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The Mad King by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Part 5 out of 7

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"That before you are many hours older, your highness,
you will be queen of Lutha."

The Princess Emma turned toward her tardy escort that
had just arrived upon the scene.

"This person has stopped me," she said, "and will not
permit me to continue toward Lustadt. Make a way for me;
you are armed!"

Maenck smiled. "Both of them are my men," he explained.

The girl saw it all now--the whole scheme to lure her
to Blentz. Even then, though, she could not believe the king
had been one of the conspirators of the plot.

Weak as he was he was still a Rubinroth, and it was
difficult for a Von der Tann to believe in the duplicity of a
member of the house they had served so loyally for cen-
turies. With bowed head the princess turned her horse into
the road that led toward Blentz. Half the troopers pre-
ceded her, the balance following behind.

Maenck wondered at the promptness of her surrender.

"To be a queen--ah! that was the great temptation," he
thought but he did not know what was passing in the girl's
mind. She had seen that escape for the moment was im-
possible, and so had decided to bide her time until a more
propitious chance should come. In silence she rode among
her captors. The thought of being brought to Blentz alive
was unbearable.

Somewhere along the road there would be an opportunity
to escape. Her horse was fleet; with a short start he could
easily outdistance these heavier cavalry animals and as a
last resort she could--she must--find some way to end her
life, rather than to be dragged to the altar beside Leopold
of Lutha.

Since childhood Emma von der Tann had ridden these
hilly roads. She knew every lane and bypath for miles
around. She knew the short cuts, the gullies and ravines.
She knew where one might, with a good jumper, save a
wide detour, and as she rode toward Blentz she passed in
review through her mind each of the many spots where a
sudden break for liberty might have the best chance to

And at last she hit upon the place where a quick turn
would take her from the main road into the roughest sort of
going for one not familiar with the trail. Maenck and his
soldiers had already partially relaxed their vigilance. The
officer had come to the conclusion that his prisoner was
resigned to her fate and that, after all, the fate of being
forced to be queen did not appear so dark to her.

They had wound up a wooded hill and were half way
up to the summit. The princess was riding close to the right-
hand side of the road. Quite suddenly, and before a hand
could be raised to stay her, she wheeled her mount between
two trees, struck home her spur, and was gone into the
wood upon the steep hillside.

With an oath, Maenck cried to his men to be after her.
He himself spurred into the forest at the point where the
girl had disappeared. So sudden had been her break for
liberty and so quickly had the foliage swallowed her that
there was something almost uncanny in it.

A hundred yards from the road the trees were further
apart, and through them the pursuers caught a glimpse of
their quarry. The girl was riding like mad along the rough,
uneven hillside. Her mount, surefooted as a chamois, seemed
in his element. But two of the horses of her pursuers were
as swift, and under the cruel spurs of their riders were clos-
ing up on their fugitive. The girl urged her horse to greater
speed, yet still the two behind closed in.

A hundred yards ahead lay a deep and narrow gully,
hid by bushes that grew rankly along its verge. Straight
toward this the Princess Emma von der Tann rode. Behind
her came her pursuers--two quite close and the others trail-
ing farther in the rear. The girl reined in a trifle, letting the
troopers that were closest to her gain until they were but a
few strides behind, then she put spur to her horse and drove
him at topmost speed straight toward the gully. At the
bushes she spoke a low word in his backlaid ears, raised
him quickly with the bit, leaning forward as he rose in air.
Like a bird that animal took the bushes and the gully be-
yond, while close behind him crashed the two luckless

Emma von der Tann cast a single backward glance over
her shoulder, as her horse regained his stride upon the op-
posite side of the gully, to see her two foremost pursuers
plunging headlong into it. Then she shook free her reins
and gave her mount his head along a narrow trail that both
had followed many times before.

Behind her, Maenck and the balance of his men came to a
sudden stop at the edge of the gully. Below them one of the
troopers was struggling to his feet. The other lay very still
beneath his motionless horse. With an angry oath Maenck
directed one of his men to remain and help the two who
had plunged over the brink, then with the others he rode
along the gully searching for a crossing.

Before they found one their captive was a mile ahead of
them, and, barring accident, quite beyond recapture. She
was making for a highway that would lead her to Lustadt.
Ordinarily she had been wont to bear a little to the north-
east at this point and strike back into the road that she had
just left; but today she feared to do so lest she be cut off
before she gained the north and south highroad which the
other road crossed a little farther on.

To her right was a small farm across which she had never
ridden, for she always had made it a point never to trespass
upon fenced grounds. On the opposite side of the farm was
a wood, and somewhere beyond that a small stream which
the highroad crossed upon a little bridge. It was all new
country to her, but it must be ventured.

She took the fence at the edge of the clearing and then
reined in a moment to look behind her. A mile away she
saw the head and shoulders of a horseman above some low
bushes--the pursuers had found a way through the gully.

Turning once more to her flight the girl rode rapidly
across the fields toward the wood. Here she found a high
wire fence so close to thickly growing trees upon the opposite
side that she dared not attempt to jump it--there was no
point at which she would not have been raked from the
saddle by overhanging boughs. Slipping to the ground she
attacked the barrier with her bare hands, attempting to
tear away the staples that held the wire in place. For several
minutes she surged and tugged upon the unyielding metal
strand. An occasional backward glance revealed to her hor-
rified eyes the rapid approach of her enemies. One of them
was far in advance of the others--in another moment he
would be upon her.

With redoubled fury she turned again to the fence. A
superhuman effort brought away a staple. One wire was
down and an instant later two more. Standing with one foot
upon the wires to keep them from tangling about her
horse's legs, she pulled her mount across into the wood. The
foremost horseman was close upon her as she finally suc-
ceeded in urging the animal across the fallen wires.

The girl sprang to her horse's side just as the man reached
the fence. The wires, released from her weight, sprang up
breast high against his horse. He leaped from the saddle
the instant that the girl was swinging into her own. Then
the fellow jumped the fence and caught her bridle.

She struck at him with her whip, lashing him across the
head and face, but he clung tightly, dragged hither and
thither by the frightened horse, until at last he managed to
reach the girl's arm and drag her to the ground.

Almost at the same instant a man, unkempt and dis-
heveled, sprang from behind a tree and with a single blow
stretched the trooper unconscious upon the ground.



AS BARNEY CUSTER raced along the Austrian highroad to-
ward the frontier and Lutha, his spirits rose to a pitch of
buoyancy to which they had been strangers for the past
several days. For the first time in many hours it seemed
possible to Barney to entertain reasonable hopes of escape
from the extremely dangerous predicament into which he
had gotten himself.

He was even humming a gay little tune as he drove into
a tiny hamlet through which the road wound. No sign of
military appeared to fill him with apprehension. He was
very hungry and the odor of cooking fell gratefully upon his
nostrils. He drew up before the single inn, and presently,
washed and brushed, was sitting before the first meal he
had seen for two days. In the enjoyment of the food he
almost forgot the dangers he had passed through, or that
other dangers might be lying in wait for him at his elbow.

From the landlord he learned that the frontier lay but
three miles to the south of the hamlet. Three miles! Three
miles to Lutha! What if there was a price upon his head in
that kingdom? It was HER home. It had been his mother's
birthplace. He loved it.

Further, he must enter there and reach the ear of old
Prince von der Tann. Once more he must save the king who
had shown such scant gratitude upon another occasion.

For Leopold, Barney Custer did not give the snap of his
fingers; but what Leopold, the king, stood for in the lives
and sentiments of the Luthanians--of the Von der Tanns--
was very dear to the American because it was dear to a
trim, young girl and to a rugged, leonine, old man, of both
of whom Barney was inordinately fond. And possibly, too, it
was dear to him because of the royal blood his mother
had bequeathed him.

His meal disposed of to the last morsel, and paid for,
Barney entered the stolen car and resumed his journey
toward Lutha. That he could remain there he knew to be
impossible, but in delivering his news to Prince Ludwig he
might have an opportunity to see the Princess Emma once
again--it would be worth risking his life for, of that he was
perfectly satisfied. And then he could go across into Serbia
with the new credentials that he had no doubt Prince von
der Tann would furnish him for the asking to replace those
the Austrians had confiscated.

At the frontier Barney was halted by an Austrian customs
officer; but when the latter recognized the military car and
the Austrian uniform of the driver he waved him through
without comment. Upon the other side the American ex-
pected possible difficulty with the Luthanian customs offi-
cer, but to his surprise he found the little building deserted,
and none to bar his way. At last he was in Lutha--by noon
on the following day he should be at Tann.

To reach the Old Forest by the best roads it was neces-
sary to bear a little to the southeast, passing through Tafel-
berg and striking the north and south highway between that
point and Lustadt, to which he could hold until reaching
the east and west road that runs through both Tann and
Blentz on its way across the kingdom.

The temptation to stop for a few minutes in Tafelberg for
a visit with his old friend Herr Kramer was strong, but fear
that he might be recognized by others, who would not
guard his secret so well as the shopkeeper of Tafelberg
would, decided him to keep on his way. So he flew through
the familiar main street of the quaint old village at a speed
that was little, if any less, than fifty miles an hour.

