The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 128

that dynasty was loyal to Lutha. Only
when the king attempted to sell the freedom of his people to a
powerful neighbor did the Von der Tanns rise against him.

"Sire! the Von der Tanns have always been loyal to the house of
Rubinroth. And but a single thing rises superior within their
breasts to that loyalty, and that is their loyalty to Lutha." He
paused for an instant before concluding. "And I, sire, am a Von der
Tann."

There could be no mistaking the old man's meaning. So long as
Leopold was loyal to his people and their interests Ludwig von der
Tann would be loyal to Leopold. The king was cowed. He was very much
afraid of this grim old warrior. He chafed beneath his censure.

"You are always scolding me," he cried irritably. "I am getting
tired of it. And now you threaten me. Do you call that loyalty? Do
you call it loyalty to refuse to compel your daughter to keep her
plighted troth? If you wish to prove your loyalty command the
Princess Emma to fulfil the promise you made my father--command her
to wed me at once."

Von der Tann looked the king straight in the eyes.

"I cannot do that," he said. "She has told me that she will kill
herself rather than wed with your majesty. She is all I have left,
sire. What good would be accomplished by robbing me of her if you
could not gain her by the act? Win her confidence and love, sire. It
may be done. Thus only may happiness result to you and to her."

"You see," exclaimed the king, "what your loyalty amounts to! I
believe that you are saving her for the impostor--I have heard as
much hinted at before this. Nor do I doubt that she would gladly
connive with the fellow if she thought there was a chance of his
seizing the throne."

Von der Tann paled. For the first time righteous indignation and
anger got the better of him. He took a step toward the king.

"Stop!" he commanded. "No man, not even my king, may speak such
words to a Von der Tann."

In an antechamber just outside the room a man sat near the door that
led into the apartment where the king and his chancellor quarreled.
He had been straining his ears to catch the conversation which he
could hear rising and falling in the adjoining chamber, but till now
he had been unsuccessful. Then came Prince Ludwig's last words
booming loudly through the paneled door, and the man

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