فصل 09

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فصل 09

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CHAPTER NINE

Return to Zenda

At last Colonel Sapt decided that the time was right for rescuing the real King.

‘We’ll go to Zenda together,’ the Colonel explained. ‘We’ll tell everyone that we’re going hunting I there. No one will suspect anything.’

We took ten soldiers with us. The soldiers did not know the real truth. They thought I was the King. The Colonel told them I was in danger. He said someone had tried to kill me in the summerhouse in New Avenue.

We stayed in Zenda for a few days while the Colonel made his plans to get inside the castle. One afternoon I was sitting in the garden of the house, when Rupert Hentzau rode up to the house. He waved at me and smiled cheerfully. Then he got down from his horse and came into the garden.

‘I’ve come with another offer from the Duke,’ he said.

‘I don’t want to hear it,’ I told him.

The Duke will give you one million crowns if you leave Ruritania,’ Rupert said. ‘What do you say?’

‘No,’ I replied coldly.

‘I thought you’d say that,’ Rupert told me with a smile. ‘I told the Duke it was no good. You’re a gentleman, Mr. Rassendyll - but you’re a fool as well!’

I said nothing, and we looked at each other for a few minutes in silence. Then Rupert spoke again.

‘Listen to me,’ he said. ‘You could really be the King of Ruritania, if you want. My friends and I will help you. Being king is fun, isn’t it, Mr Rassendyll? And the King will marry Princess Flavia, won’t lie?’

I still said nothing.

‘We’ll help you, and you help us,’ he went on. ‘I want to be the Duke of Strelsau. I like the Duke’s castle - and I like his lady as well,’ he laughed. ‘Antoinette De Mauban’s a beauty!’

No,’ I said again. ‘I promised to help the King - and I’ll keep my promise.’

‘I like you, Rassendyll,’ Rupert said. He spoke in a friendly way. ‘I don’t want to be your enemy. Shake my hand before I go. You’re a brave man.’

He put out his hand for me to shake. He was smiling. Suddenly he took out a dagger from his coat. He stabbed me in the arm with the dagger. I cried out in pain and the soldiers ran into the garden. Rupert Hentzau jumped onto his horse and rode away.

The soldiers carried me into the house and put me to bed. My arm was very painful.

That evening Fritz came to the house to see me. He brought someone with him. I recognized Johann, the old man from the hotel in Zenda. I remembered that Johann worked for the Duke of Strelsau. The three of us talked together, and Johann agreed to work with us. He knew the King was a prisoner in the castle. He was afraid of the Duke, he told us. Johann told us that the King was still alive but he was very ill.

‘He’ll die soon,’ Johann told us.

There are two secret rooms in the castle,’ he explained. They’re holding the King in one of the rooms. Two members of the Six are in the other room. The Duke has told them to kill the King if anyone tries to rescue him.’

‘What will they do with the King’s body?’ I asked him. ‘If they kill him, we’ll find his body. Everybody will know the Duke’s a murderer then.’

They’ve got a plan,’ Johann told me. ‘There’s a metal pipe that goes from the room where they’re keeping him, down into the moat. When they kill the King, they’re going to throw the body into the castle moat. The Duke’s men will slide down the pipe into the moat and swim away. There’ll be no evidence of the murder. No one will ever find the King’s body.’

I knew that we had to do something to save the King. Suddenly I had an idea.

‘Listen, Johann,’ I said, ‘I want you to help us to enter the castle. Will you do that?’

‘Yes, sir,’ the old man replied.

‘Good,’ I said. ‘Open the castle gate tomorrow night at two o’clock.’

‘What do I do then?’ the old man asked nervously.

‘Nothing,’ I told him. ‘Open the castle gate, and then go away. Leave the castle.’

‘Very well,’ he agreed. ‘I’ll do it.’

I gave Johann a letter for Antoinette De Mauban. I told her to make a noise at two o’clock the next night. I wanted her to shout for help. I wanted the Duke to go to her room when she cried for help. Then we could enter the castle through the gate.

The next night I hid near the castle and watched. It was very dark, and the castle seemed huge against the sky.

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