Part 1 out of 6
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EDGAR RICE BURROUGHS
THE MAD KING
A RUNAWAY HORSE
All Lustadt was in an uproar. The mad king had escaped. Little
knots of excited men stood upon the street corners listening to each
latest rumor concerning this most absorbing occurrence. Before the
palace a great crowd surged to and fro, awaiting they knew not what.
For ten years no man of them had set eyes upon the face of the
boy-king who had been hastened to the grim castle of Blentz upon the
death of the old king, his father.
There had been murmurings then when the lad's uncle, Peter of
Blentz, had announced to the people of Lutha the sudden mental
affliction which had fallen upon his nephew, and more murmurings for
a time after the announcement that Peter of Blentz had been
appointed Regent during the lifetime of the young King Leopold, "or
until God, in His infinite mercy, shall see fit to restore to us in
full mental vigor our beloved monarch."
But ten years is a long time. The boy-king had become but a vague
memory to the subjects who could recall him at all.
There were many, of course, in the capital city, Lustadt, who still
retained a mental picture of the handsome boy who had ridden out
nearly every morning from the palace gates beside the tall, martial
figure of the old king, his father, for a canter across the broad
plain which lies at the foot of the mountain town of Lustadt; but
even these had long since given up hope that their young king would
ever ascend his throne, or even that they should see him alive
Peter of Blentz had not proved a good or kind ruler. Taxes had
doubled during his regency. Executives and judiciary, following the
example of their chief, had become tyrannical and corrupt. For ten
years there had been small joy in Lutha.
There had been whispered rumors off and on that the young king was
dead these many years, but not even in whispers did the men of Lutha
dare voice the name of him whom they believed had caused his death.
For lesser things they had seen their friends and neighbors thrown
into the hitherto long-unused dungeons of the royal castle.
And now came the rumor that Leopold of Lutha had escaped the Castle
of Blentz and was roaming somewhere in the wild mountains or ravines
upon the opposite side of the plain of Lustadt.
Peter of Blentz was filled with rage and, possibly, fear as well.
"I tell you, Coblich," he cried, addressing his dark-visaged
minister of war, "there's more than coincidence in this matter.
Someone has betrayed us. That he should have escaped upon the very
eve of the arrival at Blentz of the new physician is most
suspicious. None but you, Coblich, had knowledge of the part that
Dr. Stein was destined to play in this matter," concluded Prince
Coblich looked the Regent full in the eye.
"Your highness wrongs not only my loyalty, but my intelligence," he
said quietly, "by even so much as intimating that I have any guilty
knowledge of Leopold's escape. With Leopold upon the throne of
Lutha, where, think you, my prince, would old Coblich be?"
"You are right, Coblich," he said. "I know that you would not be
such a fool; but whom, then, have we to thank?"
"The walls have ears, prince," replied Coblich, "and we have not
always been as careful as we should in discussing the matter.
Something may have come to the ears of old Von der Tann. I don't for
a moment doubt but that he has his spies among the palace servants,
or even the guard. You know the old fox has always made it a point
to curry favor with the common soldiers. When he was minister of war
he treated them better than he did his officers."
"It seems strange, Coblich, that so shrewd a man as you should have
been unable to discover some irregularity in the political life of
Prince Ludwig von der Tann before now," said the prince querulously.
"He is the greatest menace to our peace and sovereignty. With Von
der Tann out of the way there would be none powerful enough to
question our right to the throne of Lutha--after poor Leopold passes
"You forget that Leopold has escaped," suggested Coblich, "and that
there is no immediate prospect of his passing away."
"He must be retaken at once, Coblich!" cried Prince Peter of Blentz.
"He is a dangerous maniac, and we must make this fact plain to the
people--this and a thorough description of him. A handsome reward
for his safe return to Blentz might not be out of the way, Coblich."
"It shall be done, your highness," replied Coblich. "And about Von
der Tann? You have never spoken to me quite so--ah--er--pointedly
before. He hunts a great deal in the Old Forest. It might be
possible--in fact, it has happened, before--there are many accidents
in hunting, are there not, your highness?"
"There are, Coblich," replied the prince, "and if Leopold is able he
will make straight for the Tann, so that there may be two hunting
together in a day or so, Coblich."
"I understand, your highness," replied the minister. "With your
permission, I shall go at once and dispatch troops to search the
forest for Leopold. Captain Maenck will command them."
"Good, Coblich! Maenck is a most intelligent and loyal officer. We
must reward him well. A baronetcy, at least, if he handles this
matter well," said Peter. "It might not be a bad plan to hint at as
much to him, Coblich."
And so it happened that shortly thereafter Captain Ernst Maenck, in
command of a troop of the Royal Horse Guards of Lutha, set out
toward the Old Forest, which lies beyond the mountains that are
visible upon the other side of the plain stretching out before
Lustadt. At the same time other troopers rode in many directions
along the highways and byways of Lutha, tacking placards upon trees
and fence posts and beside the doors of every little rural post
The placard told of the escape of the mad king, offering a large
reward for his safe return to Blentz.
It was the last paragraph especially which caused a young man, the
following day in the little hamlet of Tafelberg, to whistle as he
carefully read it over.
"I am glad that I am not the mad king of Lutha," he said as he paid
the storekeeper for the gasoline he had just purchased and stepped
into the gray roadster for whose greedy maw it was destined.
"Why, mein Herr?" asked the man.
"This notice practically gives immunity to whoever shoots down the
king," replied the traveler. "Worse still, it gives such an account
of the maniacal ferocity of the fugitive as to warrant anyone in
shooting him on sight."
As the young man spoke the storekeeper had examined his face closely
for the first time. A shrewd look came into the man's ordinarily
stolid countenance. He leaned forward quite close to the other's
"We of Lutha," he whispered, "love our 'mad king'--no reward could
be offered that would tempt us to betray him. Even in
self-protection we would not kill him, we of the mountains who
remember him as a boy and loved his father and his grandfather,
"But there are the scum of the low country in the army these days,
who would do anything for money, and it is these that the king must
guard against. I could not help but note that mein Herr spoke too
perfect German for a foreigner. Were I in mein Herr's place, I
should speak mostly the English, and, too, I should shave off the
'full, reddish-brown beard.'"
Whereupon the storekeeper turned hastily back into his shop, leaving
Barney Custer of Beatrice, Nebraska, U.S.A., to wonder if all the
inhabitants of Lutha were afflicted with a mental disorder similar
to that of the unfortunate ruler.
"I don't wonder," soliloquized the young man, "that he advised me to
shave off this ridiculous crop of alfalfa. Hang election bets,
anyway; if things had gone half right I shouldn't have had to wear
this badge of idiocy. And to think that it's got to be for a whole
month longer! A year's a mighty long while at best, but a year in
company with a full set of red whiskers is an eternity."
The road out of Tafelberg wound upward among tall trees toward the
pass that would lead him across the next some excellent shooting.
All his life Barney had promised himself that some day he should
visit his mother's native land, and now that he was here he found it
as wild and beautiful as she had said it would be.
Neither his mother nor his father had ever returned to the little
country since the day, thirty years before, that the big American
had literally stolen his bride away, escaping across the border but
a scant half-hour ahead of the pursuing troop of Luthanian cavalry.
Barney had often wondered why it was that neither of them would ever
speak of those days, or of the early life of his mother, Victoria
Rubinroth, though of the beauties of her native land Mrs. Custer
never tired of talking.
Barney Custer was thinking of these things as his machine wound up
the picturesque road. Just before him was a long, heavy grade, and
as he took it with open muffler the chugging of his motor drowned
the sound of pounding hoof beats rapidly approaching behind him.
It was not until he topped the grade that he heard anything unusual,
and at the same instant a girl on horseback tore past him. The speed
of the animal would have been enough to have told him that it was
beyond the control of its frail rider, even without the added
testimony of the broken bit that dangled beneath the tensely
Foam flecked the beast's neck and shoulders. It was evident that
the horse had been running for some distance, yet its speed was
still that of the thoroughly frightened runaway.
The road at the point where the animal had passed Custer was cut
from the hillside. At the left an embankment rose steeply to a
height of ten or fifteen feet. On the right there was a drop of a
hundred feet or more into a wooded ravine. Ahead, the road
apparently ran quite straight and smooth for a considerable
Barney Custer knew that so long as the road ran straight the girl
might be safe enough, for she was evidently an excellent horsewoman;
but he also knew that if there should be a sharp turn to the left
ahead, the horse in his blind fright would in all probability dash
headlong into the ravine below him.
There was but a single thing that the man might attempt if he were
to save the girl from the almost certain death which seemed in store
for her, since he knew that sooner or later the road would turn, as
all mountain roads do. The chances that he must take, if he failed,
could only hasten the girl's end. There was no alternative except to
sit supinely by and see the fear-crazed horse carry its rider into
eternity, and Barney Custer was not the sort for that role.