On he raced toward the south, his speed often necessarily
diminished upon the winding mountain roads, but for the
most part clinging to a reckless mileage that caused the
few natives he encountered to flee to the safety of the
bordering fields, there to stand in open-mouthed awe.

Halfway between Tafelberg and the crossroad into which
he purposed turning to the west toward Tann there is an
S-curve where the bases of two small hills meet. The road
here is narrow and treacherous--fifteen miles an hour is al-
most a reckless speed at which to travel around the curves
of the S. Beyond are open fields upon either side of the

Barney took the turns carefully and had just emerged into
the last leg of the S when he saw, to his consternation, a
half-dozen Austrian infantrymen lolling beside the road. An
officer stood near them talking with a sergeant. To turn back
in that narrow road was impossible. He could only go ahead
and trust to his uniform and the military car to carry him
safely through. Before he reached the group of soldiers the
fields upon either hand came into view. They were dotted
with tents, wagons, motor-vans and artillery. What did it
mean? What was this Austrian army doing in Lutha?

Already the officer had seen him. This was doubtless an
outpost, however clumsily placed it might be for strategic
purposes. To pass it was Barney's only hope. He had passed
through one Austrian army--why not another? He approached
the outpost at a moderate rate of speed--to tear toward it
at the rate his heart desired would be to awaken not sus-
picion only but positive conviction that his purposes and mo-
tives were ulterior.

The officer stepped toward the road as though to halt
him. Barney pretended to be fussing with some refractory
piece of controlling mechanism beneath the cowl--appar-
ently he did not see the officer. He was just opposite him
when the latter shouted to him. Barney straightened up
quickly and saluted, but did not stop.

"Halt!" cried the officer.

Barney pointed down the road in the direction in which
he was headed.

"Halt!" repeated the officer, running to the car.

Barney glanced ahead. Two hundred yards farther on
was another post--beyond that he saw no soldiers. He
turned and shouted a volley of intentionally unintelligible
jargon at the officer, continuing to point ahead of him.

He hoped to confuse the man for the few seconds neces-
sary for him to reach the last post. If the soldiers there saw
that he had been permitted to pass through the first they
doubtless would not hinder his further passage. That they
were watching him Barney could see.

He had passed the officer now. There was no necessity for
dalliance. He pressed the accelerator down a trifle. The car
moved forward at increased speed. a final angry shout
broke from the officer behind him, followed by a quick
command. Barney did not have to wait long to learn the
tenor of the order, for almost immediately a shot sounded
from behind and a bullet whirred above his head. Another
shot and another followed.

Barney was pressing the accelerator downward to the
limit. The car responded nobly--there was no sputtering,
no choking. Just a rapid rush of increasing momentum as
the machine gained headway by leaps and bounds.

The bullets were ripping the air all about him. Just ahead
the second outpost stood directly in the center of the road.
There were three soldiers and they were taking deliberate
aim, as carefully as though upon the rifle range. It seemed
to Barney that they couldn't miss him. He swerved the car
suddenly from one side of the road to the other. At the
rate that it was going the move was fraught with but little
less danger than the supine facing of the leveled guns ahead.

The three rifles spoke almost simultaneously. The glass of
the windshield shattered in Barney's face. There was a hole
in the left-hand front fender that had not been there before.

"Rotten shooting," commented Barney Custer, of Beatrice.

The soldiers still stood in the center of the road firing at
the swaying car as, lurching from side to side, it bore down
upon them. Barney sounded the raucous military horn; but
the soldiers seemed unconscious of their danger--they still
stood there pumping lead toward the onrushing Juggernaut.
At the last instant they attempted to rush from its path; but
they were too late.

At over sixty miles an hour the huge, gray monster bore
down upon them. One of them fell beneath the wheels--the
two others were thrown high in air as the bumper struck
them. The body of the man who had fallen beneath the
wheels threw the car half way across the road--only iron
nerve and strong arms held it from the ditch upon the op-
posite side.

Barney Custer had never been nearer death than at that
moment--not even when he faced the firing squad before
the factory wall in Burgova. He had done that without a
tremor--he had heard the bullets of the outpost whistling
about his head a moment before, with a smile upon his lips--
he had faced the leveled rifles of the three he had ridden
down and he had not quailed. But now, his machine in the
center of the road again, he shook like a leaf, still in the
grip of the sickening nausea of that awful moment when
the mighty, insensate monster beneath him had reeled
drunkenly in its mad flight, swerving toward the ditch and

For a few minutes he held to his rapid pace before he
looked around, and then it was to see two cars climbing into
the road from the encampment in the field and heading to-
ward him in pursuit. Barney grinned. Once more he was
master of his nerves. They'd have a merry chase, he thought,
and again he accelerated the speed of the car. Once before
he had had it up to seventy-five miles, and for a moment,
when he had had no opportunity to even glance at the
speedometer, much higher. Now he was to find the maxi-
mum limit of the possibilities of the brave car he had come
to look upon with real affection.

The road ahead was comparatively straight and level. Be-
hind him came the enemy. Barney watched the road rushing
rapidly out of sight beneath the gray fenders. He glanced
occasionally at the speedometer. Seventy-five miles an hour.
Seventy-seven! "Going some," murmured Barney as he saw
the needle vibrate up to eighty. Gradually he nursed her up
and up to greater speed.

Eighty-five! The trees were racing by him in an indis-
tinct blur of green. The fences were thin, wavering lines--
the road a white-gray ribbon, ironed by the terrific speed
to smooth unwrinkledness. He could not take his eyes from
the business of steering to glance behind; but presently there
broke faintly through the whir of the wind beating against
his ears the faint report of a gun. He was being fired upon
again. He pressed down still further upon the accelerator.
The car answered to the pressure. The needle rose steadily
until it reached ninety miles an hour--and topped it.

Then from somewhere in the radiator hose a hissing and a
spurt of steam. Barney was dumbfounded. He had filled the
cooling system at the inn where he had eaten. It had been
working perfectly before and since. What could have hap-
pened? There could be but a single explanation. A bullet
from the gun of one of the three men who had attempted
to stop him at the second outpost had penetrated the radia-
tor, and had slowly drained it.

Barney knew that the end was near, since the usefulness
of the car in furthering his escape was over. At the speed
he was going it would be but a short time before the super-
heated pistons expanding in their cylinders would tear the
motor to pieces. Barney felt that he would be lucky if he
himself were not killed when it happened.

He reduced his speed and glanced behind. His pursuers
had not gained upon him, but they still were coming. A
bend in the road shut them from his view. A little way
ahead the road crossed over a river upon a wooden bridge.
On the opposite side and to the right of the road was a
wood. It seemed to offer the most likely possibilities of con-
cealment in the vicinity. If he could but throw his pursuers
off the trail for a while he might succeed in escaping
through the wood, eventually reaching Tann on foot. He
had a rather hazy idea of the exact direction of the town
and castle, but that he could find them eventually he was

The sight of the river and the bridge he was nearing sug-
gested a plan, and the ominous grating of the overheated
motor warned him that whatever he was to do he must do
at once. As he neared the bridge he reduced the speed of
the car to fifteen miles an hour, and set the hand throttle to
hold it there. Still gripping the steering wheel with one
hand, he climbed over the left-hand door to the running
board. As the front wheels of the car ran up onto the bridge
Barney gave the steering wheel a sudden turn to the right,
and jumped.

The car veered toward the wooden handrail, there was a
splintering of stanchions, as, with a crash, the big machine
plunged through them headforemost into the river. Without
waiting to give even a glance at his handiwork Barney Cus-
ter ran across the bridge, leaped the fence upon the right-
hand side and plunged into the shelter of the wood.

Then he turned to look back up the road in the direction
from which his pursuers were coming. They were not in
sight--they had not seen his ruse. The water in the river
was of sufficient depth to completely cover the car--no sign
of it appeared above the surface.

Barney turned into the wood smiling. His scheme had
worked well. The occupants of the two cars following him
might not note the broken handrail, or, if they did, might
not connect it with Barney in any way. In this event they
would continue in the direction of Lustadt, wondering what
in the world had become of their quarry. Or, if they guessed
that his car had gone over into the river, they would doubt-
less believe that its driver had gone with it. In either event
Barney would be given ample time to find his way to Tann.

He wished that he might find other clothes, since if he
were dressed otherwise there would be no reason to imagine
that his pursuers would recognize him should they come
upon him. None of them could possibly have gained a suf-
ficiently good look at his features to recognize them again.

The Austrian uniform, however, would convict him, or at
least lay him under suspicion, and in Barney's present case,
suspicion was as good as conviction were he to fall into the
hands of the Austrians. The garb had served its purpose
well in aiding in his escape from Austria, but now it was
more of a menace than an asset.

For a week Barney Custer wandered through the woods
and mountains of Lutha. He did not dare approach or
question any human being. Several times he had seen Aus-
trian cavalry that seemed to be scouring the country for
some purpose that the American could easily believe was
closely connected with himself. At least he did not feel dis-
posed to stop them, as they cantered past his hiding place,
to inquire the nature of their business.

Such farmhouses as he came upon he gave a wide berth
except at night, and then he only approached them stealthily
for such provender as he might filch. Before the week was
up he had become an expert chicken thief, being able to rob
a roost as quietly as the most finished carpetbagger on the
sunny side of Mason and Dixon's line.

