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Full text of "Rupert of Hentzau"

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PERT 




ANTHONY 
MOPE 



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University of California • Berkeley 

Gift of 
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 



BY 

ANTHONY HOPE 



Being the Sequel to a story by the same writer entitled 
The Prisoner of Zenda 



With Illustrations by 
CHARLES DANA GIBSON 




BRISTOL 
J. W. Arrowsmith, II Quay Street 

LONDON 
SiMPKiN, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent and Company Limited 



BY THE SAME AUTHOR. 



A MAN OF MARK. 

FATHER STAFFORD. 

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. 

PHROSO. 

SIMON DALE. 



CONTENTS, 



Chap. 

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 



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154 

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211 

227 

244 

261 

279 

297 

317 

337 

357 

378 



RUPERT OF HENTZAU. 



CHAPTER I. 

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 
devotion. 

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. 



I 



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 
her hand. 

**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 
been kinder. 

"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 
kingdom for." 

"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 
man. 

"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 
smooth brow. 

''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," 
said I. 

"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- 
officially* 

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. 



CHAPTER II. 
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. 

25 



I 



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 
all costs. 

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 
evening. 

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 
resources. 

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 

began. 



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 
accident." 



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 
once." 

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 
ride." 

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 
right." 

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 
search." 

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 
pocket. 

" 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. 



CHAPTER III. 

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 
41 



I 



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 



I 



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 
the carrier. 

" 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 
eyes. 

" 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 
face changed. 

" 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 
English servants. 

"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, 
Fritz ?" 

"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 
head. 

^" 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 
to-night." 

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 ? " 

"Yes, sir." 

"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 
doing then. 

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 
be done. 

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 
business. 

"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 
help." 

"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 
fear!" 

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 
done." 

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 
King?" 

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- 
Rischenheim. 

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 
be trusted. 

" 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 
quietly." 

I thanked him ; he promised to look in 
again ; I murmured something about his 
fee. 

" 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 
stand." 

"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 
mind. 

"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 
letter." 

"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 
away." 



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. 



CHAPTER IV. 
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 



58 



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 
next morning." 

"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 

fine." 

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 
ten o'clock. 

** It will keep, sire," answered Sapt, who 
did not know but that it might be from 
Wintenberg. 

" 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 
irritable King. 

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 
moustache. 

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 
His Majesty. 

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 
dogs." 

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 
idea tarried. 

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 ? " 
**Yes, sir." 

"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 
slippery." 

"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 

5 



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 
too." 

"You'll find me both, eh, Sapt?" 

"As good as your own, anyhow," growled 
the Constable. 

" 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 
coats." 

"You're serious? Hang you, I can't see 
your face." 

" Absolutely." 

"All's well, then. Has he got a beard 
now ? " 

" Yes." 

"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 
Queen's letter." 

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 
Rudolf impatiently. 

" 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 
towards us." 

"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 
had come. 



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 
of Zenda. 

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 
guard. 

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 
asking : 

** 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- 
nenstein. 

*' The King will be in this room — the King. 
You know who is the King?" 

"Perfectly, Colonel." 

"And when the interview is ended, and 
we go to breakfast " 

" I know who will be the King then. 
Yes, Colonel." 

" Good. But we do him no harm un- 
less " 

" It is necessary." 

" Precisely." 

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- 
nenstein. 

*•! am not sleepy." 



72 RUPERT OF HENTZAU. 

" No, but you will be at eight if you don't 
sleep now." 

" 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 
slight smile. 

"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 
lips. 

"To the death, madame," said he in a 
trembling voice. 

"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 
Colonel Sapt. 

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 



^^ 




o 






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 
Zenda. 

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 
this morning." 

" Will he believe that ? " 

" Why not ? For his own sake he 'd better 
believe everything." 

And if we have to kill him ? 

"We must run for it. The King would 
be furious." 

"He's fond of him ?" 



AN EDDY ON THE MOAT. 75 

" You forget. He wants to know about 
the dogs." 

<* 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 
channel. 

" When we 've done with this fellow, we 
must find Rupert," said he. 

Rudolf started. 

" 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 
Rudolf." 

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 
most eagerly. 



CHAPTER V. 
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 
impatiently." 

** I didn't expect to find him up so soon," 
remarked Rischenheim. 

«* 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 
King's presence. 

