The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 157

speak again when his
eyes wandered to the face of the American. Instantly his own went
white and then scarlet. The eyes of Peter of Blentz followed those
of the king, widening in astonishment as they rested upon the
features of Barney Custer.

"You told me he was dead," shouted the king. "What is the meaning
of this, Captain Maenck?"

Maenck looked at his male prisoner and staggered back as though
struck between the eyes.

"Mein Gott," he exclaimed, "the impostor!"

"You told me he was dead," repeated the king accusingly.

"As God is my judge, your majesty," cried Peter of Blentz, "this man
was shot by an Austrian firing squad in Burgova over a week ago."

"Sire," exclaimed Maenck, "this is the first sight I have had of the
prisoners except in the darkness of the night; until this instant I
had not the remotest suspicion of his identity. He told me that he
was a servant of the house of Von der Tann."

"I told you the truth, then," interjected Barney.

"Silence, you ingrate!" cried the king.

"Ingrate?" repeated Barney. "You have the effrontery to call me an
ingrate? You miserable puppy."

A silence, menacing in its intensity, fell upon the little
assemblage. The king trembled. His rage choked him. The others
looked as though they scarce could believe the testimony of their
own ears. All there, with the possible exception of the king, knew
that he deserved even more degrading appellations; but they were
Europeans, and to Europeans a king is a king--that they can never
forget. It had been the inherent suggestion of kingship that had
bent the knee of the Princess Emma before the man she despised.

But to the American a king was only what he made himself. In this
instance he was not even a man in the estimation of Barney Custer.
Maenck took a step toward the prisoner--a menacing step, for his
hand had gone to his sword. Barney met him with a level look from
between narrowed lids. Maenck hesitated, for he was a great coward.
Peter of Blentz spoke:

"Sire," he said, "the fellow knows that he is already as good as
dead, and so in his bravado he dares affront you. He has been
convicted of spying by the Austrians. He is still a spy. It is
unnecessary to repeat the formality of a trial."

Leopold at last found his voice, though it trembled and broke as he

"Carry out the sentence of the Austrian court in the morning," he
said. "A volley now might arouse the garrison in the town and be

Maenck ordered Barney escorted from

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