“Are they all dead?” he said, feeling about for his sword.
“You were nearly dead, dearest of friends,” said my master. “But be content. You have done very well for so young a fighter. An you behave yourself, and keep from such brawling in the future, I declare I will give you a company!”
“All dead?” he asked, trying still to look about him.
“Your man is dead, or the next thing to it, two other rascals grievously wounded, and the scoundrel Von Reuss fled, as well he might. But my archers are already on his track.”
Up the hill came Jorian and Boris leading the rout.
“Is the Prince safe?” cried Jorian.
“The Prince is safe,” said Karl, answering for himself.
“Good!” chorussed Jorian, Boris, and all the archers together.
“Catch me that man on horseback there!” cried the Prince. “Take him or kill him, but if you can help it do not let him escape. He is the Count von Reuss, and a double traitor.”
“Good!” cried the pair, and set off after him, all dripping as they were from their abrupt passage of the river.
THE FLIGHT OF THE LITTLE PLAYMATE
We carried Dessauer back to the boat with the utmost tenderness, the Prince walking by his side, and oft-times taking his hand. I followed behind them, more than a little sad to think that my troubles should have caused so good and true a man so dangerous a wound. For though in a young man the scalp-wound would have healed in a week, in a man of the High Councillor’s age and delicacy of constitution it might have the most serious effects.
But Dessauer himself made light of it.
“I needed a leech to bleed me,” he said. “I was coward enough to put off the kindly surgery, and here our young friend has provided me one without cost. His last operation, too, and so no fee to pay. I am a fortunate man.”
We came to the gate of the Palace of Plassenburg.
My Lady Princess met us, pale and obviously anxious, with lips compressed and a strange cold glitter in her emerald eyes.
“So strange a thing has happened!” she began.
“No stranger than hath happened to us,” cried the Prince.
“Why, what hath happened to you?” she demanded, quickly.
“Your fine Von Reuss has proved himself a traitor. He fought a duel with Hugo here all tricked in chain-armor, and when found out he whistled his rascals from the covert to slay us. But we bested him, and he is over the hill, with Jorian and Boris hot after his heel.”
“And he hath not gone alone!” said the Princess, and her eyes were brilliant with excitement.
“Not gone alone?” said the Prince. “What do you know about this black work?”
“Because Helene, my maid of honor, hath fled to join him,” she said, looking anxiously at us, like one who perils much upon a throw of the dice.