim. As soon as you
can move, go to Strelsau and let Sapt know
where you are."
" But if you're seen— if you're found out ? "
"Better I than the Queen's letter," said
he. Then he laid his hand on my arm and
said quite quietly : "If the letter gets to the
King, I and I only can do what must be
I did not know what he meant : perhaps
it was that he would carry off the Queen
sooner than leave her alone after her letter
was known ; but there was another possible
meaning that I, a loyal subject, dared not
inquire into. Yet I made no answer, for I
was above all and first of all the Queen's
servant. Still I cannot believe that he meant
harm to the King.
"Come, Fritz," he cried, "don't look so
glum. This is not so great an affair as the
other, and we brought that through safe."
I suppose I still looked doubtful, for he
added, with a sort of impatience: "Well,
I 'm going, anyhow. Heavens, man, am I
to sit here while that letter is carried to the
I understood his feeling, and knew that he
held life a light thing compared with the
recovery of Queen Flavia's letter. I ceased
to urge him. When I assented to his wishes,
every shadow vanished from his face, and
52 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
we began to discuss the details of the plan
with businesslike brevity.
" I shall leave James with you," said
Rudolf. "He'll be very useful, and you can
rely on him absolutely. Any message that
you dare trust to no other conveyance, give
to him; he'll carry it. He can shoot too."
He rose as he spoke. "I'll look in before
I start," he added, " and hear what the
doctor says about you."
I lay there, thinking, as men sick and weary
in body will, of the dangers and the desperate
nature of the risk, rather than of the hope
which its boldness would have inspired in a
healthy active brain. I distrusted the rapid
inference that Rudolf had drawn from Sapt's
telegram, telling myself that it was based on
too slender a foundation. Well, there I was
wrong, and I am glad now to pay that
tribute to his discernment. The first steps
of Rupert's scheme were laid as Rudolf had
conjectured : Rischenheim had started, even
while I lay there, for Zenda, carrying on his
person a copy of the Queen's farewell letter
and armed for his enterprise by his right of
audience with the King. So far we were
right, then ; for the rest we were in dark-
ness, not knowing or being able even to
guess where Rupert would choose to await
the result of the first cast, or what precautions
he had taken against the failure of his envoy.
But although in total obscurity as to his
AGAIN TO ZENt)A. 53
future plans, I traced his past actions, and
subsequent knowledge has shown that I was
right. Bauer was his tool ; a couple of florins
apiece had hired the fellows who, conceiving
that they were playing a part in some practical
joke, had taken all the cabs at the station.
Rupert had reckoned that I should linger
looking for my servant and luggage, and thus
miss my last chance of a vehicle. If, how-
ever, I had obtained one, the attack would
still have been made, although of course
under much greater difficulties. Finally, —
and of this at the time I knew nothing, — had
I evaded them and got safe to port with my
cargo, the plot would have been changed.
Rupert's attention would then have been
diverted from me to Rudolf ; counting on
love overcoming prudence, he reckoned that
Mr. Rassendyll would not at once destroy
what the Queen sent, and had arranged to
track his steps from Wintenberg till an
opportunity offered of robbing him of his
treasure. The full scheme, as I know it,
was full of audacious cunning and required
large resources ; the former Rupert himself
supplied, for the second he was indebted to
his cousin and slave, the Coimt of Luzau-
My meditations were interrupted by the
arrival of the doctor. He hummed and ha'd
over me, but, to my surprise, asked me no
questions as to the cause of my misfortune,
54 RUPERT OF HENTZAO.
and did not, as I had feared, suggest that his
efforts should be seconded by those of the
police. On the contrary he appeared, from
an unobtrusive hint or two, to be anxious
that I should know that his discretion could
" You must not think of moving for a couple
of days," he said; "but then I think we can
get you away without danger and quite
I thanked him ; he promised to look in
again ; I murmured something about his
" Oh, thank you, that is all settled," he said.
"Your friend Kerr Schmidt has seen to it,
and, my dear sir, most liberally."
He was hardly gone when " my friend
Herr Schmidt" — alias Rudolf Rassendyll —
was back. He laughed a little when I told
him how discreet the doctor had been.
"You see," he explained, "he thinks you've
been very indiscreet. I was obliged, my
dear Fritz, to take some liberties with your
character. However it 's odds against the
matter coming to your wife's ears."
" But couldn't we have laid the others by
the heels ? "
" With the letter on Rupert ? My dear
fellow, you're very ill ! "
I laughed at myself, and forgave Rudolf
his trick, though I think that he might have
made my fictitious inamorata something
AGAIN TO ZENDA. 55
more than a baker's wife. It would have
cost no more to make her a countess, and
the doctor would have looked with more
respect on me. However Rudolf had said
that the baker broke my head with his
rolling-pin, and thus the story rests in the
doctor's mind to this day.
"Well, I'm off," said Rudolf.
"But where ?"
"Why, to that same little station where
two good friends parted from me once
before. Fritz, where *s Rupert gone?"
" I wish we knew ! "
"I lay he won't be far off."
** Are you armed ? "
"The six-shooter. Well, yes, since you
press me, a knife too ; but only if he uses
one. You'll let Sapt know when you come?"
"Yes; and I come the moment I can
"As if you need tell me that, old fellow!"
"Where do you go from the station?'*
"To Zenda, through the forest," he
answered, " I shall reach the station about
nine to-morrow night, Thursday. Unless
Rischenheim has got the audience sooner
than was arranged, I shall be in time."
"How will you get hold of Sapt?"
"We must leave something to the minute."
"God bless you, Rudolf!"
"The King shan't have the letter, Fritz."
There was a moment's silence as we
56 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
shook hands. Then that soft yet bright
look came in his eyes again. He looked
down at me, and caught me regarding him
with a smile that I know was not unkind.
"I never thought I should see her again,"
he said. ** I think I shall now, Fritz. To
have a turn with that boy, and to sec her
again — it's worth something."
** How will you see her ? "
Rudolf laughed, and I laughed too. He
caught my hand again. I think that he was
anxious to infect me with his gaiety and
confidence. But I could not answer to the
appeal of his eyes. There was a motive
in him that found no place in me — a great
longing, the prospect or hope of whose
sudden fulfilment dwarfed danger and ban-
ished despair. He saw that I detected its
presence in him and perceived how it filled his
"But the letter comes before all," said he.
" I expected to die without seeing her ; I will
die without seeing her, if I must, to save the
"I know you will," said I.
He pressed my hand again. As he turned
away, James came with his noiseless quick
step into the room. '^
"The carriage is at the door, sir," said he.
"Look after the Count, James," said
Rudolf. "Don't leave him till he sends you
AGAIN to ZENDA. 57
"Very well, sir."
I raised myself in bed. " Here 's luck ! "
I cried, catching up the lemonade James
had brought to me and taking a gulp of it.
"Please God," said Rudolf, with a shrug.
And he was gone to his v^^ork and his
reward, to save the Queen's letter and to
see the Queen's face. Thus he went a
second time to Zenda.
AN EDDY ON THE MOAT.
ON the evening of Thursday, the sixteenth
of October, the Constable of Zenda v/as
very much out of humour ; he has since
confessed as much. To risk the peace of
a palace for the sake of a lover's greeting
had never been wisdom to his mind, and
he had been sorely impatient with "that fool
Fritz's " yearly pilgrimage. The letter of
farewell had been an added folly, pregnant
with chances of disaster. Now disaster, or the
danger of it, had come. The curt mysteri-
ous telegrams from Wintenberg, which told
him so little, at least told him that. It
ordered him — and he did not know even
whose the order was — to delay Rischen-
heim's audience, or, if he could not, to get
the King away from Zenda; why he was
to act thus was not disclosed to him. But
he knew as well as I that Rischenheim was
completely in Rupert's hands, and he could
not fail to guess that something had gone
wrong at Wintenberg, and that Rischenheim
came to tell the King some news that the
King must not hear. His ta-sk sounded
simple, but it was not so easy; for he did
AN iEDDY ON THE MOAT. 59
not know where Rischenheim was, and so
could not prevent his coming. Besides the
King had been very pleased to learn of the
Count's approaching visit, since he desired
to talk with him on the subject of a certain
breed of dogs, which the Count bred with
great. His Majesty with only indifferent,
success ; therefore he had declared that
nothing should interfere with his reception
of Rischenheim. In vain Sapt told him
that a large boar had been seen in the
forest, and that a fine day's sport might be
expected if he would hunt next day.
" I shouldn't be back in time to see
Rischenheim," said the King.
"Your Majesty would be back by night-
fall," suggested Sapt.
**I should be too tired to talk to him,
and I 've a great deal to discuss."
"You could sleep at the hunting-lodge,
sire, and ride back to receive the Count
"I'm anxious to see him as soon as
may be." Then he looked up at Sapt with a
sick man's quick suspicion. "Why shouldn't
I see him ? " he asked.
"It's a pity to miss the boar, sire," was
all Sapt's plea. The King made light of it.
"Curse the boar!" said he. "I want to
know how he gets the dogs' coats so
As the King spoke a servant entered,
6o kUPERt OF HENtZAt).
carrying a telegram for Sapt. The Colonel
took it and put it in his pocket.
«* Read it," said the King. He had dined
and was about to go to bed, it being nearly
** It will keep, sire," answered Sapt, who
did not know but that it might be from
" Read it," insisted the King testily.
" It may be from Rischenheim. Perhaps
he can get here sooner. I should like to
know about those dogs. Read it, I beg."
Sapt could do nothing but read it. He
had taken to spectacles lately, and he spent
a long while adjusting them and thinking
what he should do if the message were
not fit for the King's ear.
" Be quick, man, be quick ! " urged the
Sapt had got the envelope open at last;
and relief, mingled with perplexity, showed
in his face.
"Your Majesty guessed wonderfully well.
Rischenheim can be here at eight to-morrow
morning," he said, looking up.
"Capital!" cried the King. "He shall
breakfast with me at nine, and I'll have a
ride after the boar when we 've done our
business. Now are you satisfied ? "
" Perfectly, sire," said Sapt, biting his
The King rose with a yawn, and bade
AN EDDY ON THE MOAT. 6i
the Colonel good-night. " He must have
some trick I don't know with those dogs,"
he remarked, as he went out ; and
**Damn the dogs!" cried Colonel Sapt
the moment that the door was shut behind
But the Colonel was not a man to accept
defeat easily. The audience that he had
been instructed to postpone was advanced ;
the King, whom he had been told to get
away from Zenda, would not go till he had
seen Rischenheim. Still there are many
ways of preventing a meeting. Some are
by fraud, these it is no injustice to Sapt to
say that he had tried ; some are by force,
and the Colonel was being driven to the con-
clusion that one of these must be his resort.
" Though the King," he mused with a
grin, "will be furious if anything happens to
Rischenheim before he's told him about the
Yet he fell to racking his brains to find
a means by which the Count might be
rendered incapable of performing the service
so desired by the King and of carrying
out his own purpose in seeking an audience.
Nothing save assassination suggested itself
to the Constable ; a quarrel and a duel
offered no security ; and Sapt was not
Black Michael, and had no band of ruffians
to join him in an apparently unprovoked
kidnapping of a distinguished nobleman.
62 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" I can think of nothing," muttered Sapt,
rising from his chair and moving across
towards the window, in search of the fresh
air that a man so often thinks will give
him a fresh idea. He was in his own
quarters, that room of the new chateau
which opens on to the moat immediately to
the right of the drawbridge as you face the
old castle ; it was the room which Duke
Michael had occupied, and almost opposite
to the spot where the great pipe had con-
nected the window of the King's dungeon
with the waters of the moat. The bridge
was down now, for peaceful days had come
to Zenda; the pipe was gone, and the
dungeon's window, though still barred, was
uncovered. The night was clear and fine,
and the still water gleamed fitfully as the
moon, half-full, escaped from or was hidden
by passing clouds. Sapt stood staring out
gloomily, beating his knuckles on the stone
sill. The fresh air was there, but the fresh
Suddenly the Constable bent forward,
craning his head out and down, far as he
could stretch it, towards the water. What
he had seen, or seemed dimly to see, is
a sight common enough on the surface of
water — large circular eddies, widening from
a centre; a stone thrown in makes them,
or a fish on the rise. But Sapt had thrown
no stone, and the fish in the moat were
AN EDDY ON THE MOAT. 63
few and not rising then. The light was
behind Sapt and threw his figure into bold
relief. The royal apartments looked out
the other way; there were no lights in
the windows this side the bridge, although
beyond it the guards* lodgings and the
servants* offices still showed a light here
and there. Sapt waited till the eddies
ceased. Then he heard the faintest sound,
as of a large body let very gently into the
water; a moment later, from the moat right
below him, a man's head emerged.
"Sapt!" said a voice, low but distinct.
The old Colonel started, and, resting both
hands on the sill, bent farther out, till he
seemed in danger of overbalancing.
" Quick — to the ledge on the other side.
You know," said the voice, and the head
turned; with quick quiet strokes the man
crossed the moat till he was hidden in
the triangle of deep shade formed by the
meeting of the drawbridge and the old
castle wall. Sapt watched him go, almost
stupefied by the sudden wonder of hearing
that voice come to him out of the stillness
of the night. For the King was abed; and
who spoke in that voice save the King and
one other ?
Then, with a curse at himself for his
delay, he turned and walked quickly across
the room. Opening the door, he found him-
self in the passage. But here he ran right
64 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
into the arms of young Bernenstein, the
Officer of the Guard, who was going his
rounds. Sapt knew and trusted him, for
he had been with us all through the siege
of Zenda, when Michael kept the King a
prisoner, and he bore marks given him by
Rupert of Hentzau's ruffians. He now held
a commission as lieutenant in the Cuiras-
siers of the King's Guard.
He noticed Sapt's bearing, for he cried
out in a low voice ;
"Anything wrong, sir?"
" Bernenstein, my boy, the Castle's all
right about here. Go round to the front,
and, hang you, stay there," said Sapt.
The officer stared, as well he might.
Sapt caught him by the arm.
" No, stay here. See, stand by the door
there that leads to the royal apartments.
Stand there, and let nobody pass. You
understand ? "
"And whatever you hear, don't look round."
Bernenstein's bewilderment grew greater;
but Sapt was Constable, and on Sapt's
shoulders lay the responsibility for the safety
of Zenda and all in it.
"Very well, sir," he said with a sub-
missive shrug, and he drew his sword and
stood by the door: he could obey although
he could not understand.
Sapt ran on. Opening the gate that led
AN EDDY ON THE MOAT. 65
to the bridge, he sped across. Then step-
ping on one side and turning his face to
the wall, he descended the steps that gave
foothold down to the ledge running six or
eight inches above the water. He also was
now in the triangle of deep darkness, yet
he knew that a man was there, who stood
straight and tall, rising above his own
height. And he felt his hand caught in a
sudden grip. Rudolf Rassendyll was there,
in his wet drawers and socks.
"Is it you?" he whispered.
"Yes," answered Rudolf: "I swam round
from the other side and got here. Then I
threw in a bit of mortar, but I wasn't
sure I'd roused you, and I didn't dare
shout, so I followed it myself. Lay hold
of me a minute while I get on my breeches:
I didn't want to get wet, so I carried my
clothes in a bundle. Hold me tight — it 's
"In God's name, what brings you here?"
whispered Sapt, catching Rudolf by the
arm as he was directed.
"The Queen's service. When does
Rischenheim come ? "
" To-morrow at eight."
"The deuce! That's earlier than I
thought. And the King ? "
" Is here and determined to sec him.
It's impossible to move him from it."
There was a moment's silence; Rudolf
66 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
drew his shirt over his head and tucked
it into his trousers. "Give me the jacket
and waistcoat," he said. ** I feel deuced
damp underneath, though."
"You'll soon get dry," grinned Sapt.
"You'll be kept moving, you see."
"I've lost my hat."
" Seems to me you 've lost your head
"You'll find me both, eh, Sapt?"
"As good as your own, anyhow," growled
" Now the boots, and I 'm ready." Then
he asked quickly, " Has the King seen or
heard from Rischenheim ? "
" Neither, except through me."
"Then why is he so set on seeing
him ? "
"To find out what gives dogs smooth
"You're serious? Hang you, I can't see
"All's well, then. Has he got a beard
now ? "
"Confound him! Can't you take me any-
where to talk ? "
"What the deuce are you here at all
for ? "
"To meet Rischenheim."
"To meet ?"
AN EDDY ON THE MOAT. 67
"Yes. Sapt, he's got a copy of the
Sapt twirled his moustache.
"I've always said as much," he remarked
in tones of satisfaction. He need not have
said it ; he would have been more than
human not to think it.
" Wliere can you take me to?" asked
" Any room with a door and a lock to
it," answered old Sapt. " I command here,
and when I say, * Stay out ' — well, they
don't come in."
"Not the King?"
"The King is in bed. Come along," and
the Constable set his toe on the lowest step.
"Is there nobody about?" asked Rudolf,
catching his arm.
" Bernenstein : but he will keep his back
"Your discipline is still good, then.
Colonel ? "
" Pretty well for these days. Your
Majesty," grunted Sapt, as he reached the
level of the bridge.
Having crossed, they entered the chateau.
The passage was empty save for Bernen-
stein, whose broad back barred the way
from the royal apartments.
"In here," whispered Sapt, laying his
hand on the door of the room whence he
68 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" All right," answered Rudolf. Bernen-
stein's hand twitched, but he did not look
round. There was discipline in the Castle
But as Sapt was half-way through the
oor and Rudolf about to follow him, the
:>ther door, that which Bernenstein guarded,
was softly yet swiftly opened. Bernenstein's
sword was in rest in an instant. A muttered
oath from Sapt and Rudolf's quick snatch
at his breath greeted the interruption.
Bernenstein did not look round, but his
sword fell to his side. In the doorway
stood Queen Flavia, all in white ; and now
her face turned white as her dress. For
her eyes had fallen on Rudolf Rassendyll.
For a moment the four stood thus ; then
Rudolf passed Sapt, thrust Bernenstein's
brawny shoulders (the young man had not
looked round) out of the way, and, falling
on his knee before the Queen, seized her
hand and kissed it. Bernenstein could see
now without looking round, and if astonish-
ment could kill, he would have been a dead
man that instant. He fairly reeled and
leant against the wall, his mouth hanging
open. For the King was in bed, and had
a beard; yet here was the King, fully
dressed and clean shaven, and he was
kissing the Queen's hand, while she gazed
down on him in a struggle between amaze-
ment, fright and joy. A soldier should be
AN EDDY ON THE MOAT. 69
prepared for anything, but I cannot be hard
on young Bernenstein's bewilderment.
Yet there was in truth nothing strange
in the Queen seeking to see old Sapt that
night, nor in her guessing where he would
most probably be found. For she had asked
him three times whether news had come
from Wintenberg and each time he had put
her off with excuses. Quick to forebode
evil, and conscious of the pledge to fortune
that she had given in her letter, she had
determined to know from him whether there
were really cause for alarm, and had stolen,
undetected, from her apartments to seek
him. What filled her at once with unbear-
able apprehension and incredulous joy was
to find Rudolf present in actual flesh and
blood, no longer in sad longing dreams or
visions, and to feel his live lips on her hand.
Lovers count neither time nor danger;
but Sapt counted both, and no more than
a moment had passed before, with eager
imperative gestures, he beckoned them to
enter the room. The Queen obeyed, and
Rudolf followed her.
» " Let nobody in, and don't say a word
to anybody," whispered Sapt, as he entered,
leaving Bernenstein outside. The young
man was half- dazed still, but he had sense
to read the expression in the Constable's
eyes and to learn from it that he must
give his life sooner than let the door be
70 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Opened. So with drawn sword he stood on
It was eleven o'clock when the Queen
came, and midnight had struck from the
great clock of the Castle before the door
opened again and Sapt came out. His
sword was not drawn, but he had his re-
volver in his hand. He shut the door
silently after him and began at once to talk
5n low, earnest, quick tones to Bernenstein.
Bernenstein listened intently and without
interrupting. Sapt's story ran on for eight
or nine minutes. Then he paused, before
** You understand now ? "
" Yes, it is wonderful," said the young
man, drawing in his breath.
" Pooh ! " said Sapt. " Nothing is won-
derful: some things are unusual."
Bernenstein was not convinced, and shrug-
ged his shoulders in protest.
"Well?" said the Constable, with a quick
glance at him.
" I would die for the Queen, sir," he
answered, clicking his heels together as
though on parade.
*'Good," said Sapt. "Then listen," and
he began again to talk. Bernenstein nodded
from time to time. "You'll meet him at
the gate," said the Constable, "and bring
him straight here. He 's not to go any-
where else, you understand me?"
AN EDDY ON THE MOAT. ^\
" Perfectly, Colonel," smiled young Ber-
*' The King will be in this room — the King.
You know who is the King?"
"And when the interview is ended, and
we go to breakfast "
" I know who will be the King then.
" Good. But we do him no harm un-
" It is necessary."
Sapt turned away with a little sigh.
Bernenstein was an apt pupil, but the
Colonel was exhausted by so much expla-
nation. He knocked softly at the door of
the room. The Queen's voice bade him
enter, and he passed in. Bernenstein was
left alone again in the passage, pondering
over what he had heard and rehearsing the
part that it now fell to him to play. As
he thought, he may well have raised his
head proudly. The service seemed so great
and. the honour so high, that he almost
wished he could die in the performing of
his role. It would be a finer death than
his soldier's dreams had dared to picture.
At one o'clock Colonel Sapt came out.
** Go to bed till six," said he to Ber-
*•! am not sleepy."
72 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" No, but you will be at eight if you don't
" Is the Queen coming out, Colonel ? "
"In a minute, Lieutenant."
"I should like to kiss her hand."
"Well, if you think it worth waiting a
quarter of an hour for," said Sapt, with a
"You said a minute, sir."
"So did she," answered the Constable.
Nevertheless it was a quarter of an hour
before Rudolf Rassendyll opened the door and
the Queen appeared on the threshold. She
was very pale, and she had been crying, but
her eyes were happy and her air firm. The
moment he saw her, young Bernenstein fell
on his knees and raised her hand to his
"To the death, madame," said he in a
"I knew it, sir," she answered graciously.
Then she looked round on the three of them.
"Gentlemen," said she, "my servants and
dear friends, with you, and with Fritz who
lies wounded in Wintenberg, rest my honour
and my life ; for I will not live if the letter
reaches the King."
"The King shall not have it, madame," said
He took her hand in his and patted it with
a clumsy gentleness ; smiling, she extended it
again to young Bernenstein, in mark of her
AN EDDY ON THE MOAT. 73
favour. They two then stood at the salute,
while Rudolf walked with her to the end of
the passage. There for a moment she and he
stood together; the others turned their eyes
away and thus did not see her suddenly stoop
and cover his hand with her kisses. He tried
to draw it away, not thinking it fit that she
should kiss his hand, but she seemed as though
she could not let it go. Yet at last, still with
her eyes on his, she passed backwards through
the door, and he shut it after her.
" Now to business," said Colonel Sapt
dryly; and Rudolf laughed a little.
Rudolf passed into the room. Sapt went
to the King's apartments, and asked the phy-
sician whether His Majesty were sleeping
well. Receiving reassuring news of the royal
slumbers, he proceeded to the quarters of the
King's body- servant, knocked up the sleepy
wretch, and ordered breakfast for the King
and the Count of Luzau-Rischenheim at nine
o'clock precisely, in the morning-room that
looks out over the avenue leading to the
entrance of the new chateau. This done, he
returned to the room where Rudolf was,
carried a chair into the passage, bade Rudolf
lock the door, sat down, revolver in hand, and
himself went to sleep. Young Bernenstein
was in bed just now, taken faint, and the
Constable himself was acting as his sub-
stitute : that was to be the story, if a story
were needed. Thus the hours from two to
74 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
six passed that morning in the Castle of
At six the Constable awoke and knocked
at the door ; Rudolf Rassendyll opened it.
" Slept well ? " asked Sapt.
" Not a wink," answered Rudolf cheerfully.
" I thought you had more nerve."
** It wasn't want of nerve that kept me
awake," said Mr. Rassendyll.
Sapt, with a pitying shrug, looked round.
The curtains of the window were half- drawn.
The table was moved nearer to the wall, and
the armchair by it was well in shadow, being
quite close to the curtains.
"There's plenty of room for you behind,"
said Rudolf; " and when Rischenheim is
seated in his chair opposite to mine, you
can put your barrel against his head by just
stretching out your hand. And of course I
can do the same."
"Yes, it looks well enough," said Sapt,
with an approving nod.
"What about the beard ?"
" Bernenstein is to tell him you 've shaved
" Will he believe that ? "
" Why not ? For his own sake he 'd better
And if we have to kill him ?
"We must run for it. The King would
"He's fond of him ?"
AN EDDY ON THE MOAT. 75
" You forget. He wants to know about
<* True. You '11 be in your place in time ? "
** Of course."
Rudolf Rassendyll took a turn up and down
the room. It was easy to see that the
events of the night had disturbed him.
Sapt's thoughts were running in a different
" When we 've done with this fellow, we
must find Rupert," said he.
" Rupert ? Rupert ? True ; I forgot. Of
course we must," said he confusedly.
Sapt looked scornful ; he knew that his
companion's mind had been occupied with
the Queen. But his remarks— if he had
meditated any — were interrupted by the
clock striking seven.
** He '11 be here in an hour," said he.
"We're ready for him," answered Rudolf
Rassendyll. With the thought of action his
eyes grew bright and his brow smooth again.
He and old Sapt looked at one another, and
they both smiled.
**Like old times, isn't it, Sapt ?"
"Aye, sire, like the reign of good King
Thus they made ready for the Count of
Luzau-Rischenheim, while my cursed wound
held me a prisoner at Wintenberg. It is
still a sorrow to me that I know what
76 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
passed that morning only by report, and
had not the honour of bearing a part in it.
Still Her Majesty did not forget me, but
remembered that I would have taken my
share, had fortune allowed. Indeed I would
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING.
HAVING come thus far in the story that
I set out to tell, I have half a mind
to lay down my pen, and leave untold
how from the moment that Mr. Rassendyll
came again to Zenda a fury of chance
seemed to catch us all in a whirlwind,
carrying us whither we would not, and
ever driving us onwards to fresh enterprises,
breathing into us a recklessness that stood
at no obstacle, and a devotion to the Queen
and to the man she loved that swept away
all other feelings. The ancients held there
to be a Fate which would have its fill, though
women wept and men died, and none could
tell whose was the guilt nor who fell innocent.
Thus did they blindly wrong God's Provi-
dence. Yet, save that we are taught to
believe that all is ruled, we are as blind as
they, and are still left wondering why all
that is true and generous and love's own
fruit must turn so often to woe and shame,
exacting tears and blood. For myself I
would leave the thing untold, lest a word
of it should seem to stain her whom I
serve ; it is by her own command I write,
78 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
that all may one day, in time's fulness,
be truly known, and those condemn who
are without sin, while they pity whose
own hearts have fought the equal fight. So
much for her and him ; for us less needs be
said. It was not ours to weigh her actions :
we served her ; him we had served. She
was our Queen ; we bore Heaven a grudge
that he was not our King. The worst of
what befell was not of our own planning,
no, nor of our hoping. It came a thunderbolt
from the hand of Rupert, flung carelessly
between a curse and a laugh ; its coming
entangled us more tightly in the net of
circumstances. Then there arose in us that
strange and overpowering desire of which I
must tell later, filling us with a zeal to
accomplish our purpose, and to force Mr.
Rassendyll himself into the way we chose.
Led by this star, we pressed on through the
darkness, until at length the deeper darkness
fell that stayed our steps. We also stand
for judgment, even as she and he. So I will
write ; but I will write plainly and briefly,
setting down what I must and no more,
yet seeking to give truly the picture of that
time, and to preserve as long as may be the
portrait of the man whose like I have not
known. Yet the fear is always upon me
that, failing to show him as he was, I may
fail also in gaining an understanding of how
he wrought on us, one and all, till his cause
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING. 79
became in all things the right, and to seat
him where he should be our highest duty
and our nearest wish. For he said little,
and that straight to the purpose ; no high-
flown words of his live in my memory. And
he asked nothing for himself. Yet his speech
and his eyes went straight to men's hearts
and women's, so that they held their lives
in an eager attendance on his bidding. Do I
rave ? Then Sapt was a raver too, for Sapt
was foremost in the business.
At ten minutes to eight o'clock, young
Bernenstein, very admirably and smartly
accoutred, took his stand outside the main
entrance of the Castle. He wore a confident
air that became almost a swagger as he
strolled to and fro past the motionless sentries.
He had not long to wait. On the stroke of
eight a gentleman, well horsed but entirely
unattended, rode up the carriage drive.
Bernenstein, crying, "Ah, it is the Count!",
ran to meet him. Rischenheim dismounted,
holding out his hand to the young officer.
" My dear Bernenstein ! " said he, for
they were acquainted with one another.
** You 're punctual, my dear Rischenheim,
and it 's lucky, for the King awaits you most
** I didn't expect to find him up so soon,"
«* Up ! He 's been up these two hours.
Indeed we've had the devil of a time of it.
8o RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Treat him carefully, my dear Count ; he 's in
one of his troublesome humours. For ex-
ample—but I mustn't keep you waiting.
Pray follow me."
" No, but pray tell me. Otherwise I might
say something unfortunate."
** Well, he woke at six ; and when the
barber came to trim his beard there were —
imagine it, Count ! — no less than seven grey
hairs. The King fell into a passion. *Take
it off,' he said. * Take it off. I won't have
a grey beard ! Take it off ! ' Well, what
would you ? A man is free to be shaved
if he chooses, so much more a King. So
it 's taken off."
" His beard ! "
*< His beard, my dear Count. Then, after
thanking heaven it was gone and declaring
he looked ten years younger, he cried, *The
Count of Luzau-Rischenheim breakfasts with
me to-day : what is there for breakfast ? '
And he had the chef out of his bed and —
but, by heavens, I shall get into trouble if
I stop here chattering. He 's waiting most
eagerly for you. Come along." And Bernen-
stein, passing his arm through the Count's,
walked him rapidly into the Castle.
The Count of Luzau-Rischenheim was a
young man ; he was no more versed in affairs
of this kind than Bernenstein, and it cannot
be said that he showed so much aptitude for
them. He was decidedly pale this morning;
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING. 8l
his manner was uneasy, and his hands trem-
bled. He did not lack courage, but that
rarer virtue, coolness ; and the importance —
or perhaps the shame — of his mission upset
the balance of his nerves. Hardly noting
where he went, he allowed Bernenstein to
lead him quickly and directly towards the
room where Rudolf Rassendyll was, not
doubting that he was being conducted to the
" Breakfast is ordered for nine," said Bern-
enstein, "but he wants to see you before.
He has something important to say; and
you perhaps have the same ? "
"I? Oh, no. A small matter; but — er —
of a private nature."
"Quite so, quite so. Oh, I don't ask any
questions, my dear Count."
" Shall I find the King alone ? " asked
"I don't think you'll find anybody with
him : no, nobody, I think," answered
Bernenstein with a grave and reassuring
They had arrived now at the door. Here
"I am ordered to wait outside till His
Majesty summons me," he said in a low
voice, as though he feared that the irritable
King would hear him. " I '11 open the door
and announce you. Pray keep him in a good
temper, for all our sakes." And he flung
82 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
the door open, saying, "Sire, the Count of
Luzau-Rischenheim has the honour to wait
on your Majesty." With this he shut the
door promptly, and stood against it. Nor
did he move, save once, and then only to
take out his revolver and inspect it carefully.
The Count advanced, bowing low and
striving to conceal a visible agitation. He
saw the King in his arm-chair; the King
wore a suit of brown tweeds (none the
better for being crushed into a bundle the
night before) ; his face was in deep shadow,
but Rischenheim perceived that the beard
was indeed gone. The King held out his
hand to Rischenheim, and motioned him to
sit in a chair just opposite to him and within
a foot of the window-curtains.
" I 'm delighted to see you, my lord," said
Rischenheim looked up. Rudolf's voice
had once been so like the King's that no
man could tell the difference, but in the last
year or two the King's had grown weaker,
and Rischenheim seemed to be struck by
the vigour of the tones in which he was
addressed. As he looked up, there was a
slight movement in the curtains by him ; it
died away when the Count gave no further
signs of suspicion, but Rudolf had noticed
his surprise : the voice, when it next spoke,
" Most delighted," pursued Mr. Rassendyll.
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING. 83
" For I am pestered beyond endurance about
those dogs. I can't get the coats right. I've
tried everything, but they won't come as I
wish. Now yours are magnificent."
" You are very good, sire. But I ventured
to ask an audience in order to "
'* Positively you must tell me about the
dogs. And before Sapt comes, for I want
nobody to hear but myself."
" Your Majesty expects Colonel Sapt ? "
" In about twenty minutes," said the King,
with a glance at the clock on the mantel-
At this Rischenheim became all on fire to
get his errand done before Sapt appeared.
"The coats of your dogs," pursued the
King, "grow so beautifully "
"A thousand pardons, sire, but '*
"Long and silky, that I despair of-
" I have a most urgent and important
matter," persisted Rischenheim in agony.
Rudolf threw himself back in his chair
with a peevish air.
"Well, if you must, you must. What is
this great affair. Count ? Let us have it
over, and then you can tell me about the
Rischenheim looked round the room.
There was nobody ; the curtains were still ;
the King's left hand caressed his beardless
chin ; the right was hidden from his visitor
by the small table that stood between them.
84 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"Sire, my cousin, the Count of Hentzau,
has entrusted me with a message."
Rudolf suddenly assumed a stern air.
"I can hold no communication, directly or
indirectly, with the Count of Hentzau," said
"Pardon me, sire, pardon me. A docu-
ment has come into the Count's hands which
is of vital importance to your Majesty."
"The Count of Hentzau, my lord, has
incurred my heaviest displeasure."
"Sire, it is in the hopes of atoning for his
offences that he has sent me here to-day.
There is a conspiracy against your Majesty's
"By whom, my lord?" asked Rudolf in
cold and doubting tones.
" By those who are very near your
Majesty's person and very high in your
" Sire, I dare not. You would not believe
me. But your Majesty will believe written
"Show it me, and quickly. We may be
"Sire, I have a copy "
"Oh, a copy, my lord?" sneered Rudolf.
" My cousin has the original, and will
forward it at your Majesty's command. A
copy of a letter of Her Majesty's."
" Of the Queen's ? "
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING. 85
"Yes, sire. It is addressed to **
"Well, my lord, to whom?"
"To a Mr. Rudolf Rassendyll."
Now Rudolf played his part well. He did
not feign indifference, but allowed his voice
to tremble with emotion as he stretched out
his hand and said in a hoarse whisper:
"Give it me, give it me."
Rischenheim's eyes sparkled. His shot
had told : the King's attention was his, the
coats of the dogs were forgotten. Plainly
he had stirred the suspicions and jealousy of
"My cousin," he continued, "conceives it
his duty to lay the letter before your Majesty.
He obtained it "
"A curse on how he got it! Give it mc."
Rischenheim unbuttoned his coat, then his
waistcoat. The head of a revolver showed
in a belt round his waist. He undid the flap
of a pocket in the lining of his waistcoat,
and began to draw out a sheet of paper.
But Rudolf, great as his powers of self-
control were, was but human. When he
saw the paper, he leant forward, half rising
from his chair. As a result, his face came
beyond the shadow of the curtain, and the
full morning light beat on it. As Rischen-
heim took the paper out, he looked up. He
saw the face that glared so eagerly at him;
his eyes met Rassendyll' s : a sudden suspi-
86 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
cion seized him, for the face, though the
King's face in every feature, bore a stern
resolution and witnessed a vigour that were
not the King's. In that instant the truth, or
a hint of it, flashed across his mind. He
gave a half- articulate cry ; in one hand he
crumpled up the paper, the other flew to his
revolver. But he was too late. Rudolf's
left hand encircled his hand and the paper
in an iron grip ; Rudolf's revolver was on
his temple; and an arm was stretched out
from behind the curtain, holding another
barrel full before his eyes, while a dry voice
said: "You'd best take it quietly." Then
Sapt stepped out.
Rischenheim had no words to meet the
sudden transformation of the interview. He
seemed to be able to do nothing but stare at
Rudolf Rassendyll. Sapt wasted no time.
He snatched the Count's revolver and stowed
it in his own pocket.
"Now take the paper," said he to Rudolf,
and his barrel held Rischenheim motionless
while Rudolf wrenched the precious docu-
ment from his fingers. ** Look if it 's the
right one. No, don't read it through ; just
look. Is it right? That's good. Now put
your revolver to his head again. I 'm going
to search him. Stand up, sir ! "
They compelled the Count to stand up,
and Sapt subjected him to a search that
made the concealment of another copy, or
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING. 87
of any other document, impossible. Then
they let him sit down again. His eyes
seemed fascinated by Rudolf Rassendyll.
"Yet you've seen me before, I think,"
smiled Rudolf. " I seem to remember you
as a boy in Strelsau when I was there.
Now tell us, sir, where did you leave this
cousin of yours ? " For the plan was to find
out from Rischenheim where Rupert "was,
and to set off in pursuit of Rupert as soon
as they had disposed of Rischenheim.
But even as Rudolf spoke there was a
violent knock at the door. Rudolf sprang to
open it. Sapt and his revolver kept their
places. Bernenstein was on the threshold,
"The King's servant has just gone by.
He 's looking for Colonel Sapt. The King
has been walking in the drive, and leawit
from a sentry of Rischenheim 's arrival. I
told the man that you had taken the
Count for a stroll round the Castle, and
I did not know where you were. He says
that the King may come himself at any
Sapt considered for one short instant; then
he was back by the prisoner's side.
"We must talk again later on," he said,
in low quick tones. "Now you're going to
breakfast with the King. I shall be there,
and Bernenstein. Remember, not a word of
your errand, not a word of this gentleman!
88 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
At a word, a sign, a hint, a gesture, a motion,
as God lives, I '11 put a bullet through your
head, and a thousand kings shan't stop me.
Rudolf, get behind the curtain. If there's
an alarm you must jump through the window
into the moat and swim for it."
"All right," said Rudolf Rassendyll. "I
can read my letter there."
"Burn it, you fool!"
"When I've read it I'll eat it, if you like,
but not before."
Bernenstein looked in again.
" Quick, quick ! The man will be back,"
"Bernenstein, did you hear what I said to
"Yes, I heard."
" Then you know your part. Now, gentle-
men, to the King."
"Well," said an angry voice outside, "I
wondered how long I was to be kept
Rudolf Rassendyll skipped behind the cur-
tain. Sapt's revolver slipped into a handy
pocket Rischenheim stood with arms
dangling by his side and his waistcoat half
unbuttoned. Young Bernenstein was bowing
low on the threshold, and protesting that the
King's servant had but just gone, and that
they were on the point of waiting on his
Majesty. Then the King walked in, pale and
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING. 89
"Ah, Count," said he, "I'm glad to sec
you. If they had told me you were here,
you shouldn't have waited a minute. You 're
very dark in here, Sapt. Why don't you
draw back the curtains ? " : and the King
moved towards the curtain behind which
"Allow me, sire," cried Sapt, darting past
him and laying a hand on the curtain.
A malicious gleam of pleasure shot into
" In truth, sire," continued the Constable,
his hand on the curtain, " we were so inter-
ested in what the Count was saying about his
" By heaven, I forgot ! " cried the King.
" Yes, yes, the dogs. Now tell me, Count "
"Your pardon, sire," put in young Ber-
nenstein, "but breakfast waits."
"Yes, yes. Well, then, we'll have them
together — breakfast and the dogs. Come
along. Count." The King passed his arm
through Rischenheim's, adding to Bernen-
stein, "Lead the way. Lieutenant; and you,
Colonel, come with us."
They went out. Sapt stopped and locked
the door behind him.
"Why do you lock the door, Colonel?"
asked the King.
"There are some papers in my drawer
"But why not lock the drawer?"
go RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
**I have lost the key, sire, like the fool I
am," said the Colonel.
The Count of Luzau-Rischenheim did not
make a very good breakfast. He sat opposite
to the King. Colonel Sapt placed himself at
the back of the King's chair, and Rischenheim
saw the muzzle of a revolver resting on the
top of the chair just behind his Majesty's
right ear. Bernenstein stood in soldierly
rigidity by the door ; Rischenheim looked
round at him once, and met a most significant
"You're eating nothing," said the King.
** I hope you 're not indisposed ? "
" I am a little upset, sire," stammered
Rischenheim, and truly enough.
"Well, tell me about the dogs while I eat;
for I'm hungry."
Rischenheim began to disclose his secret.
His statement was decidedly wanting in
clearness. The King grew impatient.
" I don't understand," said he testily, and
he pushed his chair back so quickly that Sapt
skipped away, and hid the revolver behind
" Sire " cried Rischenheim, half rising.
A cough from Lieutenant von Bernenstein
"Tell it me all over again," said the King.
Rischenheim did as he was bid.
"Ah, I understand a little better now. Do
you see, Sapt ? " and he turned his head
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING. gi
round towards the Constable. Sapt had just
time to whisk the revolver away. The Count
leant forward towards the King. Lieutenant
von Bernenstein coughed. The Count sank
" Perfectly, sire," said Colonel Sapt. " I
understand all the Count wishes to convey to
"Well, I understand about half," said the
King with a laugh. "But perhaps that'll be
*' I think quite enough, sire," answered
Sapt with a smile.
The important matter of the dogs being
thus disposed of, the King recollected that
the Count had asked for an audience on a
matter of business.
" Now what did you wish to say to me ? "
he asked with a weary air. The dogs had
been more interesting.
Rischenheim looked at Sapt. The revolver
was in its place ; Bernenstein coughed again.
Yet he saw a chance.
" Your pardon, sire," said he, " but we are
The King lifted his eyebrows.
** Is the business so private ? " he asked.
"I should prefer to tell it to your Majesty
alone," pleaded the Count.
Now Sapt was resolved not to leave
Rischenheim alone with the King, for although
the Count, being robbed of his evidence, could
92 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
do little harm concerning the letter, he would
doubtless tell the King that Rudolf Rassendyll
was in the Castle. He leant now over the
King's shoulder, and said with a sneer :
" Messages from Rupert of Hentzau are
too exalted matters for my poor ears, it
The King flushed red.
" Is that your business, my lord ? " he
asked Rischenheim sternly.
"Your Majesty does not know what my
♦* It is the old plea ? " interrupted the King.
"He wants to come back? Is that all, or is
there anything else ? "
A moment's silence followed the King's
words. Sapt looked full at Rischenheim, and
smiled as he slightly raised his right hand and
showed the revolver. Bernenstein coughed
twice. Rischenheim sat twisting his fingers.
He understood that, cost what it might, they
would not let him declare his errand to the
King or betray Mr. Rassendyll's presence.
He cleared his throat and opened his mouth
as if to speak ; but still he remained silent.
"Well, my lord, is it the old story or
something new ? " asked the King impatiently.
Again Rischenheim sat silent.
" Are you dumb, my lord ? " cried the
King most impatiently.
"It— it is — only what you call the old
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING. 93
"Then let me say that you have treated
me very badly in obtaining an audience of
me for any such purpose," said the King.
" You knew my decision, and your cousin
Thus speaking the King rose ; Sapt's
revolver slid into his pocket ; but Lieutenant
von Bernenstein drew his sword and stood
at the salute ; he also coughed.
** My dear Rischenheim," pursued the King
more kindly, "I can allow for your natural
affection. But, believe me, in this case it
misleads you. Do me the favour not to open
this subject again to me."
Rischenheim, humiliated and angry, could
do nothing but bow in acknowledgment of
the King's rebuke.
" Colonel Sapt, see that the Count is well
entertained. My horse should be at the door
by now. Farewell, Count. Bernenstein, give
me your arm."
Bernenstein shot a rapid glance at the
Constable. Sapt nodded reassuringly. Ber-
nenstein sheathed his sword and gave his
arm to the King. They passed through the
door, and Bernenstein closed it with a back-
ward push of his hand. But at this moment
Rischenheim, goaded to fury and desperate
at the trick played on him— seeing, moreover,
that he had now only one man to deal with
— made a sudden rush at the door. He
reached it, and his hand was on the door-
94 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
knob. But Sapt was upon him, and Sapt's
revolver was at his ear.
In the passage the King stopped.
"What are they doing in there ? " he asked,
hearing the noise of the quick movements.
** I don't know, sire," said Bernenstein, and
he took a step forward.
"No, stop a minute, Lieutenant : you 're
pulling me along ! "
**A thousand pardons, sire."
**I hear nothing more now." And there
was nothing to hear, for the two now stood
dead silent inside the door.
** Nor I, sire. Will your Majesty go on ? "
And Bernenstein took another step.
"You're determined I shall," said the King
with a laugh, and he let the young officer
lead him away.
