The Mad King

By Edgar Rice Burroughs

Page 164

he raised his
eyes to the newcomer, who stood stiffly at salute. The officer
looked him full in the face.

"I answered your majesty's summons," said the man.

"Oh, yes!" returned the American. "You may fetch the Princess
Emma."

The officer saluted once more and backed out of the apartment.
Barney walked to the table and sat down. A tin box of cigarettes lay
beside the lamp. Barney lighted one of them. The king had good taste
in the selection of tobacco, he thought. Well, a man must need have
some redeeming characteristics.

Outside, in the corridor, he heard voices, and again the knock at
the door. He bade them enter. As the door opened Emma von der Tann,
her head thrown back and a flush of anger on her face, entered the
room. Behind her was the officer who had been despatched to bring
her. Barney nodded to the latter.

"You may go," he said. He drew a chair from the table and asked the
princess to be seated. She ignored his request.

"What do you wish of me?" she asked. She was looking straight into
his eyes. The officer had withdrawn and closed the door after him.
They were alone, with nothing to fear; yet she did not recognize
him.

"You are the king," she continued in cold, level tones, "but if you
are also a gentleman, you will at once order me returned to my
father at Lustadt, and with me the man to whom you owe so much. I do
not expect it of you, but I wish to give you the chance.

"I shall not go without him. I am betrothed to you; but until
tonight I should rather have died than wed you. Now I am ready to
compromise. If you will set Mr. Custer at liberty in Serbia and
return me unharmed to my father, I will fulfill my part of our
betrothal."

Barney Custer looked straight into the girl's face for a long
moment. A half smile played upon his lips at the thought of her
surprise when she learned the truth, when suddenly it dawned upon
him that she and he were both much safer if no one, not even her
loyal self, guessed that he was other than the king. It is not
difficult to live a part, but often it is difficult to act one. Some
little word or look, were she to know that he was Barney Custer,
might betray them; no, it was better to leave her in ignorance,
though his conscience pricked him for the disloyalty that his act
implied.

It seemed a

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