Scarcely had the beast come abreast of him than his foot leaped to
the accelerator. Like a frightened deer the gray roadster sprang
forward in pursuit. The road was narrow. Two machines could not have
passed upon it. Barney took the outside that he might hold the horse
away from the dangerous ravine.
At the sound of the whirring thing behind him the animal cast an
affrighted glance in its direction, and with a little squeal of
terror redoubled its frantic efforts to escape. The girl, too,
looked back over her shoulder. Her face was very white, but her eyes
were steady and brave.
Barney Custer smiled up at her in encouragement, and the girl smiled
back at him.
"She's sure a game one," thought Barney.
Now she was calling to him. At first he could not catch her words
above the pounding of the horse's hoofs and the noise of his motor.
Presently he understood.
"Stop!" she cried. "Stop or you will be killed. The road turns to
the left just ahead. You'll go into the ravine at that speed."
The front wheel of the roadster was at the horse's right flank.
Barney stepped upon the accelerator a little harder. There was
barely room between the horse and the edge of the road for the four
wheels of the roadster, and Barney must be very careful not to touch
the horse. The thought of that and what it would mean to the girl
sent a cold shudder through Barney Custer's athletic frame.
The man cast a glance to his right. His machine drove from the left
side, and he could not see the road at all over the right hand door.
The sight of tree tops waving beneath him was all that was visible.
Just ahead the road's edge rushed swiftly beneath the right-hand
fender, the wheels on that side must have been on the very verge of
Now he was abreast the girl. Just ahead he could see where the road
disappeared around a corner of the bluff at the dangerous curve the
girl had warned him against.
Custer leaned far out over the side of his car. The lunging of the
horse in his stride, and the swaying of the leaping car carried him
first close to the girl and then away again. With his right hand he
held the car between the frantic horse and the edge of the
embankment. His left hand, outstretched, was almost at the girl's
waist. The turn was just before them.
"Jump!" cried Barney.
The girl fell backward from her mount, turning to grasp Custer's arm
as it closed about her. At the same instant Barney closed the
throttle, and threw all the weight of his body upon the foot brake.
The gray roadster swerved toward the embankment as the hind wheels
skidded on the loose surface gravel. They were at the turn. The
horse was just abreast the bumper. There was one chance in a
thousand of making the turn were the running beast out of the way.
There was still a chance if he turned ahead of them. If he did not
turn--Barney hated to think of what must follow.
But it was all over in a second. The horse bolted straight ahead.
Barney swerved the roadster to the turn. It caught the animal full
in the side. There was a sickening lurch as the hind wheels slid
over the embankment, and then the man shoved the girl from the
running board to the road, and horse, man and roadster went over
into the ravine.
A moment before a tall young man with a reddish-brown beard had
stood at the turn of the road listening intently to the sound of the
hurrying hoof beats and the purring of the racing motor car
approaching from the distance. In his eyes lurked the look of the
hunted. For a moment he stood in evident indecision, but just before
the runaway horse and the pursuing machine came into view he slipped
over the edge of the road to slink into the underbrush far down
toward the bottom of the ravine.
When Barney pushed the girl from the running board she fell heavily
to the road, rolling over several times, but in an instant she
scrambled to her feet, hardly the worse for the tumble other than a
Quickly she ran to the edge of the embankment, a look of immense
relief coming to her soft, brown eyes as she saw her rescuer
scrambling up the precipitous side of the ravine toward her.
"You are not killed?" she cried in German. "It is a miracle!"
"Not even bruised," reassured Barney. "But you? You must have had
a nasty fall."
"I am not hurt at all," she replied. "But for you I should be lying
dead, or terribly maimed down there at the bottom of that awful
ravine at this very moment. It's awful." She drew her shoulders
upward in a little shudder of horror. "But how did you escape? Even
now I can scarce believe it possible."
"I'm quite sure I don't know how I did escape," said Barney,
clambering over the rim of the road to her side. "That I had nothing
to do with it I am positive. It was just luck. I simply dropped out
onto that bush down there."
They were standing side by side, now peering down into the ravine
where the car was visible, bottom side up against a tree, near the
base of the declivity. The horse's head could be seen protruding
from beneath the wreckage.
"I'd better go down and put him out of his misery," said Barney, "if
he is not already dead."
"I think he is quite dead," said the girl. "I have not seen him
Just then a little puff of smoke arose from the machine, followed by
a tongue of yellow flame. Barney had already started toward the
"Please don't go," begged the girl. "I am sure that he is quite
dead, and it wouldn't be safe for you down there now. The gasoline
tank may explode any minute."
"Yes, he is dead all right," he said, "but all my belongings are
down there. My guns, six-shooters and all my ammunition. And," he
added ruefully, "I've heard so much about the brigands that infest
The girl laughed.
"Those stories are really exaggerated," she said. "I was born in
Lutha, and except for a few months each year have always lived here,
and though I ride much I have never seen a brigand. You need not be
Barney Custer looked up at her quickly, and then he grinned. His
only fear had been that he would not meet brigands, for Mr. Bernard
Custer, Jr., was young and the spirit of Romance and Adventure
breathed strong within him.
"Why do you smile?" asked the girl.
"At our dilemma," evaded Barney. "Have you paused to consider our
The girl smiled, too.
"It is most unconventional," she said. "On foot and alone in the
mountains, far from home, and we do not even know each other's
"Pardon me," cried Barney, bowing low. "Permit me to introduce
myself. I am," and then to the spirits of Romance and Adventure was
added a third, the spirit of Deviltry, "I am the mad king of Lutha."
OVER THE PRECIPICE
The effect of his words upon the girl were quite different from what
he had expected. An American girl would have laughed, knowing that
he but joked. This girl did not laugh. Instead her face went white,
and she clutched her bosom with her two hands. Her brown eyes peered
searchingly into the face of the man.
"Leopold!" she cried in a suppressed voice. "Oh, your majesty,
thank God that you are free--and sane!"
Before he could prevent it the girl had seized his hand and pressed
it to her lips.
Here was a pretty muddle! Barney Custer swore at himself inwardly
for a boorish fool. What in the world had ever prompted him to speak
those ridiculous words! And now how was he to unsay them without
mortifying this beautiful girl who had just kissed his hand?
She would never forgive that--he was sure of it.
There was but one thing to do, however, and that was to make a clean
breast of it. Somehow, he managed to stumble through his explanation
of what had prompted him, and when he had finished he saw that the
girl was smiling indulgently at him.
"It shall be Mr. Bernard Custer if you wish it so," she said; "but
your majesty need fear nothing from Emma von der Tann. Your secret
is as safe with me as with yourself, as the name of Von der Tann
must assure you."
She looked to see the expression of relief and pleasure that her
father's name should have brought to the face of Leopold of Lutha,
but when he gave no indication that he had ever before heard the
name she sighed and looked puzzled.
"Perhaps," she thought, "he doubts me. Or can it be possible that,
after all, his poor mind is gone?"
"I wish," said Barney in a tone of entreaty, "that you would forgive
and forget my foolish words, and then let me accompany you to the
end of your journey."
"Whither were you bound when I became the means of wrecking your
motor car?" asked the girl.
"To the Old Forest," replied Barney.
Now she was positive that she was indeed with the mad king of Lutha,
but she had no fear of him, for since childhood she had heard her
father scout the idea that Leopold was mad. For what other purpose
would he hasten toward the Old Forest than to take refuge in her
father's castle upon the banks of the Tann at the forest's verge?
"Thither was I bound also," she said, "and if you would come there
quickly and in safety I can show you a short path across the
mountains that my father taught me years ago. It touches the main
road but once or twice, and much of the way passes through dense
woods and undergrowth where an army might hide."
"Hadn't we better find the nearest town," suggested Barney, "where I
can obtain some sort of conveyance to take you home?"
"It would not be safe," said the girl. "Peter of Blentz will have
troops out scouring all Lutha about Blentz and the Old Forest until
the king is captured."
Barney Custer shook his head despairingly.
"Won't you please believe that I am but a plain American?" he
Upon the bole of a large wayside tree a fresh, new placard stared
them in the face. Emma von der Tann pointed at one of the
"Gray eyes, brown hair, and a full reddish-brown beard," she read.
"No matter who you may be," she said, "you are safer off the
highways of Lutha than on them until you can find and use a razor."
"But I cannot shave until the fifth of November," said Barney.
Again the girl looked quickly into his eyes and again in her mind
rose the question that had hovered there once before. Was he indeed,
after all, quite sane?
"Then please come with me the safest way to my father's," she urged.
"He will know what is best to do."
"He cannot make me shave," insisted Barney.
"Why do you wish not to shave?" asked the girl.
