The Mad King
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Part 1 out of 7
THE MAD KING
A RUNAWAY HORSE
ALL LUSTADT was in an uproar. The mad king had es-
caped. Little knots of excited men stood upon the street
corners listening to each latest rumor concerning this most
absorbing occurrence. Before the palace a great crowd
surged to and fro, awaiting they knew not what.
For ten years no man of them had set eyes upon the face
of the boy-king who had been hastened to the grim castle
of Blentz upon the death of the old king, his father.
There had been murmurings then when the lad's uncle,
Peter of Blentz, had announced to the people of Lutha the
sudden mental affliction which had fallen upon his nephew,
and more murmurings for a time after the announcement
that Peter of Blentz had been appointed Regent during the
lifetime of the young King Leopold, "or until God, in His
infinite mercy, shall see fit to restore to us in full mental
vigor our beloved monarch."
But ten years is a long time. The boy-king had become
but a vague memory to the subjects who could recall him
There were many, of course, in the capital city, Lustadt,
who still retained a mental picture of the handsome boy
who had ridden out nearly every morning from the palace
gates beside the tall, martial figure of the old king, his father,
for a canter across the broad plain which lies at the foot of
the mountain town of Lustadt; but even these had long since
given up hope that their young king would ever ascend his
throne, or even that they should see him alive again.
Peter of Blentz had not proved a good or kind ruler.
Taxes had doubled during his regency. Executives and ju-
diciary, following the example of their chief, had become
tyrannical and corrupt. For ten years there had been small
joy in Lutha.
There had been whispered rumors off and on that the
young king was dead these many years, but not even in
whispers did the men of Lutha dare voice the name of him
whom they believed had caused his death. For lesser things
they had seen their friends and neighbors thrown into the
hitherto long-unused dungeons of the royal castle.
And now came the rumor that Leopold of Lutha had es-
caped the Castle of Blentz and was roaming somewhere in
the wild mountains or ravines upon the opposite side of the
plain of Lustadt.
Peter of Blentz was filled with rage and, possibly, fear as
"I tell you, Coblich," he cried, addressing his dark-visaged
minister of war, there's more than coincidence in this
matter. Someone has betrayed us. That he should have es-
caped upon the very eve of the arrival at Blentz of the new
physician is most suspicious. None but you, Coblich, had
knowledge of the part that Dr. Stein was destined to play
in this matter," concluded Prince Peter pointedly.
Coblich looked the Regent full in the eye.
"Your highness wrongs not only my loyalty, but my intel-
ligence," he said quietly, "by even so much as intimating that
I have any guilty knowledge of Leopold's escape. With
Leopold upon the throne of Lutha, where, think you, my
prince, would old Coblich be?"
"You are right, Coblich," he said. "I know that you
would not be such a fool; but whom, then, have we to
"The walls have ears, prince," replied Coblich, "and we
have not always been as careful as we should in discussing
the matter. Something may have come to the ears of old
Von der Tann. I don't for a moment doubt but that he has
his spies among the palace servants, or even the guard. You
know the old fox has always made it a point to curry favor
with the common soldiers. When he was minister of war he
treated them better than he did his officers."
"It seems strange, Coblich, that so shrewd a man as you
should have been unable to discover some irregularity in
the political life of Prince Ludwig von der Tann before
now," said the prince querulously. "He is the greatest men-
ace to our peace and sovereignty. With Von der Tann out
of the way there would be none powerful enough to ques-
tion our right to the throne of Lutha--after poor Leopold
"You forget that Leopold has escaped," suggested Coblich,
"and that there is no immediate prospect of his passing
"He must be retaken at once, Coblich!" cried Prince Peter
of Blentz. "He is a dangerous maniac, and we must make
this fact plain to the people--this and a thorough descrip-
tion of him. A handsome reward for his safe return to Blentz
might not be out of the way, Coblich."
"It shall be done, your highness," replied Coblich. "And
about Von der Tann? You have never spoken to me quite
so--ah--er--pointedly before. He hunts a great deal in the
Old Forest. It might be possible--in fact, it has happened,
before--there are many accidents in hunting, are there not,
"There are, Coblich," replied the prince, "and if Leopold
is able he will make straight for the Tann, so that there may
be two hunting together in a day or so, Coblich."
"I understand, your highness," replied the minister. "With
your permission, I shall go at once and dispatch troops to
search the forest for Leopold. Captain Maenck will command
"Good, Coblich! Maenck is a most intelligent and loyal
officer. We must reward him well. A baronetcy, at least, if
he handles this matter well," said Peter. "It might not be a
bad plan to hint at as much to him, Coblich."
And so it happened that shortly thereafter Captain Ernst
Maenck, in command of a troop of the Royal Horse Guards
of Lutha, set out toward the Old Forest, which lies beyond
the mountains that are visible upon the other side of the
plain stretching out before Lustadt. At the same time other
troopers rode in many directions along the highways and
byways of Lutha, tacking placards upon trees and fence posts
and beside the doors of every little rural post office.
The placard told of the escape of the mad king, offering
a large reward for his safe return to Blentz.
It was the last paragraph especially which caused a young
man, the following day in the little hamlet of Tafelberg, to
whistle as he carefully read it over.
"I am glad that I am not the mad king of Lutha," he said
as he paid the storekeeper for the gasoline he had just pur-
chased and stepped into the gray roadster for whose greedy
maw it was destined.
"Why, mein Herr?" asked the man.
"This notice practically gives immunity to whoever shoots
down the king," replied the traveler. "Worse still, it gives
such an account of the maniacal ferocity of the fugitive as
to warrant anyone in shooting him on sight."
As the young man spoke the storekeeper had examined
his face closely for the first time. A shrewd look came into
the man's ordinarily stolid countenance. He leaned forward
quite close to the other's ear.
"We of Lutha," he whispered, "love our 'mad king'--no
reward could be offered that would tempt us to betray him.
Even in self-protection we would not kill him, we of the
mountains who remember him as a boy and loved his father
and his grandfather, before him.
"But there are the scum of the low country in the army
these days, who would do anything for money, and it is
these that the king must guard against. I could not help but
note that mein Herr spoke too perfect German for a foreigner.
Were I in mein Herr's place, I should speak mostly the
English, and, too, I should shave off the 'full, reddish-brown
Whereupon the storekeeper turned hastily back into his
shop, leaving Barney Custer of Beatrice, Nebraska, U.S.A.,
to wonder if all the inhabitants of Lutha were afflicted with
a mental disorder similar to that of the unfortunate ruler.
"I don't wonder," soliloquized the young man, "that he ad-
vised me to shave off this ridiculous crop of alfalfa. Hang
election bets, anyway; if things had gone half right I
shouldn't have had to wear this badge of idiocy. And to
think that it's got to be for a whole month longer! A year's
a mighty long while at best, but a year in company with a
full set of red whiskers is an eternity."
The road out of Tafelberg wound upward among tall
trees toward the pass that would lead him across the next
some excellent shooting. All his life Barney had promised
himself that some day he should visit his mother's native
land, and now that he was here he found it as wild and
beautiful as she had said it would be.
Neither his mother nor his father had ever returned to the
little country since the day, thirty years before, that the big
American had literally stolen his bride away, escaping across
the border but a scant half-hour ahead of the pursuing
troop of Luthanian cavalry. Barney had often wondered why
it was that neither of them would ever speak of those days,
or of the early life of his mother, Victoria Rubinroth, though
of the beauties of her native land Mrs. Custer never tired of
Barney Custer was thinking of these things as his machine
wound up the picturesque road. Just before him was a long,
heavy grade, and as he took it with open muffler the chug-
ging of his motor drowned the sound of pounding hoof
beats rapidly approaching behind him.
It was not until he topped the grade that he heard any-
thing unusual, and at the same instant a girl on horseback
tore past him. The speed of the animal would have been
enough to have told him that it was beyond the control of its
frail rider, even without the added testimony of the broken
bit that dangled beneath the tensely outstretched chin.
Foam flecked the beast's neck and shoulders. It was evi-
dent that the horse had been running for some distance, yet
its speed was still that of the thoroughly frightened runaway.
