The King Keeps His Appointment
Whether I had slept a minute or a year I knew not. I awoke with a start and a shiver; my face, hair and clothes dripped water, and opposite me stood old Sapt, a sneering smile on his face and an empty bucket in his hand. On the table by him sat Fritz von Tarlenheim, pale as a ghost and black as a crow under the eyes.
I leapt to my feet in anger.
Your joke goes too far, sir! I cried.
Tut, man, weve no time for quarrelling. Nothing else would rouse you. Its five oclock.
Ill thank you, Colonel Sapt I began again, hot in spirit, though I was uncommonly cold in body.
Rassendyll, interrupted Fritz, getting down from the table and taking my arm, look here.
The King lay full length on the floor. His face was red as his hair, and he breathed heavily. Sapt, the disrespectful old dog, kicked him sharply. He did not stir, nor was there any break in his breathing. I saw that his face and head were wet with water, as were mine.
Weve spent half an hour on him, said Fritz.
He drank three times what either of you did, growled Sapt.
I knelt down and felt his pulse. It was alarmingly languid and slow. We three looked at one another.
Was it druggedthat last bottle? I asked in a whisper.
I dont know, said Sapt.
We must get a doctor.
Theres none within ten miles, and a thousand doctors wouldnt take him to Strelsau today. I know the look of it. Hell not move for six or seven hours yet.
But the coronation! I cried in horror.
Fritz shrugged his shoulders, as I began to see was his habit on most occasions.
We must send word that hes ill, he said.
I suppose so, said I.
Old Sapt, who seemed as fresh as a daisy, had lit his pipe and was puffing hard at it.
If hes not crowned today, said he, Ill lay a crown hes never crowned.
But heavens, why?
The whole nations there to meet him; half the armyay, and Black Michael at the head. Shall we send word that the Kings drunk?
That hes ill, said I, in correction.
Ill! echoed Sapt, with a scornful laugh. They know his illnesses too well. Hes been ill before!
Well, we must chance what they think, said Fritz helplessly. Ill carry the news and make the best of it.
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