"It is a matter of my honor," he replied. "I had my choice of
wearing a green wastebasket bonnet trimmed with red roses for six
months, or a beard for twelve. If I shave off the beard before the
fifth of November I shall be without honor in the sight of all men
or else I shall have to wear the green bonnet. The beard is bad
enough, but the bonnet--ugh!"
Emma von der Tann was now quite assured that the poor fellow was
indeed quite demented, but she had seen no indications of violence
as yet, though when that too might develop there was no telling.
However, he was to her Leopold of Lutha, and her father's house had
been loyal to him or his ancestors for three hundred years.
If she must sacrifice her life in the attempt, nevertheless still
must she do all within her power to save her king from recapture and
to lead him in safety to the castle upon the Tann.
"Come," she said; "we waste time here. Let us make haste, for the
way is long. At best we cannot reach Tann by dark."
"I will do anything you wish," replied Barney, "but I shall never
forgive myself for having caused you the long and tedious journey
that lies before us. It would be perfectly safe to go to the nearest
town and secure a rig."
Emma von der Tann had heard that it was always well to humor maniacs
and she thought of it now. She would put the scheme to the test.
"The reason that I fear to have you go to the village," she said,
"is that I am quite sure they would catch you and shave off your
Barney started to laugh, but when he saw the deep seriousness of the
girl's eyes he changed his mind. Then he recalled her rather
peculiar insistence that he was a king, and it suddenly occurred to
him that he had been foolish not to have guessed the truth before.
"That is so," he agreed; "I guess we had better do as you say," for
he had determined that the best way to handle her would be to humor
her--he had always heard that that was the proper method for
handling the mentally defective. "Where is the--er--ah--sanatorium?"
he blurted out at last.
"The what?" she asked. "There is no sanatorium near here, your
majesty, unless you refer to the Castle of Blentz."
"Is there no asylum for the insane near by?"
"None that I know of, your majesty."
For a while they moved on in silence, each wondering what the other
might do next.
Barney had evolved a plan. He would try and ascertain the location
of the institution from which the girl had escaped and then as
gently as possible lead her back to it. It was not safe for as
beautiful a woman as she to be roaming through the forest in any
such manner as this. He wondered what in the world the authorities
at the asylum had been thinking of to permit her to ride out alone
in the first place.
"From where did you ride today?" he blurted out suddenly.
"That is where we are going now?"
"Yes, your majesty."
Barney drew a breath of relief. The way had become suddenly
difficult and he took the girl's arm to help her down a rather steep
place. At the bottom of the ravine there was a little brook.
"There used to be a fallen log across it here," said the girl. "How
in the world am I ever to get across, your majesty?"
"If you call me that again, I shall begin to believe that I am a
king," he humored her, "and then, being a king, I presume that it
wouldn't be proper for me to carry you across, or would it? Never
really having been a king, I do not know."
"I think," replied the girl, "that it would be eminently proper."
She had difficulty in keeping in mind the fact that this handsome,
smiling young man was a dangerous maniac, though it was easy to
believe that he was the king. In fact, he looked much as she had
always pictured Leopold as looking. She had known him as a boy, and
there were many paintings and photographs of his ancestors in her
father's castle. She saw much resemblance between these and the
The brook was very narrow, and the girl thought that it took the
young man an unreasonably long time to carry her across, though she
was forced to admit that she was far from uncomfortable in the
strong arms that bore her so easily.
"Why, what are you doing?" she cried presently. "You are not
crossing the stream at all. You are walking right up the middle of
She saw his face flush, and then he turned laughing eyes upon her.
"I am looking for a safe landing," he said.
Emma von der Tann did not know whether to be frightened or amused.
As her eyes met the clear, gray ones of the man she could not
believe that insanity lurked behind that laughing, level gaze of her
carrier. She found herself continually forgetting that the man was
mad. He had turned toward the bank now, and a couple of steps
carried them to the low sward that fringed the little brooklet. Here
he lowered her to the ground.
"Your majesty is very strong," she said. "I should not have
expected it after the years of confinement you have suffered."
"Yes," he said, realizing that he must humor her--it was difficult
to remember that this lovely girl was insane. "Let me see, now just
what was I in prison for? I do not seem to be able to recall it. In
Nebraska, they used to hang men for horse stealing; so I am sure it
must have been something else not quite so bad. Do you happen to
"When the king, your father, died you were thirteen years old," the
girl explained, hoping to reawaken the sleeping mind, "and then your
uncle, Prince Peter of Blentz, announced that the shock of your
father's death had unbalanced your mind. He shut you up in Blentz
then, where you have been for ten years, and he has ruled as regent.
Now, my father says, he has recently discovered a plot to take your
life so that Peter may become king. But I suppose you learned of
that, and because of it you escaped!"
"This Peter person is all-powerful in Lutha?" he asked.
"He controls the army," the girl replied.
"And you really believe that I am the mad king Leopold?"
"You are the king," she said in a convincing manner.
"You are a very brave young lady," he said earnestly. "If all the
mad king's subjects were as loyal as you, and as brave, he would not
have languished for ten years behind the walls of Blentz."
"I am a Von der Tann," she said proudly, as though that was
explanation sufficient to account for any bravery or loyalty.
"Even a Von der Tann might, without dishonor, hesitate to accompany
a mad man through the woods," he replied, "especially if she
happened to be a very--a very--" He halted, flushing.
"A very what, your majesty?" asked the girl.
"A very young woman," he ended lamely.
Emma von der Tann knew that he had not intended saying that at all.
Being a woman, she knew precisely what he had meant to say, and she
discovered that she would very much have liked to hear him say it.
"Suppose," said Barney, "that Peter's soldiers run across us--what
"They will take you back to Blentz, your majesty."
"I do not think that they will dare lay hands on me, though it is
possible that Peter might do so. He hates my father even more now
than he did when the old king lived."
"I wish," said Mr. Custer, "that I had gone down after my guns. Why
didn't you tell me, in the first place, that I was a king, and that
I might get you in trouble if you were found with me? Why, they may
even take me for an emperor or a mikado--who knows? And then look at
all the trouble we'd be in."
Which was Barney's way of humoring a maniac.
"And they might even shave off your beautiful beard."
Which was the girl's way.
"Do you think that you would like me better in the green wastebasket
hat with the red roses?" asked Barney.
A very sad look came into the girl's eyes. It was pitiful to think
that this big, handsome young man, for whose return to the throne
all Lutha had prayed for ten long years, was only a silly half-wit.
What might he not have accomplished for his people had this terrible
misfortune not overtaken him! In every other way he seemed fitted to
be the savior of his country. If she could but make him remember!
"Your majesty," she said, "do you not recall the time that your
father came upon a state visit to my father's castle? You were a
little boy then. He brought you with him. I was a little girl, and
we played together. You would not let me call you 'highness,' but
insisted that I should always call you Leopold. When I forgot you
would accuse me of lese-majeste, and sentence me to--to punishment."
"What was the punishment?" asked Barney, noticing her hesitation and
wishing to encourage her in the pretty turn her dementia had taken.
Again the girl hesitated; she hated to say it, but if it would help
to recall the past to that poor, dimmed mind, it was her duty.
"Every time I called you 'highness' you made me give you a--a kiss,"
she almost whispered.
"I hope," said Barney, "that you will be guilty of lese-majeste
"We were little children then, your majesty," the girl reminded him.
Had he thought her of sound mind Mr. Custer might have taken
advantage of his royal prerogatives on the spot, for the girl's lips
were most tempting; but when he remembered the poor, weak mind,
tears almost came to his eyes, and there sprang to his heart a great
desire to protect and guard this unfortunate child.
"And when I was Crown Prince what were you, way back there in the
beautiful days of our childhood?" asked Barney.
"Why, I was what I still am, your majesty," replied the girl.
"Princess Emma von der Tann."
So the poor child, beside thinking him a king, thought herself a
princess! She certainly was mad. Well, he would humor her.
"Then I should call you 'your highness,' shouldn't I?" he asked.
"You always called me Emma when we were children."
"Very well, then, you shall be Emma and I Leopold. Is it a
"The king's will is law," she said.
They had come to a very steep hillside, up which the
half-obliterated trail zigzagged toward the crest of a flat-topped
hill. Barney went ahead, taking the girl's hand in his to help her,
and thus they came to the top, to stand hand in hand, breathing
heavily after the stiff climb.
The girl's hair had come loose about her temples and a lock was
blowing over her face. Her cheeks were very red and her eyes bright.
Barney thought he had never looked upon a lovelier picture. He
smiled down into her eyes and she smiled back at him.
"I wished, back there a way," he said, "that that little brook had
been as wide as the ocean--now I wish that this little hill had been
as high as Mont Blanc."
"You like to climb?" she asked.
"I should like to climb forever--with you," he said seriously.