The road at the point where the animal had passed Custer
was cut from the hillside. At the left an embankment rose
steeply to a height of ten or fifteen feet. On the right there
was a drop of a hundred feet or more into a wooded ravine.
Ahead, the road apparently ran quite straight and smooth
for a considerable distance.
Barney Custer knew that so long as the road ran straight
the girl might be safe enough, for she was evidently an
excellent horsewoman; but be also knew that if there should
be a sharp turn to the left ahead, the horse in his blind
fright would in all probability dash headlong into the ravine
There was but a single thing that the man might attempt
if he were to save the girl from the almost certain death
which seemed in store for her, since he knew that sooner or
later the road would turn, as all mountain roads do. The
chances that he must take, if he failed, could only hasten the
girl's end. There was no alternative except to sit supinely by
and see the fear-crazed horse carry its rider into eternity, and
Barney Custer was not the sort for that role.
Scarcely had the beast come abreast of him than his foot
leaped to the accelerator. Like a frightened deer the gray
roadster sprang forward in pursuit. The road was narrow.
Two machines could not have passed upon it. Barney took
the outside that he might hold the horse away from the
At the sound of the whirring thing behind him the animal
cast an affrighted glance in its direction, and with a little
squeal of terror redoubled its frantic efforts to escape. The
girl, too, looked back over her shoulder. Her face was very
white, but her eyes were steady and brave.
Barney Custer smiled up at her in encouragement, and the
girl smiled back at him.
"She's sure a game one," thought Barney.
Now she was calling to him. At first he could not catch
her words above the pounding of the horse's hoofs and the
noise of his motor. Presently he understood.
"Stop!" she cried. "Stop or you will be killed. The road
turns to the left just ahead. You'll go into the ravine at that
The front wheel of the roadster was at the horse's right
flank. Barney stepped upon the accelerator a little harder.
There was barely room between the horse and the edge of
the road for the four wheels of the roadster, and Barney
must be very careful not to touch the horse. The thought of
that and what it would mean to the girl sent a cold shudder
through Barney Custer's athletic frame.
The man cast a glance to his right. His machine drove
from the left side, and he could not see the road at all over
the right hand door. The sight of tree tops waving beneath
him was all that was visible. Just ahead the road's edge
rushed swiftly beneath the right-hand fender, the wheels
on that side must have been on the very verge of the em-
Now he was abreast the girl. Just ahead he could see
where the road disappeared around a corner of the bluff at
the dangerous curve the girl had warned him against.
Custer leaned far out over the side of his car. The lung-
ing of the horse in his stride, and the swaying of the leaping
car carried him first close to the girl and then away again.
With his right hand he held the car between the frantic
horse and the edge of the embankment. His left hand, out-
stretched, was almost at the girl's waist. The turn was just
"Jump!" cried Barney.
The girl fell backward from her mount, turning to grasp
Custer's arm as it closed about her. At the same instant
Barney closed the throttle, and threw all the weight of his
body upon the foot brake.
The gray roadster swerved toward the embankment as the
hind wheels skidded on the loose surface gravel. They were
at the turn. The horse was just abreast the bumper. There
was one chance in a thousand of making the turn were
the running beast out of the way. There was still a chance if
he turned ahead of them. If he did not turn--Barney hated
to think of what must follow.
But it was all over in a second. The horse bolted straight
ahead. Barney swerved the roadster to the turn. It caught
the animal full in the side. There was a sickening lurch as
the hind wheels slid over the embankment, and then the
man shoved the girl from the running board to the road, and
horse, man and roadster went over into the ravine.
A moment before a tall young man with a reddish-brown
beard had stood at the turn of the road listening intently to
the sound of the hurrying hoof beats and the purring of the
racing motor car approaching from the distance. In his eyes
lurked the look of the hunted. For a moment he stood in
evident indecision, but just before the runaway horse and
the pursuing machine came into view he slipped over the
edge of the road to slink into the underbrush far down
toward the bottom of the ravine.
When Barney pushed the girl from the running board she
fell heavily to the road, rolling over several times, but in an
instant she scrambled to her feet, hardly the worse for the
tumble other than a few scratches.
Quickly she ran to the edge of the embankment, a look of
immense relief coming to her soft, brown eyes as she saw
her rescuer scrambling up the precipitous side of the ravine
"You are not killed?" she cried in German. "It is a miracle!"
"Not even bruised," reassured Barney. "But you? You
must have had a nasty fall."
"I am not hurt at all," she replied. "But for you I should
be lying dead, or terribly maimed down there at the bottom
of that awful ravine at this very moment. It's awful." She
drew her shoulders upward in a little shudder of horror.
"But how did you escape? Even now I can scarce believe
"I'm quite sure I don't know how I did escape," said
Barney, clambering over the rim of the road to her side.
"That I had nothing to do with it I am positive. It was just
luck. I simply dropped out onto that bush down there."
They were standing side by side, now peering down into
the ravine where the car was visible, bottom side up against
a tree, near the base of the declivity. The horse's head
could be seen protruding from beneath the wreckage.
"I'd better go down and put him out of his misery," said
Barney, "if he is not already dead."
"I think he is quite dead," said the girl. "I have not seen
Just then a little puff of smoke arose from the machine,
followed by a tongue of yellow flame. Barney had already
started toward the horse.
"Please don't go," begged the girl. "I am sure that he is
quite dead, and it wouldn't be safe for you down there now.
The gasoline tank may explode any minute."
"Yes, he is dead all right," he said, "but all my belongings
are down there. My guns, six-shooters and all my ammuni-
tion. And," he added ruefully, "I've heard so much about
the brigands that infest these mountains."
The girl laughed.
"Those stories are really exaggerated," she said. "I was
born in Lutha, and except for a few months each year have
always lived here, and though I ride much I have never
seen a brigand. You need not be afraid."
Barney Custer looked up at her quickly, and then he
grinned. His only fear had been that he would not meet
brigands, for Mr. Bernard Custer, Jr., was young and the
spirit of Romance and Adventure breathed strong within
"Why do you smile?" asked the girl.
"At our dilemma," evaded Barney. "Have you paused to
consider our situation?"
The girl smiled, too.
"It is most unconventional," she said. "On foot and alone
in the mountains, far from home, and we do not even know
each other's name."
"Pardon me," cried Barney, bowing low. "Permit me to
introduce myself. I am," and then to the spirits of Romance
and Adventure was added a third, the spirit of Deviltry, "I
am the mad king of Lutha."
OVER THE PRECIPICE
THE EFFECT of his words upon the girl were quite different
from what he had expected. An American girl would have
laughed, knowing that he but joked. This girl did not laugh.
Instead her face went white, and she clutched her bosom
with her two hands. Her brown eyes peered searchingly into
the face of the man.
"Leopold!" she cried in a suppressed voice. "Oh, your
majesty, thank God that you are free--and sane!"
Before he could prevent it the girl had seized his hand
and pressed it to her lips.
Here was a pretty muddle! Barney Custer swore at himself
inwardly for a boorish fool. What in the world had ever
prompted him to speak those ridiculous words! And now
how was he to unsay them without mortifying this beautiful
girl who had just kissed his hand?
She would never forgive that--he was sure of it.
There was but one thing to do, however, and that was to
make a clean breast of it. Somehow, he managed to stumble
through his explanation of what had prompted him, and
when he had finished he saw that the girl was smiling in-
dulgently at him.
"It shall be Mr. Bernard Custer if you wish it so," she said;
"but your majesty need fear nothing from Emma von der
Tann. Your secret is as safe with me as with yourself, as the
name of Von der Tann must assure you."
She looked to see the expression of relief and pleasure
that her father's name should have brought to the face of
Leopold of Lutha, but when he gave no indication that he
had ever before heard the name she sighed and looked
"Perhaps," she thought, "he doubts me. Or can it be pos-
sible that, after all, his poor mind is gone?"
"I wish," said Barney in a tone of entreaty, "that you
would forgive and forget my foolish words, and then let me
accompany you to the end of your journey."
