The Rose and the Ring, by William Makepeace Thackeray

XVI.

How Hedzoff Rode Back Again to King Giglio.

Captain Hedzoff rode away when King Padella uttered this cruel command, having done his duty in delivering the message with which his royal master had entrusted him. Of course he was very sorry for Rosalba, but what could he do?

So he returned to King Giglio’s camp, and found the young monarch in a disturbed state of mind, smoking cigars in the royal tent. His Majesty’s agitation was not appeased by the news that was brought by his ambassador. “The brutal, ruthless ruffian royal wretch!” Giglio exclaimed. “As England’s poesy has well remarked, ‘The man that lays his hand upon a woman, save in the way of kindness, is a villain.’ Ha, Hedzoff!”

“That he is, your Majesty,” said the attendant.

“And didst thou see her flung into the oil? and didn’t the soothing oil — the emollient oil, refuse to boil, good Hedzoff — and to spoil the fairest lady ever eyes did look on?”

“‘Faith, good my liege, I had no heart to look and see a beauteous lady boiling down; I took your royal message to Padella, and bore his back to you. I told him you would hold Prince Bulbo answerable. He only said that he had twenty sons as good as Bulbo, and forthwith he bade the ruthless executioners proceed.”

“O cruel father — O unhappy son!” cried the King. “Go, some of you, and bring Prince Bulbo hither.”

Bulbo was brought in chains, looking very uncomfortable. Though a prisoner, he had been tolerably happy, perhaps because his mind was at rest, and all the fighting was over, and he was playing at marbles with his guards when the King sent for him.

“Oh, my poor Bulbo,” said his Majesty, with looks of infinite compassion, “hast thou heard the news?” (for you see Giglio wanted to break the thing gently to the Prince), “thy brutal father has condemned Rosalba — p-p-p-ut her to death, P-p-p-prince Bulbo!”

“What, killed Betsinda! Boo-hoo-hoo,” cried out Bulbo. “Betsinda! pretty Betsinda! dear Betsinda! She was the dearest little girl in the world. I love her better twenty thousand times even than Angelica.” And he went on expressing his grief in so hearty and unaffected a manner that the King was quite touched by it, and said, shaking Bulbo’s hand, that he wished he had known Bulbo sooner.

Bulbo, quite unconsciously, and meaning for the best, offered to come and sit with his Majesty, and smoke a cigar with him, and console him. The ROYAL KINDNESS supplied Bulbo with a cigar; he had not had one, he said, since he was taken prisoner.

And now think what must have been the feelings of the most MERCIFUL OF MONARCHS, when he informed his prisoner that, in consequence of King Padella’s CRUEL AND DASTARDLY BEHAVIOR to Rosalba, Prince Bulbo must instantly be executed! The noble Giglio could not restrain his tears, nor could the Grenadiers, nor the officers, nor could Bulbo himself, when the matter was explained to him, and he was brought to understand that his Majesty’s promise, of course, was ABOVE EVERYTHING, and Bulbo must submit. So poor Bulbo was led out, Hedzoff trying to console him, by pointing out that if he had won the battle of Bombardaro, he might have hanged Prince Giglio. “Yes! But that is no comfort to me now!” said poor Bulbo; nor indeed was it, poor fellow!

He was told the business would be done the next morning at eight, and was taken back to his dungeon, where every attention was paid to him. The gaoler’s wife sent him tea, and the turnkey’s daughter begged him to write his name in her album, where a many gentlemen had written it on like occasions! “Bother your album!” says Bulbo. The Undertaker came and measured him for the handsomest coffin which money could buy: even this didn’t console Bulbo. The Cook brought him dishes which he once used to like; but he wouldn’t touch them: he sat down and began writing an adieu to Angelica, as the clock kept always ticking, and the hands drawing nearer to next morning. The Barber came in at night, and offered to shave him for the next day. Prince Bulbo kicked him away, and went on writing a few words to Princess Angelica, as the clock kept always ticking, and the hands hopping nearer and nearer to next morning. He got up on the top of a hatbox, on the top of a chair, on the top of his bed, on the top of his table, and looked out to see whether he might escape as the clock kept always ticking and the hands drawing nearer, and nearer, and nearer.

But looking out of the window was one thing, and jumping another: and the town clock struck seven. So he got into bed for a little sleep, but the gaoler came and woke him, and said, “Git up, your Royal Ighness, if you please, it’s TEN MINUTES TO EIGHT!”

So poor Bulbo got up: he had gone to bed in his clothes (the lazy boy), and he shook himself, and said he didn’t mind about dressing, or having any breakfast, thank you; and he saw the soldiers who had come for him. “Lead on!” he said; and they led the way, deeply affected; and they came into the courtyard, and out into the square, and there was King Giglio come to take leave of him, and his Majesty most kindly shook hands with him, and the GLOOMY PROCESSION marched on:— when hark!

“Haw — wurraw — wurraw — aworr!”

A roar of wild beasts was heard. And who should come riding into the town, frightening away the boys, and even the beadle and policeman, but ROSALBA!

The fact is, that when Captain Hedzoff entered into the court of Snapdragon Castle, and was discoursing with King Padella, the Lions made a dash at the open gate, gobbled up the six beef-eaters in a jiffy, and away they went with Rosalba on the back of one of them, and they carried her, turn and turn about, till they came to the city where Prince Giglio’s army was encamped.

When the KING heard of the QUEEN’S arrival, you may think how he rushed out of his breakfast-room to hand her Majesty off her Lion! The Lions were grown as fat as pigs now, having had Hogginarmo and all those beef-eaters, and were so tame, anybody might pat them.

While Giglio knelt (most gracefully) and helped the Princess, Bulbo, for his part, rushed up and kissed the Lion. He flung his arms round the forest monarch; he hugged him, and laughed and cried for joy. “Oh, you darling old beast — oh, how glad I am to see you, and the dear, dear Bets — that is, Rosalba.”

“What, is it you, poor Bulbo?” said the Queen. “Oh, how glad I am to see you,” and she gave him her hand to kiss. King Giglio slapped him most kindly on the back, and said, “Bulbo, my boy, I am delighted, for your sake, that her Majesty has arrived.”

“So am I,” said Bulbo; “and YOU KNOW WHY.” Captain Hedzoff here came up. “Sire, it is half-past eight: shall we proceed with the execution?”

“Execution! what for?” asked Bulbo.

“An officer only knows his orders,” replied Captain Hedzoff, showing his warrant: on which his Majesty King Giglio smilingly said Prince Bulbo was reprieved this time, and most graciously invited him to breakfast.

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