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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 apartments. 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 conditions 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 boundaries, 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 assistance. 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 a voice in the
peace negotiations.

"If we must bow to the surrender of our national integrity, let us
do so only after we have exhausted every resource of the country in
our country's defense. In the past your majesty has not appeared to
realize the menace of your most powerful neighbor. I beg of you,
sire, to trust me. Believe that I have only the interests of Lutha
at heart, and let us work together for the salvation of our country
and your majesty's throne."

Barney laid his hand upon the old man's shoulder. It seemed a shame
to carry the deception further, but the American well knew that only
so could he accomplish aught for Lutha or the Von der Tanns. Once
the old chancellor suspected the truth as to his identity he would
be the first to denounce him.

"I think that you and I can work together, Prince Ludwig," he said.
"I have sent for the Serbian and Austrian ministers. The former
should be here immediately."

Nor did they have long to wait before the tall Slav was announced.
Barney lost no time in getting down to business. He asked no
questions. What Von der Tann had told him, what he had seen with his
own eyes since he had entered Lutha, and what he had overheard in
the inn at Burgova was sufficient evidence that the fate of Lutha
hung upon the prompt and energetic decisions of the man who sat upon
Lutha's throne for the next few days.

Had Leopold been the present incumbent Lutha would have been lost,
for that he would play directly into the hands of Austria was not to
be questioned. Were Von der Tann to seize the reins of government a
state of revolution would exist that would divide the state into two
bitter factions, weaken its defense, and give Austria what she most
desired - a plausible pretext for intervention.

Lutha's only hope lay in united defense of her liberties under the
leadership of the one man whom all acknowledged king - Leopold. Very
well, Barney Custer, of Beatrice, would be Leopold for a few days,
since the real Leopold had proven himself incompetent to meet the
emergency.

General Petko, the Serbian minister to Lutha, brought to the
audience the memory of a series of unpleasant encounters with the
king. Leopold had never exerted himself to hide his pro-Austrian
sentiments. Austria was a powerful country - Serbia, a relatively
weak neighbor. Leopold, being a royal snob, had courted the favor of
the emperor and turned up his nose at Serbia. The general was
prepared for a repetition of the veiled affronts that Leopold
delighted in according him; but this time he brought with him a
reply that for two years he had been living in the hope of some day
being able to deliver to the young monarch he so cordially despised.

It was an ultimatum from his government - an ultimatum couched in
terms from which all diplomatic suavity had been stripped. If Barney
Custer, of Beatrice, could have read it he would have smiled, for in
plain American it might have been described as announcing to Leopold
precisely "where he got off." But Barney did not have the
opportunity to read it, since that ultimatum was never delivered.

Barney took the wind all out of it by his first words. "Your
excellency may wonder why it is that we have summoned you at such an
early hour," he said.

General Petko inclined his head in deferential acknowledgment of the
truth of the inference.

"It is because we have learned from our chancellor," continued the
American, "that Serbia has mobilized an entire army corps upon the
Luthanian frontier. Am I correctly informed?"

General Petko squared his shoulders and bowed in assent. At the same
time he reached into his breast-pocket for the ultimatum.

"Good!" exclaimed Barney, and then he leaned close to the ear of the
Serbian. "How long will it take to move that army corps to Lustadt?"

General Petko gasped and returned the ultimatum to his pocket.

"Sire!" he cried, his face lighting with incredulity. "You mean - "

"I mean," said the American, "that if Serbia will loan Lutha an army
corps until the Austrians have evacuated Luthanian territory, Lutha
will loan Serbia an army corps until such time as peace is declared
between Serbia and Austria. Other than this neither government will
incur any obligations to the other.

"We may not need your help, but it will do us no harm to have them
well on the way toward Lustadt as quickly as possible. Count
Zellerndorf will be here in a few minutes. We shall, through him,
give Austria twenty-four hours to withdraw all her troops beyond our
frontiers. The army of Lutha is mobilized before Lustadt. It is not
a large army, but with the help of Serbia it should be able to drive
the Austrians from the country, provided they do not leave of their
own accord."

General Petko smiled. So did the American and the chancellor. Each
knew that Austria would not withdraw her army from Lutha.

"With your majesty's permission I will withdraw," said the Serbian,
"and transmit Lutha's proposition to my government; but I may say
that your majesty need have no apprehension but that a Serbian army
corps will be crossing into Lutha before noon today."

"And now, Prince Ludwig," said the American after the Serbian had
bowed himself out of the apartment, "I suggest that you take
immediate steps to entrench a strong force north of Lustadt along
the road to Blentz."

Von der Tann smiled as he replied. "It is already done, sire," he
said.