"Whither were you bound when I became the means of
wrecking your motor car?" asked the girl.
"To the Old Forest," replied Barney.
Now she was positive that she was indeed with the mad
king of Lutha, but she had no fear of him, for since child-
hood she had heard her father scout the idea that Leopold
was mad. For what other purpose would he hasten toward
the Old Forest than to take refuge in her father's castle upon
the banks of the Tann at the forest's verge?
"Thither was I bound also," she said, "and if you would
come there quickly and in safety I can show you a short
path across the mountains that my father taught me years
ago. It touches the main road but once or twice, and much
of the way passes through dense woods and undergrowth
where an army might hide."
"Hadn't we better find the nearest town," suggested Bar-
ney, "where I can obtain some sort of conveyance to take
"It would not be safe," said the girl. "Peter of Blentz will
have troops out scouring all Lutha about Blentz and the Old
Forest until the king is captured."
Barney Custer shook his head despairingly.
"Won't you please believe that I am but a plain Ameri-
can?" he begged.
Upon the bole of a large wayside tree a fresh, new placard
stared them in the face. Emma von der Tann pointed at one
of the paragraphs.
"Gray eyes, brown hair, and a full reddish-brown beard,"
she read. "No matter who you may be," she said, "you are
safer off the highways of Lutha than on them until you can
find and use a razor."
"But I cannot shave until the fifth of November," said
Again the girl looked quickly into his eyes and again in
her mind rose the question that had hovered there once be-
fore. Was he indeed, after all, quite sane?
"Then please come with me the safest way to my father's,"
she urged. "He will know what is best to do."
"He cannot make me shave," insisted Barney.
"Why do you wish not to shave?" asked the girl.,
"It is a matter of my honor," he replied. "I had my choice
of wearing a green wastebasket bonnet trimmed with red
roses for six months, or a beard for twelve. If I shave off the
beard before the fifth of November I shall be without honor
in the sight of all men or else I shall have to wear the green
bonnet. The beard is bad enough, but the bonnet--ugh!"
Emma von der Tann was now quite assured that the poor
fellow was indeed quite demented, but she had seen no in-
dications of violence as yet, though when that too might
develop there was no telling. However, he was to her Leo-
pold of Lutha, and her father's house had been loyal to
him or his ancestors for three hundred years.
If she must sacrifice her life in the attempt, nevertheless
still must she do all within her power to save her king from
recapture and to lead him in safety to the castle upon the
"Come," she said; "we waste time here. Let us make
haste, for the way is long. At best we cannot reach Tann
"I will do anything you wish," replied Barney, "but I
shall never forgive myself for having caused you the long
and tedious journey that lies before us. It would be per-
fectly safe to go to the nearest town and secure a rig."
Emma von der Tann had heard that it was always well to
humor maniacs and she thought of it now. She would put
the scheme to the test.
"The reason that I fear to have you go to the village," she
said, "is that I am quite sure they would catch you and
shave off your beard."
Barney started to laugh, but when he saw the deep serious-
ness of the girl's eyes he changed his mind. Then he recalled
her rather peculiar insistence that he was a king, and it
suddenly occurred to him that he had been foolish not to
have guessed the truth before.
"That is so," he agreed; "I guess we had better do as you
say," for he had determined that the best way to handle her
would be to humor her--he had always heard that that was
the proper method for handling the mentally defective.
"Where is the--er--ah--sanatorium?" he blurted out at last.
"The what?" she asked. "There is no sanatorium near here,
your majesty, unless you refer to the Castle of Blentz."
"Is there no asylum for the insane near by?"
"None that I know of, your majesty."
For a while they moved on in silence, each wondering
what the other might do next.
Barney had evolved a plan. He would try and ascertain
the location of the institution from which the girl had es-
caped and then as gently as possible lead her back to it.
It was not safe for as beautiful a woman as she to be roam-
ing through the forest in any such manner as this. He won-
dered what in the world the authorities at the asylum had
been thinking of to permit her to ride out alone in the first
"From where did you ride today?" he blurted out sud-
"That is where we are going now?"
"Yes, your majesty."
Barney drew a breath of relief. The way had become
suddenly difficult and he took the girl's arm to help her
down a rather steep place. At the bottom of the ravine there
was a little brook.
"There used to be a fallen log across it here," said the
girl. "How in the world am I ever to get across, your
"If you call me that again, I shall begin to believe that
I am a king," he humored her, "and then, being a king, I
presume that it wouldn't be proper for me to carry you
across, or would it? Never really having been a king, I do
"I think," replied the girl, "that it would be eminently
She had difficulty in keeping in mind the fact that this
handsome, smiling young man was a dangerous maniac,
though it was easy to believe that he was the king. In fact,
he looked much as she had always pictured Leopold as
looking. She had known him as a boy, and there were many
paintings and photographs of his ancestors in her father's
castle. She saw much resemblance between these and the
The brook was very narrow, and the girl thought that it
took the young man an unreasonably long time to carry her
across, though she was forced to admit that she was far
from uncomfortable in the strong arms that bore her so
"Why, what are you doing?" she cried presently. "You
are not crossing the stream at all. You are walking right up
the middle of it!"
She saw his face flush, and then he turned laughing eyes
"I am looking for a safe landing," he said.
Emma von der Tann did not know whether to be frightened
or amused. As her eyes met the clear, gray ones of the man
she could not believe that insanity lurked behind that laugh-
ing, level gaze of her carrier. She found herself continually
forgetting that the man was mad. He had turned toward the
bank now, and a couple of steps carried them to the low
sward that fringed the little brooklet. Here he lowered her
to the ground.
"Your majesty is very strong," she said. "I should not have
expected it after the years of confinement you have suffered."
"Yes," he said, realizing that he must humor her--it was
difficult to remember that this lovely girl was insane. "Let
me see, now just what was I in prison for? I do not seem to
be able to recall it. In Nebraska, they used to hang men for
horse stealing; so I am sure it must have been something
else not quite so bad. Do you happen to know?"
"When the king, your father, died you were thirteen years
old," the girl explained, hoping to reawaken the sleeping
mind, "and then your uncle, Prince Peter of Blentz, an-
nounced that the shock of your father's death had unbal-
anced your mind. He shut you up in Blentz then, where you
have been for ten years, and he has ruled as regent. Now,
my father says, he has recently discovered a plot to take
your life so that Peter may become king. But I suppose you
learned of that, and because of it you escaped!"
"This Peter person is all-powerful in Lutha?" he asked.
"He controls the army," the girl replied.
"And you really believe that I am the mad king Leopold?"
"You are the king," she said in a convincing manner.
"You are a very brave young lady," he said earnestly. "If
all the mad king's subjects were as loyal as you, and as
brave, he would not have languished for ten years behind
the walls of Blentz."
"I am a Von der Tann," she said proudly, as though that
was explanation sufficient to account for any bravery or
"Even a Von der Tann might, without dishonor, hesitate
to accompany a mad man through the woods," he replied,
"especially if she happened to be a very--a very--" He
"A very what, your majesty?" asked the girl.
"A very young woman," he ended lamely.
Emma von der Tann knew that he had not intended say-
ing that at all. Being a woman, she knew precisely what he
had meant to say, and she discovered that she would very
much have liked to hear him say it.
"Suppose," said Barney, "that Peter's soldiers run across
"They will take you back to Blentz, your majesty."
"I do not think that they will dare lay hands on me,
though it is possible that Peter might do so. He hates my
father even more now than he did when the old king lived."
"I wish," said Mr. Custer, "that I had gone down after my
guns. Why didn't you tell me, in the first place, that I was a
king, and that I might get you in trouble if you were found
with me? Why, they may even take me for an emperor or a
mikado--who knows? And then look at all the trouble we'd
Which was Barney's way of humoring a maniac.
"And they might even shave off your beautiful beard."
Which was the girl's way.
"Do you think that you would like me better in the green
wastebasket hat with the red roses?" asked Barney.