" 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 
Rischenheim nervously. 

"I don't think you'll find anybody with 
him : no, nobody, I think," answered 
Bernenstein with a grave and reassuring 
air. 

They had arrived now at the door. Here 
Bernenstein paused. 

"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 

6 



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 
the King. 

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, 
was subdued. 

" 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- 
piece. 

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 
dogs." 

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 
he. 

"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 
honour." 

"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 
Majesty's love." 

"Name them." 

" Sire, I dare not. You would not believe 
me. But your Majesty will believe written 
evidence." 

"Show it me, and quickly. We may be 
interrupted." 

"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 ** 

Rischenheim paused. 

"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 
the King. 

"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, 
open-mouthed. 

"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 
moment." 

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," 
he whispered. 

"Bernenstein, did you hear what I said to 
the Count?" 

"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 
waiting." 

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 
full-bearded. 



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 
Rudolf was. 

"Allow me, sire," cried Sapt, darting past 
him and laying a hand on the curtain. 

A malicious gleam of pleasure shot into 
Rischenheim's eyes. 

" In truth, sire," continued the Constable, 
his hand on the curtain, " we were so inter- 
ested in what the Count was saying about his 
dogs " 

" 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 
there, sire." 

"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 
gaze. 

"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 
his back. 

" Sire " cried Rischenheim, half rising. 

A cough from Lieutenant von Bernenstein 
interrupted him. 

"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 
back again. 

" Perfectly, sire," said Colonel Sapt. " I 
understand all the Count wishes to convey to 
your Majesty." 

"Well, I understand about half," said the 
King with a laugh. "But perhaps that'll be 
enough." 

*' 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 
not alone." 

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 
seems." 

The King flushed red. 

" Is that your business, my lord ? " he 
asked Rischenheim sternly. 

"Your Majesty does not know what my 
cousin " 

♦* 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 
story, sire." 



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 
knows it." 

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 
head." 

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 
at Sapt. 

"Read," said the Constable. 

" I don't understand what it means," 
grumbled Rischenheim. 

" 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 ? " 

** Strelsau." 

"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 
well." 

"You are very acute, sir." 

**It seems to me a simple thing to guess, 
my lord." 

"And pray," said Rischenheim, endeavour- 
ing to assume an easy and sarcastic air, 
"what does your wisdom tell you that the 
message means?" 

"I think, my lord, that the message is an 
address." 

"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. 



CHAPTER VI. 
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 

7 

07 



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- 
stein eagerly. 

"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- 
nenstein. 

" 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 
King." 

" And Rischenheim ? " 

" That 's your share, Lieutenant. Sapt, is 
any one at Tarlenheim ? " 

" No. Count Stanislas has put it at Fritz's 
disposal." 

" 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 
Lieutenant's arm. 



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 
king." 

" Wasn't I also his loyal subject ? " asked 
young Bernenstein. 

" 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 
openness. 

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 
it. 

'* 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, 
for me!" 

** 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 
face. 

" 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 
of me." 

" No, but what could it mean ? " she asked 
again. 

"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- 
convinced. 

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 
loved. 

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, 
saying : 

"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 
outside : 

"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 
a chair. 

Sapt took no notice of his self-reproaches. 
But Rudolf went and laid a hand on his 
shoulder. 

"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 
eagerly. 

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 
means unlikely. 

" 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 
the errand. 

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 
Rudolf Rassendyll. 

"I must go," he said softly. "We can't 
spare Bemenstein, and I mustn't stay here." 

She said no more. Rudolf walked across 
to Sapt. 

"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 
mounted unmolested. 

"The hat doesn't fit very well," said 
Rudolf. 

8 



114 RUPERT OF HENTZAU. 

" Like a crown better, eh ? " suggested 
the Colonel. 

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!" 

"Yes?" 

"Make an end of him this time." 

"Please God. But if he goes to the 
lodge? He will unless Rischenheim stops 
him." 

"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 ! " 

"Aye?" 

"Be kind to her." 

" Bless the man, yes ! " 

"Good-by«." 

"And good-luck." 

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? 



CHAPTER VII. 
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 



ii6 



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 
possible. 

"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 
him." 

" 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- 
claimed indignantly. 

" 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 
half genuine. 