A careless housewife, leaving her lord and master's rough
shirt and trousers hanging upon the line overnight, had
made possible for Barney the coveted change in raiment.
Now he was barged as a Luthanian peasant. He was hat-
less, since the lady had failed to hang out her mate's
woolen cap, and Barney had not dared retain a single ves-
tige of the damning Austrian uniform.

What the peasant woman thought when she discovered
the empty line the following morning Barney could only
guess, but he was morally certain that her grief was more
than tempered by the gold piece he had wrapped in a bit
of cloth torn from the soldier's coat he had worn, which he
pinned on the line where the shirt and pants had been.

It was somewhere near noon upon the seventh day that
Barney skirting a little stream, followed through the con-
cealing shade of a forest toward the west. In his peasant
dress he now felt safer to approach a farmhouse and in-
quire his way to Tann, for he had come a sufficient distance
from the spot where he had stolen his new clothes to hope
that they would not be recognized or that the news of their
theft had not preceded him.

As he walked he heard the sound of the feet of a horse
galloping over a dry field--muffled, rapid thud approach-
ing closer upon his right hand. Barney remained motionless.
He was sure that the rider would not enter the wood which,
with its low-hanging boughs and thick underbrush, was ill
adapted to equestrianism.

Closer and closer came the sound until it ceased suddenly
scarce a hundred yards from where the American hid. He
waited in silence to discover what would happen next.
Would the rider enter the wood on foot? What was his pur-
pose? Was it another Austrian who had by some miracle
discovered the whereabouts of the fugitive? Barney could
scarce believe it possible.

Presently he heard another horse approaching at the same
mad gallop. He heard the sound of rapid, almost frantic
efforts of some nature where the first horse had come to a
stop. He heard a voice urging the animal forward--plead-
ing, threatening. A woman's voice. Barney's excitement be-
came intense in sympathy with the subdued excitement of
the woman whom he could not as yet see.

A moment later the second rider came to a stop at the
same point at which the first had reined in. A man's voice
rose roughly. "Halt!" it cried. "In the name of the king,
halt!" The American could no longer resist the temptation to
see what was going on so close to him "in the name of the

He advanced from behind his tree until he saw the two
figures--a man's and a woman's. Some bushes intervened--
he could not get a clear view of them, yet there was some-
thing about the figure of the woman, whose back was to-
ward him as she struggled to mount her frightened horse,
that caused him to leap rapidly toward her. He rounded a
tree a few paces from her just as the man--a trooper in the
uniform of the house of Blentz--caught her arm and dragged
her from the saddle. At the same instant Barney recognized
the girl--it was Princess Emma.

Before either the trooper or the princess were aware of
his presence he had leaped to the man's side and dealt him
a blow that stretched him at full length upon the ground--



FOR AN INSTANT the two stood looking at one another. The
girl's eyes were wide with incredulity, with hope, with fear.
She was the first to break the silence.

"Who are you?" she breathed in a half whisper.

"I don't wonder that you ask," returned the man. "I must
look like a scarecrow. I'm Barney Custer. Don't you re-
member me now? Who did you think I was?"

The girl took a step toward him. Her eyes lighted with

"Captain Maenck told me that you were dead," she said,
"that you had been shot as a spy in Austria, and then there
is that uncanny resemblance to the king--since he has shaved
his beard it is infinitely more remarkable. I thought you
might be he. He has been at Blentz and I knew that it was
quite possible that he had discovered treachery upon the
part of Prince Peter. In which case he might have escaped
in disguise. I really wasn't sure that you were not he until
you spoke."

Barney stooped and removed the bandoleer of cartridges
from the fallen trooper, as well as his revolver and carbine.
Then he took the girl's hand and together they turned into
the wood. Behind them came the sound of pursuit. They
heard the loud words of Maenck as he ordered his three
remaining men into the wood on foot. As he advanced,
Barney looked to the magazine of his carbine and the cylin-
der of his revolver.

"Why were they pursuing you?" he asked.

"They were taking me to Blentz to force me to wed
Leopold," she replied. "They told me that my father's life
depended upon my consenting; but I should not have done
so. The honor of my house is more precious than the life of
any of its members. I escaped them a few miles back, and
they were following to overtake me."

A noise behind them caused Barney to turn. One of the
troopers had come into view. He carried his carbine in his
hands and at sight of the man with the fugitive girl he
raised it to his shoulder; but as the American turned toward
him his eyes went wide and his jaw dropped.

Instantly Barney knew that the fellow had noted his re-
semblance to the king. Barney's body was concealed from
the view of the other by a bush which grew between them,
so the man saw only the face of the American. The fellow
turned and shouted to Maenck: "The king is with her."

"Nonsense," came the reply from farther back in the wood.
"If there is a man with her and he will not surrender, shoot
him." At the words Barney and the girl turned once more
to their flight. From behind came the command to halt--
"Halt! or I fire." Just ahead Barney saw the river.

They were sure to be taken there if he was unable to gain
the time necessary to make good a crossing. Upon the op-
posite side was a continuation of the wood. Behind them
the leading trooper was crashing through the underbrush
in renewed pursuit. He came in sight of them again, just as
they reached the river bank. Once more his carbine was
leveled. Barney pushed the girl to her knees behind a bush.
Then he wheeled and fired, so quickly that the man with
the already leveled gun had no time to anticipate his act.

With a cry the fellow threw his hands above his head,
staggered forward and plunged full length upon his face.
Barney gathered the princess in his arms and plunged into
the shallow stream. The girl held his carbine as he stumbled
over the rocky bottom. The water deepened rapidly--the
opposite shore seemed a long way off and behind there were
three more enemies in hot pursuit.

Under ordinary circumstances Barney could have found it
in his heart to wish the little Luthanian river as broad as the
Mississippi, for only under such circumstances as these could
he ever hope to hold the Princess Emma in his arms. Two
years before she had told him that she loved him; but at
the same time she had given him to understand that their
love was hopeless. She might refuse to wed the king; but
that she should ever wed another while the king lived was
impossible, unless Leopold saw fit to release her from her
betrothal to him and sanction her marriage to another. That
he ever would do this was to those who knew him not even
remotely possible.

He loved Emma von der Tann and he hated Barney
Custer--hated him with a jealous hatred that was almost
fanatic in its intensity. And even that the Princess Emma
von der Tann would wed him were she free to wed was a
question that was not at all clear in the mind of Barney
Custer. He knew something of the traditions of this noble
family--of the pride of caste, of the fetish of blood that
inexorably dictated the ordering of their lives.

The girl had just said that the honor of her house was
more precious than the life of any of its members. How much
more precious would it be to her than her own material
happiness! Barney Custer sighed and struggled through the
swirling waters that were now above his hips. If he pressed
the lithe form closer to him than necessity demanded, who
may blame him?

The girl, whose face was toward the bank they had just
quitted, gave no evidence of displeasure if she noted the
fierce pressure of his muscles. Her eyes were riveted upon
the wood behind. Presently a man emerged. He called to
them in a loud and threatening tone.

Barney redoubled his Herculean efforts to gain the oppo-
site bank. He was in midstream now and the water had
risen to his waist. The girl saw Maenck and the other
trooper emerge from the underbrush beside the first. Maenck
was crazed with anger. He shook his fist and screamed aloud
his threatening commands to halt, and then, of a sudden,
gave an order to one of the men at his side. Immediately
the fellow raised his carbine and fired at the escaping couple.

The bullet struck the water behind them. At the sound of
the report the girl raised the gun she held and leveled it at
the group behind her. She pulled the trigger. There was a
sharp report, and one of the troopers fell. Then she fired
again, quickly, and again and again. She did not score an-
other hit, but she had the satisfaction of seeing Maenck and
the last of his troopers dodge back to the safety of protecting

"The cowards!" muttered Barney as the enemy's shot an-
nounced his sinister intention; "they might have hit your

The girl did not reply until she had ceased firing.

"Captain Maenck is notoriously a coward," she said. "He
is hiding behind a tree now with one of his men--I hit the

"You hit one of them!" exclaimed Barney enthusiastically.

"Yes," said the girl. "I have shot a man. I often wondered
what the sensation must be to have done such a thing. I
should feel terribly, but I don't. They were firing at you,
trying to shoot you in the back while you were defenseless.
I am not sorry--I cannot be; but I only wish that it had
been Captain Maenck."

In a short time Barney reached the bank and, helping the
girl up, climbed to her side. A couple of shots followed
them as they left the river, but did not fall dangerously
near. Barney took the carbine and replied, then both of
them disappeared into the wood.

For the balance of the day they tramped on in the
direction of Lustadt, making but little progress owing to the
fear of apprehension. They did not dare utilize the high
road, for they were still too close to Blentz. Their only hope
lay in reaching the protection of Prince von der Tann before
they should be recaptured by the king's emissaries. At
dusk they came to the outskirts of a town. Here they hid
until darkness settled, for Barney had determined to enter
the place after dark and hire horses.

The American marveled at the bravery and endurance of
the girl. He had always supposed that a princess was so
carefully guarded from fatigue and privation all her life that
the least exertion would prove her undoing; but no hardy
peasant girl could have endured more bravely the hardships
and dangers through which the Princess Emma had passed
since the sun rose that morning.

