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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 myself.

"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 description 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 entire
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a man were withdrawn and others substituted.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, Butzow?"

"When she thought his majesty dead she admitted it," replied Butzow.

"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 again.

"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 indignation.

"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 helplessness 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 confined. You may return here afterward
for my further instructions. In the meantime I wish to examine the
king's mistress."

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 expression 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 Maenck.

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 backward. 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 sharp point.

"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 eyes.

"If he wishes peace," said Barney, "let him apologize to the
princess."

"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 once more.

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 having no stomach
for an encounter with it he grumbled an apology.

"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 hesitated.

"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 his kind."




IV

BARNEY FINDS A FRIEND

After the party had left the room Maenck stood looking at the
princess for several seconds. A cunning expression supplanted 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 eyes. 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 be 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 Captain Maenck."

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 Maenck's summons.

"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 herself 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 apprehension
of danger from the outside.

The girl found the boudoir not only beautiful, but extremely
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 hung in a lady's boudoir. It seemed singularly out of
place.

"If she would but smile," thought Emma von der Tann, "she would
detract less from the otherwise pleasant surroundings, 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 princess.

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 personal attendant.

"Your majesty will find him a very attentive and faithful servant,"
said Stein. "He will remain with you and administer 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 disorder 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 behind 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 another 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."

Barney shuddered.

"But I am not the king, Joseph," said the young man, "so even had
they succeeded in killing me it would have profited them nothing."

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 boyish 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 beneath the castle and from
there through a narrow tunnel below the moat to a cave in the
hillside far beyond the structure.

"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 Emma?"

"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 today."

"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 beautiful 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 impossibility was forced upon him.

It was decided that Joseph should leave the king's apartment 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 enemy.

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 fireplace 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 concealing the mouth of the passage. From
the vaults a corridor led through another secret panel to the tunnel
that wound downward to the cave in the hillside.

"Beyond that we shall find horses, your majesty," concluded the old
man. "They have been hidden in the woods since I came to Blentz.
Each day I go there to water and feed them."

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," directed Barney.

"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 left hand.

"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 recollection of the historic and venerated relic of
the dead monarchs 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,


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Online LibraryEdgar Rice BurroughsThe Mad King → online text (page 3 of 22)