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Long Live the King

Long Live The King!
While the birthday supper was at its height, in the bureau of the concierge sat old
Adelbert, heavy and despairing. That very day had he learned to what use the Committee
would put the information he had given them, and his old heart was dead within him. One
may not be loyal for seventy years, and then easily become a traitor.
He had surveyed stonily the costume in which the little Prince was to be taken away. He
had watched while the boxes of ammunition were uncovered in their barrels, he had seen
the cobbler's shop become a seething hive of activity, where all day men had come and
gone. He had heard the press beneath his feet fall silent because its work was done, and at
dusk he had with his own eyes beheld men who carried forth, under their arms, blazing
placards for the walls of the town.
Then, at seven o'clock, something had happened.
The concierge's niece had gone, leaving the supper ready cooked on the back of the stove.
Old Adelbert sat alone, and watched the red bars of the stove fade to black. By that time
it was done, and he was of the damned. The Crown Prince, who was of an age with the
American lad upstairs, the Crown Prince was in the hands of his enemies. He, old
Adelbert, had done it.
And now it was forever too late. Terrible thoughts filled his mind. He could not live thus,
yet he could not die. The daughter must have the pension. He must live, a traitor, he on
whose breast the King himself had pinned a decoration.
He wore his new uniform, in honor of the day. Suddenly he felt that he could not wear it
any longer. He had no right to any uniform. He who had sold his country was of no
country.
He went slowly out and up the staircase, dragging his wooden leg painfully from step to
step. He heard the concierge come in below, his heavy footsteps reechoed through the
building. Inside the door he called furiously to his niece. Old Adelbert heard him strike a
match to light the gas.
On the staircase he met the Fraulein hurrying down. Her face was strained and her eyes
glittering. She hesitated, as though she would speak, then she went on past him. He could
hear her running. It reminded the old man of that day in the Opera, when a child ran
down the staircase, and, as is the way of the old, he repeated himself: "One would think
new legs grew in place of old ones, like the claws of sea-creatures," he said fretfully. And
went on up the staircase.
In his room he sat down on a straight chair inside the door, and stared ahead. Then,
slowly and mechanically, he took off his new uniform and donned the old one. He would
 
 
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