At that very moment I heard a rush of feet, and a voice I knewSaptscry: God! its the dukedead! Then I knew that the King needed me no more, and throwing down my revolver, I sprang out on the bridge. There was a cry of wild wonder, The King! and then I, like Rupert of Hentzau, sword in hand, vaulted over the parapet, intent on finishing my quarrel with him where I saw his curly head fifteen yards off in the water of the moat.
He swam swiftly and easily. I was weary and half crippled with my wounded arm. I could not gain on him. For a time I made no sound, but as we rounded the corner of the old keep I cried:
Stop, Rupert, stop!
I saw him look over his shoulder, but he swam on. He was under the bank now, searching, as I guessed, for a spot that he could climb. I knew there to be nonebut there was my rope, which would still be hanging where I had left it. He would come to where it was before I could. Perhaps he would miss itperhaps he would find it; and if he drew it up after him, he would get a good start of me. I put forth all my remaining strength and pressed on. At last I began to gain on him; for he, occupied with his search, unconsciously slackened his pace.
Ah, he had found it! A low shout of triumph came from him. He laid hold of it and began to haul himself up. I was near enough to hear him mutter: How the devil comes this here? I was at the rope, and he, hanging in mid air, saw me, but I could not reach him.
Hullo! whos here? he cried in startled tones.
For a moment, I believe, he took me for the KingI dare say I was pale enough to lend colour to the thought; but an instant later he cried:
Why its the play-actor! How come you here, man?
And so saying he gained the bank.
I laid hold of the rope, but I paused. He stood on the bank, sword in hand, and he could cut my head open or spit me through the heart as I came up. I let go the rope.
Never mind, said I; but as I am here, I think Ill stay.
He smiled down on me.
These women are the deuce he began; when suddenly the great bell of the Castle started to ring furiously, and a loud shout reached us from the moat.
Rupert smiled again, and waved his hand to me.
I should like a turn with you, but its a little too hot! said he, and he disappeared from above me.
In an instant, without thinking of danger, I laid my hand to the rope. I was up. I saw him thirty yards off, running like a deer towards the shelter of the forest. For once Rupert Hentzau had chosen discretion for his part. I laid my feet to the ground and rushed after him, calling to him to stand. He would not. Unwounded and vigorous, he gained on me at every step; but, forgetting everything in the world except him and my thirst for his blood, I pressed on, and soon the deep shades of the forest of Zenda engulfed us both, pursued and pursuer.
It was three oclock now, and day was dawning. I was on a long straight grass avenue, and a hundred yards ahead ran young Rupert, his curls waving in the fresh breeze. I was weary and panting; he looked over his shoulder and waved his hand again to me. He was mocking me, for he saw he had the pace of
|Copyright: All texts on Bibliomania are © Bibliomania.com Ltd, and may not be reproduced in any form without our written permission. See our FAQ for more details.|