Part 3 out of 7
"But your majesty," interposed Von der Tann, "all may
be lost in two days."
"It is the king's command," said Barney quietly.
"But Peter of Blentz will rule for these two days, and in
that time with the army at his command there is no telling
what he may accomplish," insisted the old man.
"Peter of Blentz shall not rule Lutha for two days, or
two minutes," replied Barney. "We shall rule. Lieutenant
Butzow, you may place Prince Peter, Coblich, Maenck, and
Stein under arrest. We charge them with treason against
their king, and conspiring to assassinate their rightful mon-
Butzow smiled as he turned with his troopers at his back
to execute this most welcome of commissions; but in a mo-
ment he was again at Barney's side.
"They have fled, your majesty," he said. "Shall I ride to
Blentz after them?"
"Let them go," replied the American, and then, with his
retinue about him the new king of Lutha passed down the
broad aisle of the cathedral of Lustadt and took his way
to the royal palace between ranks of saluting soldiery backed
by cheering thousands.
THE KING'S GUESTS
ONCE WITHIN the palace Barney sought the seclusion of a
small room off the audience chamber. Here he summoned
"Lieutenant," said the American, "for the sake of a woman,
a dead child and an unhappy king I have become dictator
of Lutha for forty-eight hours; but at noon upon the fifth
this farce must cease. Then we must place the true Leopold
upon the throne, or a new dictator must replace me.
"In vain I have tried to convince you that I am not the
king, and today in the cathedral so great was the tempta-
tion to take advantage of the odd train of circumstances
that had placed a crown within my reach that I all but
surrendered to it--not for the crown of gold, Butzow, but
for an infinitely more sacred diadem which belongs to him
to whom by right of birth and lineage, belongs the crown
of Lutha. I do not ask you to understand--it is not neces-
sary--but this you must know and believe: that I am not
Leopold, and that the true Leopold lies in hiding in the
sanatorium at Tafelberg, from which you and I, Butzow,
must fetch him to Lustadt before noon on the fifth."
"But, sire--" commenced Butzow, when Barney raised
"Enough of that, Butzow!" he cried almost irritably. "I
am sick of being 'sired' and 'majestied'--my name is Custer.
Call me that when others are not present. Believe what you
will, but ride with me in secrecy to Tafelberg tonight, and
together we shall bring back Leopold of Lutha. Then we
may call Prince Ludwig into our confidence, and none need
ever know of the substitution.
"I doubt if many had a sufficiently close view of me to-
day to realize the trick that I have played upon them, and
if they note a difference they will attribute it to the change
in apparel, for we shall see to it that the king is fittingly
garbed before we exhibit him to his subjects, while here-
after I shall continue in khaki, which becomes me better
Butzow shook his head.
"King or dictator," he said, "it is all the same, and I must
obey whatever commands you see fit to give, and so I will
ride to Tafelberg tonight, though what we shall find there
I cannot imagine, unless there are two Leopolds of Lutha.
But shall we also find another royal ring upon the finger of
this other king?"
Barney smiled. "You're a typical hard-headed Dutchman,
Butzow," he said.
The lieutenant drew himself up haughtily. "I am not a
Dutchman, your majesty. I am a Luthanian."
Barney laughed. "Whatever else you may be, Butzow,
you're a brick," he said, laying his hand upon the other's
Butzow looked at him narrowly.
"From your speech," he said, "and the occasional Ameri-
canisms into which you fall I might believe that you were
other than the king but for the ring."
"It is my commission from the king," replied Barney. "Leo-
pold placed it upon my finger in token of his royal authority
to act in his behalf. Tonight, then Butzow, you and I shall
ride to Tafelberg. Have three good horses. We must lead
one for the king."
Butzow saluted and left the apartment. For an hour or
two the American was busy with tailors whom he had or-
dered sent to the palace to measure him for the numerous
garments of a royal wardrobe, for he knew the king to be
near enough his own size that he might easily wear clothes
that had been fitted to Barney; and it was part of his plan
to have everything in readiness for the substitution which
was to take place the morning of the coronation.
Then there were foreign dignitaries, and the heads of
numerous domestic and civic delegations to be given audi-
ence. Old Von der Tann stood close behind Barney prompt-
ing him upon the royal duties that had fallen so suddenly
upon his shoulders, and none thought it strange that he
was unfamiliar with the craft of kingship, for was it not
common knowledge that he had been kept a close prisoner
in Blentz since boyhood, nor been given any coaching for
the duties Peter of Blentz never intended he should perform?
After it was all over Prince Ludwig's grim and leathery
face relaxed into a smile of satisfaction.
"None who witnessed the conduct of your first audience,
sire," he said, "could for a moment doubt your royal line-
age--if ever a man was born to kingship, your majesty,
it be you."
Barney smiled, a bit ruefully, however, for in his mind's
eye he saw a future moment when the proud old Prince von
der Tann would know the truth of the imposture that had
been played upon him, and the young man foresaw that he
would have a rather unpleasant half-hour.
At a little distance from them Barney saw Emma von der
Tann surrounded by a group of officials and palace officers.
Since he had come to Lustadt that day he had had no
word with her, and now he crossed toward her, amused as
the throng parted to form an aisle for him, the men saluting
and the women curtsying low.
He took both of the girl's hands in his, and, drawing one
through his arm, took advantage of the prerogatives of king-
ship to lead her away from the throng of courtiers.
"I thought that I should never be done with all the tire-
some business which seems to devolve upon kings," he said,
laughing. "All the while that I should have been bending
my royal intellect to matters of state, I was wondering just
how a king might find a way to see the woman he loves
without interruptions from the horde that dogs his foot-
"You seem to have found a way, Leopold," she whis-
pered, pressing his arm close to her. "Kings usually do."
"It is not because I am a king that I found a way, Emma,"
he replied. "It is because I am an American."
She looked up at him with an expression of pleading in
"Why do you persist?" she cried. "You have come into
your own, and there is no longer aught to fear from Peter
or any other. To me at least, it is most unkind still to deny
"I wonder," said Barney, "if your love could withstand
the knowledge that I am not the king."
"It is the MAN I love, Leopold," the girl replied.
"You think so now," he said, "but wait until the test
comes, and when it does, remember that I have always
done my best to undeceive you. I know that you are not for
such as I, my princess, and when I have returned your
true king to you all that I shall ask is that you be happy
"I shall always be happy with my king," she whispered,
and the look that she gave him made Barney Custer curse
the fate that had failed to make him a king by birth.
An hour later darkness had fallen upon the little city of
Lustadt, and from a small gateway in the rear of the palace
grounds two horsemen rode out into the ill-paved street
and turned their mounts' heads toward the north. At the
side of one trotted a led horse.
As they passed beneath the glare of an arc-light before a
cafe at the side of the public square, a diner sitting at a
table upon the walk spied the tall figure and the bearded
face of him who rode a few feet in advance of his com-
panion. Leaping to his feet the man waved his napkin above
"Long live the king!" he cried. "God save Leopold of
And amid the din of cheering that followed, Barney
Custer of Beatrice and Lieutenant Butzow of the Royal
Horse rode out into the night upon the road to Tafelberg.
When Peter of Blentz had escaped from the cathedral
he had hastily mounted with a handful of his followers and
hurried out of Lustadt along the road toward his formidable
fortress at Blentz. Half way upon the journey he had met a
dusty and travel-stained horseman hastening toward the
capital city that Peter and his lieutenants had just left.
At sight of the prince regent the fellow reined in and
"May I have a word in private with your highness?" he
asked. "I have news of the greatest importance for your
Peter drew to one side with the man.
"Well," he asked, "and what news have you for Peter of
The man leaned from his horse close to Peter's ear.
"The king is in Tafelberg, your highness," he said.
"The king is dead," snapped Peter. "There is an impostor
in the palace at Lustadt. But the real Leopold of Lutha
was slain by Yellow Franz's band of brigands weeks ago."
"I heard the man at Tafelberg tell another that he was
the king," insisted the fellow. "Through the keyhole of his
room I saw him take a great ring from his finger--a ring
with a mighty ruby set in its center--and give it to the other.
Both were bearded men with gray eyes--either might have
passed for the king by the description upon the placards
that have covered Lutha for the past month. At first he
denied his identity, but when the other had convinced him
that he sought only the king's welfare he at last admitted
that he was Leopold."
"Where is he now?" cried Peter.
"He is still in the sanatorium at Tafelberg. In room
twenty-seven. The other promised to return for him and take
him to Lustadt, but when I left Tafelberg he had not yet
done so, and if you hasten you may reach there before they
take him away, and if there be any reward for my loyalty
to you, prince, my name is Ferrath."
