The Secret of a Cellar
We were in the Kings dressing-roomFritz von Tarlenheim, Sapt, and I. I flung myself exhausted into an armchair. Sapt lit his pipe. He uttered no congratulations on the marvellous success of our wild risk, but his whole bearing was eloquent of satisfaction. The triumph, aided perhaps by good wine, had made a new man of Fritz.
What a day for you to remember! he cried. Gad, Id like to be King for twelve hours myself! But, Rassendyll, you mustnt throw your heart too much into the part. I dont wonder Black Michael looked blacker than everyou and the princess had so much to say to one another.
How beautiful she is! I exclaimed.
Never mind the woman, growled Sapt. Are you ready to start?
Yes, said I, with a sigh.
It was five oclock, and at twelve I should be no more than Rudolf Rassendyll. I remarked on it in a joking tone.
Youll be lucky, observed Sapt grimly, if youre not the late Rudolf Rassendyll. By Heaven! I feel my head wobbling on my shoulders every minute youre in the city. Do you know, friend, that Michael has had news from Zenda? He went into a room alone to read itand he came out looking like a man dazed.
Im ready, said I, this news making me none the more eager to linger.
Sapt sat down.
I must write us an order to leave the city. Michaels Governor, you know, and we must be prepared for hindrances. You must sign the order.
My dear colonel, Ive not been bred a forger!
Out of his pocket Sapt produced a piece of paper.
Theres the Kings signature, he said, and here, he went on, after another search in his pocket, is some tracing paper. If you cant manage a Rudolf in ten minutes, whyI can.
Your education has been more comprehensive than mine, said I. You write it.
And a very tolerable forgery did this versatile hero produce.
Now, Fritz, said he, the King goes to bed. He is upset. No one is to see him till nine oclock tomorrow. You understandno one?
I understand, answered Fritz.
Michael may come, and claim immediate audience. Youll answer that only princes of the blood are entitled to it.
Thatll annoy Michael, laughed Fritz.
You quite understand? asked Sapt again. If the door of this room is opened while were away, youre not to be alive to tell us about it.
I need no schooling, colonel, said Fritz, a trifle haughtily.
Here, wrap yourself in this big cloak, Sapt continued to me, and put on this flat cap. My orderly rides with me to the hunting-lodge tonight.
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