I looked up at the windows. They were 
all closed and had their wooden lattices 
shut. The house was devoid of any signs 
of life. 



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 
other children. 

" Sometimes, sometimes not," said she. 
** I let lodgings to single men when I can." 

"Full now?" 

" 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 
surprised tones. 

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 
half-hour." 

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, 
mother." 

'* 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, 
James." 

He looked at me without surprise; he 
was as hard to stir to wonder as old Sapt 
himself. 

"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 
Konigstrasse. 

"There will be three of them there — 
Rupert, Rischenheim, and my rascal Bauer," 
said I. 

"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 
Queen." 



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 
Bernenstein. 

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 
Queen. 

"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 

9 



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 
Majesty's message." 

" 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- 
stable. 



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 
hand. 

"Yes, the King was very tired, Simon?" 
said the Queen, at once encouraging him and 
bringing him back to the point with a 
woman's skill. 

" Yes, madame, the King was very tired ; 
and as we chanced to kill near the hunting- 
lodge " 

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 
this time. 

" 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 
and " 

"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 
short laugh. 

" 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 
Rupert." 

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 
a bow. 

"You won't let him reach the King?" 

"Why, no, madame," said Sapt with a 
smile. 

" 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 
Colonel Sapt. 

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 
servant. 

" What the devil do you want ? " asked Sapt. 

" I came to attend on the Count von Tar- 
lenheim, sir." 

"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 
finally laughed. 

•* Much obliged for your compliment," said 
he. *' The horse is mine." 

"Indeed, sir?" said James with respectful 
interest. 

For a moment we were all silent. Then 
Sapt laughed again. 

"Forward!" said he, and the three of us 
dashed into the forest. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

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 



136 



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 
too late. 

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 
the door. 

"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 
over." 

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 
any listeners. 

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- 
trive. 

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 
xo 



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 
box. 

"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 
Hentzau. 

*' 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, 
saying : 

" 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 

A 

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. 



CHAPTER IX. 
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 



»54 



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- 
stable. 



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 
hands. 

"Yes, he'd probably be taken or killed," 
said Sapt. 

"Then let's do it!" I cried. 

"With the Queen's letter on him," said 
Colonel Sapt. 

I had forgotten. 

"We have the box, he has the letter still," 
said Sapt. 

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 
chair. 

" 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 
air. 

"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." 

"And you?" 

"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 
His Majesty." 

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 ? " 
he asked. 

"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 
receive me." 

<' 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 
disobeyed." 

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 
letter. 

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 
heart. 
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 
letter." 

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 
hour. 

" 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, 
I did. 

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 
moustache. 

"Well, I thought you'd be here soon," he 
said; "but I didn't know that the Queen had 
come." 

" You didn't ? Then why did you look out 
for me?" 

He opened his eyes a little in languid 
elegant surprise. 

" Oh, I supposed you 'd be on duty, or 
something, and have to come. Aren't you in 
attendance?" 

" 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 
business." 

" Precisely," said he. " So I thought you'd 
come, as soon as I heard that the King was 
here." 



THE KING IN THE HUNTING-LODGE. 171 

It may be that I ought to have preserved 
my composure. But I am not Sapt nor 
Rudolf Rassendyll. 

" 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. 



CHAPTER X. 

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 



173 



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- 
posedly. 

"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 inquired. 

" 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 
of her. 

"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 
a little. 



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 
asked, smiling. 

"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. 
12 



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 
we paid. 

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 
like this." 

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 
fellow's face. 

Along they went; soon they came to the 
small numbers at the station end of the 
Konigstrasse. Rudolf began to peer at the 
shop fronts. 

"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- 
dyll's meaning. 

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 

face wonderingly. 

**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 
approaches. 

" Tell me what you want to know," she 
said simply. 

"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 
him pain." 

" 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 
find you." 

"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 
Zenda." 

"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 
Rupert." 

"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 
pursued. 

"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 
murmured. 

" 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. 

"How?" 

" By being ready to open to me when I 
come at eleven and knock as Bauer 
knocked." 

"Yes, I'll be there." 

" And by telling nobody that I 've been 
here to-night. Will you promise me that?" 

" Not my mother ? " 

" No." 

"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 
knov/s." 

"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- 
night." 

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. 