"Ride with us and if you have told the truth, fellow,
there shall be a reward and if not--then there shall be
deserts," and Peter of Blentz wheeled his horse and with
his company galloped on toward Tafelberg.
As he rode he talked with his lieutenants Coblich, Maenck,
and Stein, and among them it was decided that it would be
best that Peter stop at Blentz for the night while the others
rode on to Tafelberg.
"Do not bring Leopold to Blentz," directed Peter, "for if
it be he who lies at Tafelberg and they find him gone it
will be toward Blentz that they will first look. Take him--"
The Regent leaned from his saddle so that his mouth
was close to the ear of Coblich, that none of the troopers
Coblich nodded his head.
"And, Coblich, the fewer that ride to Tafelberg tonight
the surer the success of the mission. Take Maenck, Stein
and one other with you. I shall keep this man with me, for
it may prove but a plot to lure me to Tafelberg."
Peter scowled at the now frightened hospital attendant.
"Tomorrow I shall be riding through the lowlands, Cob-
lich, and so you may not find means to communicate with
me, but before noon of the fifth have word at your town
house in Lustadt for me of the success of your venture."
They had reached the point now where the road to Tafel-
berg branches from that to Blentz, and the four who were
to fetch the king wheeled their horses into the left-hand fork
and cantered off upon their mission.
The direct road between Lustadt and Tafelberg is but
little more than half the distance of that which Coblich and
his companions had to traverse because of the wide detour
they had made by riding almost to Blentz first, and so it
was that when they cantered into the little mountain town
near midnight Barney Custer and Lieutenant Butzow were
but a mile or two behind them.
Had the latter had even the faintest of suspicions that
the identity of the hiding place of the king might come to
the knowledge of Peter of Blentz they could have reached
Tafelberg ahead of Coblich and his party, but all unsus-
pecting they rode slowly to conserve the energy of their
mounts for the return trip.
In silence the two men approached the grounds sur-
rounding the sanatorium. In the soft dirt of the road the
hoofs of their mounts made no sound, and the shadows of
the trees that border the front of the enclosure hid them
from the view of the trooper who held four riderless horses
in a little patch of moonlight that broke through the opening
in the trees at the main gate of the institution.
Barney was the first to see the animals and the man.
"S-s-st," he hissed, reining in his horse.
Butzow drew alongside the American.
"What can it mean?" asked Barney. "That fellow is a
trooper, but I cannot make out his uniform."
"Wait here," said Butzow, and slipping from his horse he
crept closer to the man, hugging the dense shadows close
to the trees.
Barney reined in nearer the low wall. From his saddle he
could see the grounds beyond through the branches of a
tree. As he looked his attention was suddenly riveted upon a
sight that sent his heart into his throat.
Three men were dragging a struggling, half-naked figure
down the gravel walk from the sanatorium toward the gate.
One kept a hand clapped across the mouth of the prisoner,
who struck and fought his assailants with all the frenzy of
Barney leaped from his saddle and ran headlong after
Butzow. The lieutenant had reached the gate but an instant
ahead of him when the trooper, turning suddenly at some
slight sound of the officer's foot upon the ground, detected
the man creeping upon him. In an instant the fellow had
whipped out a revolver, and raising it fired point-blank at
Butzow's chest; but in the same instant a figure shot out of
the shadows beside him, and with the report of the revolver
a heavy fist caught the trooper on the side of the chin,
crumpling him to the ground as if he were dead.
The blow had been in time to deflect the muzzle of the
firearm, and the bullet whistled harmlessly past the lieu-
"Your majesty!" exclaimed Butzow excitedly. "Go back.
He might have killed you."
Barney leaped to the other's side and grasping him by the
shoulders wheeled him about so that he faced the gate.
"There, Butzow," he cried, "there is your king, and from
the looks of it he never needed a loyal subject more than he
does this moment. Come!" Without waiting to see if the other
followed him, Barney Custer leaped through the gate full
in the faces of the astonished trio that was dragging Leopold
of Lutha from his sanctuary.
At sight of the American the king gave a muffled cry
of relief, and then Barney was upon those who held him. A
stinging uppercut lifted Coblich clear of the ground to drop
him, dazed and bewildered, at the foot of the monarch he
had outraged. Maenck drew a revolver only to have it struck
from his hand by the sword of Butzow, who had followed
closely upon the American's heels.
Barney, seizing the king by the arm, started on a run for
the gateway. In his wake came Butzow with a drawn sword
beating back Stein, who was armed with a cavalry saber,
and Maenck who had now drawn his own sword.
The American saw that the two were pressing Butzow
much too closely for safety and that Coblich had now re-
covered from the effects of the blow and was in pursuit,
drawing his saber as he ran. Barney thrust the king behind
him and turned to face the enemy, at Butzow's side.
The three men rushed upon the two who stood between
them and their prey. The moonlight was now full in the
faces of Butzow and the American. For the first time Maenck
and the others saw who it was that had interrupted them.
"The impostor!" cried the governor of Blentz. "The false
Imbued with temporary courage by the knowledge that
his side had the advantage of superior numbers he launched
himself full upon the American. To his surprise he met a
sword-arm that none might have expected in an American,
for Barney Custer had been a pupil of the redoubtable
Colonel Monstery, who was, as Barney was wont to say,
"one of the thanwhomest of fencing masters."
Quickly Maenck fell back to give place to Stein, but not
before the American's point had found him twice to leave
him streaming blood from two deep flesh wounds.
Neither of those who fought in the service of the king
saw the trembling, weak-kneed figure, which had stood be-
hind them, turn and scurry through the gateway, leaving
the men who battled for him to their fate.
The trooper whom Barney had felled had regained con-
sciousness and as he came to his feet rubbing his swollen
jaw he saw a disheveled, half-dressed figure running toward
him from the sanatorium grounds. The fellow was no fool,
and knowing the purpose of the expedition as he did he
was quick to jump to the conclusion that this fleeing personi-
fication of abject terror was Leopold of Lutha; and so it
was that as the king emerged from the gateway in search
of freedom he ran straight into the widespread arms of the
Maenck and Coblich had seen the king's break for liberty,
and the latter maneuvered to get himself between Butzow
and the open gate that he might follow after the fleeing
At the same instant Maenck, seeing that Stein was being
worsted by the American, rushed in upon the latter, and
thus relieved, the rat-faced doctor was enabled to swing a
heavy cut at Barney which struck him a glancing blow upon
the head, sending him stunned and bleeding to the sward.
Coblich and the governor of Blentz hastened toward the
gate, pausing for an instant to overwhelm Butzow. In the
fierce scrimmage that followed the lieutenant was over-
thrown, though not before his sword had passed through
the heart of the rat-faced one. Deserting their fallen com-
rade the two dashed through the gate, where to their im-
mense relief they found Leopold safe in the hands of the
An instant later the precious trio, with Leopold upon the
horse of the late Dr. Stein, were galloping swiftly into the
darkness of the wood that lies at the outskirts of Tafelberg.
When Barney regained consciousness he found himself
upon a cot within the sanatorium. Close beside him lay
Butzow, and above them stood an interne and several
nurses. No sooner had the American regained his scattered
wits than he leaped to the floor. The interne and the nurses
tried to force him back upon the cot, thinking that he was in
the throes of a delirium, and it required his best efforts to
convince them that he was quite rational.
During the melee Butzow regained consciousness; his
wound being as superficial as that of the American, the two
men were soon donning their clothing, and, half-dressed,
rushing toward the outer gate.
The interne had told them that when he had reached the
scene of the conflict in company with the gardener he had
found them and another lying upon the sward.
Their companion, he said, was quite dead.
"That must have been Stein," said Butzow. "And the
others had escaped with the king!"
"The king?" cried the interne.
"Yes, the king, man--Leopold of Lutha. Did you not
know that he who has lain here for three weeks was the
king?" replied Butzow.
The interne accompanied them to the gate and beyond,
but everywhere was silence. The king was gone.
ON THE BATTLEFIELD
ALL THAT night and the following day Barney Custer and
his aide rode in search of the missing king.
They came to Blentz, and there Butzow rode boldly into
the great court, admitted by virtue of the fact that the
guard upon the gate knew him only as an officer of the
royal guard whom they believed still loyal to Peter of Blentz.
The lieutenant learned that the king was not there, nor
had he been since his escape. He also learned that Peter
was abroad in the lowland recruiting followers to aid him
forcibly to regain the crown of Lutha.