Inside the room, Rischenheim stood with
his back against the door. He was panting
for breath, and his face wa9 flushed and
working with excitement. Opposite to him
stood Sapt, revolver in hand.
"Till you get to heaven, my lord," said the
Constable, "you'll never be nearer to it than
you were in that moment. If you had opened
the door, I 'd have shot you through the
As he spoke there came a knock at the door.
" Open it," he said brusquely to Rischen-
heim. With a muttered curse the Count
obeyed him. A servant stood outside with a
AN AUDIENCE OF THE KING. 95
telegram on a salver. " Take it," whispered
Sapt, and Rischenheim put out his hand.
" Your pardon, my lord, but this has arrived
for you," said the man respectfully.
"Take it," whispered Sapt again.
" Give it me," muttered Rischenheim con-
fusedly ; and he took the envelope.
The servant bowed and shut the door.
"Open it," commanded Sapt.
"God's curse on you!" cried Rischenheim,
in a voice that choked with passion.
" Eh ? Oh, you can have no secrets from
so good a friend as I am, my lord. Be quick
and open it."
The Count began to open it.
"If you tear it up or crumple it, I'll shoot
you," said Sapt quietly. "You know you can
trust my word. Now read it."
"By God, I won't read it!"
" Read it, I tell you, or say your prayers."
The muzzle was within a foot of his head.
He unfolded the telegram. Then he looked
"Read," said the Constable.
" I don't understand what it means,"
" Possibly I may be able to help you."
" It 's nothing but "
" Read, my lord, read ! "
Then he read, and this was the telegram :
" Holf, 19 Konigstrasse,"
RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"A thousand thanks, my lord. And the
place it 's despatched from ? "
"Just turn it so that I can see. Oh, I
don't doubt you, but seeing is believing. Ah,
thanks. It 's as you say. You 're puzzled
what it means. Count ? "
"I don't know at all what it means."
** How strange ! Because I can guess so
"You are very acute, sir."
**It seems to me a simple thing to guess,
"And pray," said Rischenheim, endeavour-
ing to assume an easy and sarcastic air,
"what does your wisdom tell you that the
"I think, my lord, that the message is an
"An address! I never thought of that.
But I know no Holf."
"I don't think it's Holfs address."
"Whose then?" asked Rischenheim, biting
his nail, and looking furtively at the Constable.
"Why," said Sapt, "the present address of
Count Rupert of Hentzau."
As he spoke, he fixed his eyes on the eyes
of Rischenheim. He gave a short sharp
laugh, then put his revolver in his pocket
and bowed to the Count.
" In truth, you are very convenient, my
dear Count," said he.
THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS.
THE doctor who had attended me at
Wintenberg was not only discreet, but
also indulgent : perhaps he had the
sense to see that little benefit would come
to a sick man from fretting in helplessness
on his back, when he was on fire to be afoot.
I fear he thought the baker's rolling-pin was
in my mind, but at any rate I extorted a
consent from him, and was on my way home
from Wintenberg not much more than twelve
hours after Rudolf Rassendyll left me. Thus
I arrived at my own house in Strelsau on
the same Friday morning that witnessed the
Count of Luzau-Rischenheim's twofold inter-
view with the King at the Castle of Zenda.
The moment I had arrived, I sent James,
whose assistance had been, and continued to
be, in all respects most valuable, to despatch
a message to the Constable, acquainting him
with my whereabouts and putting myself
entirely at his disposal. Sapt received this
message while a council of war was being
held, and the information it gave aided not
a little in the arrangements that the Constable
and Rudolf Rassendyll made. What these
gS RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
were I must now relate, although, I fear, at
the risk of some tediousness.
Yet that council of war in Zenda was held
under no common circumstances. Cowed as
Rischenheim appeared, they dared not let
him out of their sight ; Rudolf could not leave
the room into which Sapt had locked him ;
the King's absence was to be short, and
before he came again Rudolf must be gone,
Rischenheim safely disposed of, and measures
taken against the original letter reaching the
hands for which the intercepted copy had
been destined. The room was a large one.
In the corner farthest from the door sat
Rischenheim, disarmed, dispirited, to all
seeming ready to throw up his dangerous
game and acquiesce in any terms presented
to him. Just inside the door, guarding it, if
need should be, with their lives, were the
other three, Bernenstein merry and triumph-
ant, Sapt blunt and cool, Rudolf calm and
clear-headed. The Queen awaited the result
of their deliberations in her apartments, ready
to act as they directed, but determined to
see Rudolf before he left the Castle» " They
conversed together in low tones. Presently
Sapt took paper and wrote. This first
message was to me, and it bade me come
to Zenda that afternoon ; another head and
another pair of hands were sadly needed.
Then followed more deliberation ; Rudolf
took up the talking now, for his was the
THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS. 99
bold plan on which they consulted. Sapt
twirled his moustache, smiling doubtfully.
** Yes, yes," murmured young Bernenstein,
his eyes alight with excitement.
''It's dangerous, but the best thing,*' said
Rudolf, carefully sinking his voice yet lower,
lest the prisoner should catch the lightest word
of what he said. " It involves my staying
here till the evening. Is that possible ? "
" No ; but you can leave here and hide
in the forest till I join you," said Sapt.
"Till we join you," corrected Bernen-
"No," said the Constable, " you must look
after our friend here. Come, Lieutenant, it 's
all in the Queen's service."
" Besides," added Rudolf with a smile,
" neither the Colonel nor I would let you
have a chance at Rupert. He's our game,
isn't he, Sapt?"
The Colonel nodded. Rudolf in his turn took
paper, and here is the message that he wrote :
"Holf, ig KOnigstrasse, Strelsau.— All well. He
has what I had, but wishes to see what you have.
He and I will be at the hunting-lodge at ten this
evening. Bring it and meet us. The business is
unsuspected. — L-R."
Rudolf flung the paper across to Sapt ;
Bernenstein leant over the Constable's
shoulder and read it eagerly.
" I doubt if it would bring me," grinned
old Sapt, throwing the paper down.
lOO RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"It'll bring Rupert of Hentzau. Why
not ? He '11 know that the King will wish
to meet him unknown to the Queen, and
also unknown to you, Sapt, since you were
my friend : what place more likely for the
King to choose than his hunting-lodge,
where he is accustomed to go when he
wishes to be alone ? The message will bring
him, depend on it. Why, man, Rupert would
come even if he suspected; and why should
he suspect ? "
" They may have a cipher, he and
Rischenheim," objected Sapt.
"No, or Rupert would have sent the
address in it," retorted Rudolf quickly.
"Then — when he comes?" asked Ber-
" He finds such a king as Rischenheim
found, and Sapt, here, at his elbow."
" But he'll know you," objected Bernenstein.
"Aye, I think he'll know me," said
Rudolf with a smile. " Meanwhile we send
for Fritz to come here and look after the
" And Rischenheim ? "
" That 's your share, Lieutenant. Sapt, is
any one at Tarlenheim ? "
" No. Count Stanislas has put it at Fritz's
" Good ; then Fritz's two friends, the
Count of Luzau- Rischenheim and Lieutenant
von Bernenstein, will ride over there to-day*
THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS. lOl
The Constable of Zenda will give the Lieu-
tenant twenty-four hours' leave of absence,
and the two gentlemen will pass the day
and sleep at the chateau. They will pass
the day side by side, Bernenstein, not losing
sight of one another for an instant, and they
will pass the night in the same room. And
one of them will not close his eyes nor
take his hand off the butt of his revolver."
" Very good, sir," said young Bernenstein.
"If he tries to escape or give any alarm,
shoot him through the head, ride to the
frontier, get to safe hiding, and, if you can,
let us know."
" Yes," said Bernenstein simply. Sapt
had chosen well, and the young officer made
nothing of the peril and ruin that Her
Majesty's service might ask of him.
A restless movement and a weary sigh
from Rischenheim attracted their attention.
He had strained his ears to listen till his
head ached, but the talkers had been care-
ful and he had heard nothing that threw
light on their deliberations. He had now
given up his vain attempt, and sat in listless
inattention, sunk in an apathy.
•* I don't think he '11 give you much trouble,"
whispered Sapt to Bernenstein, with a jerk
of his thumb towards the captive.
" Act as if he were likely to give you
much," urged Rudolf, laying his hand on the
I02 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
** Yes, that's a wise man's advice," nodded
the Constable approvingly. " We were well
governed, Lieutenant, when this Rudolf was
" Wasn't I also his loyal subject ? " asked
" Yes, wounded in my service," added
Rudolf; for he remembered how the boy —
he was little more then — had been fired upon
in the park of Tarlenheim, being taken for
Mr. Rassendyll himself.
Thus their plans were laid. If they could
defeat Rupert, they would have Rischenheim
at their mercy. If they could keep Rischen-
heim out of the way while they used his
name in their trick, they had a strong
chance of deluding and killing Rupert. Yes,
of killing him ; for that and nothing less was
their purpose, as the Constable of Zenda
himself has told me.
" We would have stood on no ceremony,"
he said. " The Queen's honour was at stake,
and the fellow himself an assassin."
Bernenstein rose and went out. He was
gone about half an hour, being employed in
despatching the telegrams to Strelsau. Rudolf
and Sapt used the interval to explain to
Rischenheim what they proposed to do with
him. They asked no pledge, and he offered
none He heard what they said with a dull
uninterested air. When asked if he would go
without resistance, he laughed a bitter laugh.
THE TASK OP THE QUEfeN'S SERVANTS. 'I05
** How can I resist ? " he asked. " I should
have a bullet through my head."
" Why, without doubt," said Colonel Sapt.
*' My lord, you are very sensible."
** Let me advise you, my lord," said Rudolf,
looking down on him kindly enough, "if you
come safe through this affair, to add honour
to your prudence, and chivalry to your
honour. There is still time for you to
become a gentleman."
He turned away, followed by a glance of
anger from the Count and a grating chuckle
from old Sapt.
A few moments later Bernenstein returned.
His errand was done, and horsss for himself
and Rischenheim were at the gate of the
Castle. After a few final words and a clasp
of the hand from Rudolf, the Lieutenant
motioned to his prisoner to accompany him,
and they two walked out together, being to
all appearance willing companions and in
perfect friendliness with one another. The
Queen herself watched them go from the
windows of her apartment, and noticed that
Bernenstein rode half a pace behind, and
that his free hand rested on the revolver
by his side.
It was now well on in the morning, and
the risk of Rudolf's sojourn in the Castle
grew greater with every moment. Yet he
was resolved to see the Queen before he
went. This interview presented no great
104 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
difficulties, since Her Majesty was in the
habit of coming to the Constable's room to
take his advice or to consult with him*
The hardest task was to contrive afterwards
a free and unnoticed escape for Mr.
Rassendyll. To meet this necessity, the
Constable issued orders that the company
of Guards which garrisoned the Castle should
parade at one o'clock in the park, and that
the servants should all, after their dinner, be
granted permission to watch the manoeuvres.
By this means he counted on drawing off
any curious eyes and allowing Rudolf to
reach the forest unobserved. They appointed
a rendezvous in a handy and sheltered spot;
the one thing which they were compelled to
trust to fortune was Rudolfs success in
evading chance encounters while he waited.
Mr. Rassendyll himself was confident of his
ability to conceal his presence, or, if need
were, so to hide his face that no strange
tale of the King being seen wandering
alone and beardless should reach the ears
of the Castle or the town.
While Sapt was making his arrangements.
Queen Flavia came to the room where
Rudolf Rassendyll was. It was then nearing
twelve, and young Bernenstein had been
gone half an hour. Sapt attended her to
the door, set a sentry at the end of the
passage with orders that Her Majesty should
on no pretence be disturbed, promised her
THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS. 105
very audibly to return as soon as he possibly
could, and respectfully closed the door after
she had entered. The Constable was well
aware of the value in a secret business of
doing openly all that can safely be done with
All of what passed at that interview I do
not know, but a part Queen Flavia herself
told to me, or rather to Helga, my wife ;
for although it was meant to reach my ear,
yet to me, a man, she would not disclose it
directly. First she learnt from Mr. Rassen-
dyll the plans that had been made, and,
although she trembled at the danger that he
must run in meeting Rupert of Hentzau, she
had such love of him and such a trust in his
powers that she seemed to doubt little of
his success. But she began to reproach
herself for having brought him into this
peril by writing her letter. At this he took
from his pocket the copy that Rischen-
heim had carried. He had found time to
read it, and now before her eyes he kissed
'* Had I as many lives as there are words,
my Queen," he said softly, "for each word
I would gladly give a life."
"Ah, Rudolf, but you've only one life, and
that more mine than yours. Did you think
we should ever meet again ? "
♦' I didn't know," said he ; and now they
were standing opposite one another.
Io6 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"But I knew," she said, her eyes shining
brightly ; "I knew always that we should
meet once more. Not how, nor where, but
just that we should. So I lived, Rudolf."
**God bless you," he said.
"Yes, I lived through it all."
He pressed her hand, knowing what that
phrase meant and must mean for her.
" Will it last for ever ? " she asked, suddenly
gripping his hand tightly. But a moment
later she went on : " No, no, I mustn't make
you unhappy, Rudolf. I 'm half glad I wrote
the letter, and half glad they stole it. It's
so sweet to have you fighting for me, for
me only this time, Rudolf— not for the King,
** Sweet indeed, my dearest lady. Don't
be afraid ; we shall win."
"You will win, yes. And then you '11 go ? "
And, dropping his hands, she covered her
face with hers.
"I mustn't kiss your face," said he, "but
your hands I may kiss," and he kissed her
hands as they were pressed against her
" You wear my ring," she murmured
through her fingers, " always ? "
"Why, yes," he said, with a little laugh
of wonder at her question.
"And there is — no one else?"
"My Queen!" said he, laughing again.
"No, I knew really, Rudolf, I knew really,"
THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS. 107
and now her hands flew out towards him,
imploring his pardon. Then she began to
speak quickly : " Rudolf, last night I had a
dream about you, a strange dream. I seemed
to be in Strelsau, and all the people were
talking about the King. It was you they
meant ; you were the King. At last you
were the King, and I was your Queen.
But I could see you only very dimly ; you
were somewhere, but I could not make out
where ; just sometimes your face came.
Then I tried to tell you that you were King
— yes, and Colonel Sapt and Fritz tried to
tell you; the people, too, called out that you
were King. What did it mean ? But your
face, when I saw it, was unmoved and very
pale, and you seemed not to hear what we
said, not even what I said. It almost seemed
as if you were dead, and yet King. Ah,
you mustn't die, even to be King," and she
laid a hand on his shoulder.
** Sweetheart," said he gently, ** in dreams
desires and fears blend in strange visions, so
I seemed to you to be both a king and a
dead man ; but I 'm not a king, and I am
a very healthy fellow. Yet a thousand
thanks to my dearest Queen for dreaming
" No, but what could it mean ? " she asked
"What does it mean when I dream always
of you, except that I always love you ? "
I08 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"Was it only that?" she said, still un-
What more passed between them I do
not know. I think that the Queen told my
wife more, but women will sometimes keep
women's secrets even from their husbands;
though they love us, yet we are always in
some sort the common enemy, against whom
they join hands. Well, I would not look
too far into such secrets, for to know must
be, I suppose, to blame, and who is him-
self so blameless that in such a case he
would be free with his censures?
Yet much cannot have passed, for almost
close on their talk about the dream came
Colonel Sapt, saying that the Guards were
in line, and all the women streamed out to
watch them, while the men followed, lest the
gay uniforms should make them forgotten.
Certainly a quiet fell over the old Castle,
that only the Constable's curt tones broke,
as he bade Rudolf come by the back way
to the stables and mount his horse.
** There *s no time to lose," said Sapt,
and his eye seemed to grudge the Queen
even one word more with the man she
But Rudolf was not to be hurried into
leaving her in such a fashion. He clapped
the Constable on the shoulder, laughing
and bidding him think of what he would
for a moment ; then he went again to the
THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS. lOg
Queen and would have knelt before her,
but that she would not suffer, and they
stood with hands locked. Then suddenly
she drew him to her and kissed his forehead,
"God go with you, Rudolf my knight."
Thus she turned away, letting him go.
He walked towards the door. But a sound
arrested his steps, and he waited in the
middle of the room, his eyes on the door.
Old Sapt flew to the threshold, his sword
half-way out of its sheath. There was a
step coming down the passage, and the feet
stopped outside the door.
"Is it the King?" whispered Rudolf.
"I don't know," said Sapt.
" No, it 's not the King," came in un-
hesitating certainty from Queen Flavia.
They waited: a low knock sounded on
the door. Still for a moment they waited.
The knock was repeated urgently.
"We must open," said Sapt. "Behind
the curtain with you, Rudolf!"
The Queen sat down and Sapt piled a
heap of papers before her, that it might
seem as though he and she transacted
business. But his precautions were inter-
rupted by a hoarse, eager, low cry from
"Quick, in God's name, quick!**
They knew the voice for Bernenstein's.
The Queen sprang up, Rudolf came out,
no RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Sapt turned the key. The Lieutenant
entered, hurried, breathless, pale.
"Well?" asked Sapt.
"He has got away?" cried Rudolf, guess-
ing in a moment the misfortune that had
brought Bernenstein back.
"Yes, he's got away. Just as we left
the town and reached the open road towards
Tarlenheim, he said, *Are we going to walk
all the way ? ' I was not loth to go quicker,
and we broke into a trot. But I— ah, what
a pestilent fool I am! "
"Never mind that, — go on."
"Why, I was thinking of him and my
task, and having a bullet ready for him,
and — -"
" Of everything except your horse ? "
guessed Sapt, with a grim smile.
" Yes ; and the horse pecked and stumbled,
and I fell forward on his neck. I put out
my arm to recover myself, and — I jerked my
revolver on to the ground."
"And he saw?"
" He saw, curse him ! For a second he
waited ; then he smiled, and turned, and
dug his spurs in and was off, straight across
country towards Strelsau. Well, I was off
my horse in a moment, and I fired three
times after him."
"You hit?" asked Rudolf.
"I think so. He shifted the reins from
one hand to the other and wrung his arm.
THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS. HI
I mounted and made after him, but his
horse was better than mine and he gained
ground. We began to meet people too,
and I didn't dare to fire again. So I left
him and rode here to tell you. Never
employ me again, Constable, as long as you
live," and the young man's face was twisted
with misery and shame as, forgetting the
Queen's presence, he sank despondently into
Sapt took no notice of his self-reproaches.
But Rudolf went and laid a hand on his
"It was an accident," he said. **No
blame to you."
The Queen rose and walked towards him;
Bernenstein sprang to his feet.
"Sir," said she, "it is not success but
effort that should gain thanks," and she held
out her hand.
Well, he was young; I do not laugh at the
sob that escaped his lips as he turned his head.
" Let me try something else," he implored.
"Mr. Rassendyll," said the Queen, "you'll
do my pleasure by employing this gentle-
man in my further service. I am already
deep in his debt, and would be deeper."
There was a moment's silence.
"Well, but what's to be done?" asked
Colonel Sapt. "He's gone to Strelsau."
"He'll stop Rupert," mused Mr. Rassendyll.
" He may or he mayn't."
112 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"It's odds that he will."
"We must provide for both."
Sapt and Rudolf looked at one another.
"You must be here?" asked Rudolf of the
Constable. "Well, I'll go to Strelsau." His
smile broke out. "That is, if Bernenstein '11
lend me a hat."
The Queen made no sound ; but she came
and laid her hand on his arm. He looked
at her, smiling still.
"Yes, I'll go to Strelsau," said he, "and
I '11 find Rupert, aye, and Rischenheim too,
if they're in the city."
^*Take me with you," cried Bernenstein
Rudolf glanced at Sapt. The Constable
shook his head. Bernenstein's face fell.
"It's not that, boy," said old Sapt, half
in kindness, half in impatience. " We want
you here. Suppose Rupert comes here with
Rischenheim ! "
The idea was new, but the event by no
" But you '11 be here, Constable," urged
Bernenstein, "and Fritz von Tarlenheim
will arrive in an hour."
"Aye, young man," said Sapt, nodding
his head; "but when I fight Rupert of
Hentzau, I like to have a man to spare,"
and he grinned broadly, being no whit
afraid of what Bernenstein might think of
his courage. " Now go and get him a hat,"
THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS. 113
he added, and the Lieutenant ran off on
But the Queen cried :
"Are you sending Rudolf alone, then —
alone against two ? "
*' Yes, madame, if I may command the
campaign," said Sapt. " I take it he should
be equal to the task."
He could not know the feelings of the
Queen's heart. She dashed her hand across
her eyes and turned in mute entreaty to
"I must go," he said softly. "We can't
spare Bemenstein, and I mustn't stay here."
She said no more. Rudolf walked across
"Take me to the stables. Is the horse
good? I daren't take the train. Ah, here's
the Lieutenant and the hat."
"The horse '11 get you there to-night,"
said Sapt. "Come along. Bemenstein, stay
with the Queen."
At the threshold Rudolf paused and,
turning his head, glanced once at Queen
Flavia, who stood still as a statue, watching
him go. Then he followed the Constable,
who brought him where the horse was.
Sapt '3 devices for securing freedom from
observation had served well, and Rudolf
"The hat doesn't fit very well," said
114 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" Like a crown better, eh ? " suggested
Rudolf laughed as he asked :
" Well, what are my orders ? "
** Ride round by the moat to the road at
the back ; then through the forest to Hof bau ;
you know your way after that. You mustn't
reach Strelsau till it's dark. Then, if you
want a shelter "
"To Fritz von Tarlenheim's, yes! From
there I shall go straight to the address."
"Aye. And Rudolf!"
"Make an end of him this time."
"Please God. But if he goes to the
lodge? He will unless Rischenheim stops
"I'll be there in case, but I think
Rischenheim will stop him."
"If he comes here ? "
"Young Bernenstein will die before he
allows him to reach the King."
" Sapt ! "
"Be kind to her."
" Bless the man, yes ! "
At a swift canter Rudolf darted round
the drive that led from the stables, by the
moat, to the old forest road behind ; five
minutes brought him within the shelter of
THE TASK OF THE QUEEN'S SERVANTS. II5
the trees, and he rode on confidently,
meeting nobody, save here and there a
yokel, who, seeing a man ride hard with
his head averted, took no more notice of
him than to wish that he himself could ride
abroad instead of being bound to work.
Thus Rudolf Rasscndyll set out again for
the walls of Strelsau, through the forest of
Zenda. And ahead of him, with an hour's
start, galloped the Count of Luzau-Rischen-
heim, again a man, and a man with resolu-
tion, resentment, and revenge in his heart.
The game was afoot now; who could tell
the issue of it?
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON THE HUNTSMAN.
I RECEIVED the telegram sent to me by
the Constable of Zenda at my own house
in Strelsau about one o'clock. It is
needless to say that I made immediate pre-
parations to obey the summons. My wife
indeed protested — and I must admit with
some show of reason — that I was unfit to
endure fatigues, and that my bed was the
only proper place for me. I could not
listen; and James, Mr. Rassendyll's servant,
being informed of the message, was at my
elbow with a card of the trains from Strelsau
to Zenda, without waiting for any order
from me. I had talked to this man in the
course of our journey, and discovered that
he had been in the service of Lord Topham,
formerly British Ambassador to the Court
of Ruritania. How far he was acquainted
with the secrets of his present master
I did not know, but his familiarity with
the city and the country made him of great
use to me. We discovered, to our annoy-
ance, that no train left till four o'clock,
and then only a slow one; the result being
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. XI7
that we could not arrive at the Castle till
past six o'clock. This hour was not abso-
lutely too late, but I was of course eager
to be on the scene of action as early as
"You'd better see if you can get a special,
my lord," James suggested; "I'll run on to
the station and arrange about it."
I agreed. Since I was known to be often
employed in the King's service, I could take
a special train without exciting remark.
James set out, and about a quarter of an hour
later I got into my carriage to drive to the
station. Just as the horses were about to
start, however, the butler approached me.
"I beg your pardon, my lord," said he,
"but Bauer didn't return with your lordship.
Is he coming back ? "
"No," said I. "Bauer was grossly im-
pertinent on the journey, and I dismissed
" Those foreign men are never to be trusted,
my lord. And your lordship's bag ? "
"What, hasn't it come?" I cried. "I told
him to send it."
"It's not arrived, my lord."
" Can the rogue have stolen it ? " I ex-
" If your lordship wishes it, I will mention
the matter to the police."
I appeared to consider this proposal.
"Wait till I come back," I ended by saying.
11 8 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"The bag may come, and I have no reason
to doubt the fellow's honesty."
This, I thought, would be the end of my
connection with Master Bauer. He had
served Rupert's turn, and would now dis-
appear from the scene. Indeed it may be
that Rupert would have liked to dispense
with further aid from him ; but he had few
whom he could trust, and was compelled to
employ those few more than once. At any
rate he had not done with Bauer, and I very
soon received proof of the fact. My house is
a couple of miles from the station, and we
had to pass through a considerable part of
the old town, where the streets are narrow
and tortuous and progress necessarily slow.
We had just entered the Konigstrasse (and it
must be remembered that I had at that time no
reason for attaching any special significance
to this locality), and were v>^aiting impatiently
for a heavy dray to move out of our path,
when my coachman, who had overheard the
butler's conversation with me, leant down
from his box with an air of lively excitement.
" My lord," he cried, " there 's Bauer —
there, passing the butcher's shop ! "
I sprang up in the carriage ; the man's
back was towards me, and he was threading
his way through the people with a quick
stealthy tread. I believe he must have seen
mc and was slinking off as fast as he
could. I was not sure of him, but the coach-
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. II9
man banished my doubt by saying: "It's
Bauer— it 's certainly Bauer, my lord."
I hardly stayed to form a resolution. If
I could catch this fellow or even see where
he went, a most important clue as to Rupert's
doings and whereabouts might be put into
my hand. I leapt out of the cannagc, bidding
the man wait, and at once started in pursuit
of my former servant. I heard the coachman
laugh : he thought, no doubt, that anxiety for
the missing bag inspired such eager haste.
The numbers of the houses in the Konig-
strasse begin, as anybody familiar with
Strelsau will remember, at the end adjoining
the station. The street being a long one,
intersecting almost the entire length of the
old town, I was, when I set out after Bauer,
opposite number three hundred or there-
abouts, and distant nearly three-quarters of
a mile from that important number nineteen,
towards which Bauer was hurrying like a
rabbit to its burrow. I knew nothing and
thought nothing of where he was going ; to
me nineteen was no more than eighteen or
twenty ; my only desire was to overtake him.
I had no clear idea of what I meant to do
when I caught him, but I had some hazy
notion of intimidating him into giving up his
secret by the threat of an accusation of theft.
In fact he had stolen my bag. After him
I went ; and he knew that I was after him.
I saw him turn his face over his shoulder,
120 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
and then bustle on faster. Neither of us,
pursued or pursuer, dared quite to run ; as
it was, our eager strides and our carelessness
of collisions created more than enough atten-
tion. But I had one advantage. Most folk
in Strelsau knew me, and many got out of
my way who were by no means inclined to
pay a like civility to Bauer. Thus I began
to gain on him, in spite of his haste ; I had
started fifty yards behind, but as we neared
the end of the street and saw the station
ahead of us, not more than twenty separated
me from him. Then an annoying thing hap-
pened. I ran full into a stout old gentleman ;
Bauer had run into him before, and he was
standing, as people will, staring in resentful
astonishment at his first assailant's retreating
figure. The second collision immensely in-
creased his vexation ; for me it had yet
worse consequences ; for when I disentangled
myself, Bauer was gone ! There was not a
sign of him ; I looked up : the number of the
house above me was twenty-three ; but the
door was shut. I walked on a few paces,
past twenty- two, past twenty- one — and up to
nineteen. Nineteen was an old house, with
a dirty dilapidated front and an air almost
dissipated. It was a shop where provisions
of the cheaper sort were on view in the
window, things that one has never eaten
but has heard of people eating. The shop-
door stood open, but there was nothing to
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. 121
connect Bauer with the house. Muttering
an oath in my exasperation, I was about to
pass on, when an old woman put her head
out of the door and looked round. I was
full in front of her. I am sure that the old
woman started slightly, and I think that I
did. For I knew her, and she knew me.
She was old mother Holf, one of whose
sons, Johann, had betrayed to us the secret
of the dungeon at Zenda, while the other
had died by Mr. Rassendyll's hand by the
side of the great pipe that masked the
King's window. Her presence might mean
nothing, yet it seemed to connect the house
at once with the secret of the past and the
crisis of the present.
She recovered herself in a moment, and
curtseyed to me.
*'Ah, mother Holf," said I, "how long is
it since you set up shop in Strelsau ? "
"About six months, my lord," she answered,
with a composed air and arms akimbo.
"I have not come across you before," said
I, looking keenly at her.
" Such a poor little shop as mine would not
be likely to secure your lordship's patronage,"
she answered, in a humility that seemed only
I looked up at the windows. They were
all closed and had their wooden lattices
shut. The house was devoid of any signs
122 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
** You've a good house here, mother, though
it wants a splash of paint," said I. " Do
you live all alone in it with your daughter?"
For Max was dead and Johann abroad, and
the old woman had, as far as I knew, no
" Sometimes, sometimes not," said she.
** I let lodgings to single men when I can."
" Not a soul, worse luck, my lord."
Then I shot an arrow at a venture.
"The man who came in just now, then,
was he only a customer ? "
**I wish a customer had come in, but
there has been nobody," she replied in
I looked full in her eyes; she met mine
with a blinking imperturbability. There is
no face so inscrutable as a clever old
woman's when she is on her guard. And
her fat body barred the entrance ; I could
not so much as see inside, while the
window, choked full with pigs' trotters and
such -like dainties, helped me very little.
If the fox were there, he had got to earth
and I could not dig him out.
At this moment I saw James approaching
hurriedly. He was looking up the street,
no doubt seeking my carriage and chafing
at its delay. An instant later he saw me.
"My lord," he said, "your train will be
ready in five minutes ; if it doesn't start
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. I23
then, the line must be closed for another
I perceived a faint smile on the old woman's
face. I was sure then that I was on the
track of Eauer, and probably of more than
Bauer. But my first duty was to obey
orders and get to Zenda. Besides I could
not force my way in there in open daylight,
without a scandal that would have set all
the long ears in Strelsau aprick. I turned
away reluctantly. I did not even know for
certain that Bauer was within, and thus had
no information of value to carry with me.
" If your lordship would kindly recommend
me " said the old hag.
** Yes, I '11 recommend you," said I. ** I'll
recommend you to be careful whom you
take for lodgers. There are queer fish about,
'* I take the money beforehand," she re-
torted with a grin ; and I was as sure that
she was in the plot as of my own existence.
There was nothing to be done; James's
face urged me towards the station. I turned
away. But at this instant a loud merry
laugh sounded from inside the house. I
started, and this time violently. The old
woman's brow contracted in a frown, and
her lips twitched for a moment ; then her
face regained its composure; but I knew
the laugh, and she must have guessed that
I knew it. Instantly I tried to appear as
124 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
though I had noticed nothing. I nodded
to her carelessly, and bidding James follow
me set out for the station. But as we
reached the platform, I laid my hand on
his shoulder, saying:
"The Count of Hentzau is in that house,
He looked at me without surprise; he
was as hard to stir to wonder as old Sapt
"Indeed, sir. Shall I stay and watch?"
" No, come with me," I answered. To
tell the truth, I thought that to leave him
alone in Strelsau to watch that house was
in all lilcelihood to sign his death-warrant,
and I shrank from imposing the duty on
him. Rudolf might send him if he would;
I dared not. So we got into our train, and
I suppose that my coachman, when he had
looked long enough for me, went home. I
forgot to ask him afterwards. Very likely
he thought it a fine joke to see his master
hunting a truant servant and a truant bag
through the streets in broad daylight. Had
he known the truth, he would have been as
interested, though, maybe, less amused.
I arrived at the town of Zcnda at half-
past three, and was in the Castle before
four. I may pass over the most kind and
gracious words with which the Queen
received me. Every sight of her face and
every sound of her voice bound a man
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. 125
closer to her service, and now she made
me feel that I was a poor fellow to have lost
her letter and yet to be alive. But she would
hear nothing of such talk, choosing rather
to praise the little I had done than to blame
the great thing in which I had failed.
Dismissed from her presence, I flew open-
mouthed to Sapt. I found him in his room
with Bernenstein, and had the satisfaction
of learning that my news of Rupert's where-
abouts was confirmed by his information.
I was also made acquainted with all that
had been done, even as I have already
related it, from the first successful trick
played on Rischenheim to the moment of
his unfortunate escape. But my face grew
^:>ng and apprehensive when I heard that
Rudolf Rassendyll had gone alone to Strelsau
to put his head in that lion's mouth in the
"There will be three of them there —
Rupert, Rischenheim, and my rascal Bauer,"
"As to Rupert we don't know," Sapt
reminded me. "He'll be there if Rischen-
heim arrives in time to tell him the truth.
But we have also to be ready for him here,
and at the hunting-lodge. Well, we 're ready
for him wherever he is: Rudolf will be in
Strelsau, you and I will ride to the lodge,
and Bernenstein will be here with the
126 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
**Only one here?" I asked.
"Aye, but a good one," said the Con-
stable, clapping Bernenstein on the shoulder.
"We shan't be gone above four hours, and
those while the King is safe in his bed.
Bernenstein has only to refuse access to
him, and stand to that with his life till we
come back. You're equal to that, eh.
Lieutenant ? "
I am by nature a cautious man, and
prone to look at the dark side of every
prospect and the risks of every enterprise ;
but I could not see what better dispositions
were possible against the attack that
threatened us. Yet I was sorely uneasy
concerning Mr. Rassendyll.
Now, after all our stir and runnings to
and fro, came an hour or two of peace.
We employed the time in having a good
meal, and it was past five when, our repast
finished, we sat back in our chairs enjoying
cigars. James had waited on us, quietly
usurping the office of the Constable's own
servant, and thus we had been able to talk
freely. The man's calm confidence in his
master and his master's fortune also went
far to comfort me.
**The King should be back soon," said
Sapt at last, with a glance at his big old-
fashioned silver watch. "Thank God, he'll
be too tired to sit up long. We shall be
free by nine o'clock, Fritz. I wish young
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. 127
Rupert would come to the lodge ! " And
the Colonel's face expressed a lively pleasure
at the idea.
Six o'clock struck and the King did not
appear. A few moments later a message
came from the Queen, requesting our pre-
sence on the terrace in front of the chateau.
The place commanded a view of the road
by which the King would ride back, and
we found the Queen walking restlessly up
and down, considerably disquieted by the
lateness of his return. In such a position
as ours every unusual or unforeseen incident
magnifies its possible meaning and invests
itself with a sinister importance which would
at ordinary times seem absurd. We three
shared the Queen's feelings, and forgetting
the many chances of the chase, any one
of which would amply account for the
King's delay, fell to speculating on remote
possibilities of disaster. He might have met
Rischenheim — though they had ridden in
opposite directions ; Rupert might have in-
tercepted him — though no known means
could have brought Rupert to the forest so
early. Our fears defeated common sense,
and our conjectures outran possibility. Sapt
was the first to recover from this foolish
mood, and he rated us soundly, not sparing
even the Queen herself. With a laugh we
regained some of our equanimity, and felt
rather ashamed of our weakness.
128 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
** Still it 's Strange that he doesn't come,"
murmured the Queen, shading her eyes
with her hand, and looking along the road
to where the dark masses of the forest
trees bounded our view. It was already
dusk, but not so dark but that we could
have seen the King's party as soon as it
came into the open.
If the King's delay seemed strange at
six, it was stranger at seven, and by eight
most strange. We had long since ceased
to talk lightly; by now we had lapsed into
silence. Sapt's scoldings had died away.
The Queen, wrapped in her furs (for it was
very cold), sat sometimes on a seat, but
oftener paced restlessly to and fro. Evening
had fallen. We did not know what to do,
nor even whether we ought to do anything.
Sapt would not own to sharing our worst
apprehensions, but his gloomy silence in
face of our surmises witnessed that he was
in his heart as disturbed as we were. For
my part I had come to the end of my
endurance, and I cried :
"For God's sake let's act! Shall I go
and seek him ? "
** A needle in a bundle of hay ! " said
Sapt with a shrug.
But at this moment my ear caught the
sound of horses cantering on the road from
the forest ; at the same instant Bernenstein
cried, " Here they come ! " The Queen
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. I29
paused, and we gathered round her. The
horse-hoofs came nearer. Now we made
out the figures of three men : they were the
King's huntsmen, and they rode along merrily,
singing a hunting chorus. The sound of it
brought relief to us ; so far at least there
was no disaster. But why was not the
King with them ?
** The King is probably tired, and is fol-
lowing more slowly, madame," suggested
This explanation seemed very probable,
and the Lieutenant and I, as ready to be
hopeful on slight grounds as fearful on small
provocation, joyfully accepted it. Sapt, less
easily turned to either mood, said, "Aye,
but let us hear," and raising his voice
called to the huntsmen, who had now
arrived in the avenue. One of them,
the King's chief huntsman, Simon, gorgeous
in his uniform of green and gold, came
swaggering along, and bowed low to the
"Well, Simon, where is the King?" she
asked, trying to smile.
" The King, madame, has sent a message
by me to your Majesty."
" Pray deliver it to me, Simon."
" I will, madame. The King has enjoyed
fine sport ; and indeed, madame, if I may
say so for myself, a better run "
"You may say, friend Simon," interrupted
130 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
the Constable, tapping him on the shoulder,
" anything you like for yourself, but, as a
matter of etiquette, the King's message
should come first."
**Oh, aye, Constable," said Simon. ''You're
always so down on a man, aren't you ? Well
then, madame, the King has enjoyed fine sport.
For we started a boar at eleven, and "
"Is this the King's message, Simon?"
asked the Queen, smiling in genuine amuse-
ment, but impatiently.
" Why no, madame, not precisely His
" Then get to it, man, in Heaven's name ! "
growled Sapt testily. For her-e were we
four (the Queen, too, one of us !) on tenter-
hooks, v^hile the fool boasted about the
sport that he had shown the King. For
every boar in the forest Simon took as
much credit as though he, and not Almighty
God, had made the animal. It is always
the way with such fellows.
Simon became a little confused under the
combined influence of his own seductive
memories and Sapt's brusque exhortations.
" As I was saying, madame," he resumed,
" the boar led us a long way, but at last
the hounds pulled him down, and His Majesty
himself gave the coup de grace. Well, then
it was very late "
"It's no earlier now," grumbled the Con-
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. I31
"And the King, although indeed, madame.
His Majesty was so gracious as to say that
no huntsman whom His Majesty had ever
had, had given His Majesty "
"God help us!" groaned the Constable.
Simon shot an apprehensive apologetic
glance at Colonel Sapt. The Constable was
frowning ferociously. In spite of the serious
matters in hand I could not forbear a smile,
while young Bernenstcin broke into an audible
laugh, which he tried to smother with his
"Yes, the King was very tired, Simon?"
said the Queen, at once encouraging him and
bringing him back to the point with a
" Yes, madame, the King was very tired ;
and as we chanced to kill near the hunting-
I do not know whether Simon noticed
any change in the manner of his audience.
But the Queen looked up with parted
lips, and I believe that we three all drew
a step nearer him. Sapt did not interrupt
" Yes, madame, the King was very tired,
and as we chanced to kill near the hunting-
lodge, the King bade us carry our quarry
there, and come back to dress it to-morrow ;
so we obeyed, and here we are — that is,
except Herbert, my brother, who stayed with
the King by His Majesty's orders. Because,
132 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
madame, Herbert is a handy fellow, and
my good mother taught him to cook a steak
"Stayed where with the King?" roared Sapl.
"Why, at the hunting-lodge, Constable.
The King stays there to-night, and will ride
back to-morrow morning with Herbert. That,
madame, is the King's message."
We had come to it at last, and it was
something to come to. Simon gazed from
face to face. I saw him, and I understood
at once that our feelings must be speaking
too plainly. So I took on myself to dismiss
him, saying :
" Thanks, Simon, thanks ; we understand."
He bowed to the Queen ; she roused her-
self and added her thanks to mine. Simon
withdrew, looking still a little puzzled.
After we were left alone there was a
moment's silence. Then I said :
" Suppose Rupert "
The Constable of Zenda broke in with a
" On my life," said he, " how things fall
out ! We say he will go to the hunting-
lodge, and — he goes ! "
" If Rupert goes — if Rischenheim doesn't
stop him ! " I urged again.
The Queen rose from her seat and stretched
out her hands towards us.
" Gentlemen, my letter ! " said she.
Sapt wasted no time.
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. I33
** Bemenstein," said he, **you stay here
as we arranged. Nothing is altered. Horses
for Fritz and myself in five minutes."
Bernenstein turned and shot like an arrow
along the terrace towards the stables.
" Nothing is altered, madame," said Sapt,
"except that we must be there before Count
I looked at my watch. It was twenty
minutes past nine. Simon's cursed chatter
had lost a quarter of an hour. I opened my
lips to speak. A glance from Sapt's eyes
told me that he discerned what I was about
to say. I was silent.
"You'll be in time?" asked the Queen,
with clasped hands and frightened eyes.
"Assuredly, madame," returned Sapt with
"You won't let him reach the King?"
"Why, no, madame," said Sapt with a
" From my heart, gentlemen," she said in
a trembling voice, " from my heart "
" Here are the horses," cried Sapt. He
snatched her hand, brushed it with his grizzly
moustache, and — well, I am not sure I heard,
and I can hardly believe what I think I heard ;
but I will set it down for what it is worth.
I think he said, " Bless your sweet face,
we '11 do it." At any rate she drew back
with a little cry of surprise, and I saw the
tears standing in her eyes. I kissed her
134 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
hand also ; then we mounted, and we started,
and we rode, as if the devil were behind us,
for the hunting-lodge.
But I turned once to watch her standing
on the terrace, with young Bernenstein's
tall figure beside her.
** Can we be in time ? " said I. It was
what I had meant to say before.
"I think not, but by God we'll try," said
And I knew why he had not let me speak.
Suddenly there was a sound behind us of
a horse at the gallop. Our heads flew round
in the ready apprehension of men on a
perilous errand. The hoofs drew near, for
the unknown rode with reckless haste.
"We had best see what it is," said the
Constable, pulling up.
A second more, and the horseman was
beside us. Sapt swore an oath, half in
amusement, half in vexation.
** Why, is it you, James ? " I cried.
"Yes, sir," answered Rudolf Rassendyll's
" What the devil do you want ? " asked Sapt.
" I came to attend on the Count von Tar-
"I did not give you any orders, James."
" No, sir. But Mr. Rassendyll told me not
to leave you, unless you sent me away. So
I made haste to follow you."
Then Sapt cried:
THE MESSAGE OF SIMON. I35
" Deuce take it, what horse is that ? "
"The best in the stables, so far as I could
see, sir. I was afraid of not overtaking you."
Sapt tugged his moustache, scowled, but
•* Much obliged for your compliment," said
he. *' The horse is mine."
"Indeed, sir?" said James with respectful
For a moment we were all silent. Then
Sapt laughed again.
"Forward!" said he, and the three of us
dashed into the forest.
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND.
CDKING back now, in the light of the
information I have gathered, I am able
to trace very clearly, and almost hour
by hour, the events of this day, and to under-
stand how chance, laying hold of our cunning
plan and mocking our wiliness, twisted and
turned our device to a predetermined but
strange issue, of which we were most guilt-
less in thought or intent. Had the King
not gone to the hunting-lodge, our design
would have found the fulfilment we looked
for ; had Rischenheim succeeded in warning
Rupert of Hentzau, we should have stood
where we were. Fate or fortune would have
it otherwise. The King, being weary, went
to the lodge, and Rischenheim failed in
warning his cousin. It was a narrow failure,
for Rupert, as his laugh told me, was in the
house in the Konigstrasse when I set out
from Strelsau, and Rischenheim arrived there
at half- past four. He had taken the train at
a roadside station, and thus easily outstripped
Mr. Rassendyll, who, not daring to show his
face, was forced to ride all the way and
enter the city under cover of night. But
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND. 137
Rischenheim had not ventured to send a
warning, for he knew that we were in
possession of the address, and did not know
what steps we might have taken to intercept
messages. Therefore he was obliged to
carry the news himself; when he came his
man was gone. Indeed Rupert must have
left the house almost immediately after I
was safe away from the city. He was
determined to be in good time for his
appointment; his only enemies were not in
Strelsau : there was no v/arrant on which
he could be apprehended; and, although his
connection with Black Michael was a matter
of popular gossip, he felt himself safe from
arrest by virtue of the secret that protected
him. Accordingly he walked out of the
house, went to the station, took his ticket to
Hofbau, and, travelling by the four o'clock
train, reached his destination about half- past
five. He must have passed the train in
which Rischenheim travelled ; the first news
the latter had of his departure was from a
porter at the station, who, having recognised
the Count of Hentzau, ventured to congratu-
late Rischenheim on his cousin's return.