At last darkness came, and with it they approached and
entered the village. They kept to unlighted side streets until
they met a villager, of whom they inquired their way to
some private house where they might obtain refreshments.
The fellow scrutinized them with evident suspicion.

"There is an inn yonder," he said, pointing toward the
main street. "You can obtain food there. Why should re-
spectable folk want to go elsewhere than to the public inn?
And if you are afraid to go there you must have very good
reasons for not wanting to be seen, and--" he stopped short
as though assailed by an idea. "Wait," he cried, excitedly,
"I will go and see if I can find a place for you. Wait right
here," and off he ran toward the inn.

"I don't like the looks of that," said Barney, after the
man had left them. "He's gone to report us to someone.
Come, we'd better get out of here before he comes back."

The two turned up a side street away from the inn. They
had gone but a short distance when they heard the sound
of voices and the thud of horses' feet behind them. The
horses were coming at a walk and with them were several
men on foot. Barney took the princess' hand and drew her up
a hedge bordered driveway that led into private grounds. In
the shadows of the hedge they waited for the party behind
them to pass. It might be no one searching for them, but it
was just as well to be on the safe side--they were still near
Blentz. Before the men reached their hiding place a motor
car followed and caught up with them, and as the party
came opposite the driveway Barney and the princess over-
heard a portion of their conversation.

"Some of you go back and search the street behind the
inn--they may not have come this way." The speaker was
in the motor car. "We will follow along this road for a bit
and then turn into the Lustadt highway. If you don't find
them go back along the road toward Tann."

In her excitement the Princess Emma had not noticed that
Barney Custer still held her hand in his. Now he pressed it.
"It is Maenck's voice," he whispered. "Every road will be

For a moment he was silent, thinking. The searching party
had passed on. They could still hear the purring of the
motor as Maenck's car moved slowly up the street.

"This is a driveway," murmured Barney. "People who
build driveways into their grounds usually have something
to drive. Whatever it is it should be at the other end of the
driveway. Let's see if it will carry two."

Still in the shadow of the hedge they moved cautiously
toward the upper end of the private road until presently
they saw a building looming in their path.

"A garage?" whispered Barney.

"Or a barn," suggested the princess.

"In either event it should contain something that can go,"
returned the American. "Let us hope that it can go like--
like--ah--the wind."

"And carry two," supplemented the princess.

"Wait here," said Barney. "If I get caught, run. What-
ever happens you mustn't be caught."

Princess Emma dropped back close to the hedge and
Barney approached the building, which proved to be a
private garage. The doors were locked, as also were the
three windows. Barney passed entirely around the structure
halting at last upon the darkest side. Here was a window.
Barney tried to loosen the catch with the blade of his pocket
knife, but it wouldn't unfasten. His endeavors resulted only
in snapping short the blade of his knife. For a moment he
stood contemplating the baffling window. He dared not break
the glass for fear of arousing the inmates of the house
which, though he could not see it, might be close at hand.

Presently he recalled a scene he had witnessed on State
Street in Chicago several years before--a crowd standing
before the window of a jeweler's shop inspecting a neat little
hole that a thief had cut in the glass with a diamond and
through which he had inserted his hand and brought forth
several hundred dollars worth of loot. But Barney Custer
wore no diamond--he would as soon have worn a celluloid
collar. But women wore diamonds. Doubtless the Princess
Emma had one. He ran quickly to her side.

"Have you a diamond ring?" he whispered.

"Gracious!" she exclaimed, "you are progressing rapidly,"
and slipped a solitaire from her finger to his hand.

"Thanks," said Barney. "I need the practice; but wait and
you'll see that a diamond may be infinitely more valuable
than even the broker claims," and he was gone again into
the shadows of the garage. Here upon the window pane he
scratched a rough deep circle, close to the catch. A quick
blow sent the glass clattering to the floor within. For a
minute Barney stood listening for any sign that the noise
had attracted attention, but hearing nothing he ran his hand
through the hole that he had made and unlatched the
frame. A moment later he had crawled within.

Before him, in the darkness, stood a roadster. He ran his
hand over the pedals and levers, breathing a sigh of relief
as his touch revealed the familiar control of a standard
make. Then he went to the double doors. They opened
easily and silently.

Once outside he hastened to the side of the waiting girl.

"It's a machine," he whispered. "We must both be in it
when it leaves the garage--it's the through express for Lus-
tadt and makes no stops for passengers or freight."

He led her back to the garage and helped her into the
seat beside him. As silently as possible he ran the machine
into the driveway. A hundred yards to the left, half hidden
by intervening trees and shrubbery, rose the dark bulk of a
house. A subdued light shone through the drawn blinds of
several windows--the only sign of life about the premises
until the car had cleared the garage and was moving slowly
down the driveway. Then a door opened in the house let-
ting out a flood of light in which the figure of a man was
silhouetted. A voice broke the silence.

"Who are you? What are you doing there? Come back!"

The man in the doorway called excitedly, "Friedrich! Come!
Come quickly! Someone is stealing the automobile," and the
speaker came running toward the driveway at top speed.
Behind him came Friedrich. Both were shouting, waving
their arms and threatening. Their combined din might have
aroused the dead.

Barney sought speed--silence now was useless. He turned
to the left into the street away from the center of the town.
In this direction had gone the automobile with Maenck, but
by taking the first righthand turn Barney hoped to elude
the captain. In a moment Friedrich and the other were
hopelessly distanced. It was with a sigh of relief that the
American turned the car into the dark shadows beneath the
overarching trees of the first cross street.

He was running without lights along an unknown way;
and beside him was the most precious burden that Barney
Custer might ever expect to carry. Under these circumstances
his speed was greatly reduced from what he would have
wished, but at that he was forced to accept grave risks. The
road might end abruptly at the brink of a ravine--it might
swerve perilously close to a stone quarry--or plunge head-
long into a pond or river. Barney shuddered at the possibili-
ties; but nothing of the sort happened. The street ran straight
out of the town into a country road, rather heavy with
sand. In the open the possibilities of speed were increased,
for the night, though moonless, was clear, and the road
visible for some distance ahead.

The fugitives were congratulating themselves upon the ex-
cellent chance they now had to reach Lustadt. There was
only Maenck and his companion ahead of them in the other
car, and as there were several roads by which one might
reach the main highway the chances were fair that Prince
Peter's aide would miss them completely.

Already escape seemed assured when the pounding of
horses' hoofs upon the roadway behind them arose to blast
their new found hope. Barney increased the speed of the
car. It leaped ahead in response to his foot; but the road
was heavy, and the sides of the ruts gripping the tires re-
tarded the speed. For a mile they held the lead of the
galloping horsemen. The shouts of their pursuers fell clearly
upon their ears, and the Princess Emma, turning in her seat,
could easily see the four who followed. At last the car be-
gan to draw away--the distance between it and the riders
grew gradually greater.

"I believe we are going to make it," whispered the girl,
her voice tense with excitement. "If you could only go a
little faster, Mr. Custer, I'm sure that we will."

"She's reached her limit in this sand," replied the man,
"and there's a grade just ahead--we may find better going
beyond, but they're bound to gain on us before we reach
the top."

The girl strained her eyes into the night before them. On
the right of the road stood an ancient ruin--grim and for-
bidding. As her eyes rested upon it she gave a little ex-
clamation of relief.

"I know where we are now," she cried. "The hill ahead is
sandy, and there is a quarter of a mile of sand beyond, but
then we strike the Lustadt highway, and if we can reach it
ahead of them their horses will have to go ninety miles an
hour to catch us--provided this car possesses any such
speed possibilities."

"If it can go forty we are safe enough," replied Barney;
"but we'll give it a chance to go as fast as it can--the
farther we are from the vicinity of Blentz the safer I shall
feel for the welfare of your highness."

A shot rang behind them, and a bullet whistled high
above their heads. The princess seized the carbine that
rested on the seat between them.

"Shall I?" she asked, turning its muzzle back over the low-
ered top.

"Better not," answered the man. "They are only trying
to frighten us into surrendering--that shot was much too
high to have been aimed at us--they are shooting over our
heads purposely. If they deliberately attempt to pot us later,
then go for them, but to do it now would only draw their
fire upon us. I doubt if they wish to harm your highness,
but they certainly would fire to hit in self-defense."

The girl lowered the firearm. "I am becoming perfectly
bloodthirsty," she said, "but it makes me furious to be
hunted like a wild animal in my native land, and by the
command of my king, at that. And to think that you who
placed him upon his throne, you who have risked your life
many times for him, will find no protection at his hands
should you be captured is maddening. Ach, Gott, if I
were a man!"

"I thank God that you are not, your highness," returned
Barney fervently.

Gently she laid her hand upon his where it gripped the
steering wheel.

"No," she said, "I was wrong--I do not need to be a man
while there still be such men as you, my friend; but I would
that I were not the unhappy woman whom Fate had bound
to an ingrate king--to a miserable coward!"

They had reached the grade at last, and the motor was
straining to the Herculean task imposed upon it.

Grinding and grating in second speed the car toiled up-
ward through the clinging sand. The pace was snail-like. Be-
hind, the horsemen were gaining rapidly. The labored
breathing of their mounts was audible even above the noise
of the motor, so close were they. The top of the ascent lay
but a few yards ahead, and the pursuers were but a few
yards behind.