The lieutenant did not wait to hear more, but, hurrying
from the castle, rode to Barney where the latter had re-
mained in hiding in the wood below the moat--the same
wood through which he had stumbled a few weeks previ-
ously after his escape from the stagnant waters of the moat.
"The king is not here," said Butzow to him, as soon as the
former reached his side. "Peter is recruiting an army to aid
him in seizing the palace at Lustadt, and king or no king,
we must ride for the capital in time to check that move.
Thank God," he added, "that we shall have a king to place
upon the throne of Lutha at noon tomorrow in spite of all
that Peter can do."
"What do you mean?" asked Barney. "Have you any
clue to the whereabouts of Leopold?"
"I saw the man at Tafelberg whom you say is king,"
replied Butzow. "I saw him tremble and whimper in the face
of danger. I saw him run when he might have seized some-
thing, even a stone, and fought at the sides of the men who
were come to rescue him. And I saw you there also.
"The truth and the falsity of this whole strange business
is beyond me, but this I know: if you are not the king today
I pray God that the other may not find his way to Lustadt
before noon tomorrow, for by then a brave man will sit
upon the throne of Lutha, your majesty."
Barney laid his hand upon the shoulder of the other.
"It cannot be, my friend," he said. "There is more than a
throne at stake for me, but to win them both I could not
do the thing you suggest. If Leopold of Lutha lives he
must be crowned tomorrow."
"And if he does not live?" asked Butzow.
Barney Custer shrugged his shoulders.
It was dusk when the two entered the palace grounds in
Lustadt. The sight of Barney threw the servants and func-
tionaries of the royal household into wild excitement and
confusion. Men ran hither and thither bearing the glad tid-
ings that the king had returned.
Old von der Tann was announced within ten minutes after
Barney reached his apartments. He urged upon the Ameri-
can the necessity for greater caution in the future.
"Your majesty's life is never safe while Peter of Blentz is
abroad in Lutha," cried he.
"It was to save your king from Peter that we rode from
Lustadt last night," replied Barney, but the old prince did
not catch the double meaning of the words.
While they talked a young officer of cavalry begged an
audience. He had important news for the king, he said.
From him Barney learned that Peter of Blentz had succeeded
in recruiting a fair-sized army in the lowlands. Two regi-
ments of government infantry and a squadron of cavalry
had united forces with him, for there were those who still
accepted him as regent, believing his contention that the
true king was dead, and that he whose coronation was to
be attempted was but the puppet of old Von der Tann.
The morning of November 5 broke clear and cold. The
old town of Lustadt was awakened with a start at daybreak
by the booming of cannon. Mounted messengers galloped
hither and thither through the steep, winding streets. Troops,
foot and horse, moved at the double from the barracks
along the King's Road to the fortifications which guard the
entrance to the city at the foot of Margaretha Street.
Upon the heights above the town Barney Custer and the
old Prince von der Tann stood surrounded by officers and
aides watching the advance of a skirmish line up the slopes
toward Lustadt. Behind, the thin line columns of troops
were marching under cover of two batteries of field artil-
lery that Peter of Blentz had placed upon a wooden knoll
to the southeast of the city.
The guns upon the single fort that, overlooking the broad
valley, guarded the entire southern exposure of the city
were answering the fire of Prince Peter's artillery, while
several machine guns had been placed to sweep the slope
up which the skirmish line was advancing.
The trees that masked the enemy's pieces extended up-
ward along the ridge and the eastern edge of the city. Bar-
ney saw that a force of men might easily reach a command-
ing position from that direction and enter Lustadt almost in
rear of the fortifications. Below him a squadron of the Royal
Horse were just emerging from their stables, taking their
way toward the plain to join in a concerted movement
against the troops that were advancing toward the fort.
He turned to an aide de camp standing just behind him.
"Intercept that squadron and direct the major to move
due east along the King's Road to the grove," he commanded.
"We will join him there."
And as the officer spurred down the steep and narrow
street the American, followed by Von der Tann and his
staff, wheeled and galloped eastward.
Ten minutes later the party entered the wood at the edge
of town, where the squadron soon joined them. Von der
Tann was mystified at the purpose of this change in the
position of the general staff, since from the wood they could
see nothing of the battle waging upon the slope. During his
brief intercourse with the man he thought king he had quite
forgotten that there had been any question as to the young
man's sanity, for he had given no indication of possessing
aught but a well-balanced mind. Now, however, he com-
menced to have misgivings, if not of his sanity, then as to
his judgment at least.
"I fear, your majesty," he ventured, "that we are putting
ourselves too much out of touch with the main body of the
army. We can neither see nor accomplish anything from
"We were too far away to accomplish much upon the top
of that mountain," replied Barney, "but we're going to
commence doing things now. You will please to ride back
along the King's Road and take direct command of the
troops mobilized near the fort.
"Direct the artillery to redouble their fire upon the enemy's
battery for five minutes, and then to cease firing into the
wood entirely. At the same instant you may order a cautious
advance against the troops advancing up the slope.
"When you see us emerge upon the west side of the
grove where the enemy's guns are now, you may order a
charge, and we will take them simultaneously upon their
right flank with a cavalry charge."
"But, your majesty," exclaimed Von der Tann dubiously,
"where will you be in the mean time?"
"We shall be with the major's squadron, and when you
see us emerging from the grove, you will know that we have
taken Peter's guns and that everything is over except the
"You are not going to accompany the charge!" cried the
"We are going to lead it," and the pseudo-king of Lutha
wheeled his mount as though to indicate that the time for
talking was past.
With a signal to the major commanding the squadron of
Royal Horse, he moved eastward into the wood. Prince Lud-
wig hesitated a moment as though to question further the
wisdom of the move, but finally with a shake of his head he
trotted off in the direction of the fort.
Five minutes later the enemy were delighted to note that
the fire upon their concealed battery had suddenly ceased.
Then Peter saw a force of foot-soldiers deploy from the
city and advance slowly in line of skirmishers down the
slope to meet his own firing line.
Immediately he did what Barney had expected that he
would--turned the fire of his artillery toward the south-
west, directly away from the point from which the Ameri-
can and the crack squadron were advancing.
So it came that the cavalrymen crept through the woods
upon the rear of the guns, unseen; the noise of their advance
was drowned by the detonation of the cannon.
The first that the artillerymen knew of the enemy in their
rear was a shout of warning from one of the powder-men
at a caisson, who had caught a glimpse of the grim line ad-
vancing through the trees at his rear.
Instantly an effort was made to wheel several of the pieces
about and train them upon the advancing horsemen; but
even had there been time, a shout that rose from several of
Peter's artillerymen as the Royal Horse broke into full view
would doubtless have prevented the maneuver, for at sight
of the tall, bearded, young man who galloped in front of
the now charging cavalrymen there rose a shout of "The
king! The king!"
With the force of an avalanche the Royal Horse rode
through those two batteries of field artillery; and in the
thick of the fight that followed rode the American, a smile
upon his face, for in his ears rang the wild shouts of his
troopers: "For the king! For the king!"
In the moment that the enemy made their first determined
stand a bullet brought down the great bay upon which
Barney rode. A dozen of Peter's men rushed forward to
seize the man stumbling to his feet. As many more of the
Royal Horse closed around him, and there, for five minutes,
was waged as fierce a battle for possession of a king as was
But already many of the artillerymen had deserted the
guns that had not yet been attacked, for the magic name of
king had turned their blood to water. Fifty or more raised
a white flag and surrendered without striking a blow, and
when, at last, Barney and his little bodyguard fought their
way through those who surrounded them they found the
balance of the field already won.
Upon the slope below the city the loyal troops were ad-
vancing upon the enemy. Old Prince Ludwig paced back
and forth behind them, apparently oblivious to the rain of
bullets about him. Every moment he turned his eyes toward
the wooded ridge from which there now belched an almost
continuous fusillade of shells upon the advancing royalists.
Quite suddenly the cannonading ceased and the old man
halted in his tracks, his gaze riveted upon the wood. For
several minutes he saw no sign of what was transpiring be-
hind that screen of sere and yellow autumn leaves, and then
a man came running out, and after him another and an-
The prince raised his field glasses to his eyes. He almost
cried aloud in his relief--the uniforms of the fugitives were
those of artillerymen, and only cavalry had accompanied the
king. A moment later there appeared in the center of his
lenses a tall figure with a full beard. He rode, swinging his
saber above his head, and behind him at full gallop came a
squadron of the Royal Horse.
