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Long Live the King

Disgraced
At eight o'clock that evening the Crown Prince Ferdinand William Otto approached the
Palace through the public square. He approached it slowly, for two reasons. First, he did
not want to go back. Second, he was rather frightened. He had an idea that they would be
disagreeable.
There seemed to be a great deal going on at the palace. Carriages were rolling in under
the stone archway and, having discharged their contents, mostly gentlemen in uniform,
were moving off with a thundering of hoofs that reechoed from the vaulted roof of the
entrance. All the lights were on in the wing where his grandfather, the King, lived alone.
As his grandfather hated lights, and went to bed early, Prince Ferdinand William Otto
was slightly puzzled.
He stood in the square and waited for a chance to slip in unobserved.
He was very dirty. His august face was streaked with soot, and his august hands likewise.
His small derby hat was carefully placed on the very back of his head at the angle of the
American boy's cap. As his collar had scratched his neck, he had, at Bobby's suggestion,
taken it off and rolled it up. He decided, as he waited in the square, to put it on again.
Miss Braithwaite was very peculiar about collars.
Came a lull in the line of carriages. Prince Ferdinand William Otto took a long breath and
started forward. As he advanced he stuck his hands in his pockets and swaggered a trifle.
It was, as nearly as possible, an exact imitation of Bobby Thorpe's walk. And to keep up
his courage, he quoted that young gentleman's farewell speech to himself: "What d' you
care? They won't eat you, will they?"
At the entrance to the archway stood two sentries. They stood as if they were carved out
of wood. Only their eyes moved. And within, in the court around which the Palace was
built, were the King's bodyguards. Mostly they sat on a long bench and exchanged
conversation, while one of them paced back and forth, his gun over his shoulder, in front
of them. Prince Ferdinand William Otto knew them all. More than once he had secured
cigarettes from Lieutenant Larisch and dropped them from one of his windows, which
were just overhead. They would look straight ahead and not see them, until the officer's
back was turned. Then one would be lighted and passed along the line. Each man would
take one puff and pass it on behind his back. It was great fun.
Prince Ferdinand William Otto stood in the shadows and glanced across. The sentries
stood like wooden men, but something was wrong in the courtyard inside. The guards
were all standing, and there seemed to be a great many of them. And just as he had made
up his mind to take the plunge, so to speak, a part of his own regiment of cavalry came
out from the courtyard with a thundering of hoofs, wheeled at the street, and clattered off.
Very unusual, all of it.
 
 
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