Rischenheim made no answer, but hurried
in great agitation to the house in the Konig-
strasse, where the old woman Holf confirmed
the tidings. Then he passed through a
period of great irresolution. Loyalty to
Rupert urged that he should follow him and
138 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
share the perils into which his cousin was
hastening. But caution whispered that he
was not irrevocably committed, that nothing
overt yet connected him with Rupert's
schemes, and that we who knew the truth
should be well content to purchase his silence
as to the trick we had played by granting
him immunity. His fears won the day, and,
like the irresolute man he was, he deter-
mined to wait in Strelsau till he heard the
issue of the meeting at the lodge. If Rupert
were disposed of there, he had something to
offer us in return for peace ; if his cousin
escaped, he would be in the Konigstrasse,
prepared to second the further plans of the
desperate adventurer. In any event his skin
was safe, and I presume to think that this
weighed a little with him; for excuse he had
the wound which Bernenstein had given
him, and which rendered one arm entirely
useless; had he gone then, he would have
been a most inefficient ally.
Of all this we, as we rode through the
forest, knew nothing. We might guess, con-
jecture, hope, or fear; but our certain know-
ledge stopped with Rischenheim's start for
the capital and Rupert's presence there at
three o'clock. The pair might have met or
might have missed. We had to act as
though they had missed and Rupert were
gone to meet the King. But we were late.
The consciousness of that pressed upon us,
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND. 1 39
although wc evaded further mention of it ;
it made us spur and drive our horses as
quickly as, aye, and a little more quickly than,
safety allowed. Once James's horse stumbled
in the darkness and its rider was thrown ;
more than once a low bough hanging over
the path nearly swept me, dead or stunned,
from my seat. Sapt paid no attention to
these mishaps or threatened mishaps. He
had taken the lead, and, sitting well down in
his saddle, rode ahead, turning neither to right
nor left, never slackening his pace, sparing
neither himself nor his beast. James and I
were side by side behind him. We rode in
silence, finding nothing to say to one another.
My mind was full of a picture — the picture
of Rupert with his easy smile handing to the
King the Queen's letter. For the hour of
the rendezvous was past. If tiiat image had
been translated into reality, what must we
do? To kill Rupert would satisfy revenge,
but of what other avail would it be when
the King had read the letter ? I am ashamed
to say that I found myself girding at Mr.
Rassendyll for happening on a plan which the
course of events had turned into a trap for
ourselves and not for Rupert of Hentzau. f
Suddenly Sapt, turning his head for the
first time, pointed in front of him. The lodge
was before us ; we saw it looming dimly a
quarter of a mile off". Sapt reined in his
horse, and we followed his example. All
140 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
dismounted, wc tied our horses to trees and
went forward at a quick silent walk. Our
idea was that Sapt should enter on pretext
of having been sent by the Queen to attend
to her husband's comfort and arrange for his
return without further fatigue next day. If
Rupert had come and gone, the King's
demeanour would probably betray the fact ;
if he had not yet come, I and James,
patrolling outside, would bar his passage.
There was a third possibility : he might be
even now with the King. Our course in
such a case we left unsettled ; so far as I
had any plan, it was to kill Rupert and try
to convince the King that the letter was a
forgery— a desperate hope, so desperate that
we turned our eyes away from the possibility
which would make it our only resource.
We were now very near the hunting-lodge,
being about forty yards from the front of it.
All at once Sapt threw himself on his stomach
on the ground.
** Give me a match," he whispered.
James struck a light, and the night being
still the flame burnt brightly : it showed us
the mark of a horse's hoof, apparently quite
fresh, and leading away from the lodge. We
rose and went on, following the tracks by
the aid of more matches till we reached a
tree twenty yards from the door. Here the
hoof-marks ceased ; but beyond there was a
double track of human feet in the soft black
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND. 141
earth ; a man had gone thence to the house
and returned from the house thither. On
the right of the tree there were more hoof-
marks, leading up to it and then ceasing. A
man had ridden up from the right, dismounted,
gone on foot to the house, returned to the
tree, remounted, and ridden away along the
track by which we had approached.
" It may be somebody else," said I ; but I
do not think that we any of us doubted in
our hearts that the tracks were made by the
coming of Hentzau. Then the King had the
letter; the mischief was done. We were
Yet we did not hesitate. Since disaster
had come, it must be faced. Mr. Rassendyll's
servant and I followed the Constable of
Zenda up to the door, or within a few feet of
it. Here Sapt, who was in uniform, loosened
his sword in its sheath; James and I looked
to our revolvers. There were no lights visible
in the lodge ; the door was shut ; everything
was still. Sapt knocked softly with his
knuckles, but there was no answer from
within. He laid hold of the handle and turned
it ; the door opened, and the passage lay
dark and apparently empty before us.
"You stay here, as we arranged," whis-
pered the Colonel. " Give me the matches,
and I '11 go in."
James handed him the box of matches, and
he crossed the threshold. For a yard or two
142 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
we saw him plainly, then his figure grew dim
and indistinct. I heard nothing except my
own hard breathing. But in a moment there
was another sound — a muffled exclamation,
and the noise of a man stumbling ; a sword,
too, clattered on the stones of the passage.
We looked at one another: the noise did not
produce any answering stir in the house ;
then came the sharp little explosion of a
match struck on its box, next we heard
Sapt raising himself, his scabbard scraping
along the stones ; his footsteps came
towards us, and in a second he appeared at
"What was it?*' I whispered.
"I fell," said Sapt.
" Over what ? "
" Come and see. James, stay here."
I followed the Constable for the distance of
eight or ten feet along the passage.
" Isn't there a lamp anywhere ? " I asked.
"We can see enough with a match," he
answered. " Here, this is what I fell
Even before the match was struck I saw a
dark body lying across the passage.
"A dead man!" I guessed instantly.
"Why, no," said Sapt, striking a light:
"a dead dog, Fritz."
An exclamation of wonder escaped me as
I fell on my knees. At the same instant
Sapt muttered, "Aye, there's a lamp," and
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND. 143
Stretching up his hand to a little oil lamp that
stood on a bracket, he lit it, took it down, and
held it over the body. It served to give a
fair, though unsteady, light, and enabled us
to see what lay in the passage.
"It's Boris, the boar-hound," said I, still
in a whisper, although there was no sign of
I knew the dog well ; he was the King's
favourite, and always accompanied him when
he went hunting. He was obedient to every
word of the King's, but of a rather uncertain
temper towards the rest of the world. How-
ever, De mortuis nil nisi bonum ; there he
lay dead in the passage. Sapt put his hand
on the beast's head. There was a bullet-
hole right through his forehead. I nodded,
and in my turn pointed to the dog's right
shoulder, which was shattered by another ball.
"And see here," said the Constable. "Have
a pull at this."
I looked where his hand now was. In the
dog's mouth was a piece of grey cloth, and
on the piece of grey cloth was a horn coat-
button. I took hold of the cloth and pulled.
Boris held on even in death. Sapt drew his
sword, and, inserting the point of it between
the dog's teeth, parted them enough for me
to draw out the piece of cloth.
"You'd better put it in your pocket," said
the Constable. " Now come along ; " and,
holding the lamp in one hand and his sword
144 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
(which he did not resheathe) in the other, he
stepped over the body of the boar -hound,
and I followed him.
We were now in front of the door of the
room where Rudolf Rassendyll had supped
with us on the day of his first coming to
Ruritania, and whence he had set out to be
crowned in Strelsau. On the right of it was
the room where the King slept, and farther
along in the same direction the kitchen and
the cellars. The officer or officers in attend-
ance on the King used to sleep on the other
side of the dining-room.
" We must explore, I suppose," said Sapt ;
in spite of his outward calmness I caught in
his voice the ring of excitement rising and
ill-repressed. But at this moment we heard
from the passage on our left (as we faced the
door) a low moan, and then a dragging sound,
as if a man were crawling along the floor,
painfully trailing his limbs after him. Sapt
held the lamp in that direction, and we saw
Herbert the forester, pale-faced and wide-
eyed, raised from the ground on his two
hands, while his legs stretched behind him
and his stomach rested on the boards.
" Who is it ? " he said in a faint voice.
"Why, man, you know us," said the
Constable, stepping up to him. " What 's
happened here ? "
The poor fellow was very faint, and, I
think, wandered a little in his brain.
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND. 145
"I've got it, sir," he murmured, "I've got
it, fair and straight. No more hunting for me,
sir. I 've got it here in the stomach. Oh,
my God ! " He let his head fall with a thud
on the floor.
I ran and raised him. Kneeling on one
knee, I propped his head against my leg.
"Tell us about it," commanded Sapt in
a curt crisp voice, while I got the man
into the easiest position that I could con-
In slow struggling tones he began his story,
repeating here, omitting there, often confusing
the order of his narrative, oftener still arrest-
ing it while he waited for strength. Yet we
were not impatient, but heard without a
thought of time. I looked round once at a
sound, and found that James, anxious about
us, had stolen along the passage and joined
us. Sapt took no notice of him, nor of any-
thing save the words that dropped in irregular
utterance from the stricken man's lips. Here
is the story, a strange instance of the turning
of a great event on a small cause.
The King had eaten a little supper, and,
having gone to his bedroom, had stretched
himself on the bed and fallen asleep without
undressing. Herbert was clearing the dining-
table and performing similar duties, when
suddenly (thus he told it) he found a man
standing beside him. He did not know (he
was new to the King's service) who the
146 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
unexpected visitor was, but he was of middle
height, dark, handsome, and "looked like a
gentleman all over." He was dressed in a
shooting - tunic, and a revolver was thrust
through the belt of it. One hand rested on
the belt, while the other held a small square
"Tell the King I am here. He expects
me," said the stranger.
Herbert, alarmed at the suddenness and
silence of the intruder's approach, and guiltily
conscious of having left the door unbolted,
drew back. He was unarmed, but, being a
stout fellow, was prepared to defend his
master as best he could. Rupert — beyond
doubt it was Rupert — laughed lightly, saying
again, " Maa, he expects me. Go and tell
him," and sat himself on the table, swinging
his leg. Herbert, influenced by the visitor's
air of command, began to retreat towards
the bedroom, keeping his face towards
Rupert. " If the King asks more, tell him I
have the packet and the letter," said Rupert.
The man bowed and passed into the bed-
room. The King was asleep ; when roused
he seemed to know nothing of letter or
packet, and to expect no visitor. Herbert's
ready fears revived ; he whispered that the
stranger carried a revolverw Whatever the
King's faults might be — and God forbid that I
should speak hardly of him whom fate used
80 hardly! — he was no coward. He sprang
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND. I47
from his bed; at the same moment the great
boar-hound uncoiled himself and came from
beneath, yawning and fawning. But in an
instant the beast caught the scent of a
stranger : his ears pricked and he gave a
low growl, as he looked up in his master's
face. Then Rupert of Hentzau, weary
perhaps of waiting, perhaps only doubtful
whether his message would be properly
delivered, appeared in the doorway.
The King was unarmed, and Herbert in
no better plight ; their hunting weapons were
in the adjoining room, and Rupert seemed
to bar the way. I have said that the King
was no coward, yet I think that the sight of
Rupert, bringing back the memory of his
torments in the dungeon, half cowed him ;
for he shrank back crying, " You ! " The
hound, in subtle understanding of his master's
movement, growled angrily.
" You expected me, sire ? '* said Rupert
with a bow ; but he smiled. I know that
the sight of the King's alarm pleased him.
To inspire terror was his delight, and it
does not come to every man to strike fear
into the heart of a king and an Elphberg.
It had come more than once to Rupert of
*' No," muttered the King. Then, recover-
mg his composure a little, he said angrily,
** How dare you come here ? "
** You didn't expect me ? " cried Rupert,
148 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
and in an instant the thought of a trap
seemed to flash across his alert mind. He
drew the revolver half-way from his belt,
probably in a scarcely conscious movement
born of the desire to assure himself of its
presence. With a cry of alarm Herbert flung
himself before the King, who sank back on
the bed. Rupert, puzzled, vexed, yet half-
amused (for he smiled still, the man said),
took a step forward, crying out something
about Rischenheim — what, Herbert could
not tell us. " Keep back," exclaimed the
King : " keep back ! " Rupert paused ; then
as though with a sudden thought he held
up the box that was in his left hand,
" Well, look at this, sire, and we '11 talk
afterwards," and he stretched out his hand
with the box in it.
Now the thing stood on a razor's edge,
for the King whispered to Herbert :
"What is it ? Go and take it."
But Herbert hesitated, fearing to leave the
King, whom his body now protected as though
with a shield. Rupert's impatience overcame
him : if there were a trap, every moment's
delay doubled his danger. With a scornful
laugh he exclaimed :
"Catch it, then, if you're afraid to come
for it," and he flung the packet to Herbert
or the King, or which of them might chance
to catch it.
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND. I49
This insolence had a strange result. In
an instant, with a fierce growl and a mighty
bound, Boris was at the stranger's throat.
Rupert had not seen or had not heeded
the dog. A startled oath rang out from
him. He snatched the revolver from his
belt and fired at his assailant. This shot
must have broken the beast's shoulder, but
it only half arrested his spring. His great
weight was still hurled on Rupert's chest,
and bore him back on his knee. The packet
that he had flung lay unheeded. The King,
wild with alarm and furious with anger at
his favourite's fate, jumped up and ran past
Rupert into the next room. Herbert followed ;
even as they went Rupert flung the wounded
weakened beast from him and darted to the
doorway. He found himself facing Herbert,
who held a boar- spear, and the King, who
had a double-barrelled hunting gun. He
raised his left hand, Herbert said — no doubt
he still asked a hearing — but the King levelled
his weapon. With a spring Rupert gained
the shelter of the door, the bullet sped by
him and buried itself in the wall of the
room. Then Herbert was at him with the
boar-spear. Explanations must wait now :
it was life or death ; without hesitation
Rupert fired at Herbert, bringing him to the
ground with a mortal wound. The King's
gun was at his shoulder again.
"You damned fool!" roared Rupert, "if you
I50 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
must have it, take it," and gun and revolver
rang out at the same moment. But Rupert —
never did his nerve fail him— hit, the King
missed ; Herbert saw the Count stand for
an instant v/ith his smoking barrel in his
hand, looking at the King who lay on the
ground. Then Rupert walked towards the
door. I wish I had seen his face then ! Did
he frown or smile ? Was triumph or chagrin
uppermost ? Remorse ? Not he I
He reached the door and passed through.
That was the last Herbert saw of him ; but
the fourth actor in the drama, the wordless
player whose part had been so momentous,
took the stage. Limping along, now whining
in sharp agony, now growling in fierce anger,
with blood flowing but hair bristling, the
hound Boris dragged himself across the
room, through the door, after Rupert of
Hentzau. Herbert listened, raising his head
from the ground. There was a growl, an
oath, the sound of a scuffle. Rupert must
have turned in time to receive the dog's
spring. The beast, maimed and crippled by
his shattered shoulder, did not reach his
enemy's face, but his teeth tore away the
bit of cloth that we had found held in the
vice of his jaws. Then came another shot,
a laugh, retreating steps, and a door slammed.
With that last sound Herbert awoke to the
fact of the Count's escape ; with weary efforts
he dragged himself into the passage. The
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND. 15 1
idea that he could go on if he got a drink of
brandy turned him in the direction of the cellar.
But his strength failed, and he sank down
where we found him, not knowing whether
the King were dead or still alive, and unable
even to make his way back to the room
where his master lay stretched on the ground.
I had listened to the story, bound as though
by a spell. Half-way through, James's hand
had crept to my arm and rested there ; when
Herbert finished I heard the little man licking
his lips, again and again slapping his tongue
against them. Then I looked at Sapt. He
was pale as a ghost, and the lines on his
face seemed to have grown deeper. He
glanced up and met my regard. Neither of
us spoke ; we exchanged thoughts with our
eyes. " This is our work," we said to one
another. ** It was our trap — ^these are our
victims." I cannot even now think of that
hour, for by our act the King lay dead.
But was he dead ? I seized Sapt by the
arm. His glance questioned me.
"The King?" I whispered hoarsely.
*' Yes, the King," he returned.
Facing round, we walked to the door of
the dining-room. Here I turned suddenly
faint, and clutched at the Constable. He held
me up and pushed the door wide open. The
smell of powder was in the room ; it seemed
as if the smoke hung about, curling in dim
coils round the chandelier, wliich gave a
152 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
subdued light. James had the lamp nov/,
and followed us with it. But the King was
not there. A sudden hope filled me. He
had not been killed then ! I regained strength,
and darted across towards the inside room.
Here too the light was dim, and I turned to
beckon for the lamp. Sapt and James came
together, and stood peering over my shoulder
in the doorway.
The King lay prone on the floor, face
downwards, near the bed. He had crawled
there, seeking for some place to rest, as we
supposed. He did not move. We watched
him for a moment ; the silence seemed deeper
than silence could be. At last, moved by a
common impulse, we stepped forward, but
timidly, as though we approached the throne
of Death itself. I was the first to kneel by
the King and raise his head. Blood had
flowed from his lips, but it had ceased to flow
now. He was dead.
I felt Sapt's hand on my shoulder. Looking
up, I saw his other hand stretched out towards
the ground. I turned my eyes where he
pointed. There, in the King's hand, stained
with the King's blood, was the box that I
had carried to Wintenberg and Rupert of
Hentzau had brought to the lodge that night.
It was not rest, but the box, that the dying
King had sought in his last moment. I bent,
and lifting his hand unclasped the fingers,
still limp and warm.
He was dead.
THE TEMPER OF BORIS THE HOUND. I53
Sapt bent down with sudden eagerness.
•*Is it open?" he whispered.
The string was round it; the sealing-wax
was unbroken. The secret had outlived the
King, and he had gone to his death un-
knowing. All at once — I cannot tell why —
I put my hand over my eyes; I found my
eyelashes were wet.
"Is it open?" asked Sapt again, for in the
dim light he could not see.
" No," I answered.
"Thank God!" said he. And, for Sapt's,
the voice was soft.
THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE.
THE moment with its shock and tumult
of feeling brings one judgment, later
reflection another. Among the sins of
Rupert of Hentzau I do not assign the first
and greatest place to his killing of the King.
It was indeed the act of a reckless man who
stood at nothing and held nothing sacred;
but when I consider Herbert's story, and
trace how the deed came to be done and the
impulsion of circumstances that led to it, it
seems to have been in some sort thrust upon
him by the same perverse fate that dogged
our steps. He had meant the King no harm
— indeed it may be argued that, from what-
ever motive, he had sought to serve him
— and save under the sudden stress of
self-defence he had done him none. The
King's unlooked-for ignorance of his errand,
Herbert's honest hasty zeal, the temper of
Boris the hound, had forced on him an act
unmeditated and utterly against his interest.
His whole guilt lay in preferring the King's
death to his own — a crime perhaps in most
men, but hardly deserving a place in Rupert's
THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. 155
catalogue. All this I can admit now, but on
that night, with the dead body lying there
before us, with the story piteously told by
Herbert's faltering voice fresh in our ears, it
was hard to allow any such extenuation.
Our hearts cried out for vengeance, although
we ourselves served the King no more.
Nay, it may well be that we hoped to stifle
some reproach of our own consciences by a
louder clamour against another's sin, or
longed to offer some fancied empty atone-
ment to our dead master by executing swift
justice on the man who had killed him. I
cannot tell fully what the others felt, but in
me at least the dominant impulse was to
waste not a moment in proclaiming the crime
and raising the whole country in pursuit of
Rupert, so that every man in Ruritania should
quit his work, his pleasure, or his bed, and
make it his concern to take the Count of
Hentzau, alive or dead. I remember that I
walked over to where Sapt was sitting, and
caught him by the arm, saying:
*'We must raise the alarm. If you'll go
to Zenda, I '11 start for Strelsau."
"The alarm?" said he, looking up at me
and tugging his moustache.
" Yes : when the news is known, every
man in the kingdom will be on the look-out
for him, and he can't escape." ^'
"So that he'd be taken?" asked the Con-
156 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
**Yes, to a certainty!" I cried, hot in ex-
citement and emotion.
Sapt glanced across at Mr. Rassendyll's
servant. James had, with my help, raised
the King's body on to the bed, and had
aided the wounded forester to reach a couch.
He stood now near the Constable, in his
usual unobtrusive readiness. He did not
speak, but I saw a look of understanding
in his eyes as he nodded his head to
Colonel Sapt. They were well matched,
that pair, hard to move, hard to shake,
not to be turned from the purpose in their
minds and the matter that lay to their
"Yes, he'd probably be taken or killed,"
"Then let's do it!" I cried.
"With the Queen's letter on him," said
I had forgotten.
"We have the box, he has the letter still,"
I could have laughed even at that moment.
He had left the box (whether from haste or
heedlessness or malice we could not tell),
but the letter was on him. Taken alive, he
would use that powerful weapon to save his
life or satisfy his anger; if it were found on
his body, its evidence would speak loud and
clear to all the world. Again he was pro-
tected by his crime : while he had the letter,
THE KI^G IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. 1 57
he must be kept inviolate from all attack
except at our own hands. We desired his
death, but we must be his bodyguard and
die in his defence rather than let any other
but ourselves come at him. No open means
must be used, and no allies sought. All this
rushed to my mind at Sapt's words, and I
saw what the Constable and James had
never forgotten. But what to do I could not
see. For the King of Ruritania lay dead.
An hour or more had passed since our dis-
covery, and it was now close on midnight.
Had all gone well we ought by this time
to have been far on our road back to the
Castle ; by this time Rupert must be miles
away from where he had killed the King ;
already Mr. Rassendyll would be seeking his
enemy in Strelsau.
" But what are we to do about — about that,
then ? " I asked, pointing with my finger
through the doorway towards the bed.
Sapt gave a last tug at his moustache, then
crossed his hands on the hilt of the sword
between his knees and leant forward in his
" Nothing," he said, looking in my face.
" Until we have the letter, nothing."
"But it's impossible," I cried.
"Why, no, Fritz," he answered thought-
fully. ** It 's not impossible yet ; it may
become so. But if we can catch Rupert in
the next day, or even in the next two days,
158 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
it's not impossible. Only let me have that
letter, and I'll account for the concealment.
What? Is the fact that crimes are known
never concealed, for fear of putting the
criminal on his guard?"
"You'll be able to make a story, sir,"
James put in, with a grave but reassuring
"Yes, James, I shall be able to make a
story, or your master will make one for me.
But, by God, story or no story, the letter
mustn't be found. Let them say we killed
him ourselves if they like, but "
I seized his hand and gripped it.
"You don't doubt I'm with you?" I asked.
"Not for a moment, Fritz," he answered.
"Then how can we do it?"
We drew nearer together; Sapt and I sat,
while James leant over Sapt's chair.
The oil in the lamp was almost exhausted,
and the light burnt very dim. Now and
again poor Herbert, for whom our skill could
do nothing, gave a low moan. I am ashamed
to remember how little we thought of him,
but great schemes make the actors in them
careless of humanity ; the life of a man goes
for nothing against a point in the game.
Except for his groans — and they grew fainter
and less frequent — our voices alone broke the
silence of the little lodge.
"The Queen must know," said Sapt. "Let
her stay at Zenda and give out that the King
THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. 1 59
is at the lodge for a day or two longer. Then
you, Fritz — for you must ride to the Castle
at once — and Bemenstein must get to Strelsau
as quick as you can, and find Rudolf Rassen-
dyll. You three ought to be able to track
young Rupert down and get the letter from
him. If he *s not in the city, you must catch
Rischenheim and force him to say where he
is; we know Rischenheim can be persuaded.
If Rupert 's there, I need give no advice either
to you or to Rudolf."
"James and I stay here. If any one comes
whom we can keep out, the King is ill. If
rumours get about, and great folk come, why,
they must enter."
"But the body?"
" This morning, when you 're gone, we
shall make a temporary grave. I daresay
two," and he jerked his thumb towards poor
Herbert. " Or even," he added with his grim
smile, "three — for our friend Boris, too, must
be out of sight."
"You'll bury the King?"
"Not so deep but that we can take him
out again, poor fellow. Well, Fritz, have
you a better plan ? "
I had no plan, and I was not in love with
Sapt's plan. Yet it offered us four- and -twenty
hours. For that time, at least, it seemed as
if the secret could be kept. Beyond that we
could hardly hope for success: after that we
l6o RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
must produce the King; dead or alive, the
King must be seen. Yet it might be that
before the respite ran out Rupert would be
ours. In fine, what else could be chosen ?
For now a greater peril threatened than that
against which we had at the first sought to
guard. Then the worst we feared was that
the letter should come to the King's hands.
That could never be. But it would be a
worse thing if it were found on Rupert, and
all the kingdom, nay, all Europe, knew that
it was written in the hand of her who was
now in her own right Queen of Ruritania.
To save her from that no chance was too
desperate, no scheme too perilous; yes, if,
as Sapt said, we ourselves were held to
answer for the King's death, still we must go
on. I, through whose negligence the whole
train of disaster had been laid, was the last
man to hesitate. In all honesty I held my
life due and forfeit, should it be demanded of
me — my life and, before the world, my honour.
So the plan was made. A grave was to
be dug ready for the King ; if need arose,
his body should be laid in it, and the place
chosen was under the floor of the wine-cellar.
When death came to poor Herbert, he could
lie in the yard behind the house ; for Boris
they meditated a resting-place under the tree
where our horses were tethered. There was
nothing to keep me, and I rose ; but as I
rose, I heard the forester's voice call plain-
THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. l6l
tivcly for me. The unlucky fellow knew me
well, and now cried to me to sit by him. I
think Sapt wanted me to leave him ; but I
could not refuse his last request, even though
it consumed some precious minutes. He was
very near his end, and, sitting by him, I did
my best to soothe his passing. His fortitude
was good to see, and I believe that we all at
last found new courage for our enterprise from
seeing how tjais humble man met death. At
least even the Constable ceased to show
impatience, and let me stay till I could close
the sufferer's eyes.
But thus time went, and it was nearly five
in the morning before I bade them farewell
and mounted my horse. They took theirs
and led them away to the stables behind the
lodge ; I waved my hand and gallopped off on
my return to the Castle. Day was dawning,
and the air was fresh and pure. The new
light brought new hope; fears seemed to
vanish before it ; my nerves were strung to
effort and to confidence. My horse moved
freely under me and carried me easily along
the grassy avenues. It was hard then to be
utterly despondent, hard to doubt skill of
brain, strength of hand, or fortune's favour.
The Castle came ki sight, and I hailed it
with a glad cry that ©choed among the trees.
But a moment later I gave an exclamation of
surprise, and raised myself a little from the
saddle while I gazed earnestly at the summit
i62 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
of the keep. The flagstaff was naixd ; the
royal standard that had flapped in the wind
last night was gone. But by immemorial
custom the flag flew on the keep when the
King or the Queen was at the Castle. It
would fly for Rudolf V. no more ; but why did
it not proclaim and honour the presence of
Queen Flavia ? I sat down in my saddle and
spurred my horse to the top of his speed.
We had been buffeted by fate sorely ; but
now I feared yet another blow.
In a quarter of an hour more I was at the
door. A servant ran out, and I dismounted
leisurely and easily. Pulling off my gloves I
dusted my boots with them, turned to the
stableman and bade him look to the horse,
and then said to the footman :
** As soon as the Queen is dressed, find out
if she can see me. I have a message from
The fellow looked a little puzzled ; but at
this moment Hermann, the King's major-
domo, came to the door.
" Isn't the Constable with you, my lord ? "
"No, the Constable remains at the lodge
with the King," said I carelessly, though I
was very far from careless. " I have a
message for Her Majesty, Hermann. Find
out from some of the women when she will
<' The Queen 's not here," said he. " In-
THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. 163
deed we've had a lively time, my lord. At
five o'clock she came out, ready dressed, from
her room, sent for Lieutenant von Bernen-
stein, and announced that she was about to
set out from the Castle. As you know, the
mail train passes here at six." Hermann
took out his watch. " Yes, the Queen must
just have left the station."
"Where for?" I asked, with a shrug for
the woman's whim.
"Why, for Strelsau.- She gave no reasons
for going, and took with her only one lady.
Lieutenant von Bernenstein being in attend-
ance. It was a bustle, if you like, with every-
body to be roused and got out of bed, and a
carriage to be made ready, and messages to
go to the station, and "
" She gave no reasons ? "
" None, my lord. She left with me a letter
to the Constable, which she ordered me to
give into his own hands as soon as he arrived
at the Castle. She said it contained a message
of importance, which the Constable was to
convey to the King, and that it must be
entrusted to nobody except Colonel Sapt
himself. I wonder, my lord, that you didn't
notice that the flag was hauled down."
" Tut, man, I wasn't staring at the keep.
Give me the letter." For I saw that the clue
to this fresh puzzle must lie under the cover
of Sapt's letter. That letter I must myself
carry to Sapt, and without loss of time.
1 64 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" Give you the letter, my lord ? But,
pardon me, you're not the Constable." He
laughed a little.
" Why, no," said I, mustering a smile.
" It 's true that I *m not the Constable, but
I 'm going to the Constable. I had the King's
orders to rejoin him as soon as I had seen
the Queen ; and since Her Majesty isn't here,
I shall return to the lodge directly a fresh
horse can be saddled for me. And the Con-
stable 's at the lodge. Come, the letter ! "
"I can't give it you, my lord. Her Majesty's
orders were positive."
" Nonsense. If she had known I should
come and not the Constable, she would have
told me to carry it to him."
"I don't know about that, my lord: her
orders were plain, and she doesn't like being
The stableman had led the horse away,
the footman had disappeared, Hermann and
I were alone.
" Give me the letter," I said ; and I know
that my self-control failed, and eagerness
was plain in my voice. Plain it was, and
Hermann took alarm. He started back,
clapping his hand to the breast of his laced
coat. The gesture betrayed where the letter
was : I was past prudence ; I sprang on him
and wrenched his hand away, catching him
by the throat with my other hand. Diving
into his pocket, I got the letter. Then I
/ got the letter.
THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. 165
suddenly loosed hold of him, for his eyes
were starting out of his head. I took out a
couple of gold pieces and gave them to him.
"It's urgent, you fool," said I. "Hold
your tongue about it." And without waiting
to study his amazed red face I turned and
ran towards the stables. In five minutes I was
on a fresh horse; in six I was clear of the
Castle, heading back fast as I could for the
hunting-lodge. Even now Hermann remem-
bers the grip I gave him — though doubtless
he has long spent the pieces of gold.
When I reached the end of this second
journey, I came in for the obsequies of Boris.
James was just patting the ground under the
tree with a mattock when I rode up ; Sapt
was standing by, smoking his pipe. The boots
of both were stained and sticky with mud.
I flung myself from my saddle and blurted
out my news. The Constable snatched at
his letter with an oath ; James levelled the
ground with careful accuracy ; I do not
remember doing anything except wiping my
forehead and feeling very hungry.
" Good Lord, she 's gone after him ! " said
Sapt, as he read. Then he handed me the
I will not set out what the Queen wrote.
The purport seemed to us, who did not
share her feelings, pathetic indeed and
moving, but in the end (to speak plainly)
folly. She had tried to endure her sojourn
1 66 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
at Zenda, she said ; but it drove her mad.
She could not rest ; she did not know how
we fared, nor those in Strelsau : for hours
she had lain awake ; then at last falling
asleep she had dreamed. '* I had had the
same dream before. Now it came again. I
saw him so plain. He seemed to me to be
King, and to be called King. But he did
not answer nor move. He seemed dead ;
and I could not rest." So she wrote, ever
excusing herself, ever repeating how some-
thing drew her to Strelsau, telling her that
she must go if she would see " him whom
you know" alive again. "And I must see
him — ah, I must see him * If the King has
had the letter, I am ruined already. If he
has not, tell him what you will or what
you can contrive. I must go. It came a
second time, and all so plain. I saw him,
I tell you I saw him. Ah, I must see
him again. I swear that I will only see
him once. He's in danger —I know he's
in danger ; or v^^hat does the dream mean ?
Bernenstein will go with me, and I shall
see him. Do, do forgive me : I can't stay,
the dream was so plain." Thus she ended,
seeming, poor lady, half frantic with the
visions that her own troubled brain and
desolate heart had conjured up to torment
her. I did not know that she had before
told Mr. Rassendyll himself of this strange
dream; though I lay small store by such
THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. 167
matters, believing that we ourselves make
our dreams, fashioning out of the fears and
hopes of to-day what seems to come by
night in the guise of a mysterious revela-
tion. Yet there are some things that a man
cannot understand, and I do not profess to
measure with my mind the ways of God.
However, not why the Queen went, but
that she had gone, concerned us. We had
returned to the house now, and James,
remembering that men must eat though
kings die, was getting us some breakfast.
In fact I had great need of food, being
utterly worn out ; and they, after their
labours, were hardly less weary. As we
ate, we talked ; and it was plain to us that
I also must go to Strelsau. There, in the
city, the drama must be played out. There
was Rudolf, there Rischenheim, there in all
likelihood Rupert of Hentzau, there now the
Queen. And of these Rupert alone, or
perhaps Rischenheim also, knew that the
King was dead, and how the issue of last
night had shaped itself under the compelling
hand of wayward fortune. The King lay
in peace on his bed, his grave was dug ;
Sapt and James held the secret with solemn
faith and ready lives. To Strelsau I must
go, to tell the Queen that she was widowed,
and to aim the stroke at young Rupert's
At nine in the morning I started from
1 68 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
the lodge. I was bound to ride to Hofbau,
and there wait for a train which would carry
me to the capital. From Hofbau I could send
a message ; but the message must announce
only my own coming, not the news I carried.
To Sapt, thanks to the cipher, I could send
word at any time, and he bade me ask
Mr. Rassendyll whether he should come to
our aid, or stay where he was.
"A day must decide the whole thing,"
he said. "We can't conceal the King's
death long. For God's sake, Fritz, make
an end of that young villain, and get the
So, wasting no time in farewells, I set out.
By ten o'clock I was at Hofbau, for I rode
furiously. From there I sent to Bernenstein
at the Palace word of my coming. But there
I was delayed. There was no train for an
" I '11 ride ! " I cried to myself, only to re-
member the next moment that, if I rode, I
should come to my journey's end much later.
There was nothing for it but to wait, and it
may be imagined in what mood I waited.
Every minute seemed an hour, and I know
not to this day how the hour wore itself
away. . I ate, I drank, I smoked, I walked,
sat, and stood. The station-master j knew
me, and thought I had gone mad, till I told
him that I carried most important despatches,
and that the delay imperilled great interests.
THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. 1 69
Then he became sympathetic ; but what could
he do ? No special train was to be had at
a roadside station : I must wait ; and wait
somehow, and without blowing my brains out,
At last I was in the train; now indeed we
moved, and I came nearer. An hour's run
brought me in sight of the city. Then, to
my unutterable wrath, we were stopped, and
waited twenty minutes or half an hour. At
last we started again ; had we not, I should
have jumped out and run, for to sit longer
motionless would have driven me mad. Now
we entered the station. With a great effort
I calmed myself. I lolled back in my seat;
when we stopped I sat there till a porter
opened the door. In lazy leisureliness I
bade him get me a cab, and followed him
across the station. He held the door for me,
and, giving him his douceur, I set my foot
on the step.
** Tell him to drive to the Palace," said I,
"and to be quick. I'm late already, thanks
to this cursed train."
"The old mare 'U soon take you there, sir,"
said the driver.
I jumped in. But at this moment I saw a
man on the platform beckoning with his hand
and hastening towards me. The cabman also
saw him and waited. I dared not tell him to
drive on, for I feared to betray any undue
haste, and it would have looked strange not to
170 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
spare a moment to my wife's cousin, Anton von
Strofzin. He came up, holding out his hand
delicately gloved in pearl-grey kid, for young
Anton was a leader of the Strelsau dandies.
" Ah, my dear Fritz ! " said he. " I am glad
I hold no appointment at Court. How dread-
fully active you all are ! I thought you were
settled at Zen da for a month ? "
" The Queen changed her mind suddenly,"
said I, smiling. " Ladies do, as you know
well, you who know all about them."
My compliment, or insinuation, produced a
pleased smile and a gallant twirling of his
"Well, I thought you'd be here soon," he
said; "but I didn't know that the Queen had
" You didn't ? Then why did you look out
He opened his eyes a little in languid
" Oh, I supposed you 'd be on duty, or
something, and have to come. Aren't you in
" On the Queen ? No, not just now."
"But on the King?"
"Why, yes," said I, and I leant forward.
"At least I'm engaged now on the King's
" Precisely," said he. " So I thought you'd
come, as soon as I heard that the King was
THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. 171
It may be that I ought to have preserved
my composure. But I am not Sapt nor
" The King here ? " I gasped, clutching
him by the arm.
" Of course. You didn't know ? Yes,
he's in town."
But I heeded him no more. For a moment
I could not speak, then I cried to the cabman :
'•To the Palace. And drive like the devil!"
We shot away, leaving Anton open-mouthed
in wonder. I sank back on the cushions, fairly
aghast. The King lay dead in the hunting-
lodge, but the King was in his capital !
Of course the truth soon flashed through
my mind, but it brought no comfort. Rudolf
Rassendyll was in Strelsau. He had been
seen by somebody and taken for the King.
But comfort ? What comfort was there,
now that the King was dead and could
never come to the rescue of his counterfeit?
In fact the truth was worse than I con-
ceived. Had I known it all, I might well
have yielded to despair. For not by the
chance uncertain sight of a passer - by,
not by mere rumour which might have been
sturdily denied, not by the evidence of one
only or of two, was the King's presence in
the city known. That day, by the witness
of a crowd of people, by his own claim
and his own voice, aye, and by the assent
of the Queen herself, Mr. Rassendyll was
172 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
taken to be the King in Strelsau, while
neither he nor Queen Flavia knew that the
King was dead. I must now relate the
strange and perverse succession of events
which forced them to employ a resource
so dangerous and face a peril so immense.
Yet great and perilous as they knew the
risk to be even when they dared it, in the
light of what they did not knov/ it was more
fearful and more fatal still.
THE KING IN STRELSAU.
MR. RASSENDYLL reached Strelsau
from Zcnda without accident about
nine o'clock in the evening of the
same day as that which witnessed the
tragedy of the hunting-lodge. He could have
arrived sooner, but prudence did not allow
him to enter the populous suburbs of the
town till the darkness guarded him from
notice. The gates of the city were no longer
shut at sunset, as they used to be in the
days when Duke Michael was Governor,
and Rudolf passed them without difficulty.
Fortunately the night, fine where we were,
was wet and stormy at Strelsau; thus there
were few people in the streets, and he
was able to gain the door of my house
still unremarked. Here, of course, a danger
presented itself. None of my servants were
in the secret; only my wife, in whom the
Queen herself had confided, knew Rudolf,
and she did not expect to see him, since
she was ignorant of the recent course of
events. Rudolf was quite alive to the peril,
and regretted the absence of his faithful
attendant, who could have cleared the way
174 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
for him. The pouring rain gave him an
excuse for twisting a scarf about his face
and pulling his coat-collar up to his ears,
while the gusts of wind made the cramming
of his hat low down over his eyes no more
than a natural precaution against its loss.
Thus masked from curious eyes, he drew
rein before my door, and, having dismounted,
rang the bell. When the butler came a
strange hoarse voice, half- stifled by folds
of scarf, asked for the Countess, alleging
for pretext a message from myself. The
man hesitated, as well he might, to leave
the stranger alone with the door open and
the contents of the hall at his mercy. Mur-
muring an apology in case his visitor should
prove to be a gentleman, he shut the door
and went in search of his mistress. His
description of the untimely caller at once
roused my wife's quick wit ; she had heard
from me how Rudolf had ridden once from
Strelsau to the hunting-lodge with muffled
face : a very tall man with his face wrapped
in a scarf and his hat over his eyes, who
came with a private message, suggested to
her at least a possibility of Mr. Rassendyll's
arrival. ^ Helga never will admit that she is
clever, yet I find she discovers from me
what she wants to know, and^I suspect
hides successfully the small matters of which
she in her wifely discretion deems I had best
remain ignorant. Being able thus to manage
THE KING IN STRELSAU. 175
mc, she was equal to coping with the butler.
She laid aside her embroidery most com-
"Ah, yes," she said, **I know the gentle-
man. Surely you haven't left him out in
the rain?" She was anxious lest Rudolfs
features should have been exposed too long
to the light of the hall-lamps.
The butler stammered an apology, ex-
plaining his fear for our goods and the
impossibility of distinguishing social rank on
a dark night. Helga cut him short with an
impatient gesture, crying, " How stupid of
you ! " and herself ran quickly down and
opened the door— a little way only, though.
The first sight of Mr. Rassendyll confirmed
her suspicions ; in a moment, she said, she
knew his eyes.
"It is you, then?" she cried. "And my
foolish servant has left you in the rain I
Pray come in. Oh, but your horse ! " She
turned to the penitent butler, who had fol-
lowed her downstairs. " Take the Baron's
horse round to the stables," she said.
" I will send someone at once, my lady."
" No, no, take it yourself—take it at once.
I '11 look after the Baron."
Reluctantly and ruefully the fat fellow
stepped out into the storm. Rudolf drew
back and let him pass, then he entered
quickly, to find himself alone with Helga in
the hall. With a finger on her lips, she
176 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
led him swiftly into a small sitting-room
on the ground floor, which I used as a sort
of office or place of business. It looked
out on the street, and the rain could be
heard driving against the broad panes of
the window. Rudolf turned to her with a
smile, and, bowing, kissed her hand.
"The Baron what, my dear Countess?"
" He won't ask," said she with a shrug.
"Do tell me what brings you here, and
what has happened."
He told her very briefly all he knew.
She hid bravely her alarm at hearing that
I might perhaps meet Rupert at the lodge,
and at once listened to what Rudolf wanted
"Can I get out of the house and, if need
be, back again unnoticed?" he asked.
"The door is locked at night, and only
Fritz and the butler have keys."
Mr. Rassendyll's eye travelled to the
window of the room.
"I haven't grown so fat that I can't get
through there," said he. "So we'd better
not trouble the butler. He'd talk, you know."
"I will sit here all night and keep every-
body from the room."
" I may come back pursued if I bungle
my work and an alarm is raised."
"Your work?" she asked, shrinking back
THE KING IN STRELSAU. 1 77
"Yes," said he. "Don't ask what it is,
Countess. It is in the Queen's service."
" For the Queen I will do anything and
everything, as Fritz would."
He took her hand and pressed it in a
friendly encouraging way.
"Then I may issue my orders?" he
"They shall be obeyed."
"Then a dry cloak, a little supper, and
this room to myself, except for you."
As he spoke the butler turned the handle
of the door. My wife flew across the
room, opened the door, and, while Rudolf
turned his back, directed the man to bring
some cold meat, or whatever could be ready
with as little delay as possible.
" Now come with me," she said to Rudolf,
directly the servant was gone.
Sh3 took him to my dressing-room, where
he got dry clothes ; then she saw the supper
laid, ordered a bedroom to be prepared, told
the butler that she had business with the
Baron and that he need not sit up if she
were later than eleven, dismissed him, and
went to tell Rudolf that the coast was clear
for his return to the sitting-room. He came,
expressing admiration for her courage and
address : I take leave to think that she
deserved his compliments. He made a hasty
supper ; then they talked together, Rudolf
smoking his cigar. Eleven came and went.
178 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
It was not yet time. My wife opened the
door and looked out. The hall was dark,
the door locked and its key in the hands of
the butler. She closed the door again and
softly locked it. As the clock struck twelve
Rudolf rose and turned the lamp very low.
Then he unfastened the shutters noiselessly,
raised the window and looked out.
** Shut them again when I 'm gone," he
whispered. "If I come back, I '11 knock
like this, and you '11 open for me."
" For heaven's sake be careful ! " she
murmured, catching at his hand.
He nodded reassuringly, and crossing his
leg over the window-sill sat there for a
moment listening. The storm was as fierce
as ever, and the street was deserted. He
let himself down on to the pavement, his
face again wrapped up. She watched his
tall figure stride quickly along till a turn of
the road hid it. Then, having closed the
window and the shutters again, she sat
down to keep her watch, praying for him,
for me, and for her dear mistress the Queen.
For she knew that perilous work was a-foot
that night, and did not know whom it
might threaten or whom destroy.
From the moment that Mr. Rassendyll
thus left my house at midnight on his search
for Rupert of Hentzau, every hour and
almost every moment brought its incident
in the swiftly moving drama which decided
THE KING IN STRELSAU 1 79
the issues of our fortune. What we were
doing has been told ; by now Rupert himself
was on his way back to the city, and the
Queen was meditating, in her restless vigil,
on the resolve that in a few hours was to
bring her also to Strelsau. Even in the dead
of night both sides were active. For, plan
cautiously and skilfully as he might, Rudolf
fought with an antagonist who lost no
chances, and who had found an apt and
useful tool in that same Bauer, a rascal
and a cunning rascal, if ever one were bred
in the world. From the beginning even to
the end our error lay in taking too little
count of this fellow, and dear was the price
Both to my wife and to Rudolf himself
the street had seemed empty of any living
being when she watched and he set out.