Old von der Tann could restrain himself no longer.
"The king! The king!" he cried to those about him, point-
ing in the direction of the wood.
The officers gathered there and the soldiery before him
heard and took up the cry, and then from the old man's
lips came the command, "Charge!" and a thousand men tore
down the slopes of Lustadt upon the forces of Peter of
Blentz, while from the east the king charged their right flank
at the head of the Royal Horse.
Peter of Blentz saw that the day was lost, for the troops
upon the right were crumpling before the false king while
he and his cavalrymen were yet a half mile distant. Before
the retreat could become a rout the prince regent ordered
his forces to fall back slowly upon a suburb that lies in the
valley below the city.
Once safely there he raised a white flag, asking a confer-
ence with Prince Ludwig.
"Your majesty," said the old man, "what answer shall we
send the traitor who even now ignores the presence of his
"Treat with him," replied the American. "He may be hon-
est enough in his belief that I am an impostor."
Von der Tann shrugged his shoulders, but did as Barney
bid, and for half an hour the young man waited with Butzow
while Von der Tann and Peter met halfway between the
forces for their conference.
A dozen members of the most powerful of the older no-
bility accompanied Ludwig. When they returned their faces
were a picture of puzzled bewilderment. With them were
several officers, soldiers and civilians from Peter's contingency.
"What said he?" asked Barney.
"He said, your majesty," replied Von der Tann, "that he
is confident you are not the king, and that these men he
has sent with me knew the king well at Blentz. As proof
that you are not the king he has offered the evidence of
your own denials--made not only to his officers and soldiers,
but to the man who is now your loyal lieutenant, Butzow, and
to the Princess Emma von der Tann, my daughter.
"He insists that he is fighting for the welfare of Lutha,
while we are traitors, attempting to seat an impostor upon
the throne of the dead Leopold. I will admit that we are at
a loss, your majesty, to know where lies the truth and where
the falsity in this matter.
"We seek only to serve our country and our king but
there are those among us who, to be entirely frank, are not
yet convinced that you are Leopold. The result of the con-
ference may not, then, meet with the hearty approval of
"What was the result?" asked Barney.
"It was decided that all hostilities cease, and that Prince
Peter be given an opportunity to establish the validity of
his claim that your majesty is an impostor. If he is able to
do so to the entire satisfaction of a majority of the old no-
bility, we have agreed to support him in a return to his
For a moment there was deep silence. Many of the nobles
stood with averted faces and eyes upon the ground.
The American, a half-smile upon his face, turned toward
the men of Peter who had come to denounce him. He knew
what their verdict would be. He knew that if he were to
save the throne for Leopold he must hold it at any cost until
Leopold should be found.
Troopers were scouring the country about Lustadt as far
as Blentz in search of Maenck and Coblich. Could they lo-
cate these two and arrest them "with all found in their
company," as his order read, he felt sure that he would be
able to deliver the missing king to his subjects in time for
the coronation at noon.
Barney looked straight into the eyes of old Von der Tann.
"You have given us the opinion of others, Prince Lud-
wig," he said. "Now you may tell us your own views of
"I shall have to abide by the decision of the majority,"
replied the old man. "But I have seen your majesty under
fire, and if you are not the king, for Lutha's sake you ought
"He is not Leopold," said one of the officers who had ac-
companied the prince from Peter's camp. "I was governor
of Blentz for three years and as familiar with the king's
face as with that of my own brother."
"No," cried several of the others, "this man is not the
Several of the nobles drew away from Barney. Others
looked at him questioningly.
Butzow stepped close to his side, and it was noticeable
that the troopers, and even the officers, of the Royal Horse
which Barney had led in the charge upon the two batteries
in the wood, pressed a little closer to the American. This
fact did not escape Butzow's notice.
"If you are content to take the word of the servants of a
traitor and a would-be regicide," he cried, "I am not. There
has been no proof advanced that this man is not the king.
In so far as I am concerned he is the king, nor ever do I
expect to serve another more worthy of the title.
"If Peter of Blentz has real proof--not the testimony of
his own faction--that Leopold of Lutha is dead, let him
bring it forward before noon today, for at noon we shall
crown a king in the cathedral at Lustadt, and I for one
pray to God that it may be he who has led us in battle
A shout of applause rose from the Royal Horse, and from
the foot-soldiers who had seen the king charge across the
plain, scattering the enemy before him.
Barney, appreciating the advantage in the sudden turn
affairs had taken following Butzow's words, swung to his
"Until Peter of Blentz brings to Lustadt one with a better
claim to the throne," he said, "we shall continue to rule
Lutha, nor shall other than Leopold be crowned her king.
We approve of the amnesty you have granted, Prince Lud-
wig, and Peter of Blentz is free to enter Lustadt, as he will,
so long as he does not plot against the true king.
"Major," he added, turning to the commander of the
squadron at his back, "we are returning to the palace. Your
squadron will escort us, remaining on guard there about the
grounds. Prince Ludwig, you will see that machine guns are
placed about the palace and commanding the approaches to
With a nod to the cavalry major he wheeled his horse
and trotted up the slope toward Lustadt.
With a grim smile Prince Ludwig von der Tann mounted
his horse and rode toward the fort. At his side were several
of the nobles of Lutha. They looked at him in astonishment.
"You are doing his bidding, although you do not know
that he is the true king?" asked one of them.
"Were he an impostor," replied the old man, "he would
have insisted by word of mouth that he is king. But not
once has he said that he is Leopold. Instead, he has proved
his kingship by his acts."
A TIMELY INTERVENTION
NINE O'CLOCK found Barney Custer pacing up and down his
apartments in the palace. No clue as to the whereabouts of
Coblich, Maenck or the king had been discovered. One by
one his troopers had returned to Butzow empty-handed,
and as much at a loss as to the hiding-place of their quarry
as when they had set out upon their search.
Peter of Blentz and his retainers had entered the city and
already had commenced to gather at the cathedral.
Peter, at the residence of Coblich, had succeeded in
gathering about him many of the older nobility whom he
pledged to support him in case he could prove to them that
the man who occupied the royal palace was not Leopold
They agreed to support him in his regency if he produced
proof that the true Leopold was dead, and Peter of Blentz
waited with growing anxiety the coming of Coblich with
word that he had the king in custody. Peter was staking all
on a single daring move which he had decided to make in
his game of intrigue.
As Barney paced within the palace, waiting for word
that Leopold had been found, Peter of Blentz was filled with
equal apprehension as he, too, waited for the same tidings.
At last he heard the pound of hoofs upon the pavement
without and a moment later Coblich, his clothing streaked
with dirt, blood caked upon his face from a wound across
the forehead, rushed in to the presence of the prince regent.
Peter drew him hurriedly into a small study on the first
"Well?" he whispered, as the two faced each other.
"We have him," replied Coblich. But we had the devil's
own time getting him. Stein was killed and Maenck and I
both wounded, and all morning we have spent the time
hiding from troopers who seemed to be searching for us.
Only fifteen minutes since did we reach the hiding-place
that you instructed us to use. But we have him, your high-
ness, and he is in such a state of cowardly terror that he is
ready to agree to anything, if you will but spare his life
and set him free across the border."
"It is too late for that now, Coblich," replied Peter.
"There is but one way that Leopold of Lutha can serve
me now, and that is--dead. Were his corpse to be carried
into the cathedral of Lustadt before noon today, and were
those who fetched it to swear that the king was killed by
the impostor after being dragged from the hospital at Tafel-
berg where you and Maenck had located him, and from
which you were attempting to rescue him, I believe that the
people would tear our enemies to pieces. What say you,
The other stared at Peter of Blentz for several seconds
while the atrocity of his chief's plan filtered through his
"My God!" he exclaimed at last. "You mean that you
wish me to murder Leopold with my own hands?"
"You put it too crudely, my dear Coblich," replied the
"I cannot do it," muttered Coblich. "I have never killed a
man in my life. I am getting old. No, I could never do it.
I should not sleep nights."
"If it is not done, Coblich, and Leopold comes into his
own," said Peter slowly, "you will be caught and hanged
higher than Haman. And if you do not do it, and the im-
poster is crowned today, then you will be either hanged
officially or knifed unofficially, and without any choice in
the matter whatsoever. Nothing, Coblich, but the dead body
of the true Leopold can save your neck. You have your
choice, therefore, of letting him live to prove your treason,
or letting him die and becoming chancellor of Lutha."
Slowly Coblich turned toward the door. "You are right,"
he said, "but may God have mercy on my soul. I never
thought that I should have to do it with my own hands."