She looked up at him quickly. A reply was on her lips, but she
never uttered it, for at that moment a ruffian in picturesque rags
leaped out from behind a near-by bush, confronting them with leveled
revolver. He was so close that the muzzle of the weapon almost
touched Barney's face. In that the fellow made his mistake.
"You see," said Barney unexcitedly, "that I was right about the
brigands after all. What do you want, my man?"
The man's eyes had suddenly gone wide. He stared with open mouth at
the young fellow before him. Then a cunning look came into his eyes.
"I want you, your majesty," he said.
"Godfrey!" exclaimed Barney. "Did the whole bunch escape?"
"Quick!" growled the man. "Hold up your hands. The notice made it
plain that you would be worth as much dead as alive, and I have no
mind to lose you, so do not tempt me to kill you."
Barney's hands went up, but not in the way that the brigand had
expected. Instead, one of them seized his weapon and shoved it
aside, while with the other Custer planted a blow between his eyes
and sent him reeling backward. The two men closed, fighting for
possession of the gun. In the scrimmage it was exploded, but a
moment later the American succeeded in wresting it from his
adversary and hurled it into the ravine.
Striking at one another, the two surged backward and forward at the
very edge of the hill, each searching for the other's throat. The
girl stood by, watching the battle with wide, frightened eyes. If
she could only do something to aid the king!
She saw a loose stone lying at a little distance from the fighters
and hastened to procure it. If she could strike the brigand a single
good blow on the side of the head, Leopold might easily overpower
him. When she had gathered up the rock and turned back toward the
two she saw that the man she thought to be the king was not much in
the way of needing outside assistance. She could not but marvel at
the strength and dexterity of this poor fellow who had spent almost
half his life penned within the four walls of a prison. It must be,
she thought, the superhuman strength with which maniacs are always
Nevertheless, she hurried toward them with her weapon; but just
before she reached them the brigand made a last mad effort to free
himself from the fingers that had found his throat. He lunged
backward, dragging the other with him. His foot struck upon the root
of a tree, and together the two toppled over into the ravine.
As the girl hastened toward the spot where the two had disappeared,
she was startled to see three troopers of the palace cavalry headed
by an officer break through the trees at a short distance from where
the battle had waged. The four men ran rapidly toward her.
"What has happened here?" shouted the officer to Emma von der Tann;
and then, as he came closer: "Gott! Can it be possible that it is
The girl paid no attention to the officer. Instead, she hurried
down the steep embankment toward the underbrush into which the two
men had fallen. There was no sound from below, and no movement in
the bushes to indicate that a moment before two desperately battling
human beings had dropped among them.
The soldiers were close upon the girl's heels, but it was she who
first reached the two quiet figures that lay side by side upon the
stony ground halfway down the hillside.
When the officer stopped beside her she was sitting on the ground
holding the head of one of the combatants in her lap.
A little stream of blood trickled from a wound in the forehead. The
officer stooped closer.
"He is dead?" he asked.
"The king is dead," replied the Princess Emma von der Tann, a little
sob in her voice.
"The king!" exclaimed the officer; and then, as he bent lower over
the white face: "Leopold!"
The girl nodded.
"We were searching for him," said the officer, "when we heard the
shot." Then, arising, he removed his cap, saying in a very low
voice: "The king is dead. Long live the king!"
AN ANGRY KING
The soldiers stood behind their officer. None of them had ever seen
Leopold of Lutha--he had been but a name to them--they cared nothing
for him; but in the presence of death they were awed by the majesty
of the king they had never known.
The hands of Emma von der Tann were chafing the wrists of the man
whose head rested in her lap.
"Leopold!" she whispered. "Leopold, come back! Mad king you may
have been, but still you were king of Lutha--my father's king--my
The girl nearly cried out in shocked astonishment as she saw the
eyes of the dead king open. But Emma von der Tann was quick-witted.
She knew for what purpose the soldiers from the palace were scouring
Had she not thought the king dead she would have cut out her tongue
rather than reveal his identity to these soldiers of his great
enemy. Now she saw that Leopold lived, and she must undo the harm
she had innocently wrought. She bent lower over Barney's face,
trying to hide it from the soldiers.
"Go away, please!" she called to them. "Leave me with my dead king.
You are Peter's men. You do not care for Leopold, living or dead. Go
back to your new king and tell him that this poor young man can
never more stand between him and the throne."
The officer hesitated.
"We shall have to take the king's body with us, your highness," he
The officer evidently becoming suspicious, came closer, and as he
did so Barney Custer sat up.
"Go away!" cried the girl, for she saw that the king was attempting
to speak. "My father's people will carry Leopold of Lutha in state
to the capital of his kingdom."
"What's all this row about?" he asked. "Can't you let a dead king
alone if the young lady asks you to? What kind of a short sport are
you, anyway? Run along, now, and tie yourself outside."
The officer smiled, a trifle maliciously perhaps.
"Ah," he said, "I am very glad indeed that you are not dead, your
Barney Custer turned his incredulous eyes upon the lieutenant.
"Et tu, Brute?" he cried in anguished accents, letting his head fall
back into the girl's lap. He found it very comfortable there indeed.
The officer smiled and shook his head. Then he tapped his forehead
"I did not know," he said to the girl, "that he was so bad. But
come--it is some distance to Blentz, and the afternoon is already
well spent. Your highness will accompany us."
"I?" cried the girl. "You certainly cannot be serious."
"And why not, your highness?" asked the officer. "We had strict
orders to arrest not only the king, but any companions who may have
been involved in his escape."
"I had nothing whatever to do with his escape," said the girl,
"though I should have been only too glad to have aided him had the
"King Peter may think differently," replied the man.
"The Regent, you mean?" the girl corrected him haughtily.
The officer shrugged his shoulders.
"Regent or King, he is ruler of Lutha nevertheless, and he would
take away my commission were I to tell him that I had found a Von
der Tann in company with the king and had permitted her to escape.
Your blood convicts your highness."
"You are going to take me to Blentz and confine me there?" asked the
girl in a very small voice and with wide incredulous eyes. "You
would not dare thus to humiliate a Von der Tann?"
"I am very sorry," said the officer, "but I am a soldier, and
soldiers must obey their superiors. My orders are strict. You may be
thankful," he added, "that it was not Maenck who discovered you."
At the mention of the name the girl shuddered.
"In so far as it is in my power your highness and his majesty will
be accorded every consideration of dignity and courtesy while under
my escort. You need not entertain any fear of me," he concluded.
Barney Custer, during this, to him, remarkable dialogue, had risen
to his feet, and assisted the girl in rising. Now he turned and
spoke to the officer.
"This farce," he said, "has gone quite far enough. If it is a joke
it is becoming a very sorry one. I am not a king. I am an
American--Bernard Custer, of Beatrice, Nebraska, U.S.A. Look at me.
Look at me closely. Do I look like a king?"
"Every inch, your majesty," replied the officer.
Barney looked at the man aghast.
"Well, I am not a king," he said at last, "and if you go to
arresting me and throwing me into one of your musty old dungeons
you will find that I am a whole lot more important than most kings.
I'm an American citizen."
"Yes, your majesty," replied the officer, a trifle impatiently. "But
we waste time in idle discussion. Will your majesty be so good as to
accompany me without resistance?"
"If you will first escort this young lady to a place of safety,"
"She will be quite safe at Blentz," said the lieutenant.
Barney turned to look at the girl, a question in his eyes. Before
them stood the soldiers with drawn revolvers, and now at the summit
of the hill a dozen more appeared in command of a sergeant. They
were two against nearly a score, and Barney Custer was unarmed.
The girl shook her head.
"There, is no alternative, I am afraid, your majesty," she said.
Barney wheeled toward the officer.
"Very well, lieutenant," he said, "we will accompany you."
The party turned back up the hillside, leaving the dead bandit where
he lay--the fellow's neck had been broken by the fall. A short
distance from where the man had confronted them the two prisoners
were brought to the main road where they saw still other troopers,
and with them the horses of those who had gone into the forest on
Barney and the girl were mounted on two of the animals, the soldiers
who had ridden them clambering up behind two of their comrades. A
moment later the troop set out along the road which leads to Blentz.
The prisoners rode near the center of the column, surrounded by
troopers. For a time they were both silent. Barney was wondering if
he had accidentally tumbled into the private grounds of Lutha's
largest madhouse, or if, in reality, these people mistook him for
the young king--it seemed incredible.
It had commenced slowly to dawn upon him that perhaps the girl was
not crazy after all. Had not the officer addressed her as "your
highness"? Now that he thought upon it he recalled that she did have
quite a haughty and regal way with her at times, especially so when
she had addressed the officer.
