The Rose and the Ring, by William Makepeace Thackeray

X.

How King Valoroso Was in A Dreadful Passion.

As soon as the coals began to burn him, the King came to himself and stood up. “Ho! my captain of the guards!” his Majesty exclaimed, stamping his royal feet with rage. O piteous spectacle! the King’s nose was bent quite crooked by the blow of Prince Giglio! His Majesty ground his teeth with rage. “Hedzoff,” he said, taking a death-warrant out of his dressing-gown pocket, “Hedzoff, good Hedzoff, seize upon the Prince. Thou’lt find him in his chamber two pair up. But now he dared, with sacrilegious hand, to strike the sacred night-cap of a king — Hedzoff, and floor me with a warming-pan! Away, no more demur, the villain dies! See it be done, or else — h’m — ha! — h’m! mind thine own eyes!” And followed by the ladies, and lifting up the tails of his dressing-gown, the King entered his own apartment.

Captain Hedzoff was very much affected, having a sincere love for Giglio. “Poor, poor Giglio!” he said, the tears rolling over his manly face, and dripping down his moustachios; “my noble young Prince, is it my hand must lead thee to death?”

“Lead him to fiddlestick, Hedzoff,” said a female voice. It was Gruffanuff, who had come out in her dressing-gown when she heard the noise. “The King said you were to hang the Prince. Well, hang the Prince.”

“I don’t understand you,” says Hedzoff, who was not a very clever man.

“You Gaby! he didn’t say WHICH Prince,” says Gruffanuff.

“No; he didn’t say which, certainly,” said Hedzoff.

“Well then, take Bulbo, and hang HIM!”

When Captain Hedzoff heard this, he began to dance about for joy. “Obedience is a soldier’s honor,” says he. “Prince Bulbo’s head will do capitally;” and he went to arrest the Prince the very first thing next morning.

He knocked at the door. “Who’s there?” says Bulbo. “Captain Hedzoff? Step in, pray, my good Captain; I’m delighted to see you; I have been expecting you.”

“Have you?” says Hedzoff.

“Sleibootz, my Chamberlain, will act for me,” says the Prince.

“I beg Your Royal Highness’s pardon, but you will have to act for yourself, and it’s a pity to wake Baron Sleibootz.”

The Prince Bulbo still seemed to take the matter very coolly. “Of course, Captain,” says he, “you are come about that affair with Prince Giglio?”

“Precisely,” says Hedzoff, “that affair of Prince Giglio.”

“Is it to be pistols, or swords, Captain?” asks Bulbo. “I’m a pretty good hand with both, and I’ll do for Prince Giglio as sure as my name is My Royal Highness Prince Bulbo.”

“There’s some mistake, my Lord,” says the Captain. “The business is done with AXES among us.”

“Axes? That’s sharp work,” says Bulbo. “Call my Chamberlain, he’ll be my second, and in ten minutes, I flatter myself, you’ll see Master Giglio’s head off his impertinent shoulders. I’m hungry for his blood Hoo-oo — aw!” and he looked as savage as an ogre.

“I beg your pardon, sir, but by this warrant I am to take you prisoner, and hand you over to — to the executioner.”

“Pooh, pooh, my good man! — Stop, I say — ho! — hulloa!” was all that this luckless Prince was enabled to say: for Hedzoff’s guards seizing him, tied a handkerchief over his mouth and face, and carried him to the place of execution.

The King, who happened to be talking to Glumboso, saw him pass, and took a pinch of snuff and said, “So much for Giglio. Now let’s go to breakfast.”

The Captain of the Guard handed over his prisoner to the Sheriff, with the fatal order,

“AT SIGHT CUT OFF THE BEARER’S HEAD.

“VALOROSO XXIV.”

“It’s a mistake,” says Bulbo, who did not seem to understand the business in the least.

“Poo — poo — pooh,” says the Sheriff. “Fetch Jack Ketch instantly. Jack Ketch!”

And poor Bulbo was led to the scaffold, where an executioner with a block and a tremendous axe was always ready in case he should be wanted.

But we must now revert to Giglio and Betsinda.

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Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 19:07