So saying he left the room and a moment later Peter of
Blentz smiled as he heard the pounding of a horse's hoofs
upon the pavement without.
Then the Regent entered the room he had recently quitted
and spoke to the nobles of Lutha who were gathered there.
"Coblich has found the body of the murdered king," he
said. "I have directed him to bring it to the cathedral. He
came upon the impostor and his confederate, Lieutenant
Butzow, as they were bearing the corpse from the hospital
at Tafelberg where the king has lain unknown since the
rumor was spread by Von der Tann that he had been killed
"He was not killed until last evening, my lords, and you
shall see today the fresh wounds upon him. When the time
comes that we can present this grisly evidence of the guilt
of the impostor and those who uphold him, I shall expect
you all to stand at my side, as you have promised."
With one accord the noblemen pledged anew their alle-
giance to Peter of Blentz if he could produce one-quarter of
the evidence he claimed to possess.
"All that we wish to know positively is," said one, "that
the man who bears the title of king today is really Leopold
of Lutha, or that he is not. If not then he stands convicted
of treason, and we shall know how to conduct ourselves."
Together the party rode to the cathedral, the majority of
the older nobility now openly espousing the cause of the
At the palace Barney was about distracted. Butzow was
urging him to take the crown whether he was Leopold or
not, for the young lieutenant saw no hope for Lutha, if
either the scoundrelly Regent or the cowardly man whom
Barney had assured him was the true king should come into
It was eleven o'clock. In another hour Barney knew that
he must have found some new solution of his dilemma, for
there seemed little probability that the king would be lo-
cated in the brief interval that remained before the corona-
tion. He wondered what they did to people who stole thrones.
For a time he figured his chances of reaching the border
ahead of the enraged populace. All had depended upon the
finding of the king, and he had been so sure that it could
be accomplished in time, for Coblich and Maenck had had
but a few hours in which to conceal the monarch before
the search was well under way.
Armed with the king's warrants, his troopers had ridden
through the country, searching houses, and questioning all
whom they met. Patrols had guarded every road that the
fugitives might take either to Lustadt, Blentz, or the border;
but no king had been found and no trace of his abductors.
Prince von der Tann, Barney was convinced, was on the
point of deserting him, and going over to the other side. It
was true that the old man had carried out his instructions
relative to the placing of the machine guns; but they might
be used as well against him, where they stood, as for him.
From his window he could see the broad avenue which
passes before the royal palace of Lutha. It was crowded
with throngs moving toward the cathedral. Presently there
came a knock upon the closed door of his chamber.
At his "Enter" a functionary announced: "His Royal High-
ness Ludwig, Prince von der Tann!"
The old man was much perturbed at the rumors he had
heard relative to the assassination of the true Leopold.
Soldier-like, he blurted out his suspicions and his ultimatum.
"None but the royal blood of Rubinroth may reign in
Lutha while there be a Rubinroth left to reign and old Von
der Tann lives," he cried in conclusion.
At the name "Rubinroth" Barney started. It was his
mother's name. Suddenly the truth flashed upon him. He
understood now the reticence of both his father and mother
relative to her early life.
"Prince Ludwig," said the young man earnestly, "I have
only the good of Lutha in my heart. For three weeks I have
labored and risked death a hundred times to place the
legitimate heir to the crown of Lutha upon his throne. I--"
He hesitated, not knowing just how to commence the
confession he was determined to make, though he was posi-
tive that it would place Peter of Blentz upon the throne,
since the old prince had promised to support the Regent
could it be proved that Barney was an impostor.
"I," he started again, and then there came an interruption
at the door.
"A messenger, your majesty," announced the doorman,
"who says that he must have audience at once upon a mat-
ter of life and death to the king."
"We will see him in the ante-chamber," replied Barney,
moving toward the door. "Await us here, Prince Ludwig."
A moment later he re-entered the apartment. There was
an expression of renewed hope upon his face.
"As we were about to remark, my dear prince," he said,
"I swear that the royal blood of the Rubinroths flows in my
veins, and as God is my judge, none other than the true
Leopold of Lutha shall be crowned today. And now we
must prepare for the coronation. If there be trouble in the
cathedral, Prince Ludwig, we look to your sword in pro-
tection of the king."
"When I am with you, sire," said Von der Tann, "I know
that you are king. When I saw how you led the troops in
battle, I prayed that there could be no mistake. God give
that I am right. But God help you if you are playing with
old Ludwig von der Tann."
When the old man had left the apartment Barney sum-
moned an aide and sent for Butzow. Then he hurried to the
bath that adjoined the apartment, and when the lieutenant
of horse was announced Barney called through a soapy
lather for his confederate to enter.
"What are you doing, sire?" cried Butzow in amazement.
"Cut out the 'sire,' old man," shouted Barney Custer of
Beatrice. "this is the fifth of November and I am shaving
off this alfalfa. The king is found!"
"What?" cried Butzow, and upon his face there was little
to indicate the rejoicing that a loyal subject of Leopold of
Lutha should have felt at that announcement.
"There is a man in the next room," went on Barney, "who
can lead us to the spot where Coblich and Maenck guard
the king. Get him in here."
Butzow hastened to comply with the American's instruc-
tions, and a moment later returned to the apartment with
the old shopkeeper of Tafelberg.
As Barney shaved he issued directions to the two. Within
the room to the east, he said, there were the king's corona-
tion robes, and in a smaller dressingroom beyond they would
find a long gray cloak.
They were to wrap all these in a bundle which the old
shopkeeper was to carry.
"And, Butzow," added Barney, "look to my revolvers and
your own, and lay my sword out as well. The chances are
that we shall have to use them before we are ten minutes
In an incredibly short space of time the young man
emerged from the bath, his luxuriant beard gone forever,
he hoped. Butzow looked at him with a smile.
"I must say that the beard did not add greatly to your
majesty's good looks," he said.
"Never mind the bouquets, old man," cried Barney, cram-
ming his arms into the sleeves of his khaki jacket and buck-
ling sword and revolver about him, as he hurried toward a
small door that opened upon the opposite side of the apart-
ment to that through which his visitors had been conducted.
Together the three hastened through a narrow, little-used
corridor and down a flight of well-worn stone steps to a door
that let upon the rear court of the palace.
There were grooms and servants there, and soldiers too,
who saluted Butzow, according the old shopkeeper and
the smooth-faced young stranger only cursory glances. It
was evident that without his beard it was not likely that
Barney would be again mistaken for the king.
At the stables Butzow requisitioned three horses, and soon
the trio was galloping through a little-frequented street
toward the northern, hilly environs of Lustadt. They rode
in silence until they came to an old stone building, whose
boarded windows and general appearance of dilapidation
proclaimed its long tenantless condition. Rank weeds, now
rustling dry and yellow in the November wind, choked
what once might have been a luxuriant garden. A stone
wall, which had at one time entirely surrounded the grounds,
had been almost completely removed from the front to serve
as foundation stone for a smaller edifice farther down the
The horsemen avoided this break in the wall, coming up
instead upon the rear side where their approach was wholly
screened from the building by the wall upon that exposure.
Close in they dismounted, and leaving the animals in
charge of the shopkeeper of Tafelberg, Barney and Butzow
hastened toward a small postern-gate which swung, groan-
ing, upon a single rusted hinge. Each felt that there was no
time for caution or stratagem. Instead all depended upon
the very boldness and rashness of their attack, and so as
they came through into the courtyard the two dashed
headlong for the building.
Chance accomplished for them what no amount of careful
execution might have done, and they came within the ruin
unnoticed by the four who occupied the old, darkened
Possibly the fact that one of the men had himself just
entered and was excitedly talking to the others may have
drowned the noisy approach of the two. However that may
be, it is a fact that Barney and the cavalry officer came to
the very door of the library unheard.
There they halted, listening. Coblich was speaking.
"The Regent commands it, Maenck," he was saying. "It is
the only thing that can save our necks. He said that you had
better be the one to do it, since it was your carelessness that
permitted the fellow to escape from Blentz."
Huddled in a far corner of the room was an abject figure
trembling in terror. At the words of Coblich it staggered to
its feet. It was the king.
"Have pity--have pity!" he cried. "Do not kill me, and I
will go away where none will ever know that I live. You can
tell Peter that I am dead. Tell him anything, only spare my
life. Oh, why did I ever listen to the cursed fool who
tempted me to think of regaining the crown that has brought
me only misery and suffering--the crown that has now
placed the sentence of death upon me."