"But I passed in along the road this morning," said Barney, "and saw
nothing of such preparations."

"The trenches and the soldiers were there, nevertheless, sire,"
replied the old man, "only a little gap was left on either side of
the highway that those who came and went might not suspect our plans
and carry word of them to the Austrians. A few hours will complete
the link across the road."

"Good! Let it be completed at once. Here is Count Zellerndorf
now," as the minister was announced.

Von der Tann bowed himself out as the Austrian entered the king's
presence. For the first time in two years the chancellor felt that
the destiny of Lutha was safe in the hands of her king. What had
caused the metamorphosis in Leopold he could not guess. He did not
seem to be the same man that had whined and growled at their last
audience a week before.

The Austrian minister entered the king's presence with an expression
of ill-concealed surprise upon his face. Two days before he had left
Leopold safely ensconced at Blentz, where he was to have remained
indefinitely. He glanced hurriedly about the room in search of
Prince Peter or another of the conspirators who should have been
with the king. He saw no one. The king was speaking. The Austrian's
eyes went wider, not only at the words, but at the tone of voice.

"Count Zellerndorf," said the American, "you were doubtless aware of
the embarrassment under which the king of Lutha was compelled at
Blentz to witness the entry of a foreign army within his domain. But
we are not now at Blentz. We have summoned you that you may receive
from us, and transmit to your emperor, the expression of our
surprise and dismay at the unwarranted violation of Luthanian
neutrality."

"But, your majesty - " interrupted the Austrian.

"But nothing, your excellency," snapped the American. "The moment
for diplomacy is passed; the time for action has come. You will
oblige us by transmitting to your government at once a request that
every Austrian soldier now in Lutha be withdrawn by noon tomorrow."

Zellerndorf looked his astonishment.

"Are you mad, sire?" he cried. "It will mean war!"

"It is what Austria has been looking for," snapped the American,
"and what people look for they usually get, especially if they
chance to be looking for trouble. When can you expect a reply from
Vienna?"

"By noon, your majesty," replied the Austrian, "but are you
irretrievably bound to your present policy? Remember the power of
Austria, sire. Think of your throne. Think - "

"We have thought of everything," interrupted Barney. "A throne means
less to us than you may imagine, count; but the honor of Lutha means
a great deal."



XI

THE BATTLE

At five o'clock that afternoon the sidewalks bordering Margaretha
Street were crowded with promenaders. The little tables before the
cafes were filled. Nearly everyone spoke of the great war and of the
peril which menaced Lutha. Upon many a lip was open disgust at the
supine attitude of Leopold of Lutha in the face of an Austrian
invasion of his country. Discontent was open. It was ripening to
something worse for Leopold than an Austrian invasion.

Presently a sergeant of the Royal Horse Guards cantered down the
street from the palace. He stopped here and there, and, dismounting,
tacked placards in conspicuous places. At the notice, and in each
instance cheers and shouting followed the sergeant as he rode on to
the next stop.

Now, at each point men and women were gathered, eagerly awaiting an
explanation of the jubilation farther up the street. Those whom the
sergeant passed called to him for an explanation, and not receiving
it, followed in a quickly growing mob that filled Margaretha Street
from wall to wall. When he dismounted he had almost to fight his way
to the post or door upon which he was to tack the next placard. The
crowd surged about him in its anxiety to read what the placard bore,
and then, between the cheering and yelling, those in the front
passed back to the crowd the tidings that filled them with so great
rejoicing.

"Leopold has declared war on Austria!" "The king calls for
volunteers!" "Long live the king!"


The battle of Lustadt has passed into history. Outside of the
little kingdom of Lutha it received but passing notice by the world
at large, whose attention was riveted upon the great conflicts along
the banks of the Meuse, the Marne, and the Aisne. But in Lutha! Ah,
it will be told and retold, handed down from mouth to mouth and from
generation to generation to the end of time.

How the cavalry that the king sent north toward Blentz met the
advancing Austrian army. How, fighting, they fell back upon the
infantry which lay, a thin line that stretched east and west across
the north of Lustadt, in its first line of trenches. A pitifully
weak line it was, numerically, in comparison with the forces of the
invaders; but it stood its ground heroically, and from the heights
to the north of the city the fire from the forts helped to hold the
enemy in check for many hours.

And then the enemy succeeded in bringing up their heavy artillery to
the ridge that lies three miles north of the forts. Shells were
bursting in the trenches, the forts, and the city. To the south a
stream of terror-stricken refugees was pouring out of Lustadt along
the King's Road. Rich and poor, animated by a common impulse, filled
the narrow street that led to the city's southern gate. Carts drawn
by dogs, laden donkeys, French limousines, victorias,
wheelbarrows - every conceivable wheeled vehicle and beast of
burden - were jammed in a seemingly inextricable tangle in the mad
rush for safety.

