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The Mad King by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Part 7 out of 7

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in his breast was forgotten. Lightly he touched his spurs to
the hunter's sides. Tossing his head and curveting, the ani-
mal broke into a long, easy trot. Where the road dipped into
the ravine and down through the village to the valley the
rider drew his restless mount into a walk; but, once in the
valley, he let him out. Barney took the short road to Lus-
tadt. It would cut ten miles off the distance that the main
wagonroad covered, and it was a good road for a horseman.
It should bring him to Lustadt by one o'clock or a little
after. The road wound through the hills to the east of the
main highway, and was scarcely more than a trail where it
crossed the Ru River upon a narrow bridge that spanned
the deep mountain gorge that walls the Ru for ten miles
through the hills.

When Barney reached the river his hopes sank. The
bridge was gone--dynamited by the Austrians in their re-
treat. The nearest bridge was at the crossing of the main
highway over ten miles to the southwest. There, too, the
river might be forded even if the Austrians had destroyed
that bridge also; but here or elsewhere in the hills there
could be no fording--the banks of the Ru were perpendicular

The misfortune would add nearly twenty miles to his
journey--he could not now hope to reach Lustadt before
late in the afternoon. Turning his horse back along the trail
he had come, he retraced his way until he reached a nar-
row bridle path that led toward the southwest. The trail
was rough and indistinct, yet he pushed forward, even
more rapidly than safety might have suggested. The noble
beast beneath him was all loyalty and ambition.

"Take it easy, old boy," whispered Barney into the slim,
pointed ears that moved ceaselessly backward and forward,
"you'll get your chance when we strike the highway, never

And he did.

So unexpected had been Maenck's entrance into the
room in the east transept, so sudden his attack, that it was
all over before a hand could be raised to stay him. At the
report of his revolver the king sank to the floor. At almost
the same instant Lieutenant Butzow whipped a revolver
from beneath his tunic and fired at the assassin. Maenck
staggered forward and stumbled across the body of the king.
Butzow was upon him instantly, wresting the revolver from
his fingers. Prince Ludwig ran to the king's side and, kneel-
ing there, raised Leopold's head in his arms. The bishop
and the doctor bent over the limp form. The Princess Emma
stood a little apart. She had leaped from the couch where
she had been lying. Her eyes were wide in horror. Her
palms pressed to her cheeks.

It was upon this scene that a hatless, dust-covered man
in a red hunting coat burst through the door that had ad-
mitted Maenck. The man had seen and recognized the con-
spirator as he climbed to the top of the limousine and
dropped within the cathedral grounds, and he had followed
close upon his heels.

No one seemed to note his entrance. All ears were turned
toward the doctor, who was speaking.

"The king is dead," he said.

Maenck raised himself upon an elbow. He spoke feebly.

"You fools," he cried. "That man was not the king. I saw
him steal the king's clothes at Blentz and I followed him
here. He is the American--the impostor." Then his eyes,
circling the faces about him to note the results of his an-
nouncements, fell upon the face of the man in the red hunt-
ing coat. Amazement and wonder were in his face. Slowly
he raised his finger and pointed.

"There is the king," he said.

Every eye turned in the direction he indicated. Exclama-
tions of surprise and incredulity burst from every lip. The
old chancellor looked from the man in the red hunting coat
to the still form of the man upon the floor in the blood-
spattered marriage garments of a king of Lutha. He let the
king's head gently down upon the carpet, and then he rose
to his feet and faced the man in the red hunting coat.

"Who are you?" he demanded.

Before Barney could speak Lieutenant Butzow spoke.

"He is the king, your highness," he said. "I rode with
him to Blentz to free Mr. Custer. Both were wounded in
the courtyard in the fight that took place there. I helped
to dress their wounds. The king was wounded in the breast--
Mr. Custer in the left leg."

Prince von der Tann looked puzzled. Again he turned
his eyes questioningly toward the newcomer.

"Is this the truth?" he asked.

Barney looked toward the Princess Emma. In her eyes he
could read the relief that the sight of him alive had brought
her. Since she had recognized the king she had believed
that Barney was dead. The temptation was great--he
dreaded losing her, and he feared he would lose her when
her father learned the truth of the deception that had been
practiced upon him. He might lose even more--men had
lost their heads for tampering with the affairs of kings.