A very sad look came into the girl's eyes. It was pitiful to
think that this big, handsome young man, for whose return
to the throne all Lutha had prayed for ten long years, was
only a silly half-wit. What might he not have accomplished
for his people had this terrible misfortune not overtaken
him! In every other way he seemed fitted to be the savior
of his country. If she could but make him remember!
"Your majesty," she said, "do you not recall the time that
your father came upon a state visit to my father's castle?
You were a little boy then. He brought you with him. I was
a little girl, and we played together. You would not let me
call you 'highness,' but insisted that I should always call
you Leopold. When I forgot you would accuse me of lese-
majeste, and sentence me to--to punishment.'
"What was the punishment?" asked Barney, noticing her
hesitation and wishing to encourage her in the pretty turn
her dementia had taken.
Again the girl hesitated; she hated to say it, but if it
would help to recall the past to that poor, dimmed mind,
it was her duty.
"Every time I called you 'highness' you made me give
you a--a kiss," she almost whispered.
"I hope," said Barney, "that you will be guilty of lese-
"We were little children then, your majesty," the girl re-
Had he thought her of sound mind Mr. Custer might have
taken advantage of his royal prerogatives on the spot, for
the girl's lips were most tempting; but when he remembered
the poor, weak mind, tears almost came to his eyes, and
there sprang to his heart a great desire to protect and guard
this unfortunate child.
"And when I was Crown Prince what were you, way back
there in the beautiful days of our childhood?" asked Barney.
"Why, I was what I still am, your majesty," replied the
girl. "Princess Emma von der Tann."
So the poor child, beside thinking him a king, thought
herself a princess! She certainly was mad. Well, he would
"Then I should call you 'your highness,' shouldn't I?" he
"You always called me Emma when we were children."
"Very well, then, you shall be Emma and I Leopold. Is
it a bargain?"
"The king's will is law," she said.
They had come to a very steep hillside, up which the half-
obliterated trail zigzagged toward the crest of a flat-topped
hill. Barney went ahead, taking the girl's hand in his to help
her, and thus they came to the top, to stand hand in hand,
breathing heavily after the stiff climb.
The girl's hair had come loose about her temples and a
lock was blowing over her face. Her cheeks were very red
and her eyes bright. Barney thought he had never looked
upon a lovelier picture. He smiled down into her eyes and
she smiled back at him.
"I wished, back there a way," he said, "that that little
brook had been as wide as the ocean--now I wish that
this little hill had been as high as Mont Blanc."
"You like to climb?" she asked.
"I should like to climb forever--with you," he said
She looked up at him quickly. A reply was on her lips, but
she never uttered it, for at that moment a ruffian in pictur-
esque rags leaped out from behind a near-by bush, con-
fronting them with leveled revolver. He was so close that
the muzzle of the weapon almost touched Barney's face. In
that the fellow made his mistake.
"You see," said Barney unexcitedly, "that I was right
about the brigands after all. What do you want, my man?"
The man's eyes had suddenly gone wide. He stared with
open mouth at the young fellow before him. Then a cunning
look came into his eyes.
"I want you, your majesty," he said.
"Godfrey!" exclaimed Barney. "Did the whole bunch es-
"Quick!" growled the man. "Hold up your hands. The
notice made it plain that you would be worth as much dead
as alive, and I have no mind to lose you, so do not tempt
me to kill you."
Barney's hands went up, but not in the way that the
brigand had expected. Instead, one of them seized his
weapon and shoved it aside, while with the other Custer
planted a blow between his eyes and sent him reeling back-
ward. The two men closed, fighting for possession of the gun.
In the scrimmage it was exploded, but a moment later the
American succeeded in wresting it from his adversary and
hurled it into the ravine.
Striking at one another, the two surged backward and
forward at the very edge of the hill, each searching for the
other's throat. The girl stood by, watching the battle with
wide, frightened eyes. If she could only do something to
aid the king!
She saw a loose stone lying at a little distance from the
fighters and hastened to procure it. If she could strike the
brigand a single good blow on the side of the head, Leopold
might easily overpower him. When she had gathered up the
rock and turned back toward the two she saw that the man
she thought to be the king was not much in the way of need-
ing outside assistance. She could not but marvel at the
strength and dexterity of this poor fellow who had spent
almost half his life penned within the four walls of a prison.
It must be, she thought, the superhuman strength with
which maniacs are always credited.
Nevertheless, she hurried toward them with her weapon;
but just before she reached them the brigand made a last
mad effort to free himself from the fingers that had found
his throat. He lunged backward, dragging the other with
him. His foot struck upon the root of a tree, and together
the two toppled over into the ravine.
As the girl hastened toward the spot where the two had
disappeared, she was startled to see three troopers of the pal-
ace cavalry headed by an officer break through the trees at a
short distance from where the battle had waged. The four
men ran rapidly toward her.
"What has happened here? shouted the officer to Emma
von der Tann; and then, as he came closer: "Gott! Can it
be possible that it is your highness?"
The girl paid no attention to the officer. Instead, she hur-
ried down the steep embankment toward the underbrush
into which the two men had fallen. There was no sound
from below, and no movement in the bushes to indicate that
a moment before two desperately battling human beings
had dropped among them.
The soldiers were close upon the girl's heels, but it was
she who first reached the two quiet figures that lay side by
side upon the stony ground halfway down the hillside.
When the officer stopped beside her she was sitting on
the ground holding the head of one of the combatants in
A little stream of blood trickled from a wound in the
forehead. The officer stooped closer.
"He is dead?" he asked.
"The king is dead," replied the Princess Emma von der
Tann, a little sob in her voice.
"The king!" exclaimed the officer; and then, as he bent
lower over the white face: "Leopold!"
The girl nodded.
"We were searching for him," said the officer, "when we
heard the shot." Then, arising, he removed his cap, saying
in a very low voice: "The king is dead. Long live the king!"
AN ANGRY KING
THE SOLDIERS stood behind their officer. None of them had
ever seen Leopold of Lutha--he had been but a name to
them--they cared nothing for him; but in the presence of
death they were awed by the majesty of the king they had
The hands of Emma von der Tann were chafing the wrists
of the man whose head rested in her lap.
"Leopold!" she whispered. "Leopold, come back! Mad
king you may have been, but still you were king of Lutha--
my father's king--my king."
The girl nearly cried out in shocked astonishment as she
saw the eyes of the dead king open. But Emma von der
Tann was quick-witted. She knew for what purpose the
soldiers from the palace were scouring the country.
Had she not thought the king dead she would have cut
out her tongue rather than reveal his identity to these sol-
diers of his great enemy. Now she saw that Leopold lived,
and she must undo the harm she had innocently wrought.
She bent lower over Barney's face, trying to hide it from
"Go away, please!" she called to them. "Leave me with
my dead king. You are Peter's men. You do not care for
Leopold, living or dead. Go back to your new king and tell
him that this poor young man can never more stand between
him and the throne."
The officer hesitated.
"We shall have to take the king's body with us, your
highness," he said.
The officer evidently becoming suspicious, came closer,
and as he did so Barney Custer sat up.
"Go away!" cried the girl, for she saw that the king was
attempting to speak. "My father's people will carry Leopold
of Lutha in state to the capital of his kingdom."
"What's all this row about?" he asked. "Can't you let a
dead king alone if the young lady asks you to? What kind
of a short sport are you, anyway? Run along, now, and tie
The officer smiled, a trifle maliciously perhaps.
"Ah," he said, "I am very glad indeed that you are not
dead, your majesty."
Barney Custer turned his incredulous eyes upon the lieu-
"Et tu, Brute?" he cried in anguished accents, letting
his head fall back into the girl's lap. He found it very com-
fortable there indeed.
The officer smiled and shook his head. Then he tapped
his forehead meaningly.
"I did not know," he said to the girl, "that he was so bad.
But come--it is some distance to Blentz, and the afternoon
is already well spent. Your highness will accompany us."
"I?" cried the girl. "You certainly cannot be serious."
"And why not, your highness?" asked the officer. "We
had strict orders to arrest not only the king, but any com-
panions who may have been involved in his escape."
