A New Use for a Tea-table

If I were to detail the ordinary events of my daily life at this time, they might prove instructive to people who are not familiar with the inside of palaces; if I revealed some of the secrets I learnt, they might prove of interest to the statesmen of Europe. I intend to do neither of these things. I should be between the Scylla of dullness and the Charybdis of indiscretion, and I feel that I had far better confine myself strictly to the underground drama which was being played beneath the surface of Ruritanian politics. I need only say that the secret of my imposture defied detection. I made mistakes. I had bad minutes: it needed all the tact and graciousness whereof I was master to smooth over some apparent lapses of memory and unmindfulness of old acquaintances of which I was guilty. But I escaped, and I attribute my escape, as I have said before, most of all, to the very audacity of the enterprise. It is my belief that, given the necessary physical likeness, it was far easier to pretend to be King of Ruritania than it would have been to personate my next-door neighbour. One day Sapt came into my room. He threw me a letter, saying:

“That’s for you—a woman’s hand, I think. But I’ve some news for you first.”

“What’s that?”

“The King’s at the Castle of Zenda,” said he.

“How do you know?,

“Because the other half of Michael’s Six are there. I had enquiries made, and they’re all there—Lauengram, Krafstein, and young Rupert Hentzau: three rogues, too, on my honour, as fine as live in Ruritania.”


“Well, Fritz wants you to march to the Castle with horse, foot, and artillery.”

“And drag the moat?’I asked.

“That would be about it,” grinned Sapt, “and we shouldn’t find the King’s body then.”

“You think it’s certain he’s there?”

“Very probable. Besides the fact of those three being there, the drawbridge is kept up, and no one goes in without an order from young Hentzau or Black Michael himself. We must tie Fritz up.”

“I’ll go to Zenda,” said I.

“You’re mad.”

“Some day.”

“Oh, perhaps. You’ll very likely stay there though, if you do.”

“That may be, my friend,” said I carelessly.

“His Majesty looks sulky,” observed Sapt. “How’s the love affair?”

“Damn you, hold your tongue!” I said.

He looked at me for a moment, then he lit his pipe. It was quite true that I was in a bad temper, and I went on perversely:

“Wherever I go, I’m dodged by half a dozen fellows.”

“I know you are; I send ’em,” he replied composedly.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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