Of course she might be mad, after all, and possibly the bandit, too,
but it seemed unbelievable that the officer was mad and his entire
troop of cavalry should be composed of maniacs, yet they all
persisted in speaking and acting as though he were indeed the mad
king of Lutha and the young girl at his side a princess.
From pitying the girl he had come to feel a little bit in awe of
her. To the best of his knowledge he had never before associated
with a real princess. When he recalled that he had treated her as he
would an ordinary mortal, and that he had thought her demented, and
had tried to humor her mad whims, he felt very foolish indeed.
Presently he turned a sheepish glance in her direction, to find her
looking at him. He saw her flush slightly as his eyes met hers.
"Can your highness ever forgive me?" he asked.
"Forgive you!" she cried in astonishment. "For what, your
"For thinking you insane, and for getting you into this horrible
predicament," he replied. "But especially for thinking you insane."
"Did you think me mad?" she asked in wide-eyed astonishment.
"When you insisted that I was a king, yes," he replied. "But now I
begin to believe that it must be I who am mad, after all, or else I
bear a remarkable resemblance to Leopold of Lutha."
"You do, your majesty," replied the girl.
Barney saw it was useless to attempt to convince them and so he
decided to give up for the time.
"Have me king, if you will," he said, "but please do not call me
'your majesty' any more. It gets on my nerves."
"Your will is law--Leopold," replied the girl, hesitating prettily
before the familiar name, "but do not forget your part of the
He smiled at her. A princess wasn't half so terrible after all.
"And your will shall be my law, Emma," he said.
It was almost dark when they came to Blentz. The castle lay far up
on the side of a steep hill above the town. It was an ancient pile,
but had been maintained in an excellent state of repair. As Barney
Custer looked up at the grim towers and mighty, buttressed walls his
heart sank. It had taken the mad king ten years to make his escape
from that gloomy and forbidding pile!
"Poor child," he murmured, thinking of the girl.
Before the barbican the party was halted by the guard. An officer
with a lantern stepped out upon the lowered portcullis. The
lieutenant who had captured them rode forward to meet him.
"A detachment of the Royal Horse Guards escorting His Majesty the
King, who is returning to Blentz," he said in reply to the officer's
"The king!" exclaimed the officer. "You have found him?" and he
advanced with raised lantern searching for the monarch.
"At last," whispered Barney to the girl at his side, "I shall be
vindicated. This man, at least, who is stationed at Blentz must
know his king by sight."
The officer came quite close, holding his lantern until the
rays fell full in Barney's face. He scrutinized the young man
for a moment. There was neither humility nor respect in his
manner, so that the American was sure that the fellow had
discovered the imposture.
From the bottom of his heart he hoped so. Then the officer
swung the lantern until its light shone upon the girl.
"And who's the wench with him?" he asked the officer who
had found them.
The man was standing close beside Barney's horse, and the words were
scarce out of his month when the American slipped from his saddle to
the portcullis and struck the officer full in the face.
"She is the Princess von der Tann, you boor," said Barney, "and let
that help you remember it in future."
The officer scrambled to his feet, white with rage. Whipping out
his sword he rushed at Barney.
"You shall die for that, you half-wit," he cried.
Lieutenant Butzow, he of the Royal Horse, rushed forward to prevent
the assault and Emma von der Tann sprang from her saddle and threw
herself in front of Barney.
Butzow grasped the other officer's arm.
"Are you mad, Schonau?" he cried. "Would you kill the king?"
The fellow tugged to escape the grasp of Butzow. He was crazed with
"Why not?" he bellowed. "You were a fool not to have done it
yourself. Maenck will do it and get a baronetcy. It will mean a
captaincy for me at least. Let me at him--no man can strike Karl
Schonau and live."
"The king is unarmed," cried Emma von der Tann. "Would you murder
him in cold blood?"
"He shall not murder him at all, your highness," said Lieutenant
Butzow quietly. "Give me your sword, Lieutenant Schonau. I place you
under arrest. What you have just said will not please the Regent
when it is reported to him. You should keep your head better when
you are angry."
"It is the truth," growled Schonau, regretting that his anger had
led him into a disclosure of the plot against the king's life, but
like most weak characters fearing to admit himself in error even
more than he feared the consequences of his rash words.
"Do you intend taking my sword?" asked Schonau suddenly, turning
toward Lieutenant Butzow standing beside him.
"We will forget the whole occurrence, lieutenant," replied Butzow,
"if you will promise not to harm his majesty, or offer him or the
Princess von der Tann further humiliation. Their position is
sufficiently unpleasant without our adding to the degradation of
"Very well," grumbled Schonau. "Pass on into the courtyard."
Barney and the girl remounted and the little cavalcade moved forward
through the ballium and the great gate into the court beyond.
"Did you notice," said Barney to the princess, "that even he
believes me to be the king? I cannot fathom it."
Within the castle they were met by a number of servants and
soldiers. An officer escorted them to the great hall, and presently
a dark visaged captain of cavalry entered and approached them.
"His Majesty, the King," he announced, "has returned to Blentz. In
accordance with the commands of the Regent I deliver his august
person into your safe keeping, Captain Maenck."
Maenck nodded. He was looking at Barney with evident curiosity.
"Where did you find him?" he asked Butzow.
He made no pretense of according to Barney the faintest indication
of the respect that is supposed to be due to those of royal blood.
Barney commenced to hope that he had finally come upon one who would
know that he was not king.
Butzow recounted the details of the finding of the king. As he
spoke, Maenck's eyes, restless and furtive, seemed to be appraising
the personal charms of the girl who stood just back of Barney.
The American did not like the appearance of the officer, but he saw
that he was evidently supreme at Blentz, and he determined to appeal
to him in the hope that the man might believe his story and untangle
the ridiculous muddle that a chance resemblance to a fugitive
monarch had thrown him and the girl into.
"Captain," said Barney, stepping closer to the officer, "there has
been a mistake in identity here. I am not the king. I am an American
traveling for pleasure in Lutha. The fact that I have gray eyes and
wear a full reddish-brown beard is my only offense. You are
doubtless familiar with the king's appearance and so you at least
have already seen that I am not his majesty.
"Not being the king, there is no cause to detain me longer, and as I
am not a fugitive and never have been, this young lady has been
guilty of no misdemeanor or crime in being in my company. Therefore
she too should be released. In the name of justice and common
decency I am sure that you will liberate us both at once and furnish
the Princess von der Tann, at least, with a proper escort to her
Maenck listened in silence until Barney had finished, a half smile
upon his thick lips.
"I am commencing to believe that you are not so crazy as we have all
thought," he said. "Certainly," and he let his eyes rest upon Emma
von der Tann, "you are not mentally deficient in so far as your
judgment of a good-looking woman is concerned. I could not have made
a better selection myself.
"As for my familiarity with your appearance, you know as well as I
that I have never seen you before. But that is not necessary--you
conform perfectly to the printed description of you with which the
kingdom is flooded. Were that not enough, the fact that you were
discovered with old Von der Tann's daughter is sufficient to remove
the least doubt as to your identity."
"You are governor of Blentz," cried Barney, "and yet you say that
you have never seen the king?"
"Certainly," replied Maenck. "After you escaped the entire
personnel of the garrison here was changed, even the old servants to
a man were withdrawn and others substituted. You will have
difficulty in again escaping, for those who aided you before are no
"There is no man in the castle of Blentz who has ever seen the
king?" asked Barney.
"None who has seen him before tonight," replied Maenck. "But were we
in doubt we have the word of the Princess Emma that you are Leopold.
Did she not admit it to you, Butzow?"
"When she thought his majesty dead she admitted it," replied Butzow.
"We gain nothing by discussing the matter," said Maenck shortly.
"You are Leopold of Lutha. Prince Peter says that you are mad. All
that concerns me is that you do not escape again, and you may rest
assured that while Ernst Maenck is governor of Blentz you shall not
escape and go at large again.
"Are the royal apartments in readiness for his majesty, Dr. Stein?"
he concluded, turning toward a rat-faced little man with bushy
whiskers, who stood just behind him.
The query was propounded in an ironical tone, and with a manner that
made no pretense of concealing the contempt of the speaker for the
man he thought the king.
The eyes of the Princess Emma were blazing as she caught the scant
respect in Maenck's manner. She looked quickly toward Barney to see
if he intended rebuking the man for his impertinence. She saw that
the king evidently intended overlooking Maenck's attitude. But Emma
von der Tann was of a different mind.
She had seen Maenck several times at social functions in the
capital. He had even tried to win a place in her favor, but she had
always disliked him, even before the nasty stories of his past life
had become common gossip, and within the year she had won his hatred
by definitely indicating to him that he was persona non grata, in so
far as she was concerned. Now she turned upon him, her eyes flashing
"Do you forget, sir, that you address the king?" she cried. "That
you are without honor I have heard men say, and I may truly believe
it now that I have seen what manner of man you are. The most
lowly-bred boor in all Lutha would not be so ungenerous as to take
advantage of his king's helplessness to heap indignities upon him.