"Halt!" came from behind, and then a shot. The ping of
the bullet and the scream of the ricochet warned the man
and the girl that those behind them were becoming desper-
ate--the bullet had struck one of the rear fenders. Without
again asking assent the princess turned and, kneeling upon
the cushion of the seat, fired at the nearest horseman. The
horse stumbled and plunged to his knees. Another, just be-
hind, ran upon him, and the two rolled over together with
their riders. Two more shots were fired by the remaining
horsemen and answered by the girl in the automobile, and
then the car topped the hill, shot into high, and with re-
newed speed forged into the last quarter-mile of heavy
going toward the good road ahead; but now the grade
was slightly downward and all the advantage was upon the
side of the fugitives.

However, their margin would be but scant when they
reached the highway, for behind them the remaining troop-
ers were spurring their jaded horses to a final spurt of
speed. At last the white ribbon of the main road became
visible. To the right they saw the headlights of a machine.
It was Maenck probably, doubtless attracted their way by
the shooting.

But the machine was a mile away and could not possibly
reach the intersection of the two roads before they had
turned to the left toward Lustadt. Then the incident would
resolve itself into a simple test of speed between the two
cars--and the ability and nerve of the drivers. Barney hadn't
the slightest doubt now as to the outcome. His borrowed
car was a good one, in good condition. And in the matter
of driving he rather prided himself that he needn't take his
hat off to anyone when it came to ability and nerve.

They were only about fifty feet from the highway. The
girl touched his hand again. "We're safe," she cried, her
voice vibrant with excitement, "we're safe at last." From be-
neath the bonnet, as though in answer to her statement,
came a sickly, sucking sputter. The momentum of the car
diminished. The throbbing of the engine ceased. They sat
in silence as the machine coasted toward the highway and
came to a dead stop, with its front wheels upon the road
to safety. The girl turned toward Barney with an exclama-
tion of surprise and interrogation.

"The jig's up," he groaned.; "we're out of gasoline!"



THE CAPTURE of Princess Emma von der Tann and Barney
Custer was a relatively simple matter. Open fields spread in
all directions about the crossroads at which their car had
come to its humiliating stop. There was no cover. To have
sought escape by flight, thus in the open, would have been
to expose the princess to the fire of the troopers. Barney
could not do this. He preferred to surrender and trust to
chance to open the way to escape later.

When Captain Ernst Maenck drove up he found the pris-
oners disarmed, standing beside the now-useless car. He
alighted from his own machine and with a low bow saluted
the princess, an ironical smile upon his thin lips. Then he
turned his attention toward her companion.

"Who are you?" he demanded gruffly. In the darkness
he failed to recognize the American whom he thought dead
in Austria.

"A servant of the house of Von der Tann," replied Barney.

"You deserve shooting," growled the officer, "but we'll
leave that to Prince Peter and the king. When I tell them
the trouble you have caused us--well, God help you."

The journey to Blentz was a short one. They had been
much nearer that grim fortress than either had guessed. At
the outskirts of the town they were challenged by Austrian
sentries, through which Maenck passed with ease after the
sentinel had summoned an officer. From this man Maenck
received the password that would carry them through the
line of outposts between the town and the castle--"Slanka-
men." Barney, who overheard the word, made a mental note
of it.

At last they reached the dreary castle of Peter of Blentz.
In the courtyard Austrian soldiers mingled with the men of
the bodyguard of the king of Lutha. Within, the king's offi-
cers fraternized with the officers of the emperor. Maenck
led his prisoners to the great hall which was filled with
officers and officials of both Austria and Lutha.

The king was not there. Maenck learned that he had re-
tired to his apartments a few minutes earlier in company
with Prince Peter of Blentz and Von Coblich. He sent a
servant to announce his return with the Princess von der
Tann and a man who had attempted to prevent her being
brought to Blentz.

Barney had, as far as possible, kept his face averted from
Maenck since they had entered the lighted castle. He hoped
to escape recognition, for he knew that if his identity were
guessed it might go hard with the princess. As for himself,
it might go even harder, but of that he gave scarcely a
thought--the safety of the princess was paramount.

After a few minutes of waiting the servant returned with
the king's command to fetch the prisoners to his apartments.
The face of the Princess Emma was haggard. For the first
time Barney saw signs of fear upon her countenance. With
leaden steps they accompanied their guard up the winding
stairway to the tower rooms that had been furnished for
the king. They were the same in which Emma von der Tann
had been imprisoned two years before.

On either side of the doorway stood a soldier of the king's
bodyguard. As Captain Maenck approached they saluted.
A servant opened the door and they passed into the room.
Before them were Peter of Blentz and Von Coblich standing
beside a table at which Leopold of Lutha was sitting. The
eyes of the three men were upon the doorway as the little
party entered. The king's face was flushed with wine. He
rose as his eyes rested upon the face of the princess.

"Greetings, your highness," he cried with an attempt at

The girl looked straight into his eyes, coldly, and then
bent her knee in formal curtsy. The king was about to speak
again when his eyes wandered to the face of the American.
Instantly his own went white and then scarlet. The eyes of
Peter of Blentz followed those of the king, widening in as-
tonishment as they rested upon the features of Barney Cus-

"You told me he was dead," shouted the king. "What is
the meaning of this, Captain Maenck?"

Maenck looked at his male prisoner and staggered back
as though struck between the eyes.

"Mein Gott," he exclaimed, "the impostor!"

"You told me he was dead," repeated the king accusingly.

"As God is my judge, your majesty," cried Peter of Blentz,
"this man was shot by an Austrian firing squad in Burgova
over a week ago."

"Sire," exclaimed Maenck, "this is the first sight I have
had of the prisoners except in the darkness of the night;
until this instant I had not the remotest suspicion of his
identity. He told me that he was a servant of the house of
Von der Tann."

"I told you the truth, then," interjected Barney.

"Silence, you ingrate!" cried the king.

"Ingrate?" repeated Barney. "You have the effrontery to
call me an ingrate? You miserable puppy."

A silence, menacing in its intensity, fell upon the little
assemblage. The king trembled. His rage choked him. The
others looked as though they scarce could believe the testi-
mony of their own ears. All there, with the possible excep-
tion of the king, knew that he deserved even more degrad-
ing appellations; but they were Europeans, and to Euro-
peans a king is a king--that they can never forget. It had
been the inherent suggestion of kingship that had bent the
knee of the Princess Emma before the man she despised.

But to the American a king was only what he made him-
self. In this instance he was not even a man in the estimation
of Barney Custer. Maenck took a step toward the prisoner
--a menacing step, for his hand had gone to his sword.
Barney met him with a level look from between narrowed
lids. Maenck hesitated, for he was a great coward. Peter
of Blentz spoke:

"Sire," he said, "the fellow knows that he is already as
good as dead, and so in his bravado he dares affront you.
He has been convicted of spying by the Austrians. He is
still a spy. It is unnecessary to repeat the formality of a

Leopold at last found his voice, though it trembled and
broke as he spoke.

"Carry out the sentence of the Austrian court in the
morning," he said. "A volley now might arouse the garrison
in the town and be misconstrued."

Maenck ordered Barney escorted from the apartment, then
he turned toward the king.

"And the other prisoner, sire?" he inquired.

"There is no other prisoner," he said. "Her highness, the
Princess von der Tann, is a guest of Prince Peter. She will
be escorted to her apartment at once."

"Her highness, the Princess von der Tann, is not a guest
of Prince Peter." The girl's voice was low and cold. "If Mr.
Custer is a prisoner, her highness, too, is a prisoner. If he is
to be shot, she demands a like fate. To die by the side of a
MAN would be infinitely preferable to living by the side of
your majesty."

Once again Leopold of Lutha reddened. For a moment
he paced the room angrily to hide his emotion. Then he
turned once to Maenck.

"Escort the prisoner to the north tower," he commanded,
"and this insolent girl to the chambers next to ours. To-
morrow we shall talk with her again."

Outside the room Barney turned for a last look at the
princess as he was being led in one direction and she in
another. A smile of encouragement was on his lips and cold
hopelessness in his heart. She answered the smile and her
lips formed a silent "good-bye." They formed something
else, too--three words which he was sure he could not have
mistaken, and then they parted, he for the death chamber
and she for what fate she could but guess.

As his guard halted before a door at the far end of a long
corridor Barney Custer sensed a sudden familiarity in his
surroundings. He was conscious of that sensation which is
common to all of us--of having lived through a scene at
some former time, to each minutest detail.

As the door opened and he was pushed into the room he
realized that there was excellent foundation for the impres-
sion--he immediately recognized the apartment as the same
in which he had once before been imprisoned. At that time
he had been mistaken for the mad king who had escaped
from the clutches of Peter of Blentz. The same king was
now visiting as a guest the fortress in which he had spent
ten bitter years as a prisoner.

"Say your prayers, my friend," admonished Maenck, as
he was about to leave him alone, "for at dawn you die--
and this time the firing squad will make a better job of it."

Barney did not answer him, and the captain departed,
locking the door after him and leaving two men on guard
in the corridor. Alone, Barney looked about the room. It was
in no wise changed since his former visit to it. He recalled
the incidents of the hour of his imprisonment here, thought
of old Joseph who had aided his escape, looked at the
paneled fireplace, whose secret, it was evident, not even the
master of Blentz was familiar with--and grinned.