Yet everything had been seen, from his first
arrival to the moment when she closed the
window after him. At either end of my
house there runs out a projection, formed
by the bay windows of the principal drawing-
room and of the dining-room respectively.
These projecting walls form shadows, and in
the shade of one of them — of which I do not
know, nor is it of moment — a man watched
all that passed; had he been anywhere else,
Rudolf must have seen him. If we had not
been too engrossed in playing our own hands,
it would doubtless have struck us as probable
iSo RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
that Rupert would direct Rischenheim and
Bauer to keep an eye on my house during
his absence; for it was there that any of
us who found our way to the city would
naturally resort in the first instance. As a
fact, he had not omitted this precaution.
The night was so dark that the spy, who
had seen the king but once and never Mr.
Rassendyll, did not recognise who the
visitor was; but he rightly conceived that
he would serve his employer by tracking
the steps of the tall man who made so
mysterious an arrival and so surreptitious
a departure from the suspected house.
Accordingly, as Rudolf turned the corner
and Helga left the window, a short thick-
set figure started cautiously out of the
projecting shadow, and followed in Rudolfs
wake through the storm. The pair, tracker
and tracked, met nobody, save here and
there a police-constable keeping a most un-
willing beat. Even such were fev7, and for
the most part more intent on sheltering in
the lee of a friendly wall and thereby keep-
ing a dry stitch or tvv^o on them than on
taking note of passers-by. On the pair
went. Now Rudolf turned into the Konig-
strasse. As he did so, Bauer, who must
have been nearly a hundred yards behind
(for he could not start till the shutters
were closed), quickened his pace and reduced
the interval between them to about seventy
THE KING IN STRELSAU. l8l
yards. This he might well have thought a
safe distance on a night so wild, when the
rush of the wind and the pelt of the rain
joined to hide the sound of footsteps.
But Bauer reasoned as a townsman, and
Rudolf Rassendyll had the quick ear of a
man bred in the country and trained to the
woodland. All at once there was a jerk of
his head ; I know so v/ell the motion which
marked awakened attention in him. He did
not pause nor break his stride : to do either
would have been to betray his suspicions to
his follower ; but he crossed the road to the
opposite side to that where No. 19 was
situated, and slackened his pace a little, so
that there might be a longer interval between
his footfalls. The steps behind him grew
slower, even as his did ; their sound came
no nearer ; the follower would not overtake.
Now a man who loiters on such a night, just
because another ahead of him is fool enough
to loiter, has a reason for his action other
than what can be detected at first sight. So
thought Rudolf Rassendyll, and his brain was
busy with finding it out.
Then an idea seized him, and, forgetting
the precautions that had hitherto served so
well, he came to a sudden stop on the
pavement, engrossed in deep thought. Was
the man who dogged his steps Rupert him-
self ? It would be like Rupert to track
him, like Rupert to conceive such an attack,
lS2 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
like Rupert to be ready either for a fearless
assault from the front or a shameless shot
from behind, and indifferent utterly which
chance offered, so it threw him one of them.
Mr. Rassendyll asked no better than to meet
his enemy thus in the open. They could
fight a fair fight, and if he fell the lamp
would be caught up and carried on by Sapt's
hand or mine ; if he got the better of
Rupert, the letter would be his ; a moment
would destroy it and give safety to the
Queen. I do not suppose that he spent
time in thinking how he should escape arrest
at the hands of the police whom the fracas
would probably rouse ; if he did, he may well
have reckoned on declaring plainly who he
was, of laughing at their surprise over a
chance likeness to the King, and of trusting
to us to smuggle him beyond the arm of
the law. What mattered all that, so that
there was a moment in which to destroy the
letter ? At any rate he turned full round
and began to walk straight towards Bauer,
his hand resting on the revolver in the
pocket of his coat.
Bauer saw him coming, and must have
known that he was suspected or detected.
At once the cunning fellow slouched his
head between his shoulders, and set out
along the street at a quick shuffle, whistling
as he went. Rudolf stood still now in the
middle of the road, wondering who the man
THE KING IN STRELSAU. 1^3
was : whether Rupert, purposely disguising
his gait, or a confederate, or, after all, some
person innocent of our secret and indifferent
to our schemes. On came Bauer, softly
whistling and slushing his feet carelessly
through the liquid mud. Now he was nearly
opposite where Mr. Rassendyll stood. Rudolf
was well-nigh convinced that the man had
been on his track: he would make certainty
surer. The bold game was always his
choice and his delight ; this trait he shared
with Rupert of Hentzau, and hence arose,
I think, the strange secret inclination he
had for his unscrupulous opponent. Now
he walked suddenly across to Bauer, and
spoke to him in his natural voice, at the
same time removing the scarf partly, but
not altogether, from his face:
"You're out late, my friend, for a night
Bauer, startled though he was by the
unexpected challenge, had his wits about
him. Whether he identified Rudolf at once
I do not know ; I think that he must at
least have suspected the truth.
" A lad that has no home to go to must
needs be out both late and early, sir," said
he, arresting his shuffling steps, and looking
up with that honest stolid air which had
made a fool of me.
I had described him very minutely to
Mr. Rassendyll ; if Bauer knew or guessed
184 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
who his challenger was, Mr. Rassendyll was
as well equipped for the encounter. '»*
"No home to go to ! " cried Rudolf in a
pitying tone. "How's that? But anyhow
heaven forbid that you or any man should
walk the streets a night like this! Come,
I'll give you a bed. Come with me, and I'll
find you good shelter, my boy."
Bauer shrank away. He did not see the
meaning of this stroke, and his eye, travelling
up the street, showed that his thoughts had
turned towards flight. Rudolf gave no time
for putting any such notion into effect.
Maintaining his air of genial compassion, he
passed his left arm through Bauer's right,
saying, as he led him across the road:
" I 'm a Christian man, and a bed you
shall have this night, my lad, as sure as
I 'm alive. Come along with me. The
devil, it 's not weather for standing still ! "
The carrying of arms in Strelsau was
forbidden. Bauer had no wish to get into
trouble with the police, and, moreover, he
had intended nothing but a reconnaissance ;
he was therefore v^ithout any weapon, and
he was a child in Rudolfs grasp. He had
no alternative but to obey the suasion of
Mr. Rassendyll' s arm, and they two began
to walk down the Konigstrasse. Bauer's
whistle had died away, not to return ;
but from time to time Rudolf hummed
softly a cheerful tune, his fingers beating
THE KING IN STRELSAU. 185
time on Bauer's captive arm. Presently
they crossed the road again. Bauer's lagging
steps indicated that he took no pleasure in
the change of side, but he could not resist.
"Aye, you shall go where I'm going, my
lad," said Rudolf encouragingly; and he
laughed a little as he looked down at the
Along they went; soon they came to the
small numbers at the station end of the
Konigstrasse. Rudolf began to peer at the
"It's cursed dark," said he. "Pray, lad,
can you make out which is nineteen ? "
The moment he had spoken the smile
broadened on his face. The shot had gone
home. Bauer was a clever scoundrel, but
his nerves were not under perfect control,
and his arm had quivered under Rudolfs.
"Nineteen, sir?" he stammered.
"Aye, nineteen. That's where we're
bound for, you and I. There I hope we
shall find — what we want."
Bauer seemed bewildered: no doubt he
was at a loss how either to understand or
to parry the bold attack.
"Ah, this looks like it," said Rudolf in a
tone of great satisfaction, as they came to
old mother Holf's little shop. "Isn't that
a one and a nine over the door, my lad?
Ah, and Holf! Yes, that's the name. Pray
ring the bell. My hands are occupied."
l86 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Rudolf's hands were indeed occupied : one
held Bauer's arm, now no longer with a
friendly pressure, but with a grip of iron ;
in the other the captive saw the revolver,
which had till now lain hidden.
*' You see ? " asked Rudolf pleasantly.
"You must ring for me, mustn't you? It
would startle them if I roused them vAth
a shot." A motion of the barrel told Bauer
the direction which the shot would take.
"There's no bell," said Bauer sullenly.
" Ah, then you knock ? "
" I suppose so."
**In any particular way, my friend?"
**I don't know," growled Bauer.
"Nor I. Can't you guess?"
" No, I know nothing of it."
" Well, we must try. You knock, and
Listen, my lad. You must guess right. You
understand ? "
" How can I guess ? " asked Bauer, in an
attempt at bluster.
" Indeed I don't know," smiled Rudolf.
" But I hate waiting, and if the door is
not open in two minutes I shall arouse
the good folk with a shot. You see ? You
quite see, don't you ? " Again the barrel's
motion pointed and explained Mr. Rassen-
Under this powerful persuasion Bauer
yielded. He lifted his hand and knocked on
the door with his knuckles, first loudly, then
THE KING IN STRELSAU. 187
very softly, the gentler stroke being repeated
five times in rapid succession. Clearly he
was expected, for without any sound of ap-
proaching feet the chain was unfastened with
a subdued rattle. Then came the noise of
the bolt being cautiously worked back into
its socket. As it shot home a chink of the
door opened. At the same moment Rudolfs
hand slipped from Bauer's arm. With a
swift movement he caught the fellow by
the nape of the neck and flung him violently
into the roadway, where, losing his footing,
he fell sprawling face - downwards in the
mud. Rudolf threw himself against the
door : it yielded, he was inside, and in an
instant he had shut the door and driven
the bolt home again, leaving Bauer in the
gutter outside. Then he turned with his
hand on the butt of his revolver. I know
that he hoped to find Rupert of Hentzau's
face within a foot of his.
Neither Rupert nor Rischenheim, nor even
the old woman, fronted him : a tall, hand-
some, dark girl faced him, holding an oil
lamp in her hand. He did not know her,
but I could have told him that she was old
mother Holf's youngest child, Rosa, for I
had often seen her as I rode through the
town of Zenda with the King, before the old
lady moved her dvvelling to Strelsau. Indeed
the girl had seemed to dog the King's
footsteps, and he had himself joked on her
l88 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
obvious efforts to attract his attention, and
the languishing glances of her great black
eyes. But it is the lot of prominent person-
ages to inspire these strange passions, and
the King had spent as little thought on her
as on any of the romantic girls who found a
naughty delight in half-fanciful devotion to
him — devotion starting in many cases, by an
irony of which the King was happily uncon-
scious, from the brave figure that he made
at his coronation and his picturesque daring
in the affair of Black Michael. The wor-
shippers never came near enough to perceive
the alteration in their idol.
The half, then, at least of Rosa's attach-
ment was justly due to the man who now
stood opposite to her, looking at her with
surprise by the murky light of the strong-
smelling oil-lamp. The lamp shook and
almost fell from her hand when she saw
him ; for the scarf had slid away, and his
features were exposed to full view. Fright,
delight, and excitement vied with one another
in her eyes.
" The King ! " she whispered in amaze-
ment. "No, but " And she searched his
**Is it the beard you miss?" asked Rudolf,
fingering his chin. " Mayn't kings shave
when they please as well as other men ? "
Her face still expressed bewilderment, and
still a lingering doubt. He bent towards her,
THE KING IN STRELSAU. 189
whispering, " Perhaps I wasn't over-anxious
to be known at once."
She flushed with pleasure at the confidence
he seemed to put in her.
** I should know you anywhere," she whis-
pered, v/ith a glance of the great black eyes.
** Anyv/here, Your Majesty."
"Then you'll help me perhaps?"
" With my life ! "
"No, no, my dear young lady, merely
with a little information. Whose house is
this ? "
" My mother's."
"Ah! She takes lodgers?"
The girl appeared vexed at his cautious
" Tell me what you want to know," she
"Then who's here?"
" My lord the Count of Luzau-Rischenheim,"
" And what 's he doing ? "
" He 's lying on the bed moaning and
swearing, because his wounded arm gives
" And is nobody else here ? "
She looked round warily, and sank her
voice to a whisper as she answered :
" No, not now — nobody else."
"I was seeking a friend of mine," said
Rudolf. " I want to see him alone. It 's
not easy for a King to see people alone."
"You mean ?"
igo RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"Well, you know who I mean."
"Yes. No, he's gone; but he's gone to
"To find me? Plague take it! How do
you know that, my pretty lady?"
"Bauer told me."
"Ah, Bauer! And who's Bauer?"
"The man who knocked. Why did you
shut him out ? "
"To be alone with you, to be sure. So
Bauer tells you his master's secrets?"
She acknowledged his raillery with a
coquettish laugh. It was not amiss for the
King to see that she had her admirers.
"Well, and where has this foolish Count
gone to meet me ? " asked Rudolf lightly.
"You haven't seen him?"
"No; I come straight from the Castle of
"But," she cried, "he expected to find
you at the hunting-lodge. Ah, but now I
recollect! The Count of Rischenheim was
greatly vexed to find, on his return, that
his cousin was gone."
"Ah, he was gone! Now I see! Rischen-
heim brought a message from me to Count
"And they missed one another. Your
Majesty ? "
" Exactly, my dear young lady. Very
vexatious it is, upon my word!" In this
remark, at least, Rudolf spoke no more
THE KING IN STRET.SAU. 191
and no other than he felt. "But when do
you expect the Count of Hentzau ? " he
"Early in the morning, Your Majesty —
at seven or eight."
Rudolf came nearer to her, and took a
couple of gold coins from his pocket.
"I don't want money. Your Majesty," she
" Oh, make a hole in them and hang them
round your neck."
** Ah, yes : yes, give them to me," she
cried, holding out her hand eagerly.
"You'll earn them?" he asked, playfully
holding them out of her reach.
" By being ready to open to me when I
come at eleven and knock as Bauer
"Yes, I'll be there."
" And by telling nobody that I 've been
here to-night. Will you promise me that?"
" Not my mother ? "
"Nor the Count of Luzau-Rischenheim ?"
" Him least of all. You must tell nobody.
My business is very private, and Rischen-
heim doesn't know it."
" I '11 do all you tell me. But— but Bauer
"True," said Rudolf: "Bauer knows.
Well, we'll see about Bauer."
192 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
As he spoke he turned towards the door.
Suddenly the girl bent, snatched at his
hand, and kissed it.
"I would die for you," she murmured.
" Poor child ! " said he gently. I believe
he was loth to make profit, even in the
Queen's service, of her poor foolish love.
He laid his hand on the door, but paused
a moment to say :
"If Bauer comes, you have told me
nothing. Mind, nothing! I threatened you,
but you told me nothing."
"He'll tell them you have been here."
" That can't be helped ; at least they won't
know when I shall arrive again. Good-
Rudolf opened the door and slipped through,
closing it hastily behind him. If Bauer got
back to the house, his visit must be known;
but if he could intercept Bauer, the girl's
silence was assured. He stood just outside,
listening intently and searching the darkness
with eager eyes.
WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW.
THE night, so precious in its silence,
solitude, and darkness, was waning
fast : soon the first dim approaches of
day would be visible, soon the streets would
become alive and people be about. Before
then Rudolf Rassendyll, the man who bore
a face that he dared not show in open day,
must be under cover; else men would say
that the King was in Strelsau, and the news
would flash in a few hours through the
kingdom and (so Rudolf feared) reach even
those ears which we knew to be shut to all
earthly sounds. But there was still some
time at Mr. Rassendyll' s disposal, and he
could not spend it better than in pursuing
his fight with Bauer. Taking a leaf out of
the rascal's own book, he drew himself back
into the shadow of the house walls and
prepared to wait. At the worst he could
keep the fellow from communicating with
Rischenheim for a little longer, and his hope
was that Bauer would steal back after a
while and reconnoitre with a view to dis-
covering how matters stood, whether the
unwelcome visitor had taken his departure
194 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
and the way to Rischenheim were open.
Wrapping his scarf closely round his face,
Rudolf waited, patiently enduring the tedium
as he best might, drenched by the rain
which fell steadily, and very imperfectly
sheltered from the buffeting of the wind.
Minutes went by ; there were no signs of
Bauer nor of anybody else in the silent
street. Yet Rudolf did not venture to leave
his post; Bauer would seize the opportunity
to slip in; perhaps Bauer had seen him
come out, and was in his turn waiting till
the coast should be clear; or, again, perhaps
the useful spy had gone off to intercept
Rupert of Hentzau, and warn him of the
danger in the Konigstrasse. Ignorant of the
truth and compelled to accept all these
chances, Rudolf waited, still watching the
distant beginnings of dawning day, which
must soon drive him to his hiding-place
again. Meanwhile my poor wife waited also,
a prey to every fear that a woman's sensitive
mind can imagine and feed upon.
Rudolf turned his head this way and
that, seeking always the darker blot of
shadow that would mean a human being.
For awhile his search was vain, but pre-
sently he found what he looked for— aye,
and even more. On the same side of the
street, to his left hand, from the direction
of the station, not one but three blurred
shapes moved up the street. They came
WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW. I95
Stealthily, yet quickly ; with caution, but
without pause or hesitation. Rudolf, scent-
ing danger, flattened himself close against
the wall and felt for his revolver. Very
likely they were only early workers or
late revellers, but he was ready for
something else ; he had not yet sighted
Bauer, and action was to be looked for
from the man. By infinitely gradual side-
long slitherings he moved a few paces from
the door of Mother Holf's house, and stood
six feet perhaps, or eight, on the right-hand
side of it. The three came on. He strained
his eyes in the effort to discern their
features. In that dim light certainty was
impossible, but the one in the middle might
well be Bauer: the height, the walk, and
the make were much what Bauer's were.
If it were Bauer, then Bauer had friends,
and Bauer and his friends seemed to be
stalking some game. Always most carefully
and gradually, Rudolf edged yet farther from
the shop. At a distance of some five yards
he halted finally, drew out his revolver,
covered the man whom he took to be
Bauer, and thus waited his fortune and his
Now it was plain that Bauer — for Bauer
it was — would look for one of two things:
what he hoped was to find Rudolf still in
the house, what he feared was to be told
that Rudolf, having fulfilled the unknown
196 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
purpose of his visit, was gone whole and
sound. If the latter tidings met him, these
two good friends of his whom he had
enlisted for his reinforcement were to have
five crowns each and go home in peace;
if the former, they were to do their work
and make ten crowns. Years after, one of
them told me the whole story without shame
or reserve. What their work was, the heavy
bludgeons they carried and the long knife
that one of them had lent to Bauer showed
pretty clearly. But neither to Bauer nor to
them did it occur that their quarry might
be crouching near, hunting as well as hunted.
Not that the pair of ruffians who had been
thus hired would have hesitated for that
thought, as I imagine. For it is strange,
yet certain, that the zenith of courage and
the acme of villainy can both be bought
for the price of a lady's glove; among
such outcasts as those from whom Bauer
drew his recruits the murder of a man is
held serious only when the police are by,
and death at the hands of him they seek
to kill is no more than an everyday risk
of their employment.
** Here 's the house," whispered Bauer,
stopping at the door. " Now I '11 knock,
and you stand by to knock him on the
head if he runs out. He 's got a six-
shooter, so lose no time."
"*He'll only fire it in heaven," growled
WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW. 197
a hoarse guttural voice that ended in a
" But if he 's gone ? " objected the other
*' Then I know where he 's gone," answered
Bauer. "Are you ready?"
A ruffian stood on either side of the door
with uplifted bludgeon. Bauer raised his
hand to knock.
Rudolf knew that Rischenheim was within,
and he feared that Bauer, hearing that the
stranger had gone, would take the oppor-
tunity of telling the Count of his visit. The
Count would in his turn warn Rupert of
Hentzau, and the work of catching the
ringleader would all fall to be done again.
At no time did Mr. Rassendyll take count
of odds against him, but in this instance
he may well have thought himself, with his
revolver, a match for the three ruffians.
At any rate, before Bauer had time to give
the signal, he sprang out suddenly from
the wall and darted at the fellow. His
onset was so sudden that the other two
fell back a pace ; Rudolf caught Bauer fairly
by the throat. I do not suppose that he
meant to strangle him, but the anger, long
stored in his heart, found vent in the fierce
grip of his fingers. It is certain that Bauer
thought his time was come, unless he struck
a blow for himself. Instantly he raised his
hand and thrust fiercely at Rudolf with his
igS RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
long knife. Mr. Rassendyll would have been
a dead man, had he not loosed his hold and
sprung lightly away. But Bauer sprang at
him again, thrusting with the knife, and
crying to his associates, " Club him, you
fools, club him ! "
Thus exhorted, one jumped forward. The
moment for hesitation had gone. In spite of
the noise of wind and pelting rain, the sound
of a shot risked much ; but not to fire was
death. Rudolf fired full at Bauer : the fellow
saw his intention and tried to leap behind
one of his companions ; he was just too late,
and fell with a groan to the ground.
Again the other ruffians shrank back, ap-
palled by the sudden ruthless decision of
the act. Mr. Rassendyll laughed. A half-
smothered yet uncontrolled oath broke from
one of them. " By God ! " he whispered
hoarsely, gazing at Rudolfs face and letting
his arm fall to his side. " My God ! " he
said then, and his mouth hung open. Again
Rudolf laughed at his terrified stare.
"A bigger job than you fancied, is it?"
he asked, pushing his scarf well away from
The man gaped at him ; the other's eyes
asked wondering questions, but neither did
he attempt to resume the attack. The first
at last found voice, and he said :
"Well, it'd be damned cheap at ten crowns,
and that's the living truth."
WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW. 199
His friend — or confederate rather, for such
men have no friends — looked on, still amazed.
"Take up that fellow by his head and his
heels," ordered Rudolf. "Quickly! I suppose
you don't want the police to find us here
with him, do you ? Well, no more do I.
Lift him up."
As he spoke Rudolf turned to knock on
the door of No. 19.
But even as he did so Bauer groaned.
Dead perhaps he ought to have been, but
it seems to me that fate is always ready to
take the cream and leave the scum. His
leap aside had served him well after all : he
had nearly escaped scot free. As it was, the
bullet, without missing his head altogether,
had just glanced on his temple as it passed ;
its impact had stunned but not killed. Friend
Bauer was in unusual luck that night ; I
wouldn't have taken a hundred to one about
his chance of life. Rudolf arrested his hand.
It would not do to leave Bauer at the house,
if Bauer were likely to regain speech. He
stood for a moment considering what to do,
but in an instant the thoughts that he tried
to gather were scattered again.
" The patrol, the patrol ! " hoarsely
whispered the fellow who had not yet
spoken. There was a sound of the hoofs
of horses. Down the street from the station-
end there appeared two mounted men.
Without a second's hesitation the two rascals
200 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
dropped their friend Bauer with a thud on
the ground; one ran at his full speed
across the street, the other bolted no less
quickly up the Konigstrasse. Neither could
afford to meet the constables; and who
could say what story this red-haired gentle-
man might tell, aye, or what powers he
might command ?
But in truth Rudolf gave no thought
to either his story or his powers. If he
were caught, the best he could hope would
be to lie in the lock-up while Rupert played
his game unmolested. The device that he
had employed against the amazed ruffians
could be used against lawful authority only
as a last and desperate resort. While he
could run, run he would. In an instant he
also took to his heels, following the fellow
who had darted up the Konigstrasse. But
before he had gone very far, coming to a
narrow turning, he shot down it; then he
paused for a moment to listen.
The patrol had seen the sudden dispersal
of the group, and, struck with natural
suspicion, quickened pace. A few minutes
brought them where Bauer was. They
jumped from their horses and ran to him.
He was unconscious, and could, of course,
give them no account of how he came to
be in his present state. The fronts of all
the houses were dark, the doors shut ; there
was nothing to connect the man stretched
WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW. 201
on the ground with either No. 19 or any
other dwelling. Moreover the constables
were not sure that the sufferer was himself
a meritorious object, for his hand still held
a long ugly knife. They were perplexed :
they were but two ; there was a wounded
man to look after; there were three men
to pursue, and the three had fled in three
different directions. They looked up at No.
19 ; No. 19 remained dark, quiet, absolutely
indifferent. The fugitives were out of sight.
Rudolf Rassendyll, hearing nothing, had
started again on his way. But a minute
later he heard a shrill whistle. The patrol
were summoning assistance ; the man must
be carried to the station, and a report made ;
but other constables might be warned of
what had happened, and despatched in pursuit
of the culprits. Rudolf heard more than
one answering whistle ; he broke into a run,
looking for a turning on the left that would
take him back into the direction of my house,
but he found none. The narrow street
twisted and curved in the bewildering way
that characterises the old parts of the town.
Rudolf had spent some time once in Strelsau ;
but a king learns little of back streets, and
he was soon fairly puzzled as to his where-
abouts. Day was dawning, and he began
to meet people here and there. He dared
run no more, even had his breath lasted
him ; winding the scarf about his face,
202 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
and cramming his hat over his forehead
again, he fell into an easy walk, wondering
whether he could venture to ask his way,
relieved to find no signs that he was being
pursued, trying to persuade himself that
Bauer, though not dead, was at least
incapable of embarrassing disclosures, above
all conscious of the danger of his tell-tale
face, and of the necessity of finding some
shelter before the city was all stirring and
At this moment he heard horses' hoofs
behind him. He was now at the end of the
street, where it opened on the square in
which the barracks stand. He knew his
bearings now, and, had he not been inter-
rupted, could have been back to safe shelter
in my house in twenty minutes. But looking
back he saw the figure of a mounted constable
just coming into sight behind him. The
man seemed to see Rudolf, for he broke into
a quick trot. Mr. Rassendyll's position was
critical ; this fact alone accounts for the
dangerous step into which he allowed him-
self to be forced. Here he was, a man
unable to give account of himself, of remark-
able appearance, and carrying a revolver,
of which one barrel was discharged. And
there was Bauer, a wounded man, shot by
somebody with a revolver a quarter of an
hour before. Even to be questioned was
dangerous ; to be detained meant ruin to the
WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW. 203
great business that engaged his energies.
For all he knew, the patrol had actually
sighted him as he ran. His fears were not
vain ; for the constable raised his voice,
♦* Hi, sir — you there — stop a minute ! "
Resistance was the one thing worse than
to yield. Wit, and not force, must find
escape this time. Rudolf stopped, looking
round again with a surprised air. Then he
drew himself up with an assumption of
dignity, and waited for the constable. If
that last card must be played, he would win
the hand with it.
*' Well, what do you want ? " he asked
coldly, when the man was a few yards from
him ; and, as he spoke, he withdrew the
scarf almost entirely from his features,
keeping it only over his chin. "You call
very peremptorily," he continued, staring
contemptuously. " What 's your business
with me ? "
With a violent start, the sergeant — for
such the star on his collar and the lace on
his cuff proclaimed him — leant forward in
the saddle to look at the man whom he had
hailed. Rudolf said nothing and did not
move. The man's eyes studied his face
intently. Then he sat bolt upright and
saluted, his face dyed to a deep red in his
" And why do you salute me now ? '*
204 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
asked Rudolf in a mocking tone. *' First you
hunt me, then you salute me. By heaven,
I don't know why you put yourself out at
all about me ! "
"I— I " the fellow stuttered. Then
trying a fresh start, he stammered, "Your
Majesty, I didn't know — I didn't suppose "
Rudolf stepped towards him with a quick
"And why do you call me * Your Majesty' ?"
"It —it— Isn't it Your Majesty?"
Rudolf was close by him now, his hand
on the horse's neck. He looked up in the
sergeant's face with steady eyes, saying:
" You make a mistake, my friend. I am
not the King."
'* You are not — — " stuttered the bewildered
" By no means. And, sergeant ? **
"Your Majesty ?"
" Sir, you mean."
"A zealous officer, sergeant, can make no
greater mistake than to take for the King
a gentleman who is not the King. It might
injure his prospects, since the King, not
being here, mightn't wish to have it supposed
that he was here. Do you follow me,
sergeant ? "
The man said nothing, but stared hard.
After a moment Rudolf continued ;
" In such a case," said he, "a discreet
WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW. 205
officer would not trouble the gentleman any
more, and would be very careful not to
mention that he had made such a silly
mistake. Indeed, if questioned, he would
answer without hesitation that he hadn't
seen anybody even like the King, much less
the King himself."
A doubtful puzzled little smile spread
under the sergeant's moustache.
" You see, the King is not even in
Strelsau," said Rudolf.
"Not in Strelsau, sir?"
"Why, no; he's at Zenda."
"Ah ! At Zenda, sir ?"
" Certainly. It is therefore impossible —
physically impossible — that he should be
The fellow was convinced that he under-
" It 's certainly impossible, sir," said he,
smiling more broadly.
" Absolutely. And therefore impossible
also that you should have seen him."
With this Rudolf took a gold piece from
his pocket and handed it to the sergeant.
The fellow took it with something like a
wink. "As for you, you've searched here
and found nobody," concluded Mr. Rassendyll.
" So hadn't you better at once search some-
where else ?"
"Without doubt, sir," said the sergeant;
and with the most deferential salute, and
2o6 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
another confidential smile, he turned and
rode back by the way he had come. No
doubt he wished that he could meet a
gentleman who was — not the King— every
morning of his life. It need hardly be said
that all idea of connecting the gentleman
with the crime committed in the Konig-
strasse had vanished from his mind. Thus
Rudolf won freedom from the man's inter-
ference, but at a dangerous cost — how
dangerous he did not know. It was indeed
most impossible that the King could be in
He lost no time now in turning his steps
towards his refuge. It was past five o'clock,
day came quickly, and the streets began to
be peopled by men and women on their
way to open stalls or to buy in the market.
Rudolf crossed the square at a rapid walk,
for he was afraid of the soldiers who were
gathering for early duty opposite to the
barracks. Fortunately he passed by them
unobserved, and gained the comparative
seclusion of the street in which my house
stands without encountering any further
difnculties. In truth he was almost in
safety ; but bad luck was now to have its
turn. When Mr. Rassendyll was no more
than fifty yards from my door, a carriage
suddenly drove up and stopped a few paces
in front of him. The footman sprang down
and opened the door. Two ladies got out ;
WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW. 207
they were dressed in evening costume, and
were returning from a ball. One was middle-
aged, the other young and rather pretty.
They stood for a moment on the pavement,
the younger saying :
" Isn't it pleasant, mother ? I wish I
could always be up at five o'clock."
** My dear, you wouldn't like it for long,"
answered the elder. "It's very nice for a
change, but "
She stopped abruptly. Her eye had fallen
on Rudolf Rassendyll. He knew her : she
was no less a person than the wife of
Helsing the Chancellor; his was the house
at which the carriage had stopped. The
trick that had served with the sergeant of
police would not do now. She knew the
King too well to believe that she could be
mistaken about him ; she was too much of
a busybody to be content to pretend that
she was mistaken.
"Good gracious!" she whispered loudly,
and, catching her daughter's arm, she mur-
mured : " Heavens, my dear, it's the King!"
Rudolf was caught. Not only the ladies
but their servants were looking at him.
Flight was impossible. He walked by
them. The ladies curtseyed, the servants
bowed bare-headed. Rudolf touched his
hat and bowed slightly in return. He walked
straight on towards my house ; they were
watching him, and he knew it. Most heartily
208 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
did he curse the untimely hours to which
folks keep up their dancing, but he thought
that a visit to my house would afford as
plausible an excuse for his presence as any
other. So he went on, surveyed by the
wondering ladies, and by the servants, who,
smothering smiles, asked one another what
brought His Majesty abroad in such a plight
(for Rudolf's clothes were soaked and his
boots muddy), at such an hour — and that in
Strelsau, when all the world thought he
was at Zenda.
Rudolf reached my house. Knowing that
he was watched, he had abandoned all
intention of giving the signal agreed on
between my wife and himself and of making
his way in through the window. Such a
sight would indeed have given the excellent
Baroness von Helsing matter for gossip !
It was better to let every servant in my
house see his open entrance. But, alas,
virtue itself sometimes leads to ruin. My
dearest Helga, sleepless and watchful in the
interest of her mistress, was even now
behind the shutter, listening with all her
ears and peering through the chinks. No
sooner did Rudolf's footsteps become audible
than she cautiously unfastened the shutter,
opened the window, put her pretty head out,
and called softly:
"All's safe! Come in!"
The mischief was done then, for the faces
WHAT THE CHANCELLOR'S WIFE SAW. 209
of Helsing's wife and daughter, aye, and
the faces of Helsing's servants, were intent
on this most strange spectacle. Rudolf,
turning his head over his shoulder, sav^
them; a moment later poor Helga saw
them also. Innocent and untrained in con-
trolling her feelings, she gave a shrill little
cry of dismay, and hastily drew back.
Rudolf looked round again. The ladies had
retreated to the cover of the porch, but
he still saw their eager faces peering from
between the pillars that supported it.
" I may as well go in now," said Rudolf,
and in he sprang. There was a merry
smile on his face as he ran forward to
meet Helga, who leant against the table,
pale and agitated.
" They saw you ? " she gasped.
** Undoubtedly,** said he. Then his sense
of amusement conquered everything else,
and he sat down in a chair, laughing.
"I'd give my life," said he, "to hear the
story that the Chancellor will be waked up
to hear in a minute or two from now ! "
But a moment's thought made him grave
again. For whether he were the King or
Rudolf Rasscndyll, he knew that my wife's
name was in equal peril. Knowing this, he
stood at nothing to serve her. He turned to
her and spoke quickly.
"You must rouse one of the servants at
once. Send him round to the Chancellor's
210 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
and tell the Chancellor to come here directly.
No, write a note. Say the King has come
by appointment to see Fritz on some private
business, but that Fritz has not kept the
appointment, and that the King must now
see the Chancellor at once. Say there's not
a moment to lose."
She was looking at him with wondering
"Don't you see," he said, "if I can impose
on Helsing, I may stop those women's
tongues ? If nothing 's done, how long do
you suppose it '11 be before all Strelsau knows
that Fritz von Tarlenheim's wife let the
King in at the window at five o'clock in the
morning ? "
" I don't understand," murmured poor
Helga in bewilderment.
" No, my dear lady, but for heaven's sake
do what I ask of you. It's the only chance
** I '11 do it," she said, and sat down to
Thus it was that, hard on the marvellous
tidings which, as I conjecture, the Baroness
von Helsing poured into her husband's drowsy
ears, came an imperative summons that the
Chancellor should wait on the King at the
house of Fritz von Tarlenheim.
Truly we had tempted fate too far by
bringing Rudolf Rassendyll again to Strelsau,
BEFORE THEM ALL I
GREAT as was the risk and immense
as were the difficulties created by the
course which Mr. Rassendyll adopted,
I cannot doubt that he acted for the best
in the light of the information which he
possessed. His plan was to disclose him-
self to Helsing in the character of the
King, to bind him to secrecy, and make
him impose the same obligation on his wife,
daughter, and servants. The Chancellor was
to be quieted with the excuse of urgent
business, and conciliated by a promise that
he should know its nature in the course of
a few hours ; meanwhile an appeal to his
loyalty must suffice to ensure obedience. If
all went well in the day that had now
dawned, by the evening of it the letter would
be destroyed, the Queen's peril past, and
Rudolf once more far away from Strelsau.
Then enough of the truth— no more — must
be disclosed. Helsing would be told the
story of Rudolf Rassendyll and persuaded to
hold his tongue about the harum-scarum
Englishman (we are ready to believe much
of an Englishman) having been audacious
212 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
enough again to play the King in Strelsau.
The old Chancellor was a very good fellow,
and I do not think that Rudolf did wrong in
relying upon him. Where he miscalculated
was, of course, just where he was ignorant.
The whole of what the Queen's friends, aye,
and the Queen herself, did in Strelsau, became
useless and mischievous by reason of the
King's death ; their action must have been
utterly different, had they been aware of that
catastrophe ; but their wisdom should be
judged only according to their knowledge.
In the first place the Chancellor himself
showed much good sense. Even before he
obeyed the King's summons he sent for the
two servants and charged them, on pain of
instant dismissal and worse things to follow,
to say nothing of what they had seen. His
commands to his wife and daughter were
more polite, doubtless, but no less peremptory.
He may well have supposed that the King's
business was private as well as important
when it led His Majesty to be roaming the
streets of Strelsau at a moment when he was
supposed to be at the Castle of Zenda, and
to enter a friend's house by the window at
such untimely hours. The mere facts were
eloquent of secrecy. Moreover the King had
shaved his beard — the ladies were sure of it —
and this again, though it might be merely an
accidental coincidence, was also capable of
signifying a very urgent desire to be unknown.
BEFORE THEM ALL! ai3
So the Chancellor, having given his orders,
and being himself aflame with the liveliest
curiosity, lost no time in obeying the King's
commands, and arrived at my house before
When the visitor was announced Rudolf
was upstairs, having a bath and some break-
fast. Helga had learnt her lesson well enough
to entertain the visitor until Rudolf appeared.
She was full of apologies for my absence, pro-
testing that she could in no way explain it;
neither could she so much as conjecture what
was the King's business with her husband.
She played the dutiful wife whose virtue was
obedience, whose greatest sin would be an
indiscreet prying into what it was not her
part to know.
"I know no more," she said, "than that
Fritz wrote to me to expect the King and
him at about five o'clock, and to be ready to
let them in by the window, as the King did
not wish the servants to be aware of his
The King came and greeted Helsing most
graciously. The tragedy and comedy of these
busy days were strangely mingled ; even now
I can hardly help smiling when I picture
Rudolf, with grave lips but that distant
twinkle in his eye (I swear he enjoyed the
sport), sitting down by the old Chancellor in
the darkest corner of the room, covering him
with flattery, hinting at most strange things,
2*4 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
deploring a secret obstacle to immediate con-
fidence, promising that to-morrow, at latest,
he would seek the advice of the wisest and
most tried of his counsellors, appealing to
the Chancellor's loyalty to trust him till
then. Helsing, blinking through his spec-
tacles, followed with devout attention the
long narrative that told nothing, and the
urgent exhortation that masked a trick. His
accents were almost broken with emotion as
he put himself absolutely at the King's dis-
posal, and declared that he could answer for
the discretion of his family and household
as completely as for his own.
"Then you're a very lucky man, my dear
Chancellor," said Rudolf, with a sigh which
seemed to hint that the King in his palace
was not so fortunate. Helsing was immensely
pleased. He was all agog to go and tell his
wife how entirely the King trusted to her
honour and silence.
There was nothing that Rudolf more desired
than to be relieved of the excellent old
fellow's presence ; but, well aware of the
supreme importance of keeping him in a
good temper, he would not hear of his
departure for a few minutes.
"At any rate the ladies won't talk till
after breakfast, and since they got home
only at five o'clock they won't breakfast yet
awhile," said he.
So he made Helsing sit down, and talked
Before them alli 215
to him. Rudolf had not failed to notice that
the Count of Luzau-Rischenheim had been a
little surprised at the sound of his voice ; in
this conversation he studiously kept his tones
low, affecting a certain weakness and huski-
ness such as he had detected in the King's
utterances, as he listened behind the curtain
in Sapt's room at the Castle. The part was
played as completely and triumphantly as in
the old days when he ran the gauntlet of
every eye in Strelsau. Yet if he had not
taken such pains to conciliate old Helsing,
but had let him depart, he might not have
found himself driven to a greater and even
more hazardous deception.
They were conversing together alone. My
wife had been prevailed on by Rudolf to lie
down in her room for an hour. Sorely
needing rest, she had obeyed him, having
first given strict orders that no member of
the household should enter the room where
the two were except on an express summons.
Fearing suspicion, she and Rudolf had agreed
that it was better to rely on these injunctions
than to lock the door again, as they had the
But while these things passed at my house,
the Queen and Bernenstein were on their
way to Strelsau. Perhaps had Sapt been at
Zenda, his powerful influence might have
availed to check the impulsive expedition ;
Bernenstein had no such authority, and could
2l6 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
only obey the Queen's peremptory orders and
pathetic prayers. Ever since Rudolf Rassen-
dyll left her, three years before, she had
lived in stern self-repression, never her true
self, never for a moment able to be or to do
what every hour her heart urged on her.
How are these things done ? I doubt if a
man lives who could do them ; but women
live who do them. Now his sudden coming
and the train of stirring events that accom-
panied it, his danger and hers, his words
and her enjoyment of his presence, had all
worked together to shatter her self-control ;
and the strange dream, heightening the
emotion which was its own cause, left her
with no conscious desire save to be near
Mr. Rassendyll, and scarcely with a fear
except for his safety. As they journeyed her
talk was all of his peril, never of the disaster
which threatened herself, and which we were
all striving with might and main to avert
from her head. She travelled alone with
Bemenstein, getting rid of the lady who
attended her by some careless pretext, and
she urged on him continually to bring her
as speedily as might be to Mr. Rassendyll.
I cannot find much blame for her. Rudolf
stood for all the joy in her life, and Rudolf
had gone to fight with the Count of Hentzau.
What wonder that she saw him as it were
dead ? Yet still she would have it that, in
his seeming death, all men hailed him for
BEFORE THEM ALL! iiiy
their King. Well, it was her love that
As they reached the city, she grew more
composed, being persuaded by Bernenstein
that nothing in her bearing must rouse sus-
picion. Yet she was none the less resolved
to seek Mr. Rassendyll at once. In truth
she feared even then to find him dead, so
strong was the hold of her dream on her :
until she knew that he was alive she could
not rest. Bernenstein, fearful that the strain
would kill her or rob her of reason, promised
everything ; and declared, with a confidence
which he did not feel, that beyond doubt Mr.
Rassendyll was alive and well.
" But where — where ? " she cried eagerly,
with clasped hands.
** We 're most likely, madame, to find him
at Fritz von Tarlenheim's," answered the
lieutenant. " He would wait there till the
time came to attack Rupert, or, if the thing
is over, he will have returned there."
"Then let us drive there at once," she urged.
Bernenstein, however, persuaded her to go
to the palace first and let it be known that
she was going to pay a visit to my wife.
She arrived at the palace at eight o'clock,
took a cup of chocolate, and then ordered
her carriage. Bernenstein alone accompanied
her when she set out for my house about
nine. He was, by now, hardly less excited
than the Queen herself.
2l8 RUPERt OF HENT2AU.
In her entire pre - occupation with Mr.
Rassendyll, she gave little thought to what
might have happened at the hunting-lodge ;
but Bernenstein drew gloomy auguries from
the failure of Sapt and myself to return at
the proper time. Either evil had befallen us,
or the letter had reached the King before we
arrived at the lodge ; the probabilities seemed
to him to be confined to these alternatives.
Yet when he spoke in this strain to the
Queen, he could get from her nothing except,
"If we can find Mr. Rassendyll, he will tell
us what to do."
Thus, then, a little after nine in the morning,
the Queen's carriage drove up to my door.
The ladies of the Chancellor's family had
enjoyed a very short night's rest, for their
heads came bobbing out of window the
moment the wheels were heard ; many people
were about now, and the crown on the panels
attracted the usual small crowd of loiterers.
Bernenstein sprang out and gave his hand to
the Queen. With a hasty slight bow to the
on -lookers she hastened up the two or three
steps of the porch, and with her own hand
rang the bell. Inside, the carriage had just
been observed. My wife's waiting-maid ran
hastily to her mistress : Helga was lying on
her bed ; she rose at once, and after a few
moments of necessary preparations (or such
preparations as seem to ladies necessary,
however great the need of haste may be)
BEFORE THEM ALL I iilg
hurried downstairs, to receive Her Majesty —
and to warn Her Majesty. She was too late.
The door was already open. The butler and
the footman both had run to it, and thrown
it open for the Queen. As Helga reached
the foot of the stairs. Her Majesty was just
entering the room where Rudolf was, the
servants attending her, and Bernenstein
standing behind, his helmet in his hand.
Rudolf and the Chancellor had been con-
tinuing their conversation. To avoid the
observation of passers-by (for the interior
of the room is easy to see from the street),
the blind had been drawn down, and the room
was in deep shadow. They had heard the
wheels, but neither of them dreamt that the
visitor could be the Queen. It was an utter
surprise to them when, without their orders,
the door was suddenly flung open. The
Chancellor, slow of movement and not, if I
may say it, over- quick of brain, sat in his
comer for half a minute or more before he
rose to his feet. On the other hand Rudolf
Rassendyll was the best part of the way
across the room in an instant. Helga was
at the door now, and she thrust her head
round young Bernenstein' s broad shoulder.
Thus she saw what happened. The Queen,
forgetting- the servants, and not observing
Helsing — seeming indeed to stay for nothing
and to think of nothing, but to have her
thoughts and heart filled with the sight of
220 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
the man she loved and the knowledge of his
safety — met him as he ran towards her, and,
before Helga, or Bernenstein, or Rudolf
himself, could stay her or conceive what she
was about to do, caught both his hands in
hers with an intense grasp, crying :
" Rudolf, you 're safe ! Thank God, oh,
thank God ! *' and she carried his hands to
her lips and kissed them passionately.