CHAPTER XI. 
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 



193 



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 
chance. 

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 
chuckle. 

" But if he 's gone ? " objected the other 
auxiliary. 

*' 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 
his chin. 

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 
awake. 

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, 
crying : 

♦* 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 
sudden confusion. 

" 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 
decisive tread. 

"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 
fellow. 

" By no means. And, sergeant ? ** 

"Your Majesty ?" 

" Sir, you mean." 

"Yes, sir." 

"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 
here." 

The fellow was convinced that he under- 
stood now. 

" 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 
Strelsau. 

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 
eyes. 

"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 
now." 

** I '11 do it," she said, and sat down to 
write. 

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, 



CHAPTER XII. 

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 



ili 



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 
six o'clock. 

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 
presence." 

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 
night before. 

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 
crowned him. 

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 
for hen 

"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 
dangers." 

"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. 



«5 



CHAPTER XIII. 
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 



226 



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 
back. 

" Here you are, sir," he cried. ** Nine- 
teen, Konigstrasse." 

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 
Bauer?" 

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 
silent. 

"But Rischenheim has come, I suppose?" 
pursued Rupert. 

" 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 
the Count?" 

**Why, in the attic. You know the way." 

** True. But I want some breakfast, 
mother." 

" Rosa shall serve you at once, my 
lord." 

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." 

Rischenheim flushed. 

" 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- 
found bow. 

" 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 
again. 

" 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?" 

«* Certainly." 

"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 
honour." 

"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- 
pened?" 

"Well, they none of them did what they 
wanted. That 's what happened, dear 
cousin." 



234 RUPERT OF HENTZAU. 

Rischenheim was staring at him now with 
wide -opened eyes. Rupert smiled down on 
him composedly. 

"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 
no more." 

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- 
garded it. 

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 
again. * 

** Do you see anything remarkable ? " he 
asked then. 

*' 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 
night before. 

"I wish I was quit of it," he moaned at 
last. 

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 
too much." 

"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 ! " 
he cried. 

" 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 
now, cousin." 

x6 



242 RUPERT OF HENTZAU. 

" You shall see that I have something in 
me. 

** 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 
Rupert. 

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- 
staffs. 

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 
diligence. 

"You're going out, my lord?" she 
asked. 

" Why, yes ; I have business. Pray stanc 
on one side, this passage is so cursedly 
narrow." 

Rosa showed no haste in moving. 

** And Count Rupert, is he going out also ? ** 
she asked. 



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. 



CHAPTER XIV. 

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 
flowers. 

"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 
could. 

"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 



244 



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- 
marked. 

** 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 
Strelsau. 

"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, 
exclaimed : 



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 
Rischenheim. 

"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 
urgent." 

" Indeed, my dear Count, indeed ! Dear 
me! Urgent, you say?" 

" But perhaps you can help me. Is he 
at Zenda?" 

The Chancellor was becoming very em- 
barrassed ; Anton had disappeared into the 



THE NEWS COMES TO STRELSAU. 247 

house; Rischenhcim buttonholed him reso- 
lutely. 

"At Zenda? Well, now, I don't 



Excuse me, but what's your business?" 

" Excuse me, my dear Chancellor : it 's a 
secret." 

** 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, 
saying : 

"I vv'ill inform the Count of Your Majesty's 
wishes." 

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 
a bow. 

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 
was. 

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 
Bernenstein. 

"It's very possible," retorted Rischen- 
heim significantly. 

*' 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- 
stein stiffly. 

** 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 
the arm. 

** 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 
lips. 

** 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 
resources. 

'• 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 
him. 

** 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 
brought ? 

" 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 
only : 

** 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 ? " 

"Yes." 

She struggled for a moment with the 
contending feelings that filled her heart. 
Then she came to him and seized hold of 
his hand. 

"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 
crowd. 

"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 
the King?" 

"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 
him. 

*♦ 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 
and disappear." 

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 
all." 



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 
that." 

"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. 



257 



"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 
coolness. 

" 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 ? " 



«7 



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 
again. 

** I 'm going to kill Rupert of Hentzau,*' 
he said. ** The rest we *11 talk of after- 
wards." 

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 
to hide. 

" 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?" 
she pleaded. 

*• But I ought not," said he, his resolute 
eyes suddenly softening in a marvellous 
fashion. 