"I had nothing whatever to do with his escape," said the
girl, "though I should have been only too glad to have
aided him had the opportunity presented."
"King Peter may think differently," replied the man.
"The Regent, you mean?" the girl corrected him haughtily.
The officer shrugged his shoulders.
"Regent or King, he is ruler of Lutha nevertheless, and he
would take away my commission were I to tell him that I
had found a Von der Tann in company with the king and
had permitted her to escape. Your blood convicts your high-
"You are going to take me to Blentz and confine me
there?" asked the girl in a very small voice and with wide
incredulous eyes. "You would not dare thus to humiliate a
Von der Tann?"
"I am very sorry," said the officer, "but I am a soldier,
and soldiers must obey their superiors. My orders are strict.
You may be thankful," he added, "that it was not Maenck
who discovered you."
At the mention of the name the girl shuddered.
"In so far as it is in my power your highness and his
majesty will be accorded every consideration of dignity and
courtesy while under my escort. You need not entertain
any fear of me," he concluded.
Barney Custer, during this, to him, remarkable dialogue,
had risen to his feet, and assisted the girl in rising. Now he
turned and spoke to the officer.
"This farce," he said, "has gone quite far enough. If it is
joke it is becoming a very sorry one. I am not a king. I am
an American--Bernard Custer, of Beatrice, Nebraska, U.S.A.
Look at me. Look at me closely. Do I look like a king?"
"Every inch, your majesty," replied the officer.
Barney looked at the man aghast.
"Well, I am not a king," he said at last, "and if you go to
arresting me and throwing me into one of your musty old
dungeons you will find that I am a whole lot more important
than most kings. I'm an American citizen."
"Yes, your majesty," replied the officer, a trifle
"But we waste time in idle discussion. Will your majesty
be so good as to accompany me without resistance?"
"If you will first escort this young lady to a place of
safety," replied Barney.
"She will be quite safe at Blentz," said the lieutenant.
Barney turned to look at the girl, a question in his eyes.
Before them stood the soldiers with drawn revolvers, and
now at the summit of the hill a dozen more appeared in
command of a sergeant. They were two against nearly a
score, and Barney Custer was unarmed.
The girl shook her head.
"There, is no alternative, I am afraid, your majesty," she
Barney wheeled toward the officer.
"Very well, lieutenant," he said, "we will accompany you."
The party turned back up the hillside, leaving the dead
bandit where he lay--the fellow's neck had been broken by
the fall. A short distance from where the man had confronted
them the two prisoners were brought to the main road
where they saw still other troopers, and with them the horses
of those who had gone into the forest on foot.
Barney and the girl were mounted on two of the animals,
the soldiers who had ridden them clambering up behind
two of their comrades. A moment later the troop set out
along the road which leads to Blentz.
The prisoners rode near the center of the column, sur-
rounded by troopers. For a time they were both silent. Bar-
ney was wondering if he had accidentally tumbled into the
private grounds of Lutha's largest madhouse, or if, in reality,
these people mistook him for the young king--it seemed
It had commenced slowly to dawn upon him that perhaps
the girl was not crazy after all. Had not the officer addressed
her as "your highness"? Now that he thought upon it he re-
called that she did have quite a haughty and regal way
with her at times, especially so when she had addressed the
Of course she might be mad, after all, and possibly the
bandit, too, but it seemed unbelievable that the officer was
mad and his entire troop of cavalry should be composed of
maniacs, yet they all persisted in speaking and acting as
though he were indeed the mad king of Lutha and the
young girl at his side a princess.
From pitying the girl he had come to feel a little bit in
awe of her. To the best of his knowledge he had never be-
fore associated with a real princess. When he recalled that
he had treated her as he would an ordinary mortal, and that
he had thought her demented, and had tried to humor her
mad whims, he felt very foolish indeed.
Presently he turned a sheepish glance in her direction,
to find her looking at him. He saw her flush slightly as his
eyes met hers.
"Can your highness ever forgive me?" he asked.
"Forgive you!" she cried in astonishment. "For what,
"For thinking you insane, and for getting you into this
horrible predicament," he replied. "But especially for think-
ing you insane."
"Did you think me mad?" she asked in wide-eyed aston-
"When you insisted that I was a king, yes," he replied.
"But now I begin to believe that it must be I who am mad,
after all, or else I bear a remarkable resemblance to Leopold
"You do, your majesty," replied the girl.
Barney saw it was useless to attempt to convince them
and so he decided to give up for the time.
"Have me king, if you will," he said, "but please do not
call me 'your majesty' any more. It gets on my nerves."
"Your will is law--Leopold," replied the girl, hesitating
prettily before the familiar name, "but do not forget your
part of the compact."
He smiled at her. A princess wasn't half so terrible after
"And your will shall be my law, Emma," he said.
It was almost dark when they came to Blentz. The castle
lay far up on the side of a steep hill above the town. It was
an ancient pile, but had been maintained in an excellent
state of repair. As Barney Custer looked up at the grim tow-
ers and mighty, buttressed walls his heart sank. It had taken
the mad king ten years to make his escape from that gloomy
and forbidding pile!
"Poor child," he murmured, thinking of the girl.
Before the barbican the party was halted by the guard.
An officer with a lantern stepped out upon the lowered
portcullis. The lieutenant who had captured them rode for-
ward to meet him.
"A detachment of the Royal Horse Guards escorting His
Majesty the King, who is returning to Blentz," he said in
reply to the officer's sharp challenge.
"The king!" exclaimed the officer. "You have found him?"
and he advanced with raised lantern searching for the
"At last," whispered Barney to the girl at his side, "I shall
be vindicated. This man, at least, who is stationed at Blentz
must know his king by sight."
The officer came quite close, holding his lantern until the
rays fell full in Barney's face. He scrutinized the young man
for a moment. There was neither humility nor respect in his
manner, so that the American was sure that the fellow had
discovered the imposture.
From the bottom of his heart he hoped so. Then the officer
swung the lantern until its light shone upon the girl.
"And who's the wench with him?" he asked the officer who
had found them.
The man was standing close beside Barney's horse, and
the words were scarce out of his month when the American
slipped from his saddle to the portcullis and struck the offi-
cer full in the face.
"She is the Princess von der Tann, you boor," said Bar-
ney, "and let that help you remember it in future."
The officer scrambled to his feet, white with rage. Whip-
ping out his sword he rushed at Barney.
"You shall die for that, you half-wit," he cried.
Lieutenant Butzow, he of the Royal Horse, rushed forward
to prevent the assault and Emma von der Tann sprang
from her saddle and threw herself in front of Barney.
Butzow grasped the other officer's arm.
"Are you mad, Schonau?" he cried. "Would you kill the
The fellow tugged to escape the grasp of Butzow. He was
crazed with anger.
"Why not?" he bellowed. "You were a fool not to have
done it yourself. Maenck will do it and get a baronetcy. It
will mean a captaincy for me at least. Let me at him--no
man can strike Karl Schonau and live."
"The king is unarmed," cried Emma von der Tann. "Would
you murder him in cold blood?"
"He shall not murder him at all, your highness," said
Lieutenant Butzow quietly. "Give me your sword, Lieuten-
ant Schonau. I place you under arrest. What you have just
said will not please the Regent when it is reported to him.
You should keep your head better when you are angry."
"It is the truth," growled Schonau, regretting that his
anger had led him into a disclosure of the plot against the
king's life, but like most weak characters fearing to admit
himself in error even more than he feared the consequences
of his rash words.
"Do you intend taking my sword?" asked Schonau sud-
denly, turning toward Lieutenant Butzow standing beside
"We will forget the whole occurrence, lieutenant," replied
Butzow, "if you will promise not to harm his majesty, or
offer him or the Princess von der Tann further humiliation.
Their position is sufficiently unpleasant without our adding
to the degradation of it."
"Very well," grumbled Schonau. "Pass on into the court-
Barney and the girl remounted and the little cavalcade
moved forward through the ballium and the great gate into
the court beyond.
"Did you notice," said Barney to the princess, "that even
he believes me to be the king? I cannot fathom it."