A moment of absolute silence followed,
dictated in the servants by decorum, in the
Chancellor by consideration, in Helga and
Bernenstein by utter consternation. Rudolf
himself also was silent, but whether from
bewilderment or an emotion answering to
hers I know not. Either it might well be.
The stillness struck her. She looked up in
his eyes ; she looked round the room and
saw Helsing, now bowing profoundly from
the corner ; she turned her head with a
sudden frightened jerk and glanced at my
motionless deferential servants. Then it came
upon her what she had done. She gave a
quick gasp for breath, and her face, always
pale, went white as marble. Her features
set in a strange stiffness, and suddenly she
reeled where she stood, and fell forward.
Only Rudolfs hand bore her up. Thus for
a moment too short to reckon they stood.
Then he, a smile of great love and pity
coming on his lips, drew her to him and
passing his arm about her waist thus sup-
BEFORE THEM ALL I 221
ported her. Then, smiling still, he looked
down on her, and said in a low tone, yet
distinct enough for all to hear :
"All is well, dearest."
My wife gripped Bernenstein's arm, and
he turned to find her pale-faced too, with
quivering lips and shining eyes. But the eyes
had a message and an urgent one for him.
He read it ; he knew that it bade him second
what Rudolf Rassendyll had done. He came
forward and approached Rudolf; then he fell
on one knee, and kissed Rudolfs left hand
that was extended to him.
** I 'm very glad to see you. Lieutenant von
Bernenstein," said Rudolf Rassendyll.
For the moment the thing was done, ruin
averted, and safety secured. Everything had
been at stake : that there was such a man
as Rudolf Rassendyll might have been dis-
closed ; that he had once filled the King's
throne was a high secret which they were
prepared to trust to Helsing under stress of
necessity ; but there remained something
which must be hidden at all costs, and
which the Queen's passionate exclamation
had threatened to expose. There was a
Rudolf Rassendyll, and he had been King ;
but, more than all this, the Queen loved him
and he the Queen. That could be told to
none, not even to Helsing ; for Helsing,
though he would not gossip to the town,
would yet hold himself bound to carry the
222 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
matter to the King. So Rudolf chose to take
any future difficulties rather than that present
and certain disaster. Sooner than entail it
on her he loved, he claimed for himself the
place of her husband and the name of King.
And she, clutching at the only chance that
her act left, was content to have it so. It
may be that for an instant her weary tor-
tured brain found sweet rest in the dim
dream that so it was, for she let her head
lie there on his breast and her eyes closed,
her face looking very peaceful, and a soft
little sigh escaping in pleasure from her lips.
But every moment bore its peril and
exacted its effort. Rudolf led the Queen to
a couch, and then briefly charged the servants
not to speak of his presence for a few hours.
As they had no doubt perceived, said he,
from the Queen's agitation, important busi-
ness was on foot ; it demanded his presence
in Strelsau, but required also that his
presence should not be known. A short
time would free them from the obligation
which he now asked of their loyalty. When
they had withdrawn, bowing obedience, he
turned to Helsing, pressed his hand warmly,
reiterated his request for silence, and said
that he would summon the Chancellor to his
presence again later in the day, either where
he was or at the palace. Then he bade all
withdraw and leave him alone for a little
with the Queen. He was obeyed, but
BEFORE THEM ALL! 223
Helsing had hardly left the house when
Rudolf called Bernenstein back, and with
him my wife. Helga hastened to the Queen,
who was still sorely agitated ; Rudolf drew
Bernenstein aside, and exchanged with him
all their news. Mr. Rassendyll was much
disturbed at finding that no tidings had come
from Colonel Sapt and myself, but his
apprehension was greatly increased on learn-
ing the untoward accident by which the
King himself had been at the lodge the
night before. Indeed he was utterly in the
dark ; where the King was, where Rupert,
where we were, he did not know. And he
was here in Strelsau, known as the King
to half-a-dozen people or more, protected
only by their promises, liable at any moment
to be exposed by the coming of the King
himself, or even by a message from him.
Yet in face of all perplexities, perhaps even
the more because of the darkness in which
he was enveloped, Rudolf held firm to his
purpose. There were two things that seemed
plain. If Rupert had escaped the trap
and was still alive with the letter on him,
Rupert must be found ; here was the first
task. That accomplished, there remained
for Rudolf himself nothing save to disappear
as quietly and secretly as he had come,
trusting that his presence could be concealed
from the man whose name he had usurped.
Nay, if need were, the King must be told
224 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
that Rudolf Rasscndyll had played a trick
on the Chancellor, and, having enjoyed his
pleasure, was gone again. Everything could,
in the last resort, be told, save that which
touched the Queen's honour.
At this moment the message which I
despatched from the station at Hofbau
reached my house. There was a knock at
the door. Bernenstein opened it and took
the telegram, which was addressed to my
wife. I had written all that I dared to trust
to such a means of communication, and here
it is: —
" I am coming to Strelsau. The King will not
leave the lodge to-day. The Count came, but left
before we arrived. I do not know whether he has
gone to Strelsau. He gave no news to the King."
" Then they didn't get him ! " cried
Bernenstein in deep disappointment,
** No, but * He gave no news to the King,'"
said Rudolf triumphantly.
They were all standing now round the
Queen, who sat on the couch. She seemed
very faint and weary, but at peace. It was
enough for her that Rudolf fought and planned
"And see this," Rudolf went on : " *The
King will not leave the lodge to-day.' Thank
God, then, we have to-day ! "
** Yes, but Where's Rupert ?"
** We shall know in an hour, if he 's in
BEFORE THEM ALL! 225
Strdsau," and Mr. Rassendyll looked as
though it would please him well to find
Rupert in Strelsau. *' Yes, I must seek
him. I shall stand at nothing to find him.
If I can only get to him as the King, then
I'll be the King. We have to-day ! "
My message put them in heart again,
although it left so much still unexplained.
Rudolf turned to the Queen :
** Courage, my Queen," said he. "A few
hours now will see an end of all our
"And then?" she asked.
** Then you '11 be safe and at rest," said
he, bending over her and speaking softly.
"And I shall be proud in the knowledge of
having saved you."
"And you ?"
«* I must go," Helga heard him whisper,
as he bent lower still, and she and Bernen-
stein moved away.
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE.
THE tall handsome girl was taking down
the shutters from the shop-front at
No. ig in the Konigstrasse. She went
about her work languidly enough, but there
was a tinge of dusky red on her cheeks, and
her eyes were brightened by some sup-
pressed excitement. Old Mother Rolf,
leaning against the counter, was grumbling
angrily because Bauer did not come. Nov7
it was not likely that Bauer would come
just yet, for he was still in the infirmary
attached to the police-cells, where a couple
of doctors were very busy setting him on
his legs again. The old woman knew
nothing of this, but only that he had gone
the night before to reconnoitre ; where he
was to play the spy she did not know, on
whom perhaps she guessed.
"You're sure he never came back?" she
asked her daughter.
" He never came back that I saw,"
answered the girl. "And I was on the
watch v/ith my lamp here in the shop till
it grew light."
"He's twelve hours gone now, and never
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE. 227
a message ! Aye, and Count Rupert should
be here soon, and he '11 be in a fine takinjj
if Bauer's not back."
The girl made no answer; she had
finished her task and stood in the doorway,
looking out on the street. It was past eight,
and many people were about, still for the
most part humble folk ; the more comfort-
ably placed would not be moving for an
hour or two yet. In the road the traffic
consisted chiefly of country carts and
waggons, brmging in produce for the day's
victualling of the great city. The girl
watched the stream, but her thoughts were
occupied with the stately gentleman who
had come to her by night and asked a
service of her. She had heard the revolver
shot outside ; as it sounded she had blown
out her lamp, and there behind the door
in the dark had heard the swiftly retreating
feet of the fugitives and, a little later, the
arrival of the patrol. Well, the patrol
would not dare to touch the King ; as for
Bauer, let him be alive or dead: what
cared she, who was the King's servant,
able to help the King against his enemies ?
If Bauer were the King's enemy, right glad
would she be to hear that the rogue was
dead. How finely the King had caught him
by the neck and thrown him out ! She
laughed to think how little her mother
knew the company she had kept that night.
228 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
The row of country carts moved slowly
by. One or two stopped before the shop,
and the carters offered vegetables for sale.
The old woman would have nothing to
say to them, but waved them on irritably.
Three had thus stopped and again proceeded,
and an impatient grumble broke from the
old lady as a fourth, a covered waggon,
drew up before the door.
"We don't want anything: go on, go on
with you ! ' ' she cried shrilly.
The carter got down from his seat with-
out heeding her, and walked round to the
" Here you are, sir," he cried. ** Nine-
A yawn was heard, and the long sigh a
man gives as he stretches himself in the
mingled luxury and pain of an awakening
after sound refreshing sleep.
"All right; I'll get down," came in
answer from inside.
" Ah, it 's the Count ! " said the old lady
to her daughter in satisfied tones. "What
will he say, though, about that rogue
Rupert of Hentzau put his head out from
under the waggon-tilt, looked up and down
the street, gave the carter a couple of
crowns, leapt down, and ran lightly across
the pavement into the little shop. The
waggon moved on.
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE. 22Q
"A lucky thing I met him," said Rupert
cheerily. "The waggon hid me very well;
and handsome as my face is, I can't let
Strelsau enjoy too much of it just now.
Well, mother, what cheer ? And you, my
pretty, how goes it with you ? " He care-
lessly brushed the girl's cheek with the
glove that he had drawn off. ** Faith,
though, I beg your pardon," he added a
moment later: "the glove's not clean
enough for that," and he looked at his buff
glove, which was stained with patches of
dull rusty brown.
"It's all as when you left. Count Rupert,"
said Mother Holf, " except that that rascal
Bauer went out last night "
" That 's right enough. But hasn't he
come back ' "
"No, not yet."
" Hum. No signs of— anybody else ? "
His look defined the vague question.
The old woman shook her head. The
girl turned away to hide a smile. " Any-
body else " meant the King, so she suspected.
Well, they should hear nothing from her.
The King himself had charged her to be
"But Rischenheim has come, I suppose?"
" Oh yes ; he came, my lord, soon after
you went. He v/ears his arm in a sling."
"Ah!" cried Rupert in sudden excite-
230 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
ment. " As I guessed ! The devil ! If only
I could do everything myself, and not have
to trust to fools and bunglers ! Where 's
**Why, in the attic. You know the way."
** True. But I want some breakfast,
" Rosa shall serve you at once, my
The girl followed Rupert up the narrow
crazy staircase of the tall old house. They
passed three floors, all uninhabited ; a last
steep flight brought them right under the
deep arched roof. Rupert opened a door
that stood at the top of the stairs, and,
followed still by Rosa with her mysterious
happy smile, entered a long narrow room.
The ceiling, high in the centre, sloped
rapidly down on either side, so that at door
and window it was little more than six feet
above the floor. There was an oak table,
and a few chairs ; a couple of iron bedsteads
stood by the wall near the window. One
was empty; the Count of Luzau-Rischen-
heim lay on the other, fully dressed, his
right arm supported in a sling of black silk.
Rupert paused on the threshold, smiling at
his cousin ; the girl passed on to a high
press or cupboard, and, opening it, took out
plates, glasses, and the other furniture of
the table. Rischenheim sprang up and ran
across the room.
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE, 231
*'What news?" he cried eagerly. "You
escaped them, Rupert?"
"It appears so," said Rupert airily; and,
advancing into the room, he threw himself
into a chair, tossing his hat on to the table.
" It appears that I escaped, although some
fool's stupidity nearly made an end of me."
" I'll tell you about that directly," he said,
glancing at the girl, who had put some cold
meat and a bottle of wine on the table, and
was now completing the preparations for
Rupert's meal in a very leisurely fashion.
" Had I nothing to do but look at pretty
faces — which, by Heaven, I wish heartily
were the case — I would beg you to stay,"
said Rupert, rising and making her a pro-
" I 've no wish to hear what doesn't
concern me," she retorted scornfully.
" What a rare and blessed disposition ! "
said he, holding the door for her and bowing
" I know what I know ! " she cried to him
triumphantly from the landing. " Maybe
you'd give something to know it too, Count
Rupert ! "
" It 's very likely, for, by Jove, girls
know wonderful things!" smiled Rupert;
but he shut the door, and came quickly
back to the table, now frowning again.
" Gome, tell me, how did they make a fool
232 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
of you, or why did you make a fool of mc,
cousin ? "
While Rischenheim related how he had
been trapped and tricked at the Castle of
Zenda, Rupert of Hentzau made a very
good breakfast. He offered no interruption
and no comments, but when Rudolf Rassen-
dyll came into the story he looked up for
an instant with a quick jerk of his head
and a sudden light in his eyes. The end
of Rischenheim's narrative found him tolerant
and smiling again.
"Ah, well, the snare was cleverly set,"
he said. "I don't wander you fell into it."
" And now you ? What happened to
you ? " asked Rischenheim eagerly.
" I ? Why, having your message which
was not your message, I obeyed your
directions which were not your directions."
"You went to the lodge?"
"And found Sapt there? — Anybody else?"
"Why, not Sapt at all."
" Not Sapt ? But surely they laid a trap
for you ? "
** Very possibly, but the jaws didn't bite."
Rupert crossed his legs and lit a cigarette.
" But what did you find? "
" I ? I found the King's forester, and the
King's boar- hound, and — well, I found the
King himself too."
"The King at the lodge?"
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE. 233
"You weren't so wrong as you thought,
were you? "
" But surely Sapt, or Bcrnenstcin, or
some one was with him ? "
"As I tell you, his forester and his boar-
hound. No other man or beast, on my
"Then you gave him the letter?" cried
Rischenheim, trembling with excitement.
"Alas, no, my dear cousin. I threw the
box at him, but I don't think he had time
to open it. We didn't get to that stage
of the conversation at which I had intended
to produce the letter."
" But why not — why not ? "
Rupert rose to his feet, and, coming just
opposite to where Rischenheim sat, balanced
himself on his heels and looked down at
his cousin, blowing the ash from his cigar-
ette and smiling pleasantly.
"Have you noticed," he asked, "that my
coat 's torn ? "
" I see it is."
"Yes. The boar-hound tried to bite me,
cousin. And the forester would have
stabbed me. And — well, the King wanted
to shoot me."
" Yes, yes ! For God's sake what hap-
"Well, they none of them did what they
wanted. That 's what happened, dear
234 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Rischenheim was staring at him now with
wide -opened eyes. Rupert smiled down on
"Because, you see," he added, " Keaven
helped me. So that, my dear cousin, the
dog will bite no more, and the forester will
stab no more. Surely the country is well
rid of them ? ' '
A silence followed. Then Rischenheim,
leaning forward, said in a low whisper, as
though afraid to hear his own question,
"And the King?"
"The King? Well, the King will shoot
For a moment Rischenheim, still leaning
forward, gazed at his cousin. Then he sank
slowly back into his chair.
"My God!" he murmured: "my God!"
"The King was a fool," said Rupert.
"Come, I'll tell you a little more about it."
He drew a chair up and seated himself in it.
While he talked Rischenheim seemed
hardly to listen. The story gained in effect
from the contrast of Rupert's airy telling ;
his companion's pale face and twitching
hands tickled his fancy to more shameless
jesting. But when he had finished, he gave
a pull to his small smartly -curled moustache,
and said with a sudden gravity:
"After all, though, it's a serious matter."
Rischenheim was appalled at the issue.
His cousin's influence had been strong
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE. 235
enough to lead him into the affair of the
letter; he was aghast to think how Rupert's
reckless dare -devilry had led on from stage
to stage till the death of a King seemed but
an incident in his schemes. He sprang
suddenly to his feet, crying :
"But we must fly — we must fly!"
"No, we needn't fly. Perhaps we'd better
go, but we needn't fly."
** But when it becomes known ? " He
broke off, and then cried: "Why did you tell
me? Why did you come back here?"
"Well, I told you because it was interesting,
and I came back here because I had no
money to go elsewhere."
" I would have sent money."
" I find that I can get more when I ask in
person. Besides, is everything finished?"
"I'll have no more to do with it."
" Ah, my dear cousin, you despond too
soon. The good King is unhappily gone
from us, but we still have our dear Queen.
We have also, by the kindness of Heaven,
our dear Queen's letter."
"I'll have no more to do with it."
"Your neck feeling . . .?" Rupert deli-
cately imitated the putting of a noose about
a man's throat.
Rischenheim rose suddenly and flung the
window open wide.
" I 'm suffocated," he muttered with a
sullen frown, avoiding Rupert's eyes.
236 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" Where 's Rudolf Rassendyll ? " asked
Rupert. ** Have you heard of him ? "
" No, I don't know where he is."
** We must find that out, I think."
Rischenheim turned abruptly on him.
** I had no hand in this thing," he said,
"and I'll have no more to do with it. I was
not there. What did I know of the King
being there ? I 'm not guilty of it : on my
soul, I know nothing of it."
** That's all very true," nodded Rupert.
" Rupert," cried he, " let me go, let me
alone ! If you want money, I '11 give it you.
For God's sake take it, and get out of
Strelsau ! "
** I 'm ashamed to beg, my dear cousin,
but in fact I want a little money until
I can contrive to realise my valuable pro-
perty. Is it safe, I wonder ? Ah, yes,
here it is."
He drew from his inner pocket the Queen's
letter. " Now if the King hadn't been a
fool ! " he murmured regretfully, as he re-
Then he walked across to the window and
looked out; he could not himself be seen
from the street, and nobody was visible at
the windows opposite. Men and women
passed to and fro on their daily labours or
pleasures ; there was no unusual stir in the
city. Looking across the roofs, Rupert could
see the royal standard floating in the wind
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE. -^37
over the palace and barracks. He took out
his watch ; Rischenheim imitated his action :
it was ten minutes to ten.
" Rischenheim," he called, " come here a
moment. Here — look out."
Rischenheim obeyed, and Rupert let him
look for a minute or two before speaking
** Do you see anything remarkable ? " he
*' No, nothing," answered Rischenheim,
still curt and sullen in his fright.
" Well, no more do I. And that 's very
odd. For don't you think that Sapt or some
other of Her Majesty's friends must have
gone to the lodge last night ? "
**They meant to, I swear," said Rischen-
heim with sudden attention.
"Then they would have found the King.
There's a telegraph wire at Hofbau, only a
few miles away. And it's ten o'clock. My
cousin, why isn't Strelsau mourning for our
lamented King ? Why aren't the flags at
half-mast ? I don't understand it."
"No," murmured Rischenheim, his eyes
now fixed on his cousin's face.
Rupert broke into a smile and tapped his
teeth with his fingers.
"I wonder," said he meditatively, "if that
old player Sapt has got a king up his sleeve
again ! If that were so " He stopped
and seemed to fall into deep thought.
238 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Rischenheim did not interrupt him, but stood
looking now at him, now out of the window.
Still there was no stir in the streets, and
still the standards floated at the summit of
the flagstaffs. The King's death was not yet
known in Strelsau.
"Where's Bauer?" asked Rupert suddenly.
"Where the plague can Bauer be? He was
my eyes. Here we are, cooped up, and I
don't know what 's going on."
"I don't know where he is. Something
must have happened to him."
"Of course, my wise cousin. But what?"
Rupert began to walk up and down the
room, smoking another cigarette at a great
pace. Rischenheim sat down by the table,
resting his head on his hand. He was
wearied out by strain and excitement, his
wounded arm pained him greatly, and he
was full of horror and remorse at the event
which had happened unknown to him the
"I wish I was quit of it," he moaned at
Rupert stopped before him.
"You repent of your misdeeds?" he asked.
"Well then, you shall be allowed to repent.
Nay, you shall go and tell the King that you
repent. Rischenheim, I must know what
they are doing. You must go and ask an
audience of the King."
"But the King is **
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE. 239
"We shall know that better when you've
asked for your audience. See here."
Rupert sat down by his cousin and
nstructed him in his task. This was no
other than to discover whether there were a
King in Strelsau, or whether the only King
lay dead in the hunting - lodge. If there
were no attempt being made to conceal the
King's death, Rupert's plan was to seek
safety in flight. He did not abandon his
designs: from the secure vantage of foreign
soil he would hold the Queen's letter over
her head, and by the threat of publishing it
ensure at once immunity for himself and
almost any further terms which he chose to
exact from her. If, on the other hand, the
Count of Luzau-Rischenheim found a King
in Strelsau, if the royal standards continued
to wave at the summit of their flagstaffs,
and Strelsau knew nothing of the dead man
in the lodge, then Rupert had laid his hand on
another secret ; for he knew who the King in
Strelsau must be. Starting from this point,
his audacious mind darted forward to new
and bolder schemes. He could offer again to
Rudolf Rassendyll what he had offered once
before, three years ago — a partnership in crime
and the profits of crime — or if this advance
were refused, then he declared that he would
himself descend openly into the streets of
Strelsau and proclaim the death of the King
from the steps of the Cathedral.
240 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"Who can tell," he cried, springing up,
enraptured and merry with the inspiration
of his plan, "who can tell whether Sapt or
I came to the lodge first ? Who found the
King alive, Sapt or I ? Who left him dead,
Sapt or I ? Who had most interest in killing
him — I, who only sought to make him aware
of what touched his honour, or Sapt, who
was and is hand and glove with the man
that now robs him of his name and usurps
his place while his body is still warm ? Ah,
they haven't done with Rupert of Hentzau
yet ! "
He stopped, looking down on his com-
panion. Rischenheim's fingers still twitched
nervously and his cheeks were pale. But
now his face was alight with interest and
eagerness. Again the fascination of Rupert's
audacity and the infection of his courage
caught on his kinsman's weaker nature, and
inspired him to a temporary emulation of the
will that dominated him.
** You sec," pursued Rupert, " it 's not
likely that they'll do you any harm."
•* I '11 risk anything."
" Most gallant gentleman ! At the worst
they'll only keep you a prisoner. Well, if
you 're not back in a couple of hours, I shall
draw my conclusions. I shall know that
there 's a king in Strelsau."
** But where shall I look for the King ? "
"Why, first in the palace, and secondly
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE. 241
at Fritz von Tarlenheim's. I expect you
will find him at Fritz's, though."
"Shall I go there first, then?"
" No. That would be seeming to know
"You'll wait here?"
" Certainly, cousin— unless I see cause to
move, you know."
"And I shall find you on my return?"
" Me, or directions from me. By the
way, bring money too. There 's never any
harm in having a full pocket. I wonder
what the devil does without a breeches
pocket ! "
Rischenheim let that curious speculation
alone, although he remembered the whim-
sical air with which Rupert delivered it.
He was now on fire to be gone, his ill-
balanced brain leaping from the depths of
despondency to the certainty of brilliant
success, and not heeding the gulf of danger
that it surpassed in buoyant fancy.
"We shall have them in a corner, Rupert ! "
" Aye, perhaps. But wild beasts in a
corner bite hard."
" I wish my arm were well ! "
"You'll be safer wilh it wounded," said
Rupert with a smile.
" By God, Rupert, I can defend myself."
" True, true ; but it 's your brain I want
242 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" You shall see that I have something in
** If it please God, dear cousin."
With every mocking encouragement and
every careless taunt Rischenheim's resolve
to prove himself a man grew stronger. He
snatched up a revolver that lay on the
mantelpiece and put it in his pocket.
*' Don't fire, if you can help it," advised
Rischenheim's answer was to make for
the door at a great speed. Rupert watched
him go, and then returned to the window.
The last his cousin saw was his figure
standing straight and lithe against the light,
while he looked out on the city. Still there
was no stir in the streets, still the royal
standard floated at the top of the flag-
Rischenheim plunged down the stairs :
his feet were too slow for his eagerness.
At the bottom he found the girl Rosa
sweeping the passage with great apparent
"You're going out, my lord?" she
" Why, yes ; I have business. Pray stanc
on one side, this passage is so cursedly
Rosa showed no haste in moving.
** And Count Rupert, is he going out also ? **
A KING UP HIS SLEEVE. 243
** You sec he *s not with me. He '11
wait " Rischenheim broke off, and asked
angrily, "What business is it of yours, girl?
Get out of the way!"
She moved aside now, making him no
answer. He rushed past ; she looked after
him with a smile of triumph. Then she
fell again to her sweeping. The King had
bidden her to be ready at eleven. It was
half-past ten. Soon the King would have
need of her.
THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU.
N leaving No. 19, Rischenheim walked
swiftly some little way up the Konig-
strasse, and then hailed a cab. He had
hardly raised his hand when he heard his
name called, and, looking round, saw Anton
von Strofzin's smart phaeton pulling up
beside him. Anton was driving, and on the
other seat was a large nosegay of choice
"Where are you off to?" cried Anton,
leaning forward with a gay smile.
" Well, where are you ? To a lady's, I
presume, from your bouquet there,"
answered Rischenheim, as lightly as he
"The little bunch of flov/ers," simpered
young Anton, "is a cousinly offering to
Helga von Tarlenheim, and I 'm going to
present it. Can I give you a lift any-
where ? "
Although Rischenheim had intended to go
first to the palace, Anton's offer seemed to
give him a good excuse for drav/ing the
more likely covert first.
" I was going to the palace, to find out
THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU. 245
where the King is. I want to see him, if
he '11 give me a minute or two," he re-
** I '11 drive you there afterwards. Jump
up. That your cab ? Here you are, cab-
man," and, flinging the cabman a crown, he
displaced the bouquet and made room for
Rischenheim beside him.
Anton's horses, of which he was not a
little proud, made short work of the distance
to my home. The phaeton rattled up to
the door, and both the young men got out.
The moment of their arrival found the
Chancellor just leaving to return to his own
house. Helsing knew them both, and stopped
to rally Anton on the matter of his bouquet.
Anton was famous for his bouquets, which
he distributed widely among the ladies of
"I hoped it was for my daughter," said
the Chancellor slyly. " For I love flowers,
and my wife has ceased to provide me
with them ; moreover I 've ceased to pro-
vide her with them — so but for my daughter
we should have none."
. Anton answered his chaff, promising a
bouquet for the young lady the next day,
but declaring that he could not disappoint
his cousin. He was interrupted by Ris-
chenheim, who, looking round on the
group of bystanders, now grown numerous,
246 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"What's going on here, my dear Chan-
cellor? What are all these people hanging
about here for ? Ah, that 's a royal car-
riage ! "
"The Queen's with the Countess," an-
swered Helsing. *'The people are waiting
to see her come out."
"She's always worth seeing," Anton pro-
nounced, sticking his glass in his eye.
" And you 've been to visit her ? " pursued
"Why, yes. I — I went to pay my respects,
my dear Rischenheim."
"An early visit ! "
" It was more or less on business."
" Ah, I have business also, and very im-
portant business. But it's with the King."
" I won't keep you a moment, Rischen-
heim," called Anton, as, bouquet in hand,
he knocked at the door.
"With the King?" said Helsing. "Ah,
yes, but the King "
"I'm on my way to the palace to find
out where he is. If I can't see him, I
must write at once. My business is very
" Indeed, my dear Count, indeed ! Dear
me! Urgent, you say?"
" But perhaps you can help me. Is he
The Chancellor was becoming very em-
barrassed ; Anton had disappeared into the
THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU. 247
house; Rischenhcim buttonholed him reso-
"At Zenda? Well, now, I don't
Excuse me, but what's your business?"
" Excuse me, my dear Chancellor : it 's a
** I have the King's confidence."
** Then you '11 be indifferent to not enjoying
mine," smiled Rischenheim.
"I perceive that your arm is hurt,"
observed the Chancellor, seeking a diversion.
*' Between ourselves, that has something to
do with my business. Well, I must go to the
palace. Or — stay — would Her Majesty con-
descend to help me ? I think I '11 risk a
request. She can but refuse," and so saying
Rischenheim approached the door.
*' Oh, my friend, I wouldn't do that,"
cried Helsing, darting after him. " The
Queen is — well, very much engaged. She
won't like to be troubled."
Rischenheim took no notice of him, but
knocked loudly. The door was opened, and
he told the butler to carry his name to
the Queen and beg a moment's speech with
her. Helsing stood in perplexity on the
steps. The crowd was delighted with the
coming of these great folk and showed no
sign of dispersing. Anton von Strofzin did
not reappear. Rischenheim edged himself
inside the doorway and stood on the thresh-
old of the hall. There he heard voices
248 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
proceeding from the sitting-room on the
left. He recognised the Queen's, my wife's,
and Anton's. Then came the butler's,
"I vv'ill inform the Count of Your Majesty's
The door of the room opened; the butler
appeared, and immediately behind him Anton
von Strofzin and Bernenstein. Bernenstein
had the young fellow by the arm, and
hurried him through the hall. They passed
the butler, who made way for them, and
came to where Rischenheim stood.
"We meet again," said Rischenheim with
The Chancellor rubbed his hands in
nervous perturbation. The butler stepped
up and delivered his message : the Queen
regretted her inability to receive the Count.
Rischenheim nodded, and, standing so that
the door could not be shut, asked Bernen-
stein whether he knew where the King
Now Bernenstein was most anxious to
get the pair of them away and the door
shut, but he dared show no eagerness.
" Do you want another interview with the
King already ? " he asked with a smile.
"The last was so pleasant, then?"
Rischenheim took no notice of the taunt,
but observed sarcastically :
•* There 's a strange difficulty in finding
THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU. 249
our good King. The Chancellor here doesn't
know where he is, or at least he won't
answer my questions."
" Possibly the King has his reasons for
not wishing to be disturbed," suggested
"It's very possible," retorted Rischen-
*' Meanwhile, my dear Count, I shall take
it as a personal favour if you'll move out
of the doorway."
** Do I incommode you by standing here ?"
asked the Count.
" Infinitely, my lord," answered Bernen-
** Hullo, Bernenstein, what 's the matter?"
cried Anton, seeing that their tones and
glances had grown angry. The crowd also
had noticed the raised voices and hostile
manner of the disputants, and began to
gather round in a more compact group.
Suddenly a voice came from inside the
hall ; it was distinct and loud, yet not
without a touch of huskiness. The sound
of it hushed the rising quarrel and silenced
the crowd into expectant stillness. Bernen-
stein looked aghast, Rischenheim nervous
yet triumphant, Anton amused and gratified.
" The King ! " he cried, and burst into a
laugh. "You've drawn him, Rischenheim!"
The crowd heard his boyish exclamation
and raised a cheer. Helsing turned as
250 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
though to rebuke them. Had not the King
himself desired secrecy ? Yes, but he who
spoke as the King chose any risk sooner
than let Rischenheim go back and warn
Rupert of his presence.
"Is that the Count of Luzau- Rischen-
heim ? " called Rudolf from within. " If
so, let him enter and then shut the door."
There was something in his tone that
alarmed Rischenheim. He started back on
the step. But Bernenstein caught him by
** Since you wished to come in, come in,"
he said with a grim smile.
Rischenheim looked round, as though he
meditated flight. The next moment Bernen-
stein was thrust aside. For one short
instant a tall figure appeared in the doorway ;
the crowd had but a glimpse, yet they
cheered again. Risehenheim's hand was
clasped in a firm grip ; he passed unwillingly
but helplessly through the door. Bernenstein
followed ; the door was shut. Anton faced
round on Helsing, a scornful twist on his
** There was a deuced lot of mystery
about nothing," said he. ** Why couldn't
you say he was there ? " And without
waiting for an answer from the outraged and
bewildered Chancellor he swung down the
steps and climbed into his phaeton.
The people round were chatting noisily,
THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU. 251
delighted to have caught a glimpse of the
King, speculating what brought him and the
Queen to my house, and hoping that they
would soon come out and get into the royal
carriage that still stood waiting.
Had they been able to see inside the door,
their emotion would have been stirred to
a keener pitch. Rudolf himself caught Ris-
chenheim by the arm, and without a
moment's delay led him towards the back
of the house. They went along a passage
and reached a small room that looked out
on the garden. Rudolf had known my
house in old days, and did not forget its
'• Shut the door, Bernenstein," said Rudolf.
Then he turned to Rischenheim. <* My
lord," he said, **I suppose you came to find
out something. Do you know it now?"
Rischenheim plucked up courage to answer
** Yes, I know now that I have to deal
with an impostor," said he defiantly.
** Precisely. And impostors cannot afford
to be exposed."
Rischenheim's cheek turned rather pale.
Rudolf faced him, and Bernenstein guarded
the door. He was absolutely at their mercy ;
and he knew their secret. Did they know
his — the news that Rupert of Hentzau had
" Listen," said Rudolf. ** For a few hours
252 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
to-day I am King in Strelsau. In those few
hours I have an account to settle with your
cousin ; something that he has, I must have.
I *m going now to seek him, and while I
seek him you will stay here with Bernenstein.
Perhaps I shall fail, perhaps I shall succeed.
Whether I succeed or fail, by to-night I shall
be far from Strelsau, and the King's place
will be free for him again."
Rischenheim gave a slight start, and a
look of triumph spread over his face. They
did not know that the King was dead.
Rudolf came nearer to him, fixing his eyes
steadily on his prisoner's face.
" I don't know," he continued, "why you
are in this business, my lord. Your cousin's
motives I know well. But I wonder that
they seemed to you great enough to justify
the ruin of an unhappy lady, who is your
Queen. Be assured that I will die sooner
than let that letter reach the King's hand."
Rischenheim made him no answer.
*' Are you armed?" asked Rudolf.
Rischenheim sullenly flung his revolver
on the table. Bernenstein came forward
and took it.
** Keep him here, Bernenstein. When I
return I'll tell you what more to do. If I
don't return, Fritz will be here soon, and
you and he must make your own plans."
"He shan't give me the slip a second
time," said Bernenstein.
THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU. 253
" We hold ourselves free," said Rudolf
to Rischenheim, "to do what we please
with you, my lord. But I have no wish
to cause your death, unless it be necessary.
You will be wise to wait till your cousin's
fate is decided before you attempt any
further steps against us." And with a slight
bow he left the prisoner in Bernenstein's
charge, and went back to the room where
the Queen awaited him. Helga was with
her. The Queen sprang up to meet him.
" I mustn't lose a moment," he said.
** All that crowd of people know now that
the King is here. The news will filter
through the tov/n in no time. We must
send word to Sapt to keep it from the
King's ears at all costs : I must go and
do my work, and then disappear."
The Queen stood facing him. Her eyes
seemed to devour his face ; but she said
** Yes, it must be so."
" You must return to the palace as soon
as I am gone. I shall send out and ask the
people to disperse, and then I must be off."
"To seek Rupert of Hentzau ? "
She struggled for a moment with the
contending feelings that filled her heart.
Then she came to him and seized hold of
"Don't go," she said, in low trembling
254 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
tones. "Don't go, Rudolf. He'll kill you.
Never mind the letter. Don't go : I had
rather a thousand times that the King had
it than that you should . . . Oh, my dear,
don't go ! "
** I must go," he said softly.
Again she began to implore him, but he
would not yield. Helga moved towards the
door, but Rudolf stopped her.
" No," he said, " you must stay with her,
you must go to the palace with her."
Even as he spoke they heard the wheels
of a carriage driven quickly to the door.
By now I had met Anton von Strofzin and
heard from him that the King was at my
house. As I dashed up, the news was
confirmed by the comments and jokes of the
"Ah, he's in a hurry," they said. "He's
kept the King waiting. He '11 get a wigging."
As may be supposed, I paid little heed to
them. I sprang out and ran up the steps
to the door. I saw my wife's face at the
window : she herself ran to the door and
opened it for me.
" Good God," I whispered, " do all these
people know he's here, and take him for
"Yes," she said. "We couldn't help it,
he showed himself at the door."
It was worse than I dreamt : not two or
three people, but all that crowd were victims
THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU. 255
of the mistake ; all of them had heard that
the King was in Strelsau — aye, and had seen
*♦ Where is he ? Where is he ? " I asked,
and followed her hastily to the room.
The Queen and Rudolf were standing side
by side. What I have told from Helga's
description had just passed between them.
Rudolf ran to meet me.
•' Is all well ? " he asked eagerly.
I forgot the Queen's presence and paid no
sign of respect to her. I caught Rudolf by
the arm and cried to him :
** Do they take you for the King ? "
" Yes," he said. " Heavens, man, don't
look so white! We shall manage it. I can
be gone by to-night."
" Gone ? How will that help, since they
believe you to be the King?"
" You can keep it from the King," he urged.
" I couldn't help it. I can settle with Rupert
The three were standing round me, sur-
prised at my great and terrible agitation.
Looking back now, I wonder that I could
speak to them at all.
Rudolf tried again to reassure me. He
little knew the cause of what he saw.
"It won't take long to settle affairs with
Rupert," said he. " And we must have
the letter, or it will get to the King after
256 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"The King will never see the letter," I
blurted out, as I sank back in a chair.
They said nothing. I looked round on
their faces. I had a strange feeling of help-
lessness, and seemed to be able to do
nothing but throw the truth at them in blunt
plainness. Let them make what they could
of it, I could make nothing.
"The King will never see the letter," I
repeated. '* Rupert himself has ensured
"What do you mean? YouVe not met
Rupert ? You 've not got the letter ? "
"No, no; but the King can never read it."
Then Rudolf seized me by the shoulder
and fairly shook me ; indeed I must have
seemed like a man in a dream or a torpor.
"Why not, man, why not?" he asked in
urgent low tones.
Again I looked at them, but somehow this
time my eyes were attracted and held by
the Queen's face. I believe that she was the
first to catch a hint of the tidings I brought.
Her lips were parted, and her gaze eagerly
strained upon me. I rubbed my hand across
my forehead, and looking up stupidly at her
I said :
"He can never see the letter. He's dead."
There was a little scream from Helga;
Rudolf neither spoke nor moved ; the Queen
continued to gaze at me in motionless
wonder and horror.
THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU.
"Rupert killed him," said I. "The boar-
hound attacked Rupert ; then Herbert and
the King attacked him; and he killed them
all. Yes, the King is dead. He's dead."
Now none spoke. The Queen's eyes never
left my face.
" Yes, he 's dead ! " said I; and I watched
her eyes still. For a long while (or long it
seemed) they were on my face ; at last, as
though drawn by some irresistible force,
they turned away. I followed the new line
they took. She looked at Rudolf Rassen-
dyll, and he at her. Helga had taken out
her handkerchief, and, utterly upset by the
horror and shock, was lying back in a low
chair, sobbing half- hysterically ; I saw the
swift look that passed from the Queen to her
lover, carrying in it grief, remorse, and most
unwilling joy. He did not speak to her, but
put out his hand and took hers. She drew
it away almost sharply, and covered her face
with both hands. Rudolf turned to mc.
** When was it ? "
*« Last night."
"And the . . . He's at the lodge?"
"Yes, with Sapt and James."
I was recovering my senses and my
" Nobody knows yet," I said. " We were
afraid you might be taken for him by some-
body. But, my God, Rudolf, what 's to be
done no'.v ? "
258 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Mr. Rasscndyll's lips were set firm and
tight. He frowned slightly, and his blue
eyes wore a curious entranced expression.
He seemed to me to be forgetful of every-
thing, even of us who were with him, in
some one idea that possessed him. The
Queen herself came nearer to him and
lightly touched his arm with her hand.
He started as though surprised, then fell
again into his reverie.
"What's to be done, Rudolf?" I asked
** I 'm going to kill Rupert of Hentzau,*'
he said. ** The rest we *11 talk of after-
He walked rapidly across the room and
rang the bell.
** Clear those people away," he ordered.
"Tell them that I want to be quiet. Then
send a closed carriage round for me.
Don't be more than ten minutes."
The servant received his peremptory
orders with a low bow, and left us. The
Queen, who had been all this time out-
wardly calm and composed, now fell into
a great agitation, which even the conscious-
ness of our presence could not enable her
" Rudolf, must you go ? Since — since this
has happened "
"Hush, my dearest lady," he whispered.
Then he went on more loudly : "I won't
THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU. 259
quit Ruritania a second time leaving Rupert
of Hentzau alive. Fritz, send word to Sapt
that the King is in Strelsau— he will under-
stand — and that instructions from the King
will follow by midday. When I have killed
Rupert, I shall visit the lodge on my way
to the frontier."
He turned to go, but the Queen, following,
detained him for a minute.
"You'll come and see me before you go?"
*• But I ought not," said he, his resolute
eyes suddenly softening in a marvellous
** Yes, my Queen."
Then I sprang up, for a sudden dread laid
hold on me.
"Heavens, man," I cried, "what if he kills
you — there in the Konigstrasse ? "
Rudolf turned to me ; there was a look
of surprise on his face.
" He won't kill me," he answered.
The Queen, looking still in Rudolf's face,
and forgetful now, as it seemed, of the
dream that had so terrified her, took no
notice of what I said, but urged again :
"You'll come, Rudolf?"
"Yes, once, my Queen," and with a last
kiss of her hand he was gone.
The Queen stood for yet another moment
where she was, still and almost rigid. Then
260 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
suddenly she walked or stumbled to where
my wife sat, and, flinging herself on her
knees, hid her face in Helga's lap; I heard
her sobs break out fast and tumultuously.
Helga looked up at me, the tears streaming
down her cheeks. I turned and went out.
Perhaps Helga could comfort her; I prayed
that God in His pity might send her comfort,
although she for her sin's sake dared not
ask it of Him. Poor soul ! I hope there
may be nothing worse scored to my account.
7 heard her sobs.
A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT.
THE Constable of Zenda and James, Mr.
Rassendyll's servant, sat at breakfast
in the hunting-lodge. They were in
the small room which was ordinarily used as
the bedroom of the gentleman in attendance
on the King: they chose it now because
it commanded a view of the approach.
The door of the house was securely fastened :
they were prepared to refuse admission ;
in case refusal were impossible, the pre-
parations for concealing the King's body and
that of his huntsman Herbert were complete.
Inquirers would be told that the King had
ridden out with his huntsman at daybreak,
promising to return in the evening, but not
stating where he was going ; Sapt was
under orders to await his return, and James
was expecting instructions from his master
the Count of Tarlenheim. Thus armed
against discovery, they looked for news
from me which should determine their
Meanwhile there was an interval of en-
forced idleness. Sapt, his meal finished,
puffed away at his p^rcat pipe; James, after
262 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
much pressure, had consented to light a
small black clay, and sat at his ease with
his legs stretched before him. His brows
were knit, and a curious half-smile played
about his mouth.
"What may you be thinking about, friend
James?" asked the Constable between two
puffs. He had taken a fancy to the alert
ready little fellow.
James smoked for a moment, then took his
pipe from his mouth.
" I was thinking, sir, that since the King is
dead " He paused.
" The King is no doubt dead, poor fellow,"
said Sapt, nodding.
"That since he's certainly dead, and since
my master, Mr. Rassendyll, is alive "
" So far as we know, James," Sapt re-
" Why, yes, sir, so far as we know. Since
then Mr. Rassendyll is alive and the King
is dead, I was thinking that it was a great
pity, sir, that my master can't take his place
and be King."
James looked across at the Constable with
an air of a man who offers a respectful
"A remarkable thought, James," observed
the Constable with a grin.
"You don't agree with me, sir?" asked
"I don't say that it isn't a pity, for Rudolf
A PASTIME FOR COLONF.L SAPT. 263
makes a good King. But you sec it 's impos-
sible, isn't it?"
James nursed his knee between his hands,
and his pipe, which he had replaced, stuck
out of one corner of his mouth.
"When you say impossible, sir," he
remarked deferentially, " I venture to differ
"You do? Come, we're at leisure. Let's
hear how it would be possible."
'* My master is in Strelsau, sir," began
"Well, most likely."
" I 'm sure of it, sir. If he *s seen there,
he will be taken for the King."
"That has happened before, and no doubt
may happen again, unless "
"Why, of course, sir, unless the King's
body should be discovered."
" That 's what I was about to say, James."
James kept silence for a few minutes.
Then he observed :
" It will be very awkward to explain how
the King was killed."
" The story will need good telling," ad-
"And it will be difficult to make it appear
that the King was killed in Strelsau ; yet if
my master should chance to be killed in
"Heaven forbid, James! On all grounds,
Heaven forbid ! "
264 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" Even if my master is not killed, it will
be difficult for us to get the King killed at
the right time, and by means that will seem
Sapt seemed to fall into the humour of the
"That's all very true. But if Mr. Rassen-
dyll is to be King, it will be both awkward
and difficult to dispose of the King's body
and of this poor fellow Herbert," said he,
sucking at his pipe.
Again James paused for a little while
before he remarked :
"I am, of course, sir, only discussing the
matter by way of passing the time. It
would probably be wrong to carry any such
plan into effect."
"It might be, but let us discuss it— to
pass the time," said Sapt ; and he leant for-
ward, looking into the servant's quiet shrewd
" Well, then, sir, since it amuses you, let
us say that the King came to the lodge last
night, and was joined there by his friend
"And did I come too?"