"You will?" 

** 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. 



CHAPTER XV. 

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 
future action. 

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- 
minded him. 

" 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 
suggestion. 

"A remarkable thought, James," observed 
the Constable with a grin. 

"You don't agree with me, sir?" asked 
James deprecatingly. 

"I don't say that it isn't a pity, for Rudolf 













2 

s 



J^ 



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 
from you." 

"You do? Come, we're at leisure. Let's 
hear how it would be possible." 

'* My master is in Strelsau, sir," began 
James. 

"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- 
mitted Sapt. 

"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 
Strelsau " 

"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 
plausible." 

Sapt seemed to fall into the humour of the 
speculation. 

"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 
face. 

" 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 
Mr. Rassendyll." 

"And did I come too?" 

" You, sir, came also, in attendance on the 
King." 

" 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 
it." 

" The King went out very early this 
morning, sir." 

"That would be on private business?" 

*• So we should have understood. But 
Mr. Rassendyll, Herbert, and ourselves re- 
mained here." 

" 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 
within." 

"This lodge is undoubtedly of wood, 
James, and, as you say, both inside and 
out." 



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 
suffocation." 

** 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." 

"Hum!" 

"They would, at least, sir, be entirely 
unrecognisable." 

"You think so?" 

" Beyond doubt, if the oil and the firewood 
and the candle were placed to the best 
advantage." 



A PASTIME FOR COLONEL SAPT. 267 

"Ah, yes. And there would be an end of 
Rudolf Rassendyll?" 

" Sir, I should myself carry the tidings to 
his family." 

"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 
re-married." 

"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 
smile. 

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 
reckoned with." 

" If my master is killed, sir, he must be 
buried," answered James. 

" In Strelsau ? " came in quick question 
from Sapt, 



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 
good story." 

The two men's eyes met again in a long 
glance. 

" Where do you come from ? " asked Sapt 
suddenly. 

" 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 
matter." 

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 
again." 

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 
remarked. 

*' 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 
on us." 

** Then we 'd best be ready, sir," suggested 
James quietly. 

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 
shoulders. 

*♦ Ready ? " he asked in a gruff whisper. 

" The oil, the firewood, the light," said 
James. 

" 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. 



tt 



" 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." 

x8 



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 
the door. 

" 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 
morning." 

"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? " 

Simon laughed. 

♦« 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 
then, sir?" 

"Yes, Simon, your brother will be here 
to-morrow morning." 

**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 
say." 

"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 
himself. 

" 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," 
admitted Sapt. 

"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 
Strelsau. 

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 
Strelsau ! 

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 
face. 

"Aye," he said, "every man that deserves 
a crown shall have one, if I can give it 
him." 

Then he turned again to James, who had 
now come up, and laid his hand on his 
shoulder. 

"Come along, my king-maker," said he. 

James looked in his face for a moment. 
The Constable's eyes met his, and the 
Constable nodded. 

So they turned to the lodge where the 
dead king and his huntsman lay. Verily the 
fate drove. 



CHAPTER XVI. 
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 



279 



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 
after days. 

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 
apology. 

"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 
blotched." 

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 
by it/' 



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 
tears. 

"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 
Queen. 

"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- 
chenheim again. 

*• 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. 

**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 
smiling. 

"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 
displeasure. 

" 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 
right." 

" No, he's wrong," said the Queen, smiling. 
" The Count will keep his word, given to 
me." 

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," 
said I. 

" Yes, do, Fritz," said the Queen. But 
as I passed she stopped me for a moment, 
saying in a whisper, " Show that you trust 
him." 



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 
sedulous care. 

"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 
my shoulder. 

"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 
interrupted snappishly. 

" 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 

»9 



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 
hand. 

" 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 
asked. 

"Not unless I see need, sweetheart," 
said I. 

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 
cur. 

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 
was Rischenheim. 

** You 're here too, are you ? " said I. 
** Well, nothing seems to be happening, does 
it?" 

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?" 
I asked. 

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 ! " 



CHAPTER XVII. 
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 



297 



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 
on her. 

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, 
mother." 

"Aye, if the King's alive, I'm the King," 
said Rudolf. 

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 
admission. 