"Well?" persisted the chancellor.

"Lieutenant Butzow is partially correct--he honestly be-
lieves that he is entirely so," replied the American. "He did
ride with me from Lustadt to Blentz to save the man who
lies dead here at your feet. The lieutenant thought that he
was riding with his king, just as your highness thought that
he was riding with his king during the battle of Lustadt.
You were both wrong--you were riding with Mr. Bernard
Custer, of Beatrice. I am he. I have no apologies to make.
What I did I would do again. I did it for Lutha and for the
woman I love. She knows and the king knew that I intended
restoring his identity to him with no one the wiser for the
interchange that had taken place. The king upset my plans
by stealing back his identity while I slept, with the result
that you see before you upon the floor. He has died as he
had lived--futilely."

As he spoke the Princess Emma had crossed the room to-
ward him. Now she stood at his side, her hand in his.
Tense silence reigned in the apartment. The old chancellor
stood with bowed head, buried in thought. All eyes were
upon him except those of the doctor, who had turned his
attention from the dead king to the wounded assassin. But-
zow stood looking at Barney Custer in open relief and ad-
miration. He had been trying to vindicate his friend in his
own mind ever since he had discovered, as he believed, that
Barney had tricked Leopold after the latter had saved his
life at Blentz and ridden to Lustadt in the king's guise. Now
that he knew the whole truth he realized how stupid he
had been not to guess that the man who had led the vic-
torious Luthanian army before Lustadt could not have been
the cowardly Leopold.

Presently the chancellor broke the silence.

"You say that Leopold of Lutha lived futilely. You are
right; but when you say that he has died futilely, you are,
I believe, wrong. Living, he gave us a poor weakling. Dy-
ing, he leaves the throne to a brave man, in whose veins
flows the blood of the Rubinroths, hereditary rulers of Lutha.

"You are the only rightful successor to the throne of
Lutha," he argued, "other than Peter of Blentz. Your
mother's marriage to a foreigner did not bar the succession
of her offspring. Aside from the fact that Peter of Blentz is
out of the question, is the more important fact that your
line is closer to the throne than his. He knew it, and this
knowledge was the real basis of his hatred of you."

As the old chancellor ceased speaking he drew his sword
and raised it on high above his head.

"The king is dead," he said. "Long live the king!"



BARNEY CUSTER, of Beatrice, had no desire to be king of
Lutha. He lost no time in saying so. All that he wanted of
Lutha was the girl he had found there, as his father before
him had found the girl of his choice. Von der Tann pleaded
with him.

"Twice have I fought under you, sire," he urged. "Twice,
and only twice since the old king died, have I felt that the
future of Lutha was safe in the hands of her ruler, and both
these times it was you who sat upon the throne. Do not
desert us now. Let me live to see Lutha once more happy,
with a true Rubinroth upon the throne and my daughter
at his side."

Butzow added his pleas to those of the old chancellor.
The American hesitated.

"Let us leave it to the representatives of the people and
to the house of nobles," he suggested.

The chancellor of Lutha explained the situation to both
houses. Their reply was unanimous. He carried it to the
American, who awaited the decision of Lutha in the royal
apartments of the palace. With him was the Princess Emma
von der Tann.

"The people of Lutha will have no other king, sire," said
the old man.

Barney turned toward the girl.

"There is no other way, my lord king," she said with
grave dignity. "With her blood your mother bequeathed
you a duty which you may not shirk. It is not for you or
for me to choose. God chose for you when you were born."

Barney Custer took her hand in his and raised it to his

"Let the King of Lutha," he said, "be the first to salute
Lutha's queen."

And so Barney Custer, of Beatrice, was crowned King of
Lutha, and Emma became his queen. Maenck died of his
wound on the floor of the little room in the east transept of
the cathedral of Lustadt beside the body of the king he
had slain. Prince Peter of Blentz was tried by the highest
court of Lutha on the charge of treason; he was found guilty
and hanged. Von Coblich committed suicide on the eve of
his arrest. Lieutenant Otto Butzow was ennobled and given
the confiscated estates of the Blentz prince. He became a
general in the army of Lutha, and was sent to the front in
command of the army corps that guarded the northern
frontier of the little kingdom.

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