"Leopold of Lutha shall come into his own some day, and my dearest
hope is that his first act may be to mete out to such as you the
punishment you deserve."
Maenck paled in anger. His fingers twitched nervously, but he
controlled his temper remarkably well, biding his time for revenge.
"Take the king to his apartments, Stein," he commanded curtly, "and
you, Lieutenant Butzow, accompany them with a guard, nor leave until
you see that he is safely confined. You may return here afterward
for my further instructions. In the meantime I wish to examine the
For a moment tense silence reigned in the apartment after Maenck had
delivered his wanton insult.
Emma von der Tann, her little chin high in the air, stood straight
and haughty, nor was there any sign in her expression to indicate
that she had heard the man's words.
Barney was the first to take cognizance of them.
"You cur!" he cried, and took a step toward Maenck. "You're going to
eat that, word for word."
Maenck stepped back, his hand upon his sword. Butzow laid a hand
upon Barney's arm.
"Don't, your majesty," he implored, "it will but make your position
more unpleasant, nor will it add to the safety of the Princess von
der Tann for you to strike him now."
Barney shook himself free from Butzow, and before either Stein or
the lieutenant could prevent had sprung upon Maenck.
The latter had not been quick enough with his sword, so that Barney
had struck him twice, heavily in the face before the officer was
able to draw. Butzow had sprung to the king's side, and was
attempting to interpose himself between Maenck and the American. In
a moment more the sword of the infuriated captain would be in the
king's heart. Barney turned the first thrust with his forearm.
"Stop!" cried Butzow to Maenck. "Are you mad, that you would kill
Maenck lunged again, viciously, at the unprotected body of his
"Die, you pig of an idiot!" he screamed.
Butzow saw that the man really meant to murder Leopold. He seized
Barney by the shoulder and whirled him backward. At the same instant
his own sword leaped from his scabbard, and now Maenck found himself
facing grim steel in the hand of a master swordsman.
The governor of Blentz drew back from the touch of that sharp point.
"What do you mean?" he cried. "This is mutiny."
"When I received my commission," replied Butzow, quietly, "I swore
to protect the person of the king with my life, and while I live no
man shall affront Leopold of Lutha in my presence, or threaten his
safety else he accounts to me for his act. Return your sword,
Captain Maenck, nor ever again draw it against the king while I be
Slowly Maenck sheathed his weapon. Black hatred for Butzow and the
man he was protecting smoldered in his eyes.
"If he wishes peace," said Barney, "let him apologize to the
"You had better apologize, captain," counseled Butzow, "for if the
king should command me to do so I should have to compel you to," and
the lieutenant half drew his sword once more.
There was something in Butzow's voice that warned Maenck that his
subordinate would like nothing better than the king's command to run
He well knew the fame of Butzow's sword arm, and having no stomach
for an encounter with it he grumbled an apology.
"And don't let it occur again," warned Barney.
"Come," said Dr. Stein, "your majesty should be in your apartments,
away from all excitement, if we are to effect a cure, so that you
may return to your throne quickly."
Butzow formed the soldiers about the American, and the party moved
silently out of the great hall, leaving Captain Maenck and Princess
Emma von der Tann its only occupants.
Barney cast a troubled glance toward Maenck, and half hesitated.
"I am sorry, your majesty," said Butzow in a low voice, "but you
must accompany us. In this the governor of Blentz is well within his
authority, and I must obey him."
"Heaven help her!" murmured Barney.
"The governor will not dare harm her," said Butzow. "Your majesty
need entertain no apprehension."
"I wouldn't trust him," replied the American. "I know his kind."
BARNEY FINDS A FRIEND
After the party had left the room Maenck stood looking at the
princess for several seconds. A cunning expression supplanted the
anger that had shown so plainly upon his face but a moment before.
The girl had moved to one side of the apartment and was pretending
an interest in a large tapestry that covered the wall at that point.
Maenck watched her with greedy eyes. Presently he spoke.
"Let us be friends," he said. "You shall be my guest at Blentz for
a long time. I doubt if Peter will care to release you soon, for he
has no love for your father--and it will be easier for both if we
establish pleasant relations from the beginning. What do you say?"
"I shall not be at Blentz long," she replied, not even looking in
Maenck's direction, "though while I am it shall be as a prisoner and
not as a guest. It is incredible that one could believe me willing
to pose as the guest of a traitor, even were he less impossible than
the notorious and infamous Captain Maenck."
Maenck smiled. He was one of those who rather pride themselves upon
the possession of racy reputations. He walked across the room to a
bell cord which he pulled. Then he turned toward the girl again.
"I have given you an opportunity," he said, "to lighten the burdens
of your captivity. I hoped that you would be sensible and accept my
advances of friendship voluntarily," and he emphasized the word
He shrugged his shoulders.
A servant had entered the apartment in response to Maenck's summons.
"Show the Princess von der Tann to her apartments," he commanded
with a sinister tone.
The man, who was in the livery of Peter of Blentz, bowed, and with a
deferential sign to the girl led the way from the room. Emma von der
Tann followed her guide up a winding stairway which spiraled within
a tower at the end of a long passage. On the second floor of the
castle the servant led her to a large and beautifully furnished
suite of three rooms--a bedroom, dressing-room and boudoir. After
showing her the rooms that were to be hers the servant left her
As soon as he had gone the Princess von der Tann took another turn
through the suite, looking to the doors and windows to ascertain how
securely she might barricade herself against unwelcome visitors.
She found that the three rooms lay in an angle of the old,
moss-covered castle wall.
The bedroom and dressing-room were connected by a doorway, and each
in turn had another door opening into the boudoir. The only
connection with the corridor without was through a single doorway
from the boudoir. This door was equipped with a massive bolt, which,
when she had shot it, gave her a feeling of immense relief and
security. The windows were all too high above the court on one side
and the moat upon the other to cause her the slightest apprehension
of danger from the outside.
The girl found the boudoir not only beautiful, but extremely
comfortable and cozy. A huge log-fire blazed upon the hearth, and,
though it was summer, its warmth was most welcome, for the night was
chill. Across the room from the fireplace a full length oil of a
former Blentz princess looked down in arrogance upon the unwilling
occupant of the room. It seemed to the girl that there was an
expression of annoyance upon the painted countenance that another,
and an enemy of her house, should be making free with her
belongings. She wondered a little, too, that this huge oil should
have been bung in a lady's boudoir. It seemed singularly out of
"If she would but smile," thought Emma von der Tann, "she would
detract less from the otherwise pleasant surroundings, but I suppose
she serves her purpose in some way, whatever it may be."
There were papers, magazines and books upon the center table and
more books upon a low tier of shelves on either side of the
fireplace. The girl tried to amuse herself by reading, but she found
her thoughts continually reverting to the unhappy situation of the
king, and her eyes momentarily wandered to the cold and repellent
face of the Blentz princess.
Finally she wheeled a great armchair near the fireplace, and with
her back toward the portrait made a final attempt to submerge her
unhappy thoughts in a current periodical.
When Barney and his escort reached the apartments that had been
occupied by the king of Lutha before his escape, Butzow and the
soldiers left him in company with Dr. Stein and an old servant,
whom the doctor introduced as his new personal attendant.
"Your majesty will find him a very attentive and faithful servant,"
said Stein. "He will remain with you and administer your medicine at
"Medicine?" ejaculated Barney. "What in the world do I need of
medicine? There is nothing the matter with me."
Stein smiled indulgently.
"Ah, your majesty," he said, "if you could but realize the sad
affliction that clouds your life! You may never sit upon your throne
until the last trace of this sinister mental disorder is eradicated,
so take your medicine voluntarily, or otherwise Joseph will be
compelled to administer it by force. Remember, sire, that only
through this treatment will you be able to leave Blentz."
After Stein had left the room Joseph bolted the door behind him.
Then he came to where Barney stood in the center of the apartment,
and dropping to his knees took the young man's hand in his and
"God has been good indeed, your majesty," he whispered. "It was He
who made it possible for old Joseph to deceive them and find his way
to your side."
"Who are you, my man?" asked Barney.
"I am from Tann," whispered the old man, in a very low voice. "His
highness, the prince, found the means to obtain service for me with
the new retinue that has replaced the old which permitted your
majesty's escape. There was another from Tann among the former
"It was through his efforts that you escaped before, you will
recall. I have seen Fritz and learned from him the way, so that if
your majesty does not recall it it will make no difference, for I
know it well, having been over it three times already since I came
here, to be sure that when the time came that they should recapture
you I might lead you out quickly before they could slay you."
"You really think that they intend murdering me?"
"There is no doubt about it, your majesty," replied the old man.
