The elder man approached me, beckoning the younger to follow. He did so, courteously raising his hat. I rose slowly to my feet.
Hes the height, too! I heard the elder murmur, as he surveyed my six feet two inches of stature. Then, with a cavalier touch of the cap, he addressed me:
May I ask your name?
As you have taken the first step in the acquaintance, gentlemen, said I, with a smile, suppose you give me a lead in the matter of names.
The young man stepped forward with a pleasant smile.
This, said he, is Colonel Sapt, and I am called Fritz von Tarlenheim: we are both in the service of the King of Ruritania.
I bowed and, baring my head, answered:
I am Rudolf Rassendyll. I am a traveller from England; and once for a year or two I held a commission from her Majesty the Queen.
Then we are all brethren of the sword, answered Tarlenheim, holding out his hand, which I took readily.
Rassendyll, Rassendyll! muttered Colonel Sapt; then a gleam of intelligence flitted across his face.
By Heaven! he cried, youre of the Burlesdons?
My brother is now Lord Burlesdon, said I.
Thy head betrayeth thee, he chuckled, pointing to my uncovered poll. Why, Fritz, you know the story?
The young man glanced apologetically at me. He felt a delicacy which my sister-in-law would have admired. To put him at his ease, I remarked with a smile:
Ah! the story is known here as well as among us, it seems.
Known! cried Sapt. If you stay here, the deuce a man in all Ruritania will doubt of itor a woman either.
I began to feel uncomfortable. Had I realized what a very plainly written pedigree I carried about with me, I should have thought long before I visited Ruritania. However, I was in for it now.
At this moment a ringing voice sounded from the wood behind us:
Fritz, Fritz! where are you, man?
Tarlenheim started, and said hastily:
Its the King!
Old Sapt chuckled again.
Then a young man jumped out from behind the trunk of a tree and stood beside us. As I looked at him, I uttered an astonished cry; and he, seeing me, drew back in sudden wonder. Saving the hair on my face and a manner of conscious dignity which his position gave him, saving also that he lacked perhaps half an inchnay, less than that, but still somethingof my height, the King of Ruritania might have been Rudolf Rassendyll, and I, Rudolf, the King.
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