His Majesty Sleeps in Strelsau
I put my arm round Sapts waist and supported him out of the cellar, drawing the battered door close after me. For ten minutes or more we sat silent in the dining-room. Then old Sapt rubbed his knuckles into his eyes, gave one great gasp, and was himself again. As the clock on the mantelpiece struck one he stamped his foot on the floor, saying:
Theyve got the King!
Yes, said I, alls well! as Black Michaels despatch said. What a moment it must have been for him when the royal salutes fired at Strelsau this morning! I wonder when he got the message?
It must have been sent in the morning, said Sapt. They must have sent it before news of your arrival at Strelsau reached ZendaI suppose it came from Zenda.
And hes carried it about all day! I exclaimed. Upon my honour, Im not the only man whos had a trying day! What did he think, Sapt?
What does that matter? What does he think, lad, now?
I rose to my feet.
We must get back, I said, and rouse every soldier in Strelsau. We ought to be in pursuit of Michael before midday.
Old Sapt pulled out his pipe and carefully lit it from the candle which guttered on the table.
The King may be murdered while we sit here! I urged.
Sapt smoked on for a moment in silence.
That cursed old woman! he broke out. She must have attracted their attention somehow. I see the game. They came up to kidnap the King, andas I saysomehow they found him. If you hadnt gone to Strelsau, you and I and Fritz had been in heaven by now!
And the King?
Who knows where the King is now? he asked.
Come, lets be off! said I; but he sat still. And suddenly he burst into one of his grating chuckles:
By Jove, weve shaken up Black Michael!
Come, come! I repeated impatiently.
And well shake him up a bit more, he added, a cunning smile broadening on his wrinkled, weather- beaten face, and his teeth working on an end of his grizzled moustache. Ay, lad, well go back to Strelsau. The King shall be in his capital again tomorrow.
The crowned King!
Youre mad! I cried.
If we go back and tell the trick we played, what would you give for our lives?
Just what theyre worth, said I.
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