" You, sir, came also, in attendance on the
" Well, and you, James ? You came. How
came you ? "
"Why, sir, by the Count of Tarlenheim's
orders, to wait on Mr. Rassendyll, the King's
A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT. 265
friend. Now the King, sir . . . This is my
story, you know, sir, only my story."
"Your story interests me. Go on with
" The King went out very early this
"That would be on private business?"
*• So we should have understood. But
Mr. Rassendyll, Herbert, and ourselves re-
" Had the Count of Hentzau been ? "
"Not to our knowledge, sir. But we were
all tired and slept very soundly."
" Now did we ? " said the Constable with
a grim smile.
"In fact, sir, we were all overcome with
fatigue — Mr. Rassendyll like the rest — and
full morning found us still in our beds.
There we should be to this moment, sir,
had we not been suddenly aroused in a
startling and fearful manner."
" You should write story-books, James.
Now what was this fearful manner in which
we were aroused ? "
James laid down his pipe, and, resting
his hands on his knees, continued his story.
" This lodge, sir, this woodeR lodge — for
the lodge is all of wood, sir, without and
"This lodge is undoubtedly of wood,
James, and, as you say, both inside and
266 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" And since it is, sir, it would be mighty
careless to leave a candle burning where
the oil and firewood are stored."
** Most criminal ! "
** But hard words don't hurt dead men ;
and you see, sir, poor Herbert is dead."
" It is true. He wouldn't feel aggrieved."
** But we, sir, you and I, awaking "
** Aren't the others to awake, James ? "
** Indeed, sir, I should pray that they had
nevsr awaked. For you and I, waking first,
would find the lodge a mass of flames. We
should have to run for our lives."
"What? Should we make no effort to
rouse the others? "
<* Indeed, sir, we should do all that men
could do; we should even risk death by
** But we should fail, in spite of our
heroism, should we?"
"Alas, sir, in spite of all our efforts we should
fail. The flames would envelop the lodge in
one blaze ; before help could come, the lodge
would be in ruins, and my unhappy master and
poor Herbert would be consumed to ashes."
"They would, at least, sir, be entirely
"You think so?"
" Beyond doubt, if the oil and the firewood
and the candle were placed to the best
A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT. 267
"Ah, yes. And there would be an end of
" Sir, I should myself carry the tidings to
"Whereas the King of Ruritania "
" Would enjoy a long and prosperous
reign, God willing, sir."
"And the Queen of Ruritania, James?"
** Do not misunderstand me, sir. They
could be secretly married — I should say
"Yes, certainly, re-married."
" By a trustworthy priest."
"You mean an untrustworthy priest?"
"It's the same thing, sir, from a different
point of view."
For the first time James smiled a thoughtful
Sapt in his turn laid down his pipe now,
and was tugging at his moustache. There
was a smile on his lips too, and his eyes
looked hard into James's. The little man
met his glance composedly.
"It's an ingenious fancy, this of yours,
James," the Constable remarked. "What,
though, if your master's killed too? That's
quite possible. Count Rupert 's a man to be
" If my master is killed, sir, he must be
buried," answered James.
" In Strelsau ? " came in quick question
268 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" He won't mind where, sir."
** True, he won't mind, and we needn't
mind for him,"
** Why, no, sir. But to carry a body
secretly from here to Strelsau "
" Yes, that is, as we agreed at the first,
difficult. Well, it's a pretty story, but —
your master wouldn't approve of it. Sup-
posing he were not killed, I mean."
*< It 's waste of time, sir, disapproving of
what 's done : he might think the story
better than the truth, although it's not a
The two men's eyes met again in a long
" Where do you come from ? " asked Sapt
" London, sir, originally."
** They make good stories there ? "
" Yes, sir, and act them sometimes."
The instant he had spoken, James sprang
to his feet and pointed out of the window.
A man on horseback was cantering towards
the lodge. Exchanging one quick look, both
hastened to the door, and, advancing some
twenty yards, waited under the tree on the
spot where Boris lay buried.
** By the way," said Sapt, ** you forgot
the dog," and he pointed to the ground.
** The affectionate beast will be in his
master's room, and die there, sir."
«* Eh, but he must rise again first ! "
A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT. 269
"Certainly, sir. That won't be a long
Sapt was still smiling in grim amusement
when the messenger came up and, leaning
from his horse, handed him a telegram.
** Special and urgent, sir," said he.
Sapt tore it open and read. It was the
message that I sent in obedience to Mr.
Rassendyll's orders. He would not trust my
cipher, but, indeed, none was necessary.
Sapt would understand the message, although
it said simply: "The King is in Strelsau.
Wait orders at the lodge. Business here
in progress, but not finished. Will wire
Sapt handed it to James, who took it with
a respectful little bow. James read it with
attention, and returned it with another bow.
" I '11 attend to what it says, sir," he
*' Yes," said Sapt. ** Thanks, my man,"
he added to the messenger. "Here's a
crown for you. If any other message comes
for me and you bring it in good time, you
shall have another."
" You shall have it as quick as a horse
can bring it from the station, sir."
" The King's business won't bear delay,
you know," nodded Sapt.
" You shan't have to wait, sir," and, with
a parting salute, the fellow turned his horse
and trotted away.
270 RUPERT OP HENTZAU.
" You sec," remarked Sapt, •* that your
story is quite imaginary. For that fellow can
see for himself that the lodge was not burnt
down last night."
** That 's true ; but excuse me, sir *'
" Pray go on, James. I 've told you that
I 'm interested."
" He can't see that it won't be burnt down
to-night. A fire, sir, is a thing that may
happen any night."
Then old Sapt suddenly burst into a roar,
half- speech, half-laughter.
** By God, what a thing ! " he roared; and
James smiled complacently.
"There's a fate about it," said the Con-
stable. ** There 's a strange fate about it.
The man was born to it. We 'd have done
it before if Michael had throttled the King
in that cellar, as I thought he would. Yes,
by heavens, we 'd have done it ! Why, we
wanted it I God forgive us, in our hearts
both Fritz and I wanted it. But Rudolf
would have the King out. He would have
him out, though he lost a throne — and what
he wanted more — by it. But he would have
him out. So he thwarted the fate. But
it 's not to be thwarted. Young Rupert may
think this new affair is his doing. No, it's
the fate using him. The fate brought
Rudolf here again, the fate will have him
King. Well, you stare at me. Do you
think I 'm mad, Mr. Valet ? "
A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT. 271
" I think, sir, that you talk very good
sense, if I may say so," answered James.
"Sense?" echoed Sapt, with a chuckle.
** I don't know about that. But the fate 's
there, depend on it ! "
The two were back in their little room
now, past the door that hid the bodies of
the King and his huntsman. James stood
by the table, old Sapt roamed up and down,
tugging his moustache and now and again
sawing the air with his sturdy hairy hand.
** I daren't do it," he muttered : ♦• I daren't
do it. It's a thing a man can't set his
hand to of his own will. But the fate '11
do it— the fate '11 do it. The fate '11 force it
** Then we 'd best be ready, sir," suggested
Sapt turned on him quickly, almost fiercely.
** They used to call me a cool hand," said
he. ** By Jove, what are you ? "
" There 's no harm in being ready, sir,"
said James the servant.
Sapt came to him and caught hold of his
*♦ Ready ? " he asked in a gruff whisper.
" The oil, the firewood, the light," said
" Where, man, where ? Do you mean by
the bodies ? "
*• Not where the bodies are now. Each
must be in the proper place."
272 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" We must move them, then ?
" Why, yes. And the dog too.'
Sapt almost glared at him ; then he burst
into a laugh.
" So be it," he said. ** You take command.
Yes, we'll be ready. The fate drives."
Then and there they set about what they
had to do. It seemed indeed as though some
strange influence were dominating Sapt ; he
went about the work like a man who is
hardly awake. They placed the bodies each
where the living man would be by night — ^the
King in the guest-room, the huntsman in the
sort of cupboard where the honest fellow had
been wont to lie. They dug up the buried
dog, Sapt chuckling convulsively, James grave
as the mute whose grim doings he seemed
to travesty : they carried the shot-pierced
earth -grimed thing in, and laid it in the
King's room. Then they made their piles
of wood, pouring the store of oil over them
and setting bottles of spirits near, that the
flames, having cracked the bottles, might gain
fresh fuel. To Sapt it seemed now as if
they played some foolish game that was to
end with the playing, now as if they obeyed
some mysterious power which kept its great
purpose hidden from the instruments. Mr.
Rassendyll's servant moved and arranged and
ordered all as deftly as he folded his master's
clothes or stropped his master's razor. Old
Sapt stopped him once as he went by.
A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT. 273
** Don't think me a mad fool, because I
talk of the fate," he said, almost anxiously.
"Not I, sir," answered James ; ** I know
nothing of that. But I like to be ready."
*' It would be a thing ! " muttered Sapt.
The mockery, real or assumed, in which
they had begun their work had vanished
now. If they were not serious, they played
at seriousness. If they entertained no
intention such as their acts seemed to
indicate, they could no longer deny that
they cherished a hope. They shrank, or at
least Sapt shrank, from setting such a ball
rolling; but they longed for the fate that
would give it a kick, and they made smooth
the incline down which it, when thus im-
pelled, was to run. When they had finished
their task and sat down again opposite to
one another in the little front room, the
whole scheme was ready, the preparations
were made, all was in train ; they waited
only for that impulse from chance or fate
which was to turn the servant's story into
reality and action. And when the thing was
done, Sapt's coolness, so rarely upset, yet
so completely beaten by the force of that
wild idea, came back to him. He lit his
pipe again and lay back in his chair, puffing
freely, with a meditative look on his face.
"It's two o'clock, sir," said James.
** Something should have happened before
now in Strelsau."
274 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
*'Ah, but what?" asked the Constable.
Suddenly breaking on their ears came a
loud knock at the door. Absorbed in their
own thoughts, they had not noticed two men
riding up to the lodge. The visitors wore
the green and gold of the King's hunts-
men ; the one who had knocked was Simon,
the chief huntsman, and brother of Herbert
who lay dead in the little room inside.
" Rather dangerous ! " muttered the Con-
stable of Zenda as he hurried to the door,
James following him.
Simon was astonished when Sapt opened
" Beg pardon, Constable, but I want to
see Herbert. Can I go in ? " And he
jumped down from his horse, throwing the
reins to his companion.
" What 's the good of your going in ? '*
asked Sapt. "Herbert's not here."
"Not here ? Then where is he ? "
"Why, he went with the King this
"Oh, he went with the King, sir? Then
he's in Strelsau, I suppose?"
"If you know that, Simon, you're wiser
than I am."
" But the King is in Strelsau, sir."
" The deuce he is ! He said nothing of
going to Strelsau. He rose early and rode
off with Herbert, merely saying they would
be back to-night."
A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT. 275
" He went to Strelsau, sir. I am just
from Zenda, and His Majesty is known to
have been in town with the Queen. They
were both at Count Fritz's."
*♦ I 'm much interested to hear it. But didn't
the telegram say where Herbert was? "
♦« Herbert 's not a king, you see," he said.
"Well, I'll come again to-morrow morning,
for I must see him soon. He '11 be back by
"Yes, Simon, your brother will be here
**Or what's left of him after such a two
days of work," suggested Simon jocularly.
•♦Why, yes, precisely," said Sapt, biting
his moustache and darting one swift glance
at James. **Or what's left of him, as you
"And I'll bring a cart and carry the boar
down to the Castle at the same time, sir. At
least I suppose you haven't eaten it all ? "
Sapt laughed; Simon was gratified at the
tribute, and laughed even more heartily
" We haven't even cooked it yet," said
Sapt, "but I won't answer for it that we
shan't have by to-morrow."
"All right, sir; I'll be here. By the
way, there's another bit of news come on
the wires. They say Count Rupert of
Hentzau has been seen in the city#"
276 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"Rupert of Hcntzau? Oh, pooh! Nonsense,
my good Simon. He daren't show his face
there for his life."
"Ah, but it may be no nonsense. Perhaps
that 'a what took the King to Strelsau."
** It 's enough to take him if it 's true,"
"Well, good-day, sir."
«« Good-day, Simon."
The two huntsmen rode off. James watched
them for a little while.
"The King," he said then, "is known to
be in Strelsau ; and now Count Rupert is
known to be in Strelsau. How is Count
Rupert to have killed the King here in the
forest of Zenda, sir ? "
Sapt looked at him almost apprehensively.
" How is the King's body to come to the
forest of Zenda?" asked James. "Or how is
the King's body to go to the city of Strelsau?"
" Stop your damned riddles ! " roared Sapt.
"Man, are you bent on driving me into it?"
The servant came near to him, and laid a
hand on his shoulder.
" You went into as great a thing once
before, sir," said he.
" It was to save the King."
"And this is to save the Queen and your-
self. For if we don't do it, the truth about
my master must be known."
Sapt made him no answer. They sat
down again in silence. There they sat.
A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT. 277
sometimes smoking, never speaking, while
the tedious afternoon wore away and the
shadows from the trees of the forest
lengthened. They did not think of eating or
drinking ; they did not move, save when
James rose and lit a little fire of brushwood
in the grate. It grew dusk, and again James
moved to light the lamp. It was hard on
six o'clock, and still no news came from
Then there was the sound of a horse's
hoofs. The two rushed to the door, beyond
it, and far along the grassy road that gave
approach to the hunting-lodge. They forgot
to guard the secret, and the door gaped
open behind them. Sapt ran as he had not
run for many a day, and outstripped his
companion. There was a message from
The Constable, without a word of greeting,
snatched the envelope from the hand of the
messenger and tore it open. He read it
hastily, muttering under his breath "Good
God ! " Then he turned suddenly round
and began to walk quickly back to James,
who, seeing himself beaten in the race, had
dropped to a walk. But the messenger had
his cares as well as the Constable. If the
Constable's thoughts were on a crown, so
were his. He called out in indignant protest :
•• I 'vc never drawn rein since Hof bau,
sir. Am I not to have my crowo? "
278 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Sapt stopped, turned, and retraced his
steps. He took a crown from his pocket.
As he looked up in giving it, there was a
queer smile on his broad weather-beaten
"Aye," he said, "every man that deserves
a crown shall have one, if I can give it
Then he turned again to James, who had
now come up, and laid his hand on his
"Come along, my king-maker," said he.
James looked in his face for a moment.
The Constable's eyes met his, and the
So they turned to the lodge where the
dead king and his huntsman lay. Verily the
A CROWD IN THE KONIGSTRASSE.
THE project that had taken shape in the
thoughts of Mr. Rassendyll's servant,
and had inflamed Sapt's daring mind
as the dropping of a spark kindles dry
shavings, had suggested itself vaguely to
more than one of us in Strelsau. "We did
not indeed coolly face and plan it, as the
little servant had, nor seize on it at once
with an eagerness to be convinced of its
necessity, like the Constable of Zenda; but
it was there in my mind, sometimes figuring
as a dread, sometimes as a hope, now seeming
the one thing to be avoided, again the only
resource against a more disastrous issue. I
knew that it was in Bernenstein's thoughts no
less than in my own ; for neither of us had
been able to form any reasonable scheme by
which the living king, whom half Strelsau now
knew to be in the city, could be spirited away,
and the dead king set in his place. The change
could take place, as it seemed, only in one way
and at one cost ; the truth, or the better part
of it, must be told, and every tongue set
wagging with gossip and guesses concerning
Rudolf Rassendyll and his relations with the
28o RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Queen. Who that knows what men and
women are would not have shrunk from that
alternative ? To adopt it was to expose the
Queen to all, or nearly all, the peril she had
run by the loss of the letter. We indeed
assumed, influenced by Rudolf's unhesitating
self-confidence, that the letter would be won
back, and the mouth of Rupert of Hentzau
shut ; but enough would remain to furnish
material for eager talk and conjectures un-
restrained by respect or charity. Therefore,
alive as we were to its difficulties and its
unending risks, we yet conceived of the thing
as possible, had it in our hearts, and hinted it
to one another — my wife to me, I to Bernen-
stein, and he to me — in quick glances and
half - uttered sentences that declared its
presence while shunning the open confession
of it. For the Queen herself I cannot speak.
Her thoughts, as I judged them, were bounded
by the longing to see Mr. Rassendyll again,
and dwelt on the visit that he promised
as the horizon of hope. To Rudolf we had
dared to disclose nothing of the part our
imaginations set him to play ; if he were to
accept it, the acceptance would be of his own
act, beaause the fate that old Sapt talked of
drove him, and on no persuasion of ours.
As he had said, he left the rest, and had
centred all his efforts on the immediate task
which fell to his hand to perform, the task
that was to be accomplished at the dingy old
A CROWD IN THE KONIGSTRASSE. 281
house in the Konigstrasse. Wc were fully
awake to the fact that even Rupert's death
would not make the secret safe. Rischcn-
heim, although for a moment a prisoner
and helpless, was alive and could not be
mewed up for ever; Bauer was we knew
not where, free to act and free to talk.
Yet in our hearts we feared none but Rupert,
and the doubt was not whether we could
do the thing so much as whether wc
should. For in moments of excitement and
intense feeling a man makes light of ob-
stacles which look large enough as he turns
reflective eyes on them in the quiet of
A message in the King's name had per-
suaded the best part of the idle crowd to
disperse reluctantly. Rudolf himself had
entered one of my carriages and driven off.
He started, not towards the Konigstrasse,
but in the opposite direction : I supposed
that he meant to approach his destination by
a circuitous way, hoping to gain it without
attracting notice. The Queen's carriage was
still before my door, for it had been arranged
that she was to proceed to the palace and
await tidings there. My wife and I were
to accompany her ; and I went to her now,
where she sat alone, and asked if it were
her pleasure to start at once. I found her
thoughtful but calm. She listened to me;
then, rising, she said, " Yes, I will go." But
282 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
then she asked suddenly, "Where is the
Count of Luzau-Rischenheim ? "
I told her how Bernenstein kept guard over
the Count in the room at the back of the
house. She seemed to consider for a moment,
then she said, *' I will see him. Go and
bring him to me. You must be here while
I talk to him, but nobody else."
I did not know what she intended, but I
saw no reason to oppose her wishes, and I
was glad to find for her any means of em-
ploying this time of suspense. I obeyed her
commands and brought Rischenheim to her.
He followed me slowly and reluctantly; his
unstable mind had again jumped from rash-
ness to despondency: he was pale and uneasy,
and, when he found himself in her presence,
the bravado of his bearing, maintained before
Bernenstein, gave place to a shamefaced
suUenness. He could not meet the grave
eyes that she fixed on him.
I withdrew to the farther end of the room ;
but it was small, and I heard all that passed.
I had my revolver ready to cover Rischen-
heim in case he should be moved to make a
dash for liberty. But he was past that ;
Rupert's presence was a tonic that nerved
him to effort and confidence, but the force
of the last dose was gone and the man had
sunk again to his natural irresolution.
«* My lord," she began gently, motioning
him to sit, "I have desired to speak with you,
A CROWD IN THE KONIGSTRASSE. 283
because I do not wish a gentleman of your
rank to think too much evil of his Queen.
Heaven has willed that my secret should be
to you no secret, and therefore I may speak
plainly. You may say my own shame should
silence me ; I speak to lessen my shame in
your eyes, if I can."
Rischenheim looked up with a dull gaze,
not understanding her mood. He had ex-
pected reproaches, and met low - voiced
"And yet," she went on, **it is because of
me that the King lies dead now ; and a
faithful humble fellow also, caught in the net
of my unhappy fortunes, has given his life
for me though he didn't know it. Even while
we speak, it may be that a gentleman, not
too old yet to learn nobility, may be killed
in my quarrel; while another, whom I alone
of all that know him may not praise, carries
his life lightly in his hand for me. And to
you, my lord, I have done the wrong of
dressing a harsh deed in some cloak of
excuse, making you seem to serve the King
in working my punishment."
Rischenheim's eyes fell to the ground, and
he twisted his hands nervously in and out,
the one about the other. I took my hand
from my revolver : he would not move now.
** I don't know," she went on, now almost
dreamily, and as though she spoke more to
herself than to him, or had even forgotten
284 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
his presence, "what end in Heaven's counsel
my great unhappiness has served. Perhaps
I, who have place above most women, must
also be tried above most ; and in that trial I
have failed. Yet, when I weigh my misery
and my temptation, to my human eyes it
Stems that I have not failed greatly. My
heart is not yet humbled, God's work not yet
done. But the guilt of blood is on my soul —
even the face of my dear love I can see now
only through its scarlet mist ; so that if what
seemed my perfect joy were now granted
me, it would come spoilt and stained and
She paused, fixing her eyes on him again;
but he neither spoke nor moved.
** You knew my sin," she said, "the sin
so great in my heart; and you knew how
little my acts yielded to it. Did you think,
my lord, that the sin had no punishment,
that you took it in hand to add shame to
my sufTering ? Was Heaven so kind that
men must temper its indulgence by their
severity ? Yet I know that because I was
wrong, you, being wrong, might seem to
yourself not wrong, and in aiding your kins-
man might plead that you served the King's
honour. Thus, my lord, I was the cause in
you of a deed that your heart could not
welcome nor your honour praise. I thank
Cod that you have come to no more hurt
A CROWD IN THE KONIGSTRASSE. 285
Rischenheim began to mutter in a low
thick voice, his eyes still cast down :
** Rupert persuaded me. He said the King
would be very grateful, and — would give
me " His voice died away, and he sat
silent again, twisting his hands.
*• I know — I know," she said. ** But you
wouldn't have listened to such persuasions if
my fault hadn't blinded your eyes."
She turned suddenly to me, who had been
standing all the time aloof, and stretched out
her hands towards me, her eyes filled with
"Yet," said she, "your wife knows, and
still loves me, Fritz."
** She would be no wife of mine, if she
didn't," I cried. ** For I and all of mine ask
no better than to die for Your Majesty."
** She knows, and yet she loves me,"
repeated the Queen. I loved to see that
she seemed to find comfort in Helga's
love. It is women to whom women
turn, and women whom women fear.
" But Helga writes no letters," said the
"Why, no," said I, and I smiled a grim
smile. Well, Rudolf Rassendyll had never
wooed my wife.
She rose, saying :
" Come, let us go to the palace."
As she rose, Rischenheim made a quick
impulsive step towards her.
286 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
*' Well, my lord," said she, turning towards
him, "will you too go with me?"
•* Lieutenant von Bernenstein will take
care " I began. But I stopped. The
slightest gesture of her hand silenced me.
** Will you go with me ? " she asked Ris-
*• Madame," he stammered, "Madame "
She waited. I waited also, although I had
no great patience with him. Suddenly he
fell on his knee, but he did not venture to
take her hand. Of her own accord she came
and stretched it out to him, saying sadly :
** Ah, that by forgiving I could win for-
giveness ! "
Rischenhcim caught at her hand and kissed
**It was not I," I heard him mutter.
"Rupert set me on, and I couldn't stand
out against him."
"Will you go with me to the palace?"
she asked, drawing her hand away, but
"The Count of Luzau-Rischenheim," I
made bold to observe, " knows some things
that most people do not know, madame."
She turned on me with dignity, almost with
" The Count of Luzau-Rischenheim may be
trusted to be silent," she said. "We ask
him to do nothing against his cousin. We
ask only his silence."
A CROWD IN THE KONIGSTRASSE. 287
"Aye," said I, braving her anger, "but
what security shall we have?"
" His word of honour, my lord." I knew
that a rebuke to my presumption lay in her
calling mc " my lord," for, save on formal
occasions, she always used to call me Fritz.
"His word of honour!" I grumbled. "In
truth, madame "
" He 's right," said Rischenheim : " he 's
" No, he's wrong," said the Queen, smiling.
" The Count will keep his word, given to
Rischenheim looked at her and seemed about
to address her, but then he turned to me
and said in a low tone :
"By heaven, I will, Tarlenheim. I'll serve
her in everything."
"My lord," said she most graciously, and
yet most sadly, "you lighten the burden on
me no less by your help than because I no
longer feel your honour stained through me.
Come, we will go to the palace." And she
went to him, saying, " We will go together."
There was nothing for it but to trust him.
I knew that I could not turn her.
"Then I'll sec if the carriage is ready,"
" Yes, do, Fritz," said the Queen. But
as I passed she stopped me for a moment,
saying in a whisper, " Show that you trust
288 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
I went and held out my hand to him. He
took and pressed it.
"On my honour," he said.
Then I went out, and found Bernenstein
sitting on a bench in the hall. The Lieutenant
was a diligent and watchful young man ; he
appeared to be examining his revolver with
"You can put that away," said I rather
peevishly — I had not fancied shaking hands
with Rischenheim. " He's not a prisoner
any longer. He's one of us now."
" The deuce he is ! " cried Bernenstein,
springing to his feet.
I told him briefly what had happened, and
how the Queen had won Rupert's instrument
to be her servant.
"I suppose he'll stick to it," I ended; and
I thought he would, though I was not eager
for his help.
A light gleamed in Bernenstein's eyes, and
I felt a tremble in the hand that he laid on
"Then there's only Bauer now," he whis-
pered. " If Rischenheim 's with us, only
Bauer ! "
I knew very well what he meant. With
Rischenheim silent, Bauer was the only man,
save Rupert himself, who knew the truth, the
only man who threatened that great scheme
which more and more filled our thoughts and
grew upon us with an increasing force of
A CROWD IN THE KONIGSTRASSE. 289
attraction as every obstacle to it seemed to
be cleared out of the way. But I would not
look at Bernenstein, fearing to acknowledge
even with my eyes how my mind jumped with
his. He was bolder, or less scrupulous —
which you will.
"Yes, if we can shut Bauer's mouth "
he went on.
"The Queen's waiting for the carriage," I
" Ah, yes, of course, the carriage," and he
twisted me round till I was forced to look him
in the face. Then he smiled and even laughed
a little. " Only Bauer now ! " said he.
"And Rupert," I remarked sourly.
"Oh, Rupert's dead bones by now," he
chuckled, and with that he went out of the
hall door and announced the Queen's approach
to her servants. It must be said for young
Bernenstein that he was a cheerful fellow-
conspirator. His equanimity almost matched
Rudolf's own ; I could not rival it myself.
I drove to the palace with the Queen and
my wife, the other two following in a second
carriage. I do not know what they said to
one another on the way, but Bernenstein
was civil enough to his companion when I
rejoined them. With us my wife was the
principal speaker: she filled up, from what
Rudolf had told her, the gaps in our know-
ledge of how he had spent his night in
Strelsau, and by the time we arrived we
290 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
were fully informed in every detail. The
Queen said little. The impulse which had
dictated her appeal to Rischenheim and
carried her through it seemed to have died
away ; she had become again subject to fears
and apprehension. I saw her uneasiness
when she suddenly put out her hand and
touched mine, whispering:
** He must be at the house by now."
Our way did not lie by the house, and we
came to the palace without any news of our
absent chief (so I call him — as such we all,
from the Queen herself, then regarded him).
She did not speak of him again ; but her
eyes seemed to follow me about as though
she were silently asking some service of
me ; what it was I could not understand.
Bernenstein had disappeared, and the re-
pentant Count with him : knowing they
were together, I was in no uneasiness ;
Bernenstein would see that his companion
contrived no treachery. But I was puzzled
by the Queen's tacit appeal. And I was
myself on fire for news from the Konig-
strasse. It was now two hours since Rudolf
Rassendyll had left us, and no word had
come of him or from him. At last I could
bear it no longer. The Queen was sitting
with her hand in my wife's ; I had been
seated on the other side of the room, for
I thought that they might wish to talk to one
another ; yet I had not seen them exchange
A CROWD IN THE K^NIGSTRASSE. 291
a word. I rose abruptly and crossed the
room to where they were.
" Have you need of my presence, madame,
or have I your permission to be away for a
time ? " I asked.
"Where do you wish to go, Fritz?" the
Queen asked with a httle start, as though I
had come suddenly across her thoughts.
"To the Konigstrasse," said I.
To my surprise she rose and caught my
" God bless you, Fritz ! " she cried. " I
don't think I could have endured it longer.
But I wouldn't ask you to go. But go, my
dear friend, go and bring me news of him.
Oh, Fritz, I seem to dream that dream
again ! "
My wife looked up at me with a brave
smile and a trembling lip.
"Shall you go into the house, Fritz?" she
"Not unless I see need, sweetheart,"
She came and kissed me.
"Go if you arc wanted," she said. And
she tried to smile at the Queen, as though
she risked me willingly.
" I could have been such a wife, Fritz,"
whispered the Queen. "Yes, I could."
I had nothing to say ; at the moment I
might not have been able to say it if I had.
There is something in the helpless courage of
292 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
women that makes me feel soft. We can
work and fight ; they sit and wait. Yet they
do not flinch. Now I know that if I had to
sit and think about the thing I should turn
Well, I went, leaving them there together.
I put on plain clothes instead of my uniform,
and dropped my revolver into the pocket of
my coat. Thus prepared, I slipped out and
made my way on foot to the Konigstrasse.
It was now long past midday. Many folk
were still at their dinner and the streets were
not full. Two or three people recognised me,
but I passed by most unnoticed. There was
no sign of stir or excitement, and the flags still
floated high in the wind. Sapt had kept the
secret : the men of Strelsau thought still that
their King lived and was among them. I feared
that Rudolf's coming would have been seen,
and expected to find a crowd of people near
the house. But when I reached it there were
no more than ten or a dozen idle fellows
lounging about. I began to stroll up and down
with as careless an air as I could assume.
Soon, however, there was a change. The
workmen and business-folk, their meal finished,
began to come out of their houses and from the
restaurants. The loafers before No. 19 spoke
to many of them. Some said " Indeed ! ", shook
their heads, smiled, and passed on : they had
no time to waste in staring at the King. But
many waited; lighting their cigars or cigarettes
A CROWD IN THE KONIGSTRASSE. 293
or pipes, they stood gossiping with one
another, looking at their watches now and
again, lest they should overstay their leisure.
Thus the assembly grew to the number of a
couple of hundred. I ceased my walk, for
the pavement was too crowded, and hung on
the outskirts of the throng. As I loitered
there, a cigar in my mouth, I felt a hand on
my shoulder. Turning round, I saw the
Lieutenant. He was in uniform. By his side
** You 're here too, are you ? " said I.
** Well, nothing seems to be happening, does
For No. 19 showed no sign of life. The
shutters were up, the door closed ; the little
shop was not open for business that day.
Bemenstein shook his head with a smile.
His companion took no heed of my remark ;
he was evidently in a state of great agitation,
and his eyes never left the door of the house.
I was about to address him, when my atten-
tion was abruptly and completely diverted
by a glimpse of a head, caught across the
shoulders of the bystanders.
The fellow whom I saw wore a brown
wideawake hat. The hat was pulled low
down over his forehead, but nevertheless
beneath its rim there appeared a white
bandage running round his head. I could
not see the face, but the bullet- shaped skull
was very familiar to me. I was sure from
294 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
the first moment that the bandaged man
was Bauer. Saying nothing to Bernenstein,
I began to steal round outside the crowd.
As I went, I heard somebody saying that it
was all nonsense ; the King was not there :
what should the King do in such a house ?
The answer was a reference to one of the
first loungers; he replied that he did not
know what the devil the King did there, but
that the King or his double had certainly gone
in, and had as certainly not yet come out
again. I wished I could have made myself
known to them and persuaded them to go
away; but my presence would have out-
weighed my declarations, and been taken as
a sure sign that the King was in the house.
So I kept on the outskirts and worked my
way unobtrusively towards the bandaged
head. Evidently Bauer's hurt had not been
so serious as to prevent him leaving the
infirmary to which the police had carried him.
He was come now to await, even as I was
awaiting, the issue of Rudolfs visit to the
house in the Konigstrasse.
He had not seen me, for he was looking
at No. 19 as intently as Rischenheim. Appar-
ently neither had caught sight of the other,
or Rischenheim would have shown some
embarrassment, Bauer some excitement. I
wormed my way quickly towards my former
servant. My mind was full of the idea of
getting hold of him. I could not forget
A CROWD IN THE KONIGSTRASSE. 295
Bemenstein's remark, "Only Bauer now!".
If I could secure Bauer we were safe. Safe
in what ? I did not answer to myself, but
the old idea was working in me. Safe in our
secret and safe in our plan — in the plan on
which we all, we here in the city, and those
two at the hunting - lodge, had set our minds !
Bauer's death, Bauer's capture, Bauer's
silence however procured, would clear the
greatest hindrance from its way.
Bauer stared intently at the house ; I crept
cautiously up behind him. His hand was in
his trousers* pocket; where the curve of the
elbow came there was a space between arm
and body. I slipped in my left arm and
hooked it firmly inside his. He turned round
and saw me.
"Thus we meet again, Bauer," said I.
He was for a moment flabbergasted, and
stared stupidly at me.
"Are you also hoping to see the King?"
He began to recover himself. A slow cun-
ning smile spread over his face.
"The King?" he asked.
"Well, he's in Strelsau, isn't he? Who
gave you the wound on your head ? "
Bauer moved his arm as though he meant
to withdraw it from my grasp. He found
himself tightly held.
"Where's that bag of mine?" I asked.
I do not know what he would have
296 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
answered, for at this instant there came a
sound from behind the closed door of the
house. It was as if some one ran rapidly
and eagerly towards the door. Then came
an oath in a shrill voice, a woman's voice,
but harsh and rough. It was answered by
an angry cry in a girl's intonation. Full of
eagerness, I drew my arm from Bauer's and
sprang forward. I heard a chuckle from him,
and turned round to see his bandaged head
retreating rapidly down the street. I had no
time to look to him ; for now I saw two
men, shoulder to shoulder, making their way
through the crov/d, regardless of anyone in
their way, and paying no attention to abuse
or remonstrances. They were the Lieutenant
and Rischenheim. Without a moment's hesi-
tation I set myself to push and battle a way
through, thinking to join them in front. On
they went, and on I went. All gave place
oefore us in surly reluctance or frightened
willingness. We three were together in the
first rank of the crowd when the door of the
house was flung open, and a girl ran out.
Her hair was disordered, her face pale, and
her eyes full of alarm. There she stood on
the doorstep, facing the crowd, which in an
instant grew as if by magic to three times its
former size, and, little knowing what she did,
she cried in the eager accents of sheer terror :
" Help, help ! The King ! The King ! "
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR.
THERE rises often before my mind the
picture of young Rupert, standing
where Rischenheim left him, awaiting
the return of his messenger and watching
for some sign that should declare to Strelsau
the death of its King which his own hand
had wrought. His image is one that memory
holds clear and distinct, though time may
blur the shape of greater and better men ;
and the position in which he was that
morning gives play enough to the imagina-
tion. Save for Rischenheim — a broken reed
— and Bauer, who was gone none knew
where, he stood alone against a kingdom
which he had robbed of its head and a
band of resolute men who would know
no rest and no security so long as he
lived. For protection he had only a quick
brain, his courage, and his secret. Yet
he could not fly — he was without resources
till his cousin furnished them — and at any
moment his opponents might find themselves
able to declare the King's death and raise
the city in hue and cry after him. Such
men do not repent ; but it may be that he
298 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
regretted the enterprise which had led him
on so far and forced on him a deed so
momentous ; yet to those who knew him it
seems more likely that the smile broadened
on his firm full lips as he looked down on
the unconscious city. Well, I daresay he
would have been too much for me ; but I
wish I had been the man to find him there.
He would not have had it so ; for I believe
that he asked no better than to cross swords
again with Rudolf Rassendyll and set his
fortunes on the issue.
Down below, the old woman was cooking
a stew for her dinner, now and then grum-
bling to herself that the Count of Luzau-
Rischenheim was so long away, and Bauer,
the rascal, drunk in some pothouse. The
kitchen door stood open, and through it
could be seen the girl Rosa, busily scrubbing
the tiled floor ; her colour was high and her
eyes bright ; from time to time she paused
in her task, and, raising her head, seemed to
listen. The time at which the King needed
her was past, but the King had not come.
How little the old woman knew for whom she
listened ! All her talk had been of Bauer —
why Bauer did not come, and what could have
befallen him. It was grand to hold the King's
secret for him, and she would hold it with her
life ; for he had been kind and gracious to her,
and he was her man of all the men in Strelsau.
Bauer was a stumpy fellow ; the Count of
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR. 299
Hcntzau was handsome, handsome as the
devil ; but the King was her man. And the
King had trusted her; she would die before
hurt should come to him.
There were wheels in the street — quick-
rolling wheels. They seemed to stop a few
doors away, then to roll on again past the
house. The girl's head was raised ; the old
woman, engrossed in her stew, took no
heed. The girl's straining ear caught a rapid
step outside. Then it came — the knock, the
sharp knock followed by five light ones. The
old woman heard now : dropping her spoon
into the pot, she lifted the mess off the fire
and turned round, saying :
** There 's the rogue at last ! Open the
door for him, Rosa."
Before she spoke Rosa had darted down
the passage. The door opened and shut
again. The old v\^oman waddled to the
threshold of the kitchen. The passage and
the shop were dark behind the closed shut-
ters ; but the figure by the girl's side was
taller than Bauer's.
" Who 's there ? " cried Mother Holf
sharply. "The shop's shut to-day: you
can't come in."
*• But I am in," came the answer, and
Rudolf stepped towards her. The girl fol-
lowed a pace behind, her hands clasped and
her eyes alight with excitement. " Don't
you know me ? " asked Rudolf, standing
300 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Opposite the old woman and smiling down
There, in the dim light of the low-roofed
passage, Mother Holf was fairly puzzled. She
knew the story of Mr. Rassendyll ; she knew
that he was again in Ruritania, it was no
surprise to her that he should be in Strelsau ;
but she did not know that Rupert had killed
the King, and she had not seen the King
close at hand since his illness and his beard
impaired what had been a perfect likeness. In
fine she could not tell whether it were indeed
the King who spoke to her or his counterfeit.
*' Who are you ? " she asked, curt and blunt
in her confusion.
The girl broke in with an amused laugh.
"Why, it's the "
She paused. Perhaps the King's identity
was a secret.
Rudolf nodded to her.
"Tell her who I am," said he.
"Why, mother, it's the King," whispered
Rosa, laughing and blushing. "The King,
"Aye, if the King's alive, I'm the King,"
I suppose he wanted to find out how much
the old woman knew.
She made no answer, but stared up at his
face. In her bewilderment she forgot to ask
how he had learnt the signal that gained him
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR. 301
" I 've come to see the Count of Hentzau,"
Rudolf continued. "Take me to him at
The old woman was across his path in a
moment, all defiant, arms akimbo.
" Nobody can see the Count. He 's not
here," she blurted out.
*' What, can't the King see him ? Not even
the King ? "
"King?" she cried, peering at him. "Are
you the King ? "
Rosa burst out laughing.
*' Mother, you must have seen the King a
hundred times," she laughed.
" The King or his ghost — what docs it
matter ? " said Rudolf lightly.
The old woman drew back with an appear-
ance of sudden alarm.
"His ghost? Is he ?"
" His ghost ! " rang out in the girl's merry
laugh. " Why here 's the King himself,
mother. You don't look much like a ghost,
Mother Holfs face was livid now, and her
eyes staring fixedly. Perhaps it shot into her
brain that something had happened to the
King, and that this man had come because of
it — this man who was indeed the image, and
might have been the spirit, of the King. She
leant against the doorpost, her broad bosom
heaving under her scanty stuff gown. Yet
still — was it not the King?
30a RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"God help us ! " she muttered in fear and
" He helps us, never fear," said Rudolf
Rassendyll. "V/here is Count Rupert?"
The girl had caught alarm from her
" He 's upstairs in the attic at the top of
the house, sir," she whispered in frightened
tones, with a glance that fled from her
mother's terrified face to Rudolf's set eyes
and steady smile.
What she said was enough for him. He
slipped by the old woman and began to mount
The two watched him. Mother Holf as
though fascinated, the girl alarmed but still
triumphant : she had done what the King
bade her. Rudolf turned the corner of the
first landing and disappeared from their sight.
The old woman, swearing and muttering,
stumbled back into her kitchen, put her stew
on the fire, and began to stir it, her eyes
set on the flames and careless of the pot.
The girl watched her mother for a moment,
wondering how she could think of the stew,
not guessing that she turned the spoon without
a thought of what she did ; then she began
to crawl, quickly but noiselessly, up the
staircase in the track of Rudolf Rassendyll.
She looked back once : the old woman stirred
with a monotonous circular movement of her
fat arm, Rosa, bent half-double, skimmed
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR. 303
Upstairs, till she came in sight of the King
whom she was so proud to serve. He was
on the top landing now, outside the door of
the large attic where Rupert of Hentzau was
lodged. She saw him lay his hand on the
latch of the door ; his other hand rested in the
pocket of his coat. From the room no sound
came; Rupert may have heard the step out-
side and stood motionless to listen. Rudolf
opened the door and walked in. The girl
darted breathlessly up the remaining steps,
and coming to the door just as it swung
back on the latch, crouched down by it,
listening to what passed within, catching
glimpses of forms and movements through
the chinks of the crazy hinge and the crevices
where the wood of the panel had sprung
and left a narrow eyehole for her absorbed
Rupert of Hentzau had no thought of ghosts ;
the men he killed lay still where they fell, and
slept where they were buried. And he had no
wonder at the sight of Rudolf Rassendyll. It
told him no more than that Rischenheim's
errand had fallen out ill, at which he was not
surprised, and that his old enemy was again in
his path, at which (as I verily believe) he was
more glad than sorry. As Rudolf entered, he
had been half-way between window and table ;
he came forward to the table now, and stood
leaning the points of two fingers on the un-
polished dirty wood.
304 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" Ah, the play-actor ! " said he, with a gleam
of his teeth and a toss of his curls, while his
second hand, like Mr. Rassendyll's, rested in
the pocket of his coat.
Mr. Rassendyll himself had confessed that
in old days it went against the grain with
him when Rupert called him a play-actor.
He was a little older now, and his temper
more difficult to stir.
"Yes, the play-actor," he answered, smiling.
" With a shorter part this time, though."
"What part to-day? Isn't it the old one,
the King with a pasteboard crown ? " asked
Rupert, sitting down on the table. "Faith, we
shall do handsomely in Ruritania: you have a
pasteboard crown, and I (humble man though
I am) have given the other one a heavenly
crown. What a brave show ! But perhaps
I tell you news ? "
" No, I know what you Ve done."
"I take no credit. It was more the dog*s
doing than mine," said Rupert carelessly.
" However there it is, and dead he is, and
there 's an end- of it. What 's your business,
play-actor ? "
At the repetition of this last word, to her
so mysterious, the giH outside pressed her
eyes more eagerly to the chink and strained
her ears to listen more sedulously. And what
did the Count mean by the " other one "
and "a heavenly crown"?
"Why net call me King?" asked Rudolf,
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR. 305
«*They call you that in Strelsau ?"
"Those that know I'm here."
" And they are ?"
** Some few score."
**And thus," said Rupert, waving an arm
towards the window, "the town is quiet and
the flags fly."
' * You ' ve been waiting to see them lowered ? ' '
**A man likes to have some notice taken
of what he has done," Rupert complained.
** However I can get them lowered when I
" By telling your news ? Would that be
good for yourself?"
'* Forgive me — not that way. Since the
King has two lives, it is but in nature that
he should have two deaths."
" And when he has undergone the second ?"
" I shall live at peace, my friend, on a
certain source of income that I possess."
He tapped his breast - pocket with a slight
defiant laugh. "In these days," said he,
"even queens must be careful about their
letters. We live in moral times."
"You don't share the responsibility for it,"
said Rudolf, smiling.
" I make my little protest. But what 's
your business, play-actor, for I think you're
Rudolf grew grave. He advanced towards
the table and spoke in low serious tones.
** My lord, you 're alone in this matter now.
306 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Rischenheim is a prisoner; your rogue Bauer
I encountered last night and broke his head."
"Ah, you did?"
** You have what you know of in your
hands. If you yield, on my honour I will
save your life."
" You don't desire my blood, then, most
forgiving play-actor ? "
" So much, that I daren't fail to offer you
life," answered Rudolf Rassendyll. "Come,
sir, your plan has failed : give up the letter."
Rupert looked at him thoughtfully.
"You'll see me safe off if I give it you?"
"I'll prevent your death. Yes, and I'll
see you safe."
"To a fortress, where a trustworthy
gentleman will guard you."
" For how long, my dear friend ? "
" I hope for many years, my dear Count."
" In fact, I suppose, as long as ? "
" Heaven leaves you to the world, Count.
It 's impossible to set you free."
"That's the offer, then?"
" The extreme limit of indulgence," an-
Rupert burst into a laugh, half of defiance,
yet touched with the ring of true amusement.
Then he lit a cigarette and sat puffing and
" I should wrong you by straining your
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR. 307
kindness so far," said he ; and in wanton
insolence, seeking again to show Mr. Ras-
sendyll the mean esteem in which he held
him and the weariness his presence was, he
raised his arms and stretched them above
his head, as a man does in the fatigue of
tedium. " Heigho ! " he yawned.
But he had overshot the mark this time.