Rumor passed back and forth through the fleeing thousands. Now came
word that Fort No. 2 had been silenced by the Austrian guns.
Immediately followed news that the Luthanian line was falling back
upon the city. Fear turned to panic. Men fought to outdistance their
neighbors.

A shell burst upon a roof-top in an adjoining square.

Women fainted and were trampled. Hoarse shouts of anger mingled
with screams of terror, and then into the midst of it from
Margaretha Street rode a man on horseback. Behind him were a score
of officers. A trumpeter raised his instrument to his lips, and
above the din of the fleeing multitude rose the sharp, triple call
that announces the coming of the king. The mob halted and turned.

Looking down upon them from his saddle was Leopold of Lutha. His
palm was raised for silence and there was a smile upon his lips.
Quite suddenly, and as by a miracle, fear left them. They made a
line for him and his staff to ride through. One of the officers
turned in his saddle to address a civilian friend in an automobile.

"His majesty is riding to the firing line," he said and he raised
his voice that many might hear. Quickly the word passed from mouth
to mouth, and as Barney Custer, of Beatrice, passed along Margaretha
Street he was followed by a mad din of cheering that drowned the
booming of the distant cannon and the bursting of the shells above
the city.

The balance of the day the pseudo-king rode back and forth along his
lines. Three of his staff were killed and two horses were shot from
beneath him, but from the moment that he appeared the Luthanian line
ceased to waver or fall back. The advanced trenches that they had
abandoned to the Austrians they took again at the point of the
bayonet. Charge after charge they repulsed, and all the time there
hovered above the enemy Lutha's sole aeroplane, watching, watching,
ever watching for the coming of the allies. Somewhere to the
northeast the Serbians were advancing toward Lustadt. Would they
come in time?

It was five o'clock in the morning of the second day, and though the
Luthanian line still held, Barney Custer knew that it could not hold
for long. The Austrian artillery fire, which had been rather wild
the preceding day, had now become of deadly accuracy. Each bursting
shell filled some part of the trenches with dead and wounded, and
though their places were taken by fresh men from the reserve, there
would soon be no reserve left to call upon.

At his left, in the rear, the American had massed the bulk of his
reserves, and at the foot of the heights north of the city and just
below the forts the major portion of the cavalry was drawn up in the
shelter of a little ravine. Barney's eyes were fixed upon the
soaring aeroplane.

In his hand was his watch. He would wait another fifteen minutes,
and if by then the signal had not come that the Serbians were
approaching, he would strike the blow that he had decided upon. From
time to time he glanced at his watch.

The fifteen minutes had almost elapsed when there fluttered from the
tiny monoplane a paper parachute. It dropped for several hundred
feet before it spread to the air pressure and floated more gently
toward the earth and a moment later there burst from its basket a
puff of white smoke. Two more parachutes followed the first and two
more puffs of smoke. Then the machine darted rapidly off toward the
northeast.

Barney turned to Prince von der Tann with a smile. "They are none
too soon," he said.

The old prince bowed in acquiescence. He had been very happy for
two days. Lutha might be defeated now, but she could never be
subdued. She had a king at last - a real king. Gott! How he had
changed. It reminded Prince von der Tann of the day he had ridden
beside the impostor two years before in the battle with the forces
of Peter of Blentz. Many times he had caught himself scrutinizing
the face of the monarch, searching for some proof that after all he
was not Leopold.

"Direct the commanders of forts three and four to concentrate their
fire on the enemy's guns directly north of Fort No. 3," Barney
directed an aide. "Simultaneously let the cavalry and Colonel
Kazov's infantry make a determined assault on the Austrian
trenches."

Then he turned his horse toward the left of his line, where, a
little to the rear, lay the fresh troops that he had been holding in
readiness against this very moment. As he galloped across the plain,
his staff at his heels, shrapnel burst about them. Von der Tann
spurred to his side.

"Sire," he cried, "it is unnecessary that you take such grave risks.
Your staff is ready and willing to perform such service that you may
be preserved to your people and your throne."

"I believe the men fight better when they think their king is
watching them," said the American simply.

"I know it, sire," replied Von der Tann, "but even so, Lutha could
ill afford to lose you now. I thank God, your majesty, that I have
lived to see this day - to see the last of the Rubinroths upholding
the glorious traditions of the Rubinroth blood."

