فصل 06

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فصل 06

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CHAPTER SIX

Kingship and Love

Colonel Sapt and I waited in the palace until very late that night. We talked together about the ceremony, and about the Duke of Strelsau.

‘He’s a dangerous man,’ the Colonel told me. ‘But we’ve defeated him this time - thanks to you, Mr. Rassendyll.’

At last everyone was asleep. We went outside to the stables. We found our horses, and put on their saddles.

‘Let’s go,’ the Colonel said quietly.

We jumped on the horses and rode out of the palace grounds. It was exciting to ride through the sleeping city.

We rode all night on our way back to Zenda. Suddenly we heard two horses following us in the darkness - the Duke and one of his men! We rode on very quickly and managed to lose them at a cross-roads in a forest.

We arrived at Zenda very early in the morning. We went straight to the house - and there we found a terrible tragedy. At first there seemed to be no one in the house. Then we saw some blood coming from under the locked door of the wine - cellar, where we had left the King. Perhaps the King was dead! We opened the door to the room. The servant Joseph was lying there - he was dead. We looked everywhere for the King, but we could not find him.

‘The Duke of Strelsau!’ the Colonel said angrily. ‘He’s been here.’ He pointed at the body of the servant on the floor. ‘This is the Duke’s work!’ he exclaimed.

‘But where’s the King?’ I asked. ‘Do you think the Duke has killed him, too?’

‘No,’ the Colonel replied. ‘I think the King is a prisoner in his brother’s castle.’

‘What do we do?’ I asked.

‘Everything’s changed now,’ the Colonel said thoughtfully. ‘We must change our original plan.’

He thought for a moment.

‘Ruritania needs her King,’ he told me. ‘You will have to be the King for a while longer, Mr. Rassendyll.’

‘You want me to go back to Strelsau?’ I asked. ‘But what about the real King? What will happen to him?’

‘You’re the only King we’ve got,’ the Colonel said grimly. ‘Go back to Strelsau, Mr Rassendyll. You are the King of Ruritania again.’

‘But the Duke of Strelsau knows that I’m not the real King,’ I said. ‘He knows I’m a fake!’

‘That’s true,’ the Colonel admitted. ‘He knows you’re not the real King, because the real King is his prisoner in the castle here at Zenda. But the Duke can’t tell anyone that you’re a fake. He can’t tell anyone that the real King is a prisoner, can he?’

I nodded my head. The Colonel was right.

‘Do you think the King is in danger?’ I asked. ‘Will the Duke kill him?’

Colonel Sapt looked at me very seriously for a moment.

The King’s life is in great danger,’ he said slowly. ‘The Duke has already killed once. But if he does kill the King,’ he went on, ‘you’ll have to stay here. You’re an Elphberg, after all!’

Colonel Sapt and I went outside to our horses. We rode back to the capital. No one saw us enter the palace.

The next day the Colonel and Fritz told me more about the King.

‘Do you remember Princess Flavia?’ the Colonel asked me. ‘She was at the coronation.’

I remembered her very well. She was the beautiful girl I had noticed in the cathedral.

‘The King’s in love with her,’ Colonel Sapt told me.

‘Princess Flavia is very popular with the people. Everyone hopes the King will marry her.’

Fritz looked impatiently at Colonel Sapt. He was young and very loyal to the King. He always wanted to be busy, to be doing something to help the King. The older man was also very loyal to the King, but he knew how to wait, how to be patient until the time for action came.

‘When are we going to rescue the King?’ he asked impatiently. ‘We can’t sit here in the palace forever, Colonel!’

‘We must be patient’ Colonel Sapt told him. ‘The Duke won’t kill the King while Mr. Rassendyll is here pretending to be the King. He’ll wait and see what we do. We must wait, too’

‘You know that some of the Six are here in Strelsau?’ Fritz asked.

The Colonel nodded.

‘Yes,’ he replied. ‘The Duke sent them here to spy on Mr. Rassendyll’

‘Who are the Six?’ I said.

‘They’re the Duke’s favorite soldiers’ Fritz told me. ‘They’re the most dangerous men in the country, and they’re very loyal to the Duke. They do everything he tells them to.’

‘Three of them are Ruritanians’ the Colonel explained. ‘There’s also a Frenchman, a Belgian and an Englishman. But the most dangerous of the Six is Rupert Hentzau.’

The three of us talked for a long time. Fritz and I wanted to do something to help the King, but Colonel Sapt told us to be patient. He said we could do nothing until we knew what the Duke was planning.

‘Be patient, my friends,’ he said. The time for action will come soon.”

‘Very well,’ I agreed. ‘We’ll do nothing until you tell us, Colonel. But meanwhile, I’m the King of Ruritania. Let’s enjoy ourselves this evening!’

We all went out that evening to visit Princess Flavia. Fritz told me that he was in love with one of the Princess’s ladies - in -waiting.

‘Countess Helga is very beautiful,’ he said. ‘We’ll see her when we arrive.’

Princess Flavia was very happy to see me. She did not realize that I was not the real King. She seemed worried about something, though, and I asked her what was the matter.

‘It’s your brother,’ she said. ‘I think Michael is dangerous. Please be careful. Your Majesty!’

‘I’m not frightened of Michael,’ I told her.

She looked at me very seriously.

‘Your life is important to Ruritania,’ she told me. ‘And to your friends, as well,’ she added with a tender look.

I began to fall in love with Princess Flavia that evening. It was difficult for me not to tell her the truth. I wanted to tell her who I really was. But I was playing a dangerous game - and the King’s life depended on me. I kept silent.

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