With a sudden swift bound Rudolf was upon
him ; his hands gripped Rupert's wrists, and
with his greater strength he bent back the
Count's pliant body till trunk and head lay flat
on the table. Neither man spoke ; their eyes
met ; each heard the other's breathing and felt
the vapour of it on his face. The girl out-
side had seen the movement of Rudolfs
figure, but her cranny did not serve to show
her the two where they were now; she
knelt on her knees in ignorant suspense.
Slowly and with patient force Rudolf began
to work his enemy's arms towards one
another. Rupert had read his design in his
eyes and resisted with tense muscles. It
seemed as though his arms must crack ; but
at last they moved. Inch by inch they were
driven closer ; now the elbows almost
touched; now the wrists joined in reluctant
contact. The sweat broke out on the Count's
brow, and stood in large drops on Rudolf's.
Now the wrists were side by side, and slowly
the long sinewy fingers of Rudolf's right
hand, that held one wrist already in their
308 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
vice, began to creep round the other. The
grip seemed to have half numbed Rupert's
arms, and his struggles - grew fainter. Round
both wrists the sinewy fingers climbed and
coiled ; gradually and timidly the grasp of
the other hand was relaxed and withdrawn.
V/ould the one hold both? With a great
spasm of effort Rupert put it to the proof.
The smile that bent Mr. Rassendyll's lips
gave the answer. He could hold both, with
one hand he could hold both : not for long,
no, but for an instant. And then, in the
instant, his left hand, free at last, shot to the
breast of the Count's coat. It was the same
that he had worn at the hunting-lodge, and
was ragged and torn from the boarhound's
teeth. Rudolf tore it further open, and his
hand dashed in.
"God's curse on you!'* snarled Rupert of
But Mr. Rassendyll still smiled. Then he
drew out a letter. A glance at it showed
him the Queen's seal. As he glanced Rupert
made another effort. The one hand, wearied
out, gave way, and Mr. Rassendyll had no
more than time to spring away, holding his
prize. The next moment he had his revolver
in his hand — none too soon, for Rupert of
Hentzau's barrel faced him, and they stood
thus, opposite to one another, with no more
than three or four feet between the mouths
of their weapons.
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR- 309
There is, indeed, much that may be said
against Rupert of Hentzau, the truth about
him well nigh forbidding that charity of
judgment which we are taught to observe
towards all men. But neither I nor any
man who knew him ever found in him a
shrinking from danger or a fear of death.
It was no feeling such as these, but rather
a cool calculation of chances, that now stayed
his hand. Even if he were victorious in the
duel, and both did not die, yet the noise of
the firearms would greatly decrease his
chances of escape. Moreover he was a
noted swordsman, and conceived that he
was Mr. Rassendyll's superior in that
exercise. The steel offered him at once a
better prospect of victory and more hope
of a safe flight. So he did not pull his
trigger, but, maintaining his aim the while,
"I'm not a street bully, and - don't
excel in a rough-and-tumble. Will you fight
now like a gentleman ? There 's a pair of
blades in the case yonder."
^Mr. Rassendyll, in his turn, was keenly
alive to the peril that still hung over the
Queen. To kill Rupert would not save her
if he himself also were shot and left dead,
or so helpless that he could not destroy
the letter; and while Rupert's revolver was
at his heart he could not tear it up nor
reoch the fire that burnt on the other side
3IO RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
of the room. Nor did he fear the result
of a trial with steel, for he had kept him-
self in practice and improved his skill since
the days when he came first to Strelsau.
"As you will," said he. "Provided we
settle the matter here and now, the man-
ner is the same to me."
" Put your revolver on the table, then,
and I'll lay mine by the side of it."
" I beg your pardon," smiled Rudolf, " but
you must lay yours down first."
" I 'm to trust you, it seems, but you
won't trust me 1 "
"Precisely. You know you can trust me;
you know that I can't trust you."
A sudden flush swept over Rupert of
Hentzau's face. There were moments when
he saw, in the mirror of another's face or
words, the estimation in which honourable
men held him ; and I believe that he hated
Mr. Rassendyll most fiercely, not for thwart-
ing his enterprise, but because he had more
power than any other man to show him
that picture. His brows knit in a frown
and his lips shut tight.
" Aye, but though you won't fire, you '11
destroy the letter," he sneered. " I know
your fine distinctions."
"Again I beg your pardon. You know
very well that, although all Strelsau were
at the door, I wouldn't touch the letter."
With an angry muttered oath Rupert flung
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR. 3H
his revolver on the table. Rudolf came
forward and laid his by it. Then he took
up both, and, crossing to the mantelpiece,
laid them there ; between them he placed
the Queen's letter. A bright blaze burnt
in the stove ; it needed but the slightest
motion of his hand to set the letter be-
yond all danger. But he placed it carefully
on the mantelpiece, and, with a slight smile
on his face, turned to Rupert, saying :
" Now shall we resume the bout that
Fritz von Tarlenheim interrupted in the
forest of Zenda? "
All this while they had been speaking
in subdued accents, resolution in one, anger
in the other, keeping the voice to an even
deliberate lowness. The girl outside caught
only a word here and there ; but now
suddenly the flash of steel gleamed on her
eyes through the crevice of the hinge. She
gave a sudden gasp, and, pressing her face
closer to the opening, listened and looked.
For Rupert of Hentzau had taken the swords
from their case and put them on the
table. With a slight bow Rudolf took one,
and the two assumed their positions.
Suddenly Rupert lowered his point. The
frown vanished from his face, and he spoke
in his usual bantering tone.
"By the way," said he, "perhaps we're
letting our feelings run away with us.
Have you more of a mind now to be King
312 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
of Ruritania? If so, I'm ready to be the
most faithful of your subjects."
"You honour me, Count."
** Provided, of course, that I 'm one of the
most favoured and the richest. Come,
come, the fool is dead now ; he lived like
a fool and he died like a fool. The place
is empty. A dead man has no rights and
suffers no wrongs. Damn it, that 's good
law, isn't it? Take his place and his wife.
You can pay my price then. Or are you
still so virtuous ? Faith, how little some
men learn from the world they live in !
If I had your chance "
"Come, Count, you'd be the last man to
trust Rupert of Hentzau."
" If I made it w^orth his while?"
"But he's a man who would take the
pay and betray his associate."
Again Rupert flushed. When he next
spoke his voice was hard, cold, and low.
"By God, Rudolf Rassendyll," said he,
" I '11 kill you here and now."
" I ask no better than that you should
"And then I'll proclaim that woman for
what she is through all Strelsau."
A smile came on his lips as he watched
" Guard yourself, my lord," said Mr.
" Aye, for no better than There, man,
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR. 313
I 'm ready for you." For Rudolfs blade had
touched his in warning.
The steel jangled. The girl's pale face
was at the crevice of the hinge. She heard
the blades cross again and again. Then
one would run up the other with a sharp
grating slither. At times she caught a
glimpse of a figure in quick forward lunge
or rapid wary withdrawal. Her brain was
almost paralysed. Ignorant of the mind and
heart of young Rupert, she could not con-
ceive that he tried to kill the King. Yet
the words she had caught sounded like the
words of men quarrelling, and she could
not persuade herself that the gentlemen
fenced only for pastime. They were not
speaking now; but she heard their hard
breathing and the movement of their un-
resting feet on the bare boards of the
floor. Then a cry rang out, clear and merry
with the fierce hope of triumph :
"Nearly ! nearly! "
She knew the voice for Rupert of
Hentzau's, and it was the King who an-
swered calmly :
" Nearly isn't quite."
Again she listened. They seemed to be
pausing for a moment, for there was no
sound, save of the hard breathing and deep-
drawn pants of men who rest an instant
in the midst of intense exertion. Then
came again the clash and the slitherings ;
SH RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
and one of them crossed into her view.
She knew the tall figure and she saw the
red hair : it was the King. Backward
step by step he seemed to be driven,
coming nearer and nearer to the door. At
last there was no more than a foot between
him and her ; only the crazy panel pre-
vented her putting out her hand to touch
him. Again the voice of Rupert rang out
in rich exultation :
** I have you now ! Say your prayers,
"Say your prayers!" Then they fought.
It was earnest, not play. And it was the
King — her King — her dear King, who was
in great peril of his life ! For an instant
she knelt, still watching. Then with a low
cry of terror she turned and ran headlong
down the steep stairs. Her mind could not
tell what to do, but her heart cried out
that she must do something for her King.
Reaching the ground floor, she ran with
wide-open eyes into the kitchen. The stew
was on the hob ; the old woman still held
the spoon, but she had ceased to stir and
fallen into a chair.
"He's killing the King! He's killing the
King!" cried Rosa, seizing her mother by
the arm. " Mother, what shall we do ? He's
killing the King!"
The old woman looked up with dull eyes
and a stupid cunning smile.
YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR. 3^5
"Let them alone," she said. "There's
no King here."
"Yes, yes. He's upstairs in the Count's
room. They're fighting, he and the Count
of Hentzau. Mother, Count Rupert will kill
him ! "
"Let them alone. He the King? He's
no king," muttered the old woman again.
For an instant Rosa stood looking down
on her in helpless despair. Then a light
flashed into her eyes.
" I must call for help ! " she cried.
The old woman seemed to spring to
sudden life. She jumped up and caught
her daughter by the shoulder.
" No, no," she whispered in quick accents.
"You — you don't know. Let them alone,
you fool ! It 's not our business. Let them
" Let me go, mother, let me go ! Mother,
I must help the King!"
"I'll not let you go," said Mother Holf.
But Rosa was young and strong; her
heart was fired with terror for the King's
" I must go ! " she cried ; and she flung her
mother's grasp off" from her, so that the old
woman was thrown back into her chair, and
the spoon fell from her hand and clattered
on the tiles. But Rosa turned and fled down
the passage and through the shop. The
bolts delayed her trembling fingers for an
3l6 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
instant. Then she flung the door wide. A
new amazement filled her eyes at the sight
of the eager crowd before the house. Then
her eyes fell on me where I stood beside
the Lieutenant and Rischenheim, and she
uttered her wild cry, "Help! The King!"
With one bound I was by her and in the
house, while Bernenstein cried, "Quicker!"
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING.
THE things that men call presages, pre-
sentiments, and so forth, are to my
mind for the most part idle nothings:
sometimes it is only that probable events
cast before them a natural shadow which
superstitious fancy twists into a heaven-sent
warning ; oftener the same desire that gives
conception works fulfilment, and the dreamer
sees in the result of his own act and will
a mysterious accomplishment independent of
his effort. Yet when I observe thus calmly
and with good sense on the matter to the
Constable of Zenda, he shakes his head
and answers : ** But Rudolf Rassendyll
knew from the first that he would come
again to Strelsau and engage young Rupert
point to point. Else why did he practise
with the foils so as to be a better swords-
man the second time than he v/as the first ?
Mayn't God do anything that Fritz von
Tarlenheim can't understand? A pretty
notion, on my life I " And he goes off
Well, be it inspiration or be it delusion
— and the difference stands often on a hair's
3l8 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
breadth— I am glad that Rudolf had it. For
if a man once grows rusty, it is everything
short of impossible to put the fine polish on
his skill again. Mr. Rassendyll had strength,
will, coolness, and, of course, courage.
None would have availed had not his eye
been in perfect familiarity with its work and
his hand obeyed it as readily as the bolt
slips in a well-oiled groove. As the thing
stood, the lithe agility and unmatched dash
of young Rupert but just missed being too
much for him. He was in deadly peril
when the girl Rosa ran down to bring him
aid. His practised skill was able to maintain
his defence. He sought to do no more, but
endured Rupert's fiery attacks and wily
feints in an almost motionless stillness.
Almost, I say; for the slight turns of wrist
that seem nothing are everything, and served
here to keep his skin whole and his life in
There was an instant — Rudolf saw it in
his eyes and dwelt on it when he lightly
painted the scene for us — when there
dawned on Rupert of Hentzau the know-
ledge that he could not break down his
enemy's guard. Surprise, chagrin, amuse-
ment, or something like it, seemed blended
in his look. He could not make out how
he was caught and checked in every effort,
meeting, it seemed, a barrier of iron im-
pregnable in rest. His quick brain grasped
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING. 319
the lesson in an instant. If his skill were
not the greater, the victory would not be
his, for his endurance was the less. He
was younger and his frame not so closely
knit ; pleasure had taken its tithe from him ;
perhaps a good cause goes for something.
Even while he almost pressed Rudolf against
the panel of the door, he seemed to know
that his measure of success was full. But
what the hand could not compass the head
might contrive. In quickly conceived strategy
he began to give pause in his attack, nay,
he retreated a step or two. No scruples
hampered his devices, no code of honour
limited the means he would employ. Backing
before his opponent, he seemed to Rudolf
to be faint-hearted ; he was baffled, but
seemed despairing ; he was weary, but
played a more complete fatigue. Rudolf
advanced, pressing and attacking, only to
meet a defence as perfect as his own.
They were in the middle of the room now,
close by the table. Rupert, as though he
had eyes in the back of his head, skirted
round, avoiding it by a narrow inch. His
breathing was quick and distressed, gasp
tumbling over gasp, but still his eye was
alert and his hand unerring. He had but a
few moments' more effort left in him; it
was enough if he could reach his goal and
perpetrate the trick on which his mind, fertile
in every base device, was set. For it was
320 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
towards the mantelpiece that his retreat,
seeming forced, in truth so deliberate, led
him. There was the letter, there lay the
revolvers. The time to think of risks was
gone by ; the time to boggle over what
honour allowed or forbade had never come
to Rupert of Hentzau. If he could not
win by force and skill he would win by guile,
and by treachery to the test that he had
himself invited. The revolvers lay on the
mantelpiece : he meant to possess himself
of one, if he could gain an instant in which
to snatch it.
The device that he adopted was nicely
chosen. It was too late to call a rest or ask
breathing - space : Mr. Rassendyll was not
blind to the advantage he had won, and
chivalry would have turned to folly had it
allowed such indulgence. Rupert was hard
by the mantelpiece now. The sweat was
pouring from his face, and his breast
seemed like to burst in the effort after
breath; yet he had enough strength for his
purpose. He must have slackened his hold
on his weapon, for when Rudolf's blade
next struck it, it flew from his hand, twirled
out of a nerveless grasp, and slid along
the floor. Rupert stood disarmed, and
<*Pick it up," said Mr. Rassendyll, never
thinking there had been a trick.
*'Aye, and you'll truss me while I do it.'*
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING. 32 1
"You young fool, don't you know me
yet ? " and Rudolf Iqwered his blade, resting
its point on the floor, while with his left
hand he indicated Rupert's weapon. Yet
something warned him : it may be there
came a look in Rupert's eyes, perhaps of
scorn for his enemy's simplicity, perhaps
of pure triumph in the graceless knavery.
Rudolf stood waiting.
" You swear you won't touch me while
I pick it up ? " asked Rupert, shrinking
back a little and thereby getting an inch
or two nearer the mantelpiece.
"You have my promise; pick it up. I
won't wait any longer."
" You won't kill me unarmed ? " cried
Rupert, in alarmed scandalised expostulation.
"No; but "
The speech went imfinished, unless a
sudden cry were its ending. And as he
cried, Rudolf Rassendyll, dropping his sword
on the ground, sprang forward. For Rupert's
hand had shot out behind him and was on
the butt of one of the revolvers. The
whole trick flashed on Rudolf, and he sprang,
flinging his long arms round Rupert. But
Rupert had the revolver in his hand.
In all likelihood the two neither heard
nor heeded, though it seemed to me that
the creaks and groans of the old stairs were
loud enough to wake the dead. For now
322 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Rosa had given the alarm : Bernenstein and
I — or I and Bernenstein (for I was first,
and therefore may put myself first) — had
rushed up. Hard behind us came Rischcn-
heim, and hot on his heels a score of
fellov7S, pushing and shouldering and tramp-
ling. We in front had a fair start, and
gained the stairs unimpeded ; Rischenheim
was caught up in the ruck and gulfed in the
stormy tossing group that struggled for first
footing on the steps. Yet soon they were
after us, and we heard them reach the
first landing as we sped up to the last.
There was a confused din through all the
house, and it seemed now to echo muffled
and vague through the walls from the street
without. I was conscious of it, although I
paid no heed to anything but reaching the
room where the King — where Rudolf— was.
Now I was there, Bernenstein hanging to
my heels. The door did not hold us a
second. I was in, he after me. He slam-
med the door and set his back against it,
just as the rush of feet flooded the highest
flight of stairs. And at the moment a
revolver shot rang clear and loud.
The Lieutenant and I stood still, he
against the door, I a pace farther into the
room. The sight we saw was enough to
arrest us with its strange interest. The
smoke of the shot was curling about, but
neither man seemed wounded. The revolver
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING. 323
was in Rupert's hand, and its muzzle smoked.
But Rupert was jammed against the wall,
just by the side of the mantelpiece. With
one hand Rudolf had pinned his left arm
to the wainscoting higher than his head,
with the other he held his right wrist. I
drew slowly nearer : if Rudolf was unarmed,
I could fairly enforce a truce and put them
on equality ; yet, though Rudolf was unarmed,
I did nothing. The sight of his face stopped
me. He was very pale and his lips were
set, but it was his eyes that caught my
gaze, for they were glad and merciless. I
had never seen him look thus before. I
turned from him to young Hentzau's face.
Rupert's teeth were biting his under lip,
the sweat dropped, and the veins swelled
large and blue on his forehead; his eyes
were set on Rudolf Rassendyll. Fascinated,
I drew nearer. Then I saw what passed.
Inch by inch Rupert's arm curved, the
elbow bent, the hand that had pointed
almost straight from him and at Mr. Rassen-
dyll pointed now away from both towards
the window. - But its motion did not stop ;
it followed the line of a circle : now it was
on Rupert's arm ; still it moved, and quicker
now, for the power of resistance grew less.
Rupert was beaten ; he felt it and knew it,
and I read the knowledge in his eyes. I
stepped up to Rudolf Rassendyll. He heard
or felt me, and turned his eyes for an
324 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
instant. I do not know what my face said,
but he shook his head and turned back to
Rupert. The revolver, held still in the
man's own hand, was at his heart. The
motion ceased, the point was reached.
I looked again at Rupert. Now his face
was easier ; there was a slight smile on his
lips ; he flung back his comely head and
rested thus against tke wainscoting ; his
eyes asked a question of Rudolf Rassendyll.
I turned my gaze to where the answer was
to come, for Rudolf made none in words.
By the swiftest of movements he shifted his
grasp from Rupert's wrist and pounced on
his hand. Now his forefinger rested on
Rupert's, and Rupert's was on the trigger.
I am no soft-heart, but I laid a hand on his
shoulder. He took no heed ; I dared do
no more. Rupert glanced at me. I caught
his look, but what could I say to him ?
Again my eyes were riveted on Rudolfs
finger. Now it was crooked round Rupert's,
seeming like a man who strangles another.
I will not say more. He smiled to the
last ; his proud head, which had never bent
for shame, did not bend for fear. There
was a sudden tightening in the pressure of
that crooked forefinger, a flash, a noise.
He was held up against the wall for an
instant by Rudolf's hand ; when that was
removed he sank, a heap that looked all
head and knees.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING. 325
But hot on the sound of the discharge
came a shout and an oath from Bernenstein.
He was hurled away from the door, and
through it burst Rischenheim and the whole
score after him. They were jostling one
another and crying out to know what had
passed and where the King was. High over
all the voices, coming from the back of the
throng, I heard the cry of the girl Rosa.
But as soon as they were in the room, the
same spell that had fastened Bernenstein
and me to inactivity imposed its numbing
power on them also. Only Rischenheim gave
a sudden sob and ran forward to where his
cousin lay. The rest stood staring. For a
moment Rudolf faced them. Then, without
a word, he turned his back. He put out
the right hand with which he had just
killed Rupert of Hentzau, and took the letter
from the mantelpiece. He glanced at the
envelope, then he opened the letter. The
handwriting banished any last doubt he had;
he tore the letter across, and again in four
pieces, and yet again to smaller fragments.
Then he sprinkled the morsels of paper
into the blaze of the fire. I believe that
every eye in the room followed them and
watched till they curled and crinkled into
black wafery ashes. Thus at last the
Queen's letter was safe.
When he had thus set the seal on his task,
he turned round to us again. He paid no
326 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
heed to Rischenheim, who was crouching
down by the body of Rupert ; but he looked
at Bernenstein and me, and then at the
people behind us. He waited a moment
before he spoke ; then his utterance was
not only calm but also very slow, so that he
seemed to be choosing his words carefully.
" Gentlemen," said he, ** a full account
of this matter will be rendered by myself
in due time. For the present it must suffice
to say that this gentleman who lies here dead
sought an interview with me on private
business. I came here to find him, desiring, as
he professed to desire, privacy. And here
he tried to kill me. The result of his
attempt you see."
I bowed low, Bernenstein did the like, and
all the rest followed our example.
" A full account shall be given," said
Rudolf. <* Now let all leave me except the
Count of Tarlenheim and Lieutenant von
Most unwillingly, with gaping mouths and
wonder-struck eyes, the throng filed out of
the door. Rischenheim rose to his feet.
" You stay, if you like," said Rudolf, and
the Count again knelt by his kinsman.
Seeing the rough bedsteads by the wall of
the attic, I touched Rischenheim on the
shoulder and pointed to one of them.
Together we lifted Rupert of Hentzau. The
revolver was still in his hand, but Bernenstein
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING. 327
disengaged it from his grasp. Then Rischen-
heim and I laid him down, disposing his body
decently and spreading over it his riding-
cloak, still spotted with the mud gathered on
his midnight expedition to the hunting-lodge.
His face looked much as before the shot was
fired ; in death, as in life, he was the
handsomest fellow in all Ruritania. I wager
that many tender hearts ached and many
bright eyes were dimmed for him when the
news of his guilt and death went forth.
There are ladies still in Strelsau who wear
his trinkets in an ashamed devotion that
cannot forget. Well, even I, who had every
good cause to hate and scorn him, set the
hair smooth on his brow ; while Rischenheim
was sobbing like a child, and young Bern-
enstein rested his head on his arm as he
leant on the mantelpiece and would not look
at the dead. Rudolf alone seemed not to
heed or think of him. His eyes had lost
their unnatural look of joy, and were now
calm and tranquil. He took his own revolver
from the mantelpiece and put it in his pocket,
laying Rupert's neatly where his had been.
Then he turned to me, and said :
" Come, let us go to the Queen and tell
her that the letter is beyond reach of hurt."
Moved by some impulse, I walked to the
window and put my head out. I was seen
from below and a great shout greeted me.
The crowd before the doors grew every
328 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
moment : the people flocking from all quarters
would soon multiply it a hundredfold ; for
such news as had been carried from the
attic by twenty wondering tongiies spreads
like a forest -fire. It would be through
Strelsau in a few minutes, through the
kingdom in an hour, through Europe in but
little longer. Rupert was dead and the
letter was safe, but what were we to tell
that great concourse concerning their King ?
A queer feeling of helpless perplexity came
over me and found vent in a foolish laugh.
Bernenstein was by my side ; he also looked
out, and turned again with an eager face.
" You '11 have a royal progress to your
palace," said he to Rudolf Rassendyll.
Mr. Rassendyll made no answer, but,
coming to me, took my arm. We went out,
leaving Rischenheim by the body. I did not
think af him ; Bernenstein probably thought
that he would keep his pledge given to the
Queen, for he followed us immediately and
without demur. There was nobody outside
the door. The house was very quiet, and
the tumult from the street reached us only
in a muffled roar. But when we came to
the foot of the stairs we found the two
women. Mother Holf stood on the threshold
of the kitchen, looking amazed and terrified.
Rosa was clinging to her; but as soon as
Rudolf came in sight the girl sprang forward
and flung herself on her knees before him,
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING. 329
pouring out incoherent thanks to Heaven
for his safety. He bent down and spoke to
her in a whisper ; she looked up with a flush
of pride on her face. He seemed to hesitate
a moment ; he glanced at his hands, but he
wore no ring save that which the Queen had
given him long ago. Then he disengaged
his chain and took his gold watch from his
pocket. Turning it over, he showed me the
" Rudolfus Rex," he whispered with a
whimsical smile, and pressed the watch into
the girl's hand, saying, " Keep this to remind
you of me."
She laughed and sobbed as she caught it with
one hand, while with the other she held his.
" You must let me go," he said gently.
" I have much to do."
I took her by the arm and induced her to
rise. Rudolf, released, passed on to where
the old woman stood. He spoke to her in
a stern distinct voice.
*♦ I don't know," he said, ** how far you
are a party to the plot that was hatched in
your house. For the present I am content
not to know, for it is no pleasure to me to
detect disloyalty or to punish an old woman.
But take care ! The first word you speak,
the first act you do against me, the King,
will bring its certain and swift punishment.
If you trouble me, I won't spare you. In
spite of traitors, I am still King in Strelsau."
330 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
He paused, looking hard in her face. Her
lip quivered and her eyes fell.
" Yes," he repeated, ** I am King in
Strelsau. Keep your hands out of mischief
and your tongue quiet.'*
She made no answer. He passed on. I
was following, but as I went by her the
old woman clutched my arm.
"In God's name, who is he?" she
"Are you mad?" I asked, lifting my
brows. " Don't you know the King when
he speaks to you ? And you 'd best remem-
ber what he said. He has servants who'll
do his orders."
She let me go and fell back a step.
Young Bernenstein smiled at her ; he at
least found more pleasure than anxiety in
our position. Thus, then, we left them :
the old woman terrified, amazed, doubtful ;
the girl with ruddy cheeks and shining eyes,
clasping in her two hands the keepsake
that the King himself had given her.
Bernenstein had more presence of mind
than I. He ran forward, got in front of
both of us, and flung the door open. Then,
bowing very low, he stood aside to let
Rudolf pass. The street was full from end
to end now, and a mighty shout of welcome
rose from thousands of throats. Hats and
handkerchiefs were waved in mad exulta-
tion and triumphant loyalty. The tidings of
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING. 331
the King's escape had flashed through the
city, and all were there to do him honour.
They had seized some gentleman's landau and
taken out the horses. The carriage stood
now before the door of the house. Rudolf
had waited a moment on the threshold, lifting
his hat once or twice ; his face was perfectly
calm, and I saw no trembling in his hands.
In an instant a dozen arms took gentle hold
of him and impelled him forward. He
mounted the carriage ; Bernenstein and I
followed, with bare heads, and sat on the
back seat, facing him. The people were
round as thick as bees, and it seemed as
though wc could not move without crushing
somebody. Yet presently the wheels turned
and they began to drag us away at a slow
walk. Rudolf kept raising his hat, bowing
now to right, now to left. But once, as he
turned, his eyes met ours. In spite of what
was behind and what was in front, we all
" I wish they 'd go a little quicker," said
Rudolf in a whisper, as he conquered his
smile and turned again to acknowledge the
loyal greeting of his subjects.
But what did they know of any need for
haste? They did not know what stood on
the turn of the next few hours, nor the
momentous question that pressed for instant
decision. So far from hurrying, they leng-
thened our ride by many pauses; they kept
332 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
US before the Cathedral, while some ran
and got the joy - bells ringing ; we were
stopped to receive improvised bouquets from
the hands of pretty girls and impetuous
handshakings from enthusiastic loyalists.
Through it all Rudolf kept his composure,
and seemed to play his part with native
kingliness. I heard Bernenstein whisper,
"By God, he must stick to it!".
At last we came in sight of the palace.
Here also there was a great stir. Many
officers and soldiers were about. I saw the
Chancellor's carriage standing near the
portico, and a dozen other handsome equi-
pages were waiting till they could approach.
Our human horses drew us slowly up to the
entrance. Helsing was on the steps, and ran
down to the carriage, greeting the King with
passionate fervour. The shouts of the crowd
grew louder still.
But suddenly a stillness fell on them; it
lasted but an instant, and was the prelude
to a deafening roar. I was looking at
Rudolf and saw his head turn suddenly and
his eyes grow bright. I looked where his
eyes had gone. There, on the top step of
the broad marble flight, stood the Queen,
pale as the marble itself, stretching out her
hands towards Rudolf. The people had seen
her: she it was whom this last rapturous
cheer greeted. My wife stood olose behind
her, and farther back others of her ladies.
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING. 333
Bcmcnstein and I sprang out. With a last
salute to the people Rudolf followed us. He
walked up to the highest step but one, and
there fell on one knee and kissed the Queen's
hand. I was by him, and when he looked
up in her face I heard him say:
"All's well. He's dead, and the letter
She raised him with her hand. Her lips
moved, but it seemed as though she coiid
find no words to speak. She put her arm
through his, and thus they stood for an
instant, fronting all Strelsau. Again the
cheers rang out, and young Bemenstein
sprang forward, waving his helmet and crying
like a man possessed, " God save the King ! "
I was carried away by his enthusiasm and
followed his lead. All the people took up
the cry with boundless fervour, and thus we
all, high and low in Strelsau, that afternoon
hailed Mr. Rassendyll for our King. There
has been no such zeal since Henry the Lion
came back from his wars, a hundred and
fifty years ago.
"And yet," observed old Helsing at my
elbow, ** agitators say there is no enthusiasm
for the House of Elphberg ! " He took a
pinch of snuff in scornful satisfaction.
Young Bernenstein interrupted his cheering
with a short laugh, but fell to his task again
in a moment. I had recovered my senses
by now, and stood panting, looking down on
334 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
the crowd. It was growing dusk and the
faces became blurred into a white sea. Yet
suddenly I seemed to discern one glaring up
at me from the middle of the crowd — the
pale face of a man with a bandage about
his head. I caught Bernenstein's arm and
whispered ** Bauer," pointing with my finger
where the face was. But even as I pointed,
it was gone : though it seemed impossible for
a man to move in that press, yet it was
gone. It had come like a cynic's warning
across the scene of mock triumph, and went
swiftly as it had come, leaving behind it a
reminder of our peril. I felt suddenly sick
at heart, and almost cried out to the people
to have done with their silly shouting.
At last we got away. The plea of fatigue
met all visitors who made their way to the
door and sought to offer their congratulations ;
it could not disperse the crowd that hung
persistently and contentedly about, ringing
us in the palace with a living fence. We
still heard their jests and cheers when we
were alone in the small saloon that opens
on the gardens^ My wife and I had come
there at Rudolf's request ; Bernenstein had
assumed the duty of guarding the door.
Evening was now falling fast, and it grew
dark. The garden was quiet; the distant
noise of the crowd threw its stillness into
greater relief. Rudolf told us there the
story of his struggle with Rupert of Hentzau
THE TRIUMPH OF THE KING. 335
in the attic of the old house, dwelling on
it as lightly as he could. The Queen stood
by his chair — she would not let him rise ;
when he finished by telling how he burnt
her letter, she stooped suddenly and kissed
him on the brov/. Then she looked straight
across at Helga almost defiantly; but Helga
ran to her and caught her in her arms.
Rudolf Rassendyll sat with his head resting
on his hand. He looked up once at the
two women ; then he caught my eye, and
beckoned me to come to him. I approached
him, but for several moments he did not
speak. Again he motioned to me, and,
resting my hand on the arm of his chair,
I bent my head close down to his. He
glanced again at the Queen, seemed afraid
that she would hear what he wished to say.
"Fritz," he whispered at last, "as soon
as it 's fairly dark I must get away.
Bemen stein will come with me. You must
" Where can you go ? *'
" To the lodge. I must meet Sapt and
arrange matters with him."
I did not understand what plan he had
in his head, or what scheme he could
contrive. But at the moment my mind
was not directed to such matters ; it was
set on the sight before my eyes.
"And the Queen?" I whispered in answer
336 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Low as my voice was, she heard it. She
turned to us with a sudden startled move-
ment, still holding Helga's hand. Her eyes
searched our faces, and she knew in an
instant of what we had been speaking. A
little longer still she stood, gazing at us.
Then she suddenly sprang forward and threw
herself on her knees before Rudolf, her
hands uplifted and resting on his shoulders.
She forgot our presence and everything in the
world save her great dread of losing him again.
"Not again, Rudolf, my darling! Not
again! Rudolf, I can't bear it again."
Then she dropped her head on his knees
He raised his hand and gently stroked the
gleaming hair. But he did not look at her.
He gazed out at the garden, which grew
dark and dreary in the gathering gloom.
His lips were tight set and his face pale
and drawn. I watched him for a moment;
then I drew my wife away, and we sat
down at a table some way off. From out-
side still came the cheers and tumult of the
joyful excited crowd. Within there was no
sound but the Queen's stifled sobbing.
Rudolf caressed her shining hair and gazed
into the night with sad set eyes.
She raised her head and looked into his
"You'll break my heart," she said.
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR!
RUPERT of Hentzau was dead. That
was the thought which among all our
perplexities came back to me, carrying
with it a wonderful relief. To those who have
not learnt in fighting against him the height
of his audacity and the reach of his designs
it may well seem incredible that -.his death
should breed comfort at a moment when the
future was still so dark and uncertain. Yet
to me it was so great a thing that I could
hardly bring myself to the conviction that
we had done with him. True he was dead ;
but could he not strike a blow at us even
from beyond the gulf ?
Such were the half-superstitious thoughts
that forced their way into my mind as I
stood looking out on the crowd which ob-
stinately encircled the front of the palace.
I was alone ; Rudolf was with the Queen,
my wife was resting, Bernenstein had sat
down to a meal for which I could find no
appetite. By an effort I freed myself from
my fancies and tried to concentrate my
bram on the facts of our position. We were
ringed round with difficulties. To solve them
338 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
was beyond my power ; but I knew where
my wish an4 longing lay. I had no desire
to find means by which Rudolf Rassendyll
should escape unknown from Strelsau, the
King, although dead, be again in death the
King, and the Queen be left desolate on her
mournful and solitary throne. It might be
that a brain more astute than mine could
bring all this to pass. My imagination would
have none of it, but dwelt lovingly on the
reign of him who was now King in Strelsau,
declaring that to give the kingdom such a
ruler would be a splendid fraud, and prove
a stroke so bold as to defy detection. Against
it stood only the suspicions of Mother Holf—
fear or money would close her lips— and the
knowledge of Bauer ; Bauer's mouth could
also be shut, aye, and should be before we
were many days older. My reverie led me
far; I saw the future years unroll before me
in the fair record of a great King's sovereignty.
It seemed to me that by the violence and
bloodshed we had passed through Fate, for
once penitent, was but righting the mistake
made when Rudolf was not born a king.
For a long while I stood thus, musing
and dreaming; I was roused by the sound
of the door opening and closing; turning,
I saw the Queen. She was alone, and came
towards me with timid steps. She looked
out for a moment on the Square and the
people, but drew back suddenly in apparent
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR! 339
fear lest they should see her. Then she
sat down and turned her face towards mine.
I read in her eyes something of the conflict
of emotions which possessed her; she seemed
at once to deprecate my disapproval and
to ask my sympathy ; she prayed me to be
gentle to her fault and kind to her happiness ;
self-reproach shadowed her joy, but the
golden gleam of it strayed through. I looked
eagerly at her : this would not have been
her bearing had she come from a last fare-
well ; for the radiance was there, however
much dimmed by sorrow and by fearfulness.
"Fritz," she began softly, "I am wicked —
so wicked. "Won't God punish me for my
gladness ? "
I fear I paid little heed to her trouble,
though I can understand it well enough now.
"Gladness?" I cried in a low voice. "Then
you 've persuaded him ? "
She smiled at me for an instant.
"I mean you've agreed ?" I stammered.
Her eyes again sought mine, as she said
in a whisper :
" Some day, not now. Oh, not now. Now
would be too much. But some day, Fritz,
if God will not deal too hardly with mc, I —
I shall be his, Fritz."
I was intent on my vision, not on hers.
I wanted him King; she did not care what
he was, so that he was hers, so that he
should not leave her.
340 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" He '11 take the throne ? " I cried trium-
" No, no, no. Not the throne. He 's going
"Going away!" I could not keep the dis-
may out of my voice.
**Yes, now. But not — not for ever. It
will be long — oh, so long! — but I can bear it,
if I know that at last "
She stopped, still looking up at me with
eyes that implored pardon and sympathy.
*' I don't understand," said I bluntly, and
I fear gruffly also.
*'You were right," she said: "I did per-
suade him. He wanted to go away again as
he went before. Ought I to have let him ?
Yes, yes ! But I couldn't. Fritz, hadn't I
done enough ? You don't know what I 've
endured. And I must endure more still.
For he will go now, and the time will be
very long. But at last we shall be together.
There is pity in God ; we shall be together
"If he goes now, how can he come
back ? "
" He will not come back; I shall go to him.
I shall give up the throne and go to him,
some day, when I can be spared from here,
when I've done my — my work."
I was aghast at this shattering of my vision,
yet I could not be hard to her. I said nothing,
but took her hand and pressed it.
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR! 341
«*You wanted him to be King?" she
"With all my heart, madame," said I.
"He wouldn't, Fritz. No, and I shouldn't
dare to do that either."
I fell back on the practical difficulties.
"But how can he go?" I asked.
" I don't know. But he knows : he has a
We fell again into silence ; her eyes grew
more calm and seemed to look forward in
patient hope to the time when her happiness
should come to her. I felt like a man suddenly
robbed of the exaltation of wine and sunk to
" I don't see how he can go," I said
She did not answer me. A moment later
the door again opened. Rudolf came in,
followed by Bernenstein. Both wore riding
boots and cloaks. I saw on Bernenstein's
face just such a look of disappointment as I
knew must be on mine. Rudolf seemed calm
and even happy. He walked straight up to
" The horses will be ready in a few
minutes," he said gently. Then, turning to
me, he asked, " You know what we are
going to do, Fritz ?"
"Not I, sire," I answered sulkily.
"Not I, sire!" he repeated, in half-merry
half- sad mockery. Then he came between
342 RUPERT OF HE>7TZAU.
Berncnstein and mc and passed his arms
through ours. *' You two villains ! " he said.
" You two unscrupulous villains I Here you
are as rough as bears, because I won't be a
thief! Why have I killed young Rupert and
left you rogues alive?"
I felt the friendly pressure of his hand on
my arm. I could not answer him. With
every word from his lips and every moment
of his presence my sorrow grew keener that
he would not stay. Bernenstein looked across
at me and shrugged his shoulders despairingly.
Rudolf gave a little laugh.
"You won't forgive me for not being as
great a rogue, won't you?" he asked.
Well, I found nothing to say, but I took my
arm out of his and clasped his hand. He
gripped mine hard.
"That's old Fritz!" he said; and he caught
hold of Bernenstein' s hand, which the Lieu-
tenant yielded with some reluctance. " Now
for the plan," said he. ** Bernenstein and I
set out at once for the lodge — yes, publicly,
as publicly as we can. I shall ride right
through the people there, showing myself to
as many as will look at me, and letting it
be known to everybody where I 'm going.
We shall get there quite early to-morrow,
before it 's light. There we shall find what
you know. We shall find Sapt too, and he'll
put the finishing touches to our plan for us.
Hullo, what's that?"
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR 1 343
There was a sudden fresh shouting from
the large crowd that still lingered outside
the palace. I ran to the window and saw a
commotion in the midst of them. I flung the
sash up. Then I heard a well-known loud
strident voice :
*' Make way, you rascals, make way ! "
I turned round again, full of excitement.
"h's Sapt himself!" I said. "He's riding
like mad through the crowd, and your
servant's just behind him."
" My God, what 's happened ? Why have
they left the lodge ? " cried Bernenstein.
The Queen looked up in startled alarm,
and, rising to her feet, came and passed
her arm through Rudolfs. Thus we all
stood, listening to the people good-naturedly
cheering Sapt, whom they had recognised,
and bantering James, whom they took for a
servant of the Constable's.
The minutes seemed very long as we
waited in utter perplexity, almost in con-
sternation. The same thought was in the
mind of all of us, silently imparted by one
to another in the glances we exchanged.
What could have brought them from their
guard of the great secret save its discovery ?
They would never have left their post while
the fulfilment of their trust was possible.
By some mishap, some unforeseen chance,
the King's body must have been discovered.
Then the King's death was known, and the
344 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
news of it might any moment astonish and
bewilder the city.
At last the door was flung open, and a
servant announced the Constable of Zenda.
Sapt was covered with dust and mud, and
James, who entered close on his heels, was
in no better plight. Evidently they had
ridden hard and furiously; indeed they were
still panting. Sapt, with a most perfunctory
bow to the Queen, came straight to where
*« Is he dead ? ** he asked, without preface.
" Yes, Rupert is dead," answered Mr.
Rassendyll: "I killed him."
"And the letter ? "
"I burnt it."
"And Rischenheim ? '*
The Queen struck in.
** The Count of Luzau- Rischenheim will say
and do nothing against me," she said.
Sapt lifted his brows a little.
"Well, and Bauer?" he asked.
"Bauer's at large," I answered.
"Hum! Well it's only Bauer," said the
Constable, seeming tolerably well pleased.
Then his eyes fell on Rudolf and Bemenstein.
He stretched out his hand and pointed to
their riding-boots. "Whither away, so late
at night?" he asked.
" First together to the lodge, to find you ;
then I alone to the frontier," said Mr.
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR ! 345
"One thing at a time. The frontier will
wait. What does Your Majesty want with
me at the lodge ? "
** I want so to contrive that I shall be no
longer Your Majesty," said Rudolf.
Sapt flung himself in a chair and took off
"Come, tell me what has happened to-day
in Strelsau,* he said.
We gave a short and hurried account. He
listened with few signs of approval or dis-
approval ; but I thought I saw a gleam in his
eyes when I described how all the city had
hailed Rudolf as its King, and the Queen
received him as her husband before the eyes
of all. Again the hope and vision, shattered
by Rudolf's calm resolution, inspired me.
Sapt said little, but he had the air of a man
with some news in reserve. He seemed to
be comparing what we told him with some-
thing already known to him but unknown to
us. The little servant stood all the while
in respectful silence by the door; but I could
see by a glance at his alert face that he
followed the whole scene v/ith keen attention.
At the end of the story Rudolf turned to
"And your secret — is it safe?" he asked.
«* Aye, it 's safe enough."
" Nobody has seen what you had to hide ? "
" No ; and nobody knows that the King is
dead," answered Sap'.
34^ RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
" Then what brings you here ? "
** Why, the same thing that was about to
bring you to the lodge : the need of a meet-
ing between yourself and me, sire."
** But the lodge, — is it left unguarded ? "
"The lodge is safe enough," said Colonel
Unquestionably there was a secret, a new
secret, hidden behind the curt words and
brusque manner. I could restrain myself no
longer, and sprang forward, saying:
" What is it ? Tell us. Constable ! "
He looked at me, then glanced at Mr.
"I should like to hear your plan first," he
said to Rudolf. ** How do you mean to account
for your presence alive in the city to-day,
when the King has lain dead in the hunting-
lodge since last night ? "
We drew closer together as Rudolf began
his answer. Sapt alone lay back in his chair.
The Queen also had resumed her seat; she
seemed to pay little heed to what we said.
I think that she was still engrossed with
the struggle and tumult in her own soul.
The sin of which she accused herself, and
the joy to which her whole being sprang in
a greeting which would not be abashed, were
at strife between themselves, but joined hands
to exclude from her mind any other thought.
" In an hour I must be gone from here,"
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR ! 347
"If you wish that, it's easy," observed
**' Come, Sapt, be reasonable," smiled Mr.
Rassendyll. " Early to-morrow we, you and
" Oh, I also ? " asked the Colonel.
" Yes : you, Bernenstein, and I will be at
"That's not impossible, though I have had
nearly enough riding."
Rudolf fixed his eyes firmly on Sapt's.
"You see," said he, "the King reaches his
hunting-lodge early in the morning."
" I follow you, sire."
"And what happens there, Sapt? Does he
shoot himself accidentally ? "
"Well, that happens sometimes.'*
"Or does an assassin kill him?"
" Eh, but you 've made the best assassin
Even at this moment I could not help
smiling at the old fellow's surly wit and
Rudolf's amused tolerance of it.
" Or does his faithful attendant, Herbert,
shoot him ? "
"What, make poor Herbert a murderer?"
"Oh, no! By accident — and then, in re-
morse, kill himself."
"That's very pretty. But doctors have
awkward views as to when a man can have
"My good Constable, doctors have palms
348 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
as v/ell as ideas. If you fill the one you
supply the other."
*'I think," said Sapt, "that both the plans
are good. Suppose we choose the latter,
what then ? "
"Why, then, by to-morrow at mid-day the
news flashes through Ruritania — yes, and
through Europe — that the King, miraculously
preserved to-day "
** Praise be to God ! " interjected Colonel
Sapt; and young Eernenstein laughed.
<* — Has met a tragic end."
" It will occasion great grief," said Sapt.
"Meanwhile I am safe over the frontier."
