The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 133

might find in him a very ugly obstacle to the
fruition of their plans.

With Von der Tann actively opposed to them, the value of having the
king upon their side would be greatly minimized. The people and the
army had every confidence in the old chancellor. Even if he opposed
the king there was reason to believe that they might still side with
him.

"What is to be done?" asked Zellerndorf. "Is there no way either to
win or force Von der Tann to acquiescence?"

"I think we can accomplish it," said Prince Peter, after a moment of
thought. "Let us see Leopold. His mind has been prepared to receive
almost gratefully any insinuations against the loyalty of Von der
Tann. With proper evidence the king may easily be persuaded to order
the chancellor's arrest--possibly his execution as well."

So they saw the king, only to meet a stubborn refusal upon the part
of Leopold to accede to their suggestions. He still was madly in
love with Von der Tann's daughter, and he knew that a blow delivered
at her father would only tend to increase her bitterness toward him.
The conspirators were nonplussed.

They had looked for a comparatively easy road to the consummation of
their desires. What in the world could be the cause of the king's
stubborn desire to protect the man they knew he feared, hated, and
mistrusted with all the energy of his suspicious nature? It was the
king himself who answered their unspoken question.

"I cannot believe in the disloyalty of Prince Ludwig," he said, "nor
could I, even if I desired it, take such drastic steps as you
suggest. Some day the Princess Emma, his daughter, will be my
queen."

Count Zellerndorf was the first to grasp the possibilities that lay
in the suggestion the king's words carried.

"Your majesty," he cried, "there is a way to unite all factions in
Lutha. It would be better to insure the loyalty of Von der Tann
through bonds of kinship than to antagonize him. Marry the Princess
Emma at once.

"Wait, your majesty," he added, as Leopold raised an objecting hand.
"I am well informed as to the strange obstinacy of the princess, but
for the welfare of the state--yes, for the sake of your very throne,
sire--you should exert your royal prerogatives and command the
Princess Emma to carry out the terms of your betrothal."

"What do you mean, Zellerndorf?" asked the king.

"I mean, sire, that we should bring the princess here and compel her
to marry you."

Leopold shook his head. "You do not know her," he said. "You do not
know

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