Within the castle they were met by a number of servants
and soldiers. An officer escorted them to the great hall, and
presently a dark visaged captain of cavalry entered and
approached them. Butzow saluted.
"His Majesty, the King," he announced, "has returned to
Blentz. In accordance with the commands of the Regent I
deliver his august person into your safe keeping, Captain
Maenck nodded. He was looking at Barney with evident
"Where did you find him?" he asked Butzow.
He made no pretense of according to Barney the faintest
indication of the respect that is supposed to be due to those
of royal blood. Barney commenced to hope that he had
finally come upon one who would know that he was not
Butzow recounted the details of the finding of the king. As
he spoke, Maenck's eyes, restless and furtive, seemed to be
appraising the personal charms of the girl who stood just
back of Barney.
The American did not like the appearance of the officer,
but he saw that he was evidently supreme at Blentz, and he
determined to appeal to him in the hope that the man
might believe his story and untangle the ridiculous muddle
that a chance resemblance to a fugitive monarch had thrown
him and the girl into.
"Captain," said Barney, stepping closer to the officer,
"there has been a mistake in identity here. I am not the king.
I am an American traveling for pleasure in Lutha. The fact
that I have gray eyes and wear a full reddish-brown beard
is my only offense. You are doubtless familiar with the king's
appearance and so you at least have already seen that I am
not his majesty.
"Not being the king, there is no cause to detain me longer,
and as I am not a fugitive and never have been, this young
lady has been guilty of no misdemeanor or crime in being
in my company. Therefore she too should be released. In
the name of justice and common decency I am sure that you
will liberate us both at once and furnish the Princess von
der Tann, at least, with a proper escort to her home."
Maenck listened in silence until Barney had finished, a
half smile upon his thick lips.
"I am commencing to believe that you are not so crazy
as we have all thought," he said. "Certainly," and he let his
eyes rest upon Emma von der Tann, "you are not mentally
deficient in so far as your judgment of a good-looking woman
is concerned. I could not have made a better selection my-
"As for my familiarity with your appearance, you know
as well as I that I have never seen you before. But that is
not necessary--you conform perfectly to the printed descrip-
tion of you with which the kingdom is flooded. Were that
not enough, the fact that you were discovered with old Von
der Tann's daughter is sufficient to remove the least doubt
as to your identity."
"You are governor of Blentz," cried Barney, "and yet you
say that you have never seen the king?"
"Certainly," replied Maenck. "After you escaped the en-
tire personnel of the garrison here was changed, even the
old servants to a man were withdrawn and others substituted.
You will have difficulty in again escaping, for those who
aided you before are no longer here."
"There is no man in the castle of Blentz who has ever
seen the king?" asked Barney.
"None who has seen him before tonight," replied Maenck.
"But were we in doubt we have the word of the Princess
Emma that you are Leopold. Did she not admit it to you,
"When she thought his majesty dead she admitted it,"
"We gain nothing by discussing the matter," said Maenck
shortly. "You are Leopold of Lutha. Prince Peter says that
you are mad. All that concerns me is that you do not escape
again, and you may rest assured that while Ernst Maenck
is governor of Blentz you shall not escape and go at large
"Are the royal apartments in readiness for his majesty,
Dr. Stein?" he concluded, turning toward a rat-faced little
man with bushy whiskers, who stood just behind him.
The query was propounded in an ironical tone, and with
a manner that made no pretense of concealing the contempt
of the speaker for the man he thought the king.
The eyes of the Princess Emma were blazing as she
caught the scant respect in Maenck's manner. She looked
quickly toward Barney to see if he intended rebuking the
man for his impertinence. She saw that the king evidently
intended overlooking Maenck's attitude. But Emma von der
Tann was of a different mind.
She had seen Maenck several times at social functions in
the capital. He had even tried to win a place in her favor,
but she had always disliked him, even before the nasty
stories of his past life had become common gossip, and within
the year she had won his hatred by definitely indicating to
him that he was persona non grata, in so far as she was
concerned. Now she turned upon him, her eyes flashing with
"Do you forget, sir, that you address the king?" she cried.
"That you are without honor I have heard men say, and I
may truly believe it now that I have seen what manner of
man you are. The most lowly-bred boor in all Lutha would
not be so ungenerous as to take advantage of his king's help-
lessness to heap indignities upon him.
"Leopold of Lutha shall come into his own some day,
and my dearest hope is that his first act may be to mete
out to such as you the punishment you deserve."
Maenck paled in anger. His fingers twitched nervously,
but he controlled his temper remarkably well, biding his
time for revenge.
"Take the king to his apartments, Stein," he commanded
curtly, "and you, Lieutenant Butzow, accompany them with
a guard, nor leave until you see that he is safely con-
fined. You may return here afterward for my further in-
structions. In the meantime I wish to examine the king's
For a moment tense silence reigned in the apartment after
Maenck had delivered his wanton insult.
Emma von der Tann, her little chin high in the air, stood
straight and haughty, nor was there any sign in her expres-
sion to indicate that she had heard the man's words.
Barney was the first to take cognizance of them.
"You cur!" he cried, and took a step toward Maenck.
"You're going to eat that, word for word."
Maenck stepped back, his hand upon his sword. Butzow
laid a hand upon Barney's arm.
"Don't, your majesty," he implored, "it will but make
your position more unpleasant, nor will it add to the safety
of the Princess von der Tann for you to strike him now."
Barney shook himself free from Butzow, and before either
Stein or the lieutenant could prevent had sprung upon
The latter had not been quick enough with his sword, so
that Barney had struck him twice, heavily in the face before
the officer was able to draw. Butzow had sprung to the
king's side, and was attempting to interpose himself between
Maenck and the American. In a moment more the sword of
the infuriated captain would be in the king's heart. Barney
turned the first thrust with his forearm.
"Stop!" cried Butzow to Maenck. "Are you mad, that you
would kill the king?"
Maenck lunged again, viciously, at the unprotected body
of his antagonist.
"Die, you pig of an idiot!" he screamed.
Butzow saw that the man really meant to murder Leopold.
He seized Barney by the shoulder and whirled him back-
ward. At the same instant his own sword leaped from his
scabbard, and now Maenck found himself facing grim steel
in the hand of a master swordsman.
The governor of Blentz drew back from the touch of that
"What do you mean?" he cried. "This is mutiny."
"When I received my commission," replied Butzow, quietly,
"I swore to protect the person of the king with my life, and
while I live no man shall affront Leopold of Lutha in my
presence, or threaten his safety else he accounts to me for
his act. Return your sword, Captain Maenck, nor ever again
draw it against the king while I be near."
Slowly Maenck sheathed his weapon. Black hatred for
Butzow and the man he was protecting smoldered in his
"If he wishes peace," said Barney, "let him apologize to
"You had better apologize, captain," counseled Butzow,
"for if the king should command me to do so I should have
to compel you to," and the lieutenant half drew his sword
There was something in Butzow's voice that warned
Maenck that his subordinate would like nothing better than
the king's command to run him through.
He well knew the fame of Butzow's sword arm, and hav-
ing no stomach for an encounter with it he grumbled an
"And don't let it occur again," warned Barney.
"Come," said Dr. Stein, "your majesty should be in your
apartments, away from all excitement, if we are to effect a
cure, so that you may return to your throne quickly."
Butzow formed the soldiers about the American, and the
party moved silently out of the great hall, leaving Captain
Maenck and Princess Emma von der Tann its only occupants.
Barney cast a troubled glance toward Maenck, and half
"I am sorry, your majesty," said Butzow in a low voice,
"but you must accompany us. In this the governor of Blentz
is well within his authority, and I must obey him."
"Heaven help her!" murmured Barney.
"The governor will not dare harm her," said Butzow.
"Your majesty need entertain no apprehension."
"I wouldn't trust him," replied the American. "I know
BARNEY FINDS A FRIEND
AFTER THE party had left the room Maenck stood looking at
the princess for several seconds. A cunning expression sup-
planted the anger that had shown so plainly upon his face
but a moment before. The girl had moved to one side of the
apartment and was pretending an interest in a large tapestry
that covered the wall at that point. Maenck watched her
with greedy eves. Presently he spoke.