" Oh, you 're quite safe ? "
" Absolutely. And in the afternoon of to-
morrow, you and Eernenstein will set out
for Strelsau, bringing with you the body of
the King." And Rudolf, after a pause, whis-
pered : " You must shave his face. And if
the doctors want to talk about how long he 's
been dead, why, they have, as I say, palms."
Sapt sat silent for awhile, apparently con-
sidering the scheme. It was risky enough
in all conscience, but success had made Rudolf
bold, and he had learnt how slow suspicion
is if a deception be bold enough. It is only
likely frauds that are detected.
" Well, what do you say ? " asked Mr.
Rassendyll. I observed that he said nothing
to Sapt of what the Queen and he had
determined to do afterwards.
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR 1 349
Sapt wrinkled his forehead. I saw him
glance at James, and the slightest briefest
smile showed on James's face.
"It's dangerous, of course," pursued Ru-
dolf. '• But I believe that when they see
the King's body "
"That's the point," interrupted Sapt.
"They can't see the King's body."
Rudolf looked at him with some surprise.
Then speaking in a low voice, lest the
Queen should hear and be distressed, he
went on :
" You must prepare it, you know. Bring
it here in a shell ; only a few officials need
see the face."
Sapt rose to his feet and stood before Mr.
"The plan's a pretty one, but it breaks
down at one point," said he in a strange
voice, even harsher than his was wont to
be. I was on fire with excitement, for I
would have staked my life now that he had
some strange tidings for us. " There is no
body," said he.
Even Mr. Rassendyll' s composure gave
way. He sprang forward, catching Sapt by
"No body? What do you mean?" he
Sapt cast another glance at James, and
then began in an even mechanical voice, as
though he were reciting a lesson he had
350 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
learnt, or playing a part that habit made
" That poor fellow Herbert carelessly left
a candle burning where the oil and the v>70od
were kept," he said. " This afternoon, about
six, James and I lay down for a nap after
our meal. At about seven James came to my
side and roused me. My room was full of
smoke. The lodge was ablaze. I darted
from my bed : the fire had made too much
headway, we could not hope to quench it ;
we had but one thought " He suddenly
paused, and looked at James.
<*But one thought, to save our companion,"
said James gravely.
" But one thought, to save our companion.
We rushed to the door of the room where he
was. I opened the door and tried to enter.
It was certain death. James tried, but fell
back. Again I rushed in. James pulled me
back: it was but another death. We had to
save ourselves. We gained the open door.
The lodge was a sheet of flame. We could
do nothing but stand watching, till the swiftly
burning wood blackened to ashes and the
flames died down. ^ As we watched we knew
that all in the cottage must be dead. What
could we do ? At last James started off" in
the hope of getting help. He found a party
of charcoal-burners, and they came with him.
The flames had burnt down now ; and we
and they approaciied the charred ruins.
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR I 351
Everything was in ashes. But" — he lowered
his voice — "we found what seemed to be the
body of Boris the hound ; in another room
was a charred corpse, whose hunting-horn,
melted to a molten mass, told us it had been
Herbert the forester. And there was another
corpse, almost shapeless, utterly unrecognis-
able. We saw it; the charcoal-burners saw
it. Then more peasants came round, drawn
by the sight of the flames. None could tell
who it was ; only I and James knew. And
we mounted our horses and have ridden here
to tell the King."
Sapt finished his lesson or his story. A sob
burst from the Queen, and she hid her face in
her hands. Bernenstein and I, amazed at this
strange tale, scarcely understanding whether it
were jest or earnest, stood staring stupidly at
Sapt. Then I, overcome by the strange thing,
turned half-foolish by the bizarre mingling of
comedy and impressiveness in Sapt's render-
ing of it, plucked him by the sleeve, and asked,
with something between a laugh and a gasp :
" Who had that other corpse been, Con-
He turned his small keen eyes on me in
persistent gravity and unflinching eff"rontery :
*'A Mr. Rassendyll, a friend of the King's,
who with his servant James was awaiting His
Majesty's return from Strelsau. His servant
here is ready to start for England to tell Mr.
Rassendyll's relatives the news."
S5^ RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
The Queen had begun to listen before now ;
her eyes were fixed on Sapt, and she had
stretched out one arm to him, as if imploring
him to read her his riddle. But a few words
had in truth declared his device plainly enough
in all its simplicity. Rudolf Rassendyll was
dead, his body burnt to a cinder, and the King
was alive, whole, and on his throne in Strelsau.
Thus had Sapt caught from James the servant
the infection of his madness, and had fulfilled
in action the strange imagination which the
little man had unfolded to him in order to
pass their idle hours at the lodge.
Suddenly Mr. Rassendyll spoke in clear
short tones :
"This is all a lie, Sapt," said he, and his
lips curled in contemptuous amusement.
'•It's no lie that the lodge is burnt and the
bodies in it, and that half a hundred of the
peasants know it, and that no man could tell
the body for the King's. As for the rest, it is
a lie. But I think the truth in it is enough to
The two men stood facing one another with
defiant eyes. Rudolf had caught the meaning
of the great and audacious trick which Sapt
and his companion had played. It was im-
possible now to bring the King's body to
Strelsau ; it seemed no less impossible to
declare that the man burnt in the lodge was
the King. Thus Sapt had forced Rudolf's
hand ; he had been inspired by the same
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR I 353
vision as we, and endowed with more un-
shrinking boldness. But when I saw how
Rudolf looked at him, I did not know but that
they would go from the Queen's presence
set on a deadly quarrel. Mr. Rassendyll,
however, mastered his temper.
" You 're all bent on having me a rascal,"
he said coldly. " Fritz and Bernenstein here
urge me ; you, Sapt, try to force me. James
there is in the plot, for all I know."
"I suggested it, sir," said James, not defi-
antly or with disrespect, but as in simple
dutiful obedience to his master's implied
♦'As I thought— all of you ! Well, I won't
be forced. I see now that there 's no way
out of this affair, save one. That one I '11
We none of us spoke, but waited till he
should be pleased to continue.
"Of the Queen's letter I need say nothing,
and will say nothing," he pursued. *• But I
will tell them that I 'm not the King, but
Rudolf Rassendyll ; and that I played the
King only in order to serve the Queen and
punish Rupert of Hentzau. That will serve,
and it will cut this net of Sapt's from about
He spoke firmly and coldly, so that when
I looked at him I was amazed to see how
his lips twitched and that his forehead was
moist with sweat. Then I understood. what
354 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
a sudden, swift, and fearful struggle he had
suffered, and how the great temptation had
wrung and tortured him before he, victorious,
had set the thing behind him. I v/ent to him
and clasped his hand : this action of mine
seemed to soften him.
**Sapt, Sapt," he said, "you almost made a
rogue of me ! "
Sapt did not respond to his gentler mood.
He had been pacing angrily up and down
the room. Now he stopped abruptly before
Rudolf, and pointed with his finger at the
"I make a rogue of you!" he exclaimed.
"And what do you make of our Queen, whom
we all serve ? What does this truth that
you '11 tell make of her ? Haven't I heard
how she greeted you before all Strelsau as
her husband and her love ? "Will they believe
that she didn't know her husband ? Aye, you
may show yourself, you may say they didn't
know you. Will they believe she didn't ?
Was the King's ring on your finger ? Where
is it ? And how comes Mr. Rassendyll to be
at Fritz von Tarlenheim's for hours with the
Queen, when the King is at his hunting-lodge ?
A king has died already, and tv/o men besides,
to save a word against her. And you —you '11
be the man to set every tongue in Strelsau
talking, and every finger pointing in suspicion
at her ! "
Rudolf made no ^nsv/er. When Sapt had
FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR 1 353
first uttered the Queen's name, he had drawn
near and let his hand fall over the back of her
chair. She put hers up to meet it, and so they
remained. But I saw that Rudolf's face had
gone very pale.
"And we, your friends?" pursued Sapt.
*' For we 've stood by you as we 've stood by
the Queen, by God we have : Fritz and young
Bernenstein here, and I. If this truth 's
told, who '11 believe that we were loyal to the
King, that we didn't know, that we weren't
accomplices in the tricking of the King —
maybe in his murder ? Ah, Rudolf Rassendyll,
God preserve me from a conscience that won't
let me be true to the woman I love or to
the friends who love me ! "
I had never seen the old fellow so moved ;
he carried me with him, as he carried Ber-
nenstein. I know now that we were too
ready to be convinced ; rather that, borne
along by our passionate desire, we needed no
convincing at all. His excited appeal seemed
to us an argument. At least the danger to
the Queen on which he dwelt was real and
true and great.
Then a sudden change came over him. He
caught Rudolf's hand and spoke to him again
in a low broken voice, an unwonted softness
transforming his harsh tones.
" Lad," he said, " don't say * No ! ' Here 's
the finest lady alive sick for her lover, and
the finest country in the world sick for iti
356 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
true king, and the best friends — aye, by
Heaven, the best friends — man ever had, sick
to call you master. I know nothing about
your conscience, but this I know : the King 's
dead, and the place is empty; and I don't
see what Almighty God sent you here for
unless it was to fill it. Come, lad — for our
love and her honour ! While he was alive
I *d have killed you sooner than let you take
it. He 's dead. Now — for our love and her
honour, lad ! "
I do not know what thoughts passed in
Mr. Rassendyll's mind. His face was set
and rigid. He made no sign when Sapt
finished, but stood as he was, motionless, for
a long while. Then he slowly bent his head
and looked down into the Queen's eyes. For
a while she sat looking back into his. Then
carried away by the wild hope of immediate
joy, and by her love for him, and her pride
in the place he was offered, she sprang up
and threw herself at his feet, crying :
**Yes, yes! For my sake, Rudolf— for my
sake ! "
"Are you too against me, my Queen?" he
murmured, caressing her ruddy hair.
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN.
WE were half mad that night, Sapt
and Bernenstein and I. The thing
seemed to have got into our blood
and to have become part of ourselves. For
us it was inevitable — nay, it was done.
Sapt busied himself in preparing the account
of the fire at the hunting-lodge ; it was
to be communicated to the journals, and
it told with much circumstantiality how
Rudolf Rassendyll had come to visit the
King, with James his servant, and, the
King being summoned unexpectedly to the
capital, had been awaiting His Majesty's
return when he met his fate. There was a
short history of Rudolf, a glancing reference
to his family, a dignified expression of con-
dolence with his relatives, to whom the King
was sending messages of deepest regret by
the hands of Mr. Rassendyll's servant. At
another table young Bernenstein was draw-
ing up, under the Constable's direction, a
narrative of Rupert of Hentzau's attempt
on the King's life and the King's courage
in defending himself. The Count, eager to
return (so it ran), had persuaded the King
to meet him by declaring that he held a State
358 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
document of great importance and of a most
secret nature ; the King, with his habitual
fearlessness, had gone alone, but only to
refuse with scorn Count Rupert's terms.
Enraged at this unfavourable reception, the
audacious criminal had made a sudden attack
on the King, with what issue all knew. He
had met his own death, while the King, per-
ceiving from a glance at the document that
it compromised well known - persons, had,
with the nobility which marked him, destroyed
it unread before the eyes of those who were
rushing in to his rescue. I supplied sugges-
tions and improvements ; and, engrossed in
contriving how to blind curious eyes, we
forgot the real and permanent difficulties of
the thing we had resolved upon. For us
they did not exist : Sapt met every objection
by declaring that the thing had been done
once and could be done again. Bernenstein
and I were not behind him in confidence.
We would guard the secret with brain and
hand and life, even as we had guarded and
kept the secret of the Queen's letter, which
would now go with Rupert of Hentzau to
his grave. Bauer we could catch and silence :
nay, who would listen to such a tale from
such a man ? Rischenheim was ours ; the
old woman would keep her doubts between
her teeth for her own sake. To his own land
and his own people Rudolf must be dead,
while the King of Ruritania would stand
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 359
before all Europe, recognised, unquestioned,
unassailed. True, he must marry the Queen
again ; Sapt was ready with the means, and
would hear nothing of the difficulty and risk
in finding a hand to perform the necessary
ceremony. If we quailed in our courage, we
had but to look at the alternative, and find
recompense for the perils of what we meant
to undertake by a consideration of the
desperate risk involved in abandoning it.
Persuaded that the substitution of Rudolf for
the King was the only thing which would
serve our turn, we asked no longer whether
it were possible, but sought only the means
to make it safe and yet more safe.
But Rudolf himself had not spoken. Sapt'a
appeal and the Queen's imploring cry had
shaken but not overcome him ; he had wa-
vered, but he was not won. Yet there was
no talk of impossibility or peril in his mouth,
any more than in ours : those were not what
gave him pause. The score on which he
hesitated was whether the thing should be
done, not whether it could ; our appeals were
not to brace a failing courage, but to cajole
a sturdy sense of honour which found the
imposture distasteful so soon as it seemed
to serve a personal end. To save the King
he had played the King in old days, but he
did not love to play the King when the profit
of it was to be his own. Hence he was
unmoved till his care for the fair fame of
360 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
the Queen and the love of his friends joined
to buffet his resolution. Then he faltered ;
but he had not fallen. Yet Colonel Sapt did
all as though he had given his assent, and
watched the last hours in which his flight
from Strelsau was possible go quickly by with
more than equanimity. Why hurry Rudolf's
resolve ? Every moment shut him closer in
the trap of an inevitable choice. With every
hour that he was called the King, it became
more impossible for him to bear any other
name all his days. Therefore Sapt let Mr.
Rassendyll doubt and struggle, while he
himself wrote his story and laid his long-
headed plans. And now and then James the
little servant came in and went out, sedate
and smug, but with a quiet satisfaction
gleaming in his eyes. He had made a story
for a pastime, and it was being translated
into history. He at least would bear his part
in it unflinchingly.
Before now the Queen nad left us, per-
suaded to lie down and try to rest till the
matter should be settled. Stilled by Rudolf's
gentle rebuke, she had urged him no more
in words, but there was an entreaty in her
eyes stronger than any spoken prayer, and
a piteousness in the lingering of her hand in
his harder to resist than ten thousand sad
petitions. At last he had led her from the
room and commended her to Helga's care.
Then, returning to us, he stood silent a liltle
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 361
while. We also were silent, Sapt sitting and
looking up at him with his brows knit and
his teeth restlessly chewing the moustache
on his lip.
" Well, lad ? " he said at last, briefly putting
the great question.
Rudolf walked to the window and seemed
to lose himself for a moment in the contem-
plation of the quiet night. There were no
more than a few stragglers in the street now ;
the moon shone white and clear on the empty
' ' I should like to walk up and down outside
and think it over," he said, turning to us ;
and, as Bernenstein sprang up to accompany
him, he added, *' No. Alone."
"Yes, do," said old Sapt, with a glance at
the clock, whose hands were now hard on
two o'clock. "Take your time, lad, take
Rudolf looked at him and broke into a
" I 'm not your dupe, old Sapt," said he,
shaking his head. " Trust me, if I decide to
get away, I'll get away, be it what o'clock
** Yes, confound you I " grinned Colonel
So he left us, and then came that long
time of scheming and planning and most
persistent eye -shutting, in which occupations
an hour wore its life away. Rudolf had not
36a RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
passed out of the porch, and we supposed
that he had betaken himself to the gardens,
there to fight his battle. Old Sapt, having
done his work, suddenly turned talkative.
**That moon there,*' he said, pointing his
square thick forefinger at the window, " is
a mighty untrustworthy lady. I *ve known
her wake a villain's conscience before now."
"I've known her send a lover's to sleep,"
laughed young Bernenstein, rising from his
table, stretching himself, and lighting a cigar.
" Aye, she *s apt to take a man out of what
he is," pursued old Sapt. " Set a quiet
man near her, and he dreams of battle ;
an ambitious fellow, after ten minutes of her,
will ask nothing better than to muse all
his life away. I don't trust her, Fritz ; I
wish the night were dark."
"What will she do to Rudolf Rassendyll?"
I asked, falling in with the old fellow's
"He will see the Queen's face in hers,
" He may see God's," said Sapt ; and he
shook himself as though an unwelcome
thought had found its way to his mind and lips.
A pause fell on us, born of the Colonel's
last remark. We looked one another in
the face. At last i5apt brought his hand
down on the table with a bang.
"I'll not go back!" he said sullenly,
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 363
** Nor I," said Bernenstein, drawing him-
self up. " Nor you, Tarlenheim ? "
♦' No, I also go on," I answered. Then
again there was a moment's silence.
" She may make a man soft as a sponge,"
reflected Sapt, starting again, " or hard as
a bar of steel. I should feel safer if the
night were dark. I 've looked at her often
from my tent and from bare ground, and I
know her. She got me a decoration, and
once she came near to making me turn
tail. Have nothing to do with her, young
"I'll keep my eyes for beauties nearer
at hand," said Bernenstein, whose volatile
temper soon threw off a serious mood.
"There's a chance for you, now Rupert
of Hentzau's gone," said Sapt grimly.
As he spoke there was a knock at the
door. When it opened, James entered.
"The Count of Luzau-Rischenheim begs
to be allowed to speak with the King,"
" We expect His Majesty every moment.
Beg the Count to enter," Sapt answered;
and, when Rischenheim came in, he went
on, motioning the Count to a chair : " Wc
are talking, my lord, of the influence of the
moon on the careers of men."
" What arc you going to do ? What have
you decided ? " burst out Rischenheim im-
364 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"We decide nothing," answered Sapt.
"Then what has Mr. — what has the King
decided ? "
" The King decides nothing, my lord.
She decides," and the old fellow pointed
again through the window towards the
moon. "At this moment she makes or un-
makes a king ; but I can't tell you which.
What of your cousin?"
"You know that my cousin's dead."
" Yes, I know that. What of him, though?"
" Sir," said Rischenheim with some
dignity, "since he is dead, let him rest in
peace. It is not for us to judge him."
" He may well wish it were. For, by
heaven, I believe I should let the rogue
off," said Colonel Sapt, "and I don't think
his Judge will."
"God forgive him, I loved him," said
Rischenheim. "Yes, and many have loved
him. His servants loved him, sir.'*
"Friend Bauer, for example?"
" Yes, Bauer loved him. Where is Bauer?"
" I hope he is gone to hell with his
loved master," grunted Sapt, but he had the
grace to lower his voice and shield his
mouth with his hand, so that Rischenheim
did not hear.
" Wc don't know where he is," I answered.
"I am come," said Rischenheim, "to put
my services in all respects at the Queen's
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 365
"And at the King's?" asked Sapt.
"At the King's? But the King is dead."
"Therefore *Long live the King!'" struck
in young Bernenstein.
" If there should be a King " began
"You'll do that?" interrupted Rischenheim
in breathless agitation.
" She is deciding," said Colonel Sapt, and
again he pointed to the moon.
"But she's a plaguy long time about it,"
remarked Lieutenant von Bernenstein.
Rischenheim sat silent for a moment.
His face was pale, and when he spoke his
voice trembled. But his words were resolute
" I gave my honour to the Queen, and
even in that I will serve her if she com-
Bernenstein sprang forward and caught
him by the hand.
"That's what I like," said he, "and damn
the moon. Colonel ! "
His sentence was hardly out of his mouth
when the door opened, and to our astonish-
ment the Queen entered. Helga was just
behind ; her clasped hands and frightened
eyes seemed to protest that their com-
ing was against her will. The Queen was
clad in a long white robe, and her hair
hung on her .«4houlders, being but loosely
bound with a riband. Her air showed great
366 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
agitation, and without any greeting or notice
of the rest she walked quickly across the
room to me.
"The dream, Fritz!" she said. "It has
come again. Helga persuaded me to lie
down, and I was very tired, so at last I
fell asleep. Then it came. I saw him,
Fritz — I saw him as plainly as I see you.
They all called him King, as they did
to-day ; but they did not cheer. They were
quiet, and looked at him with sad faces.
I could not hear what they said ; they
spoke in hushed voices. I heard nothing
more than * The King, the King,' and he
seemed to hear not even that. He lay still ;
he was lying on something, something
covered with hanging stuff, I couldn't see
what it was ; yes, quite still. His face was
so pale, and he didn't hear them say * The
King.' Fritz, Fritz, he looked as if he were
dead 1 Where is he ? Where have you let
She turned from me and her eyes flashed
over the rest.
" Where is he ? Why aren't you with
him?" she demanded, with a sudden change
of tone. "Why aren't you round him ? You
should be between him and danger, ready
to give your lives for his. Indeed, gentle-
men, you take your duty lightly."
It might be that there was little reason
in her words. There appeared to be fto
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 367
danger threatening him ; and after all he
was not our King, much as we desired to
make him such. Yet we did not think of
any such matter. We were abashed before
her reproof and took her indignation as
deserved. We hung our heads, and Sapt's
shame betrayed itself in the dogged sullen-
ness of his answer.
*' Fie has chosen to go walking, madame,
and to go alone. He ordered us — I say,
he ordered us not to come. Surely we
are right to obey him?"
The sarcastic inflection of his voice con-
veyed his opinion of the Queen's extrava-
*• Obey him ? Yes. You couldn't go with
him if he forbade you. But you should
follow him, you should keep him in sight."
This much she spoke in proud tones and
with a disdainful manner, but then came a
sudden return to her former bearing. She
held out her hands towards me, wailing :
*♦ Fritz, where is he ? Is he safe ? Find
him for me, Fritz, find him."
"I'll find him for you if he's above
ground, madame," I cried, for her appeal
touched me to the heart.
♦* He's no farther off than the gardens,"
grumbled old Sapt, still resentful of the
Queen's reproof and scornful of the woman's
agitation. He was also out of temper with
Rudolf himself, because the moon took so
368 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
long in deciding whether she would make or
unmake a king.
" The gardens ! " she cried. '♦ Then let
us look for him. Oh, you've let him walk
in the gardens alone ? "
"What should harm the fellow?" muttered
She did not hear him, for she had swept
out of the room. Helga went with her,
and we all followed, Sapt behind the rest of
us, still very surly. I heard him grumbling
away as we ran downstairs and, having
passed along the great corridor, came to
the small saloon that opened on the gardens.
There were no servants about, but we
encountered a night-watchman, and Ber-
nenstein snatched the lantern from the
astonished man's hand.
Save for the dim light thus furnished, the
room was dark. But outside the windows
the moon streamed brightly down on the
broad gravel walk, on the formal flower-
beds, and the great trees in the gardens.
The Queen made straight for the window.
I followed her, and, having flung the window
open, stood by her. The air was sweet, and
the breeze struck with grateful coolness on
my face. I saw that Sapt had come near
and stood on the other side of the Queen.
My wife and the rest were behind, looking
out where our shoulders left space.
There, in the bright moonlight, on the far
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 369
side of the broad terrace, close by the line
of tall trees that fringed its edge, we saw
Rudolf Rassendyll pacing slowly up and
down, with his hands behind his back and
his eyes fixed on the arbiter of his fate, on
her who was to make him a king or send
him a fugitive from Strelsau.
«* There he is, madame," said Sapt. "Safe
enough ! "
The Queen did not answer. Sapt said no
more, and of the rest of us none spoke.
We stood watching him as he struggled
with his great issue : a greater surely has
seldom fallen to the lot of any man bom
in a private station. Yet I could read little
of it on the face that the rays of white light
displayed so clearly, although they turned
his healthy tints to a dull grey, and gave
unnatural sharpness to his features against
the deep background of black foliage.
I heard the Queen's quick breathing, but
there was scarcely another sound. I saw
her clutch her gown and pull it away a little
from her throat ; save for that, none in the
group moved. The lantern's light was too
dim to force notice from Mr. Rassendyll.
Unconscious of our presence, he wrestled
with fate that night in the gardens.
Suddenly the faintest exclamation came
from Sapt. He put his hand back and
beckoned to Bernenstein. The young man
handed his lantern to the Constable, who
370 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
set it close to the side of the window-frame.
The Queen, absolutely engrossed in her
lover, saw nothing, but I perceived what
had caught Sapt's attention. There were
scores on the paint and indentations in the
wood, just at the edge of the panel and
near the lock. I glanced at Sapt, who
nodded his head. It looked very much as
though somebody had tried to force the
door that night, employing a knife which
had dented the woodwork and scratched
the paint. The least thing was enough to
alarm us, standing where we stood, and
the Constable's face was full of suspicion.
Who had sought an entrance ? It could be
no trained and practised housebreaker: he
would have had better tools.
But now our attention was again diverted.
Rudolf stopped short. He still looked for a
moment at the sky, then his glance dropped
to the ground at his feet. A second later
he jerked his head — it was bare, and I saw
the dark-red hair stir with the movement
— like a man who has settled something
which caused him a puzzle. In an instant
we knew, by the quick intuition of con-
tagious emotion, that the question had found
its answer. He was by now King or a
fugitive. The Lady of the Skies had given
her decision. The thrill ran through us : I
felt the Queen draw herself together at my
side; I felt the muscles of Rischenheim's
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 371
arm which rested against my shoulder grow
rigid and taut. Sapt's face was full of
eagerness and he gnawed his moustache
savagely. We gathered closer to one
another. At last we could bear the
suspense no longer. With one look at the
Queen and another at me, Sapt stepped on
to the gravel. He would go and learn the
answer: thus the unendurable strain that
had stretched us like tortured men on a
rack would be relieved. The Queen did
not answer his glance, nor even seem to
see that he had moved. Her eyes were
still all for Mr. Rassendyll, her thoughts
buried in his ; for her happiness was in
his hands and lay poised on the issue of
that decision whose momentousness held
him for a moment motionless on the path.
Often I seem to see him as he stood there,
tall, straight, and stately, the King a man's
fancy paints when he reads of great
monarchs who flourished long ago in the
springtime of the world.
Sapt's step crunched on the gravel. Rudolf
heard it and turned his head. He saw Sapt,
and he saw me also behind Sapt. He smiled
composedly and brightly, but he did not
move from where he was. He held out
both hands towards the Constable and caught
him in their double grasp, still smiling down
in his face. I was no nearer to reading his
decision, though I saw that he had reached
372 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
a resolution that was immovable and gave
peace to his soul. If he meant to go on he
would go on now, go on to the end, without
a backward look or a falter of his foot ; if
he had chosen the other way, he would
depart without a murmur or a hesitation.
The Queen's quick breathing had ceased,
she seemed like a statue ; but Rischenheim
moved impatiently, as though he could no
longer endure the waiting.
Sapt's voice came harsh and grating.
" Well ? " he cried. " Which is it to be ?
Backwards or forward ?"
Rudolf pressed his hands and looked into
his eyes. The answer asked but a word
from him. The Queen caught my arm ; her
rigid limbs seemed to give way, and she
would have fallen if I had not supported
her. At the same instant a man sprang out
of fhe dark line of tall trees, directly behind
Mr. Rassendyll. Bernenstein uttered a loud
startled cry, and rushed forward, pushing
the Queen herself violently out of his path.
His hand flew to his side, and he ripped the
heavy cavalry sword that belonged to his
uniform of the Cuirassiers of the Guard from
its sheath. I saw it flash in the moonlight,
but its flash was quenched in a brighter
short blaze. A shot rang ©ut through the
quiet gardens. Mr. Rassendyll did not loose
his hold of Sapt's hands, but he sank slowly
on to his knees. Sapt seemed paralysed.
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 373
Again Bernenstein cried out. It was a
name this time.
''Bauer! By God, Bauer!" he cried.
In an instant he was across the path and
by the trees. The assassin fired again, but
now he missed. We saw the great sword
flash high above Bernenstein's head and
heard it whistle through the air. It crashed
on the crown of Bauer's head, and he fell
like a log to the ground with his skull split.
The Queen's hold on me relaxed ; she sank
into Rischenheim's arms. I ran forward and
knelt by Mr. Rassendyll. He still held Sapt's
hands, and by their help buoyed himself up.
But when he saw me he let go of them and
sank back against me, his head resting on
my chest. He moved his lips, but seemed
unable to speak. He was shot through the
back. Bauer had aven^jed the master whom
he loved, and was gone to meet him.
There was a sudden stir from inside the
palace. Shutters were flung back and win-
dows thrown open. The group we made
stood clean-cut, plainly visible, in the moon-
light. A moment later there was a rush of
eager feet, and we were surrounded by
officers and servants. Bernenstein stood by
me now, leaning on his sword : Sapt had
not uttered a word ; his face was distorted
with horror and bitterness. Rudolf's eyes
v/ere closed and his head lay back against
374 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
"A man has shot the King," said I in bald
All at once I found James, Mr. Rassendyll's
servant, by me.
*' I have sent for doctors, my lord," he said.
"Come, let us carry him in."
He, Sapt, and I, lifted Rudolf and bore him
across the gravel terrace and into the little
saloon. We passed the Queen. She was
leaning on Rischenheim's arm and held my
wife's hand. We laid Rudolf down on a
couch. Outside I heard Bernenstein say,
"Pick up that fellow and carry him some-
where out of sight." Then he also came in,
followed by a crowd. He sent them all to
the door, and we were left alone, waiting for
the surgeon. The Queen came up, Rischenheim
still supporting her.
"Rudolf, Rudolf I" she whispered very
He opened his eyes, and his lips bent in
a smile. She flung herself on her knees and
kissed his hand passionately.
" The surgeon will be here directly," said I.
Rudolf's eyes had been on the Queen. As
I spoke he looked up at me, smiled again,
and shook his head. I turned away.
When the surgeon came Sapt and I assisted
him in his examination. The Queen had been
led away, and we were alone. The exami-
nation was very short. Then we carried
Rudolf to a bed ; the nearest chanced to be
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 375
in Bemenstein's room ; there we laid him,
and there all that could be done for him was
done. All this time we had asked no ques-
tions of the surgeon, and he had given no
information. We knew too well to ask : we
had all seen men die before now, and the
look on the face was familiar to us. Two or
three more doctors, the most eminent in
Strelsau, came now, having been hastily sum-
moned. It was their right to be called; but,
for all the good they were, they might have
been left to sleep the night out in their beds.
They drew together in a little group at the
end of the room and talked for a few min-
utes in low tones. James lifted his master's
head and gave him a drink of water. Rudolf
swallowed it with difficulty. Then I saw him
feebly press James's hand, for the little
man's face was full of sorrow. As his
master smiled the servant mustered a smile
I crossed over to the doctors.
"Well, gentlemen?" I asked.
They looked at one another, then the
greatest of them said gravely :
"The King may live an hour. Count
Fritz. Should you not send for a priest?"
I went straight back to Rudolf Rassen-
dyll. His eyes greeted me and questioned
me. He was a man, and I played no silly
tricks with him, I bent down and said :
•«An hour, they think, Rudolf."
376 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
He made one restless movement, whether
of pain or protest I do not know. Then he
spoke, very low, slowly, and with difficulty.
"Then they can go," he said; and when
I spoke of a priest he shook his head.
I went back to them and asked if any-
thing more could be done. The answer
was "Nothing"; but I could not prevail
further than to get all save one sent into
an adjoining room ; he who remained seated
himself at a table some way off. Rudolfs
eyes had closed again; old Sapt, who had
not once spoken since the shot was fired,
raised a haggard face to mine.
"We'd better fetch her to him," he said
hoarsely. I nodded my head.
Sapt went while I stayed by him.
Bernenstein came to him, bent down and
kissed his hand. The young fellow, who
had borne himself with such reckless courage
and dash throughout the affair, was quite
unmanned now, and the tears were rolling
down his face. I could have been much
in the same plight, but I would not before
Mr. Rassendyll. He smiled at Bernenstein.
Then he said to me :
" Is she coming, Fritz ? "
"Yes, she's coming, sire," I answered.
He noticed the style of my address ; a faint
amused gleam shot into his languid eyes.
" Well, for an hour, then," he murmured,
and lay back on his pillows.
THE DECISION OF HEAVEN. 377
She came, dry-eyed, calm, and queenly.
We all drew back, and she knelt down by
his bed, holding his hand in her two hands.
Presently the hand stirred ; she let it go ;
then, knowing well what he wanted, she
raised it herself and placed it on her head,
while she bowed her face to the bed.
His hand wandered for the last time over
the gleaming hair that he loved so well.
She rose, passed her arm about his shoulders,
and kissed his lips. Her face rested close
to his, and he seemed to speak to her, but
we could not have heard the words even if
we would. So they remained for a long while.
The doctor came and felt his pulse,
retreating afterwards with olose-shut lips.
We drew a little nearer, for we knew that
he would not be long with us now.
Suddenly strength seemed to come upon
him. He raised himself in his bed, and
spoke in distinct tones:
*<God has decided," he said. "I've tried
to do the right thing through it all. Sapt,
and Bernenstein, and you, old Fritz, shake
my hand. No, don't kiss it. We 've done
with pretence now."
We shook his hand as he bade us. Then
he took the Queen's hand. Again she knew
his mind, and moved it to his lips.
*an life and in death, my sweet Queen,"
And thus he fell asleep.
THE COMING OF THE DREAM.
THERE is little need, and I have little
heart, to dwell on what followed the
death of Mr. Rassendyll. The plans
we had laid to secure his tenure of the throne,
in case he had accepted it, served well in the
event of his death. Bauer's lips were for
ever sealed ; the old woman was too scared
and appalled to hint even to her gossips at
the suspicions she entertained. Rischenheim
was loyal to the pledge he had given to
the Queen. The ashes of the hunting-
lodge held their secret fast, and none
suspected v^hen the charred body which
was called Rudolf Rassendyll-s was laid to
quiet rest in the graveyard of the town of
Zenda, hard by the tomb of Herbert the
forester. For we had from the first rejected
any idea of bringing the King's body to
Strelsau and setting it in the place of Mr.
Rassendyll's. The difficulties of such an
undertaking were almost insuperable ; in
our hearts we did not desire to conquer
them. As a King Rudolf Rassendyll had
died, as a King let him lie. As a King he
lay in his palace at Strelsau, while the
THE COMING OF THE DREAM. 379
news of his murder at the hands of a
confederate of Rupert of Hentzau went
forth to startle and appal the world. At a
mighty price our task had been made easy:
many might have doubted the living, none
questioned the dead ; suspicions which might
have gathered round a throne died away
at the gate of a vault. The King was
dead. Who would ask if it were in truth
the King who lay in state in the great
hall of the palace, or whether the humble
grave at Zenda held the bones of the
last male Elphberg ? In the silence of the
grave all murmurs and questionings were
Throughout the day people had been
passing and repassing through the great
hall. There, on a stately bier, surmounted
by a crown and the drooping folds of the
royal banner, lay Rudolf Rassendyll. The
highest officers guarded him ; in the Cathedral
the Archbishop said a mass for his soul.
He had lain there three days ; the evening
of the third had come, and early on the
morrow he was to be buried. There is a
little gallery in the hall, that looks down on
the spot where the bier stood ; here was I
on this evening, and with me Queen Flavia.
We were alone together, and together we
saw beneath us the calm face of the dead
man. He was clad in the white uniform in
which he had been crowned ; the riband
380 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
of the Red Rose was across his breast.
His hand held a true red rose, fresh and
fragrant ; Flavia herself had set it there,
that even in death he might not miss the
chosen token of her love. I had not spoken
to her, nor she to me, since we came there.
We watched the pomp round him, and the
rows of people that came to bring a wreath
for him or to look upon his face. I saw
a girl come and kneel long at the bier's
foot. She rose and went away sobbing,
leaving a little circlet of flowers. It was
Rosa Holf. I saw women come and go
weeping, and men bite their lips as they
passed by. Rischenheim came, pale-faced
and troubled ; and while all came and went,
there, immovable, with drawn sw^ord, in
military stiffness, old Sapt stood at the head
of the bier, his eyes set steadily in front of
him, and his body never stirring from hour
to hour through the long day.
A distant faint hum of voices reached us.
The Queen laid her hand on my arm.
"It is the dream, Fritz," she said.
*'Hark! They speak of the King; they
speak in low voices and with grief, but they
call him King. It 's what I saw in the
dream. But he does not hear nor heed.
No, he can't hear nor heed even when I
call him my King."
A sudden impulse came on me, and I
turned to her, asking :
THE COMING OF THE DREAM. 381
** What had he decided, madame ? Would
he have been King ? "
She started a Uttle.
** He didn't tell me," she answered,
" and I didn't think of it while he spoke
" Of what then did he speak, madame ? "
"Only of his love — of nothing but his love,
Fritz," she answered.
Well, I take it that when a man comes
to die, love is more to him than a kingdom:
it may be, if we could see truly, that it is
more to him even while he lives.
"Of nothing but his great love for me,
Fritz," she said again. "And my love
brought him to his death."
"He wouldn't have had it otherwise,"
" No," she whispered ; and she leant over
the parapet of the gallery, stretching out her
arms to him. But he lay still and quiet, not
hearing and not heeding when she murmured,
"My King! my King!" It was even as it
had been in the dream.
That night James, the servant, took leave
of his dead master and of us. He carried
to England by word of mouth— for we
dared write nothing down— the truth con-
cerning the King of Ruritania and Mr.
Rassendyll. It was to be told to the Earl
of Burlesdon, Rudolf's brother, under a
pledge of secrecy; and to this day the
382 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
Earl is the only man besides ourselves who
knows the story. His errand done, James
returned in order to enter the Queen's
service, in which he still is ; and he told
us that when Lord Burlesdon had heard
the story he sat silent for a great while,
and then said :
** He did well. Some day I will visit
his grave. Tell Her Majesty that there
is still a Rassendyll, if she has need of
The offer was such as should come from
a man of Rudolf's name, yet I trust that
the Queen needs no further service than such
as it is our humble duty and dear delight to
render her. It is our part to strive to lighten
the burden that she bears, and by our love
to assuage her undying grief. For she
reigns now in Ruritania alone, the last of
all the Elphbergs ; and her only joy is to
talk of Mr. Rassendyll with those few who
knew him, her only hope that she may
some day be with him again.
In great pomp we laid him to his rest in
the vault of the Kings of Ruritania in
the Cathedral of Strelsau. There he lies
among the Princes of the House of Elph-
berg. I think that if there be indeed any
consciousness among the dead, or any
knowledge of what passes in the world
they have left, they should be proud to call
him brother. There rises in memory of
THE COMING OF THE DREAM. 383
him a stately monument, and people point
it out to one another as the memorial of
King Rudolf. I go often to the spot, and
recall in thought all that passed when he
came the first time to Zenda, and again on
his second coming. For I mourn him as
a man mourns a trusted leader and a loved
comrade, and I should have asked no belter
than to be allowed to serve him all my days.
Yet I serve the Queen, and in that I do
most truly serve her lover.
Times change for all of us. The roaring
flood of youth goes by, and the stream of
life Ginks to a quiet flow, Sapt is an old
man now ; soon my sons will be grown up,
men enough themselves to serve Queen
Flavia. Yet the memory of Rudolf Rassen-
dyll is fresh to me as on the day he died,
and the vision of the death of Rupert of
Hentzau dances often before my eyes. It
may be that some day the whole story shall
be told, and men shall judge of it for
themselves. To me it seems now as though
all had ended well. I must not be mis-
understood : my heart is still sore for the
loss of him. But we saved the Queen's
fair fame, and to Rudolf himself the fatal
stroke came as a relief from a choice too
difficult : on the one side lay what impaired
his own honour, on the other what threatened
hers. As I think on this my anger at his
death is less, though my grief cannot be.
384 RUPERT OF HENTZAU.
To this day I know not how he chose ; no,
and I don't know how he should have
chosen. Yet he had chosen, for his face
was calm and clear.
Come, I have thought so much of him
that I will go now and stand before his
monument, taking with me my last-born
son, a little lad of ten. He is not too
young to desire to serve the Queen, and
not too young to learn to love and rever-
ence him who sleeps there in the vault and
was in his life the noblest gentleman I have
I will take the boy with me and tell him
what I may of brave King Rudolf, how he
fought and how he loved, and how he held
the Queen's honour and his own above all
things in this world. The boy is not too
young to learn such lessons from the life of
Mr. Rassendyll. And while we stand there
I will turn again into his native tongue— for,
alas, the young rogue loves his toy soldiers
better than his Latin ! — the inscription that
the Queen wrote with her own hand,
directing that it should be inscribed in that
stately tongue over the tomb in which her
life lies buried : "To Rudolf, who reigned
lately in this city, and reigns for ever in her
heart.— Queen Flavia."
I told him the meaning, and he spelt the
big words over in his childish voice ; at
first he stumbled, but the second time he
THE COMING OF THE DREAM. 385
had it right, and recited with a little touch
of awe in his fresh young tones :
Qui in hac civitate nuper regnavit
In corde ipsius in seternum regnat
I felt his hand tremble in mine, and he
looked up in my face.
" God save the Queen, father," said he.
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Crown 8vo, 422 pp., cloth.
THE SETTLING OF BERTIE MERIAN. By Naranja
Amarga. Crown 8vo, 408 pp., cloth.
THE REMINISCENCES OF A BASHI - BAZOUK.
By Edward Vizetelly (Bertie Clere). With Fifty-five
Drawings by Georges Montbard, and some Photographs.
Crown 8vo, 494 j)p«> cloth.
Bristol: J. W. ARRowsMnn, 11 Quay Street.
london: Simpwn, Marshall, Hamilton, Kknt * Co. Limited.
flppomsmith's 3/6 Series.
Croum 8vOy cloth.
Vol. I. THREE MEN IN A BOAT ...
(Tu Say Nothing or the Doo)
II. THE END OF A LIFE
III. DIARY OF A PILGRIMAGE ..
lY. RECALLED TO LIFE
Y. A FRENCHMAN IN AMERICA
Jerome K. Jerome.
YI. THE SUPERNATURAL?..
Jerome K. Jerorac.
j L. A. Weatherly
(J. N. Maakelyno.
THE WHITE HAT Finch Mason.
FIFTY POUNDS FOR A WIFE A. L. Glyn.
A TIGER'S CUB Eden Phillpotts.
WHEN I LIYED IN BOHEMIA Fergus Hume.
f George Gi^ossraith
THE DIARY OP A NOBODY \ _ and
I Weedon Qrossmiih.
FLYING YISITS .., .«
"LIFE IN HIM YET"
DR. PAULL'S THEORY
/THE GREAT SHADOW and\
\ BEYOND THE GiTY /
THREE BRACE OF LOYERS
THE PRISONER OF ZENDA...
NEIGHBOURS OF OURS
PETER STEELE, THE
DEAD MAN'S COURT
"NOT EXACTLY" ... .« _
MINOR DIALOGUES .« ...
THE INDISCRETION OF THE
A BRIDE'S MADNESS
THE SACK OF MONTE CARLO
FIGHTING FOR FAYOUR ...
A POINT OP YIEW
M Harry Furniss.
THeury St. John
— \ Raikes.
... Mn. A. M. DiehL
... John Ferrars.
Henry W. Nevinson
"^Horace G. Hutchin-
Maurice H. Hervey.
E. M. Stooke.
W. Pett Ridge,
Maurice H. Hervey.
y Anthony Hope.
W. G. Tarbet.
Bristol : J. W. Akrowbmitii, 11 Quay Street.
London: Simpki.n, Havmuall, Hamiltom, K«»t Si CJo. Lii«it«d,
HrFomsmitb's 2h Settles.
Crown 8vo. Boarda,
Dead Men's Dollars. By may crommelin.
Author of "Brown Eybs."
"The tale is told with an intensity of feeling." — Daily Chronicle.
" A very bright and readable novel, full of incident and ' go.' " — Daily News.
On the Wrong Tack. By a. e. wilton.
"Is a smartly written story, the conversations are well managed and full of
"iprightliness, and the plot is interesting." — Literary World,
The Truth about Clement Ker.
Edited by GEORG FLEMING.
" Clement Ker \% by far the most exciting of the volumes lying before us."—
"There is strong writing in Clement Ker."— Melbourne Argus. iSatur day Review.
By KATHARINE S. MACQUOID.
Authoress of "Patty," "At thb Red Glove," &o.
"Some charming pictures of life in out-of-the-way foreign places give addi-
tional attraction to an interesting and altogether sympathetic story." — Graphic.
Francis and Prances ; or, An unexpiainabie
"The idea on which it is founded is, so far as our experience goes, quite
unique." — Western Figaro.
"A most readable and enjoyable stOTj."—The Bookseller.
Lai. By LORIN LATHROP and ANNIE WAKEMAN.
"It is a bright and original tale, having its scene in San Francisco and else-
where in AmencA."— Scotsman.
MOnSignOr. a NovcI. By Mrs. COMPTON-READB.
Author of "RosB and Rue," "Sidonie," &c.
" Is decidedly out of the common run."— Bristol Times and Mirror.
"There is a captivating priest in it who has reduced the art of 'lady-killing"
to quite a fine art. He is handsome and vain, and the reader pursues him, feeling
sure that he will turn out a scamp. But our author is not to be taken in that way,
and the end of the flirting priest is a surprise."— Publishers' Circular.
Maria and I. By edgar lee.
Author o/" Pharaoh's Daughter," &o.
LrUtcl: J. W. Arkowsmith, 11 Quay Street.
London : blMPKIN, Mabhhall, HMULTON, Kknt * Co. Limited.