"Why not let him go?" suggested the trooper, who up to
this time had not spoken. "If we don't kill him, we can't be
hanged for his murder."
"Don't be too sure of that," exclaimed Maenck. "If he
goes away and never returns, what proof can we offer that
we did not kill him, should we be charged with the crime?
And if we let him go, and later he returns and gains his
throne, he will see that we are hanged anyway for treason.
"The safest thing to do is to put him where he at least
cannot come back to threaten us, and having done so upon
the orders of Peter, let the king's blood be upon Peter's
head. I, at least, shall obey my master, and let you two bear
witness that I did the thing with my own hand." So saying
he drew his sword and crossed toward the king.
But Captain Ernst Maenck never reached his sovereign.
As the terrified shriek of the sorry monarch rang through
the interior of the desolate ruin another sound mingled with
it, half-drowning the piercing wail of terror.
It was the sharp crack of a revolver, and even as it spoke
Maenck lunged awkwardly forward, stumbled, and collapsed
at Leopold's feet. With a moan the king shrank back from
the grisly thing that touched his boot, and then two men
were in the center of the room, and things were happening
with a rapidity that was bewildering.
About all that he could afterward recall with any distinct-
ness was the terrified face of Coblich, as he rushed past him
toward a door in the opposite side of the room, and the
horrid leer upon the face of the dead trooper, who foolishly,
had made a move to draw his revolver.
Within the cathedral at Lustadt excitement was at fever
heat. It lacked but two minutes of noon, and as yet no king
had come to claim the crown. Rumors were running riot
through the close-packed audience.
One man had heard the king's chamberlain report to Prince
von der Tann that the master of ceremonies had found the
king's apartments vacant when he had gone to urge the
monarch to hasten his preparations for the coronation.
Another had seen Butzow and two strangers galloping
north through the city. A third told of a little old man who
had come to the king with an urgent message.
Peter of Blentz and Prince Ludwig were talking in whis-
pers at the foot of the chancel steps. Peter ascended the
steps and facing the assemblage raised a silencing hand.
"He who claimed to be Leopold of Lutha," he said, "was
but a mad adventurer. He would have seized the throne of
the Rubinroths had his nerve not failed him at the last mo-
ment. He has fled. The true king is dead. Now I, Prince
Regent of Lutha, declare the throne vacant, and announce
There were a few scattered cheers and some hissing. A
score of the nobles rose as though to protest, but before any
could take a step the attention of all was directed toward
the sorry figure of a white-faced man who scurried up the
broad center aisle.
It was Coblich.
He ran to Peter's side, and though he attempted to speak
in a whisper, so out of breath, and so filled with hysterical
terror was he that his words came out in gasps that were
audible to many of those who stood near by.
"Maenck is dead," he cried. "The impostor has stolen the
Peter of Blentz went white as his lieutenant. Von der Tann
heard and demanded an explanation.
"You said that Leopold was dead," he said accusingly.
Peter regained his self-control quickly.
"Coblich is excited," he explained. "He means that the
impostor has stolen the body of the king that Coblich and
Maenck had discovered and were bring to Lustadt."
Von der Tann looked troubled.
He knew not what to make of the series of wild tales that
had come to his ears within the past hour. He had hoped
that the young man whom he had last seen in the king's
apartments was the true Leopold. He would have been glad
to have served such a one, but there had been many in-
explicable occurrences which tended to cast a doubt upon
the man's claims--and yet, had he ever claimed to be the
king? It suddenly occurred to the old prince that he had
not. On the contrary he had repeatedly stated to Prince
Ludwig's daughter and to Lieutenant Butzow that he was
It seemed that they had all been so anxious to believe
him king that they had forced the false position upon him,
and now if he had indeed committed the atrocity that
Coblich charged against him, who could wonder? With less
provocation men had before attempted to seize thrones by
more dastardly means.
Peter of Blentz was speaking.
"Let the coronation proceed," he cried, "that Lutha may
have a true king to frustrate the plans of the impostor and
the traitors who had supported him."
He cast a meaning glance at Prince von der Tann.
There were many cries for Peter of Blentz. "Let's have
done with treason, and place upon the throne of Lutha
one whom we know to be both a Luthanian and sane.
Down with the mad king! Down with the impostor!"
Peter turned to ascend the chancel steps.
Von der Tann still hesitated. Below him upon one side of
the aisle were massed his own retainers. Opposite them were
the men of the Regent, and dividing the two the parallel
ranks of Horse Guards stretched from the chancel down
the broad aisle to the great doors. These were strongly for
the impostor, if impostor he was, who had led them to
victory over the men of the Blentz faction.
Von der Tann knew that they would fight to the last ditch
for their hero should he come to claim the crown. Yet how
would they fight--to which side would they cleave, were
he to attempt to frustrate the design of the Regent to seize
the throne of Lutha?
Already Peter of Blentz had approached the bishop, who,
eager to propitiate whoever seemed most likely to become
king, gave the signal for the procession that was to mark
the solemn bearing of the crown of Lutha up the aisle to
Outside the cathedral there was the sudden blare of
trumpets. The great doors swung violently open, and the
entire throng were upon their feet in an instant as a trooper
of the Royal Horse shouted: "The king! The king! Make
way for Leopold of Lutha!"
THE GRATITUDE OF A KING
AT THE CRY silence fell upon the throng. Every head was
turned toward the great doors through which the head of a
procession was just visible. It was a grim looking procession
--the head of it, at least.
There were four khaki-clad trumpeters from the Royal
Horse Guards, the gay and resplendent uniforms which they
should have donned today conspicuous for their absence.
From their brazen bugles sounded another loud fanfare, and
then they separated, two upon each side of the aisle, and
between them marched three men.
One was tall, with gray eyes and had a reddish-brown
beard. He was fully clothed in the coronation robes of Leo-
pold. Upon his either hand walked the others--Lieutenant
Butzow and a gray-eyed, smooth-faced, square-jawed stran-
Behind them marched the balance of the Royal Horse
Guards that were not already on duty within the cathedral.
As the eyes of the multitude fell upon the man in the
coronation robes there were cries of: "The king! Impostor!"
and "Von der Tann's puppet!"
"Denounce him!" whispered one of Peter's henchmen in
his master's ear.
The Regent moved closer to the aisle, that he might meet
the impostor at the foot of the chancel steps. The pro-
cession was moving steadily up the aisle.
Among the clan of Von der Tann a young girl with wide
eyes was bending forward that she might have a better
look at the face of the king. As he came opposite her her
eyes filled with horror, and then she saw the eyes of the
smooth-faced stranger at the king's side. They were brave,
laughing eyes, and as they looked straight into her own the
truth flashed upon her, and the girl gave a gasp of dismay
as she realized that the king of Lutha and the king of her
heart were not one and the same.
At last the head of the procession was almost at the foot
of the chancel steps. There were murmurs of: "It is not
the king," and "Who is this new impostor?"
Leopold's eyes were searching the faces of the close-
packed nobility about the chancel. At last they fell upon
the face of Peter. The young man halted not two paces
from the Regent. The man went white as the king's eyes
bored straight into his miserable soul.
"Peter of Blentz," cried the young man, "as God is your
judge, tell the truth today. Who am I?"
The legs of the Prince Regent trembled. He sank upon
his knees, raising his hands in supplication toward the other.
"Have pity on me, your majesty, have pity!" he cried.
"Who am I, man?" insisted the king.
"You are Leopold Rubinroth, sire, by the grace of God,
king of Lutha," cried the frightened man. "Have mercy on
an old man, your majesty."
"Wait! Am I mad? Was I ever mad?"
"As God is my judge, sire, no!" replied Peter of Blentz.
Leopold turned to Butzow.
"Remove the traitor from our presence," he commanded,
and at a word from the lieutenant a dozen guardsmen
seized the trembling man and hustled him from the cathedral
amid hisses and execrations.
Following the coronation the king was closeted in his
private audience chamber in the palace with Prince Lud-
"I cannot understand what has happened, even now, your
majesty," the old man was saying. "That you are the true
Leopold is all that I am positive of, for the discomfiture
of Prince Peter evidenced that fact all too plainly. But who
the impostor was who ruled Lutha in your name for two
days, disappearing as miraculously as he came, I cannot
"But for another miracle which preserved you for us in
the nick of time he might now be wearing the crown of
Lutha in your stead. Having Peter of Blentz safely in cus-
tody our next immediate task should be to hunt down the
impostor and bring him to justice also; though"--and the
old prince sighed--"he was indeed a brave man, and a
noble figure of a king as he led your troops to battle."