"Let us be friends," he said. "You shall be my guest at
Blentz for a long time. I doubt if Peter will care to release
you soon, for he has no love for your father--and it will
he easier for both if we establish pleasant relations from
the beginning. What do you say?"
"I shall not be at Blentz long," she replied, not even
looking in Maenck's direction, "though while I am it shall
be as a prisoner and not as a guest. It is incredible that one
could believe me willing to pose as the guest of a traitor,
even were he less impossible than the notorious and infamous
Maenck smiled. He was one of those who rather pride
themselves upon the possession of racy reputations. He
walked across the room to a bell cord which he pulled. Then
he turned toward the girl again.
"I have given you an opportunity," he said, "to lighten
the burdens of your captivity. I hoped that you would be
sensible and accept my advances of friendship voluntarily,"
and he emphasized the word "voluntarily," "but--"
He shrugged his shoulders.
A servant had entered the apartment in response to
"Show the Princess von der Tann to her apartments," he
commanded with a sinister tone.
The man, who was in the livery of Peter of Blentz, bowed,
and with a deferential sign to the girl led the way from the
room. Emma von der Tann followed her guide up a winding
stairway which spiraled within a tower at the end of a long
passage. On the second floor of the castle the servant led her
to a large and beautifully furnished suite of three rooms--a
bedroom, dressing-room and boudoir. After showing her the
rooms that were to be hers the servant left her alone.
As soon as he had gone the Princess von der Tann took
another turn through the suite, looking to the doors and
windows to ascertain how securely she might barricade her-
self against unwelcome visitors.
She found that the three rooms lay in an angle of the
old, moss-covered castle wall.
The bedroom and dressing-room were connected by a
doorway, and each in turn had another door opening into
the boudoir. The only connection with the corridor without
was through a single doorway from the boudoir. This door
was equipped with a massive bolt, which, when she had shot
it, gave her a feeling of immense relief and security. The
windows were all too high above the court on one side and
the moat upon the other to cause her the slightest appre-
hension of danger from the outside.
The girl found the boudoir not only beautiful, but ex-
tremely comfortable and cozy. A huge log-fire blazed upon
the hearth, and, though it was summer, its warmth was
most welcome, for the night was chill. Across the room from
the fireplace a full length oil of a former Blentz princess
looked down in arrogance upon the unwilling occupant of
the room. It seemed to the girl that there was an expression
of annoyance upon the painted countenance that another,
and an enemy of her house, should be making free with her
belongings. She wondered a little, too, that this huge oil
should have been bung in a lady's boudoir. It seemed singu-
larly out of place.
"If she would but smile," thought Emma von der Tann,
"she would detract less from the otherwise pleasant sur-
roundings, but I suppose she serves her purpose in some
way, whatever it may be."
There were papers, magazines and books upon the center
table and more books upon a low tier of shelves on either
side of the fireplace. The girl tried to amuse herself by
reading, but she found her thoughts continually reverting to
the unhappy situation of the king, and her eyes momentarily
wandered to the cold and repellent face of the Blentz prin-
Finally she wheeled a great armchair near the fireplace,
and with her back toward the portrait made a final attempt
to submerge her unhappy thoughts in a current periodical.
When Barney and his escort reached the apartments that
had been occupied by the king of Lutha before his escape,
Butzow and the soldiers left him in company with Dr. Stein
and an old servant, whom the doctor introduced as his new
"Your majesty will find him a very attentive and faithful
servant," said Stein. "He will remain with you and ad-
minister your medicine at proper intervals."
"Medicine?" ejaculated Barney. "What in the world do I
need of medicine? There is nothing the matter with me."
Stein smiled indulgently.
"Ah, your majesty," he said, "if you could but realize the
sad affliction that clouds your life! You may never sit upon
your throne until the last trace of this sinister mental dis-
order is eradicated, so take your medicine voluntarily, or
otherwise Joseph will be compelled to administer it by force.
Remember, sire, that only through this treatment will you
be able to leave Blentz."
After Stein had left the room Joseph bolted the door be-
hind him. Then he came to where Barney stood in the center
of the apartment, and dropping to his knees took the young
man's hand in his and kissed it.
"God has been good indeed, your majesty," he whispered.
"It was He who made it possible for old Joseph to deceive
them and find his way to your side."
"Who are you, my man?" asked Barney.
"I am from Tann," whispered the old man, in a very low
voice. "His highness, the prince, found the means to obtain
service for me with the new retinue that has replaced the
old which permitted your majesty's escape. There was an-
other from Tann among the former servants here.
"It was through his efforts that you escaped before, you
will recall. I have seen Fritz and learned from him the way,
so that if your majesty does not recall it it will make no
difference, for I know it well, having been over it three
times already since I came here, to be sure that when the
time came that they should recapture you I might lead you
out quickly before they could slay you."
"You really think that they intend murdering me?"
"There is no doubt about it, your majesty," replied the
old man. "This very bottle"--Joseph touched the phial
which Stein had left upon the table--"contains the means
whereby, through my hands, you were to be slowly poisoned."
"Do you know what it is?"
"Bichloride of mercury, your majesty. One dose would
have been sufficient, and after a few days--perhaps a week
--you would have died in great agony."
"But I am not the king, Joseph," said the young man, "so
even had they succeeded in killing me it would have profited
Joseph shook his head sadly.
"Your majesty will pardon the presumption of one who
loves him," he said, "if he makes so bold as to suggest that
your majesty must not again deny that he is king. That only
tends to corroborate the contention of Prince Peter that your
majesty is not--er, just sane, and so, incompetent to rule
Lutha. But we of Tann know differently, and with the help
of the good God we will place your majesty upon the
throne which Peter has kept from you all these years."
Barney sighed. They were determined that he should be
king whether he would or no. He had often thought he
would like to be a king; but now the realization of his boy-
ish dreaming which seemed so imminent bade fair to be
almost anything than pleasant.
Barney suddenly realized that the old fellow was talking.
He was explaining how they might escape. It seemed that a
secret passage led from this very chamber to the vaults be-
neath the castle and from there through a narrow tunnel
below the moat to a cave in the hillside far beyond the
"They will not return again tonight to see your majesty,"
said Joseph, "and so we had best make haste to leave at
once. I have a rope and swords in readiness. We shall need
the rope to make our way down the hillside, but let us
hope that we shall not need the swords."
"I cannot leave Blentz," said Barney, "unless the Princess
Emma goes with us."
"The Princess Emma!" cried the old man. "What Princess
"Princess von der Tann," replied Barney. "Did you not
know that she was captured with me!"
The old man was visibly affected by the knowledge that
his young mistress was a prisoner within the walls of Blentz.
He seemed torn by conflicting emotions--his duty toward
his king and his love for the daughter of his old master. So
it was that he seemed much relieved when he found that
Barney insisted upon saving the girl before any thought of
their own escape should be taken into consideration.
"My first duty, your majesty," said Joseph, "is to bring
you safely out of the hands of your enemies, but if you
command me to try to bring your betrothed with us I am
sure that his highness, Prince Ludwig, would be the last to
censure me for deviating thus from his instructions, for if he
loves another more than he loves his king it is his daughter,
the beautiful Princess Emma."
"What do you mean, Joseph," asked Barney, "by referring
to the princess as my betrothed? I never saw her before
"It has slipped your majesty's mind," said the old man
sadly; "but you and my young mistress were betrothed many
years ago while you were yet but children. It was the old
king's wish that you wed the daughter of his best friend and
most loyal subject."
Here was a pretty pass, indeed, thought Barney. It was
sufficiently embarrassing to be mistaken for the king, but to
be thrown into this false position in company with a beau-
tiful young woman to whom the king was engaged to be
married, and who, with the others, thought him to be the
king, was quite the last word in impossible positions.
Following this knowledge there came to Barney the first
pangs of regret that he was not really the king, and then the
realization, so sudden that it almost took his breath away,
that the girl was very beautiful and very much to be desired.