"'For at dawn you die!'" he repeated to himself, still
smiling broadly. Then he crossed quickly to the fireplace,
running his fingers along the edge of one of the large tiled
panels that hid the entrance to the well-like shaft that rose
from the cellars beneath to the towers above and which
opened through similar concealed exits upon each floor. If
the floor above should be untenanted he might be able to
reach it as he and Joseph had done two years ago when they
opened the secret panel in the fireplace and climbed a hid-
den ladder to the room overhead; and then by vacant cor-
ridors reached the far end of the castle above the suite in
which the princess had been confined and near which Bar-
ney had every reason to believe she was now imprisoned.

Carefully Barney's fingers traversed the edges of the panel.
No hidden latch rewarded his search. Again and again he
examined the perfectly fitted joints until he was convinced
either that there was no latch there or that it was hid be-
yond possibility of discovery. With each succeeding minute
the American's heart and hopes sank lower and lower. Two
years had elapsed since he had seen the secret portal swing
to the touch of Joseph's fingers. One may forget much in
two years; but that he was at work upon the right panel
Barney was positive. However, it would do no harm to ex-
amine its mate which resembled it in minutest detail.

Almost indifferently Barney turned his attention to the
other panel. He ran his fingers over it, his eyes following
them. What was that? A finger-print? Upon the left side half
way up a tiny smudge was visible. Barney examined it
more carefully. A round, white figure of the conventional
design that was burned into the tile bore the telltale smudge.

Otherwise it differed apparently in no way from the
numerous other round, white figures that were repeated
many times in the scheme of decoration. Barney placed his
thumb exactly over the mark that another thumb had left
there and pushed. The figure sank into the panel beneath
the pressure. Barney pushed harder, breathless with sus-
pense. The panel swung in at his effort. The American could
have whooped with delight.

A moment more and he stood upon the opposite side of
the secret door in utter darkness, for he had quickly closed
it after him. To strike a match was but the matter of a mo-
ment. The wavering light revealed the top of the ladder that
led downward and the foot of another leading aloft. He
struck still more matches in search of the rope. It was not
there, but his quest revealed the fact that the well at this
point was much larger than he had imagined--it broadened
into a small chamber.

The light of many matches finally led him to the discovery
of a passageway directly behind the fireplace. It was nar-
row, and after spanning the chimney descended by a few
rough steps to a slightly lower level. It led toward the
opposite end of the castle. Could it be possible that it con-
nected directly with the apartments in the farther tower--
in the tower where the king was and the Princess Emma?
Barney could scarce hope for any such good luck, but at
least it was worth investigating--it must lead somewhere.

He followed it warily, feeling his way with hands and
feet and occasionally striking a match. It was evident that
the corridor lay in the thick wall of the castle, midway be-
tween the bottoms of the windows of the second floor and the
tops of those upon the first--this would account for the
slightly lower level of the passage from the floor of the
second story.

Barney had traversed some distance in the darkness along
the forgotten corridor when the sound of voices came to
him from beyond the wall at his right. He stopped, motion-
less, pressing his ear against the side wall. As he did so he
became aware of the fact that at this point the wall was of
wood--a large panel of hardwood. Now he could hear even
the words of the speaker upon the opposite side.

"Fetch her here, captain, and I will talk with her alone."
The voice was the king's. "And, captain, you might remove
the guard from before the door temporarily. I shall not re-
quire them, nor do I wish them to overhear my conversa-
tion with the princess."

Barney could hear the officer acknowledge the commands
of the king, and then he heard a door close. The man had
gone to fetch the princess. The American struck a match
and examined the panel before him. It reached to the top
of the passageway and was some three feet in width.

At one side were three hinges, and at the other an ancient
spring lock. For an instant Barney stood in indecision. What
should he do? His entry into the apartments of the king
would result in alarming the entire fortress. Were he sure
the king was alone it might be accomplished. Should he
enter now or wait until the Princess Emma had been brought
to the king?

With the question came the answer--a bold and daring
scheme. His fingers sought the lock. Very gently, he un-
latched it and pushed outward upon the panel. Suddenly
the great doorway gave beneath his touch. It opened a
crack letting a flood of light into his dark cell that almost
blinded him.

For a moment he could see nothing, and then out of the
glaring blur grew the figure of a man sitting at a table--
with his back toward the panel.

It was the king, and he was alone. Noiselessly Barney
Custer entered the apartment, closing the panel after him.
At his back now was the great oil painting of the Blentz
princess that had hid the secret entrance to the room. He
crossed the thick rugs until he stood behind the king. Then
he clapped one hand over the mouth of the monarch of
Lutha and threw the other arm about his neck.

"Make the slightest outcry and I shall kill you," he whis-
pered in the ear of the terrified man.

Across the room Barney saw a revolver lying upon a small
table. He raised the king to his feet and, turning his back
toward the weapon dragged him across the apartment until
the table was within easy reach. Then he snatched up the
revolver and swung the king around into a chair facing him,
the muzzle of the gun pressed against his face.

"Silence," he whispered.

The king, white and trembling, gasped as his eyes fell
upon the face of the American.

"You?" His voice was barely audible.

"Take off your clothes--every stitch of them--and if any
one asks for admittance, deny them. Quick, now," as the
king hesitated. "My life is forfeited unless I can escape. If I
am apprehended
I shall see that you pay for my recapture
with your life--if any one enters this room without my
sanction they will enter it to find a dead king upon the
floor; do you understand?"

The king made no reply other than to commence divesting
himself of his clothing. Barney followed his example, but
not before he had crossed to the door that opened into the
main corridor and shot the bolt upon the inside. When both
men had removed their clothing Barney pointed to the little
pile of soiled peasant garb that he had worn.

"Put those on," he commanded.

The king hesitated, drawing back in disgust. Barney
paused, half-way into the royal union suit, and leveled the
revolver at Leopold. The king picked up one of the gar-
ments gingerly between the tips of his thumb and finger.

"Hurry!" admonished the American, drawing the silk half-
hose of the ruler of Lutha over his foot. "If you don't hurry,"
he added, "someone may interrupt us, and you know what
the result would be--to you."

Scowling, Leopold donned the rough garments. Barney,
fully clothed in the uniform the king had been wearing,
stepped across the apartment to where the king's sword and
helmet lay upon the side table that had also borne the re-
volver. He placed the helmet upon his head and buckled the
sword-belt about his waist, then he faced the king, behind
whom was a cheval glass. In it Barney saw his image. The
king was looking at the American, his eyes wide and his jaw
dropped. Barney did not wonder at his consternation. He
himself was dumbfounded by the likeness which he bore
to the king. It was positively uncanny. He approached Leo-

"Remove your rings," he said, holding out his hand. The
king did as he was bid, and Barney slipped the two baubles
upon his fingers. One of them was the royal ring of the kings
of Lutha.

The American now blindfolded the king and led him to-
ward the panel which had given him ingress to the room.
Through it the two men passed, Barney closing the panel
after them. then he conducted the king back along the
dark passageway to the room which the American had but
recently quitted. At the back of the panel which led into his
former prison Barney halted and listened. No sound came
from beyond the partition. Gently Barney opened the secret
door a trifle--just enough to permit him a quick survey of
the interior of the apartment. It was empty. A smile crossed
his face as he thought of the difficulty Leopold might en-
counter the following morning in convincing his jailers that
he was not the American.

Then he recalled his reflection in the cheval glass and
frowned. Could Leopold convince them? He doubted it--
and what then? The American was sentenced to be shot at
dawn. They would shoot the king instead. Then there would
be none to whom to return the kingship. What would he do
with it? The temptation was great. Again a throne lay within
his grasp--a throne and the woman he loved. None might
ever know unless he chose to tell--his resemblance to Leo-
pold was too perfect. It defied detection.

With an exclamation of impatience he wheeled about
and dragged the frightened monarch back to the room from
which he had stolen him. As he entered he heard a knock
at the door.

"Do not disturb me now," he called. "Come again in
half an hour."

"But it is Her Highness, Princess Emma, sire," came a
voice from beyond the door. "You summoned her."

"She may return to her apartments," replied Barney.

All the time he kept his revolver leveled at the king,
from his eyes he had removed the blind after they had
entered the apartment. He crossed to the table where the
king had been sitting when he surprised him, motioning
the ragged ruler to follow and be seated.

"Take that pen," he said, "and write a full pardon for
Mr. Bernard Custer, and an order requiring that he be fur-
nished with money and set at liberty at dawn."

The king did as he was bid. For a moment the American
stood looking at him before he spoke again.

"You do not deserve what I am going to do for you," he
said. "And Lutha deserves a better king than the one my
act will give her; but I am neither a thief nor a murderer,
and so I must forbear leaving you to your just deserts and
return your throne to you. I shall do so after I have insured
my own safety and done what I can for Lutha--what you
are too little a man and king to do yourself.

"So soon as they liberate you in the morning, make the
best of your way to Brosnov, on the Serbian frontier. Await
me there. When I can, I shall come. Again we may ex-
change clothing and you can return to Lustadt. I shall cross
over into Siberia out of your reach, for I know you too
well to believe that any sense of honor or gratitude would
prevent you signing my death-warrant at the first opportunity.
Now, come!"