The king had been smiling as Von der Tann first spoke of
the "impostor," but at the old man's praise of the other's
bravery a slight flush tinged his cheek, and the shadow of
a scowl crossed his brow.
"Wait," he said, "we shall not have to look far for your
'impostor,'" and summoning an aide he dispatched him for
"Lieutenant Butzow and Mr. Custer."
A moment later the two entered the audience chamber.
Barney found that Leopold the king, surrounded by com-
forts and safety, was a very different person from Leopold
the fugitive. The weak face now wore an expression of ar-
rogance, though the king spoke most graciously to the
"Here, Von der Tann," said Leopold, "is your 'impostor.'
But for him I should doubtless be dead by now, or once
again a prisoner at Blentz."
Barney and Butzow found it necessary to repeat their
stories several times before the old man could fully grasp
all that had transpired beneath his very nose without his
being aware of scarce a single detail of it.
When he was finally convinced that they were telling the
truth, he extended his hand to the American.
"I knelt to you once, young man," he said, "and kissed
your hand. I should be filled with bitterness and rage to-
ward you. On the contrary, I find that I am proud to have
served in the retinue of such an impostor as you, for you
upheld the prestige of the house of Rubinroth upon the
battlefield, and though you might have had a crown, you
refused it and brought the true king into his own."
Leopold sat tapping his foot upon the carpet. It was all
very well if he, the king, chose to praise the American, but
there was no need for old von der Tann to slop over so.
The king did not like it. As a matter of fact, he found him-
self becoming very jealous of the man who had placed him
upon his throne.
"There is only one thing that I can harbor against you,"
continued Prince Ludwig, "and that is that in a single in-
stance you deceived me, for an hour before the coronation
you told me that you were a Rubinroth."
"I told you, prince," corrected Barney, "that the royal
blood of Rubinroth flowed in my veins, and so it does. I
am the son of the runaway Princess Victoria of Lutha."
Both Leopold and Ludwig looked their surprise, and to
the king's eyes came a sudden look of fear. With the royal
blood in his veins, what was there to prevent this popular
hero from some day striving for the throne he had once re-
fused? Leopold knew that the minds of men were wont to
change most unaccountably.
"Butzow," he said suddenly to the lieutenant of horse,
"how many do you imagine know positively that he who
has ruled Lutha for the past two days and he who was
crowned in the cathedral this noon are not one and the
"Only a few besides those who are in this room, your
majesty," replied Butzow. "Peter and Coblich have known
it from the first, and then there is Kramer, the loyal old
shopkeeper of Tafelberg, who followed Coblich and Maenck
all night and half a day as they dragged the king to the
hiding-place where we found him. Other than these there
may be those who guess the truth, but there are none who
For a moment the king sat in thought. Then he rose and
commenced packing back and forth the length of the apart-
"Why should they ever know?" he said at last, halting
before the three men who had been standing watching him.
"For the sake of Lutha they should never know that an-
other than the true king sat upon the throne even for an
He was thinking of the comparison that might be drawn
between the heroic figure of the American and his own
colorless part in the events which had led up to his corona-
tion. In his heart of hearts he felt that old Von der Tann
rather regretted that the American had not been the king,
and he hated the old man accordingly, and was commenc-
ing to hate the American as well.
Prince Ludwig stood looking at the carpet after the king
had spoken. His judgment told him that the king's sug-
gestion was a wise one; but he was sorry and ashamed that
it had come from Leopold. Butzow's lips almost showed
the contempt that he felt for the ingratitude of his king.
Barney Custer was the first to speak.
"I think his majesty is quite right," he said, "and tonight
I can leave the palace after dark and cross the border some
time tomorrow evening. The people need never know the
Leopold looked relieved.
"We must reward you, Mr. Custer," he said. "Name that
which it lies within our power to grant you and it shall
Barney thought of the girl he loved; but he did not men-
tion her name, for he knew that she was not for him now.
"There is nothing, your majesty," he said.
"A money reward," Leopold started to suggest, and then
Barney Custer lost his temper.
A flush mounted to his face, his chin went up, and there
came to his lips bitter words of sarcasm. With an effort,
however, he held his tongue, and, turning his back upon
the king, his broad shoulders proclaiming the contempt he
felt, he walked slowly out of the room.
Von der Tann and Butzow and Leopold of Lutha stood
in silence as the American passed out of sight beyond the
The manner of his going had been an affront to the king,
and the young ruler had gone red with anger.
"Butzow," he cried, "bring the fellow back; he shall be
taught a lesson in the deference that is due kings."
Butzow hesitated. "He has risked his life a dozen times
for your majesty," said the lieutenant.
"Do not humiliate him, sire," advised Von der Tann. "He
has earned a greater reward at your hands than that."
The king resumed his pacing for a moment, coming to a
halt once more before the two.
"We shall take no notice of his insolence," he said, "and
that shall be our royal reward for his services. More than he
deserves, we dare say, at that."
As Barney hastened through the palace on his way to his
new quarters to obtain his arms and order his horse sad-
dled, he came suddenly upon a girlish figure gazing sadly
from a window upon the drear November world--her heart
as sad as the day.
At the sound of his footstep she turned, and as her eyes
met the gray ones of the man she stood poised as though
of half a mind to fly. For a moment neither spoke.
"Can your highness forgive?" he asked.
For answer the girl buried her face in her hands and
dropped upon the cushioned window seat before her. The
American came close and knelt at her side.
"Don't," he begged as he saw her shoulders rise to the
sudden sobbing that racked her slender frame. "Don't!"
He thought that she wept from mortification that she had
given her kisses to another than the king.
"None knows," he continued, "what has passed between
us. None but you and I need ever know. I tried to make
you understand that I was not Leopold; but you would
not believe. It is not my fault that I loved you. It is not
my fault that I shall always love you. Tell me that you for-
give me my part in the chain of strange circumstances that
deceived you into an acknowledgment of a love that you
intended for another. Forgive me, Emma!"
Down the corridor behind them a tall figure approached
on silent, noiseless feet. At sight of the two at the window
seat it halted. It was the king.
The girl looked up suddenly into the eyes of the Ameri-
can bending so close above her.
"I can never forgive you," she cried, "for not being the
king, for I am betrothed to him--and I love you!"
Before she could prevent him, Barney Custer had taken
her in his arms, and though at first she made a pretense of
attempting to escape, at last she lay quite still. Her arms
found their way about the man's neck, and her lips returned
the kisses that his were showering upon her upturned mouth.
Presently her glance wandered above the shoulder of the
American, and of a sudden her eyes filled with terror, and,
with a little gasp of consternation, she struggled to free her-
"Let me go!" she whispered. "Let me go--the king!"
Barney sprang to his feet and, turning, faced Leopold.
The king had gone quite white.
"Failing to rob me of my crown," he cried in a trembling
voice, "you now seek to rob me of my betrothed! Go to
your father at once, and as for you--you shall learn what
it means for you thus to meddle in the affairs of kings."
Barney saw the terrible position in which his love had
placed the Princess Emma. His only thought now was for
her. Bowing low before her he spoke so that the king might
hear, yet as though his words were for her ears alone.
"Your highness knows the truth, now," he said, "and that
after all I am not the king. I can only ask that you will
forgive me the deception. Now go to your father as the
Slowly the girl turned away. Her heart was torn between
love for this man, and her duty toward the other to whom
she had been betrothed in childhood. The hereditary in-
stinct of obedience to her sovereign was strong within her,
and the bonds of custom and society held her in their re-
lentless shackles. With a sob she passed up the corridor,
curtsying to the king as she passed him.
When she had gone Leopold turned to the American.
There was an evil look in the little gray eyes of the monarch.
"You may go your way," he said coldly. "We shall give
you forty-eight hours to leave Lutha. Should you ever re-
turn your life shall be the forfeit."
The American kept back the hot words that were ready
upon the end of his tongue. For her sake he must bow to
fate. With a slight inclination of his head toward Leopold
he wheeled and resumed his way toward his quarters.
Half an hour later as he was about to descend to the
courtyard where a trooper of the Royal Horse held his
waiting mount, Butzow burst suddenly into his room.
"For God's sake," cried the lieutenant, "get out of this.
The king has changed his mind, and there is an officer of the
guard on his way here now with a file of soldiers to place
you under arrest. Leopold swears that he will hang you for
treason. Princess Emma has spurned him, and he is wild
The dismal November twilight had given place to bleak
night as two men cantered from the palace courtyard and
turned their horses' heads northward toward Lutha's nearest
boundary. All night they rode, stopping at daylight before a
distant farm to feed and water their mounts and snatch a
mouthful for themselves. Then onward once again they
pressed in their mad flight.
