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A King-Sized Conspiracy : Rudolf Rassendyll is on holiday in Ruritania when he stumbles across a plot by the King’s brother to steal the crown.
A King-Sized Conspiracy

Abridged from ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ (1894), by Anthony Hope.

It is the eve of the coronation of the King of Ruritania, and his loyal courtiers have discovered him unconscious, drugged by his wicked brother Michael. But it just so happens that Rudolf Rassendyll, a British holidaymaker, is in the capital, and he looks exactly like the King...

FOR a moment or two we were all silent; then Sapt, knitting his bushy grey brows, took his pipe from his mouth and said to me:

“As a man grows old he believes in Fate. Fate sent you here. Fate sends you now to Strelsau.”

I staggered back, murmuring “Good God!”

Fritz looked up with an eager, bewildered gaze.

“Impossible!” I muttered. “I should be known.”

“It’s a risk — against a certainty,” said Sapt. “If you shave, I’ll wager you’ll not be known.* It’s your life, you know, if you’re known — and mine — and Fritz’s here. But, if you don’t go, I swear to you Black Michael will sit tonight on the throne, and the King lie in prison or his grave.”

The clock ticked fifty times, and sixty and seventy times, as I stood in thought. Then I suppose a look came over my face, for old Sapt caught me by the hand, crying: “You’ll go?”

“Yes, I’ll go,” said I, and I turned my eyes on the prostrate figure of the King on the floor.

* The king had recently shaved his beard off; Rassendyll had a luxurious moustache.

Abridged from ‘The Prisoner of Zenda’ (1894), by Anthony Hope.

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Picture: © Ricardo Liberato, Wikimedia Commons. Licence: CC-BY-SA 2.0. View original
A night-time view of the city of Prague in the Czech Republic, a likely inspiration for Strelsau, capital of Ruritania.
By Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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