Once again Barney led the blindfolded king through the
dark corridor to the room in the opposite tower--to the
prison of the American. At the open panel he shoved him
into the apartment. Then he drew the door quietly to,
leaving the king upon the inside, and retraced his steps to
the royal apartments. Crossing to the center table, he touched
an electric button. A moment later an officer knocked at the
door, which, in the meantime, Barney had unbolted.

"Enter!" said the American. He stood with his back to-
ward the door until he heard it close behind the officer.
When he turned he was apparently examining his revolver.
If the officer suspected his identity, it was just as well to
be prepared. Slowly he raised his eyes to the newcomer, who
stood stiffly at salute. The officer looked him full in the face.

"I answered your majesty's summons," said the man.

"Oh, yes!" returned the American. "You may fetch the
Princess Emma."

The officer saluted once more and backed out of the
apartment. Barney walked to the table and sat down. A
tin box of cigarettes lay beside the lamp. Barney lighted one
of them. The king had good taste in the selection of tobacco,
he thought. Well, a man must need have some redeeming

Outside, in the corridor, he heard voices, and again the
knock at the door. He bade them enter. As the door opened
Emma von der Tann, her head thrown back and a flush of
anger on her face, entered the room. Behind her was the
officer who had been despatched to bring her. Barney
nodded to the latter.

"You may go," he said. He drew a chair from the table
and asked the princess to be seated. She ignored his re-

"What do you wish of me?" she asked. She was looking
straight into his eyes. The officer had withdrawn and closed
the door after him. They were alone, with nothing to fear;
yet she did not recognize him.

"You are the king," she continued in cold, level tones,
"but if you are also a gentleman, you will at once order
me returned to my father at Lustadt, and with me the man
to whom you owe so much. I do not expect it of you, but I
wish to give you the chance.

"I shall not go without him. I am betrothed to you; but
until tonight I should rather have died than wed you. Now
I am ready to compromise. If you will set Mr. Custer at
liberty in Serbia and return me unharmed to my father,
I will fulfill my part of our betrothal."

Barney Custer looked straight into the girl's face for a
long moment. A half smile played upon his lips at the
thought of her surprise when she learned the truth, when
suddenly it dawned upon him that she and he were both
much safer if no one, not even her loyal self, guessed that
he was other than the king. It is not difficult to live a part,
but often it is difficult to act one. Some little word or look,
were she to know that he was Barney Custer, might betray
them; no, it was better to leave her in ignorance, though
his conscience pricked him for the disloyalty that his act

It seemed a poor return for her courage and loyalty to
him that her statement to the man she thought king had
revealed. He marveled that a Von der Tann could have
spoken those words--a Von der Tann who but the day be-
fore had refused to save her father's life at the loss of the
family honor. It seemed incredible to the American that he
had won such love from such a woman. Again came the
mighty temptation to keep the crown and the girl both;
but with a straightening of his broad shoulders he threw it
from him.

She was promised to the king, and while he masqueraded
in the king's clothes, he at least would act the part that a
king should. He drew a folded paper from his inside pocket
and handed it to the girl.

"Here is the American's pardon," he said, "drawn up and
signed by the king's own hand."

She opened it and, glancing through it hurriedly, looked
up at the man before her with a questioning expression in
her eyes.

"You came, then," she said, "to a realization of the enor-
mity of your ingratitude?"

The man shrugged.

"He will never die at my command," he said.

"I thank your majesty," she said simply. "As a Von der
Tann, I have tried to believe that a Rubinroth could not be
guilty of such baseness. And now, tell me what your an-
swer is to my proposition."

"We shall return to Lustadt tonight," he replied. "I fear
the purpose of Prince Peter. In fact, it may be difficult--even
impossible--for us to leave Blentz; but we can at least
make the attempt."

"Can we not take Mr. Custer with us?" she asked. "Prince
Peter may disregard your majesty's commands and, after
you are gone, have him shot. Do not forget that he kept
the crown from Peter of Blentz--it is certain that Prince
Peter will never forget it."

"I give you my word, your highness, that I know posi-
tively that if I leave Blentz tonight Prince Peter will not
have Mr. Custer shot in the morning, and it will so greatly
jeopardize his own plans if we attempt to release the prisoner
that in all probability we ourselves will be unable to es-

She looked at him thoughtfully for a moment.

"You give me your word that he will be safe?" she asked.

"My royal word," he replied.

"Very well, let us leave at once."

Barney touched the bell once more, and presently an
officer of the Blentz faction answered the summons. As the
man closed the door and approached, saluting, Barney
stepped close to him.

"We are leaving for Tann tonight," he said, "at once. You
will conduct us from the castle and procure horses for us.
All the time I shall walk at your elbow, and in my hand I
shall carry this," and he displayed the king's revolver. "At
the first indication of defection upon your part I shall kill
you. Do you perfectly understand me?"

"But, your majesty," exclaimed the officer, "why is it
necessary that you leave thus surreptitiously? May not the
king go and come in his own kingdom as he desires? Let
me announce your wishes to Prince Peter that he may fur-
nish you with a proper escort. Doubtless he will wish to
accompany you himself, sire."

"You will do precisely what I say without further com-
ment," snapped Barney. "Now get a--" He had been about
to say: "Now get a move on you," when it occurred to him
that this was not precisely the sort of language that kings
were supposed to use to their inferiors. So he changed it.
"Now get a couple of horses for her highness and myself,
as well as your own, for you will accompany us to Tann."

The officer looked at the weapon in the king's hand. He
measured the distance between himself and the king. He
well knew the reputed cowardice of Leopold. Could he make
the leap and strike up the king's hand before the timorous
monarch found even the courage of the cornered rat to fire
at him? Then his eyes sought the face of the king, searching
for the signs of nervous terror that would make his con-
quest an easy one; but what he saw in the eyes that bored
straight into his brought his own to the floor at the king's

What new force animated Leopold of Lutha? Those were
not the eyes of a coward. No fear was reflected in their
steely glitter. The officer mumbled an apology, saluted, and
turned toward the door. At his elbow walked the impostor;
a cavalry cape that had belonged to the king now covered
his shoulders and hid the weapon that pressed its hard
warning now and again into the short-ribs of the Blentz
officer. Just behind the American came the Princess Emma
von der Tann.

The three passed through the deserted corridors of the
sleeping castle, taking a route at Barney's suggestion that led
them to the stable courtyard without necessitating traversing
the main corridors or the great hall or the guardroom, in all
of which there still were Austrian and Blentz soldiers, whose
duties or pleasures had kept them from their blankets.

At the stables a sleepy groom answered the summons of
the officer, whom Barney had warned not to divulge the
identity of himself or the princess. He left the princess in
the shadows outside the building. After what seemed an
eternity to the American, three horses were led into the
courtyard, saddled, and bridled. The party mounted and
approached the gates. Here, Barney knew, might be en-
countered the most serious obstacle in their path. He rode
close to the side of their unwilling conductor. Leaning for-
ward in his saddle, he whispered in the man's ear.

"Failure to pass us through the gates," he said, "will be
the signal for your death."

The man reined in his mount and turned toward the

"I doubt if they will pass even me without a written
order from Prince Peter," he said. "If they refuse, you must
reveal your identity. The guard is composed of Luthanians
--I doubt if they will dare refuse your majesty."

Then they rode on up to the gates. A soldier stepped
from the sentry box and challenged them.

"Lower the drawbridge," ordered the officer. "It is
Captain Krantzwort on a mission for the king."

The soldier approached, raising a lantern, which he had
brought from the sentry box, and inspected the captain's
face. He seemed ill at ease. In the light of the lantern, the
American saw that he was scarce more than a boy--doubt-
less a recruit. He saw the expression of fear and awe with
which he regarded the officer, and it occurred to him that
the effect of the king's presence upon him would be abso-
lutely overpowering. Still the soldier hesitated.

"My orders are very strict, sir," he said. "I am to let no
one leave without a written order from Prince Peter. If the
sergeant or the lieutenant were here they would know what
to do; but they are both at the castle--only two other
soldiers are at the gates with me. Wait, and I will send one
of them for the lieutenant."

"No," interposed the American. "You will send for no
one, my man. Come closer--look at my face."

The soldier approached, holding his lantern above his
head. As its feeble rays fell upon the face and uniform of
the man on horseback, the sentry gave a little gasp of as-

"Now, lower the drawbridge," said Barney Custer, "it is
your king's command."

Quickly the fellow hastened to obey the order. The chains
creaked and the windlass groaned as the heavy planking
sank to place across the moat.

As Barney passed the soldier he handed him the pardon
Leopold had written for the American.

"Give this to your lieutenant," he said, "and tell him to
hand it to Prince Peter before dawn tomorrow. Do not fail."

A moment later the three were riding down the winding
road toward Blentz. Barney had no further need of the
officer who rode with them. He would be glad to be rid of
him, for he anticipated that the fellow might find ample
opportunity to betray them as they passed through the
Austrian lines, which they must do to reach Lustadt.

He had told the captain that they were going to Tann in
order that, should the man find opportunity to institute pur-
suit, he might be thrown off the track. The Austrian sentries
were no great distance ahead when Barney ordered a halt.