Barney led the reserves slowly through the wood to the rear of the
extreme left of his line. The attack upon the Austrian right center
appeared to be meeting with much greater success than the American
dared to hope for. Already, through his glasses, he could see
indications that the enemy was concentrating a larger force at this
point to repulse the vicious assaults of the Luthanians. To do this
they must be drawing from their reserves back of other portions of
their line.

It was what Barney had desired. The three bombs from the aeroplane
had told him that the Serbians had been sighted three miles away.
Already they were engaging the Austrians. He could hear the rattle
of rifles and quick-firers and the roar of cannon far to the
northeast. And now he gave the word to the commander of the reserve.

At a rapid trot the men moved forward behind the extreme left end of
the Luthanian left wing. They were almost upon the Austrians before
they emerged from the shelter of the wood, and then with hoarse
shouts and leveled bayonets they charged the enemy's position. The
fight there was the bloodiest of the two long days. Back and forth
the tide of battle surged. In the thick of it rode the false king
encouraging his men to greater effort. Slowly at last they bore the
Austrians from their trenches. Back and back they bore them until
retreat became a rout. The Austrian right was crumpled back upon its
center!

Here the enemy made a determined stand; but just before dark a great
shouting arose from the heights to their left, where the bulk of
their artillery was stationed. Both the Luthanian and Austrian
troops engaged in the plain saw Austrian infantry and artillery
running down the slopes in disorderly rout. Upon their heads came a
cheering line of soldiers firing as they ran, and above them waved
the battleflag of Serbia.

A mighty shout rose from the Luthanian ranks - an answering groan
from the throats of the Austrians. Hemmed in between the two lines
of allies, the Austrians were helpless. Their artillery was
captured, retreat cut off. There was but a single alternative to
massacre - the white flag.

A few regiments between Lustadt and Blentz, but nearer the latter
town, escaped back into Austria, the balance Barney arranged with
the Serbian minister to have taken back to Serbia as prisoners of
war. The Luthanian army corps that the American had promised the
Serbs was to be utilized along the Austrian frontier to prevent the
passage of Austrian troops into Serbia through Lutha.

The return to Lustadt after the battle was made through cheering
troops and along streets choked with joy-mad citizenry. The name of
the soldier-king was upon every tongue. Men went wild with
enthusiasm as the tall figure rode slowly through the crowd toward
the palace.

Von der Tann, grim and martial, found his lids damp with the
moisture of a great happiness. Even now with all the proofs of
reality about him, it seemed impossible that this scene could be
aught but the ephemeral vapors of a dream - that Leopold of Lutha,
the coward, the craven, could have become in a single day the heroic
figure that had loomed so large upon the battlefield of Lustadt - the
simple, modest gentleman who received the plaudits of his subjects
with bowed head and humble mien.

As Barney Custer rode up Margaretha Street toward the royal palace
of the kings of Lutha, a dust-covered horseman in the uniform of an
officer of the Horse Guards entered Lustadt from the south. It was
the young aide of Prince von der Tann's staff, who had been sent to
Blentz nearly a week earlier with a message for the king, and who
had been captured and held by the Austrians.

During the battle before Lustadt all the Austrian troops had been
withdrawn from Blentz and hurried to the front. It was then that the
aide had been transferred to the castle, from which he had escaped
early that morning. To reach Lustadt he had been compelled to circle
the Austrian position, coming to Lustadt from the south.

Once within the city he rode straight to the palace, flung himself
from his jaded mount, and entered the left wing of the building - the
wing in which the private apartments of the chancellor were located.

Here he inquired for the Princess Emma, learning with evident relief
that she was there. A moment later, white with dust, his face
streamed with sweat, he was ushered into her presence.

"Your highness," he blurted, "the king's commands have been
disregarded - the American is to be shot tomorrow. I have just
escaped from Blentz. Peter is furious. He realizes that whether the
Austrians win or lose, his standing with the king is gone forever.

"In a fit of rage he has ordered that Mr. Custer be sacrificed to
his desire for revenge, in the hope that it will insure for him the
favor of the Austrians. Something must be done at once if he is to
be saved."

For a moment the girl swayed as though about to fall. The young
officer stepped quickly to support her, but before he reached her
side she had regained complete mastery of herself. From the street
without there rose the blare of trumpets and the cheering of the
populace.

Through senses numb with the cold of anguish the meaning of the
tumult slowly filtered to her brain - the king had come. He was
returning from the battlefield, covered with honors and flushed with
glory - the man who was to be her husband; but there was no rejoicing
in the heart of the Princess Emma.

Instead, there was a dull ache and impotent rebellion at the
injustice of the thing - that Leopold should be reaping these great
rewards, while he who had made it possible for him to be a king at


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