"This very bottle"--Joseph touched the phial which Stein had left
upon the table--"contains the means whereby, through my hands, you
were to be slowly poisoned."
"Do you know what it is?"
"Bichloride of mercury, your majesty. One dose would have been
sufficient, and after a few days--perhaps a week--you would have
died in great agony."
"But I am not the king, Joseph," said the young man, "so even had
they succeeded in killing me it would have profited them nothing."
Joseph shook his head sadly.
"Your majesty will pardon the presumption of one who loves him," he
said, "if he makes so bold as to suggest that your majesty must not
again deny that he is king. That only tends to corroborate the
contention of Prince Peter that your majesty is not--er, just sane,
and so, incompetent to rule Lutha. But we of Tann know differently,
and with the help of the good God we will place your majesty upon
the throne which Peter has kept from you all these years."
Barney sighed. They were determined that he should be king whether
he would or no. He had often thought he would like to be a king; but
now the realization of his boyish dreaming which seemed so imminent
bade fair to be almost anything than pleasant.
Barney suddenly realized that the old fellow was talking. He was
explaining how they might escape. It seemed that a secret passage
led from this very chamber to the vaults beneath the castle and from
there through a narrow tunnel below the moat to a cave in the
hillside far beyond the structure.
"They will not return again tonight to see your majesty," said
Joseph, "and so we had best make haste to leave at once. I have a
rope and swords in readiness. We shall need the rope to make our way
down the hillside, but let us hope that we shall not need the
"I cannot leave Blentz," said Barney, "unless the Princess Emma goes
"The Princess Emma!" cried the old man. "What Princess Emma?"
"Princess von der Tann," replied Barney. "Did you not know that she
was captured with me!"
The old man was visibly affected by the knowledge that his young
mistress was a prisoner within the walls of Blentz. He seemed torn
by conflicting emotions--his duty toward his king and his love for
the daughter of his old master. So it was that he seemed much
relieved when he found that Barney insisted upon saving the girl
before any thought of their own escape should be taken into
"My first duty, your majesty," said Joseph, "is to bring you safely
out of the hands of your enemies, but if you command me to try to
bring your betrothed with us I am sure that his highness, Prince
Ludwig, would be the last to censure me for deviating thus from his
instructions, for if he loves another more than he loves his king it
is his daughter, the beautiful Princess Emma."
"What do you mean, Joseph," asked Barney, "by referring to the
princess as my betrothed? I never saw her before today."
"It has slipped your majesty's mind," said the old man sadly; "but
you and my young mistress were betrothed many years ago while you
were yet but children. It was the old king's wish that you wed the
daughter of his best friend and most loyal subject."
Here was a pretty pass, indeed, thought Barney. It was sufficiently
embarrassing to be mistaken for the king, but to be thrown into this
false position in company with a beautiful young woman to whom the
king was engaged to be married, and who, with the others, thought
him to be the king, was quite the last word in impossible positions.
Following this knowledge there came to Barney the first pangs of
regret that he was not really the king, and then the realization, so
sudden that it almost took his breath away, that the girl was very
beautiful and very much to be desired. He had not thought about the
matter until her utter impossibility was forced upon him.
It was decided that Joseph should leave the king's apartment at once
and discover in what part of the castle Emma von der Tann was
imprisoned. Their further plans were to depend upon the information
gained by the old man during his tour of investigation of the
In the interval of his absence Barney paced the length of his prison
time and time again. He thought the fellow would never return.
Perhaps he had been detected in the act of spying, and was himself a
prisoner in some other part of the castle! The thought came to
Barney like a blow in the face, for he realized that then he would
be entirely at the mercy of his captors, and that there would be
none to champion the cause of the Princess von der Tann.
When his nervous tension had about reached the breaking point there
came a sound of stealthy movement just outside the door of his room.
Barney halted close to the massive panels. He heard a key fitted
quietly and then the lock grated as it turned.
Barney thought that they had surely detected Joseph's duplicity and
had come to make short work of the king before other traitors arose
in their midst entirely to frustrate their plans. The young American
stepped to the wall behind the door that he might be out of sight of
whoever entered. Should it prove other than Joseph, might the Lord
help them! The clenched fists, square-set chin, and gleaming gray
eyes of the prisoner presaged no good for any incoming enemy.
Slowly the door swung open and a man entered the room. Barney
breathed a deep sigh of relief--it was Joseph.
"Well?" cried the young man from behind him, and Joseph started as
though Peter of Blentz himself had laid an accusing finger upon his
shoulder. "What news?"
"Your majesty," gasped Joseph, "how you did startle me! I found the
apartments of the princess, sire. There is a bare chance that we may
succeed in rescuing her, but a very bare one, indeed.
"We must traverse a main corridor of the castle to reach her suite,
and then return by the same way. It will be a miracle if we are not
discovered; but the worst of it is that next to her apartments, and
between them and your majesty's, are the apartments of Captain
"He is sure to be there and officers and servants may be coming and
going throughout the entire night, for the man is a convivial
fellow, sitting at cards and drink until sunrise nearly every day."
"And when we have brought the princess in safety to my quarters,"
asked Barney, "what then? How shall we conduct her from the castle?
You have not told me that as yet."
The old man explained then the plan of escape. It seemed that one
of the two huge tile panels that flanked the fireplace on either
side was in reality a door hiding the entrance to a shaft that rose
from the vaults beneath the castle to the roof. At each floor there
was a similar secret door concealing the mouth of the passage. From
the vaults a corridor led through another secret panel to the tunnel
that wound downward to the cave in the hillside.
"Beyond that we shall find horses, your majesty," concluded the old
man. "They have been hidden in the woods since I came to Blentz.
Each day I go there to water and feed them."
During the servant's explanation Barney had been casting about in
his mind for some means of rescuing the princess without so great
risk of detection, and as the plan of the secret passageway became
clear to him he thought that he saw a way to accomplish the thing
with comparative safety in so far as detection was concerned.
"Who occupies the floor above us, Joseph?" he asked.
"It is vacant," replied the old man.
"Good! Come, show me the entrance to the shaft," directed Barney.
"You will go without attempting to succor the Princess Emma?"
exclaimed the old fellow in ill-concealed chagrin.
"Far from it," replied Barney. "Bring your rope and the swords. I
think we are going to find the rescuing of the Princess Emma the
easiest part of our adventure."
The old man shook his head, but went to another room of the suite,
from which he presently emerged with a stout rope about fifty feet
in length and two swords. As he buckled one of the weapons to Barney
his eyes fell upon the American's seal ring that encircled the third
finger of his left hand.
"The Royal Ring of Lutha!" exclaimed Joseph. "Where is it, your
majesty? What has become of the Royal Ring of the Kings of Lutha?"
"I'm sure I don't know, Joseph," replied the young man. "Should I be
wearing a royal ring?"
"The profaning miscreants!" cried Joseph. "They have dared to filch
from you the great ring that has been handed down from king to king
for three hundred years. When did they take it from you?"
"I have never seen it, Joseph," replied the young man, "and possibly
this fact may assure you where all else has failed that I am no true
king of Lutha, after all."
"Ah, no, your majesty," replied the old servitor; "it but makes
assurance doubly sure as to your true identity, for the fact that
you have not the ring is positive proof that you are king and that
they have sought to hide the fact by removing the insignia of your
divine right to rule in Lutha."
Barney could not but smile at the old fellow's remarkable logic. He
saw that nothing short of a miracle would ever convince Joseph that
he was not the real monarch, and so, as matters of greater
importance were to the fore, he would have allowed the subject to
drop had not the man attempted to recall to the impoverished memory
of his king a recollection of the historic and venerated relic of
the dead monarchs of Lutha.
"Do you not remember, sir," he asked, "the great ruby that glared,
blood-red from its center, and the four sets of golden wings that
formed the setting? From the blood of Charlemagne was the ruby made,
so history tells us, and the setting represented the protecting
wings of the power of the kings of Lutha spread to the four points
of the compass. Now your majesty must recall the royal ring, I am
Barney only shook his head, much to Joseph's evident sorrow.
"Never mind the ring, Joseph," said the young man. "Bring your rope
and lead me to the floor above."
"The floor above? But, your majesty, we cannot reach the vaults and
tunnel by going upward!"
"You forget, Joseph, that we are going to fetch the Princess Emma
"But she is not on the floor above us, sire; she is upon the same
floor as we are," insisted the old man, hesitating.
"Joseph, who do you think I am?" asked Barney.
"You are the king, my lord," replied the old man.
"Then do as your king commands," said the American sharply.