YOUNG RUPERT AND THE PLAY-ACTOR. 301 

" I 've come to see the Count of Hentzau," 
Rudolf continued. "Take me to him at 
once." 

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, 
sir." 

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 
bewilderment. 

" He helps us, never fear," said Rudolf 
Rassendyll. "V/here is Count Rupert?" 

The girl had caught alarm from her 
mother's agitation. 

" 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 stairs. 

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 
gazing. 

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 
will." 

" 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 
rather tiresome?" 

Rudolf grew grave. He advanced towards 
the table and spoke in low serious tones. 

** My lord, you 're alone in this matter now. 
20 



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?" 
he asked, 

"I'll prevent your death. Yes, and I'll 
see you safe." 

"Where to?" 

"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- 
swered Rudolf. 

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 
smiling. 

" 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 
Hentzau. 

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, 
said: 

"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 
try." 

"And then I'll proclaim that woman for 
what she is through all Strelsau." 

A smile came on his lips as he watched 
Rudolf's face. 

" Guard yourself, my lord," said Mr. 
Rassendyll. 

" 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, 
King Rudolf!" 

"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 
alone." 

" 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 
danger. 

" 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!" 
from behind. 



CHAPTER XVIII. 
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 
grumbling. 

Well, be it inspiration or be it delusion 
— and the difference stands often on a hair's 



3«7 



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 
him. 

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 
Rudolf motionless. 

<*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 

SI 



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 
Bernenstein." 

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 
monogram, R.R. 

" 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 
whispered. 

"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 
three smiled. 

" 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 
burnt." 

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 
stay here." 

" 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 
to him. 



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 
and sobbed. 

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 
face. 

"You'll break my heart," she said. 



CHAPTER XIX. 
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 

22 
337 



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- 
phantly. 

" No, no, no. Not the throne. He 's going 
away." 

"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 
at last." 

"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 
whispered. 

"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 
plan." 

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 
dull apathy. 

" I don't see how he can go," I said 
sullenly. 

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 Queen. 

" 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 
Rudolf stood. 

*« 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. 
RasseadylL 



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 
his gloves. 

"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 
Sapt. 

"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 
Sapt. 

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. 
Rassendyll. 

"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," 
began Rudolf. 



FOR OUR LOVE AND HER HONOUR ! 347 

"If you wish that, it's easy," observed 
Colonel Sapt. 

**' Come, Sapt, be reasonable," smiled Mr. 
Rassendyll. " Early to-morrow we, you and 
I " 

" Oh, I also ? " asked the Colonel. 

" Yes : you, Bernenstein, and I will be at 
the lodge." 

"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 
unavailable." 

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 
shot himself." 

"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. 
Rassendyll. 

"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 
the arm. 

"No body? What do you mean?" he 
exclaimed. 

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 
familiar : 

" 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- 
stable?" 

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 
serve." 

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 
question. 

♦'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 
follow." 

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 
my limbs." 

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 

23 



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 
Queen. 

"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. 



CHAPTER XX. 
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 



337 



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 
Square. 

' ' 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 
your time." 

Rudolf looked at him and broke into a 
smile. 

" 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 
it will." 

** Yes, confound you I " grinned Colonel 
Sapt. 

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 
whimsical mood. 

"He will see the Queen's face in hers, 
cried Bernenstein. 

" 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, 
almost fiercely. 



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 
Bernenstein." 

"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," 
said James. 

" 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- 
patiently. 



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 
disposal." 



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 

Sapt. 

"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 
enough. 

" I gave my honour to the Queen, and 
even in that I will serve her if she com- 
mands me." 

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 
him go?" 

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- 
gance. 

*• 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 
Sapt. 

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 
me. 



374 RUPERT OF HENTZAU. 

"A man has shot the King," said I in bald 
stupid explanation. 

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 
softly. 

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 
in answer. 

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," 
he murmured. 

And thus he fell asleep. 



CHAPTER XXI. 
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 



378 




^ 

Q 



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 
hushed. 

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 
to me." 

" 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," 
said I. 

" 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 
one." 

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 
known. 

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 : 

RUDOLFO 

Qui in hac civitate nuper regnavit 
In corde ipsius in seternum regnat 

FLAVIA Regina. 

I felt his hand tremble in mine, and he 
looked up in my face. 

" God save the Queen, father," said he. 



THE END. 



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