He had not thought about the matter until her utter im-
possibility was forced upon him.
It was decided that Joseph should leave the king's apart-
ment at once and discover in what part of the castle Emma
von der Tann was imprisoned. Their further plans were to
depend upon the information gained by the old man during
his tour of investigation of the castle.
In the interval of his absence Barney paced the length of
his prison time and time again. He thought the fellow would
never return. Perhaps he had been detected in the act of
spying, and was himself a prisoner in some other part of the
castle! The thought came to Barney like a blow in the face,
for he realized that then he would be entirely at the mercy
of his captors, and that there would be none to champion
the cause of the Princess von der Tann.
When his nervous tension had about reached the breaking
point there came a sound of stealthy movement just outside
the door of his room. Barney halted close to the massive
panels. He heard a key fitted quietly and then the lock
grated as it turned.
Barney thought that they had surely detected Joseph's
duplicity and had come to make short work of the king
before other traitors arose in their midst entirely to frustrate
their plans. The young American stepped to the wall behind
the door that he might be out of sight of whoever entered.
Should it prove other than Joseph, might the Lord help
them! The clenched fists, square-set chin, and gleaming gray
eyes of the prisoner presaged no good for any incoming en-
Slowly the door swung open and a man entered the room.
Barney breathed a deep sigh of relief--it was Joseph.
"Well?" cried the young man from behind him, and
Joseph started as though Peter of Blentz himself had laid
an accusing finger upon his shoulder. "What news?"
"Your majesty," gasped Joseph, "how you did startle me!
I found the apartments of the princess, sire. There is a bare
chance that we may succeed in rescuing her, but a very
bare one, indeed.
"We must traverse a main corridor of the castle to reach
her suite, and then return by the same way. It will be a
miracle if we are not discovered; but the worst of it is that
next to her apartments, and between them and your majesty's,
are the apartments of Captain Maenck.
"He is sure to be there and officers and servants may be
coming and going throughout the entire night, for the man
is a convivial fellow, sitting at cards and drink until sunrise
nearly every day."
"And when we have brought the princess in safety to my
quarters," asked Barney, "what then? How shall we conduct
her from the castle? You have not told me that as yet."
The old man explained then the plan of escape. It seemed
that one of the two huge tile panels that flanked the fire-
place on either side was in reality a door hiding the entrance
to a shaft that rose from the vaults beneath the castle to the
roof. At each floor there was a similar secret door conceal-
ing the mouth of the passage. From the vaults a corridor led
through another secret panel to the tunnel that wound down-
ward to the cave in the hillside.
"Beyond that we shall find horses, your majesty," con-
cluded the old man. "They have been hidden in the woods
since I came to Blentz. Each day I go there to water and
During the servant's explanation Barney had been casting
about in his mind for some means of rescuing the princess
without so great risk of detection, and as the plan of the
secret passageway became clear to him he thought that he
saw a way to accomplish the thing with comparative safety
in so far as detection was concerned.
"Who occupies the floor above us, Joseph?" he asked.
"It is vacant," replied the old man.
"Good! Come, show me the entrance to the shaft," di-
"You will go without attempting to succor the Princess
Emma?" exclaimed the old fellow in ill-concealed chagrin.
"Far from it," replied Barney. "Bring your rope and the
swords. I think we are going to find the rescuing of the
Princess Emma the easiest part of our adventure."
The old man shook his head, but went to another room
of the suite, from which he presently emerged with a stout
rope about fifty feet in length and two swords. As he
buckled one of the weapons to Barney his eyes fell upon
the American's seal ring that encircled the third finger of his
"The Royal Ring of Lutha!" exclaimed Joseph. "Where is
it, your majesty? What has become of the Royal Ring of
the Kings of Lutha?"
"I'm sure I don't know, Joseph," replied the young man.
"Should I be wearing a royal ring?"
"The profaning miscreants!" cried Joseph. "They have
dared to filch from you the great ring that has been handed
down from king to king for three hundred years. When did
they take it from you?"
"I have never seen it, Joseph," replied the young man,
"and possibly this fact may assure you where all else has
failed that I am no true king of Lutha, after all."
"Ah, no, your majesty," replied the old servitor; "it but
makes assurance doubly sure as to your true identity, for
the fact that you have not the ring is positive proof that
you are king and that they have sought to hide the fact by
removing the insignia of your divine right to rule in Lutha."
Barney could not but smile at the old fellow's remarkable
logic. He saw that nothing short of a miracle would ever
convince Joseph that he was not the real monarch, and so,
as matters of greater importance were to the fore, he would
have allowed the subject to drop had not the man attempted
to recall to the impoverished memory of his king a recol-
lection of the historic and venerated relic of the dead mon-
archs of Lutha.
"Do you not remember, sir," he asked, "the great ruby
that glared, blood-red from its center, and the four sets of
golden wings that formed the setting? From the blood of
Charlemagne was the ruby made, so history tells us, and
the setting represented the protecting wings of the power of
the kings of Lutha spread to the four points of the compass.
Now your majesty must recall the royal ring, I am sure."
Barney only shook his head, much to Joseph's evident
"Never mind the ring, Joseph," said the young man. "Bring
your rope and lead me to the floor above."
"The floor above? But, your majesty, we cannot reach
the vaults and tunnel by going upward!"
"You forget, Joseph, that we are going to fetch the
Princess Emma first."
"But she is not on the floor above us, sire; she is upon
the same floor as we are," insisted the old man, hesitating.
"Joseph, who do you think I am?" asked Barney.
"You are the king, my lord," replied the old man.
"Then do as your king commands," said the American
Joseph turned with dubious mutterings and approached
the tiled panel at the left of the fireplace. Here he fumbled
about for a moment until his fingers found the hidden catch
that held the cunningly devised door in place. An instant
later the panel swung inward before his touch, and stand-
ing to one side, the old fellow bowed low as he ushered
Barney into the Stygian darkness of the space beyond their
Joseph halted the young man just within the doorway,
cautioning him against the danger of falling into the shaft,
then he closed the panel, and a moment later had found
the lantern he had hidden there and lighted it. The rays
disclosed to the American the rough masonry of the interior
of a narrow, well-built shaft. A rude ladder standing upon
a narrow ledge beside him extended upward to lose itself
in the shadows above. At its foot the top of another ladder
was visible protruding through the opening from the floor
No sooner had Joseph's lantern shown him the way than
Barney was ascending the ladder toward the floor above.
At the next landing he waited for the old man.
Joseph put out the light and placed the lantern where
they could easily find it upon their return. Then he cautiously
slipped the catch that held the panel in place and slowly
opened the door until a narrow line of lesser darkness
showed from without.
For a moment they stood in silence listening for any sound
from the chamber beyond, but as nothing occurred to indi-
cate that the apartment was occupied the old man opened
the portal a trifle further, and finally far enough to permit
his body to pass through. Barney followed him. They found
themselves in a large, empty chamber, identical in size and
shape with that which they had just quitted upon the floor
From this the two passed into the corridor beyond, and
thence to the apartments at the far end of the wing, directly
over those occupied by Emma von der Tann.
Barney hastened to a window overlooking the moat. By
leaning far out he could see the light from the princess's
chamber shining upon the sill. He wished that the light
was not there, for the window was in plain view of the guard
on the lookout upon the barbican.
Suddenly he caught the sound of voices from the chamber
beneath. For an instant he listened, and then, catching a
few words of the dialogue, he turned hurriedly toward his
"The rope, Joseph! And for God's sake be quick about it."
FOR HALF an hour the Princess von der Tann succeeded ad-
mirably in immersing herself in the periodical, to the ex-
clusion of her unhappy thoughts and the depressing influence
of the austere countenance of the Blentz Princess hanging
upon the wall behind her.
But presently she became unaccountably nervous. At the
slightest sound from the palace-life on the floor below she
would start up with a tremor of excitement. Once she heard
footsteps in the corridor before her door, but they passed
on, and she thought she discerned the click of a latch a
short distance further on along the passageway.
Again she attempted to gather up the thread of the article
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