Now that day had come they caught occasional glimpses
of a body of horsemen far behind them, but the border was
near, and their start such that there was no danger of their
"For the thousandth time, Butzow," said one of the men,
"will you turn back before it is too late?"
But the other only shook his head obstinately, and so
they came to the great granite monument which marks the
boundary between Lutha and her powerful neighbor upon
Barney held out his hand. "Good-bye, old man," he said.
"If I've learned the ingratitude of kings here in Lutha, I
have found something that more than compensates me--
the friendship of a brave man. Now hurry back and tell them
that I escaped across the border just as I was about to fall
into your hands and they will think that you have been
pursuing me instead of aiding in my escape across the
But again Butzow shook his head.
"I have fought shoulder to shoulder with you, my friend,"
he said. "I have called you king, and after that I could
never serve the coward who sits now upon the throne of
Lutha. I have made up my mind during this long ride from
Lustadt, and I have come to the decision that I should pre-
fer to raise corn in Nebraska with you rather than serve in
the court of an ingrate."
"Well, you are an obstinate Dutchman, after all," replied
the American with a smile, placing his hand affectionately
upon the shoulder of his comrade.
There was a clatter of horses' hoofs upon the gravel of
the road behind them.
The two men put spurs to their mounts, and Barney
Custer galloped across the northern boundary of Lutha just
ahead of a troop of Luthanian cavalry, as had his father
thirty years before; but a royal princess had accompanied
the father--only a soldier accompanied the son.
BARNEY RETURNS TO LUTHA
"WHAT'S THE MATTER, Vic?" asked Barney Custer of his
sister. "You look peeved."
"I am peeved," replied the girl, smiling. "I am terribly
peeved. I don't want to play bridge this afternoon. I want
to go motoring with Lieutenant Butzow. This is his last
day with us."
"Yes. I know it is, and I hate to think of it," replied
Barney; "but why in the world do you have to play bridge
if you don't want to?"
"I promised Margaret that I'd go. They're short one, and
she's coming after me in her car."
"Where are you going to play--at the champion lady
bridge player's on Fourth Street?" asked Barney, grinning.
His sister answered with a nod and a smile. "Where you
brought down the wrath of the lady champion upon your
head the other night when you were letting your mind
wander across to Lutha and the Old Forest, instead of
paying attention to the game," she added.
"Well, cheer up, Vic," cried her brother. "Bert'll probably
set fire to the car, the way he did to their first one, and
then you won't have to go."
"Oh, yes, I would; Margaret would send him after me
in that awful-looking, unwashed Ford runabout of his," an-
swered the girl.
"And then you WOULD go," said Barney.
"You bet I would," laughed Victoria. "I'd go in a wheel-
barrow with Bert."
But she didn't have to; and after she had driven off with
her chum, Barney and Butzow strolled down through the
little city of Beatrice to the corn mill in which the former
"I'm mighty sorry that you have to leave us, Butzow,"
said Barney's partner. "It's bad enough to lose you, but I'm
afraid it will mean the loss of Barney, too. He's been hunt-
ing for some excuse to get back to Lutha, and with you
there and a war in sight I'm afraid nothing can hold him."
"I don't know but that it may be just as well for my
friends here that I leave," said Butzow seriously. "I did not
tell you, Barney, all there is in this letter"--he tapped his
breastpocket, where the foreign-looking envelope reposed
with its contents.
Custer looked at him inquiringly.
"Besides saying that war between Austria and Serbia
seems unavoidable and that Lutha doubtless will be drawn
into it, my informant warns me that Leopold had sent
emissaries to America to search for you, Barney, and my-
self. What his purpose may be my friend does not know,
but he warns us to be upon our guard. Von der Tann wants
me to return to Lutha. He has promised to protect me,
and with the country in danger there is nothing else for
me to do. I must go."
"I wish I could go with you," said Barney. "If it wasn't
for this dinged old mill I would; but Bert wants to go
away this summer, and as I have been away most of the
time for the past two years, it's up to me to stay."
As the three men talked the afternoon wore on. Heavy
clouds gathered in the sky; a storm was brewing. Outside, a
man, skulking behind a box car on the siding, watched the
entrance through which the three had gone. He watched
the workmen, and as quitting time came and he saw them
leaving for their homes he moved more restlessly, trans-
ferring the package which he held from one hand to an-
other many times, yet always gingerly.
At last all had left. The man started from behind the box
car, only to jump back as the watchman appeared around
the end of one of the buildings. He watched the guardian
of the property make his rounds; he saw him enter his of-
fice, and then he crept forward toward the building, hold-
ing his queer package in his right hand.
In the office the watchman came upon the three friends.
At sight of him they looked at one another in surprise.
"Why, what time is it?" exclaimed Custer, and as he
looked at his watch he rose with a laugh. "Late to dinner
again," he cried. "Come on, we'll go out this other way."
And with a cheery good night to the watchman Barney
and his friends hastened from the building.
Upon the opposite side the stranger approached the door-
way to the mill. The rain was falling in blinding sheets.
Ominously the thunder roared. Vivid flashes of lightning
shot the heavens. The watchman, coming suddenly from
the doorway, his hat brim pulled low over his eyes, passed
within a couple of paces of the stranger without seeing him.
Five minutes later there was a blinding glare accompanied
by a deafening roar. It was as though nature had marshaled
all her forces in one mighty, devastating effort. At the same
instant the walls of the great mill burst asunder, a nebulous
mass of burning gas shot heavenward, and then the flames
settled down to complete the destruction of the ruin.
It was the following morning that Victoria and Barney
Custer, with Lieutenant Butzow and Custer's partner, stood
contemplating the smoldering wreckage.
"And to think," said Barney, "that yesterday this muss
was the largest corn mill west of anywhere. I guess we
can both take vacations now, Bert."
"Who would have thought that a single bolt of lightning
could have resulted in such havoc?" mused Victoria.
"Who would?" agreed Lieutenant Butzow, and then, with
a sudden narrowing of his eyes and a quick glance at Bar-
ney, "if it WAS lightning."
The American looked at the Luthanian. "You think--" he
"I don't dare think," replied Butzow, "because of the
fear of what this may mean to you and Miss Victoria if it
was not lightning that destroyed the mill. I shouldn't have
spoken of it but that it may urge you to greater caution,
which I cannot but think is most necessary since the warn-
ing I received from Lutha."
"Why should Leopold seek to harm me now?" asked Bar-
ney. "It has been almost two years since you and I placed
him upon his throne, only to be rewarded with threats and
hatred. In that time neither of us has returned to Lutha
nor in any way conspired against the king. I cannot fathom
"There is the Princess Emma von der Tann," Butzow
reminded him. "She still repulses him. He may think that,
with you removed definitely and permanently, all will then
be plain sailing for him in that direction. Evidently he does
not know the princess."
An hour later they were all bidding Butzow good-bye at
the station. Victoria Custer was genuinely grieved to see
him go, for she liked this soldierly young officer of the Royal
Horse Guards immensely.
"You must come back to America soon," she urged.
He looked down at her from the steps of the moving train.
There was something in his expression that she had never
seen there before.
"I want to come back soon," he answered, "to--to Bea-
trice," and he flushed and smiled at his own stumbling
For about a week Barney Custer moped disconsolately,
principally about the ruins of the corn mill. He was in every-
one's way and accomplished nothing.
"I was never intended for a captain of industry," he con-
fided to his partner for the hundredth time. "I wish some
excuse would pop up to which I might hang a reason for
beating it to Europe. There's something doing there. Nearly
everybody has declared war upon everybody else, and here
I am stagnating in peace. I'd even welcome a tornado."
His excuse was to come sooner than he imagined. That
night, after the other members of his family had retired,
Barney sat smoking within a screened porch off the living-
room. His thoughts were upon a trim little figure in riding
togs, as he had first seen it nearly two years before, clinging
desperately to a runaway horse upon the narrow mountain
road above Tafelberg.
He lived that thrilling experience through again as he had
many times before. He even smiled as he recalled the series
of events that had resulted from his resemblance to the mad
king of Lutha.
They had come to a culmination at the time when the
king, whom Barney had placed upon a throne at the risk
of his own life, discovered that his savior loved the girl to
whom the king had been betrothed since childhood and
that the girl returned the American's love even after she
knew that he had but played the part of a king.