"Dismount," he directed the captain, leaping to the ground
himself at the same time. "Put your hands behind your

The officer did as he was bid, and Barney bound his
wrists securely with a strap and buckle that he had re-
moved from the cantle of his saddle as he rode. Then he
led him off the road among some weeds and compelled him
to lie down, after which he bound his ankles together and
stuffed a gag in his mouth, securing it in place with a bit
of stick and the chinstrap from the man's helmet. The threat
of the revolver kept Captain Krantzwort silent and obedient
throughout the hasty operations.

"Good-bye, captain," whispered Barney, "and let me sug-
gest that you devote the time until your discovery and re-
lease in pondering the value of winning your king's confi-
dence in the future. Had you chosen your associates more
carefully in the past, this need not have occurred."

Barney unsaddled the captain's horse and turned him
loose, then he remounted and, with the princess at his side,
rode down toward Blentz.



AS THE TWO riders approached the edge of the village of
Blentz a sentry barred their way. To his challenge the
American replied that they were "friends from the castle."

"Advance," directed the sentry, "and give the counter-

Barney rode to the fellow's side, and leaning from the
saddle whispered in his ear the word "Slankamen."

Would it pass them out as it had passed Maenck in?
Barney scarcely breathed as he awaited the result of his
experiment. The soldier brought his rifle to present and
directed them to pass. With a sigh of relief that was almost
audible the two rode into the village and the Austrian lines.

Once within they met with no further obstacle until they
reached the last line of sentries upon the far side of the
town. It was with more confidence that Barney gave the
countersign here, nor was he surprised that the soldier
passed them readily; and now they were upon the high-
road to Lustadt, with nothing more to bar their way.

For hours they rode on in silence. Barney wanted to talk
with his companion, but as king he found nothing to say to
her. The girl's mind was filled with morbid reflections of the
past few hours and dumb terror for the future. She would
keep her promise to the king; but after--life would not be
worth the living; why should she live? She glanced at the
man beside her in the light of the coming dawn. Ah, why
was he so like her American in outward appearances only?
Their own mothers could scarce have distinguished them,
and yet in character no two men could have differed more
widely. The man turned to her.

"We are almost there," he said. "You must be very tired."

The words reflected a consideration that had never been
a characteristic of Leopold. The girl began to wonder if
there might not possibly be a vein of nobility in the man,
after all, that she had never discovered. Since she had en-
tered his apartments at Blentz he had been in every way a
different man from the Leopold she had known of old. The
boldness of his escape from Blentz supposed a courage that
the king had never given the slightest indication of in the
past. Could it be that he was making a genuine effort to
become a man--to win her respect?

They were approaching Lustadt as the sun rose. A troop
of horse was just emerging from the north gate. As it neared
them they saw that the cavalrymen wore the uniforms of
the Royal Horse Guard. At their head rode a lieutenant. As
his eyes fell upon the face of the princess and her com-
panion, he brought his troopers to a halt, and, with in-
credulity plain upon his countenance, advanced to meet
them, his hand raised in salute to the king. It was Butzow.

Now Barney was sure that he would be recognized. For
two years he and the Luthanian officer had been inseparable.
Surely Butzow would penetrate his disguise. He returned
his friend's salute, looked him full in the eyes, and asked
where he was riding.

"To Blentz, your majesty," replied Butzow, "to demand
an audience. I bear important word from Prince von der
Tann. He has learned the Austrians are moving an entire
army corps into Lutha, together with siege howitzers. Serbia
has demanded that all Austrian troops be withdrawn from
Luthanian territory at once, and has offered to assist your
majesty in maintaining your neutrality by force, if neces-

As Butzow spoke his eyes were often upon the Princess
Emma, and it was quite evident that he was much puzzled
to account for her presence with the king. She was sup-
posed to be at Tann, and Butzow knew well enough her
estimate of Leopold to know that she would not be in his
company of her own volition. His expression as he addressed
the man he supposed to be his king was far from deferen-
tial. Barney could scarce repress a smile.

"We will ride at once to the palace," he said. "At the
gate you may instruct one of your sergeants to telephone to
will act as our escort."

Butzow saluted and turned to his troopers, giving the
necessary commands that brought them about in the wake
of the pseudo-king. Once again Barney Custer, of Beatrice,
rode into Lustadt as king of Lutha. The few people upon
the streets turned to look at him as he passed, but there
was little demonstration of love or enthusiasm.

Leopold had awakened no emotions of this sort in the
hearts of his subjects. Some there were who still remembered
the gallant actions of their ruler on the field of battle when
his forces had defeated those of the regent, upon that other
occasion when this same American had sat upon the
throne of Lutha for two days and had led the little army
to victory; but since then the true king had been with them
daily in his true colors. Arrogance, haughtiness, and petty
tyranny had marked his reign. Taxes had gone even higher
than under the corrupt influence of the Blentz regime.
The king's days were spent in bed; his nights in dissipation.
Old Ludwig von der Tann seemed Lutha's only friend at
court. Him the people loved and trusted.

It was the old chancellor who met them as they entered
the palace--the Princess Emma, Lieutenant Butzow, and
the false king. As the old man's eyes fell upon his daughter,
he gave an exclamation of surprise and of incredulity. He
looked from her to the American.

"What is the meaning of this, your majesty?" he cried in
a voice hoarse with emotion. "What does her highness in
your company?"

There was neither fear nor respect in Prince Ludwig's
tone--only anger. He was demanding an accounting from
Leopold, the man; not from Leopold, the king. Barney
raised his hand.

"Wait," he said, "before you judge. The princess was
brought to Blentz by Prince Peter. She will tell you that I
have aided her to escape and that I have accorded her only
such treatment as a woman has a right to expect from a

The girl inclined her head.

"His majesty has been most kind," she said. "He has
treated me with every consideration and respect, and I am
convinced that he was not a willing party to my arrest and
forcible detention at Blentz; or," she added, "if he was, he
regretted his action later and has made full reparation by
bringing me to Lustadt."

Prince von der Tann found difficulty in hiding his surprise
at this evidence of chivalry in the cowardly king. But for
his daughter's testimony he could not have believed it pos-
sible that it lay within the nature of Leopold of Lutha to
have done what he had done within the past few hours.

He bowed low before the man who wore the king's uni-
form. The American extended his hand, and Von der Tann,
taking it in his own, raised it to his lips.

"And now," said Barney briskly, "let us go to my apart-
ments and get to work. Your highness"--and he turned to-
ward the Princess Emma--"must be greatly fatigued. Lieu-
tenant Butzow, you will see that a suite is prepared for her
highness. Afterward you may call upon Count Zellerndorf,
whom I understand returned to Lustadt yesterday, and noti-
fy him that I will receive him in an hour. Inform the Serbian
minister that I desire his presence at the palace immediately.
Lose no time, lieutenant, and be sure to impress upon the
Serbian minister that immediately means immediately."

Butzow saluted and the Princess Emma curtsied, as the
king turned and, slipping his arm through that of Prince
Ludwig, walked away in the direction of the royal apart-
ments. Once at the king's desk Barney turned toward the
chancellor. In his mind was the determination to save Lutha
if Lutha could be saved. He had been forced to place the
king in a position where he would be helpless, though that
he would have been equally as helpless upon his throne the
American did not doubt for an instant. However, the course
of events had placed within his hands the power to serve
not only Lutha but the house of Von der Tann as well. He
would do in the king's place what the king should have
done if the king had been a man.

"Now, Prince Ludwig," he said, "tell me just what con-
ditions we must face. Remember that I have been at Blentz
and that there the King of Lutha is not apt to learn all
that transpires in Lustadt."

"Sire," replied the chancellor, "we face a grave crisis. Not
only is there within Lutha the small force of Austrian troops
that surround Blentz, but now an entire army corps has
crossed the border. Unquestionably they are marching on
Lustadt. The emperor is going to take no chances. He sent
the first force into Lutha to compel Serbian intervention and
draw Serbian troops from the Austro-Serbian battle line.
Serbia has withheld her forces at my request, but she will
not withhold them for long. We must make a declaration
at once. If we declare against Austria we are faced by the
menace of the Austrian troops already within our bound-
aries, but we shall have Serbia to help us.

"A Serbian army corps is on the frontier at this moment
awaiting word from Lutha. If it is adverse to Austria that
army corps will cross the border and march to our assist-
ance. If it is favorable to Austria it will none the less cross
into Lutha, but as enemies instead of allies. Serbia has
acted honorably toward Lutha. She has not violated our
neutrality. She has no desire to increase her possessions in
this direction.

"On the other hand, Austria has violated her treaty with
us. She has marched troops into our country and occupied
the town of Blentz. Constantly in the past she has incited
internal discord. She is openly championing the Blentz
cause, which at last I trust your majesty has discovered is
inimical to your interests.

"If Austria is victorious in her war with Serbia, she will
find some pretext to hold Lutha whether Lutha takes her
stand either for or against her. And most certainly is this
true if it occurs that Austrian troops are still within the
boundaries of Lutha when peace is negotiated. Not only our
honor but our very existence demands that there be no
Austrian troops in Lutha at the close of this war. If we
cannot force them across the border we can at least make
such an effort as will win us the respect of the world and

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