Joseph turned with dubious mutterings and approached the tiled panel
at the left of the fireplace. Here he fumbled about for a moment
until his fingers found the hidden catch that held the cunningly
devised door in place. An instant later the panel swung inward
before his touch, and standing to one side, the old fellow bowed low
as he ushered Barney into the Stygian darkness of the space beyond
Joseph halted the young man just within the doorway, cautioning him
against the danger of falling into the shaft, then he closed the
panel, and a moment later had found the lantern he had hidden there
and lighted it. The rays disclosed to the American the rough masonry
of the interior of a narrow, well-built shaft. A rude ladder
standing upon a narrow ledge beside him extended upward to lose
itself in the shadows above. At its foot the top of another ladder
was visible protruding through the opening from the floor beneath.
No sooner had Joseph's lantern shown him the way than Barney was
ascending the ladder toward the floor above. At the next landing he
waited for the old man.
Joseph put out the light and placed the lantern where they could
easily find it upon their return. Then he cautiously slipped the
catch that held the panel in place and slowly opened the door until
a narrow line of lesser darkness showed from without.
For a moment they stood in silence listening for any sound from the
chamber beyond, but as nothing occurred to indicate that the
apartment was occupied the old man opened the portal a trifle
further, and finally far enough to permit his body to pass through.
Barney followed him. They found themselves in a large, empty
chamber, identical in size and shape with that which they had just
quitted upon the floor below.
From this the two passed into the corridor beyond, and thence to the
apartments at the far end of the wing, directly over those occupied
by Emma von der Tann.
Barney hastened to a window overlooking the moat. By leaning far
out he could see the light from the princess's chamber shining upon
the sill. He wished that the light was not there, for the window was
in plain view of the guard on the lookout upon the barbican.
Suddenly he caught the sound of voices from the chamber beneath.
For an instant he listened, and then, catching a few words of the
dialogue, he turned hurriedly toward his companion.
"The rope, Joseph! And for God's sake be quick about it."
For half an hour the Princess von der Tann succeeded admirably in
immersing herself in the periodical, to the exclusion of her unhappy
thoughts and the depressing influence of the austere countenance of
the Blentz Princess hanging upon the wall behind her.
But presently she became unaccountably nervous. At the slightest
sound from the palace-life on the floor below she would start up
with a tremor of excitement. Once she heard footsteps in the
corridor before her door, but they passed on, and she thought she
discerned the click of a latch a short distance further on along the
Again she attempted to gather up the thread of the article she had
been reading, but she was unsuccessful. A stealthy scratching
brought her round quickly, staring in the direction of the great
portrait. The girl would have sworn that she had heard a noise
within her chamber. She shuddered at the thought that it might have
come from that painted thing upon the wall.
What was the matter with her? Was she losing all control of herself
to be frightened like a little child by ghostly noises?
She tried to return to her reading, but for the life of her she
could not keep her eyes off the silent, painted woman who stared and
stared and stared in cold, threatening silence upon this ancient
enemy of her house.
Presently the girl's eyes went wide in horror. She could feel the
scalp upon her head contract with fright. Her terror-filled gaze was
frozen upon that awful figure that loomed so large and sinister
above her, for the thing had moved! She had seen it with her own
eyes. There could be no mistake--no hallucination of overwrought
nerves about it. The Blentz Princess was moving slowly toward her!
Like one in a trance the girl rose from her chair, her eyes glued
upon the awful apparition that seemed creeping upon her. Slowly she
withdrew toward the opposite side of the chamber. As the painting
moved more quickly the truth flashed upon her--it was mounted on a
The crack of the door widened and beyond it the girl saw dimly, eyes
fastened upon her. With difficulty she restrained a shriek. The
portal swung wide and a man in uniform stepped into the room.
It was Maenck.
Emma von der Tann gazed in unveiled abhorrence upon the leering face
of the governor of Blentz.
"What means this intrusion?" cried the girl.
"What would you have here?"
"You," replied Maenck.
The girl crimsoned.
Maenck regarded her sneeringly.
"You coward!" she cried. "Leave my apartments at once. Not even
Peter of Blentz would countenance such abhorrent treatment of a
"You do not know Peter my dear," responded Maenck. "But you need not
fear. You shall be my wife. Peter has promised me a baronetcy for
the capture of Leopold, and before I am done I shall be made a
prince, of that you may rest assured, so you see I am not so bad a
match after all."
He crossed over toward her and would have laid a rough hand upon her
The girl sprang away from him, running to the opposite side of the
library table at which she had been reading. Maenck started to
pursue her, when she seized a heavy, copper bowl that stood upon the
table and hurled it full in his face. The missile struck him a
glancing blow, but the edge laid open the flesh of one cheek almost
to the jaw bone.
With a cry of pain and rage Captain Ernst Maenck leaped across the
table full upon the young girl. With vicious, murderous fingers he
seized upon her fair throat, shaking her as a terrier might shake a
rat. Futilely the girl struck at the hate-contorted features so
close to hers.
"Stop!" she cried. "You are killing me."
The fingers released their hold.
"No," muttered the man, and dragged the princess roughly across the
Half a dozen steps he had taken when there came a sudden crash of
breaking glass from the window across the chamber. Both turned in
astonishment to see the figure of a man leap into the room, carrying
the shattered crystal and the casement with him. In one hand was a
"The king!" cried Emma von der Tann.
"The devil!" muttered Maenck, as, dropping the girl, he scurried
toward the great painting from behind which he had found ingress to
the chambers of the princess.
Maenck was a coward, and he had seen murder in the eyes of the man
rushing upon him. With a bound he reached the picture which still
stood swung wide into the room.
Barney was close behind him, but fear lent wings to the governor of
Blentz, so that he was able to dart into the passage behind the
picture and slam the door behind him a moment before the infuriated
man was upon him.
The American clawed at the edge of the massive frame, but all to no
avail. Then he raised his sword and slashed the canvas, hoping to
find a way into the place beyond, but mighty oaken panels barred his
further progress. With a whispered oath he turned back toward the
"Thank Heaven that I was in time, Emma," he cried.
"Oh, Leopold, my king, but at what a price," replied the girl. "He
will return now with others and kill you. He is furious--so furious
that he scarce knows what he does."
"He seemed to know what he was doing when he ran for that hole in
the wall," replied Barney with a grin. "But come, it won't pay to
let them find us should they return."
Together they hastened to the window beyond which the girl could see
a rope dangling from above. The sight of it partially solved the
riddle of the king's almost uncanny presence upon her window sill in
the very nick of time.
Below, the lights in the watch tower at the outer gate were plainly
visible, and the twinkling of them reminded Barney of the danger of
detection from that quarter. Quickly he recrossed the apartment to
the wall-switch that operated the recently installed electric
lights, and an instant later the chamber was in total darkness.
Once more at the girl's side Barney drew in one end of the rope and
made it fast about her body below her arms, leaving a sufficient
length terminating in a small loop to permit her to support herself
more comfortably with one foot within the noose. Then he stepped to
the outer sill, and reaching down assisted her to his side.
Far below them the moonlight played upon the sluggish waters of the
moat. In the distance twinkled the lights of the village of Blentz.
From the courtyard and the palace came faintly the sound of voices,
and the movement of men. A horse whinnied from the stables.
Barney turned his eyes upward. He could see the head and shoulders
of Joseph leaning from the window of the chamber directly above
"Hoist away, Joseph!" whispered the American, and to the girl: "Be
brave. Shut your eyes and trust to Joseph and--and--"
"And my king," finished the girl for him.
His arm was about her shoulders, supporting her upon the narrow
sill. His cheek so close to hers that once he felt the soft velvet
of it brush his own. Involuntarily his arm tightened about the
"My princess!" he murmured, and as he turned his face toward hers
their lips almost touched.
Joseph was pulling upon the rope from above. They could feel it
tighten beneath the girl's arms. Impulsively Barney Custer drew the
sweet lips closer to his own. There was no resistance.
"I love you," he whispered. The words were smothered as their lips
Joseph, above, wondered at the great weight of the Princess Emma von
"I love you, Leopold, forever," whispered the girl, and then as
Joseph's Herculean tugging seemed likely to drag them both from the
narrow sill, Barney lifted the girl upward with one hand while he
clung to the window frame with the other. The distance to the sill
above was short, and a moment later Joseph had grasped the
princess's hand and was helping her over the ledge into the room
At the same instant there came a sudden commotion from the interior
of the room in the window of which Barney still stood waiting for
Joseph to remove the rope from about the princess and lower it for
him. Barney heard the heavy feet of men, the clank of arms, and
muttered oaths as the searchers stumbled against the furniture.
Presently one of them found the switch and instantly the room was
flooded with light, which revealed to the American a dozen Luthanian
troopers headed by the murderous Maenck.
Barney looked anxiously aloft. Would Joseph never lower that rope!
Within the room the men were searching. He could hear Maenck
directing them. Only a thin portiere screened him from their view.
It was but a matter of seconds before they would investigate the