The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 130

the runaway Princess Victoria, there
will remain to him only the other alternative of seizing the throne
for himself. He is a very ambitious man, your majesty. Already he
has caused it to become current gossip that he is the real power
behind the throne of Lutha--that your majesty is but a figure-head,
the puppet of Von der Tann."

Zellerndorf paused. He saw the flush of shame and anger that
suffused the king's face, and then he shot the bolt that he had come
to fire, but which he had not dared to hope would find its target so
denuded of defense.

"Your majesty," he whispered, coming quite close to the king, "all
Lutha is inclined to believe that you fear Prince von der Tann. Only
a few of us know the truth to be the contrary. For the sake of your
prestige you must take some step to counteract this belief and stamp
it out for good and all. I have planned a way--hear it.

"Von der Tann's hatred of Peter of Blentz is well known. No man in
Lutha believes that he would permit you to have any intercourse with
Peter. I have brought from Blentz an invitation to your majesty to
honor the Blentz prince with your presence as a guest for the
ensuing week. Accept it, your majesty.

"Nothing could more conclusively prove to the most skeptical that
you are still the king, and that Von der Tann, nor any other, may
not dare to dictate to you. It will be the most splendid stroke of
statesmanship that you could achieve at the present moment."

For an instant the king stood in thought. He still feared Peter of
Blentz as the devil is reputed to fear holy water, though for
converse reasons. Yet he was very angry with Von der Tann. It would
indeed be an excellent way to teach the presumptuous chancellor his
place.

Leopold almost smiled as he thought of the chagrin with which Prince
Ludwig would receive the news that he had gone to Blentz as the
guest of Peter. It was the last impetus that was required by his
weak, vindictive nature to press it to a decision.

"Very well," he said, "I will go tomorrow."

It was late the following day that Prince von der Tann received in
his castle in the Old Forest word that an Austrian army had crossed
the Luthanian frontier--the neutrality of Lutha had been violated.
The old chancellor set out immediately for Lustadt. At the palace he
sought an interview with the king only to learn that Leopold had
departed earlier in the

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